Imágenes de páginas



JAMES iv. 7.

-Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.

THAT there are Angels and Spirits, good and bad; that, at the head of these last, there is ONE, more considerable and malignant, than the rest, who in the form, or under the name, of a Serpent, was deeply concerned in the fall of man, and whose head, as the prophetic language is, the Son of man was, one day, to bruise; that this evil spirit, though that prophecy be, in part, completed, has not yet received his death's wound, but is still permitted, for ends unsearchable to us, and in ways

[ocr errors]

which we cannot particularly explain, to have a certain degree of power in this world, hostile to its virtue and happiness, and sometimes exerted with too much success; all this is so clear from Scripture, that no believer, unless he be, first of all, spoiled by philosophy and vain deceit, can possibly entertain a doubt of it.

The subject, indeed, in its full extent, cannot be discussed at this time, nor conveniently, perhaps, in this place. But it may not be improper to make some general reflexions upon it; such as may serve to rectify your APPREHENSIONS of the doctrine itself, which, as I said, is truly scriptural, and to suggest, at the same time, the MORAL AND RELIGIOUS USES, we ought to make of it.

1. An opinion prevailed in the East very early, and was probably derived from some still more ancient tradition of the fall, corrupted, and misunderstood, that two, equally great and independen. beings, a good and a bad, shared the government of the world between them; that these beings, of directly opposite characters, carried on a perpetual war with each other, crossed each other's designs and operations, and, as either prevailed, pro

duced the good or evil, the happiness or misery, of this life.

This opinion was, afterwards, taken up by some, who called themselves Christians; and was especially applied by those, who loved to philosophize (as too many did, and, at all times, have been prone to do) on the secrets of divine Providence, to the solution of that great question, concerning the origin of natural and moral evil.

Now, to this notion some countenance, it is thought, has been given by the scriptural doctrine of the Devil, who is spoken of, as the Prince of this world, as the Prince of the power of the airb, as the God of this world, and in other terms of the like sort, denoting as well the power, as malignity, of this evil Being.

But, though these terms are, some of them, very strong, and certainly imply, not the existence only, but the extensive agency and influence, of this wicked Spirit, yet there is no pretence or colour for supposing that any thing

a John xii. 31.

b Ephes. ii. 2.

e 2 Cor. iv. 4.

like an equality to the God of heaven and earth, or an independency upon him, was intended to be expressed by them. For it is manifest, that no writings in the world exalt our ideas of that God so high, or set forth his supreme irresistible and sovereign dominion in so strong and decisive terms, as the Jewish and Christian scriptures. And with regard to the particular evil being under consideration, he is represented as trembling at the very apprehension of the omnipotent Creator, as sentenced by his justice, and reserved for the execution of itf; as exercising a partial, a precarious, a limited power in this world, working only in the children of disobediences, and in them, consequently, no longer than they continue to deserve that character; and baffled in his attempts, not only by the Son of God, but by the resistanceh, by the prayers, by the faith, of Christians; as a rebel indeed, yet a rebel cast out1 and disabled m, and compelled to be an instrument, like all other things, in the hands of the Almighty".

d James ii. 19.

f Matth. xxv. 41.

h James iv. 7.

1 Pet. v. 9.

m Luke x. 18.

e Gen. iii. 14, 15.

5 Eph. ii. 2.

i Matth. xvii. 21.

1 John xii. 31.

■ Job i. 12.

But nothing shews more clearly, how ab horrent the spirit of Christianity is from the Manichæan doctrine, than the care that is taken throughout the Gospel-history to set forth the triumphs of Christ over the kingdom of Satan, in casting out devils; of which the instances are so many, and so circumstantially described, as if our Lord's main or sole purpose had been to expose and explode that great impiety. He not only, himself, commanded, by a word, the devils to go out of the possessed, who accordingly obeyed him, and, in departing, deprecated that power°, which they knew he had over them; but he, likewise, gave the same authority to his disciples, who went forth with his commission, and returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us, through thy namer. On which occasion, he said unto them, as exulting in his dominion over the enemy, and in the rapid, instantaneous, irresistible effect of it, I beheld Satan, as lightning, fall from heaven".

Thus much may suffice to shew, that, though the Gospel affirms the existence of evil spirits, and of one eminently so, yet that it

• Matth. viii. 21.

P Luke ix. 1. and x. 17.

4 Luke x. 18.

« AnteriorContinuar »