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the new Heaven and new earth in which dwelleth righteousness, have received, in the day of His power, their holy and happy multitude, we shall understand how few in comparison have been the clamorous adversaries which, in this life, disturbed our repose; how blind the cowardice which, with the angels on our side, would have turned back in the day of battle!
ON THE EXISTENCE AND INFLUENCE OF EVIL SPIRITS.
[Preached before the University of Oxford,
and at Lincoln's Inn, 1822.]
Ephes. vi. 11, 12. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand
against the wiles of the Devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
It was an usual practice with St. Paul to describe the profession of a Christian, under the likeness of a soldier on duty, and, by allusions to the oath, dress, and discipline of the Roman military, to shadow out the several obligations, and graces, and privileges which distinguish and support the follower of Jesus Christ in his warfare with the enemies of his salvation. The whole of the
passage from which these words are taken, is pervaded by this kind of allegory. In it he expects the Ephesian disciples to prepare themselves for this holy quarrel, as soldiers for the battle, or gladiators for the arena, and to case their souls in the panoply of
Heaven against the force or fraud of their opponents. The nature of this armour he explains in the following verses, in which he compares, with great liveliness of fancy and description, the entire equipment of an ancient warrior, with the graces and virtues of a worthy follower of the Messiah. To the helmet of the first he likens that exalted hope of salvation which is, to the latter, a defence and a crown. The impenetrable breast-plate of the soldier corresponds with the righteousness and good conscience of the saint; the iron-studded sandal of the one with that Gospel of prevents the foot of the other from sliding; and the shield, which it was death to forsake, and the sword which was, in closer fight, the Roman's only weapon, with that faith from which even fiery darts fall blunted and powerless, and with that knowledge of God's word, the edge of which no sophistry can withstand.
To point out, as it deserves, the beauty of this parallel, is not my present purpose. It is enough to observe, first, that those powers and graces are called God's armour, inasmuch as we derive them from God's free bounty; and, secondly, that the danger must needs be great against which so great precautions are enjoined us.
While describing that danger, the utterance of the Apostle almost seems to labour for words sufficiently strong to express the strength of his conceptions, and the most aweful figures of might, and malice, and mystery, are collected to alarm us into
A more important question, and one to which, for many reasons, it behoves us to be able to give an answer, is that which relates to the real nature of the enemies thus described. Are we to understand these alarming expressions in the plainest and most obvious sense, as instructing us that we are really surrounded by invisible foes; by beings superior to mankind in present power, but who envy mankind their hopes of future glory, and endeavour, in concert with each other, and in obedience to a common leader, to pervert our integrity, and destroy our happiness? Or are we rather to understand by the principalities here alluded to, those men who fight for, and forward the cause of Satan upon earth; those deceivers who would entice, and those persecutors who would terrify the Christian from his Heaven-ward journey? Shall we go farther still, and deny the existence of the wicked
power that these enemies are said to serve ? Is it only by a figure that they are represented as subject to one commander ? Is that commander no more than an allegorical and abstract name for all which, in the visible world, opposes the establishment and progress of Christ's kingdom; an imaginary evil
the air. All these are, in the Scripture language, and in common speech, called by the name of the devil.” That, nevertheless, there is one person peculiarly, and by way of eminence, thus called, as the general of a hostile army is called “ the enemy," is plain from St. Matt. xxv. 41. Rev. xii. 9. “ Inter impuros spiritus unum esse qui præsideat et Judæorum et Apostolorum scripta nos docent." Grotius on St. Matt. xii. 24.
principle invented to terrify the weak and ignorant ; or at best, to represent, by a forcible metaphor, the regularity of concert, of purpose, and of tactics, with which, like an army under a skilful leader, our various enemies pursue their unholy warfare?
Of these three hypotheses, the first and the second are, I admit, extremely consistent with each other. A man may believe, to the fullest extent, in the existence of evil spirits, though he may suppose that the principalities and powers here mentioned are not spirits, but the mortal and persecuting governors of the Roman empire, and of the Jewish synagogue. He may admit the general doctrine, while he denies that this particular text inculcates it. But though the first and the second be thus compatible, yet are the first and the third hypotheses completely irreconcileable with each other. It is difficult for a professed Christian to deny the existence of evil spirits, if he admits that the present words of St. Paul are to be interpreted of them ; it is impossible for a reasonable man to deny the existence of a devil, when he allows that there are many; and it would be mere idleness, the existence of such creatures being established, to cavil at the account given us in Scripture of their nature and the form of their government.
The text, therefore, which I have chosen, is extremely important in determining a question which has of late years arisen among Christians, concerning the existence of that person, or those persons, to whose influence is ascribed so large a portion of