MY REVEREND BRETHREN:
BOTH the usage of the Church and the nature of an Episcopal Charge allow that such an address be devoted to any subjects within the whole range of Christian doctrine or practice, which may but contribute to the seasonable instruction, admonition or encouragement of those who watch for souls.
If I propose to speak to you of the literal reality of the person, kingdom and power of Satan, it will not seem to you that I have chosen one of the least grave of the truths which are revealed; or one which, being never assailed, has no need of defenders.
And deeply do I feel how effective a resistance may be opposed to the encroachment of any error, even by so small a company of preachers as I see before me, when it is composed of able, faithful and educated men; holding one distinct belief; pledged to the same form of doctrine; united in one fellowship, and that the fellowship which has for its foundation the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the head cornerstone; and continually supplicating the enlightening, guiding and sanctifying grace of the Holy Ghost.
Whenever you receive a human being, whether child or man, to the waters of baptism and the fellowship of the congregation of Christ, you first of all demand, "dost thou renounce the devil and all his works?" When, after the custom of the earliest [3/4] antiquity, you sign him with the sign of the cross, it is in token that, not being ashamed of Christ crucified, he shall "manfully fight under His banner, against sin, the world, and the devil." In our most solemn services of public devotion, we continually ask deliverance from the crafts and assaults, the deceits and subtlety of the devil; and implore, as the utmost of all spiritual victories, that Satan may finally he beaten down under our feet. The prayer which our Church has provided for the very moment in which the spirit, departing from the body, is for the last time commended to God, asks that the defilements which it "may have contracted through the lusts of the flesh or the wiles of Satan, may be purged and done away." Over words like these, at times like those when they are uttered, no doubt must hang its cloudy vagueness, as if we had been taught the language of dreamers.
They are echoes of the words of Holy Scripture. There are but two chapters at the beginning of the Bible, before the first mention of the Tempter; and there are but two at the close of the Bible, after the last mention of the same enemy and his final fate. Fifty times, and more, is that being the subject of scriptural narrative, prophecy or warning, who has the various titles of Satan, or the Opposer; the Devil, or Accuser; the Tempter; the Serpent, or the Dragon; the Prince of this world the Prince of the power of the air; Beelzebub, the name of one heathen god as a representative of many others; Abaddon or Apollyon, the Destroyer; the Evil or Wicked One. But, scriptural as is the belief; it did not originate with even the earliest of the sacred writings; it was in the world, like the belief in God and the existence of good angels, before Moses or Abraham was; before Paradise was left. It is presupposed in the Bible; which does not describe the Author of human sin, nor [4/5] formally assert his origin or his being; but tells iiis deeds, and warns against his devices.
According to the book of Genesis, the first parents of man kind were tempted to sin by the serpent; and according to the Apocalypse, "that old serpent is called the devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world." According to the book of Job, he was the tempter and the accuser of that patient patriarch. According to the book of Jude, he contended with the archangel Michael about the body of Moses. According to the Chronicles, he provoked David to number Israel, and brought disaster on the prince and the people. According to the book and vision of Zechariah, he resisted Joshua the high priest, the restorer of the temple after the captivity. According to the evangelists, he came to our Lord Jesus Christ in the wilderness, and thrice assailed him with the most seductive forms of temptation; and he entered into Judas the traitor just before his utmost guilt. According to the words of the Son of God, the Wicked One is a liar, and the father of lies, and a murderer from the beginning; he abode not in the truth; he is the father of such wicked men as those who stood around the Saviour and laid snares for his feet; he has held those beneath his power who are now brought from the Gentiles to God; he catches away the word of life from careless hearers; he sows the tares in the field of the Son of Man; he prompts suggestions like that of Peter when ho said of the cross, "be it far from thee, O Lord;" he bound that daughter of Abraham with her infirmity eighteen years; his kingdom embraced the evil spirits by whom so many sufferers were possessed; he desired to sift the too confident Peter as wheat; he had the false Jews of Smyrna for his synagogue; he held his seat amidst the idolatry and persecutions of Pergamos; the corruptions [5/6] of Thyatira were his depths; he fell like lightning from heaven, when power was given to the disciples against his hosts; he was judged and cast out as the Prince of this world; when Jesus suffered; he came near in the hours of the agony and crucifixion, but had no part in the Divine victim; and for him everlasting fire is prepared; for him, with-wicked men and with his angels. According to St. Peter, he had oppressed those whom Jesus healed; he filled the heart of Ananias, tempting him to lie to the Holy Ghost; he is the adversary of