Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

intended by God to result, to man, from the existence and agency of Satan in our world ?

However this may be, one thing is obvious and certain ; that it is not for his own sake, nor to humour and grat:fy the devil, that God permits him to be at large in the world. For whose sake, then is it? This, now, is the real question. Meet it fairly for a moment. We shall understand Bunyan's his. tory all the better by doing so. For whose sake, then, is Satan allowed so much freedom and power? Not, we may be sure, for his own, nor in compliment to himself. Well; in this world, there is no one else to benefit by the permission but man: and Satan intends him no good! True; and man ex. pects none from Satan. It is not true, howeyer, that no good is to be gotten, because he intends none, and we expect none. The real question is, what does God intend to teach us, by quartering Satan upon us? Now I am neither afraid nor ashamed to say, that God has thus given us a living lecture upon the worth, need, and nature of his great salvation, more intelligible and impressive, when duly weighed, than any Com. mentary on the Bible ever written, or than any uninspired sermon ever preached. There is no such illustration of what the Bible means by the loss of the divine image and favour; by the curse of the law and the wrath to come, as Satan and his angels present. Their character and doom turn these words into things, and make the words and things flaming realities. Yes; no man can look at the lot and prospects of the devil, as the Bible presents them, and think sin a light matter, or hell a doubtful place. It was, therefore, to bring home upon the human mind a solemn and settled conviction, that sin is no trifle, and held no fancy, that God permitted the agency of Satan on earth. This then is one good, which God intended, and which we may reap. It is, I grant, not generally reaped. How can it? Men talk in a half-jest, half. earnest way about the devil, which defeats God's kind and wise purposes. This unmanly and flippant style of talking about the devil and his angels, almost defeats also the touching pathos of that Scriptural appeal concerning Christ,“ He took not upon him the nature of Angels, but the seed of Abra. ham.” There is no such appeal to our Gratitude as this, in the first instance. It pours itself out in a mighty flood upon our self-love. It compels us to ask, what must have been the consequences to us, had Christ taken upon him the nature of fallen angels, and died to save them instead of us? Thus God

gives us a sight of the sovereignty, riches, and freeness of his grace to man, by leaving Satan abroad amongst men, which no words nor emblems, however vivid, could have presented.

When I consider these things calmly and closely, I cannot, on the whole, regret either the existence or the agency of Satan, so far as mankind are concerned. It is an evil, undoubtedly, and a great one; but it is certainly the least of two great evils : for nothing can be worse, or so bad, for men, as to think lightly of sin, wrath, and salvation. Now although Satan's chief aim in all his temptations is to make men think lightly of these solemn things, still, there is more in Satan's lot to warn men, than there is in all his wiles to betray them. His own character, condition, and doom, give the lie direct to all the lies he ever palmed upon the world. Besides, it is any thing but certain, that the world would have been better than it is, if Satan had been kept out of it. No one can prove, that even our first parents would not have sinned and fallen, if they had not been tempted. Indeed, Adam was not directly tempted by the devil, when he transgressed. Accordingly, in excusing himself, he did not say, “the serpent beguiled me, and I did eat:” but “ the woman thou gavest to be with me, she gave me, and I did eat.” Even this is not all : God him. self did not charge Satan with tempting Adam ; nor Adam, but with listening to the voice of Eve. As Adam, therefore, rebelled without being exposed to the wiles of the tempter, it is impossible to prove that he would have continued faithful, if there had been no tempter. All the probability is on the other side : for if the desire to know both good and evil, upon a god. like scale, could ensnare the woman in one way, it was quite as likely to betray the man in another way some time.

It is worse than puerile, it is inexpressibly contemptible, to speak or think of Eden being lost by eating an apple. There is an awful, though guilty sublimity in the ambition which ruined Adam and Eve. They fell from human perfection, by attempting to reach divine wisdom. They were angel-like in knowledge ; and they tried to be god. like in it too. Thus it was for no trifle they perilled soul or body.

Such, then, being the object for which they hazarded their all, for time and eternity, it is anything but certain, that they would not have done the same, if Satan had never interfered. They might, for anything which can be shown to the contrary, have rebelled even more deliberately, or sinned just as Satan himself did. In like manner, it cannot be proved that the

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

absence of Satan since the fall, would have kept the world from being so wicked as it is. Its wickedness might have been of another kind in some respects; and yet, not at all in a less degree. Accordingly, the bloody and libidinous vices prevail most in those nations and tribes of the earth, where Satan does least, and visits but seldom. Yes; it is not where he “ goeth about most as a roaring lion," that cruelty or sensuality are most rampant or universal. There is, indeed, too much of both prevails in Christendom, “where Satan's seat is;" but nothing like so much as where he goes only occasionally. He wanders, indeed, “ to and fro on the earth,” and goeth “up and down in it;" and thus, no doubt, visits it all from time to time: but, certainly, not all its parts alike. For, as it is the progress and influence of true religion, which Satan wars against, he has no occasion to walk often over the ground where false religions are established and triumphant. He has, in fact, little or nothing to call him into any Heathen or Mohammedan nation, where the Gospel is not assailing his king. dom. He can well afford to remain chiefly in Christendom, whilst Christians leave his principal strongholds in China, India, Japan, and Turkey, unassailed, and almost unchallenged. The Church has, indeed, of late, compelled him to look sharply after some of her ambassadors, and to revisit more frequently than usual a few portions of his empire: but she has not given him-much trouble as yet. “ And verily,” she has her “due reward !” Satan employs the time, strength, and stratagem, she thus renders needless abroad, in corrupting, dividing, and weakening her at home.

