« ZurückWeiter »
Satan signifies only adversary, without any reference to an evil spirit. And Satan in the book of Job, being mentioned only in the introduction to the poem, seems to be a fictitious personage, a kind of poetical embellishment of the piece. He is moreover not characterized as an evil being; not tempting or seducing to evil, only asking leave to inflict pain and misfortune, thereby to make trial of Job’s piety and virtuous principle. And Job and his friends throughout ascribe his calamities to God immediately, and seem to have had no thought of an evil being, Satan, whom they never name, nor drop any hint of his agency in human affairs. t I have now considered all those passages that seem needful to be produced, and are supposed to exhibit and hold forth the existence and agency of an evil being in the Jewish seriptures, but have not found that they expressly teach, or that it is to be gathered from them, that there is any such being. And it is no small confirmation that these scriptures have been rightly interpreted by us, as we perceive not in them any religious exhortations or cautions to beware of the wiles and power of such an evil being, in their sacred history and prophetic writings, from first to last. Now, as in the Christian scriptures, in which so much is spoken of the devil, of Satan, and the evil one, it is certain that we have no new revelation of the reality of the evil being who is supposed to be described
described under these different names; and it has becu shewn that the Jews could not take the opinion which they appear to hold of such a being in the time of Christ from their own sacred books; it follows that it must have come among them, during their dispersion and captivity in Babylon : and most probably they learned it of the Chaldeans, among whom they dwelt; whose early reception of this doctrine is testified by many antient authors.
And that this was an opinion of great antiquity in the East is confirmed by the prophet Isaiah xlv. xlvi. where he speaks of Cyrus, king of Persia, many years before he was born, as the future restorer of the Jewish temple, in terms of allusion to their eastern doctrine of two principles of all things, a good and evil one; but in such a way as effectually to set aside and confute their error, by asserting that evil as well as good came from God alone.
Isaiah xlv. ver. 8. I form the light and create darkness : I make peace and create evil : I the Lord do all these things.
The Israelites, ever prone to adopt the principles and practices of their heathen neighbours, sojourning among these Chaldeans, famous for science and natural knowledge, would most probably learn of them and adopt the notions of their conquerors; who might point out to them, or they might themselves imagine, that the serpent wbo is represented as acting such a principal part in their own sacred history, was the evil principle of the Chaldeans, and thence they
Divine Government. 145
would proceed to ascribe to it all the sin and misery that was in the world. It may be presumed also, that by their constant intercourse and communication with this learned people they imbibed their whole philosophy concerning demons, and good and evil spirits, as well as the exist . ence of one chief evil spirit: so that at their return from their long captivity in Bābylon, they had incorporated these doctrines into their theology, as being those of their own sacred writings, although these writings not only taught them nothing of the kind, but continually condemned them. And although by the time that Christ made his appearance they were much come off from such a Heathenish doctrine, yet their language, which had been framed and accommodated to it, would remain in common use, and to that our Saviour and his apostles would conform themselves, though there is no good reason to think that either the one or the other gave credit to the reality of this evil being. It being however thus the popular belief that all sin and evil was from Satan, the devil, or the evil one, the apostles of Christ having to describe how and by what hard trials and temptations their great master's piety and virtue were exercised and strengthened, to fit him for his arduous and important office of Saviour and Reformer, endowed with extraordinary divine powers to qualify him for it: according to the accounts of Matthew and Luke, who alone mention this singular transaction, it is Satan, the devil, in conformity H - to
to the general creed that all evil was from him, whom they describe as the agent in this trial or temptation of Christ; who is represented as employed in endeavouring to corrupt his virtue and integrity, by drawing him from his trust and dependence upon God alone, and prompting him to make use of his miraculous powers to gratify his own vanity and worldly views, although no evil being whatsoerer were concerned in the matter, which we are compelled to conclude froni the utter improbability of the literal account, but which
may otherwise be satisfactorily accounted for. Let us then take into consideration our Lord's sentiments concerning Satan.
1. We may observe that Christ very commonly uses the words Satan, devil, in their proper and primary sense, as signifying an enemy, adversary, traitor, or the like, and not an evil being. Matth. xvi. 23. But he turned and said unto Peter, ,
Get thee behind me, Satan ! thou adversary.
Archbp. Newcome. Mark vii. 33. He rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee
behind me, Satan! thou adversary. Archbp. New
John vi. 70. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen
you twelve, and one of you is a devil ? and yet one of you
is a false accuser. 2. There is no ground to conclude from Christ sometimes using the terms Satan, the devil, the evil one, as signifying the supposed evil being, that he would thereby imply, or have others understand
him to imply, that there was in reality such an evil being. This we learn from himself in very many passages of the gospel history. Among others I would mention his reply to his disciples on their return from a commission in which he had been employing them, to preach the gospel of repentance and remission of sins, in his lifetime. When, upon their telling him with exultation, that by the power they derived from him they had been enabled to heal diseases, which in those times were , ascribed to demons, Luke x. 17, 18. And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject unto us through thy name; He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. In this answer he foretels, for their encouragement, the farther happy effects which would attend the preaching of his gospel. To fall from heaven (see that fine description of the king of Babylon, to which there is allusion, . Isaiah xiv. 12.) is to be deprived of power and authority. How was Satan to lose or be deprived of his power and authority by the preaching of the gospel, which is calculated to change and to cure men's wicked and evil dispositions, but cannot have any effect on Satan, an invisible, powerful, wicked being, supposing there were any such As this, then, is a thing impossible, we are unavoidably led to understand our Lord as expressing himself in the well known eastern style, to which his disciples and countrymen H 2 Were