To finish this Stratagem, he first insinuates that the true God was a terrible, a dreadful, unapproachable Being; that to see him was so frightful, that it would be present Death; that to worship him immediately, was a Presumption which would provoke his Wrath; and that as he was a consuming Fire in himself, so he would burn up those in his Anger that dar'd to offer up any Sacrifice to him, but by the Interposition of some Medium which might receive their Adorations in his Name.
Hence it occur'd presently, that subordinate Gods were to be found out and set up, to whom the People might pay the Homage due to the supreme God, and who they might worship in his Name; this I take from the most ancient Account of Idolatry in the World; nor indeed could the Devil himself find out any other Reason why Men should Cannonise or rather Deify their Princes and Men of Fame, and worship them after they were dead, as if they could save them from Death and Calamity, who were not able to save themselves when they were alive; much less could Satan bring Men to swallow so gross, so absurd a Thing as the bowing the Knee to a Stock or a Stone, a Calf, an Ox, a Lion, nay the Image or Figure of a Calf, such as the Israelites made at Mount Sinai, and say, These be thy Gods, O Israel, who brought thee out of the Land of Egypt.
Having thus, I say, brought them to satisfy themselves that they worship'd the true God and no other, under the Figures and Appearances which they made to represent him, it was easy after that to worship any thing for the true God; and thus in a few Ages they worship'd nothing but Idols, even throughout the whole World; nor has the Devil lost this hold in some Parts of the World, nay not in most Parts of the World to this Day; He holds still all the Eastern Parts of Asia, and the Southern Parts of Africa, and the Northern Parts of Europe, and in them the vast Countries of China and Tartary, Persia and India, Guinea, Ethiopia, Zanquebar, Congo, Angola, Monomotapa, &c. in all which, except Ethiopia, we find no Vestiges of any other worship but that of Idols, Monsters, and even the Devil himself; till after the very coming of our Saviour, and even then, if it be true that the Gospel was preach'd in the Indies and China by St. Thomas, and in other remote Countries by other of the Apostles; we see that whatever Ground Satan lost, he seems to have recovered it again; and all Asia and Africa is at present overrun with Paganism or Mahometanism, which I think of the two is rather the worst; Besides all America, a Part of the World, as some say, equal in Bigness to all the other, in which the Devil's Kingdom was never interrupted from its first being inhabited, whenever it was, to the first Discovery of it by the European Nations in the sixteenth Century.
In a Word, the Devil got what we may call an entire Victory over Mankind, and drove the Worship of the true God, in a Manner quite out of the World, forcing, as it were, his Maker in a new kind of Creation, the old one proving thus ineffectual to recover a certain Number by Force and meer Omnipotence to return to their Duty, serve him and worship him; But of that hereafter.
Of God's calling a Church out of the midst of a degenerate World, and of Satan's new Measures upon that Incident: How he attack'd them immediately, and his Success in those Attacks.
Satan having, as I have said in the preceding Chapter, made, as it were, a full Conquest of Mankind, debauch'd them all to Idolatry, and brought them at least to worshiping the true God by the wretched Medium of corrupt and idolatrous Representations; God seem'd to have no true Servants or Worshippers left in the World, but if I may be allow'd to speak so, was oblig'd, in order to restore the World to their Senses again, to call a select Number out from among the rest, who he himself undertook should own his Godhead or supreme Authority, and worship him as he requir'd to be worship'd; this, I say, God was oblig'd to do, because 'tis evident it has not been done so much by the Choice and Council of Men, for Satan would have over-rul'd that Part, as by the Power and Energy of some irresistible and invincible Operation, and this our Divines give high Names to; but be it what they will, it is the second Defeat or Disappointment that the Devil he met with in his Progress in the World; the first I have spoken of already.
It is true, Satan very well understood what was threatn'd to him in the original Promise to the Woman, immediately after the Fall, namely, thou shalt bruise his Head, &c. but he did not expect it so suddenly, but thought himself sure of Mankind, till the Fullness of Time when the Messiah should come; and therefore it was a great Surprize to him, to see that Abraham being call'd was so immediately receiv'd and establish'd, tho' he did not so immediately follow the Voice that directed him, yet in him, in his Loins was all God's Church at that time contain'd.
In the calling Abraham, it is easy to see that there was no other way for God to form a Church, that is to say, to single out a People to himself, as the World was then stated, but by immediate Revelation and a Voice from Heaven: All Mankind were gone over to the Enemy, overwhelmed in Idolatry, in a Word, were engag'd to the Devil; God Almighty, or as the Scripture distinguishes him, the Lord, the true GOD, was out of the Question; Mankind knew little or nothing of him, much less did they know any thing of his Worship, or that there was such a Being in the World.
Well might it be said the Lord appeared to Abraham, Gen. xii. 7. for if God had not appear'd himself, he must have sent a Messenger from Heaven, and perhaps it was so too, for he had not one true Servant or Worshiper that we know of then on Earth, to send on that Errand; no Prophet, no Preacher of Righteousness, Noah was dead, and had been so above seventeen Year; and if he had not, his preaching, as I observed after his great Miscarriage, had but little Effect; we are indeed told, that Noah left behind him certain Rules and Orders for the true Worship of God, which were call'd the Precepts of Noah, and remain'd in the World for a long Time; tho' how written, when neither any Letters, much less Writing were known in the World, is a Difficulty which Remains to be solv'd; and this makes me look upon those Laws call'd the Precepts of Noah to be a modern Invention, as I do also the Alphabetum Noachi, which Bochart pretends to give an Account of.
But to leave that Fiction, and come back to Abraham; God call'd him, whether at first by Voice without any Vision, whether in a Dream or Night Vision, which was very Significant in those Days, or whether by some awful Appearance, we know not; the second Time, 'tis indeed said expressly GOD appeared to him; Be it which Way it will, GOD himself call'd him, shew'd him the Land of Canaan, gave him the Promise of it for his Posterity, and withal gave him such a Faith, that the Devil soon found there was no room for him to meddle with Abraham. This is certain, we do not read that the Devil ever so much as attempted Abraham at all; some will suggest that the Command to Abraham to go and offer up his Son Isaac, was a Temptation of the Devil, if possible to defeat the glorious Work of GOD's calling a holy Seed into the World; for the first, if Abraham had disobey'd that Call, the new Favourite had been overcome and made a Rebel of, or secondly, if he had obey'd, then the promis'd Seed had been cut off, and Abraham defeated; but as the Text is express that GOD himself proposed it to Abraham, I shall not start the Suggestions of the Criticks, in Bar of the sacred Oracle.
Be it one way or other, Abraham shew'd a Hero-like Faith and Courage, and if the Devil had been the Author of it, he had seen himself disappointed in both his Views; (1.) by Abraham's ready and bold Compliance, as believing it to be GOD's Command; and (2.) by the divine Countermand of the Execution, just as the fatal Knife was lifted up.
But if the Devil left Abraham, and made no attack upon him, seeing him invulnerable, he made himself amends upon the other Branch of his Family, his poor Nephew LOT; who, notwithstanding he was so immediately under the particular Care of Heaven, as that the Angel who was sent to destroy Sodom, could do nothing till he was out of it; and who, tho' after he had left Zoar, and was retir'd into a Cave to dwell, yet the subtle Devil found him out, deluded his two Daughters, took an Advantage of the Fright they had been in about Sodom and Gomorrah, made them believe the whole World was burnt too, as well as those Cities, and that in short, they could never have any Husbands, &c. and so in their abundant Concern to repeople the World, and that the Race of Mankind might not be destroyed, they go and lie with their own Father; the Devil telling them doubtless how to do it, by intoxicating his Head with Wine; in all which Story, whether they were not as drunk as their Father, seems to be a Question, or else they could not have supposed all the Men in the Earth were consum'd, when they knew that the little City Zoar had been preserv'd for their Sakes.
This now was the third Conquest Satan obtain'd by the Gust of humane Appetite; that is to say, once by Eating and twice by Drinking, or Drunkenness, and still the last was the worst and most shameful; for Lot, however his Daughters manag'd him, could not pretend he did not understand what the Strength of Wine was; and one would have thought after so terrible a Judgment as that of Sodom was, which was, as we may say, executed before his Face, his Thoughts should have been too solemnly engag'd in praising God for sparing his Life, to be made drunk, and that two Nights together.
But the Devil play'd his Game sure, he set his two Daughters to work, and as the Devil's Instruments seldom fail, so he secur'd his by that hellish Stratagem of deluding the Daughters, to think all the World was consum'd but they two and their Father: To be sure the old Man could not suspect that his Daughters Design was so wicked as indeed it was, or that they intended to debauch him with Wine, and make him drink till he knew not what he did.
Now the Devil having carried his Game here, gain'd a great Point; for as there were but two religious Families in the World before, from whence a twofold Generation might be supposed to rise religious and righteous like their Parents, (viz.) that of Abraham and this of Lot; this Crime ruin'd the Hopes of one of them; it could no more be said that just Lot was in Being, who vex'd his righteous Soul from Day to Day with the wicked Behaviour of the People of Sodom; righteous Lot was degenerated into drunken incestuous Lot, LOT fallen from what he was, to be a wicked and unrighteous Man; no pattern of Virtue, no Reprover of the Age, but a poor fallen Degenerate Patriarch, who could now no more reprove or exhort, but look down and be asham'd, and nothing to do but to repent; and see the poor mean Excuses of all the three.
Eve says, The Serpent beguil'd me, and I did eat.
Noah says, —— My Grandson beguil'd me, or the Wine beguil'd me, and I did drink.
Lot says, My Daughters beguil'd me, and I also did drink.
It is observable, that as I said above, Noah was silenc'd, and his Preaching at an End, after that one Action, so the like may be said of Lot; and in short, you never hear one Word more of either of them after it; as for Mankind, both were useless to them, and as to themselves, we never read of any of their Repentance, nor have we much Reason to believe they did repent.
From this Attack of the Devil upon Lot, we hear no more of the Devil being so busily employ'd as he had been before in the World; he had indeed but little to do, for all the rest of the World was his own, lull'd asleep under the Witchcraft of Idolatry, and are so still.
But it could not be long that the Devil lay idle; as soon as God call'd himself a People, the Devil could not be at Rest; till he attack'd them.
'Wherever God sets up a House of Prayer, 'The Devil always builds a Chapel there.
Abraham indeed went off the Stage free, and so did Isaac too, they were a Kind of first Rate Saints; we do not so much as read of any failing they had, or of any Thing the Devil had ever the Face to offer to them; no, or with Jacob either, if you will excuse him for beguiling his Brother Esau, of both his Birthright and his Blessing, but he was busy enough with all his Children; for Example,
* * * * *
He sent Judah to his Sheep-shearing, and placed a Whore (Tamar) in his Way, in the Posture of Temptation, so made him commit Incest and Whoredom both together.
He sent incestuous Reuben to lie with his Father's Concubine Billah.
He sent Dinah to the Ball, to dance with the Sichemite Ladies, and play the Whore with their Master.
He enrag'd Simeon and Levi, at the supposed Injury, and then prompted them to Revenge, for which their Father heartily cursed them.
He set them all together to fall upon poor Joseph, first to murther him intentionally, and then actually sell him to the Midianites.
He made them shew the Party-colour'd Coat, and tell a lie to their Father, to make the poor old Man believe Joseph was kill'd by a Lion, &c.
He sent Potiphar's Wife to attack Joseph's Chastity, and fill'd her with Rage at the Disappointment.
He taught Joseph to swear by the Life of Pharoah.
* * * * *
In a Word, he debauch'd the whole Race, except Benjamin, and never Man had such a Set of Sons, so wicked and so notorious, after so good an Introduction into the World as they all of them had, to be sure; for Jacob, no doubt, gave them as good Instruction as the Circumstances of his wandring Condition would allow him to do.
We must now consider the Devil and his Affairs in a quite differing Situation: When the World first appeared peopled by the creating Power of God, he had only Adam and Eve to take care of, and I think he ply'd his Time with them to purpose enough: After the Deluge he had Noah only to pitch upon, and he quickly conquer'd him by the Instigation of his Grandson.
At the Building of Babel he guided them by their acting all in a Body as one Man; so that in short he manag'd them with ease, taking them as a Body politic; and we find they came into his Snare as one Man; but Now, the Children of Israel multiplying in the Land of their Bondage, and God seeming to shew a particular Concern for them, the Devil was oblig'd to new Measures, stand at a Distance, and look on for some Time.
The Egyptians were plagued even without his Help, nor tho' the cunning Artist, as I said, stood and looked on, yet he durst not meddle; nor could he make a few Lice, the least and meanest of the Armies of Insects raised to afflict the Egyptians.
However, when he perceiv'd that God resolved to bring the Israelites out, he prepar'd to attend them, to watch them, and be at Hand upon all the wicked Occasions that might offer, as if he had been fully satisfied such Occasions would offer, and that he should not fail to have an Opportunity to draw them into some Snare or another, and that therefore it was his Business not to be out of the Way, but to be ready (as we say) to make his Market of them in the best Manner he could: How many Ways he attempted them, nay, how many Times he conquer'd them in their Journey, we shall see presently.
First he put them in a fright at Baal-Zephon, where he thought he had drawn them into a Noose, and where he sent Pharoah and his Army to block them up between the Mountains of Piahiroth and the Red Sea; but there indeed Satan was outwitted by Moses, so far as it appeared to be a humane Action, for he little thought of their going dry footed thro' the Sea, but depended upon having them all cut in Pieces the next Morning by the Egyptians; an eminent Proof, by the Way, that the Devil has no Knowledge of Events, or any Insight into Futurity; nay that he has not so much as a second Sight, or knows to Day what his Maker intends to do to Morrow; for had Satan known that God intended to Ford them over the Sea, if he had not been able to have prevented the Miracle, he would certainly have prevented the Escape, by sending out Pharoah and his Army time enough to have taken the Strand before them, and so have driven them to the Necessity of travelling on Foot round the North Point of that Sea, by the Wilderness of Etan, where he would have pursu'd and harrass'd them with his Cavalry, and in all Probability have destroy'd them: But the blind short-sighted Devil, perfectly in the Dark, and unacquainted with Futurity, knew nothing of the Matter, was as much deceiv'd as Pharoah himself, stood still flattering himself with the Hopes of his Booty, and the Revenge he should take upon them the next Morning; till he saw the frighted Waves in an Uproar, and to his utter Astonishment and Confusion saw the Passage laid open, and Moses leading his vast Army in full March over the dry Space; nay even then 'tis very propable Satan did not know that if the Egyptians follow'd them, the Sea would return upon and overwhelm them; for I can hardly think so hard of the Devil himself, that if he had, he would have suffer'd, much less prompted Pharoah to follow the Chase at such an Expence; so that either he must be an ignorant unforeseeing Devil, or a very ungrateful false Devil to his Friends the Egyptians.
I am enclin'd also to the more charitable Opinion of Satan too, because the Escape of the Israelites was really a Triumph over himself; for the War was certainly his, or at least he was auxiliary to Pharoah, it was a Victory over Hell and Egypt together, and he would never have suffer'd the Disgrace, if he had known it beforehand; that is to say, tho' he could not have prevented the Escape of Israel, or the dividing the Water, yet he might have warn'd the Egyptians, and cautioned them not to venture in after them.
But we shall see a great many weak Steps taken by the Devil in the Affair of this very People and their forty Years Wandring in the Wilderness; and tho' he was in some things successful, and wheedled them into many foolish and miserable Murmurings and Wranglings against God, and Mutinies against poor Moses, yet the Devil was oftentimes baulk'd and disappointed; and 'tis for this Reason that I choose to finish the first Part of his History with the particular Relation of his Behaviour among the Jews, because also, we do not find any extraordinary Things happening any where else in the World for above one thousand five hundred Years, no Variety, no Revolutions; all the Rest of Mankind lay still under his Yoke, quietly submitted to his Government, did just as he bad them, worship'd every Idol he set up, and in a Word, he had no Difficulty with any Body but the Jews, and for this Reason, I say, this Part of his Story will be the more useful and instructing.
To return therefore to Moses and his dividing the Red Sea; that the People went over or thro' it, that we have the sacred History for; but how the Devil behav'd, that you must come to me for, or I know not where you will find a true Account of it, at least not in Print.
1. It was in the Night they march'd thro', whether the Devil saw it in the Dark or no, that's not my Business.
But when he had Day-Light for it, and view'd the next Day's Work, I make no Question but all Hell felt the Surprise, the Prey being thus snatch'd out of their Hands unexpectedly. 'Tis true the Egyptians Host was sent to him in their Room, but that was not what he aim'd at; for he was sure enough of them his own Way, and if it was not just at that Time, yet he knew what and who they were; but as he had devour'd the whole Israelitish Host in his Imagination, to the Tune of at least a Million and a half of Souls; Men, Women and Children; it was, no doubt, a great Disappointment to the Devil to miss of his Prey, and to see them all triumphing on the other Side in Safety.
It is true, Satan's Annals do not mention this Defeat, for Historians are generally backward to register their own Misfortunes; but as we have an Account of the Fact from other Hands, so as we cannot question the Truth of it; the Nature of the Thing will tell us it was a Disappointment to the Devil, and a very great one too.
I cannot but observe here, that I think this Part of the Devil's Story very entertaining, because of the great Variety of Incidents which appear in every Part of it; sometimes he is like a hunted Fox, curvetting and counter-running to avoid his being pursued and found out, while at the same time he is carrying on his secret Designs to draw the People he pretends to manage, into some Snare or other to their Hurt; at another time, tho' the Comparison is a little too low for his Dignity, like a Monkey that has done Mischief, and who making his own Escape sits and chatters at a Distance, as if he had triump'd in what he had done; so Satan, when he had drawn them in to worship a Calf, to offer strange Fire, to set up a Schism, and the like; and so to bring the Divine Vengeance upon themselves, leaving them in their Distress, kept at a Distance, as if he look'd on with Satisfaction to see them Burnt, swallow'd up, swept away, and the like; as the several Stories relate.