It may not be usual to speak thus definitely and explicitly about the movements of Satan : but it would be worse than absurd to write vague generalities on the subject. These have done incalculable mischief; and will continue to do so, until they are flung out of the language of theology, and replaced with the words of Scripture. No scriptural phrase, even when highly figurative, suggests any extravagant or ridiculous idea of the devil himself, or of his angels. Men often speak, and even write—but God never—as if Satan were everywhere at the same time, or working equally in all “the children of disobedience,” in both hemispheres of the world. God says, that Satan “goeth about ;” but not that he is in two places at one time. God says, that Satan is a tempter; but not that all temptation comes from him alone. God represents Satan as

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

taking the lead in evil; but not as working without human agents and infernal spirits.

Robert Hall, with his usual elegance and accuracy, says, “ We are taught (by the word of God) to conceive of Satan as the head of a spiritual empire of great extent, and comprehending within itself innumerable subordinate agents. The term Satan, in application to this subject, is invariably found in the singular number; implying that there is one desigpated by that appellation.” “Conceiving Satan, (then) agreeably to the intimations of the word of God, to be the chief or head of a spiritual dominion, we easily account for the extent of the agency he is affirmed to exert, in tempting and seducing the human race ; not by supposing him personally present when. ever such an operation is going on, but by referring it to his auspices, and considering it as belonging to the history of his empire.” “In describing the affairs of an empire it is the uniform custom of the Historian, to ascribe its achievements to one person;—to the ruling mind, under whose auspices they are performed, and by whose authority they are effected. Victories and defeats are ascribed to him who sustains the supreme power, without meaning for a moment to insinuate that they were the result of his individual agency. Thus in relating the events of the last war, the ruler of France would be represented as conducting at once the most multifarious movements, in the most remote parts of Europe; where nothing more was intended than that they were executed directly or indirectly, by his order. On this principle, no more ambigui. ty or omnipresence is attributed to Satan, than to Alexander, Cesar, or Tamerlane, wliose power was felt, and their authori. ty acknowledged far beyond the limits of their personal pre. sence.”-Hall's Works, vol. v. p. 68.

Thus it is not scriptural to suppose Satan, in person, to be often in every place where evil is going on, nor yet to ascribe to his direct influence every glaring evil in any place. In. deed, it is not necessary that either his hand or his eye should be upon all his works, nor upon all his agents, constantly, in those places of the earth where his dominion is greatest: for that dominion perpetuates itself by its own working, where. ever Christianity lets it alone. Accordingly, he has had but lit. tle or no trouble in some of the greatest nations of earth, since the moment he completed the machinery of their false religions. That machinery must have cost him no small labour at first: :jut now it needs only oiling from time to time, and hardly that throughout the chief Asiatic nations. In none of them has he had to alter it much. It has done his work to his heart's con. tent, for thousands of years in China and India, without a new wheel, spring, pully, or weight. Satan has had to alter a little the machinery of both Popery and Mohammedism, in or. der to suit the times and vicissitudes of the Beast and the False Prophet; but Hindooism, and Budhism have required little or no mending, since he made them. Now, indeed, they are undergoing a little alteration, where missionaries are exposing them before the eyes of British Authorities; and where Bibles and Schools are spreading : but it is only there, that Satan has to soften any of the original features, or to change any of the old forms of abominable idolatry.

It is a curious fact in the history of Satan's reign on earth, that as he never repeated the first experiment he tried upon Job, in order to overthrow a good man, by stripping and peel. ing him, so he never repeated in any nation the experiment he tried upon Greece and the Roman empire, by a refined idolatry. He outwitted himself completely, when he allied the fine Arts with Heathenism. He thought that by giving beauty to idols, and sublimity to temples, he would give perma. nency to his power in all the civilized world. And the expe. riment succeeded wonderfully for ages. It defeated itself, how. ever, when Christianity challenged the Greeks and the Ro. mans. They were the first to embrace it! The fact is, the Arts called forth mind, and improved taste, and created public opinion; and thus broke up the brutishness of man. They did not make him happy, nor even moral: but they did make him think, and gave some polish to his manners. The apos. tles of the Lamb saw this; and, knowing well how the Gospel could inform and enlarge the mind, even where it offended the heart, they bent their strength upon civilized, not upon sav. age, man; and triumphed gloriously. Thus the old serpent was caught by his own craft, in this instance: but he never tried to refine a nation again, by beautifying its gods. He has, ever since, stuck to grim or grotesque idols, or to images of beasts and creeping things. Even in that line also, he is now defeating himself; and he knows it! Yes; he feels at this moment, that he is playing a hazardous and desperate game to keep up his kingdom in Europe and America, and throughout the wide world, at the same time. He sees, and cannot help himself, that if he keep his place in Christendom, he must ply the European and American mind with vain phi

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »