« PrécédentContinuer »
has formed to sweeten the cup of human life. In all this we should recognise the cruel hand of him who was a murderer from the beginning, even had not the word of God so distinctly set him forth as the framer and upholder of Popery, as to warrant our numbering among Scripture evidences, what the prophetic page describes in the passages already quoted from St. Paul ; and in those of John, when describing the Beast which he saw rising out of the sea. He says, “ The dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." Rev. xiii. 2. In the preceding chapter we are told (ver. 9) that the dragon is "that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world :" and again, of the Beast to whom he
it is written, “It was given unto him to make war with the saints and to overcome them,” xiii. 7. dictions of the Bible are no less certain than its historical relations; and if we desire an instance of the sustained cruelty of Satan, manifested through a space of twelve hundred years and upwards, not among barbarous people who never heard of the true God, but in the heart, and throughout the extent of Christendom, we must look at Popery-the Babylon of prophecy, concerning whom it is said, “ Babylon the great . is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." Rev. xviii, 2.
The cases of those possessed with devils is represented as being nearly always one of great suffering. The exceptions seem to be those instances where the infernal inmate was a welcome confederate, for the
sake of such supernatural powers as he could confer. Such was the “spirit of divination” possessed by the damsel who followed Paul and Silas; the “familiar spirits” that enabled Simon Magus, Elymas, and others, to practise sorcery ; and the awful entering in of Satan himself into Judas Iscariot, who went and completed his tremendous bargain under that devilish influence. Among the many descriptions of demoniacal cruelty inflicted on the poor creatures who were brought to our Lord or to his apostles, we may notice the daughter of the Syro-Phenician woman, who was “grievously vexed with a devil.” Matt. xv. 22.
The poor boy whose father gave so piteous a description of his suffer. ings, afterwards confirmed it in the presence of our Lord. “ Master, I have brought unto thee my son which hath a dumb spirit; and whensoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away." Mark ix. 17, 18. “And oftentimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him," v. 22. “ And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him, and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, he is dead;" V. 26. The description also, as given by the same evangelist, of the demoniac from whom the devils passed into the swine, is very awful. “A man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains : because he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces : neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones." Mark v. 2-5. Again, we read, “ There was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.” Luke xiii. 11: and that this was a visitation of Satanic cruelty, our Lord in express terms reveals.
Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound lo these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day ?”' y. 16. We read, too, of “ sessed with a devil, blind and dumb.” Matt. xii. 22. The last act of these fiends was always, when permitted, a cruel one: they “rent” or “threw down” their victims, when departing, though restrained from fatally injuring them. Thus it was with the man in the syn. agogue, who had a spirit of an unclean deyil, which testified, in evident terror, to our Lord's divinity; for he “cried out with a loud voice, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth ? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and conie out of him. And when the devil had thrown him down in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.” Luke iv. 33, 34, 35. When Paul, through the abundance of revelations vouchsafed to him, was in danger of becoming puffed up, a chastening hand was laid on him, by giving Satan power to' afflict his body, in some way not particularized. He calls it “a thorn in the flesh; the messenger of Satan sent to buffet me.” 2 Cor. xii. 7. It was grievous, for he thrice besought the Lord,
that it might depart from him : it was visible, and humbling to human pride, for he gratefully mentions it to the praise of the Galatians, that it did not lessen their regard for him, or their reverence for his mission. “ Ye know how, through infirmity of the flesh, I preached the gospel to you at first : and my temptation, which was in my flesh, ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.” Gal. iv. 13, 14.
In all these, and many other instances, we find, that the power of Satan, to whatever extent it is carried, is always cruelly oppressive: Peter testifies of our Lord Jesus, that he “ went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil.” Acts x. 38. But grievous as were the sufferings that Satan inflict. ed on the bodies of those over whom he had liberty to tyrannize, they were as nothing compared with what he can do when assaulting the mind. We do not here speak of such as knowingly act upon his vile suggestions, but of those who are the unconscious, or defenceless objects of his covert attacks. On this subject the hook of God does not furnish us with descriptions of many individual cases; it rather shows us the ma. chinery at work, and enables us, each from his own experience, to judge of the universal results. There is not an impulse of our nature, nor a faculty of our minds, nor an inclination of our hearts—there is not a duty, there is not an enjoyment, there is not a trouble, but Satan both can and will lay hold of it to tempt, to harass, to oppress our souls. Hence, from age to age, every believer, how great soever his privileges, and
2 Cor. v.
how happy soever his experience, must often take up the apostle's language, and secretly confess, that “we that are in this tabernacle, do groan, being burdened.”
4. And the nearer a Christian endeavours to follow the steps of Paul, in active employment for the Lord's cause among men, the more surely will he have to join in his testimony, who spoke so touchingly of his inward trials, “serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations." Acts xx. 19.
In what manner Satan afflicted the affectionate Peter is fully detailed ; and no one who loves the Lord Jesus can for a moment doubt, that the agonies of his mind were far greater and more intolerable than any bodily suffering whatever could possibly have been. He was grieved to hear his adored Master predict the desertion of his disciples, and said, “ Though all men should be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.” Matt. xxvi. 33. Our Lord, in reply, , assured him, that before the cock next crew he should thrice have denied him; and Peter, as yet little aware of the power of his invisible adversary, and his own miserable weakness, reiterated the confident declaration, “ Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee;” v. 35. St. Luke records that the Lord also addressed him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat;' Luke xxii. 31 ; thus plainly declaring whose was the cruel work; and when, after forsaking that gentle, loving Master, leaving him in the hands of his foes, and cautiously, at a safe distance, stealing after,