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men readily believe in a heaven, and as readily disbelieve a hell,-willingly believe in good angels, but deny the existence of bad ones? What is the explanation of this, but that men love to have it so, and easily believe or disbelieve what they wish? Is not this a general principle of our nature? Is it not strongest, when least perceived? And may it not be operative in the present, as in other questions? Selfishness would feel, and of course would offer no objections to a companionship and brotherhood with Gabriel But what principle of humanity would recognise an intimate alliance with Satan? It is a logical maxim, quicquid recipitur, recipitur ad modum recipientis, which may be freely rendered, our belief is shaped and coloured by our desires. Let us now attempt to lay aside our wishes, and decide on the question before us from arguments addressed to reason, discarding prejudice and all preconceived opinions, and believing the simple testimony of Him, who was, and is the truth, who knew the truth, and has plainly revealed the truth.
Let us now proceed to examine the testimony and the witnesses to be adduced.
The first argument in proof of diabolical existence and agency, is the fact, that Christ himself was tempted, and put to exquisite suffering by Satan. Matthew, iv. 1–11. "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down for it is written, he shall give his
angels charge concerning thee; and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and behold, angels came and ministered unto him." Compare Mark, i. 13, Luke, iv. 1—13.
Whatever difficulties, real or imaginary, may attend the subject of "the temptation," the actual existence of a mighty evil spirit is plainly asserted. No American critic has yet ventured to deny, that, when angels are said in this passage to have come and ministered to Christ, personal existence, attributes, and actions, are ascribed to them.* They really approached and served their Lord, whom "all the angels are commanded to worship." Putting other passages of scripture out of the question, as equally in favor of angelic and diabolical existence, what is the evidence from the above quotation in proof of the existence of angels? It is found in a single verse, and a solitary assertion. Angels came and ministered to him; the devil came and tempted him. If the passage stood thus, the evidence for angelic and for diabolical existence would be equal. But how stands the evidence now? Through the whole passage, not only personal names, devil, Satan, the tempter; personal actions, coming, talking, quoting scripture, reasoning; but all the ingenuity of artifice which can be imagined as belonging to the
* What, according to Unitarian exposition, can the assertion angels came and ministered unto him," mean?
great enemy of mankind, is employed to accomplish his diabolical purpose. Jesus is hungry; the devil knows it and says, "here now is an opportunity, if you are what you profess to be, to show your power. Make bread of this stone." "Man shall not live by bread alone." "You claim God for a protector. Cast yourself from this pinnacle, and see if his angels will take charge of thee." "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." "Here are all the kingdoms and riches and glory of the world. They are mine. Only fall down and worship me, and they shall be thine." "Get thee behind me, Satan. To God only belongs worship." Having thus assailed Christ through the most importunate of sinless appetites, and through the strongest principles of humanity, the love of riches and power and glory, and having been thwarted in each attempt by an "it is written," "it is written," "it is written," the devil leaveth him, and angels came and ministered unto him. Is there not as much evidence in this passage of the existence of Satan, as of good angels? If the existence and agency of the former must be explained away, on what principle can the existence and agency of the latter be allowed? I wish you, my dear sir, and every Unitarian reader of these Letters who professes to think for himself, to say whether you are prepared to adopt a principle of interpretation, which not only denies the existence of Satan but of Gabriel also. Let him who doubts it, suppose for a moment, that there is a mighty evil spirit, whose great desire was to divert Christ from the purpose of his ministry; and suppose him to have approached Christ with this intent, could words and actions more appropriate and in character, have been selected? Are there any characters drawn by Shakespeare more exactly "in keeping," than those of Christ and Satan, as drawn by the publican, Matthew? Reflect on the immensity of interest staked at this moment, when the second Adam
was thus assailed by "the prince of this world," and say if the very grandeur of the conception does not substantiate and authorize the common interpretation? But, not to rely on this, does not every mind on first reading this passage, believe the existence of an evil spirit to be asserted? Does not the most intelligent mind, reading it for the hundredth or thousandth time, believe such an existence asserted, whether he believe the fact of such an existence or not? Would not every one believe the fact, were it not for certain philosophical or moral difficulties thought to attend the subject? Will these difficulties be removed, and the whole subject cleared up, by turning the concrete into the abstract, "Satan" into "the principle of evil," to accommodate German Neology, and American Unitarianism? to meet the opinions of Professor Semler and Rev. Mr. Ware? Will it not require a stretch of even "rational" credulity to believe, that "the principle of evil" should say, or be represented as saying, "all this power will I give thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will, I give it: if thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine”? Was Christ, "full of the Holy Ghost," tempted to fall down before, and to worship the abstract principle of evil? Can any believer in revelation, possessing an iota of reason, believe this? But not to dwell too long on a difficulty which meets us at the outset, and will not be found to lessen as we advance, is not the first part of this argument made out, to wit, that Christ was tempted by Satan ?*
* The intention of the writer is, that while this discussion assumes a popular shape, it shall have an immovable foundation in the soundest criticism. No quotations, however, will be made, except from the common version, for these reasons, first, that every one has access to that in an intelligible shape; and, secondly, that the result of the severest critical examination is an establishing, beyond dispute, of the common text as genuine in all the passages on which any reliance is here placed. No Unitarian critic will attempt to evade the
Let us consider the proof of the other part of the proposition, that Christ was also put to exquisite suffering by the tempter. After the devil had departed from him, no other mention is made of any such temptation through his whole life, till near its close, when he makes this remarkable declaration," Hereafter I will not talk much with you, for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." John, xiv. 30. Can any one doubt that by "the prince of this world" Christ meant "Satan," "the devil," "the god of this world," "the prince of the power of the air," "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience"? Christ was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners," "knew no sin," was "without sin;" was he then tempted by "the principle of evil"? Even on the supposition of some Unitarians, that he was a "fallible and peccable man," according to all known principles of human nature, and the well established constitution of the human mind, he had now acquired a fixedness of principle, and elevation of moral character so force of the following arguments by appealing to "various readings." Some principle of interpretation must be hit upon to undermine their foundation, or the question must be given up. I shall hereafter prosecute this investigation, as though no other book were in being except the New Testament in plain English, with, perhaps, a very few exceptions; one of which refers to this first quotation from Matthew. The full strength of argument by which this passage proves the position taken, cannot be perceived by the mere English reader. The word here translated "the tempter," is of peculiar structure and significancy in the original, and may be pronounced untranslatable. It is a present participle with the masculine article prefixed. Gerard, in his Institutes of Biblical Criticism, treating on "the usage of particles" has this rule, (913) "the article prefixed to a participle present, often makes it to denote a character, an employment, a habit of life or a general state of being; and that, not only absolutely, or relative to the present time, but also with respect to the past or the future." Under this rule he adduces ten illustrations, the first of which is that of the word in question, which he thus translates: "he, whose character, custom, employment it is, to tempt." The same word is translated by Storr in his Elements of Biblical Theology, vol. ii. page 20,"he, who is in a habit of seducing to sin." Gerard is of high authority in the Theological School at Cambridge. Storr is from the Codman press at Andover. Both of these writers, particularly Storr, have been considered in Europe and America, as having attained, at