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these:-1st. There is no devil. 2dly. The never-dying worm will die, and the unquenchable fire will be quenched."
Life of Dr. A. Clarke. Letter to Mrs. Wilkinson.
The Bible is a revelation of the divine will. The several books of which it is composed were written by the persons whose names they bear as their authors, or to whom they have been generally attributed, in all ages, from the time they were first published to the present day; these books are, therefore, genuine. Of this, had we no other arguments, the testimony of the early friends of Christianity, and the concessions of its enemies, are sufficient proof. But there is far more evidence that the books of Scripture are the productions of their commonly-reputed authors, than there is that the Iliad and Odyssey were written by Homer, or the Metamorphoses by Ovid, or the Eneid by Virgil, or De Natura Rerum by Lucretius. Yet, notwithstanding the vast amount of convincing evidence bearing directly on the genuineness of the inspired writings, the Bible is, nevertheless, rejected as spurious by modern infidels; while the above books, and others of a very doubtful origin, they at once receive as the works of those to whom they have been ascribed by the common consent of the learned! Men, frequently, in opinions as well as in their moral conduct, strain out a gnat and swallow a camel. This is often done by the advocates of infidelity.
But the Old and New Testaments contain also a correct repre sentation of facts and events as they actually transpired, and this makes them authentic. These facts and events, moreover, were indited by the writers under the immediate influence and superintendence of the Holy Spirit; and the Bible is, therefore, divinely authenOf this there is so much evidence, external, internal, and collateral, as it has been divided by Mr. Watson and others, that it is truly astonishing there should be a single infidel in the world. And this can only be accounted for by the native depravity of the human heart, which, before conversion, is at enmity with God; and by the fact that there are few unbelievers who ever read the Bible at all, or carefully examine the different criterions by which its divine origin may be fairly tested; and fewer still who read it with candid and unprejudiced minds, or pray earnestly for the light and direction of the Holy Spirit, by whom it was dictated, and whose agency is still necessary to make it effectual in the salvation of the soul.
Were all to pursue the commendable course followed by Lord Littleton and Gilbert West, or by the noble Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so, they would not only soon discover the truth, but become the strenuous advocates of the same religious system they formerly rejected. But, instead of seeking mental illumination in the broad daylight of Christianity, they grope for it in the dark midnight of infidelity. Instead of drinking at the stream of life, that gushes forth, in all its freshness and purity, from the great fountain of inspiration, they hew out to themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water, or strive to quench their thirst at the stagnant pool of unsanctified philosophy..
The Bible, to be believed and beloved, must be read and studied; and to be instrumental in saving the soul from sin and death, the truth must be applied to the heart by the Spirit of God. Without this application, if his mind is not too deeply prejudiced by preconceived opinions, a man may indeed become acquainted with the the
ory of true religion, and this is important; but he must necessarily remain a stranger to its blessed experience.
Now, whatever doctrines the Scriptures teach, provided they do not contradict our reason, it is our duty to believe, whether we can comprehend them or not. The point first to be determined is, Is the Bible the word of God? If it is, its contents are the truth, and nothing but the truth; and however mysterious it may appear to us in some places, and utterly incomprehensible in others, we are nevertheless to believe its doctrines, to obey its precepts, to claim its promises, and to fear its threatenings.
The truths of the sacred volume are not rejected by men, generally, because they cannot understand them, though this is often the alleged reason; but because they come in direct contact with previously formed notions, or systems of faith, and a sinful course of conduct. This is the case with the existence and fall of evil spirits, the points which form the principal subject of this article. Some persons refuse to credit the plain declarations of God's word in reference to the doctrine of fallen angels, not because it is a mystery merely, but because they are Universalists, and to believe it would be inconsistent with their scheme of speculations; or Materialists, who think, like the ancient Sadducees, that there is no such thing as spirit in the whole range of being; or because they have no disposition to resist Satan, that he may flee from them, or draw nigh to God that he may draw nigh to them.
In this day of "old wives' fables, and oppositions of science falsely so called," it is quite a common thing with many, in some parts of the country, to deny the existence of Satan, and ridicule the very idea of a devil! While, at the same time, they can also reject the being of the great First Cause, though the heavens declare his glory, and the firmament showeth his handy-work! They can believe that the peerless grandeur of the universe is the production of chance, though chance, in their day, has not yet succeeded in forming a single blade of grass! They can deny the fall of man, though all the natural, physical, and moral evil in the world is fully in proof of the doctrine! They can teach that there is no more efficacy in the death of Christ to take away sin than in that of animal victims; though there are thousands whose hallowed lips are ready to exclaim, and their upright walk corroborates the declaration, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sin!" And they can make light of the doctrine of future punishment, while the "damnation of hell" is portrayed by inspiration in colors so fearful, that it could not be more horribly represented if black could be written on black!
