Imágenes de páginas

and his wickedness, that he opposes God with all his desires and purposes. This depravity stimulates him to attempt those things which he thinks the most opposed to God. But since God holds him tied and bound with the bridle of his power, he executes only those things which are divinely permitted: and thus, whether he will or not, he obeys his Creator, being constrained to fulfil any service to which he impels him.

XVIII. While God directs the courses of unclean spirits hither and thither at his pleasure, he regulates this government in such a manner, that they exercise the faithful with fighting, attack them in ambuscades, harass them with incursions, push them in battles, and frequently fatigue them, throw them into confusion, terrify them, and sometimes wound them, yet never conquer or overwhelm them; but subdue and lead captive the impious, tyrannise over their souls and bodies, and abuse them like slaves by employing them in the perpetration of every enormity. The faithful, in consequence of being harassed by such enemies, are addressed with the following, and other similar exhortations: "Give not place to the devil." (e) "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith." (f) Paul confesses that he himself was not free from this kind of warfare, when he declares that as a remedy to subdue pride, " the messenger of Satan was given to him to buffet him." (g) This exercise then is common to all the children of God. But as the promise respecting the breaking of the head of Satan (h) belongs to Christ and all his members in common, I therefore deny that the faithful can ever be conquered or overwhelmed by him. They are frequently filled with consternation, but recover themselves again; they fall by the violence of his blows, but are raised up again; they are wounded, but not mortally; finally, they labour through their whole lives in such a manner, as at last to obtain the victory. This however is not to be restricted to each single action. For we know that, by the righteous vengeance of God, David was for a time delivered to Satan, that by his instigation he might number the people; (i) nor is it without

(e) Ephes. iv. 27. (/) 1 Peter v. 8. (g) 2 Cor. xii. 7.

(*) Gen. iii.15. (;) 3S«m. xxiv. I. 1 Chron. ixi. 1.

reason that Paul admits a hope of pardon even for those who may have been entangled in the snares of the devil. (i) Therefore the same Apostle shews, in another place, that the promise before cited is begun in this life, where we must engage in the conflict; and that after the termination of the conflict it will be completed. "And the God of peace," he says, "shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." (/) In our Head this victory indeed has always been complete, because the prince of this world had nothing in him; (m) in us who are his members, it yet appears only in part, but will be completed when we shall have put off our flesh which makes us still subject to infirmities, and shall be full of the power of the Holy Spirit. In this manner, when the kingdom of Christ is erected, Satan and his power must fall; as the Lord himself says, " I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." (ii) For by this answer he confirms what the Apostles had reported concerning the power of his preaching. Again: "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace; but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him," &c. (o) And to this end Christ by his death overcame Satan who had the power of death, and triumphed over all his forces, that they might not be able to hurt the Church; for otherwise it would be in hourly danger of destruction. For such is our imbecility, and such the strength of his fury, how could we stand even for a moment against his various and unceasing attacks, without being supported by the victory of our Captain? Therefore God permitteth not Satan to exercise any power over the souls of the faithful, but abandons to his government only the impious and unbelieving, whom he deigns not to number among his own flock. For he is said to have the undisturbed possession of this world, till he is expelled by Christ. (p) He is said also to blind all who believe not the Gospel, (y) and to work in the children of disobedience; (r) and this justly, for all the impious are vessels of wrath. (*) To whom therefore should they be subjected, but to the minister of the Divine vengeance? Finally, they are said to be of their father the

(*) 2 Tim. ii. 26. (/) Rom. xvi. 20. (to) John xiv. 30.

(n) Luke x. 18. (o) Luke xi. 21. (p) John xii. 31.

(>j) 2 Cor. iv. 4. (r) Eph. ii. 2. (*) Romans ix. 2?

devil; (<) because, as the faithful are known to be the children of God from their bearing his image, (v) so the impious, from the image of Satan into which they have degenerated, are properly considered as his children.