believers, and walketh about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. According to St. Paul, he beguiled Eve through his subtilty; he is transformed into an angel of light; he has many devices, of which we are not ignorant; he originated the hostility of Elymas the sorcerer; he hindered the designs of the apostle; he is the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; he tempts in the hour of our wrath; he can even take an advantage of our seasons of devotion, to tempt; he has a snare for the novice in the ministry, and for every un guarded professor of godliness; the thorn in the flesh was his messenger; the excommunicated transgressor was delivered to him for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved; his darts are fiery; his wiles are to be continually opposed with all the armor of righteousness; he takes captive the enemies of the Gospel at his will; his working in behalf of the Man of Sin is with all signs and lying wonders and deceivableness of unrighteousness; and he had the power of death, and with death is through the death of Christ, destroyed. According to St. James, he is a foe to be firmly resisted; but sure to flee from such resistance. According to St. John, he is the inhabitant of the bottomless pit; he sins from the beginning; Cain was of him; the Son of God was manifested to [6/7] destroy his works; he is overcome by the strength of the young believer; he toucheth not them that are begotten of God; he was the seven-headed dragon, watching to devour the man-child who was to rule the nations; he fought with his angels against Michael and his angels, and was driven out of Heaven to the earth; he will be bound and shut up through the millennium, and then loosed again for a little season; but will at last be cast into the lake of fire, to be tormented forever and ever.
This is all which we know. These revelations make up the image which has impressed itself on the mind of every Christian age, as the object of utter abhorrence and perpetual war. The fall of the evil angels is not related as a history; but that they kept not their first estate but left their own habitation, and sinned, and are reserved in everlasting chains under dark ness unto the judgment of the great day, is mentioned in illustration and allusion, along with the doom of Sodom and Gomorrah. Satan every where appears as their head and leader; yet as always compelled, notwithstanding all his dominion over men and over invisible spirits, to be an instrument of the overruling power and justice of his Maker and theirs. He wields an influence, not to be seen, not always to be even traced, not clearly to be defined, not accurately to be limited. He is the source and parent of all the evil that is in the world; and as far as the world lieth in wickedness, it is his usurped but not unwilling dominion.
That the human imagination would proceed beyond all the boundaries of revealed truth, we might be well assured; and the realms of angels, good and ill, would furnish a broad theatre for its dreams. All dreams of common minds, concerning the most evil of all spirits, would be and ought to be horrible and thus it could not be strange that the legends and [7/8] superstitions of all times should surround him with every revolting image, till, for some more refined than vigorous thinkers, the truth of the representation should seem to be lost in its grossness. When such a genius as that of Milton takes up the theme, and is followed by other poets as daring but less grand, a figure stands forth, which, though dark and appalling, scarcely calls out that depth of hatred and scorn, with which we ought to fight against the great foe of God and man. But neither with the grossness of popular superstition in ages of ignorance have we to do, nor with the grandeur of poetic conceptions, but only with the facts of the sacred word and of inward experience; an experience which, when it touches the invisible world, only that word can enable us to comprehend and appreciate.
There is also, apart from such superstitions or imaginative representations, a certain exaggeration of the attributes which are scripturally ascribed to the Wicked One, till they even seem to encroach on the very sanctuary of our highest faith, as in the delusions of the ancient Persians and the blasphemies of the Manicheans. He then appears as almost, for the time, the equal antagonist of the Almighty; and especially as endowed with something like omnipresence. To suppose him every where alike near, and equally able to read and reach the secrets of every heart, is to clothe him with faculties which belong to no angel or archangel. All this is not more impossible to the eye of reason than to the faith which has been formed by the reverential study of the Scriptures only. It is one thing not to be able to assign the limits of his power or knowledge: it is another to make him an evil Deity, or to ascribe to him any dignity of nature beyond that of many exalted creatures. A being exalted indeed by nature, fallen [8/9] through guilt, and thenceforth weakened as sin must always weaken; restrained, because he fights in vain against God; in darkness, because light and truth cannot be for an evil eye; and yet, because he is by nature an angel, retaining in many things a superiority over those who were made a little lower than the angels; such a being the word of God discloses, and warns us against his assaults and his wiles, and promises us, through faith in Christ, all power over his power, and charges us to resist him till he flee, and till, in the strength which. God shall give, we place our heel upon his head.
