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They may be under « chains of darkness, yet be permitted occasionally to roam about our earth; an idea which receives counteDance from several passages in the gospel, where evil spirits are represented as deprecating the command of the Saviour to leave the possessed, and to return to “the deep."
Micaiah represents the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. It was debated who should persuade Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead; the service was undertaken by an attendant spirit. How is he to execute this service? “I,” says he, “ will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets." A permission was granted for the attempt: “ Thou shall persuade him, and prevail also; go forth and do so.” A passage of like import is found in the book of Job; the sons of God, the angels, being assembled in the divine presence, Satan appeared among them. When it was demanded whether, in his observations upon the human character, he had not been struck with the integrity of Job; he is represented as speaking in the most contemptuous manner of Job's religious character, as founded on selfish principles only, of which he engaged to produce the most undoubted proof were he permitted to afflict that holy man in his own family and person.
The permission was granted; the issue of the attempt I shall afterwards examine, only observing at present, that the moral, in both of the passages now produced, is, that fallen spirits are employed by God in the administration of his providence, that they cannot act without his permission, and that to whatever lengths their malice, when acting, might lead them, there is a limit which they have no power to exceed.
The serpent, by whom Eve was seduced, appears, from various passages of scripture, to have been an evil spirit in the shape of that animal. The original form of the serpent, Milton supposes, was graceful and beauteous, distinguished by its instinctive sagacity, and probably on these accounts a great favourite. Still it was Deither possessed, nor supposed to be possessed of an intelligent principle, nor of the power of speech. When, therefore, he was heard to speak and reason, he might derive from that circumstance an advantage in urging his temptation. The scripture tells us, that our first mother saw that the tree which bore the forbidden fruit was “a tree to be desired to make one wise:" How could she see this? The serpent might have told her that he wa
himself a proof of it; that by eating the fruit he had improved his condition, becoming intelligent, and in wisdom resembling those angels
whose conversation had, perhaps, been familiar and highly instructive to Eve. But as God's veracity in executing his threatene ings, and his goodness, in appointing the spheres in which he has determined that his creatures should move, were questioned and denied by the intimations of the tempter, Eve ought to have taken the most serious alarm. Yet it must be confessed that the seduction was most artfully managed. The seducer with his tongue used deceit, while the poison of asps was under his lips. Through his subtilty he beguiled Eve, and thus brought death into the world and all our woe.” It required great address thus to corrupt a mind attached to obedience, both from interest and inclination. But this, probably, was neither the first attempt, nor the first triumph, of Satan. The same address, it is likely, had turned the minds even of celestial beings from their allegiance, and engaged them in a league detestable in itself, and ruinous to all whom it embraced. What an enemy hast thou, O man, in this degenerate spirit! He takes every advantage. He has the most accurate acquaintance with human nature, and knows well what bait takes best with the bold or timorous; the covetous or voluptuous; the knowing or ignorant; and the bait, eluding observation, is so managed in his skilful hands, as to be attended, too often, with fatal success. A passage in the book of Revelation places this subject in the strongest light, where the woman, or church, is represented as persecuted by a great dragon. (Revelation xii. 7-17.) This passage, although in many respects of dubious import, clearly evinces the truth which I am attempting to establish, that in fallen spirits we have the most dangerous enemies, who possess great malignity and great power, and use every effort to involve the human race in the same ruin with themselves. Their complete triumph nothing could arrest but the divine grace and energy interposed in our behalf.
When the hedge was removed from Job's substance, family, and person, neither substance, family, nor person was in safety. The furious lion approached and seized his prey. The suddenness of the attack, and the force with which it was urged, was irresistible; heaven, earth, and hell appeared to be combined in effecting the patriarch's destruction. From the wealthiest and most happy man of all the East, he became at once the poorest and the most afflicted. “ There came” says the historian, “a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were ploughing, and the asses feeding be. side them; and the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword, and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burnt up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them, and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away; yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword, and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house; and behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.” Job i. 14—19. These calamities are expressly declared to have been brought upon Job through the instrumentality of the evil one, who excited Job's neighbours in Arabia and Chaldea, to do him mischief. With fire and storm, he destroyed his sheep, his servants, and his children; and he inflicted upon his person an acute and loathsome disease. Such a power, formidable beyond conception, would, if unrestrained, soon fill the earth with slaughter, devastation, and misery. Able to excite nations to war, to arm himself with the lightning and tempest, and to inflict every form of disease, what would become of us were not Satan held in chains, and overawed by the power of the Most High? Job was left in his power for the trial of his faith, which, when tried, was found to his praise, and honour, and glory. And thus shall every assault which he makes on the truly pious, be eventually overruled by their covenant God, for their greater happiness and honour.