XIX. But as we have already confuted that nugatory philosophy concerning the holy angels, which teaches that they are nothing but inspirations, or good motions, excited by God in the minds of men; so in this place we must refute those who pretend that devils are nothing but evil affections or perturbations, which our flesh obtrudes on our minds. But this may be easily done, and that because the testimonies of Scripture on this subject are numerous and clear. First, when they are called unclean spirits and apostate angels (w) who have degenerated from their original condition, the very names sufficiently express, not mental emotions or affections, but rather in reality what are called minds, or spirits endued with perception and intelligence. Likewise when the children of God are compared with the children of the devil, both by Christ and by John, (*) would not the comparison be absurd, if nothing were intended by the word devil but evil inspirations? And John adds something still plainer, that the devil sinneth from the beginning. Likewise when Jude introduces Michael the archangel contending with the devil, (if) he certainly opposes to the good angel an evil and rebellious one. To which agrees what is recorded in the history of Job, that Satan appeared with the holy angels before God. (z) But the clearest of all are those passages, which mention the punishment which they begin to feel from the judgment of God, and are to feel much more at the resurrection: "Thou Son of God, art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" (a) Also, " Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (b) Again, " If God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment," &c. (c) How unmeaning were these expressions, that the

(f) John viii. 44. (v) I John iii. 10. (u>) Matt. xii. 43. Jude 6.

(x) John viii. 44.1 John iii. 10. (_y) Jude 9.

(z) Jobi. 6. ii. 1. (a) Matt. viii. 29. (A) Matt. xxr. 41. c\ 2 Peter ii. 4.

devils are appointed to eternal judgment; that fire is prepared for them; that they are now tormented and vexed by the glory of Christ, if there were no devils at all? But since this point is not a subject of dispute with those who give credit to the word of the Lord, but with those vain speculators who are pleased with nothing but novelty, little good can be effected by testimonies of Scripture. I consider myself as having done what I intended, which was to fortify the pious mind against such a species of errors, with which restless men disturb themselves and others that are more simple. But it was requisite to touch on it, lest any persons involved in that error, under a supposition that they have no adversary, should become more slothful and incautious to resist him.

XX. Yet let us not disdain to receive a pious delight from the works of God, which every where present themselves to view in this very beautiful theatre of the world. For this, as I have elsewhere observed, though not the principal, is yet in the order of nature the first lesson of faith, to remember that whithersoever we turn our eyes, all the things which we behold are the works of God; and at the same time to consider with pious meditation, for what end God created them. Therefore to apprehend, by a true faith, what it is for our benefit to know concerning God, we must first of all understand the history of the creation of the world, as it is briefly related by Moses, and afterwards more copiously illustrated by holy men, particularly by Basil and Ambrose. Thence we shall learn that God, by the power of his Word and Spirit, created out of nothing the heaven and the earth; that from them he produced all things, animate and inanimate; distinguished by an admirable gradation the innumerable variety of things; to every species gave its proper nature, assigned its offices, and appointed its places and stations; and since all things are subject to corruption, nevertheless provided for the preservation of every species the last day: that he therefore nourishes some by methods icealed from us, from time to time infusing, as it were, new vigour into them; that on some he hath conferred the power of propagation, in order that the whole species may not be extinct at their death: that he hath thus wonderfully adorned heaven and earth with the utmost possible abundance, variety. and beauty, like a large and splendid mansion most exquisitely and copiously furnished: lastly, that by creating man, and distinguishing him with such splendid beauty, and with such numerous and great privileges, he hath exhibited in him a most excellent specimen of all his works. But since it is not my design to treat at large of the creation of the world, let it suffice to have again dropped these few hints by the way. For it is better, as I have just advised the reader, to seek for fuller information on this subject from Moses, and others who have faithfully and diligently recorded the history of the world.


XXI. It is useless to enter into a prolix disputation respecting the right tendency and legitimate design of a consideration of the works of God: since this question has been, in a great measure, determined in another place, and as much as concerns our present purpose, may be dispatched in few words. Indeed, if we wished to explain how the inestimable wisdom, power, justice, and goodness of God are manifested in the formation of the world, no splendour or ornament of diction will equal the magnitude of so great a subject. And it is undoubtedly the will of the Lord, that we should be continually employed in this holy meditation: that while we contemplate in all the creatures, as in so many mirrors, the infinite riches of his wisdom, justice, goodness, and power, we might not only take a transient and cursory view of them, but might long dwell on the idea, seriously and faithfully revolve it in our minds, and frequently recal it to our memory. But this being a didactic treatise, we must omit those topics which require long declamations. To be brief therefore, let the readers know, that they have then truly apprehended by faith what is meant by God being the Creator of heaven and earth, if they, in the first place, follow this universal rule, not to pass over, with ungrateful inattention or oblivion, those glorious perfections which God manifests in his creatures; and, secondly, learn to make such an application to themselves as thoroughly to affect their hearts. The first point is exemplified, when we consider how great must have been the Artist, who disposed that multitude of stars which adorn the heaven, in such a regular order, that it is impossible to imagine any thing more beautiful to behold: who fixed some in their stations, so that they cannot be moved:

« AnteriorContinuar »