When any truth or alleged truth of Scripture is doubted or denied, it is either on grounds which are furnished by the Scriptures themselves; or on grounds of intrinsic improbability; or on grounds derived from the high or general authority of the opposite opinion. The truth of the existence and kingdom of such a being as the Satan of the Scriptures, is doubted or denied. Are the many statements and allusions, through which the inspired writers have formed our belief that there is such a personal being and such a kingdom, to be counteracted, as in the first case, by other and more explicit assertions which ought to annul that belief? Or, is it so intrinsically improbable, as in the second case, that the mind must struggle to place on the language of the Bible some other interpretation, though it be constrained and astonishing? Or, is it now assailed, as in the third case, by such an array of learning and piety, that the Christian Church must yield it up, whether convinced or not, because it cannot be sustained in the presence of a generation of thought and light and corresponding humility?
Certainly, it was never suggested that, as in the first case, grounds of doubt or disbelief had been furnished by the Scriptures themselves. They always speak of the Adversary as a [9/10] personal being; and they never intimate any hidden meaning in this language. There is nothing of allegory or rhetorical personification in the awful narratives or admonitions in which, for the most part, his name is found; and even if such a character could be given to any other portions, it would no more include the evil archangel than the good, or than all the sons of God, or human beings, with whom he is associated there. In the Apocalypse, it is true that the great dragon, like the woman or the beast, might be viewed as the figure of a principle or of a collective power; but there he is expressly declared to be the same with the serpent tempter and the devil, and with that Satan who fought against Michael; so that, though the dragon be but an image, he is the image of that personage, and not of any abstraction or any multitude of beings. If the serpent of Paradise was an actual being, such is the dragon of the Apocalypse; if Michael the archangel is a real existence, such is Satan the evil archangel.
The analogy, however, of Antichrist is urged; the Man of sin, the Son of perdition. It is urged that these are the names given to an error or a mass of errors; the designation of a state of things, not of a person of great might and wickedness. But all antiquity looked for a personal Antichrist. "Ye have heard;" says St. John, "that Antichrist should come, and even now are there many antichrists;" but all these were persons, since be immediately adds, "they went out front us because they were not of us; for, if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us." "Many false prophets were gone out into the world; and this was that spirit of Antichrist, whereof they had heard that it should come; and even now already was it in the world." He does not say that the expected Antichrist had come; but the spirit of Antichrist, [10/11] animating many antichrists; and thus a personal Antichrist was still left as the object of a gloomy anticipation, which always hung over the horizon when the early Church looked towards the future; as if some tremendous cloud was to precede the dawn of the bright and morning star. Not a few Christians at this day look for such an accomplishment of the prophecies, in the advent of some portentous impostor, some second and greater Mahomet, before the advent of the Son of Man. For myself, after the example of the great mass of Protestant expositors, before the school of Newman found it convenient to remove the prophetic part of the wall between us and Rome; after the example of Cranmer as he went to the stake, and of all the great martyrs of the Reformation; of the Waldenses and Wickliffe; of Luther, Calvin and Jewel; of Mede, and Bengel; of Bishops Warburton, Newton and Hurd; of Faber and Elliott; I hesitate not to believe that the Man of Sin has already sat in the temple of God, in the person of those who have held the Roman Papacy in the days of its proudest pretensions. It is not the Church of Rome, the ancient Church of that ancient city; it is not the portion of the Catholic Church which is or was in its communion; but it is the succession of pretended vicegerents of the Most High. They have exalted themselves above all that is called God and is worshipped; and the peculiarity of that vast system, with all its errors and its lies, was, that all was concentrated, through each generation, in one person, the infallible man, who claimed to stand in the stead of Christ as the head of all Christian people. It seems the very cause for which the prophecy speaks of one man, and not of many; and though one succeeded another, this does not break the analogy between the personal Antichrist and the personal Satan. In the former there was a succession [11/12] of persons, because each was on earth, and mortal: the latter abides, one and alone, because he is a spirit, and cannot decay. Whatever analogy, therefore, is found between the Man of sin and the Prince of this world sustains the conviction that both are persons; but the analogy itself is forced and feeble. One side is prophetic, the other doctrinal; one belongs to the visible world, the other to the world unseen; one presents itself in two or three passages of Scripture, the other is apparent through the whole; one marks a certain age or certain ages, the other concerns all generations. This comparison, such as it is, after the personal Antichrist has been changed into a mere power or idea, is all which the Bible could be made to yield, for the assistance of arguments aimed against the personality of the Evil One.