His indefatigable Vigilance is, on the other hand, a useful Caveat, as well as an improving View to us; no sooner is he routed and expos'd, defeated and disappointed in one Enterprize, but he begins another, and, like a cunning Gladiator, warily defends himself, and boldly attacks his Enemy at the same time. Thus we see him, up and down, conquering and conquered, thro' this whole Part of his Story, till at last he receives a total Defeat; of which you shall hear in its place: In the mean time, let us take up his Story again at the Red Sea, where he receiv'd a great Blow, instead of which he expected a compleat Victory; for doubtless the Devil and the King of AEgypt too, thought of nothing but Conquest at Piahiroth.
However, tho' the Triumph of the Israelites over the Egyptians must needs be a great Mortification to the Devil, and exasperated him very much, yet the Consequence was only this, viz. that Satan, like an Enemy who is baulk'd and defeated, but not overcome, redoubles his Rage, and reinforces his Army, and what the Egyptians could not do for him, he resolves to do for himself; in order then to take his Opportunity for what Mischief might offer, being defeated, and provok'd, I say, at the Slur that was put upon him, he resolves to follow them into the Wilderness, and many a vile Prank he plaid them there; as first, he straitens them for Water, and makes them murmur against GOD, and against Moses, within a very few Days, nay, Hours, of their great Deliverance of all.
Nor was this all, but in less than one Year more we find them, (at his Instigation too) setting up a golden Calf, and making all the People dance about it at Mount Sinai; even when God himself had but just before appear'd to them in the Terrors of a burning Fire upon the Top of the Mountain; and what was the Pretence? Truly, nothing but that they had lost Moses, who used to be their Guide, and he had hid himself in the Mount, and had not been seen in forty Days, so that they could not tell what was become of him. This put them all into Confusion; a poor Pretence indeed, to turn them all back to Idolatry! but the watchful Devil took the Hint, push'd the Advantage, and insinuated that they should never see Moses again, that he was certainly devour'd by venturing too near the Flashes of Fire in the Mount, and presuming upon the Liberty he had taken before; in a word, that God had destroyed Moses, or he was starved to Death for want of Food, having been forty Days and forty Nights absent.
All these were, it's true, in themselves most foolish Suggestions, considering Moses was admitted to the Vision of God, and that God had been pleased to appear to him in the most intimate manner; that as they might depend God would not destroy his faithful Servant, so they might have concluded he was able to support his Being without Food as long as he thought fit; but to a People so easy to believe any thing, what could be too gross for the Devil to persuade them to?
A People who could dance round a Calf, and call it their God, might do any thing; that could say to one another, that this was the Great JEHOVAH, that brought them out of the Land of Egypt; and that within so few Days after God's miraculous Appearance to them, and for them; I say, such a People were really fitted to be imposed upon, nothing could be too gross for them.
This was indeed his first considerable Experiment upon them as a People, or as a Body; and the Truth is, his Affairs requir'd it, for Satan, who had been a Successful Devil in most of his Attempts upon Mankind, could hardly doubt of Success in any thing after he had carried his Point at Mount Sinai: To bring them to Idolatry in the very Face of their Deliverer, and just after their Deliverance! It was more astonishing in the main than even their passing the Red Sea: In a Word, the Devil's whole History does not furnish us with a Story equally surprising.
And how was poor Aaron bewilder'd in it too? He that was Moses's Partner in all the great Things that Moses did in Pharaoh's Sight, and that was appointed to be his Assistant and Oracle, or Orator rather, upon all public Occasions; that he, above all the rest, should come into this absurd and ridiculous Proposal, he that was singled out for the sacred Priesthood, for him to defile his holy Hands with a polluted abominable Sacrifice, and with making the Idol for them too, (for 'tis plain that he made it,) how monstrous it was!
And see what an Answer he gives to his Brother Moses, how weak! how simple! I did so and so, indeed, I bad them bring the Ear-rings, &c. and I cast the Gold into the Fire, and it came out this Calf. Ridiculous! as if the Calf came out by meer fortuitous Adventure, without a Mould to cast it in; which could not be supposed: And if it had not come out so without a Mould, Moses would certainly have known of it; had Aaron been innocent, he would have answered after quite another manner, and told Moses honestly that the whole Body of the People came to him in a Fright, that they forced him to make them an Idol; which he did, by making first a proper Mould to cast it in, and then taking the proper Metal to cast it from: That indeed he had sinn'd in so doing, but that he was mobb'd into it, and the People terrified him, perhaps they threatned to kill him; and if he had added, that the Devil prompting his Fear beguil'd him, he had said nothing but what was certainly true; for if it was in Satan's Power to make the People insolent and outrageous enough to threaten and bully the old venerable Prophet (for he was not yet a Priest) who was the Brother of their Oracle Moses, and had been Partner with him in so many of his Commissions; I say, if he cou'd bring up the Passions of the People to a Height to be rude and unmannerly to him (Aaron) and perhaps to threaten and insult him, he may be easily suppos'd to be able to intimidate Aaron, and terrify him into a Compliance.
See this cunning Agent, when he has Man's Destruction in his View, how securely he acts! he never wants a handle; the best of Men have one weak place or other, and he always finds it out, takes the Advantage of it, and conquers them by one Artifice or another; only take it with you as you go, 'tis always by Stratagem, never by Force; a Proof that he is not empower'd to use Violence: He may tempt, and he does prevail; but 'tis all Legerdemain, 'tis all Craft and Artifice, he is still Diabole, the Calumniator and Deceiver, that is, the Misrepresenter; he misrepresents Man to GOD, and misrepresents GOD to Man, also he misrepresents Things; he puts false Colours, and then manages the Eye to see them with an imperfect View, raising Clouds and Fogs to intercept our Sight; in short, he deceives all our Senses, and imposes upon us in Things which otherwise would be the easiest to discern and judge of.
This indeed is in part the Benefit of the Devil's History, to let us see that he has used the same Method all along; and that ever since he has had any thing to do with Mankind, he has practis'd upon them with Stratagem and Cunning; also 'tis observable that he has carried his Point better that way than he would have done by Fury and Violence, if he had been allowed to make use of it; for by his Power indeed he might have laid the World desolate, and made a Heap of Rubbish of it long ago; but, as I have observed before, that would not have answered his Ends half so well, for by destroying Men he would have made Martyrs, and sent abundance of good Men to Heaven, who would much rather have died, than yielded to serve him, and, as he aimed to have it, to fall down and worship him; I say, he would have made Martyrs, and that not a few: But this was none of Satan's Business; his Design lies quite another Way; his Business is to make Men sin, not to make them suffer; to make Devils of them, not Saints; to delude them, and draw them away from their Maker, not send them away to him; and therefore he works by Stratagem, not by Force.
We are now come to his Story, as it relates to the Jewish Church in the Wilderness, and to the Children of Israel in their travelling Circumstances; and this was the first Scene of publick Management that the Devil had upon his Hands in the World; for, as I have said, till now, he dealt with Mankind either in their separate Condition, one by one, or else carried all before him, engrossing whole Nations in his Systems of Idolatry, and overwhelming them in an ignorant Destruction.
But having now a whole People as it were snatch'd away from him, taken out of his Government, and, which was still worse, having a View of a Kingdom being set up independent of him, and superior to his Authority, it is not to be wondred at if he endeavour'd to overthrow them in the Infancy of their Constitution, and tried all possible Arts to bring them back into his own Hands again.
He found them not only carried away from the Country where they were even in his Clutches, surrounded with Idols, and where we have Reason to believe the greatest part of them were polluted with the Idolatry of the Egyptians; for we do not read of any stated Worship which they had of their own, or if they did worship the true God, we scarce know in what manner they did it; they had no Law given them, nothing but the Covenant of Circumcision, and even Moses himself had not strictly observ'd that, till he was frighted into it; we read of no Sacrifices among them, no Feasts were ordain'd, no solemn Worship appointed, and how, or in what manner they perform'd their Homage, we know not; the Passover was not ordain'd till just at their coming away; so that there was not much Religion among them, at least that we have any Account of; and we may suppose the Devil was pretty easy with them all the while they were in the House of their Bondage.
But now, to have a Million of People fetch'd out of his Hands, as it were all at once, and to have the immediate Power of Heaven engaged in it, and that Satan saw evidently God had singled them out in a miraculous manner to favour them, and call them his own; this allarm'd him at once, and therefore he resolves to follow them, lay close Siege to them, and take all the Measures possible to bring them to rebel against, and disobey GOD, that he might be provok'd to destroy them; and how near he went to bring it to pass, we shall see presently.
This making a Calf, and paying an idolatrous Worship to it (for they acted the Heathens and Idolaters, not in the setting up the Calf only, but in the manner of their Worshiping, viz. Dancing and Musick, Things they had not been acquainted with in the Worship of the true God) I mention here, to observe how the Devil not only imposed upon their Principles, but upon their Senses too; as if the awful Majesty of Heaven, whose Glory they had seen in Mount Sinai, where they stood, and whose Pillar of Cloud and Fire was their Guide and Protection, would be worship'd by dancing round a Calf! and that not a living Creature, or a real Calf, but the mere Image of a Calf cast in Gold, or, as some think, in Brass gilded over.
