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How far a secret pact with Evil Spirits doth extend ; and what ac
tions and events must be referred thereunto. It is a question of exceeding great use and necessity: for, certainly, many thousands of honest and well-minded Christians are, in this kind, drawn into the snares of Satan, unwarily and unwittingly.
For the determining of it, these two grounds must be laid.
First, that there is a double compact with Satan: one, direct and dpen, wherein magicians and witches, upon woeful conditions and direful ceremonies, enter into a mutual covenant with Evil Spirits ; the other, secret and indirect, wherein nothing is seen, or heard, or known to be agreed upon; only by a close implication, that is suggested and yielded to be done, which is invisibly seconded by diabolical operation
The second ground is, that whatsoever hath not a cause in nature, according to God's ordinary way, must be wrought either by good or evil spirits : that it cannot be supposed, that good angels should be at the command of ignorant or vicious persons of either sex, to concur with them in superstitious acts, done by means altogether in themselves ineffectual and unwarrantable; and, therefore, that the Devil hath an unseen hand in these effects, which he marvellously brings about, for the winning of credit with the world, and for the obliging and engaging of his own clients.
Of this kind, there is, too lamentably, much variety in common experience. Take a handful, if you please, out of a full sack.
Let the first be, that authentic charm of the Gospel of St. John, allowed in the parts of the Romish Correspondence; wherein the first verses of that Divine Gospel are singled out, printed in a small roundel, and sold to the credulous ignorants, with this fond warrant, That whosoever carries it about him shall be free from the dangers of the day's mishaps:
The book and the key, the sieve and the sheers; for the discovery of the thief:
The notching of a stick with the number of the warts, which we would have removed: the rubbing of them with raw flesh, to be buried in a dunghill, that they may rot away insensibly therewith; or washing the part in moonshine, for that purpose:
Words and characters, of no signification, or ordinary form ; for the curing of diseases in man or beast : more than too many whereof, we find in Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus:
Forms of words and figures, for the staunching of blood; for the pulling out of thorns; for easing pain; for remedying the biting of a mad dog :
Amulets, made up of relics, with certain letters and crostes; to make him, that wears them, invulnerable :
Whistling for a wind, wherewith to winnow; as it is done in come ignorant parts of the west:
The use of a holed flint hanged up on the rack, or bed's head; for the prevention of the night-mare, in man or beast :
The judging by the letters of the names of men or women, of their fortunes, as they call them; according to the serious foppe. ries of Arcandum :
The seventh son's laying on of hands; for the healing of discases :
The putting of a verse out of the Psalms into the vessel; to keep the wine from souring :
The repeating of a verse out of Virgil; to preserve a man from drunkenness, all that day following:
Images, astronomically framed under certain constellations; to preserve from several inconveniences : as, under the sign of the Lion, the figure of a lion made in gold, against melancholic fancies, dropsy, plague, fevers : which Lessius might well marvel bow Cajetan could offer to defend; when all the world knows, how lit. tle proportion and correspondence there is, betwixt those imaginary signs in heaven, and these real creatures on earth:
Judiciary Astrology, as it is commonly practised; whether for the casting of nativities, prediction of voluntary or civil events, or the discovery of things stolen or lost. For, as the Natural Astrology, when it keeps itself within its due bounds, is lawful and commendable, although not without much uncertainty of issue: so that other Calculatory or Figure-casting Astrology is presumptuous and unwarrantable; cried ever down by Councils and Fathers, as unlawful; as that, which lies in the midway, betwixt magic and imposture, and partakes not a little of both :
The anointing of the weapon, for the healing of the wound, though many miles distant: wherein how confident soever some intelligent men have been, doubtless there can be nothing of nature; since in all natural agencies, there must necessarily be a contaction, either real or virtual : here, in such an interval, none can be. Neither can the efficacy be ascribed to the salve; since some others have undertaken and done the cure, by a more bomely and familiar ointment. It is the ill bestowed faith of the agent, that draws on the success, from the hand of an invisible physician :
Calming of tempests, and driving away devils, by ringing of bells, hallowed for that purpose:
Remedy of witcheries, by heating of irons, or applying of crosses.
I could cloy you with instances of this kind, wherewith Satan beguiles the simple, upon these two mis-grounded principles :
1. That, in all experience, they have found such effects follow. ing, upon the use and practice of such means: which, indeed, cannot be denied. Charms and spells commonly are no less unfailing in their working, than the best natural remedies. Doubtless, the Devil is a most skilful artist; and can do feats, beyond all mortal powers: but God bless us from employing him. Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that we go to enquire of Baal-zebub, the God of Ekron? 2 Kings i. 3.