It is thought by many, that to believe in the existence of Satan is quite unimportant; seeing the subject, in the Old and New Testaments, is but incidentally introduced, and not expressly taught as something to be positively credited by us. They believe, therefore, that to receive the doctrine can do us no good, and to reject it can do us no injury. But this is a serious error. The Bible is plain and pointed in this matter; for, while it is admitted that some things in connection with the fall of evil spirits are shrouded in darkness, it is also asserted that there are few doctrines more clearly taught therein than the one now under consideration.
And it is not a merely speculative point in Christian divinity. It
is closely interwoven with the fall of man, with the atonement of Christ, with his miracles, with the conduct of individuals, the providence of God, the agency of the Holy Spirit, and the day of judgment. It is, therefore, one of the cardinal points in the compass of Christianity; and to receive or reject it may not only greatly influ ence our other religious opinions on those subjects with which this is so intimately united, but also the dispositions of the heart, and the actions of life.
If I deny the existence of Satan, will I not likewise naturally deny the certainty of future punishment? And if this is done, do I not lay aside one of the most impressive motives to obedience found in the gospel? Will I be as careful to guard my heart, watch against his suggestions, and overcome his temptations? Will I apply to God for the shield of faith, wherewith may be quenched all the fiery darts of the wicked one? Or pray to be made strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, against this formidable adversary of the human race? A simple answer to these questions will at once show its importance.
The folly and danger of those individuals against whose infidelity these remarks are made, are truly surprising. To persuade men to believe that the great archfiend, of whom they have thought, and heard, and read so much, has really no being at all, is one of the "depths of Satan." The ferocious tiger was never more certain of his prey when he had fastened his deadly fangs in his victim's vitals, than the prince of darkness is, going about as a roaring lion, of the person who obstinately denies his existence. Is the man who stands upon the brink of some tremendous precipice not in the most imminent danger, by taking another step, of instant death? yet he fancies the whole is a vast plain, and there is no precipice at hand. The perilous situation of the devil-denier is a parallel case. He stands upon the verge of the bottomless pit, but thinks it does not exist, save in human creeds and the figurative language of the Bible; which, as he supposes, is without signification.
The old serpent lies coiled up in his soul, or closely entwined around the fibres of his heart; while the rank poison, oozing from the fatal tooth which has deeply fixed itself in the seat of life, is rapidly spreading through his whole system; and yet, with all the apparent composure of a philosopher, by a single act of his mind, he annihilates the very being of an evil spirit!
The mariner reposes in imagined security. A dark cloud arises in the distant horizon, and spreads in fearful blackness over the greatdeep. The lightnings flash in the storm; the loud thunder utters its voice,
"Responsive to the ocean's troubled growl;"
but he folds his arms, refuses to take in his sails, says there is a clear sky, a smooth sea, and a fair breeze; but the next moment he is wrecked, and sinks to the bottom. So with the unhappy skeptic. He dreams of peace and safety when an enemy is at hand; and sudden destruction cometh upon him, as a thief in the night.
Dr. C., of Pa., was a gentleman of considerable mental attainments, and had an extensive practice in his profession; but, unfortunately, in early life he imbibed deistical principles. At length, however, he received correct views of Christianity, and embraced religion by faith in Jesus Christ. But he soon lost this blessing, and
for several years lived in a backslidden state. It pleased the Lord to reclaim him again, during a revival of religion in his neighborhood. He lived in the enjoyment of the restored favor of God for some time, and to all appearance fully met the requirements of the gospel. When I travelled the circuit, in the bounds of which he resided, I was informed by his class-leader that he had again become skeptical in his opinions. I visited him. He rejected the existence of fallen angels, and of future punishment. We conversed on the subject freely for several hours; and he was finally told that he was denying the truth of an important doctrine, to his own certain destruction. He thought differently. In a few months from the date of this interview he died very suddenly. After his death, it was found that he had been guilty of scandalous sensual indulgences, and, as is generally supposed, of suicide by taking poison! Satan may transform himself into an angel of light; and, when he undergoes that deceitful transformation, while his interference is seldom observed until he has accomplished his object, his victory is but the more fatal to his miserable victim.
