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portions of matter, they will be most offensive and most unpleasant to the sight. To use the language of Isaiah, “ the worm shall be spread under them, and worms shall cover them.” Still shall these bodies, in myriads, rise inmortal from the ground. They shall burst forth into pew and endless existence.
While this consideration is most joyous to all the disciples of Him, who is “ the resurrection and the life,” it is fraught with alarm and terror to the impenitent. At present, whatever pain is violent, cannot be of long duration. The human frame is soon overcome by its intensity.
But the bodies of the wicked will be raised immortal and indissoluble: and thus prepared for all the sufferings, which a righteous God has reserved for them. There will then be no hopes of annihilation to allay the fears of those, who now set themselves against the moral government of the most High. Their existence and their misery will be alike interminable.
LECTURE X X V.
Among the miracles, wrought by our Saviour, and reeorded by the evangelists, the recovery of persons, apparently under the influence of evil spirits, holds a conspicuous place.
The common opinion, among Christians, has been, that the accounts of these miraculous cures, are to be literally understood; and, of course, that evil spirits had such possession of the afflicted persons, as to produce disorder in body, or mind, or perhaps in both.
Another opinion has been embraced by no inconsiderable number; viz. that the persons, said to be possessed, were under the influence of natural disorders ;—but disorders of such a kind, as had been by heathens and Jews, especially the former, attributed to the influence of evil spirits, and that the common language was restained by Christ and the evangelists, though neither of them designed to countenance belief in real possession.
Our present design is to make an inquiry into this subject.
Lest there should be any misconception, I would observe, that both sides are agreed, that whatever may have been the
origin of these disorders, the cure was miraculous. So that whatever may be our ideas as to the inferences which might be made from either of these opinions, we are not to charge those, who hold either the one or the other, as doubting the divine authority of Christ or the integrity of the evangelists. Although a very great majority of christians have believed in the doctrine of real possessions, the other has been defended by men of no less reputation, than Drs. Joseph and Richard Mead, Dr. Sykes, Dr. Lardner, and Mr. Hugh Farmer.
I begin by observing, that the existence of evil spirits, whether denominated satan, devils, or dæmons, is by no means inconsistent with reason.
So far, as we are able to examine the works of God, there is a striking and regular gradation. The lowest effort of creative power appears to be dull, unorganized matter. Stones and metals seem entitled to a superior rank. These, however, as proof of divine wisdom, are not to be placed on a level with vegetables. In vegetables there is great diversity. But the lowest may be considered as higher than any individuals in the mineral kingdom. The sensitive plant seems to approximate to animal life. Among brute animals, the series may be traced from the most sluggish, to those, which display the greatest sagacity and sprightliness. From the latter, to the least intelligent of our own race, the chasm seems not to be very wide. From these the gradation is continu ed, till we arrive ai those rare geniuses, which, to the rest of men, are objects of admiration.
Now, as the series may be traced thus far, is its greater extent improbable? Will any person pretend to be confident, that man is the highest effect of creative wisdom ! that there is not, in the universe, any race of dependent beings, superior to our own ? On this subject, without revelation, no certainty could be ascertained: but surely it is not difficult to ascertain, on which side there is most probability.
Revelation enables us to decide in favor of that, which was before probable.
But if there are creatures of rank, superior to man, analogy will justify the supposition, that they either are, or have been in a state of probation. The very idea of probation supposes, that they who are tried, may conduct amiss. Human beings have thus conducted, and are depraved. No person, I think, will assert, that there is the least shadow of incredibility in the supposition, that some among superior intelligences have done the same. If they have, their character corresponds, in general, with that which is assigned in scripture to a being of great intellectual powers, called the devil, satan, the accuser, &c.
These beings, from their character, would not be peaceable subjects of the divine government. Moral evil is of the same nature, whatever be the intellectual rank of those to whom it belongs. If there be bad angels, therefore, they resemble bad men, with this difference, that their powers are much greater; and, having existed a much longer time, their habits of sinning are proportionably more inveterate. If, in addition to this, it be supposed, that their doom is determined, and they are placed beyond the hope of recovery, further reasons will be apparent, why their malignity should be decisive, open, and without restraint. Such beings would be strongly inclined to injure the other subjects of Jehovah's empire. If you ask, why they should, I reply, For the same reasons, which induce men, whose depravity is unspeakably less, to be injurious to each other. Individuals of our own species are hostile among themselves. Nations employ their whole ingenuity in devising methods of distressing those, with whom they are at war. This proceeds less commonly from malice, than from pride or unrestrained self love; though not unfrequently from all these. The very existence of evil spirits, makes it credible, that so far as permission is given, they are injurious to other beings.
Is it then, either incredible, or highly improbable, that
such permission should be given; which is to say, that other beings should sometimes be in a situation, exposed to their malevolence? Your first impression perhaps is, that if creatures of such pernicious character exist, the goodness of God requires, that they be so restrained, as that others shall receive from them no injury. However plausible this conjecture may appear, it is not supported by analogy. Vicious men are permitted to act with freedom; and many others are placed within their power. They do, in fact, produce extensive injury. No inconsiderable part of human sufferings, results from the abuse of that power, with which wicked men are entrusted. One tyrant may disturb, and does disturb the peace of millions. Now, it is, I presume, perfectly clear to your apprehensions, that the same difficulty exists in both cases. We should before hand presume, as confidently, that wicked men would be restrained from doing injury, as, that such restraints should be imposed on other vicious beings of superior rank. But, as facts show, that our conjecture would, in one case, be erroneous, it is probably not less so in the other. Let it now be considered, that the scriptures speak with great frequency, not only of the existence of an evil spirit, as principal, and others, acting under his influence, but likewise of the interest which they take in human concerns. In the Mosaic account of the fall of man, those powers are attributed to the serpent, which it is well known, do not belong to brute animals; such as speech, intelligence, and the power of reasoning. Nor do I know how this account can be rationally explainca without supposing the serpent, actuated by an invisible, intelligent being, of insidious and malignant character. In 1. Chron. xxi. i. it is said, that satan provoked David to number the people. Hm the book of Job, his existence and agency are strongly asserted, as likewise in the prophecy of Zechariah. In the New Testament, this evil spirit is denominated the god of this world: than which expression, nothing can more