Their real ground is undoubtedly, as in the second case which has been imagined, the supposed improbability of the existence of such a being; and from improbable to incredible the transition, in certain states of mind, is short and ready. It seems improbable that there should be in the dominions of infinite Wisdom and Goodness, a being of great power and of boundless malice, leading hosts of bad spirits, and resisting the sway and the purposes of Omnipotence. But it seems not less improbable that the existence of any evil being, great or small, should have proceeded from such a Creator. To the reasoning mind, to the feeling heart, that sin and death should be at all or any where, is the very highest of improbabilities, though the most certain of facts. When the fact itself is settled, the degree should surprise no longer. From a blade of grass up to the Californian oak; from a rivulet to the Nile or Amazon; from a single death on to the pestilence that mows down millions and decimates mankind; from the cruel impulse of a boy to the tortures [12/13] of the Inquisition or the ruffianism of pirates and of Barabbas; there is a completeness of gradation which, as experience widens, takes from the meditative beholder all disposition to sudden wonder. To believe the guilt of evil men and evil demons and yet hold the primacy of Satan incredible, merely for the intensity of his wickedness, would be as if we could see armies ravaging, plundering, slaying; feel all the horrors of their atrocious warfare, and yet be astonished when at their head the invading despot or iron commander should appear. It seems irrational if not presumptuous to speak of what is or is not probable, where there is no analagous experience; and no experience of ours can very much assist us in forming conceptions of a world of higher or of lower intelligences, all unseen. I know not now how the idea of a good man or a bad man might strike any other order of beings on its first communication; but when once the existence of sin in a being of moral nature was known, no advance in that dreadful progress would be as wonderful as the commencement.
Is it improbable that such a being should be clothed with vast power over some of his fellow-beings? Is it improbable that such power should be caused or accompanied by the union of large intellect with surpassing depravity? Apart from revelation, analogies are here our only guides; and such a doubt is sustained by no earthly analogy. There is no necessary bond between superior faculties of mind and high moral excellence, however glorious the alliance may be, and however evidently a part of the divine harmony of the universe. Our nature has been subjected to a shock which has left a mass of ruins behind; and the earthquake that cracks the cottage wall is quite as likely to topple down the heavy tower or graceful colonnade. Valiant and skilful captains, brilliant and profound [13/14] historians, dazzling and sweet poets, have been men whose friendship was corruption, or whose hatred was murder. To the imagination, the interval between the wickedness of such a man as Herod the Great and that of a fiend is but slight indeed; and yet Herod was an able, splendid, and, in some senses, magnanimous tyrant. If an angel timid fall, it seems not more improbable that it should be one of the brightest and most august than a seraph of humbler stature.
