Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

find in her unwrinkled beauty and spotless perfection, the solace and reward of all his love, and in her full happiness the supplement and completion of his own glory. Now he is the centre from which radiates all her splendor, then he shall be the focus to which it shall all return. His voice shall be the only sound to which his church shall listen; his glory the only object on which her eye shall fasten; his grace, matchless and untold, the only theme that shall engage her tongue. Blessed are they who are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.'

[ocr errors]

SECTION V.-ON SATANIC AGENCY,

· The Devil and his Angels.'

ANGELIC agency, both good and bad, is a doctrine familiar to the Old Testament. That part of the doctrine which relates to the ministry of holy angels indeed, is there so fully illustrated, that, although the discourses of Christ contain frequent allusions to it, they present so little that is new, except the conspicuous part they will enact in the solemnities of the last day; and the fact that they are his; that the few remarks on the subject we propose to advance, will relate exclusively to the devil and his angels.' Concerning these, the teaching of Christ is more copious, explicit, and original: as if in compassion to our fears, the full exposure of our danger from hell had been reserved till he could furnish the antidote to those fears by revealing the counteracting agency of the Holy Spirit.

Having assumed the championship of the world, and being confident of ultimate triumph, our Lord did not hes

[ocr errors]

itate to confirm our worst apprehensions of the numbers, and powers, and malice of our spiritual foes. He opened our eyes, and, behold! the enemy in full possession of our world. And, as if the seat of the infernal government had been long since transferred from hell to earth, he repeated its princely titles as familiar words, enlarged on its dominion, and pointed out its thrones, principalities, and powers. Among these he spoke of one as Satan; Beelzebub; a liar; a murderer from the beginning; the wicked and evil one; one who, by trampling on law, had acquired the authority of a legislator in guilt: and who, by signalizing himself as the most daring of rebels, had reached the bad pre-eminence of the prince of demons.'

Of the number of his angels we can form only a conjecture: but the fact, that his field is the world;' that he is represented as multiplying himself through their agency over the whole field; and concurring in, if not actually instigating, all the evils which it contains, warrants the conjecture that they out-number the human race. Let no man, then, hope to escape temptation, through any lack of satanic agents. He, whose resources enable him to devote a legion to torment a human body, cannot be wanting in instruments to tempt and destroy the immortal soul.

Whether sin had ever entered the universe, at any dateless period prior to the angelic apostacy, we know not; it is certain that we can only trace its history up to that mysterious event. Speaking of Satan, our Lord declares that • he abode not in the truth;' once, he possessed a throne where all is radiant with holiness and joy, but he swerved from his allegiance to the blessed and only Potentate,' and thus lost his first estate. Together with an unknown multitude of associate rebels, he was driven from the presence of God, cut off from the loyal part of the creation, and doomed to be the prey of his own mighty depravity. From

that moment he became the avowed antagonist of God; established an infernal empire, and planted the standard of rebellion, around which all the principles and powers of evil might rally and combine. Actuated by that universal law, by which each being and principle seeks to conform all things to its own nature, and stimulated by implacable hatred against God, he no sooner found our world created, than he came to efface from it the image of God and to stamp his own on its breast. In the execution of this dreadful project he succeeded ; meriting by the means which he adopted, and the dreadful results of his success, the titles of liar, the father of lies, and a murderer from the beginning. He impregnated the heart of man with the awful spirit of revolt, and added earth to his infernal empire; involving the whole species in guilt ; introducing death, (now perhaps first known,) into the dominions of God; and leading mankind, generation after generatio into the outer darkness of his own proper region. And of all the vast and complicated agency of evil, by which the sinfulness and misery of the world is perpetuated, he is 'the Wicked One,' the Evil, the great efficient cause. His throne is the rallying point, to which all evil looks for reinforcement and support; the centre from which flows, and to which gravitates, all evil; the heart of the great system of guilt.

The domination which Satan has acquired on earth is called by Christ a kingdom; in which he possesses, by right of supremacy in guilt, the princely titles, and exercises the prerogatives of royalty. Unable to expel God from his throne, and thus succeed to the homage of man; he had, by a universal system of idolatry, planted his throne between the human worshipper and the Divine Being, intercepting and appropriating the adoration which belonged to God alone. But, in order that earth might not quite forget its rightful Lord, Jehovah was pleased to select a people and erect a temple, expressly for the maintenance of his true worship. They held their country from God, on the express condition of fealty to his throne. From the moment of that arrangement, Satan

may

be said to have made a descent on Judea; its temple was a memorial of his tyranny, a standing protest against his usurpation; its worship, a national proclamation, daily repeated, in the name of heaven, of his treason and guilt. At dif ferent times he seems to have put all the forces of his kingdom into motion to bear upon it: for to shut up the temple of God, to seduce the people to idolatry, to erect an idol in the holy place, was to sit on the only throne of God upon earth, was a triumph which could only be exceeded by ascending the throne of heaven.

For ages previous to the divine advent, the world seemed almost entirely his own. His contest for earthly supremacy, so long disputed by heaven, seemed crowned with success. His vice-regencies and powers sat in the quiet and unchallenged possession of their thrones. No prophet smote them on their lofty seats, or denounced their usurpations; no miracle reminded them of an omnipotent antagonist. The world appeared to be as completely theirs to portion out, and rule at pleasure, as if they held it by grant and seal from God himself, and were appointed to reign in his name. Nor did Judea itself form an exception to this wide infernal sway; for (short of formal idolatry) it belonged to the universal confederacy, and formed one of the fairest and most faithful provinces of the satanic empire. And, as if to exact a terrible compensation, even for this slight nominal deduction from full allegiance, many of its inhabitants were held as hostages to hell, by å cible system of demoniacal possession. Satan had become 'the prince of this world.' Wherever he looked the ex

[ocr errors]

panse was his own; the teeming population were his subjects; the invisible rulers were his selected agents; temptation in his hands had become a science, and sin was taught by rule; the world was one store house of temptation; an armory in which every object and event ranked as a weapon, and all classed and kept ready for service; every

human heart was a fortified place; every demon power' was at its post; he beheld the complicated machinery of evil, which his mighty malignity had constructed, in full and efficient operation; no heart unoccupied, no spot unvisited, no agency unemployed; and the whole resulting in a vast, organized, and consolidated empire. No sooner, therefore, did Jesus begin to attract the attention of Judea, as the 'Sent of God, than he became obnoxious to the tyrant's hate. In the usurped capacity of the sovereign of the world, the templer went forth and met him, asking him only to own that sovereignty, and all the kingdoms of the world should be his, and the glory of them.

But the great object which had brought Christ upon earth was to dispute that sovereignty, to re-assert the original and supreme rights of God to the alienated homage of mankind, and thus rescue man from the grasp of the Destroyer. What the enemy reserved as his last and most powerful temptation, the splendid vision of a thousand provinces, was a sight, we may suppose, familiar to the eye of Christ; though seen by him, alas! under a far different aspect. He beheld in it a scene of woe, which never failed to call forth his profound compassion. On all sides he beheld the blinded victims of satanic cruelty; vast, crowded tracts of spiritual beings, immortal essences, wasted, ruined, murdered, lost; a captive world, chained to the wheels of a spoiler, and moring along, (most of them so beguiled, as to be actually pleased with the mock pomp of the gloomy procession,) to endless death. While immedi

[ocr errors]

a

« VorigeDoorgaan »