But this was the Devil's Way with Mankind, namely, to impose upon their Senses, and bring them into the grossest Follies and Absurdities; and then, having first made them Fools, it was much the easier to make them Offenders.
In this very manner he acted with them thro' all the Course of their Wilderness Travels; for as they were led by the Hand like Children, defended by Omnipotence, fed by Miracles, instructed immediately from Heaven, and in all things had Moses for their Guide; they had no room to miscarry, but by acting the greatest Absurdities, and committing the greatest Follies in Nature; and even these, the Devil brought them to be guilty of, in a surprising manner: 1. As GOD himself reliev'd them in every Exigence, and supply'd them in every Want, one would think 'twas impossible they should be ever brought to question either his Willingness or his Ability, and yet they really objected against both; which was indeed very provoking, and I doubt not, that when the Devil had brought them to act in such a preposterous Manner, he really hoped and believed God would be provok'd effectually: The Testimonies of his Care of them, and Ability to supply them, were miraculous and undeniable; he gave them Water from the Rock, Bread from the Air, sent the Fowls to feed them with Flesh, and supported them all the Way by Miracles; their Health was preserv'd, none were sick among them, their clothes did not wear out, nor their Shoes grow old upon their Feet; could any thing be more absurd, than to doubt whether he could provide for them who had never let them want for so many Years?
But the Devil managed them in spight of Miracles; nor did he ever give them over till he had brought six hundred thousand of them to provoke God so highly that he would not suffer above two of them to go into the Land of Promise; so that in short, Satan gained his Point as to that Generation, for all their Carcasses fell in the Wilderness. Let us take but a short View to what a Height he brought 'em, and in what a rude, absurd Manner they acted; how he set them upon murmuring upon every Occasion, now for Water, then for Bread; nay, they murmured at their Bread when they had it; Our Soul loaths this light Bread.
He sow'd the Seeds of Church-Rebellion in the Sons of Aaron, and made Nadab and Abihu offer strange Fire till they were strangely consumed by Fire for the doing it.
He set them a complaining at Taberah, and a lusting for Flesh at the first three Days Journey from Mount Sinai.
He planted Envy in the Hearts of Miriam and Aaron, against the Authority of Moses, to pretend GOD had spoke by them as well as by him, till he humbled the Father, and made a Leper of the Daughter.
He debauch'd ten of the Spies, frighted them with sham Appearances of Things, when they went out to search the Land; and made them fright the whole People out of their Understanding as well as Duty, for which six hundred thousand of their Carcasses fell in the Wilderness.
He rais'd the Rebellion of Korah, and the two hundred and fifty Princes, till he brought them to be swallowed up alive.
He put Moses into a Passion at Meribah, and ruffled the Temper of the meekest Man upon Earth, by which he made both him and Aaron forfeit their Share of the Promise, and be shut out from the Holy Land.
He rais'd a Mutiny among them when they travelled from Mount Hor, till they brought fiery Serpents among them to destroy them.
He tried to make Baalim the Prophet curse them, but there the Devil was disappointed: However, he brought the Midianites to debauch them with Women, as in the Case of Zimri and Cosbi.
He tempted Achan with the Wedge of Gold, and the Babylonish Garment, that he might take of the accursed thing, and be destroy'd.
He tempted the whole People, not effectually to drive out the cursed Inhabitants of the Land of Promise, that they might remain, and be Goads in their Sides, till at last they often oppress'd them for their Idolatry; and, which was worse, debauched them to Idolatry.
He prompted the Benjamites to refuse Satisfaction to the People, in the Case of the Wickedness of the Men of Gibeah, to the Destruction of the whole Tribe, four hundred Men excepted in the Rock Rimmon.
At last he tempted them to reject the Theocracy of their Maker, and call upon Samuel to make them a King; and most of those Kings he made Plagues and Sorrows to them in their time, as you shall hear in their Order.
Thus he plagued the whole Body of the People continually, making them sin against God, and bring Judgments upon themselves, to the consuming some Millions of them, first and last, by the Vengeance of their Maker.
As he did with the whole Congregation, so he did with their Rulers, and several of the Judges, who were made Instruments to deliver the People, yet were drawn into snares by this subtil Serpent, to ruin themselves or the People they had delivered.
He tempted Gideon to make an Ephod, contrary to the Law of the Tabernacle, and made the Children of Israel go a whoring (that is, a worshiping) after it.
He tempted Sampson to debauch himself with a Harlot, and betray his own happy Secret to a Whore, at the Expence of both his Eyes, and at last of his Life.
He tempted Eli's Sons to lie with the Women, in the very Doors of the Tabernacle, when they came to bring their Offerings to the Priest; and he tempted poor Eli to connive at them, or not sufficiently reprove them.
He tempted the People to carry the Ark of God into the Camp, that it might fall into the Hands of the Philistines. And
He tempted Uzzi to reach out his Hand to hold it up; as if he that had preserved it in the House of Dagon the Idol of the Philistines, could not keep it from falling out of the Cart.
When the People had gotten a King, he immediately set to work in diverse Ways to bring that King to load them with Plagues and Calamities not a few.
He tempted Saul to spare the King of Amaliek, contrary to God's express Command.
He not tempted Saul only, but possessed him with an evil Spirit, by which he was left to wayward Dispositions, and was forced to have it fiddl'd out of him with a Minstrel.
He tempted Saul with a Spirit of Discontent, and with a Spirit of Envy at poor David, to hunt him like a Partridge upon the Mountains.
He tempted Saul with a Spirit of Divination, and sent him to a Witch to enquire of Samuel for him; as if God would help him when he was dead, that had forsaken him when he was alive.
After that, he tempted him to kill himself, on a Pretence that he might not fall into the Hands of the Uncircumcised; as if Self-Murther was not half so bad, either for Sin against God, or Disgrace among Men, as being taken Prisoner by a Philistine! A Piece of Madness none but the Devil could have brought Mankind to submit to, tho' some Ages after that, he made it a Fashion among the Romans.
After Saul was dead, and David came to the Throne, by how much he was a Man chosen and particularly savoured by Heaven, the Devil fell upon him with the more Vigour, attack'd him so many Ways, and conquer'd him so very often, that as no Man was so good a King, so hardly any good King was ever a worse Man; in many Cases one would have almost thought the Devil had made Sport with David, to shew how easily he could overthrow the best Man God could choose of the whole Congregation.
He made him distrust his Benefactor so much as to feign himself mad before the King of Gath, when he had fled to him for Shelter.
He made him march with his four hundred Cut-throats, to cut off poor Nabal, and all his Houshold, only because he would not send him the good Chear he had provided for his honest Sheep-shearers.
He made him, for his Word's sake, give Ziba half his Master's Estate for his Treachery, after he knew he had been the Traitor, and betray'd poor Mephibosheth for the sake of it; in which
'The good old King, it seems, was very loth 'To break his Word, and therefore broke his Oath.
Then he tempted him to the ridiculous Project of numbring the People, tho' against God's express Command; a Thing Joab himself was not wicked enough to do, till David and the Devil forc'd him to it.
And to make him compleatly wicked, he carried him to the Top of his House, and shew'd him a naked Lady bathing her self in her Garden, in which it appear'd that the Devil knew David too well, and what was the particular Sin of his Inclination; and so took him by the Right Handle; drawing him at once into the Sins of Murther and Adultery.
Then, that he might not quite give him over, (tho' David's Repentance for the last Sin kept the Devil off for a while) when he could attack him no farther personally he fell upon him in his Family, and made him as miserable as he could desire him to be, in his Children, three of whom he brought to Destruction before his Face, and another after his Death.
First, he tempted Ammon to ravish his Sister Tamar; so, there was an End of her (poor Girl!) as to this World, for we never hear any more of her.
Then he tempted Absalom to murther his Brother Amnon, in Revenge for Tamar's Maidenhead.
Then he made Joab run Absalom thro' the Body, contrary to David's Command.
And after David's Death he brought Adonija (weak Man!) to the Block, for usurping King Solomon's Throne.
As to Absalom, he tempted him to Rebellion, and raising War against his Father, to the turning him shamefully out of Jerusalem, and almost out of the Kingdom.
He tempted him, for David's farther Mortification, to lie with his Father's Wives, in the Face of the whole City; and had Achitophel's honest Council been follow'd, he had certainly sent him to Sleep with his Fathers, long before his time—But there Satan and Achitophel were both out-witted together.
Thro' all the Reigns of the several Successors of David, the Devil took care to carry on his own Game, to the continual insulting the Measures which God himself had taken for the establishing his People in the World, and especially as a Church; till at last he so effectually debauch'd them to Idolatry; that Crime which of all others was most provoking to GOD, as it was carrying the People away from their Allegiance, and transposing the Homage they ow'd God their Maker, to a contemptible Block of Wood, or an Image of a brute Beast; and this how sordid and brutish soever it was in it self, yet so did his Artifice prevail among them, that, first or last, he brought them all into it, the ten Tribes as well as the two Tribes; till at last God himself was provoked to unchurch them, gave them up to their Enemies, and the few that were left of them, after incredible Slaughters and Desolation, were hurried away, some into Tartary, and others into Babylon, from whence very few, of that few that were carried away, ever found their Way Home again; and some, when they might have come, would not accept of it, but continued there to the very coming of the Messiah. See Epistles of St. James and of St. Peter, at the Beginning.