With more appearance of subtilty it is alleged that the empire of evil is itself a misleading name for confusion, disorder, strife, all which is not rule and empire; that the 'very ideas of government and accordant array and obedience of any kind are at variance with the conception of resistance to that Divine will which is the harmony of all things. But abstractions like these, my brethren, can every where be raised by a metaphysical mind, and would utterly bewilder every religions sentiment, were they not cut down and thoroughly erased by the common sense of mankind, relying on that which it recognizes as actual. Here in this world, so much of order as evil men require for the accomplishment of their evil purposes, so much they at tempt; and if their success is incomplete, if God has mercifully ordained that a weapon so strong as union should not be long within the grasp of the wicked, yet it is so far wielded, as we every day perceive, that their combination is justly beheld with alarm and watched with caution. Then, the universal tendency of weaker natures to rally around the stronger, with the necessity of availing themselves of superior aid, always results in acknowledged authority and command, even where the preponderance of force must be on the side of the obedient multitude. If a leader of ten times the practical intellect of Napoleon should plant his standard, though his guilt were tenfold beyond [14/15] the guilt of that great slayer of mankind, who can doubt that he would be surrounded by myriads of men, ready to pour out their lives on the battle-field at his feet? It is true that in this world guilt must be made attractive as well as commanding through an air of something nobler than itself. But we know not at all whether this power may not exist beyond this earthly scene, and enable the worst of beings to encompass his kingdom there as well as here a pomp of deceitfulness. For the rest, the common, obvious, scriptural view of the kingdom of darkness does not suggest the thought of harmony or order, but only of so much organization as corresponds with all that we know of intellectual creatures or even of mere animals, in the only stages of being with which we have acquaintance through the senses. Brutes herd together; the monsters of the forest devour not their own race; and the worst as well as the best of men live in some kind of society. Every presumption and every analogy lead towards the belief that, if there be evil spirits, they associate; and that if they associate, they have chiefs or rulers. This is exactly the representation of the apostle; when, rising to the full view of the Christian warfare in its broadest extent and hottest need, he says, "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." The nature or degree of the exaltation of him whom the Scriptures not dimly delineate as
"O'er the rest,
In shape and gesture proudly eminent,"
they have not defined; but whether it be more or less, what motive can remain, what plea of probability can be asserted, [15/16] after such a display of many adversaries, for rejecting the far more frequent and more distinct allusions to that one?
But where arguments from Scripture are quite wanting, and arguments from probability are without force, the authority of names and of talents will sometimes prevail, as in the third case supposed, to shake or to establish a feeble confidence. The Personality and kingdom of Satan are so exhibited by the apostles as they never were by any pen that obeyed a finger tremulous with doubt or pushed by excited fancy. Amongst the great writers of the Christian Church, in its earlier ages, and down to these latter times, we hear in this belief no discordant voice. That voice comes at last from the same schools, in general, where the personality of the Holy Ghost is denied; where the divinity of the Redeemer is rejected; where the strict inspiration of Holy Writ is disclaimed; where the fall is made an allegory; where eternal retribution is explained away; and where sin appears rather a mistake than a crime. There, it cannot surprise us; nor in the letters of Southey, or the table-talk of Coleridge, both of whom in their youth drew it thence, and retained it even along with the better faith of their advancing years; nor amongst the speculations of German thinkers, where every opinion and every doubt are sure to find a place; nor does it much astonish us that it should appear on the pages of one of the ablest and most eloquent books, and yet one of the most adventurous and the crudest, which our age and country have originated. I allude to the recent treatise of Dr. Bushnell, on Nature and the Supernatural. It certainly causes no wonder to find this denial with the theories with which it is associated there; but it is startling to discover that the only authority which is cited, as if to shelter it from [16/17] domestic suspicion and condemnation, is that of the most rigid leader amongst the Puritan divines of the first generation in New England. This was John Davenport, the founder of New Haven, who, in the controversy which decided for a century the terms of communion and of admission to baptism, was the chief champion on the exclusive, and for that century the unsuccessful side, the side which has since prevailed. He, in his Catechism, as he is quoted, answers the question, "What is the devil?" by this definition: "The multitude of apostate angels which, by pride, and blasphemy against God, and malice against man, became liars and murderers, by tempting him to that sin." The value of this authority I will not discuss; but let us simply notice the daring and speculative treatment, under which the singular of the Bible was converted into the plural which was demanded by the reasoning of the divine and by nothing else. There is instruction and admonition in the thought that the theology which had such a beginning should issue, even with very devout and thoughtful minds, in such solutions of the mysteries of divine government and human sinfulness as that of Dr. Beecher, which traces our present condition to the guilt contracted in a previous existence of which nothing has been remembered or revealed; and that of Dr. Bushnell, which, while it cannot believe in one great fallen angel, works out the hypothesis that all angels could not but fall, and have fallen, and are only blessed after having sinned and repented.
In the view of such speculations, my brethren, you might discern a sufficient reply to the question which may occur to some others, but not, I think, to you, when the personality and dominion of Satan are maintained, as portions of Christian instruction, which are neither to be passed in silence, nor assailed without defence. Though neither Scripture, nor argument, [17/18] nor authority, be with the attack, yet must we be prepared to be asked, with a certain levity, whether this is any vital part, any citadel, of Christianity; and if not, why we should hasten to sustain it, as if we feared for the Gospel itself?
