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Definition of the Greek term,-Diabolos-Remarks of Dr. S. Clark on personification,-of the number of Angels and Devils-A Devil the popular god of Superstition.
Diabolos, from diaballo, to dart or to strike through, or to calumniate, strictly signifies, an accuser, and is constantly used in the Septuagint as the translation of Satan, an adversary, and Zar, an enemy. If therefore we translate the word Diabolos into English, according to its proper meaning, we shall never be at a loss to know the devil and his occupation, nor the means of successful resistance. We shall be perfectly qualified to understand the language of Christ to the Jews and his apostles, John 6: 70, and 7: 14. Dr. S. Clark well observes on the last passage, that personification was very frequent in the language of the Jews, and nothing was more common than to call men by the appellation of that abstract quality, which principally predominates in their character. The phrases, children of wisdom, of the devil, of God, of a murderer, are easily analyzed by changing the abstract for concrete terms; and reading wise, godly, persecuting or malevolent, children. We now clearly perceive the propriety of calling Judas a devil, John 6: 70. Peter Satan, Matt. 16: 23. Simon Magus, a child of the devil, Acts 13: 10. And slanderous women, devils, Titus, 2: 3-and how such devils go about as roaring lions, seeking whom they may devour.
From the doctrine of demonology arose the Jewish notions of angels. The Jews in their degeneracy adopted many of the Heathen dogmas concerning demons, yet preferred the name of angel, to demon, as they did the word Paradise, to the Greek Elysium. They learned the names and grades of angels during their captivity in Babylon, and afterwards amalgamated their religion with the Platonic philosophy, in
Egypt, during the reign of the Ptolemies. The wisdom of Solomon, and works of Philo, are standing evidences of this assertion.
The Christians, in the first age of christianity having embraced the same fanciful opinions, arranged them all under nine classes, angels, archangels, virtues, powers, principalities, dominions, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim. The Talmudists multiplied the good angels to more than 300,000,000,000, and the bad to a number beyond all computation. Isidore and others, say, the number of the elect, exactly equals that of the fallen angels, being chosen from men to fill the places vacated by their rebellion. But Daillon affirms, there is only one devil, and the Christians borrowed a plurality from the heathen; whilst Averroes maintains, THERE IS NO DEVIL AT ALL!!! Here then we come to the Scriptures to decide the controversy. From Matt. 18: 12. and Heb. 2: 16, Hilary determines that angels, are to men, as a hundred to one. Fallen angels, cries another, must be more than five thousand, for a demoniac said, my name is legion, Luke 8: 30. One third exactly of the angels fell, exclaims another, for the dragon's tail drew a third part of the stars from heaven, Rev. 12: 3. It is certain, adds a fourth, that good angels are more numerous than the bad, for we read of twelve legions of the former, and only one of the latter. Matt. 16: 53.
But while we disprove the existence of such fanciful beings, a thousand voices exclaim, we have seen them! If so, why may we not also obtain a view? Come forth, then, whatever ye are-shadows or substances, spirits sublimated, or transmuted natures—ye who have left your clay to wither, and become the messengers of heaven, and tread the winds and the star-sown wilderness above us! Come down from your stately heights, and stand visible before us! Or, if indeed ye live in the grave, or haunt on Purgatorial shores,
pale tenants of the dim Elysium-Arise, and be manifest! No, they appear not, but to their deluded votaries, to the believers of such fables, and no unbeliever can ever obtain a glimpse, even though it were by the pale light of the moon!!
How deplorable is the state of the human mind, degraded by superstition! Fear being the mother of superstition, we may reasonably expect her god to be hideous and terrific. Hence an imaginary devil has obtained the greatest veneration in many countries of Asia and Africa: and even at this time, however incredible, his worship is very prevalent throughout all christendom. Being the popular god of modern superstition, if any independent man, who dares to think, or express a doubt of his existence, the alarm is sounded, and fearing that the empire of the god of this world is about to be upset, all who wonder after the beasts, hasten to cry out for whole hours, Great is the Devil we adore! Be not surprised, the existence and influence of the devil are as necessary to the creeds of modern times, as the honours of Diana were to the craftsmen of Ephesus.