But to look a little back upon this Part (for it cannot be omitted, it makes so considerable a Part of the Devil's History) I mean his drawing God's People, Kings and all, into all the Sins and Mischiefs which gradually contributed to their Destruction.
First, (for he began immediately with the very best and wisest of the Race) he drew in King Solomon, in the midst of all his Zeal for the building God's House, and for the making the most glorious and magnificent Appearance for God's Worship that ever the World saw; I say, in the middle of all this, he drew him into such immoderate and insatiable an Appetite for Women, as to set up the first, and perhaps the greatest Seraglio of Whores that ever any Prince in the World had, or pretended to before; nay, and to bring whoring so much into Reputation, that, as the Text says, seven hundred of them were Princesses; that is to say, Ladies of Quality: Not as the Grand Seigniors, and Great Moguls, (other Princes of the Eastern World) have since practised, namely, to pick up their most beautiful Slaves; but these, it seems, were Women of Rank, King's Daughters, as Pharaoh's Daughter, and the Daughters of the Princes and prime Men among the Moabites, Ammonites, Zidonians, Hittites, &c. 1 Kings xi. 1.
Nor was this all; but as he drew him into the Love of these forbidden Women (for such they were, as to their Nation, as well as Number) so he ensnar'd him by those Women to a Familiarity with their Worship; and by degrees brought that famous Prince (famous for his Wisdom) to be the greatest and most-impos'd-upon old Fool in the World; Bowing down to those Idols by the Inticing of his Whores, whom he had abhorr'd and detested in his Youth, as dishonouring that God for whom, and for whose Worship he had finish'd and dedicated the most magnificent Building and Temple in the World: Nothing but the invincible Subtlety of this Arch Devil could ever have brought such a Man as Solomon to such a Degeneracy of Manners, and to such Meannesses; no, not the Devil himself, without the Assistance of his Whores, nor the Whores themselves, without the Devil to help them.
As to Solomon, Satan had made Conquest enough there, we need hear no more of him; the next Advance he made, was in the Person of his Son Rehoboam; had not the Devil prompted his Pride and tyrannical Humour, he would never have given the People such an Answer as he did; and when he saw a Fellow at the Head of them too whom he knew wanted and waited for an Occasion to raise a Rebellion, and had ripened up the People's Humour to the Occasion: Well might the Text call it listening to the Council of the young Heads; that it was indeed with a Vengeance! but those young Heads too were acted by an old Devil, who for his Craft is called, as I have observ'd, the Old Serpent.
Having thus pav'd the Way, Jeroboam revolts. So far God had directed him; for the Text says expressly, speaking in the first Person of GOD himself, This Thing is of Me.
But tho' God might appoint Jeroboam to be King, (that is to say, of ten Tribes,) yet GOD did not appoint him to set up the two Calves in the two extreme Parts of the Land, viz. in Dan, and in Bethel; that was Jeroboam's own doing, and done on purpose to keep the People from falling back to Rehoboam, by being obliged to go to Jerusalem to the publick Worship: And the Text adds, Jeroboam made Israel to sin. This was indeed a Master-piece of the Devil's Policy, and it was effectual to answer the End, nothing could have been more to the Purpose; what Reason he had to expect the People would so universally come into it, and be so well satisfied with a couple of Calves, instead of the true Worship of GOD at Jerusalem; or what Arts and Management he (Satan) made use of afterwards, to bring the People in, to join with such a Delusion, that we find but little of in all the Annals of Satan; not is it much to the Case: 'Tis certain the Devil found a strange kind of Propensity to worshiping Idols rooted in the Temper of that whole People, even from their first breaking away from the Egyptian Bondage; so that he had nothing to do but to work upon the old Stock, and propagate the Crime that he found was so natural to them. And this is Satan's general Way of working, not with them only, but with us also, and with all the World, even then, and ever since.
When he had thus secur'd Jeroboam's Revolt, we need not trace him among his Successors; for the same Reason of State that held for the setting up the Calves at Bethel and Dan, held good for the keeping them up, to all Jeroboam's Posterity; nor had they one good King ever after; even Jehu, who call'd his Friends to come and see his Zeal for the Lord, and who fulfill'd the Threatnings of God upon Ahab and his Family, and upon Queen Jezabel and her Offspring, and knew all the while that he was executing the Judgment of the true God upon an idolatrous Race; yet he would not part with his Calves, but would have thought it to have been parting with his Kingdom, and that as the People would have gone up to Jerusalem to worship, so they would at the same Time have transfer'd their civil Obedience to the King of Judah, (whose Right it really was, as far as they could claim by Birth and right Line); so that by the way, Satan any more than other Politicians, is not for the jus divinum of lineal Succession, or what we call hereditary Right, any farther than serves for his Purpose.
Thus Satan ridded his Hands of ten of the twelve Tribes; let us now see how he went on with the rest, for his Work was now brought into a narrower Compass; the Church of God was now reduc'd to two Tribes, except a few religious People, who separated from the Schism of Jeroboam, and came and planted themselves among the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin: The first thing the Devil did after this, was to foment a War between the two Kings, while Judah was governed by a Boy or Youth, Abija by Name, and he none of the best neither; but God's Time was not come, and the Devil receiv'd a great Disappointment; when Jeroboam was so entirely overthrown; that if the Records of those Ages do not mistake, no less than 500000 Men of Israel were kill'd, such a Slaughter, that one would think the Army of Judah, had they known how to improve as well as gain a Victory, might have brought all the rest back again, and have intirely reduc'd the House of Jeroboam and the ten Tribes that follow'd him to their Obedience; nay they did take a great deal of the Country from them, and among the rest Bethel it self; and yet so cunningly did Satan manage, that the King of Judah, who was himself a wicked King, and perhaps an Idolater in his Heart, did not take down the golden Calf that Jeroboam had there, no nor destroy the Idolatry it self, so that in short, his Victory signified nothing.
From hence to the Captivity, we find the Devil busy with the Kings of Judah, especially the best of them; as for such as Manasseth, and those who transgress'd by the general Tenor of their Lives, those he had no great trouble with.
But such as Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah, he hung about them and their Courts, till he brought every one of them into some Mischief or another.
As first, good King Asa, of whom the Scripture says, his Heart was perfect all his Days, yet this subtle Spirit, that could break in upon him no where else, tempted him when the King of Israel came out against him, to send to hire Benhadad the King of Syria to help him; as if GOD who had before enabled him to conquer the Ethiopians, with an Army of ten hundred thousand Men, could not have saved him from the King of the ten Tribes.
In the same manner he tempted Jehoshaphat to join with that wicked King Ahab against the King of Syria, and also to marry his Son to Ahab's Daughter, which was fatal to Jehoshaphat, and to his Posterity.
Again, He tempted Hezekiah to shew all his Riches to the King of Babylon's Messengers; and who can doubt, but that he (Satan) is to be understood by the wicked Spirit which stood before the Lord, 2 Chron. xviii. 20. and offered his Service to entice Ahab the King of Israel to come out to Battle to his Ruin, by being a lying Spirit in the Mouths of all his Prophets; and who for that Time had a special Commission, as he had another Time in the Case of Job? and indeed it was a Commission fit for no body but the Devil: Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: Go out and do even so, ver. 21.
Even good Josiah himself, of whom it is recorded, that like him there was no King before him, neither after him arose there any like him, 2 Kings xxiii. 26. yet the Devil never left him with his Machinations, till finding he could not tempt him to any Thing wicked in his Government, he tempted or mov'd him to a needless War with the King of Egypt, in which he lost his Life.
From the Death of this good King, the Devil prevail'd so with the whole Nation of the Jews, and brought them to such an incorrigible Pitch of Wickedness, that God gave them up, forsook his Habitation of Glory, the Temple, which he suffer'd to be spoil'd first, then burnt and demolish'd; destroying the whole Nation of the Jews, except a small Number that were left, and those the Enemy carried away into Captivity.
Nor was he satisfied with this general Destruction of the whole People of Israel, for the ten Tribes were gone before; but he follow'd them even into their Captivity; those that fled away to Egypt, which they tell us were seventy thousand, he first corrupted, and then they were destroyed there upon the Overthrow of Egypt, by the same King of Babylon.
Also he went very near to have them rooted out, young and old, Man, Woman and Child, who were in Captivity in Babylon, by the Ministry of that true Agent of Hell, Haman the Agagite; but there Satan met with a Disappointment too, as in the Story of Hester, which was but the fourth that he had met with, in all his Management since the Creation; I say, there he was disappointed, and his prime Minister Haman was exalted, as he deserv'd.
