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though in the very words of scripture, if it seems to contradict long received opinions, are all attributed to the seduction of Satan; and thus the perpetual dread of an imaginary being, keeps the mind in darkness, and the heart in palpitation. Wild enthusiasm, gloomy superstition, and a long train of delusive thoughts, successively distract the serious mind which is unfortunately beclouded by a belief in the devil. And what is worse, men suppose him to be so refined in subtlety, and so resistless in power, that vigilance is almost useless, and the strongest heart cannot feel subjection to his will without horror and dismay. Hence a belief in the existence of the devil, has driven many weak persons to despair, which most assuredly is the natural consequence of such a wild doctrine. What idea must those men have of God, who believe he has placed his feeble creatures in a situation so hopeless and cruel? Must they not conclude that God created man for the purpose of making him miserable? And can the Creator be an object of love, veneration, and gratitude, while he is viewed in connexion with a malignant devil?
If the account we have given of the devil be just, then all notions of witchcraft, or of being possessed by the devil, are vain and groundless. "Tis all deceit and imposition on the weakness and credulity of mankind! For shame! Let us entertain more honourable sentiments of the moral government of God. Let us think ourselves safe under the protection of his providence; safe from the malice both of devils and wicked men. Let us learn, not to disturb ourselves with any vain or superstitious fears of evil spirits, for we are not subject to any malicious powerful beings. The Lord God Omnipotent reigns alone, whose tender mercies are over all his works. This consideration should fill us with ease and tranquillity, otherwise we do not give God the honour due to him; we do not re
pose that confidence in his providence, which his wisdom and goodness require, and the security of our own happiness demands. O how different from the doctrines of devils, are the views of God exhibited in the gospel of Jesus! There we read of one God and Father of all, who is above all, through all, and in us all. That it is his gracious intention to save and render eternally happy all his intelligent offspring. There we behold no mighty devil to blacken the moral horizon, or frustrate and baffle the designs of the Deity. But on the contrary, a religion all mild and beautiful, that breathes nothing but pure benevolence, and evidently indicates the approximation of a period, in which truth will completely triumph over error, and happiness be universal. Amen!
Observations relative to the Hebrew word Shaitan, called Satan, in our common version.-An extract from Prideaux, on the Magian philosophy, as revived by Zoroaster.
The most eminent lexicographers agree in the meaning of the term Satan. They uniformly allow that it signifies an adversary. The first passage in which we find it, is Gen. 26: 21. "And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it SITNAH." Very little attention to the context will convince any man, why the well was called Sitnah, or Satan, in the sense of an adversary. The herdmen of Gerar strove with, or more properly against, the herdmen of Isaac, and were adversaries, therefore the name was called Satan, signifying adversary. But this is further made evident by verse 27, where Isaac says to Abimelech, who went from Gerar to make a treaty with him-" Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye HATE me, and have sent me away
from you? And in the margin of the 21st verse, we find hatred given as the signification of Satan, or ad
The comment on this passage is then very plain, without referring to any supernatural agency. The well was called Satan, because the hatred of the men of Gerar had deprived Isaac of its possession. The first time we find it in Scripture, then, it is applied as a noun feminine, to an insensible object. In this place, therefore, we look in vain for a personal devil.
The next use of this term is to an angel of the Lord, Num. 22: 22, 32. where the writer, alluding to Balaam, says" And the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary [satan] against him. Behold I went out to withstand thee [or to be a satan to thee] because thy way is perverse before me." The word satan occurs here twice in the original; in one case it is rendered adversary, and in the other, to withstand thee. The marginal reading to the last verse, is, "to be an adversary unto thee." Whether common opinion of the word satan, or that which is here mentioned, on the authority of Scripture, and with the sanction of the greatest scholars in the orthodox ranks, you are permitted to judge for yourselves.
When the princes of the Philistines remonstrated with the king against permitting David to go with them to battle against the Israelites, 1 Sam. 29: 4. David is called a satan, translated adversary in the common version. In 2 Sam. 19: 22. the sons of Zeruiah are expressly called satans in the original, and adversaries in the translation. In 1 Kings, 5: 4. king Solomon, adverting to his having peace on every side, and of the favourable opportunity which this circumstance afforded, of fulfilling the word of the Lord to his father, respecting the building of a temple, says, there is "neither adversary nor evil oc
current." In the original, the word here rendered adversary is satan. The believers in a personal devil, who existed in a state of beatitude long anterior to the race of man, and finally fell from heaven, by sinning, are welcome to this text if they fancy it favours their views.
But notwithstanding Solomon congratulated himself at this time on the non-existence of a satan, he was afterwards troubled by a number of them. For we find in the 11th chapter of the same book, 14, 23, 25. that Hadad the Edomite, Rezon the son of Eliadah, and Hadadezer, king of Zobah, had become his adversaries, or satans.
The first place where satan appears in our common Bible, is 1 Chron. 21: 1." And satan stood up against Israel and provoked David to number Israel." Had the word satan been translated adversary, as in former instances, who would think of imputing to this passage a meaning which involves the whole history in the most ridiculous absurdity? What-did an infernal being, in propria persona, stand up before David to tempt him, and did the king of Israel listen to his advice? Let the confession of David in the 17th verse, give the answer. "Even I it is that have sinned, and done evil indeed." He imputes nothing to any satan but himself, nor do we read of any punishment inflicted on satan for the evil deed. Let us impute this to the pride of David's heart, the lust of conquest and dominion, or the honour of commanding a numerous and warlike host, and we shall be little liable to go wrong.
We have looked, but looked in vain, for any information relative the the orthodox devil. The satans of the Old Testament were in no wise connected with the schemes of modern divinity. A well, an angel of the Lord, David, and various others, bear that appellation in Scripture, and in Ezra, 4: 6, a piece of
writing is termed a satan, and is translated accusation! With all these facts before us, where shall we look for the origin of the idea generally attached to this word? We must look for it in the principles of the Magian philosophers, as given by Prideaux, and recollect that his testimony is that of an advocate for orthodoxy.
This able writer, speaking of the popular opinions of the age and country of Job, in his Connexions, vol. 1. pp. 185-6. as quoted by Mr. Balfour, says: "Directly opposite to these were the Magians, another sect, who had their original in the same eastern countries; for they, abominating all images, worshipped God only by fire. They began first in Persia, and there, and in India, were the only places where this sect was propagated; and there they remain even to this day. Their chief doctrine was, that there were two principles, one which was the cause of all good, and the other the cause of all evil, that is to say, God and the devil; that the former is represented by light, and the other by darkness, as their truest symbols; and that, of the composition of these two, all things are made the good god they name Yazdan, and also Ormudz, and the evil god, Ahraman: the former is by the Greeks called Oramasdez, and the latter Arimanius. And therefore, when Xerxes prayed for that evil upon his enemies, that it might be put into the minds of all of them to drive their best and bravest men from them, as the Athenians had Themistocles, he addressed his prayer to Arimanius, the evil god of the Persians, and not to Oramasdez, their good god. And concerning these two gods there was this difference of opinion among them, that whereas some held both of them to have been from all eternity, there were others that contended, that the good god only was eternal, and that the other was created. But they both agreed in this, that there will be a continual opposition between these two till the end of the world;