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ters falling down sounded about them, and sad visions appeared unto them with heavy countenances; they died with fear" How infatuated sinners are to follow that influence which betrays them to present misery and future irretrievable ruin.
The Jews, whose advantages were peculiar, and whose disobedience was therefore without excuse, met a punishment as remarkable as their crime; the statement of which by our Lord, may well warn the inconsiderate, and arrest their fatal progress. "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and finding none.
saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he finds it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be unto this wicked generation" (Matth. xii. 43-45.) In this statement there may be something difficult to be precisely explained, but the general drift of the whole is clear and obvious. It is that when individuals, or a people, are delivered for a season from the rage of Satan, and contemning the mercy they have received, indulge in such sins as may be considered as inviting a new assault, they may expect that such an assault will be made with increased and successful violence. From the malice and rage of the evil one, the Saviour sought to deliver, and to a certain extent did deliver, the Jewish nation. But they rejected his proffered mercy, and wickedly crucified their deliverer. What followed? Previously to their destruction by the Romans, the character of the nation was the vilest that can be imagined; and under a madness, altogether without example, they took the most effectual measures to hasten and to complete their own ruin. They acted as if they were literally under the possession of Satan.
The artifices, the power, and malignity of evil spirits, may be displayed by examples drawn from individuals I shall mention a few, to illustrate the subject
1. Saul, the first king of Israel, was chosen of God to reign over his people, and by him furnished with the spirit of wisdom and government. It was his duty, in the minutest circumstance, to execute the divine command, and his honours were suspended on the performance of his duty. Yet, to his duty he became inattentive. This omission was supposed to be small; that offence to be inconsiderable; but none of God's commands are to be despised without dreadful peril: Saul found this to be a truth in his sad experience. His disobedience provoked God's spirit, whe
withheld his good influence, and abandoned the transgressor to an influence of an opposite kind The consequence was dreadful. Saul became tyrannical, melancholy, and infatuated. He drove one of his most faithful servants from his presence, sought the life of his own son, and involved the priests of the Lord in a common slaughter. Deprived of the appointed means of inquiring after God's will, and of recovering peace, he used unlawful ways of easing his mind, and of penetrating into futurity. Necromancy was practised at that time; an art, by which the heathen pretended to call up spirits, and to receive information from them, and advice on matters of moment To this art Saul had recourse. Being enumerated among the practices which the Lord abhors, we know that it was a contrivance of the grand adversary, to delude those over whom he is permitted to tyrannize. And if Satan can assume a seraphic, why not a human appearance? Might he not have looked like Samuel, and conversed like Samuel? Easily might he have foreseen Saul's fate, and he is not in any wise tender of the feelings of his servants, taking pleasure in the torment and ruin of those very persons whom he has tempted to sin. On this scheme we can account for what happened at Endor, and from that event receive new insight into the wiles and malice of the wicked one. Saul's life is on record to warn succeeding ages against a heedless, self-willed, irreligious course, which in this instance, led to a mortifying and disastrous issue.
2. Our Lord addressed Peter, who was too confident of his own strength, to warn him of danger from the most subtle of adversaries: "Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have thee, that he might sift thee as wheat." The very crime to which he should be tempted is specified. "The cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me." Peter was very confident of his fidelity, and uncommonly vehement in his expression of it: "If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise." Although guarded by this solemn warning, and bound by his own voluntary engagement, pledged in the strongest terms, yet Peter fell, betraying a timidity and irresolution no ways natural to him, but inspired, we have reason to believe, by that foul spirit who is the enemy of all good. Hear the account of his fall, by that evangelist, who wrote his gospel under this apostle's own direction, and whilst you hear, tremble for yourselves. "As Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest; and when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying, I know E e
not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. And he denied it again. And, a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon he wept." (Mark xiv. 66-72.) How weak the strongest resolutions, when struggling, unsupported by divine grace, with the powers of darkness. Peter, to mortify his self-sufficiency, was left to himself. We are ever vulnerable when abandoned to ourselves, and can only expect to stand, when the grace of God is sufficient for us, and his strength is perfected in our weakness.
