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INVISIBILITY OF SERAPHIC NATURE.
Indeed, let the Devil have been as idle as they think he was before, it must be acknowledged that now he is the most busy, vigilant, and diligent, of all God's creatures, and very full of employment too, such as it is.
Scripture, indeed, gives us light into the enmity there is between the two natures, the diabolical and the human; the reason of it, and how and by what means the power of the Devil is restrained by the Messiah; and to those who are willing to trust to gospel light, and believe what the Scripture says of the Devil, there may much of his history be discovered; and therefore those that list may go there for a fuller account of the matter.
But to reserve all Scripture evidence of these things, as a magazine in store for the use of those with whom Scripture testimony is of force, I must for the present turn to other inquiries, being now directing my story to an age, wherein to be driven to Revelation and Scripture assertions is esteemed giving up the dispute; people now-a-days must have demonstration; and, in a word, nothing will satisfy the age, but such evidence as perhaps the nature of the question will not admit.
It is hard, indeed, to bring demonstrations in such a case as this: No man has seen God at any time, says the Scripture, 1 John iv. 12. So the Devil, being a spirit incorporeal, an angel of light, and consequently not visible in his own substance, nature, and form, it may in some sense be said, No man has seen the Devil at any time; all those pretences of frenziful and fanciful people, who tell us they have seen the Devil, I shall examine, and perhaps expose by themselves.
It might take up a great deal of our time here, to inquire whether the Devil has any particular shape or personality of substance, which can be visible to us, felt, heard, or understood, and which he cannot alter; and then, what shapes or appearances the Devil has at any time taken upon him; and whether he can really appear in a body which might be handled and seen; and yet so as to know it to have been the Devil at the time of his appearing; but this also I defer, as not of weight in the present inquiry.
We have divers accounts of witches conversing with the Devil; the Devil in a real body, with all the appearance of a body of a man or woman appearing to them; also of having a familiar, as they call it, an incubus, or little devil, which
sucks their bodies, runs away with them into the air, and the like; much of this is said, but much more than it is easy to prove, and we ought to give but a just proportion of credit to those things.
As to his borrowed shapes and his subtle transformings, that we have such open testimony of, that there is no room for any question about it; and when I come to that part, I shall be obliged rather to give a history of the fact, than enter into any dissertation upon the nature and reason of it.
I do not find in any author, whom we can call creditable, that even in those countries where the dominion of Satan is more particularly established, and where they may be said to worship him in a more particular manner as a devil; which some tell us the Indians in America did, who worshipped the Devil that he might not hurt them; yet, I say, I do not find that even there the Devil appeared to them in any particular constant shape or personality peculiar to himself.
Scripture and history, therefore, giving us no light into that part of the question, I conclude and lay it down, not as my opinion only, but as what all ages seem to concur in, that the Devil has no particular body; that he is a spirit, and that though he may, Proteus-like, assume the appearance of either man or beast, yet it must be some borrowed shape, some assumed figure, pro hac vice, and that he has no visible body of his own.
I thought it needful to discuss this as a preliminary, and that the next discourse might go upon a certainty in this grand point, namely, that the Devil, however he may for his particular occasions put himself into a great many shapes, and clothe himself, perhaps, with what appearances he pleases, yet that he is himself still a mere spirit, that he retains the seraphic nature, is not visible by our eyes, which are human and organic, neither can he act with the ordinary powers, or in the ordinary manner as bodies do; and, therefore, when he has thought fit to descend to the meannesses of disturbing and frightening children and old women by noises and knockings, dislocating the chairs and stools, breaking windows, and suchlike little ambulatory things, which would seem to be below the dignity of his character, and which, in particular, is ordinarily performed by organic powers, yet even then he has thought fit not to be seen, and rather to make the poor people believe he had a real shape and body, with hands to act
NOT CONFINED IN BODY OR SHAPE.
mouth to speak, and the like, than to give proof of it in common to the whole world, by showing himself, and acting visibly and openly, as a body usually and ordinarily does.
Nor is it any disadvantage to the Devil, that his seraphic nature is not confined or imprisoned in a body or shape, suppose that shape to be what monstrous thing we would; for this would, indeed, confine his actings within the narrow sphere of the organ or body to which he was limited; and though you were to suppose the body to have wings for a velocity of motion equal to spirit, yet if it had not a power of invisibility too, and a capacity of conveying itself, undiscovered, into all the secret recesses of mankind, and the same secret art or capacity of insinuation, suggestion, accusation, &c., by which his wicked designs are now propagated, and all his other devices assisted, by which he deludes and betrays mankind; I say, he would be no more a devil, that is, a destroyer, no more a deceiver, and no more a Satan, that is, a dangerous arch-enemy to the souls of men; nor would it be any difficulty to mankind to shun and avoid him, as I shall make plain in the other part of his history.