The attempt upon Adam in the garden of Eden, and upon Christ, both in the wilderness of Judea and in the garden of Gathsemane, was evidently permitted for the trial of their obedience. It succeeded in the one instance, but failed in the other. Adam was seduced from his obedience; Christ repelled the assault, and stood unmoved, as a rock against which the billows dash in vain. In the wilderness his active obedience was tried. His circumstances were pressing and dangerous, and the temptation was adapted to them with the greatest art and skill. The gratification of appetite, the preservation of life, the attainment of power, were respectively tried, but tried in vain. The wisest and best of mere mortals have, in the moments of temptation, sometimes taken the most unwarrantable steps, in order to gratify their appetites, preserve their lives, or attain power. But no consideration, however proposed or urged, could induce our Lord in the least degree to swerve from the path of duty. In the garden of Gathsemane, his passive obedience was put to the most rigorous test. Different schemes attempt to account for our Saviour's agony. That scheme which accounts for a very large part of it from the assault of evil spirits, appears to me to be most satisfactory. This period of his suffering is expressly declared to have been “ their hour.” The restraint was removed, and they were left at full liberty to exert their utmost efforts, to distract and agonize his soul. They approached with an address and fury, of which we are, doubtless, unable to form an adequate idea. Yet we know that the attack must have been awful indeed which bathed his body in blood, and pierced his soul with deadly sorrow. Could the Saviour have been brought to question his Father's love, and to desist from the work which he had undertaken, the enemy would have triumphed. To effect this, he exhausted his hellish arts, but exhausted them in vain. The Saviour was not surprised by any artifice, nor shaken by the extremest torture. His faith was never staggered, but through the whole continued strong and triumphant. Even when deserted by his heavenly Father, he addressed him with the appropriating language of perfect confidence : « My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”-“0, my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me ; nevertheless not as I will but as thou wilt.” In this manner he maintained his ground, from which the united powers of hell could not drive him. At length the enemy fled abashed, and left the conquerer in possession of the field; and thus the second Adam repaired the losses of the first.
PHILOLOGOS. [To be continued.]
PERFECTION OF CHARACTER, ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURE.
A TRULY religious character consists of two parts, each so essential, that the character cannot exist if either be wanting. These component parts of character which I have in view, are faith and practice. Men are apt to separate what God has joined together, and in the sacrilegious attempt, the character is entirely destroyed, and nothing remains which can be of any avail at the bar of Christ. Faith without practice is an empty thing, a tree which bears no fruit, a lamp which gives no light, a carcase desti
tute of life. But how are we to estimate practice without faith? A pretension to such practice may be made, but on no principle of scripture can it be realized. Destitute of faith, works acceptable to God are never found, for “ without faith it is impossible to please God.”
Cain was licentious in his life. I know not that the promise in which the gospel was then published, was questioned by him. To that promise it is not improbable that he gave a careless assent, as many pretended christians do in our own time. But it had no hold upon his heart, and made no impression upon his conduct; he was defective both in the sacrifice which he offered, and in the life which he led. Saul received a command utterly to destroy Amelek, and all that he had; his obedience was partial, reserving the flocks for sacrifice. In this he opposed his own wisdom to the wisdom of God. God permitted no reserve, but a reserve Saul thought to be necessary. It is not for weak man to believe that he can improve upon the divine command. Saul would not act upon the command as it was, but modelled it according to a vain imagination. From this instance, it is apparent what kind of works men destitute of faith bring forth. They err perpetually on the right hand, and on the left; sometimes they do too much; at other times they do too little. Under the empty pretence of honouring God, they take the most effectual steps to draw down his displeasure. The union of faith and practice, keeps men in the right way: faith produces good works; by good works faith is strengthened, they mutually beget and confirm one another; and the union of both, in the same character, though in the one there may be much weakness, in the other much deficiency, constitutes that perfection of which the scriptures speak, as the leading distinction of those, who, before God, are accounted righteous,
Some readers of this Magazine, were so much interested by the selections which were made in our review of Mr. Bogue': Essay on the Divine Authority of the New Testament, (Vol. I. p. 487), that we have been repeatedly called on for further extracts from that able and valuable work. With these solicitations we cheerfully promised compliance, and shall hereafter frequently introduce such parts of the Essay as are most distinguished for important sentiments or conclusive arguments. The copies of this