It would be sufficient to say, "the truth of God is sacred; and behold the weakness of the best wisdom when, in matters of which the divine word gives us our only knowledge, man strives to exceed or to bend that knowledge." If the Christian Church have not misinterpreted here the revelation which it has received; if this be actually a part of the literal truth taught by the Holy Ghost, then neither wisdom nor piety can he an excuse for the hand that is laid upon it lightly. It is no trifling charge against both the Scriptures and the Christian belief of all ages, that the former, and they alone, simply, honestly and naturally understood, should have misled the latter into what must then be deemed a superstition so grotesque and awful. Those who believe that charge must make it; those who believe it not cannot hear it in silence.
The first principles of the interpretation of Holy Writ are at hazard here. Is the Bible a book which can bear every meaning that may be required by human reasoning? Did our Lord Jesus Christ thus accommodate his language to the errors of men, confirming the dominion of falsehood? If any one desire to eliminate from the Scriptures the personality of the Holy Spirit, or even of the eternal Word, no other process would seem necessary than that which destroys the personality of the Adversary. The attempts of Socinianism were thus begun and pursued, till inspiration itself, thus interpreted, could be revered no longer. If the Father of lies be pronounced to be himself a lie, that lie can be ascribed to no other source, and has been [18/19] received on no other authority, but that of the sacred penmen and their records. A recent writer in the chief organ of Unitarianism, the Christian Examiner, accordingly disclaims and derides the notion that the existence and kingdom of a personal Satan are not taught in the Scriptures. He affirms that they are plainly doctrines of the Bible; and then, admitting them to be such, denies their truth.
With right and natural interpretation, all clearness of faith and doctrine must be sacrificed. The personality of Satan may not be exactly the most important of Christian doctrines; but few are more positively stated or have been more uniformly received. If it be arraigned and rejected, not as unscriptural but as irrational, every truth of the word of God is exposed to the same trial, at the bar of the understanding of each inquirer. The result for the multitude of Christians would be that they would live in a bewildering atmosphere of vague conceptions, on which superior intellects, as they arose, might exercise their power, either to give greater distinctness, or to involve in deeper bewilderment. Can this be the faith once delivered to the saints, for which we are earnestly to contend; this yielding mass of shadows of opinions?
You need not be reminded, that we speak of one of the forms most readily taken by popular unbelief. A whisper in its favor from a man of learning and thought may be caught by hundreds who have no other reason for doubting than their desire to deny. Those who assert that there is no "everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels," will listen to any voice which seems to render doubtful the existence of the being for whom it is chiefly prepared; and less ingenuity than is required to remove him from the Scriptures will suffice to annul all serious thought of inferior demons. The world of darkness is [19/20] constantly mentioned with the most shocking levity and profane ness, as if the more effectually to emancipate the soul from dread. A happy emancipation, were that world indeed a dream! A fearful mockery, if that world be a tremendous reality!
When for the person of the great Antagonist of souls is substituted the mere idea of all collective evil, the nature of that whole conflict is changed, for which, as Christians, we are enlisted; so far changed, that the human heart cannot but feel it to be less than before an actual struggle, and a struggle for life or death. We are aroused as by the sound of a trumpet, when the apostles call us to resist the devil, to wrestle against spiritual wickedness in high places, and to quench the fiery darts of the Wicked One. We are lulled as by the murmurs of treason, bidding us put off our armour, when we are told that no such foe is there. What hate and scorn towards the Evil One burn in the hymns, sayings and life of Luther! With what subdued intensity of abhorrence is the name uttered in our liturgical prayers and deprecations! Who can contend thus against an abstraction? If he, with all his malice and his wiles, is but a figure of speech, what shall hinder that our renunciation of him, and our resistance to him, and all this holy war against his kingdom, may also be deemed an imaginary crusade, a figure as meaningless?