Having thus far traced the Government and Dominion of the Devil, from the Creation of Man to the Captivity; I think I may call upon him to set up his Standard of universal Empire, at that Period; it seem'd just then as if God had really forsaken the Earth, and given the entire Dominion of Mankind up to his outrageous Enemy the Devil; for excepting the few Israelites which were left in the Territories of the King of Babylon, and they were but a few; I say, except among them, there was not one Corner of the World left where the true God was call'd upon, or his Dominion so much as acknowledg'd; all the World was buried in Idolatry, and that of so many horrid Kinds, that one would think, the Light of Reason should have convinc'd Mankind, that he who exacted such bloody Sacrifices as that of Moloch, and such a bloody cutting themselves with Knives, as the Priests of Baal did, could not be a GOD, a good and beneficent Being, but must be a cruel, voracious and devouring Devil, whose End was not the Good, but the Destruction of his Creatures: But to such a Height was the blind demented World arriv'd to at that Time, that in these sordid and corrupt Ways, they went on worshiping dumb Idols, and offering human Sacrifices to them, and in a Word, committing all the most horrid and absurd Abominations that they were capable of, or that the Devil could prompt them to, till Heaven was again put, as it were, to the Necessity of bringing about a Revolution, in favour of his own forsaken People, by Miracle and Surprize, as he had done before.
We come therefore to the Restoration or Return of the Captivity: Had Satan been able to have acted any thing by Force, as I have observ'd before, all the Princes and Powers of the World, having been, as they really were, at his Devotion, he might easily have made use of them, arm'd all the World against the Jews, and prevented the Rebuilding the Temple, and even the Return of the Captivity.
But now the Devil's Power manifestly received a Check, and the Hand of God appear'd in it, and that he was resolv'd to reestablish his People the Jews, and to have a second Temple built: the Devil, who knew the Extent of his own Power too well, and what Limitations were laid upon him, stood still as it were looking on, and not daring to oppose the Return of the Captivity, which he very well knew had been prophesied, and would come to pass.
He did indeed make some little Opposition to the Building, and to the fortifying the City, but as it was to no Purpose, so he was soon oblig'd to give it over; and thus the Captivity being return'd, and the Temple rebuilt, the People of the Jews encreased and multiplied to an infinite Number and Strength; and from this Time we may say, the Power of the Devil rather declin'd and decreas'd, than went on with Success, as it had done before; It is true the Jews fell into Sects and Errors, and Divisions of many Kinds, after the Return from the Captivity, and no doubt the Devil had a great Hand in those Divisions; but he could never bring them back to Idolatry, and his not being able to do that, made him turn his Hand so many Ways to plague and oppress them; as particularly by Antiochus the Great, who brought the Abomination of Desolation into the holy Place; and there the Devil triumph'd over them for some Time; but they were deliver'd many Ways, till at last they came peaceably under the Protection rather than the Dominion of the Roman Empire: When Herod the Great govern'd them as a King, and reedified, nay almost rebuilt their Temple, with so great an Expence and Magnificence, that he made it, as some say, greater and more glorious than that of Solomon's, tho' that I take to be a great —— Fable, to say no worse of it.
In this Condition the Jewish Church stood, when the Fullness of Time, as 'tis call'd in Scripture, was come; and the Devil was kept at Bay, tho' he had made some Encroachments upon them as above; for there was a glorious Remnant of Saints among them, such as old Zacharias the Father of John the Baptist, and old Simeon, who waited for the Salvation of Israel; I say, in this Condition the Jewish Church stood when the Messiah came into the World, which was such another mortal Stab to the Thrones and Principalities infernal, as that of which I have spoken already in Chap. III. at the Creation of Man; and therefore with this I break off the Antiquities of the Devil's History, or the antient Part of his Kingdom; for from hence downward we shall find his Empire has declin'd gradually; and tho' by his wonderful Address, his prodigious Application, and the Vigilance and Fidelity of his Instruments, as well human as infernal and diabolical, and of the Human as well the Ecclesiastick as the Secular; he has many Times retriev'd what he has lost, and sometimes bid fair for recovering the universal Empire he once possess'd over Mankind; yet he has been still defeated again, repulst and beaten back, and his Kingdom has greatly declin'd in many Parts of the World; and especially in the Northern Parts, except Great Britain; and how he has politically maintain'd his Interest and encreased his Dominion among the wise and righteous Generation that we cohabit with and among, will be the Subject of the modern Part of Satan's History, and of which we are next to give an Account.
PART II. OF THE MODERN HISTORY OF THE DEVIL.
I have examined the Antiquities of Satan's History in the former Part of this Work, and brought his Affairs down from the Creation, as far as to our blessed Christian Times; especially to the Coming of the Messiah, when one would think the Devil could have nothing to do among us. I have indeed but touch'd at some Things which might have admitted of a farther Description of Satan's Affairs, and the Particulars of which we may all come to a farther Knowledge of hereafter; yet I think I have spoken to the material Part of his Conduct, as it relates to his Empire in this World: What has happen'd to his more sublimated Government, and his Angelic Capacities, I shall have an Occasion to touch at in several solid Particulars as we go along.
The Messiah was now born, the Fulness of Time was come, that the old Serpent was to have his Head broken, that is to say, his Empire or Dominion over Man, which he gain'd by the Fall of our first Father and Mother in Paradise, receiv'd a Downfal or Overthrow.
It is worth observing, in order to confirm what I have already mention'd of the Limitation of Satan's Power, that not only his Angelic Strength seems to have received a farther Blow upon the Coming of the Son of God into the World, but he seems to have had a Blow upon his Intellects; his Serpentine Craft and Devil-like Subtilty seems to have been circumscrib'd and cut short; and instead of his being so cunning a Fellow as before, when, as I said, 'tis evident he outwitted all Mankind, not only Eve, Cain, Noah, Lot, and all the Patriarchs, but even Nations of Men, and that in their publick Capacity; and thereby led them into absurd and ridiculous Things, such as the Building of Babel, and deifying and worshiping their Kings, when dead and rotten; idolizing Beasts, Stocks, Stones, any Thing, and even Nothing; and in a Word, when he manag'd Mankind just as he pleased.
Now and from this Time forward he appeared a weak, foolish, ignorant Devil, compar'd to what he was before; He was upon almost every Occasion resisted, disappointed, baulk'd and defeated, especially in all his Attempts to thwart or cross the Mission and Ministry of the Messiah, while he was upon Earth, and sometimes upon other and very mean Occasions too.
And first, how foolish a Project was it, and how below Satan's celebrated Artifice in like Cases, to put Herod upon sending to kill the poor innocent Children in Bethlehem, in hopes to destroy the Infant? for I take it for granted, it was the Devil put into Herod's Thoughts that Execution, how simple and foolish soever; now we must allow him to be very ignorant of the Nativity himself, or else he might easily have guided his Friend Herod to the Place where the Infant was.
This shews that either the Devil is in general ignorant as we are, of what is to come in the World, before it is really come to pass; and consequently can foretel nothing, no not so much as our famous old Merlin or Mother Shipton did, or else that great Event was hid from him by an immediate Power superior to his, which I cannot think neither, considering how much he was concern'd in it, and how certainly he knew that it was once to come to pass.
But be that as it will, 'tis certain the Devil knew nothing where Christ was born, or when; nor was he able to direct Herod to find him out, and therefore put him upon that foolish, as well as cruel Order, to kill all the Children, that he might be sure to destroy the Messiah among the rest.
The next simple Step that the Devil took, and indeed the most foolish one that he could ever be charg'd with, unworthy the very Dignity of a Devil, and below the Understanding that he always was allow'd to act with, was that of coming to tempt the Messiah in the Wilderness; it is certain, and he own'd it himself afterwards, upon many Occasions, that the Devil knew our Saviour to be the Son of God; and 'tis as certain that he knew, that as such he could have no Power or Advantage over him; how foolish then was it in him to attack him in that Manner, if thou beest the Son of GOD? why he knew him to be the Son of GOD well enough; he said so afterwards, I know thee who thou art, the holy One of GOD; how then could he be so weak a Devil as to say, if thou art, then do so and so?
The Case is plain, the Devil, tho' he knew him to be the Son of GOD, did not fully know the Mystery of the Incarnation; nor did he know how far the Inanition of Christ extended, and whether, as Man, he was not subject to fall as Adam was, tho' his reserv'd Godhead might be still immaculate and pure; and upon this Foot, as he would leave no Method untried, he attempts him three Times, one immediately after another; but then, finding himself disappointed he fled.
This evidently proves that the Devil was ignorant of the great Mystery of Godliness, as the Text calls it, God manifest in the Flesh, and therefore made that foolish Attempt upon Christ, thinking to have conquer'd his human Nature as capable of Sin, which it was not; and at this Repulse Hell groan'd, the whole Army of regimented Devils receiv'd a Wound, and felt the Shock of it; 'twas a second Overthrow to them, they had had a long Chain of Success, carried a devilish Conquest over the greatest Part of the Creation of GOD; but now they were cut short, the Seed of the Woman was now come to break the Serpent's Head, that is, to cut short his Power, to contract the Limits of his Kingdom, and in a Word, to dethrone him in the World: No doubt the Devil receiv'd a Shock, for you find him always afterward, crying out in a horrible Manner, whenever Christ met with him, or else very humble and submissive, as when he begg'd leave to go into the Herd of Swine, a Thing he has often done since.