Had the Devil from the beginning been embodied, as he could not have been invisible to us, whose souls, equally seraphic, are only prescribed by being embodied and incased in flesh and blood as we are; so he would have been no more a devil to anybody but himself: the imprisonment in a body, had the powers of that body been all that we can conceive to make him formidable to us, would yet have been a hell to him. Consider him as a conquered exasperated rebel, retaining all that fury and swelling ambition, that hatred of God, and envy at his creatures which dwells now in his enraged spirits as a Devil; yet suppose him to have been condemned to organic powers, confined to corporeal motion, and restrained as a body must be supposed to restrain a spirit; it must, at the same time, suppose him to be effectually disabled from all the methods he is now allowed to make use of, for exerting his rage and enmity against God, any farther than as he might suppose it to affect his Maker at second hand, by wounding his glory through the sides of his weakest creature,
He must, certainly, be thus confined, because body can only act upon body, not upon spirit; no species being empowered to act out of the compass of its own sphere: he
might have been empowerd, indeed, to have acted terrible and even destructive things upon mankind, especially if this body had any powers given it which mankind had not, by which man would be overmatched and not be in a condition of self-defence; for example, suppose him to have had wings to have flown in the air; or to be invulnerable, and that no human invention, art, or engine could hurt, ensnare, captivate, or restrain him.
But this is to suppose the righteous and wise Creator to have made a creature and not be able to defend and preserve him, or have left him defenceless to the mercy of another of his own creatures, whom he had given power to destroy him; this indeed, might have occasioned a general idolatry, and made mankind, as the Americans do to this day, worship the Devil, that he might not hurt them; but it could not have prevented the destruction of mankind, supposing the Devil to have had malice equal to his power; and he must put on a new nature, be compassionate, generous, beneficent, and steadily good in sparing the rival enemy he was able to destroy, or he must have ruined mankind. In short, he must have ceased to have been a devil, and must have resumed his original, angelic, heavenly nature, filled with the principles of love, to delight in the works of his creator, and bent to propagate his glory and interest; or he must have put an end to the race of man, whom it would be in his power to destroy, and oblige his Maker to create a new species, or fortify the old with some kind of defence which must be invulnerable, and which his fiery darts could not penetrate.
On this occasion suffer me to make an excursion from the usual style of this work, and with some solemnity to express my thoughts thus:
How glorious is the wisdom and goodness of the great Creator of the world! in thus restraining these seraphic outcasts from the power of assuming human or organic bodies, which, could they do, invigorating them with the supernatural powers, which, as seraphs and angels, they now possess and might exert, they would be able even to fright mankind from the face of the earth, destroy and confound God's creation; nay, even as they are, were not their power limited, they might destroy the creation itself, reverse and overturn nature, and put the world into a general conflagration; but were those immortal spirits embodied, though they were not
MIGHTY, TERRIBLE, AND IMMORTAL.
permitted to confound nature, they would be able to harass poor, weak, and defenceless man out of his wits, and render him perfectly useless, either to his Maker or himself.
But the dragon is chained, the Devil's power is limited; he has indeed a vastly extended empire, being prince of the air; having, at least, the whole atmosphere to range in, and how far that atmosphere is extended, is not yet ascertained by the nicest observations; I say, at least, because we do not yet know how far he may be allowed to make excursions beyond the atmosphere of this globe into the planetary worlds, and what power he may exercise in all the habitable parts of the solar system; nay, of all the other solar systems, which, for aught we know, may exist in the mighty extent of created space, and of which you may hear farther in its order.
But let his power be what it will there, we are sure it is limited here, and that in two particulars; first, he is limited, as above, from assuming body or bodily shapes and substance; and secondly, from exerting seraphic powers, and acting with that supernatural force, which, as an angel, he was certainly vested with before the fall, and which we are not certain is yet taken from him; or at most, we do not know how much it may or may not be diminished by his degeneracy, and by the blow given him at his expulsion: this we are certain, that be his power greater or less, he is restrained from the exercise of it in this world; and he, who was once equal to the angel who killed a hundred and eighty thousand men in one night, is not able now, without a new commission, to take away the life of one Job, nor to touch anything he had.
But let us consider him then limited and restrained as he is, yet he remains a mighty, a terrible, an immortal being: infinitely superior to man, as well in the dignity of his nature, as in the dreadful powers he retains still about him; and though the brainsick heads of our enthusiastics paint him blacker than he is, and, as I have said, represent him clothed with terrors that do not really belong to him; as if the power of good and evil was wholly vested in him, and that he was placed in the throne of his Maker, to distribute both punishments and rewards; terrifying and deluding fanciful people about him till they turn their heads, and fright them into belief that the Devil will let them alone if they do such and such good things, or carry them away with him, they know not whither, if they do not; as if the Devil, whose proper