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remark, that a personification is a figure of rhetoric or of poetry, by which we ascribe sentiment, language, and action, to things which, properly speaking, are utterly incapable of these : for example, Job, in a lofty strain of poetry, inquiring where is the place of wisdom. “ Man,” saith he, “knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. The depth saith, It is not in me, and the sea saith, It is not with me. Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears."* In this bold personification of the Depth, the Sea, Destruction, and Death, there is grandeur and imagination, but no obscurity; every one perceives, that in bestowing sentiment and language on these natural objects, the writer merely obeys the impulse of poetic enthusiasm. St. Paul, on several occasions, makes use of the same figure, and personifies the Law, the Flesh, and other things of an abstract nature, and no one mistakes his meaning. The legitimate use of this figure is, to give vivacity and animation to the exhibition of sentiment; every sober writer employs it sparingly and occasionally, and will rarely, if ever, have recourse to it, until he has elevated the imagination of his reader to a pitch which prepares him to sympathize with the enthusiasm it betrays. A personification never dropt, nor ever explained by the admixture of literal forms of expression in the same connexion, is an anomaly, or rather absurdity, of which there is no
* Job xxviii. 12-14, 22.
example in the writings of men of sense. Of all the figures of speech by which language is varied and enriched, the personification is, perhaps, the most perspicuous; nor is there an instance to be found, in the whole range of composition, sacred or profane, in which it was so employed as to make it doubtful whether the writer intended to be understood in a literal or figurative sense. Let those who deny the existence of Satan, adduce, if they are able, another example from any author whatever, ancient or modern, sacred or profane, in which this figure is employed in a manner so enigmatical and obscure, as to have been interpreted for ages in a literal sense. There is a personification spreading itself through the whole Bible, if we believe these men, snow] discovered for the first time, in writings which have been studied by thousands, possessed of the most acute and accomplished intellect, for eighteen hundred years, without one of them, during all these ages, suspecting that it existed. It is scarcely necessary to say, that a more untenable position was never advanced; nor one, which, if they really believe that the sacred writers meant to be understood figuratively, evinces a more unpardonable inattention to the operations of thought, and the laws of composition. On any other subject but religion, such a style of criticism could not fail to expose its authors to merited derision.
But let us, for a moment, wave the other objections to this solution, and, admitting it to be possible, examine how far it will answer its purpose, by applying it to some of the principal passages which treat of the agency of Satan. It is necessary to forewarn my hearers, that the devil, or Satan, according to the notion of our opponents, is by no means a personification, universally, of one and the same thing. It is a Proteus, that assumes so many shapes as almost to elude detection. Most commonly, it denotes the principle of moral evil; sometimes, however, it stands for the heathen magistrates, sometimes for the Jewish priests and scribes, and at others, for the personal opponent of St. Paul at Corinth.
Let us first apply this solution to our Lord's temptation in the wilderness. “Then,” says Matthew, “ was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.”* This, our opponents tell us, with great confidence, was a visionary scene, and their reason for it is curious enough. It is the form of the expression, “ Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness.” Mark has it, “ sendeth him into the wilderness.” On this principle of interpretation, whatever is represented as performed by Christ under the agency of the Spirit, must be understood as visionary; and when it is said, “ he entered in the power of the Spirit into Galilee,” it must be understood as intending not a real, but a fictitious or visionary removal. It is true that Ezekiel speaks of himself as brought to Jerusalem, in order to witness * Matt. iv. 1.
† Mark i. 12.
the abominations practised there, while it is evident his actual abode was still in Babylon ; but that no mistake may arise, he repeatedly assures us, that it was in the visions of God. But no such intimation is given in the instance before us. It has all the appearance of a literal matter of fact, and as such it has been currently received by the church of God. Let it be admitted, however, for argument's sake, to have been a visionary representation; the question still recurs, What is meant by the tempter in this scene? and whether any of the solutions which have been given can possibly be admitted. The devil here cannot be intended to denote the pagan magistrates, or Jewish highpriests, or scribes, because our Lord was alone. As little can it mean the principle of evil. The principle of evil must be the principle of some mind; it cannot subsist apart. Where, in this instance, is the mind in which it inhered ? None were present but the Saviour and the tempter; if the tempter was not a person, but the principle of evil, that principle must have belonged to the Saviour himself; it must have consisted of some sinful bias, some corrupt propensity in himself, with which he maintained an arduous struggle. But this is refuted by the concurrent testimony of the sacred writers, who affirm him to be “ holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners ;"* who emphatically designate him under the character of him “ that is holy, him that is true.”+ * Heb. vii. 26.
+ Rev. ii. 7.
It is to be hoped that our modern socinians have not rushed to that extreme of impiety to impute a principle of evil to the mind of the immaculate Lamb of God, “ in whom was no sin.”* And yet, without this, no intelligible account can be given of the temptation, except that which has been universally received in the church.
Let us apply their theory to another very important passage in the sixth chapter of the Ephesians. We there find the following exhortation : “ Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” By these principalities and powers, our modern socinians tell us we are to understand a general personification of all wicked opposition to the progress of christianity, whether from the civil or ecclesiastical power, and, in the present instance, more particularly, “the opposition of Jewish priests and rulers.”+ But how, we ask, is this comment consistent with the negative branch of St. Paul's assertion, “ for we wrestle not with flesh and blood ?” Flesh and blood is a very common form of expression in the sacred writings, employed to denote the human race, or mankind. Thus our Lord tells Peter, “ flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is
* 1 John iii. 5. + Improved Version, p. 450.