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The term Satan, indicates no more than that propensity to evil so frequently observable in human conduct, and which, like the chemical doctrines of phlogiston and caloric, is of great utility for the explanation of difficulties. All classical readers know that the most beautiful writings abound with bold, figurative, and hyperbolical descriptions. That nothing is more ornamental in poetry, than prosopopeia, or the representation of good and evil qualities, virtues and vices, by personal characters. The word Satan, sig. nifies an adversary, and sometimes it only denotes the abstract quality, calumny. Our translators have rendered it, accordingly, throughout the Bible. Though the term Satan occurs frequently in the scriptures, yet generally some human being is intended. David is so called, 1 Sam. 29: 4. Hadad is denominated Solomon's devil or satan, 1 Kings, 11 : 14. David de scribes those who rendered him evil for good as his satans ; and prays that his satans might be clothed with shame. Ps. 109: 20, 29. Jesus calls Peter satan, and Judas a devil, Matt. 16: 23. John 6: 70. In the New Testament, treacherous men, slanderous women, and opponents of every kind, are called satans or devils ; and these words signify no more than adverse propensities. Indeed it would be an impious reflection on the character of the Deity, to suppose he had formed and let loose myriads of malevolent spirits to destroy the happiness of mankind.
If it be demanded, Whence arise those inducements to evil, which so often disturb the peace of society, and ruin man's happiness ? the answer is both easy and scriptural. The heart is deceitful, and every man is tempted when he is drawn aside, or enticed by animal passions or bodily appetites. These expose us to innumerable trials and temptations. Intemperance, avarice, ambition, envy, and discontentment beset us in their turns, and without the utmost vigilance and
circumspection, we are in danger of being overcome. Now can the just and merciful Cod, the father of mankind, and moral governor of the world, think these propensities to evil so insufficient for the trial of our virtues, that he must superadd the agency of an evil being, so subtle, so malicious, and so powerful as the devil? What a desperate chance
have we of succeeding against such an adversary! Shall we say, good is the will of the Lord, and that in all this he has done all things in wisdom! Banished for ever be the thought from all rational and serious persons. God could no more act thus than cease to exist. Every principle of his nature holds such conduct in eternal abhor. rence!!
Let the believers in a devil consider, 1. That the belief of his existence constitutes no fundamental article of the christian faith; no part of the New Testament states the necessity of believing such an unreasonable doctrine. If particular passages seem to imply it, or cannot be clearly explained or understood, yet no inference should be drawn from
passages that would contradict the decisions of reason, and the general tenor of scripture. 2. It is perfectly consistent with the mission of Jesus to adopt the language of the country on all subjects, which did not constitute the main objects of that mission. Christ came not to teach men philosophy, neither to spend his time in combating the Jewish demonology. Every reasonable person, on whose mind the rays of science have shined, will readily admit that neither the astronomy nor cosmogony of Moses will stand the test of modern experience: and might not our Lord as consistently use the foolish language of the Jews about Demons, Demoniacs, and Devils, as Moses the absurd and fanciful opinions of the ancients concerning astronomy? 3. There is no passage that can be adduced to support the doctrine of a devil, which does not contradict some
part of the received opinions on that dogma—but every text in all the scriptures which speaks of the devil or satan, can be fairly interpreted or explained, consistently with the whole tenor of scripture, on the supposition that there is no such being, but that these words universally mean an adversary, or something adverse.
We might have expected that the most pertinacious believers in a devil, would have rejoiced to find, that reason, scripture, and common sense, are equally opposed to the terrifying dogma. But, alas ! such are the religious infatuation and credulity of mankind, that an opinion once admitted is seldom rejected, however palpably absurd or monstrously ridiculous.-Hence we find christians cling as close to this doctrine, as if their present and future happiness depended on the existence and influence of an infernal fiend ! Atheism and the disbelief of a devil, vibrate the same feelings of horror in the superstitious mind; and, perhaps, atheism itself is deemed by some to be less impious. But if a devil there be, possessing those powers and attributes generally ascribed to him, atheism becomes acceptable, and loses all its hideous forms, for the existence of such a being proves the non-existence of God, or that he is deficient in wisdom, goodness, and power. Why then should men be alarmed, when this doctrine is attacked or disputed ; and why should the war-whoop of party be sounded, when we attempt to disprove and explode this injurious and unreasonable opinion ? Has the devil created the universe, and filled it with inhabitants ? Is he the author of all good, on whom our present and future happiness depends ? Did all being start into existence at his command, or is it supported by his power? Is his dominion unbounded and perpetual, and shall his authoritative voice awake the myriads of the dead, determine their doom, appoint heaven as a reward for
his enemies, and people the Tartarian gulf with his allies and friends ? What impious absurdity! Jehovah alone holds the reins of universal empire, and all that can excite our hopes in this world, or our perfect felicity in the next, is unconnected with a satanic being.
If the doctrine that teaches the existence and influ. ence of a devil, involves serious consequences, if it be anti-scriptural and unphilosophical, if it be fatal to man's moral improvement, if it poison the stream of religious knowledge at the fonntain head, by supposing that God has a powerful antagonist, whose designs he has been unable to frustrate, and whose rebellion shall be as durable as the Divine existence,-in short, if correct notions of the Divine, character and government be inconsistent with the belief in such a beingfor the honour of God and religion, let the infamous doctrine be for ever rejected.
Those who believe in the existence of a devil, suppose that the evil, which prevails in this world, results from his infernal agency; and also expect that evil to become still greater in another and future state of being. There they look for a hell, crowded with inhabitants, through the resistless powers of diabolical influence: and this reign of misery, this triumph of the devil, they expect to be so complete and signal, as to undergo no change through the revolution of eternal
ages !! How can persons who expect such a catastrophe of human affairs, have correct notions of that God, who is all benevolence; whose plans are conceived in wisdom and executed in mercy; whose power cannot be resisted, and whose very name and nature are Love! Those who think God has a competitor, must deny the absolute will of the Deity, and his general providence. They derogate from his supremacy, and eclipse his glory. They dishonour him, and perplex themselves with wild and embarrassing conclusions. In a word, they conjure up a devil to their
own confusion, to the injury of christian truth, and the serious mischief of morality. The fear of a devil may perhaps keep some men of weak minds from excessive vice, and make them slavishly religious, and hypocritically moral. But the love of God alone, proceeding from a grateful recollection of his goodness and providential care, can produce genuine piety and virtue.
It is somewhat outrageous to suppose, that the devil will punish wicked men who sinned by his instigation, and performed all their wicked deeds, in obedience to his desires. Can the punishment of sinners be inflicted by that being whom they never offended ; and God, whose laws have been violated, have no concern in their sufferings? The belief in the existence of a devil is equally injurious to virtue, simplicity, and christian truth. It affords a palliative for crimes, and induces men to believe that wicked thoughts and evil actions, have not been fomented in their own hearts, but spring from the suggestions of a wicked one. Sometimes men are hurried into enormities, conceiving themselves particularly tempted, at which their mild natures would shudder, were they not influenced by this deceitful doctrine.
If the belief in a devil did not obtain, men must either trace their sins to God as the author, or admit they originate with themselves ; and as they could not presume to charge God directly with sin, they would of necessity, acknowledge their own accountability; and repentance producing reformation, might justly be expected to result from such a happy conviction. Another serious evil arising from a belief in the existence of a devil, is the continual alarm and terror that reigns in the weak mind tinctured with superstition, by the apprehension of satanic machination and artifice. Ev.ery inclination to enjoyment, every expostulation on religious faith, and even every suggestion of truth,