The principal reason the doctor gave for his unbelief is contained in the following laconic remark :— "I cannot conceive how an infinitely holy God could create so wicked a being as Satan; nor how sin or Satan could enter so pure a place as heaven."
Now, while the scheme which is to be laid down presently in this brief essay obviates a part of the difficulty in this common objection to the doctrine of evil spirits,-if, indeed, it may be called a difficulty,it may here be observed, that the Maker of all things, visible and invisible, created Satan a holy angel; and he made himself a devil by transgressing a positive precept.
But to the point. The theory on this subject shall be plainly stated, and briefly illustrated, in the twelve following propositions.
1st Proposition. God, the great arbiter of the universe, of his own good pleasure created myriads of holy, spiritual, intelligent beings, called angels, or messengers, as the word signifies,—a term more expressive of office than of nature,—before the creation of the solar system.
This proposition has different parts. (1.) That the Supreme Being is the creator of angels. Of this there can be no doubt. Every thing, from the least atom of matter to the entire extent of nature, owes its existence to him. And, as he made of one blood all the nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth, so beings of a higher order than the sons of Adam, though still necessarily finite in their capacities, were also formed by the same almighty hand.
(2.) That these angels were created before the formation of the world. Milton, in his Paradise Lost, represents them as having existed for a great length of time before the earth was made; and although he may be right in this opinion, which was also entertained by several of the ancient fathers, and is, too, by many eminent writers of modern times, yet, in general, he is to be read and followed as a poet, and not as a divine. Nothing certain is found on this particular in the Scriptures, and these should be our only guide, as the whole doctrine is one of pure revelation; but as Satan made use of a beast of the field in the seduction of our first parents, in Eden, it is evident he was a devil before the occurrence of that fatal event.
The "Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth, when the morn
ing stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Job xxxviii, 1, 4, 7. If we understand this language as referring to the angels, who are sometimes called the sons of God, then there is positive proof that they existed before the commencement of time; for they were present to witness the august ceremonies at the creation and dedication of the world as the habitation of man, and to sing to the praise of their Maker, "All that he has made is very good!"
(3.) That these angels were numerous. This also is involved in obscurity, for their number cannot be correctly ascertained from the Bible. Christ said to Peter, Matt. xxvi, 53, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" This, following the Roman legion, which is generally thought to have been about six thousand, would have brought to his assistance, had he needed them, seventy-two thousand invisible defenders. A single individual, in the days of the incarnation, however the opinion may be ridiculed by some, was possessed by a legion of evil spirits at once. In Gen. xxxii, 2, the angels are called "God's host;" in 1 Kings xxii, 19, the "host of heaven ;" and in Luke ii, 13, the "heavenly host." These terms are expressive of number, as well as of strength and glory. In Psalm lxviii, 17, it is said, "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels;" i. e., twenty thousand thousand, or twenty millions. And St. Paul, in Heb. xii, 22, speaks of an "innumerable company of angels." Allowing them to be but as numerous as the inhabitants of the earth; estimating these inhabitants at 800,000,000 as existing at once; the earth to continue only 6006 years, and each generation to pass away every thirty-three years, the whole number of human beings at the day of judgment would be 145,600,000,000. But it is probable, as they "excel in strength," so they likewise exceed in numbers, the sons of men.
(4.) That these beings were holy, intelligent, and spiritual. The first is evident, from the fact that they came forth from God; and that those who remained faithful in their allegiance to their sovereign are now standing in the presence of him who is holiness itself. The second needs no proof. And it will not be of great importance to hold that they were entirely immaterial in their nature. Perhaps there is no absolutely spiritual being in existence besides the one of whom it is said "God is a spirit." The soul after death, and all other, commonly called purely spiritual beings, may have an exceedingly refined material vehicle in which to dwell, and through which to move and act.
If there is a pure spirit in existence, then you can either say of that spirit that it is here or there; i. e., you can give it a positive and definite location, or you cannot. If you cannot, then a thing may exist somewhere and yet be nowhere, which is an absurdity; and if you can give it this location, perfectly separate from matter, then it may evidently be a given distance from another object, say another spirit, and you thus invest it with extension, one of the acknowledged properties of matter, and it consequently ceases to be pure spirit. For, take three objects and place them a certain distance, in a straight line, from each other, and you can correctly ascertain, not only the exact distance between the first and second, and the second and third, but also the size of the one in the centre.
VOL. IX.-January, 1838, 14