Defeated here, the first Stratagem I find him concern'd in after it, was his entring into Judas, and putting him upon betraying Christ to the Chief Priest; but here again he was entirely mistaken, for he did not see, as much a Devil as he was, what the Event would be; but when he came to know, that if Christ was put to Death, he would become a Propitiatory and be the great Sacrifice of Mankind, so to rescue the fallen Race from that Death they had incurr'd the Penalty of, by the Fall, that this was the fulfilling of all Scripture Prophesy, and that thus it was that Christ was to be the End of the Law, I say, as soon as he perceiv'd this, he strove all he could to prevent it, and disturb'd Pilate's Wife in her Sleep, in order to set her upon her Husband to hinder his delivering him up to the Jews; for then, and not till then, he knew how Christ was to vanquish Hell by the Power of his Cross.
Thus the Devil was disappointed and exposed in every Step he took, and as he now plainly saw his Kingdom declining, and even the temporal Kingdom of Christ, rising up upon the Ruins of his (Satan's) Power; he seem'd to retreat into his own Region the Air, and to consult there with his fellow Devils, what Measures he should take next to preserve his Dominion among Men; Here it was that he resolv'd upon that truly hellish Thing call'd Persecution, by which, tho' he prov'd a foolish Devil in that too, he flatter'd himself he should be able to destroy God's Church, and root out its Professors from the Earth, even almost as soon as it was establish'd; whereas on the contrary, Heaven counter-acted him there too, and tho' he arm'd the whole Roman Empire against the Christians, that is say, the whole World, and they were fallen upon every where, with all the Fury and Rage of some of the most flaming Tyrants that the World ever saw, of whom Nero was the first; yet in spight of Hell, GOD made all the Blood, which the Devil caus'd to be spilt, to be semen Ecclesiae, and the DEVIL had the Mortification to see, that the Number of Christians encreased even under the very Means he made use of to root them out and destroy them: This was the Case thro' the Reign of all the Roman Emperors, for the first three hundred Years after Christ.
Having thus tried all the Methods that best suited his Inclination, I mean those of Blood and Death, complicated with Tortures and all Kinds of Cruelty, and that for so long a Stage of Time as above; the Devil all on a suddain, as if glutted with Blood, and satiated with Destruction, sits still and becomes a peaceable Spectator for a good while; as if he either found himself unable, or had no Disposition to hinder the Progress of Christianity in the first Ages of its Settlement in the World: In this interval the Christian Church was establish'd under Constantine, Religion flourished in Peace, and under the most perfect Tranquillity: The Devil seem'd to be at a Loss what he should do next, and Things began to look as if Satan's Kingdom was at an End; but he soon let them see that he was the same indefatigable Devil that ever he was, and the Prosperity of the Church gave him a large Field of Action; for knowing the Disposition of Mankind to Quarrel and Dispute, the universal Passion rooted in Nature, especially among the Church-Men for Precedency and Dominion, he fell to work with them immediately; so that turning the Tables, and reassuming the Subtilty and Craft, which, I say, he seem'd to have lost in the former four hundred Years, he gain'd more Ground in the next Ages of the Church, and went farther towards restoring his Power and Empire in the World, and towards overthrowing that very Church which was so lately establish'd, than all he had done by Fire and Blood before.
His Policy now seem'd to be edg'd with Resentment for the Mistakes he had made; as if the Devil looking back with Anger at himself, to see what a Fool he had been to expect to crush Religion by Persecution, rejoyc'd for having discover'd that Liberty and Dominion was the only way to ruin the Church, not Fire and Faggot; and that he had nothing to do but to give the zealous People their utmost Liberty in Religion, only sowing Error and Variety of Opinion among them, and they would bring Fire and Faggot in fast enough among themselves.
It must be confess'd these were devilish Politicks; and so sure was the Aim, and so certain was the Devil to hit his Mark by them, that we find he not only did not fail then, but the same hellish Methods have prevail'd still, and will do so to the End of the World. Nor had the Devil ever a better Game to play than this, for the Ruin of Religion, as we shall have room to show in many Examples, besides that of the Dissenters in England, who are evidently weaken'd by the late Toleration: Whether the Devil had any hand in baiting his Hook with an A—- of Parliament or no, History is silent, but 'tis too evident he has catch'd the Fish by it; and if the honest Church of England does not in Pity and Christian Charity to the Dissenters, straighten her Hand a little, I cannot but fear the Devil will gain his Point, and the Dissenter will be undone by it.
Upon this new foot of Politicks the Devil began with the Emperors themselves: Arius, the Father of the Hereticks of that Age, having broach'd his Opinions, and Athanasius the orthodox Bishop of the East opposing him, the Devil no sooner saw the Door open to Strife and Imposition, but he thrust himself in, and raising the Quarrel up to a suited Degree of Rage and Spleen, he involv'd the good Emperor himself in it first and Athanasius was banish'd and recall'd, and banish'd and recall'd again, several times, as Error ran high, and as the Devil either got or lost Ground: After Constantine, the next Emperor was a Child of his own, (Arian) and then the Court came all into the Quarrel, as Courts often do, and then the Arians and the Orthodox persecuted one another as furiously as the Pagans persecuted them all before. To such a Height the Devil brought his Conquest in the very Infancy of the Question, and so much did he prevail over the true Christianity of the Primitive Church, even before they had enjoy'd the Liberty of the pure Worship twenty Years.
Flush'd with this Success, the Devil made one Push for the restoring Paganism, and bringing on the old Worship of the Heathen Idols and Temples; but like our King James II. he drove too hard, and Julian had so provok'd the whole Roman Empire, which was generally at that time become Christian, that had the Apostate liv'd, he would not have been able to have held the Throne; and as he was cut off in his Beginning, Paganism expir'd with him, and the Devil himself might have cry'd out, as Julian did, and with much more Propriety, Vicisti Galileane.
Jovian, the next Emperor, being a glorious Christian, and a very good and great Man, the Devil abdicated for a while, and left the Christian Armies to re-establish the Orthodox Faith; nor could he bring the Christians to a Breach again among themselves a great while after.
However, Time and a diligent Devil did the Work at last, and when the Emperors concerning themselves one way or other, did not appear sufficient to answer his End, he chang'd Hands again, and went to work with the Clergy: To set the Doctors effectually together by the Ears, he threw in the new Notion of Primacy among them, for a Bone of Contention; the Bait took, the Priests swallow'd it eagerly down, and the Devil, a cunninger Fisherman than ever St. Peter was, struck them (as the Anglers call it) with a quick Hand, and hung them fast upon the Hook.
Having them thus in his Clutches, and they being now, as we may say, his own, they took their Measures afterwards from him, and most obediently follow'd his Directions; nay, I will not say but he may have had pretty much the Management of the whole Society ever since, of what Profession or Party soever they may have been, with Exception only to the Reverend and Right Reverend among our selves.
The Sacred, as above, being thus hook'd in, and the DEVIL being at the Head of their Affairs, Matters went on most gloriously his own way; first, the Bishops fell to bandying and Party-making for the Superiority, as heartily as ever Temporal Tyrants did for Dominion, and took as black and devilish Methods to carry it on, as the worst of those Tyrants ever had done before them.
At last Satan declar'd for the Roman Pontiff, and that upon excellent Conditions, in the Reign of the Emperor Mauritius; for Boniface, who had long contended for the Title of Supreme, fell into a Treaty with Phocas, Captain of the Emperor's Guards; whether the Bargain was from Hell or not, let any one judge, the Conditions absolutely entitle the Devil to the Honour of making the Contract, viz. That Phocas first murthering his Master (the Emperor) and his Sons, Boniface should countenance the Treason, and declare him Emperor; and in Return, Phocas should acknowledge the Primacy of the Church of Rome, and declare Boniface universal Bishop. A blessed Compact! which at once set the Devil at the Head of Affairs in the Christian World, as well Spiritual as Temporal, Ecclesiastick and Civil. Since the Conquest over Eve in Paradise, by which Death and the DEVIL, Hand in Hand, establish'd their first Empire upon Earth, the Devil never gain'd a more important Point than he gain'd at this time.
He had indeed prospered in his Affairs tolerably well for some time before this, and his Interest among the Clergy had got Ground for some Ages; but that was indeed a secret Management, was carried on privately, and with Difficulty; as in sowing Discord and Faction among the People, perplexing the Councils of their Princes, and secretly wheedling in with the dignified Clergy.
Also he had raised abundance of little Church-Rebellions, by setting up Hereticks of several Kinds, and raising them Favourers among the Clergy, such as Ebion, Cerinthius, Pelagius, and others.
He had drawn in the Bishops of Rome to set up the ridiculous Pageantry of the KEY; and while he, the DEVIL, set open the Gates of Hell to them all, set them upon locking up the Gates of Heaven, and giving the Bishop the Key; a Cheat which, as gross as it was, the DEVIL so gilded over, or so blinded the Age to receive it, that like Gideon's Ephod, all the Catholick World went a whoring after the Idol; and the Bishop of Rome sent more Fools to the Devil by it than ever he pretended to let into Heaven, though he open'd the Door as wide as his Key was able to do.
