Imatges de pàgina

his nature as man, to hunger, to suffering, and to the assaults of Satan, were necessary parts of that humiliation and those achievements by which he was to accomplish our redemption. His voluntary submission to a deprivation of the necessaries and comforts of life, is calculated to teach us the necessity and importance of the virtues of humility and self-denial; the temptations to which, as heir of the same nature with ourselves, he was exposed, were designed to encourage and strengthen us under trial; and the repulse which he gave to the assaults of the tempter, was the commencement of that triumphant victory that was to defeat the counsels and to subdue the power of the great adversary.

The dominion of the devil over man was established in that fatal hour when our first parents, yielding to his temptations, transgressed the laws of their Maker; and though the merciful decree of their Almighty Judge assured to the seed of the woman final victory over the great adversary, yet the fallen nature of man was to be subject to his invisible but powerful influence. "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."

In the present day, unfortunately characterized by bold and unwarrantable speculations concerning the facts and doctrines of the word of God, the existence and the operations of the devil and evil spirits are by some doubted, or ridiculed and denied; and the scoffs of unbelievers and others against the existence and agency of the prince of darkness, have derived support from the false and absurd agency which ignorance and superstition

have frequently ascribed to this enemy of our race. But neither the pride of a false philosophy, nor the dreams nor visionary terrors of a weak superstition, should prevent the enlightened and humble Christian from reverently receiving whatever the word of God reveals concerning the existence and agency of evil spirits, of whom he can derive his knowledge only from revelation. The ignorance and superstition of mankind have multiplied the Deity into a thousand forms, and clothed their gods with the follies and the passions of human nature; but surely we are not, therefore, to renounce the sublime and ennobling truth of the existence and government of an infinite and supreme Author of all things. The unlicensed imagination hath painted a sensual happiness for the blessed in the groves of the pagan Elysium; and hath framed a corporeal torment for the damned in the vultures, and the wheels, and the furies of Tartarus: and shall we therefore relinquish all our hopes of bliss beyond this imperfect, evil scene, and throw off all our fears of future retribution? The representations of the sacred writings concerning the powers and agency of evil spirits, involve no superstition or absurdity; no person will hazard the impious assertion, that the power of the Creator is confined to the formation of only one order of intelligent beings-those who inhabit this earth. That infinite and almighty power which called countless worlds into existence, hath animated his material ereation with numberless orders of spiritual intelligences; and it is not unreasonable to believe what is declared in the revelation of this Almighty Creator, that a number of these intelligences, by the abuse of the glorious faculty of free will, for

feited the purity and happiness of their first estate; that, defeated in their impious rebellion by the power of Jehovah, they are inflamed with deadly hatred against his counsels and his works; that one of these exalted intelligences, distinguished by his high powers, and by his proud contempt for the authority of the Ruler of the universe, and daring opposition to it, became their leader in impious rebellion; and, after their fall, was considered as their chief and prince. Acting according to the impulses of his nature, inveterate hatred and revenge would lead him to defeat, if possible, the counsels and the plans of infinite goodness, and conspiring with a malicious desire to increase the companions of his guilt and torment, would call forth every artifice of cunning, and every exertion of power, to seduce other orders of free intelligences from their allegiance to their Creator. It is not unworthy of the wisdom and goodness of the supreme Lawgiver to suppose that, in order to the trial of his creatures, without which their virtue would not be established, or capable of reward, he should permit the allurements and the assaults of the tempter against them. On the contrary, it redounds to the glory of his mercy and grace, that, while he affords us an opportunity of exalting, establishing, and perfecting our virtue, by triumphing over temptation, he urges the strongest motives to repel it, and furnishes us with that all-powerful grace which enables us to come victorious from the conflict.

The disbelief of what is revealed in Scripture concerning evil spirits, arises from that aspiring pride of the human mind which would confine within its narrow and superficial range the unsearchable wisdom and almighty power of the

eternal God. As well might we compare the taper that sheds a dim and evanescent light on a few surrounding objects, to that glorious orb, that, sending his rays through unexplored space, pours his effulgence on distant worlds. It is the height of human arrogance to limit that power which hath kindled unnumbered suns to give light and life to countless worlds, to the creation of one order of beings inhabiting this little spot of earth. It becomes man, the creature of a day, seated amidst the immeasurable works of God that dazzle and confound his feeble powers, to repress his arrogant pretensions, and in profound self-abasement to adore the unsearchable wisdom and power of him who is from everlasting to everlasting, the incomprehensible Fountain of being and Ruler of the


It does not then transcend the power of God to create an order of beings different in their powers and destination from man; and it is not unworthy of his wisdom and goodness to make this order of beings, fallen and degenerate, the instruments of trying, and confirming, and perfecting our virtue. We are not indeed able to ascertain the mode by which they exercise their influence over our minds; and equally inscrutable is the manner by which external objects produce internal impressions through the instrumentality of our senses. The ingenious conjectures of philosophers on this subject have served only to render it more perplexed and obscure but we do not doubt the fact because we are unable to account for it; nor should we therefore doubt the truth of the existence and agency of evil spirits, because the mode of their existence and agency is incomprehensible. Their existence VOL. II.


and agency are truths of revelation; and we know too little of their nature, and of our own, to deny that their influence over us may be possible.

The history of our Saviour's temptation has been assailed by another objection. The Son of God, the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of his person, it may be said, could not, consistently with the dignity of his divine nature, submit to the temptations of the prince of darkness. But the whole plan of redemption by the incarnation and sufferings of the Son of God, cannot be fathomed by human reason. Considering Christ in his divine nature only as the eternal Son of God, the submission would have been degrading and dishonourable: but when we regard him in his complex character, as uniting in his adorable person the divine and the human natures, and constituted the representative of our guilt, the submission was both necessary and proper. In the scene of the temptation the Saviour did not exert the powers of his divinity. As God, he was incapable of suffering; as God, he could have commanded legions of angels to his defence; as God, he could, by a word, have repelled the tempter to his seats of darkness: but, as the Saviour of man, he would not then have been tempted like as we are; nor would he then have afforded us a pledge of our triumph in the spiritual conflict, by subduing, in our nature, the great adversary, to whose temptations we are subject. This was the important and beneficent purpose which was to be answered by his temptation in the wilderness.

"Then was he led by the Spirit:" in his character as our Redeemer, he was under the guidance of that Holy Spirit, the third Person of the myste

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