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Moses, that among the inflictions dealt forth to the tyrannic Egyptians, this was the greatest; and the force of the expression is very remarkable : after detailing the plagues of blood, of flies, of frogs, of caterpillars, of locusts, of hail, frost, and thunderbolts, the inspired writer goes on:-“He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.” Psalm lxxvii. 49. When Satan sends an evil angel, he will sorely afflict the object of his mission; but when God looses the restraints of these malignant creatures, and bids them smite, it is terrible indeed!
We must again recall that most important truth, that whatsoever worship is rendered to any but God, is rendered to devils; and we shall be appalled at the scene of present, temporal cruelty and suffering laid open as the direct work of evil spirits. Moloch, the great idol of the heathen among whom Israel sojourned, was worshipped by the immolation of children, butchered by the knife and by fire; and it is awful to think that the Lord's own people were ensnared to join in this frightful abomination. “ They sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood." Psalm cvi. 37, 38. If the Holy Ghost had not caused this to be written by inspiration for our warning, we could not imagine the possibility of Satanic power, cunning, and cruelty, reaching to this point: that parents should be willing to take their tender, helpless babes, and de. liver them over to a most agonizing form of assassination, as an act of homage to the powers of hell, while they themselves were actually fed, day by day, with manna from heaven sent down by the merciful God, who quenched their hourly thirst with water flowing from a stony rock, and miraculously following them through the wilderness; where every step of their way was marked by some wonder of supernatural care, and all endearing love. Here, indeed, must vile human nature lay its unclean lip in the dust; and here may proud man learn to tremble at the dreadful sovereignty exercised by Satan over all who are not translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God, by living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Although every form of idolatry, or devil-worship, was not so murderous as that of Moloch, cruelty was, and is, the distinguishing feature of all. In a passage already quoted, when the Lord tells his faithful Church of Smyrna that he will, for the trial of their faith, give Satan power over some of them, the consequences are, of course, to be imprisonment and tribulation. We may judge from the manner of his dealing with Job, what use Satan naturally makes of any such indul. gence. Calamities were heaped on the patient man faster than the tongues of his messengers could utter them. Blood and slaughter, burning and crushing, were the immediate indications of the devil's temporary authority over his possessions and his family; and when he was permitted to touch the body of his victim, he left him no sound part, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, but transformed every particle of healthful flesh into a loathsome and agonized sore. Not satisfied with this, he stirred up the very person who should have been the soother of his sorrows and the strengthener of his faith, to prompt the self commission of what Satan himself was withheld from do ing; for there can be little doubt that her wicked sug. gestion to “curse God, and die,” implied the act of self-murder, to be committed in blasphemous defiance of the Lord. But here the adversary prevailed not; God had permitted him to break the hedge set about Job's temporal possessions and comforts, but his life and his soul were still secured. Pailing in this, with what refinement of prolonged cruelty did the arch fiend instigate his professed comforters to help forward Job's affliction.
Man's destruction is indeed the regular employment of atan. The Apostle Peter tells us, “ Your adver. sary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Pet. v. 8. Like "the young lions roaring after their food,” he prowls about, hoping to find some one forsaken of God, and left as a prey to his teeth. That this does sometimes happen, even with reference to the Lord's people, we are clearly told. Paul expresses it, when directing the Corinthian Church how to act towards a heinous of. fender, who having given place to the devil, was now doomed to experience the nature of that service for which he had cast away the easy yoke of Christ. “I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath done this deed. In the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to de. liver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." 1 Cor. v. 3-5. It appears, however, that on giving proof of very deep sorrow, and unfeigned repentance, the transgressor was received again, after experiencing, no doubt, for a time, what it was to be under the temporal power of the evil one. Another case of this sort is also mentioned by the same apostle. “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck; of whom is Hymenæus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” 1 Tim. i. 19, 20. It would appear from this, that a temporary endurance of the devil's power is sometimes seen needful for the perverse children of God, in order to terrify them by the foretaste of what an eternal subjection to so cruel a master must be: and Satan knows the length of his chain, he is probably quite aware when correction, not destruction, is all that he is licensed to inflict. Accordingly he makes the most of his time, not lulling and soothing them in their guilt, as with those who are wholly his own, but striving, as he did with Job, to render them desperate under the rod, that they may either run into despairing sin, curse God, and die,” or else, as was near being the case with the Corinthian offender, may utterly faint and perish, being "swallowed up of overmuch sorrow.”
The Bible does not specify the particular cruelties practised under various forms of idolatry ; but from what is perpetrated in the dark places of the earth at this day, we may judge of Satan's habitual proceedings among his worshipers. Human sacrifices, accompanied with circumstances of most horrible barbar. ity, are common in many parts of the world: mothers are required to butcher their tender infants, children their aged parents, and vast numbers of all ages are frequently put to death, as an offering to the spirit of a deceased ruler, or to be attendants on his soul in ano. ther world. Self-immolation is enforced as a sacred duty; and if not willingly performed, the reluctant victim is murdered. On harmless animals most cruel tortures are inflicted, as an acceptable service to the devils whom the heathen seek to propitiate ; and in that nominally Christian șystem, of which the “ ing is after the working of Satan," (2 Thess. ii. 9) whose teachers are “ seducing spirits,” and its distinguishing requirements "doctrines of devils,” (1 Tim. iv. 1,) we find the Satanic feature of wanton cruelty developed in full deformity. The rack is its main instrument of conversion to an idolatrous faith ; and the flames its award to such as will not venture to en. counter everlasting burnings. Massacre on a scale only bounded by the number of its defenceless victims, and the limits of its physical power, persecution, to the utmost stretch of human endurance, these are the lot of its opponents; while for the members of its own system it has the discipline of the scourge, of famishing hunger, of bodily austerity in every imaginable shape; and a merciless rending a part of every tie that God