Peter fell, but immediately recovered, by sincere repentance, his former standing:
But, 3. Judas fell, and rose no more. "One of you," said our Lord to his disciples, " is a devil." Judas attached himself to Jesus, in hopes of rising to eminence and grandeur on earth. His grovelling disposition, his worldly views, were so offensive to God, that in punishment thereof, he left him under the influence of a malignant spirit, whereby his natural depraved temper was irritated and confirmed. We are expressly assured, that "the devil, having entered into him, put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Jesus.” Distressed at the treachery of his disciple, our Lord warned him of his danger. Judas beheld his distress, and heard his warning voice, "Wo unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed; it had been good for that man if he had not been born:" nay, he was singled out; "Thou art he;" and was commanded, “What thou doest, do quickly." Judas proceeding in such circumstances, to perpetrate the daring crime, is a dreadful example of the impetuosity with which they act, who, left of God, are given up to an evil influence. Judas did not consider for one moment, nor could he by any mean be brought to consideration. Madly determined to act a traitor's part, he did act that part; but having done so, reflection was intolerable. The tempter, active in effecting the ruin of the traitor, although he suggested and abetted the treason, drove him to despair. Agitated even to phrenzy, he addressed his employers, "I have sinned," and throwing Gown his ill-gotten gain in the temple, with every symptom of
agony and desperation, he withdrew, and put an end to his own life.
The ancient writers among the heathen, often speak of the goat, as well as of the fawn, the satyr, the ægyphene, all animals of a similar shape, with great veneration. Is it probable, that mankind would ever have venerated these beasts so highly, had not something under such appearances been known to them, which they accounted divine? And as we know, that before the coming of Christ, Satan possessed a power, and was permitted to act in a manner which ceased at that time, is it extravagant to believe, that among the pagans of antiquity, he actually, at times, assumed the appearance of the animals that have been mentioned? We know that "the gentiles sacrificed to devils;" we know that the blood of their sacrifices was set apart, either in a vessel or in an opening in the ground, under the belief that demons feasted on the blood, whilst the worshippers feasted on the flesh. The stupidity of these people was indeed great, and sufficient to make them believe any absurdity or falsehood; but why is it more improbable that Satan should have sometimes assumed the appearance, and performed the functions of animals, than that he should have uttered oracles at Delphos, or possessed the bodies of the human kind in the days of Christ? But whether this were the case or not, the Jews, while they were prone to idolatry, were likely to believe it to be so, and to adopt the practices of their pagan neighbours, in consequence of that belief; hence a number of the ordinances to which they were subject had their origin. They were forbidden to worship in the open field, and required to assemble at the temple. They were forbidden to worship in groves and on hills. They were required to sprinkle the blood of their sacrifices on the altar. Let the following passage of scripture be read with attention. "What man soever there be of the house of Israel, that killeth an ox, or lamb, or goat in the camp, or that killeth it out of the camp, and bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer an offering unto the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord; blood shall be imputed unto that man, he hath shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people: to the end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices, which they offer in the open field, even that they may bring them unto the Lord, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation unto the priest, and offer them for peace-offerings unto the Lord. And the priest shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar of the Lord, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and burn the fat for a sweet sa
vour unto the Lord. And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a-whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations. And thou shalt say unto them, Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers which sojourn among you, that offereth a burnt-offering or sacrifice, and bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer it unto the Lord; even that man shall be cut off from among his people." (Levit. xvii. 3—9.) Here we are explicitly informed, that the requisitions made of the Jews were to prevent their worship of devils, who therefore, it is probable, did sometimes assume a visible bodily shape.
In theology, as well as in philosophy, the systems founded on facts are most likely to be true. I have therefore stated a number of facts, that keeping these in view, we might form just conclusions on a subject, difficult, I allow, to be fully explained, but yet exceeedingly interesting. "Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary the devil as a roaring lion goeth about seeking whom he may devour."
[To be concluded in our next.]
I LATELY met with the following "entries in the common-place book of a country clergyman," which have contributed much to my edification and instruction; and which I beg leave to offer for insertion in the Assembly's Magazine. Should they find a place in that work, you may soon expect some further communications from, E.
ON RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS.
IF actions only were required, without dispositions, the work of religion would be comparatively easy. Men may pronounce prayers, wear sackcloth, keep fasts, give alms, &c. These external acts are in their power, and however irksome in themselves, many would be found to observe them as the price of their salvation. But the affections of the heart are out of our own power; we cannot at pleasure change the objects of our love and aversion. We may perform religious actions as a task, but we cannot make ourselves delight in them as a privilege. And yet nothing