I confess, my Reverend brethren, that still another feeling would make me most unwilling to relinquish this truth of Holy Scripture. It is that, dark and awful as it is, it has yet for the sinful heart of man its mighty comfort. Fallen as we are, the evil that is in the world is not all our work; and not with us originate those counsels and those deeds which, with just and instinctive consciousness, we name diabolical. We are not [20/21] so bad by nature that we should be compelled to say with the Unitarian writer to whom I have referred, "we seek for the author of sin no longer without us; we find the Devil in ourselves." It was not in the soul of Iscariot to betray his Lord at last, till Satan had entered into him; and all which is worst and blackest and most fatal, we dare, guided by the word of God, to trace to the instigations of one who is more guilty than we. If he be withdrawn from view, either man must be held to be far more fiend-like than before, or sin far less atrocious and deadly. I cannot but think that the very able author of the treatise on Nature and the Supernatural has adopted the latter side of this alternative, and has thus reconciled himself to his appalling view of sin as a necessity for men and angels. He has no countenance from the word of God; which, rather lifts up the fallen mortal, bids him look on his tempter, and. putting into his hand the shield of faith, binds him to take his part in the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.
I am prepared for light expressions of wonder and of censure, that the subject of these remarks should be treated on this occasion at so much length and with so much earnestness. But they will not come from you, the sworn standard-bearers of Him who was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil. In the hour when by death he overcame death, and him that had the power of death, the march of victory was begun. The expulsion of evil spirits at the word of the disciples was every where one of its tokens; the unparalleled purity, harmony and charity of the Church of Christ presented another to all mankind. Down fell from their thrones the idols of ancient heathendom. Age after age beheld new resistance and fresh devices. The sword of the persecutor was conquered [21/22] by patience. From the bottomless pit a smoke went up over the earth, and out of the smoke the locusts with their king. The Church was driven into the wilderness. The beast came up out of the bottomless pit, and made war against the wit nesses for God; and the other beast, deceiving the dwellers on the earth; and both had the power of the dragon; and the dragon is the devil, and Satan. "These make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them; for he is Lord of Lords and King of Kings."
Launched in the midst of this great war, we seem to see some breach in the hostile array, and to hear the first shouts of triumph; and when hosts begin to give way, we know how rapid and sudden is often the rout, the flight, the utter dispersion and destruction. There is a day to come, and it is probably not far off, when the enemy of all shall be seized and chained, cast into his own pit, and shut up, with a seal set upon the adamantine gate, for a thousand years; then only to be loosed for a little season, and then to sink at last into his torment. In the advancement of human knowledge; in the growth of the arts of peace; in the progress of all that softens and facilitates the intercourse of nations; in the greater length of average life, the multiplication of physical comforts, the improvement of general education, and the commanding influence of Christendom over the whole earth, we see encroachments on the kingdom of darkness; for of all these things the Prince of hell, the murderer from the beginning, is the most unrelenting enemy. His resistance and his power are still but too manifest in the firm maintenance of heathen idolatry against Christian missions; in the useless, wicked wars of this century as of all before; in the luxurious vices and bloody crimes and horrid retributions not the less crimes, of our own land; and [22/23] in the perverse discords which so check the arm of Christian effort and keep in the dust the wing of Christian love. But it is most ungrateful and unwise to refuse to perceive the shock which the kingdom of darkness has indeed sustained; and when we undervalue our lot, and compare it sorrowfully with the days of persecution and their hardier, sterner piety, and wish for trial to purify the Church, can we mean what we say, or are we so little acquainted with the days when "Satan's seat" was so exalted, and believers were martyrs? Rather let us bless God that the time is at hand, if the prophecies have been read by any not in vain, when the Adversary shall go to his prison, and the nations, deceived no more, shall offer incense and a pure offering to the Lord of hosts, from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. But till then, no minister of the Lord Jesus Christ must dare to forget what Tempter it was, who met in the wilderness the Captain of salvation, and who found out amongst the apostles the one son of perdition. I do not exhort you lightly and eagerly to introduce his name or suppose his agency, when you speak, in public discourses or private counsels, of common experiences and trials. The awe of superstition and the profaneness of the scoffer, are alike to be banished. But not for your own hearts nor for the people committed to your charge must you permit the most impressive of all the warnings of the word of God to become as unmeaning as the allegories of a feeble rhetorician, or the supernatural machinery of a legendary tale. Let the words of St. Paul suffice us in their comprehensive truth: "I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil: and the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." Be this our wisdom, our simplicity, and our triumph in the Lord!