« PrécédentContinuer »
a good way off from them a herd of many swine feeding ; so the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out they went into the herd of swine: and be. hold the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters." Here we see, first, the deprecatory cry of the fiends ; acknowledging the omnipotence of the Lord, but pleading that the set time for tormenting them in the fiery pit was not yet come. They are good calculators of prophetic periods, and perfectly knew that their time on earth had not expired. Next, they made a request, the drift of which we could not have seen but for the effects that followed its success. They asked leave to enter the swine; blessed be God! Satan has no power even over unclean beasts, unless it be especially given of the Lord. Having permission, they instantly avail. ed themselves of it by drowning every one of the herd in the sea; and by this manœuvre they so alarmed the neighbouring inhabitants, who could expect no less from such a beginning than that the unknown visiter would destroy all their property, as to prompt a general request that he would depart out of their coasts. Thus for the time, was the dreaded gospel averted from a whole city, by the exceeding craft of these devils; and in permitting their vile contrivance to succeed, the Lord mercifully provided a rich warning lesson for his church, to the end of time. May we all have grace to use it effectually in our wrestling contest with the principalities and powers of darkness !
Another mode of undermining where they durst not openly attack, was practised against the teaching of the Apostles. In Acts xvi. 16, we have the account. “ And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying ; the same followed Paul and us, saying, These men are the servants of the Most High God, which show unto us the way of salvation. And this she did many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour." In this, as in the preceding case, the devil's device is shown by its fruits. His object in thus following and publicly testifying to the divine origin of the Apostle's teaching was probably two-fold. While allowed to continue it, he might expect to cast a slur on the doctrine in which a devil could thus approvingly seem to acquiesce, while a professed witch appeared as a daily follower of those who taught it; and if he provoked them to expel him, he might justly calculate on the vengeance of her masters, which overtook them im. mediately, and before night they were scourged, imprisoned, and made fast in the stocks. Seeing that all this was through the cunning of a devil, it is peculiar. ly delightful to proceed in the story, and find the whole overruled of God to the conversion of the keeper of the prison, and all his household, the shame of the unjust magistrates who had beaten them, and the honourable acquittal and dismission of the Apostles from the place; where, no doubt, events so extraordinary
were blessed to the conviction of many; the church at Philippi being, as we find by his epistle to it, an especial cause of thankfulness and joy to Paul.
Another instance had previously occurred, where a sorcerer, one who avowedly held communion with evil spirits, and through their workings in him merited the severe rebuke, “O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness,”? had endeavoured to turn away a Roman deputy from the faith ; and here the Lord manifested himself by showing that all the sorceries of Elymas, and his pretended sanctity, could not avert from him the stroke of instant blindness, which, to mark it as a direct visitation from on high, was announced by Paul the moment before he overtook him; and this wonder confirmed the deputy in the faith. Acts xiii. 6–12. One more instance we have in Simon Magus, who was also a sorcerer, and who seemed to have been delivered from the dominion of evil spirits, by the preaching of the gospel, being able to make such a confession of faith as entitled him to baptism. In him the devil sought to bring a deadly disgrace on the Church of Christ, by obtaining the power of conferring the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost on whomsoever he would; or if the idea of being able to buy the gift of God with money appear too foolish to have been really entertained by a spiritual being, we may suppose that he calculated on making the very proposal, from a professed worshipper, redound to the disadvantage of that church. In either case he was baffled. Peter was enabled to “perceive” that this seeming convert was still in the gall of bitterness and the bond of ini. quity, and rebuked him openly ; while the record of the attempt serves to this day as an invaluable
preser. vative against certain unscriptural views of baptism that have crept into the church.
By considering in how many instances under the Old Testament dispensation, characters appeared, and events occurred parallel to these which meet us un. der the clearer light of the New, we may trace such hindrances and stumblings among the saints of old to the deep-laid plots of the rulers of the darkness of this world; and by such an enlarged view of the enemy's sphere of action, we may learn to be more earnest in praying that "all those evils which the craft and subtlety of the devil or man worketh against us may be brought to naught;" and may also become more watchfully alert in seeking to baffle his devices.
It seems almost superfluous to devote a section to this subject, seeing that everything we can name respecting Satan and his angels, comes under the head of cruelty. From the first attempt of the devil to seduce Eve from her allegiance, his object has always been to plunge the whole human race into the bottomless pit, which he knows to be his own portion, “the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." Rev. xxi. 8. But though he generally tempts men with the promise, dr possession of present enjoyment, alluring them to sell their souls for worldly profit, still, whenever he can have his own way, he produces present calamities, and heaps upon his wretched victims tribulation and anguish as well in possession as in prospect. On
many occasions noted in the scripture, God, by his own arm, or by his holy angels, has punished the transgressor; but we find him in the majority of instances, giving offenders into the hand of Satan, or of wicked men who act under his influence, for punishment. It is mentioned by the Psalmist, though not by