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the certainty and stability of science. While investigating the laws of matter, we can vary the situations in which it is placed, as much as we please [within certain practical limits], and retain it as long under our view; but mental phenomena form a Proteus, which is continually changing its aspect, and the objects of our observation are continually gliding away from us. Yet, while we acknowledge the incompetency of reason to ascertain the existence of a class of creatures superior to ourselves, and that all we can arrive at is a probable conjecture, it should be remembered that reason is equally incompetent to determine the contrary. If it is unable to build, it is, on the very same account, unable to destroy; whatever improvement philosophy may receive, however successful and brilliant its career, its conclusions, in no instance, apply to an economy which, being confessedly supernatural, is beyond its sphere, and governed by laws totally different from those which it is its business to explore.
Were all the secrets of the material world laid open, and the whole structure of the human mind, with all the laws of thought, volition, and emotion, perfectly developed and explained, we should not be a step nearer to a solution of the question under our present consideration, not at all more qualified to determine whether there be an order of superior intelligences, or what the station they occupied, or the faculties by which they were distinguished. In short, the utmost that philosophy
can achieve is to make us acquainted with human creatures, and with some of the laws which govern the material and visible world. Whenever we extend our views beyond this, we have no data to proceed upon, [but] are all at once in the region of doubt and conjecture. It is a province to which the principles [of philosophy] cease to apply: ingenuity may amuse itself with endless suppositions, and fancy fill the void with splendid pictures; but as to discovery, the intellect of a Newton is upon the same level with that of a child.
It follows from hence that the attempt to set aside the doctrine on this subject, derived from scripture, under the notion of its being unphilosophical, is puerile and unmeaning. The truth is, that it is in no other sense unphilosophical, except that philosophy has nothing to do with it, that it implies supernatural economy, to which its principles are totally inapplicable, and which it can neither affirm nor deny. Here, if any where, we must have recourse “ to the law and to the testimony;" if they speak not according to them, “ there is no light in them.”
Let me briefly advert, then, to the statements of the New Testament on this subject. I shall content myself with presenting the reader with a mere outline, without attempting to exhaust the information which they impart
The New Testament informs us, that there is an order of intelligent beings superior to the
human race, which it usually designates by the name of angels, a name descriptive of their office, rather than their nature; that they are endowed with very elevated powers and capacities; that part of these, at a former (period), swerved from their allegiance to the “ blessed and only Potentate," on which account they lost their first estate; that of these, one of preeminent rank and dignity took the lead in the revolt; that under the name of Satan he continues to rule the rest, who are styled his angels; that having established an infernal empire, he has ever been engaged in a malignant and implacable opposition to the will of God; that, envious of the happiness of our first parents, under the disguise of a serpent, he tempted the woman to violate the divine prohibition, by eating the forbidden fruit, whence we derived a corrupt and mortal nature; that the same evil spirit who is styled “ the god of this world,” the “ prince of the power of the air,” perpetually exerts himself in seducing men to sin; that he succeeded in effacing the knowledge of God, and establishing idolatry throughout the world; that Jesus Christ was appointed, by his divine Father, to be the antagonist of Satan, and to “ destroy his works ;” and that, before the close of time, his dominion will be established upon the ruin of that of Satan, and the world restored to happiness and to God. This, as it appears to me, is a fair outline of the doctrine of the New Testament on this mysterious subject. In a word, Christ and
Satan are represented in the Scriptures as the heads of two opposite empires; the one the empire of light and holiness, the other of darkness and sin; the one embracing all the elements of moral good, the other all those of moral evil; while the whole human race are divided by their sway.
To a philosophical mind, not imbued with the light of revelation, such a view of the moral state of the world will, probably, appear strange and portentous; nothing is easier than to suggest plausible objections against it. It may be admitted that it is not such a representation as reason, left to itself, would have prompted us to anticipate. This is a circumstance, however, which, in judging of (such matters], is entitled to little attention ; whatever their previous improbability, they must be received or rejected according to the amount of evidence adduced for their support. Even in the affairs of ordinary life, our previous conceptions of improbability are found to afford no criterion of truth, much less can any reliance be placed on them in judging of the laws of a superior and supernatural economy.
In asserting the personality and agency of Satan, we are not, it should be remembered, proposing to our reader a speculation in philosophy; we are asserting a fact beyond the limits of its jurisdiction; a fact for which we profess to produce no other evidence besides the declarations of scripture. If its testimony is not sufficient to decide the question, we are out at sea, nor is it possible to specify
what doctrines we are warranted to receive on its authority; especially when we consider that to enlarge our knowledge of the invisible world would appear to be the proper business of a revelation, whose exclusive glory it is to bring “ life and immortality to light.” We have no controversy, at present, with those whose lax notions of inspiration embolden them to reject the express testimony of an apostle. We assume, as granted, the truths of inspiration, so far at least that they may be safely trusted in the annunciation of christian doctrine; and all we shall attempt is, to establish that literal interpretation of their language on the subject under our present consideration, wherein we infer the personal existence and agency of Satan.
There is no necessary alliance between moral rectitude and intellectual elevation; nor need we go far in search of high intellectual vigour, combined in the same individual, with a portentous degree of pravity. In free and voluntary agents, we learn, from constant observation, that the greatest range and comprehension of intellect is no security against obliquity of will; nor is it at all certain that a preeminent degree of mental superiority may not, under certain circumstances, become itself a source of temptation. Be this as it may, the only order of rational creatures with which our experience has brought us acquainted, have, we are certain, fallen from rectitude; and