The Story of this Key being given to the Bishop of Rome by St. Peter, (who, by the way, never had it himself,) and of its being lost by Somebody or other, (the Devil it seems did not tell them who) and its being found again by a Lombard Soldier in the Army of King Antharis, who attempting to cut it with his Knife, was miraculously forced to direct the Wound to himself, and cut his own Throat; that King Antharis and his Nobles happened to see the Fellow do it, and were converted to Christianity by it, and that the King sent the Key, with another made like it, to Pope Pelagius, then Bishop of Rome, who thereupon assum'd the Power of opening and shutting Heaven's Gates; and he afterwards setting a Price or Toll upon the Entrance, as we do here at passing a Turn-pike; these fine things, I say, were successfully managed for some Years before this I am now speaking of, and the Devil got a great deal of Ground by it too; but now he triumph'd openly, and having set up a Murtherer upon the temporal Throne, and a Church Emperor upon the Ecclesiastic Throne, and both of his own choosing, the Devil may be said to begin his new Kingdom from this Epocha, and call it the Restoration.
Since this time indeed the Devil's Affairs went very merrily on, and the Clergy brought so many Gewgaws into their Worship, and such devilish Principles were mixt with that which we call'd the Christian Faith, that in a Word, from this Time the Bishop of Rome commenc'd Whore of Babylon, in all the most express Terms that could be imagin'd: Tyranny of the worst sort crept into the Pontificate, Errors of all sorts into the Profession, and they proceeded from one thing to another, till the very Popes, for so the Bishop of Rome was now called, by way of Distinction; I say, the Popes themselves, their spiritual Guides, profess'd openly to confederate with the Devil, and to carry on a personal and private Correspondence with him at the same time, taking upon them the Title of Christ's Vicar, and the infallible Guide of the Consciences of Christians.
This we have sundry Instances of in some merry Popes, who, if Fame lies not, were Sorcerers, Magicians, had familiar Spirits, and immediate Conversation with the Devil, as well visibly as invisibly, and by this means became what we call Devils incarnate: Upon this account it is that I have left the Conversation that passes between Devils and Men to this Place, as well because I believe it differs much now in his modern State, from what it was in his ancient State, and therefore that which most concerns us belongs rather to this part of his History; as also because, as I am now writing to the present Age, I choose to bring the most significant Parts of his History, especially as they relate to our selves, into that Part of Time that we are most concern'd in.
The Devil had once, as I observ'd before, the universal Monarchy or Government of Mankind in himself, and I doubt not but in that flourishing State of his Affairs, he governed them like what he is (viz.) an absolute Tyrant; during this Theocracy of his, for Satan is call'd the God of this World, he did not familiarize himself to Mankind so much, as he finds Occasion to do now, there was not then so much need of it; he governed then with an absolute Sway; he had his Oracles, where he gave Audience to his Votaries like a Deity, and he had his Sub-Gods, who under his several Dispositions receiv'd the Homage of Mankind in their Names; such were all the Rabble of the Heathen Deities, from Jupiter the Supreme, to the Lares or Houshold Gods of every Family; these, I say, like Residents, received the Prostrations, but the Homage was all Satan's; the Devil had the Substance of it all, which was the Idolatry.
During this Administration of Hell, there was less Witchcraft, less true literal Magick than there has been since; there was indeed no need of it, the DEVIL did not stoop to the Mechanism of his more modern Operations, but rul'd as a Deity, and receiv'd the Vows and the Bows of his Subjects in more State, and with more Solemnity; whereas since that, he is content to employ more Agents and take more Pains himself too; now he runs up and down Hackney in the World, more like a Drudge than a Prince, and much more than he did then.
Hence all those Things we call Apparitions and Visions of Ghosts, Familiar-Spirits and Dealings with the Devil, of which there is so great a Variety in the World at this Time, were not so much known among the People, in those first Ages of the Devil's Kingdom; in a Word, the Devil seems to be put to his Shifts, and to fly to Art and Stratagem for the carrying on his Affairs, much more now than he did then.
One Reason for this may be, that he has been more discover'd and expos'd in these Ages, than he was before; then he could appear in the World in his own proper Shapes, and yet not be known; when the Sons of GOD appear'd at the divine Summons, Satan came along with them; but now he has plaid so many scurvy Tricks upon Men, and they know him so well, that he is oblig'd to play quite out of sight and act in disguise; Mankind will allow nothing of his doing, and hear nothing of his saying, in his own Name; and if you propose any Thing to be done, and it be but said the Devil is to help in the doing it, or if you say of any Man he deals with the Devil, or the Devil has a Hand in it, every Body flies him and shuns him, as the most frightful Thing in the World.
Nay, if any Thing strange and improbable be done or related to be done, we presently say the Devil was at the doing it: Thus the great Ditch at Newmarket Heath, is call'd the Devil's Ditch; so the Devil built Crowland Abby, and the Whispering-Place in Gloucester Cathedral; nay, the Cave at Castleton, only because there's no getting to the farther End of it, is call'd the Devil's A—— and the like: The poor People of Wiltshire, when you ask them how the great Stones at Stonehenge were brought thither? they'll all tell you the Devil brought them: If any Mischief extraordinary befalls us, we presently say the Devil was in it, and the Devil would have it so; in a Word, the Devil has got an ill Name among us, and so he is fain to act more in Tenebris, more incog. than he used to do, play out of sight himself, and work by the Sap, as the Engineers call it, and not openly and avowedly in his own Name and Person, as formerly, tho' perhaps not with less Success than he did before; and this leads me to enquire more narrowly into the manner of the Devil's Management of his Affairs since the Christian Religion began to spread in the World, which manifestly differs from his Conduct in more antient Times; in which if we discover some of the most consummate Fool's Policy, the most profound simple Craft, and the most subtle shallow Management of Things that can by our weak Understandings be conceiv'd, we must only resolve it into this, that in short it is the DEVIL.
Of Hell as it is represented to us, and how the Devil is to be understood, as being personally in Hell, when at the same Time we find him at Liberty ranging over the World.
It is true, as that learn'd and pleasant Author, the inimitable Dr. Brown says, the Devil is his own Hell; one of the most constituting Parts of his Infelicity is, that he cannot act upon Mankind brevi Manu, by his own inherent Power, as well as Rage; that he cannot unhinge this Creation, which, as I have observ'd in its Place, he had the utmost Aversion to from its Beginning, as it was a stated Design in the Creator to supply his Place in Heaven with a new Species of Beings call'd Man, and fill the Vacancies occasion'd by his Degeneracy and Rebellion.
This fill'd him with Rage inexpressible, and horrible Resolutions of Revenge, and the Impossibility of executing those Resolutions torments him with Despair; this added to what he was before, makes him a compleat Devil, with a Hell in his own Breast, and a Fire unquenchable burning about his Heart.
I might enlarge here, and very much to the Purpose, in describing spherically and mathematically that exquisite Quality call'd a devilish Spirit, in which it would naturally occur to give you a whole Chapter upon the glorious Articles of Malice and Envy, and especially upon that luscious, delightful, triumphant Passion call'd REVENGE; how natural to Man, nay even to both Sexes; how pleasant in the very Contemplation, tho' there be not just at that Time a Power of Execution; how palatable it is in it self, and how well it relishes when dish'd up with its proper Sauces, such as Plot, Contrivance, Scheme, and Confederacy, all leading on to Execution: How it possesses a human Soul in all the most sensible Parts; how it empowers Mankind to sin in Imagination, as effectually to all future Intents and Purposes (Damnation) as if he had sinned actually: How safe a Practice it is too, as to Punishment in this Life, namely, that it empowers us to cut Throats clear of the Gallows, to slander Virtue, reproach Innocence, wound Honour and stab Reputation; and in a Word, to do all the wicked Things in the World, out of the Reach of the Law.
It would also require some few Words to describe the secret Operations of those nice Qualities when they reach the human Soul; how effectually they form a Hell within us, and how imperceptibly they assimilate and transform us into Devils, meer human Devils, as really Devils as Satan himself, or any of his Angels; and that therefore 'tis not so much out of the Way, as some imagine, to say, such a Man is an incarnate Devil; for as Crime made Satan a Devil, who was before a bright immortal Seraph, or Angel of Light; how much more easily may the same Crime make the same DEVIL, tho' every Way meaner and more contemptible, of a Man or a Woman either? But this is too grave a Subject for me at this Time.
The Devil being thus, I say, fir'd with Rage and Envy, in consequence of his Jealousy upon the Creation of Man, his Torment is encreased to the highest by the Limitation of his Power, and his being forbid to act against Mankind by Force of Arms; this is, I say, part of his Hell, which, as above, is within him, and which he carries with him wherever he goes; nor is it so difficult to conceive of Hell, or of the Devil, either under this just Description, as it is by all the usual Notions that we are taught to entertain of them, by (the old Women) our Instructors; for every Man may, by taking but a common View of himself, and making a just Scrutiny into his own Passions, on some of their particular Excursions, see a Hell within himself, and himself a meer Devil as long as the Inflammation lasts; and that as really, and to all Intents and Purposes, as if he had the Angel (Satan) before his Face, in his Locality and Personality; that is to say, all Devil and Monster in his Person, and an immaterial but intense Fire flaming about and from within him, at all the Pores of his Body.