From what has been already said, it is fully manifest, that among the various objects of blinded nations' fear, the ghosts of departed heroes were admitted at a very early period. It was imagined by weak and perverted minds, that men who had distinguished themselves, in this world, by either good or evil actions, would retain their dispositions in the next; and be actively engaged in promoting the welfare of mankind, or plotting their ruin, as far as those propensities excited, or their influence extended. Therefore, men became naturally inclined to honour the good spirits for their services, and offer sacrifices to the evil, to placate their malevolence ! We have also seen that Plato and many other eminent_philosophers, taught that all intercourse between the Deity and mankind was car
ried on by means of demons, who ought on that account to receive divine homage; and that this doctrine was received by many of the heathen nations, and even by many of the Jews, especially the Essens, who believed that thousands of these demons officiated as mediators with Jehovah, and therefore ought to be worshipped. That it was also a general opinion, that acute diseases, plagues, apoplexies, epilepsies, were operated by demons, or ghosts of wicked men, who entered human bodies and destroyed those who were not powerfully supported by the good demons. Accordingly we find, that in all the passages of scripture, which speak of persons possessed of devils, the original word is daimonion, and not diabolos, which should not therefore have been translated devil, nor devils.
But it appears to have been an early and much agitated question among the ancient philosophers, whence sprang that moral and physical evil, which so often weakens the enjoyment and destroys the happiness of mankind. Being unwilling to abase human pride, by charging it on man, or to attribute malevolence to the Deity, they imagined the existence of a wicked spirit to be absolutely necessary to the existence and continuance of disorder and pain in the world. But the quantum of evil being so great, they supposed that the evil spirit must nearly equal the Deity himself in wisdom and power. This doctrine of devilism was derived from the Persian theology, which taught the co-existence and nearly co-equality of two great first causes; the one the author of all good, the other the source of all evil. This absurd opinion was the invention of their Magi, who were unable to account for the origin of evil, on any other principles. Very dif ferent from this wild fancy, was the message of Jehovah to Cyrus, by the prophet Isaiah, which reproves the foolish sentiment, and declares Jehovah to be the author of light and darkness, and the Creator of both
good and evil. Indeed it is altogether impossible that good or evil could exist otherwise; for that God who fills the immensity of space, must enclose in his very nature beings to whom he gave existence, and by whose fatherly care they are preserved. Hence it follows that the notion of the existence and influence of the devil, is altogether inconsistent with correct and scriptural views of the divine nature and character. If a devil exist, he must be the rival or servant of the Almighty. The first supposition is atheistic; for if there be a God, he is without a rival; nor would he suffer his designs to be frustrated, nor employ a servant to violate his laws, nor disturb the peace of his empire. But, says the objector, if there be no devil, then there is no God, no hell, no need of preaching! I would not have noticed such manifest puerilities, were they not proclaimed by the doctors of divinity and theological professors of our day, who sound the watchword of heresy, and lead the van of persecution. Is there no proof of God's existence but that the devil needs an opposer? O fie! Must God exist, and we preach for the devil's sake? Shame on those men, who sacrifice truth, and insult good sense to fan the fire of fanaticism ! Is the devil the maker and governor of the infernal regions? Then certainly he will take good care not to torment himself nor his friends. The wicked have nothing to fear, for if any suffer, they must be the pious servants of God, who have rebelled against his satanic majesty. Moreover, if the devil be the director of hell, and fallen angels the inflictors of its punishments, can these unfortunate sufferers be the tormentors of men who have been equally unfortunate as themselves? Then surely the devil and his angels are God's servants, and must receive the reward of their services. But are God's servants unhappy, and will virtue and misery be long connected? then it follows that devils will become saints, and hell a field of liberty!