2. That there may be hidden causes in nature, for the producing
of such effects, which they know not; neither can give any reason of their operations: whereof, yet, we do commonly make use, without any scruple.
And why may not these be ranged under the same head; which they have used with no other but good meaning, without the least intention of reference to any Malignant Powers ?
In answer whereto, I must tell them, that their best plea is ignorance; which may abate the sin, but not excuse it. There are, indeed, deep secrets in nature, whose bottom we cannot dive into: as those wonders of the loadstone; a piece, outwardly contemptible, yet of such force as approacheth near to a miracle: and many other strange sympathies and antipathies in several creatures; in which rank may be set the bleeding of the dead at the presence of the murderer; and some acts done for the discovery of witchcraft, both in this and our neighbour kingdom. But, withal, though there be secrets in nature, which we know not how she works; yet we know there are works, which are well known, that she cannot do: how far her power can extend, is not hard to determine; and those effects, which are beyond this, as in the forementioned
particulars, we know whither to ascribe.
Let it be, therefore, the care and wisdom of Christians, to look upon what grounds they go. While they have God and Nature for their warrant, they may walk safely: but, where these leave them, the way leads down to the chambers of death.
CASE III. Il’hether, reserving my conscience to myself, I may be present at an
idolatrous devotion; or, whether, in the lawful service of God, I
muy coinmunicate with wicked persons. The question is double: both of them of great importance.
1. The former, I must answer negatively Your presence is unlawful upon a double ground; of sin, and of scandal : of sin, if you partake in the idolatry; of scandal, if you do but seem to partake.
The scandal is threefold: you confirm the offenders in their sin: you draw others, by your example, into sin : you grieve the spirits of those wiser Christians, that are the sad witnesses of your offence.
The great Apostle of the Gentiles hath fully determined the ques. tion, in a more favovable case; 1 Cor. viii. 4-10. The Heathen sacrifices were wont to be accompanied, in imitation of the Jewish prescribed by God himself, with feasts: the owners of the feast civilly invite the neighbours, though Christians, to the banquets: the tables are spread in their temples: the Christian guests, out of a neighbourly society, go, sit, eat with them : St. Paul cries down the practice, as utterly unlawful. Yet this was but in matter of meat; which sure was God's, though sacrificed to an idol: how much more must it hold, in rites and devices, merely either human or devilish!
I need not tell you of the Christian Soldiers, in the primitive persecution : who, when they found themselves, by an ignorant mistaking, drawn, under a pretence of loyalty, into so much ceremony as might carry some semblance of an idolatrous thurification, ran about the city in a holy remorse, and proclaimed themselves to be Christians : nor how little it excused Marcellinus, Bishop of Rome, from a heavy censure, that he could say, he did but,' for company, cast a few grains of incense into the fire. The charge of the Apostle is full and peremptory, that we should abstain from every appearance of evil; 1 Thess. V. 22.
It is a poor plea that you mention, of the example of Naaman. Alas, an ignorant Pagan! whose body if it were washed from his leprosy, yet his soul must needs be still foul. Yet, even this man will thenceforth offer neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice unto any other God, but unto the Lord: nor upon any ground, but the Lord's peculiar; and will, therefore, lade two mules with Israelitish earth ; and is now a professed convert. “Yea, but he will still bow in the temple of Rimmon:” but how will he bow? civilly only, not religiously : in the house of Rimmon, not to the idol; not in relation to the false deity, but to the king his master. You shall not take bim going alone under that idolatrous roof; but, ac. cording to his office, in attendance of his sovereign : nor bowing there, but to support the arm that leaned upon him. And if, upon his return home from his journey, he made that solemn protestation to his Syrians, which he before made to the Prophet: “ Take notice, O all ye courtiers and men of Damascus, that Naaman is now become a proselyte of Israel; that he will serve and adore none but the true God; and, if you see him at any time kneeling in the temple of your idol Rimmon, know that it is not done in any devotion to that false God, but in the performance of his duty and service to his royal master;" I see not but the Prophet might welt bid him Go in peace. However, that ordinary and formal valediction to a Syrian, can be no warrant for a Christian's willing dissimulation; 2 Kings v. 17, 18, 19.
It is fit for every honest man, to seem as he is. What do you howling amongst wolves, if you be not one? Or, what do you amongst the cranes, if you be a stork? It was the charge of Jehu, when he pretended that great sacrifice to Banl, Search and look, that there be here with you none of the servants of the Lord, but the wor. shippers of Baal only; 2 Kings x. 23 : surely, had any of God's clients secretly shrouded himself amongst those idolaters, bis blood had been upon his own head. Briefly, then, if you have a mind to keep yourself in a safe condition for your soul, let me lay upon you the charge, which Moses enforced upon the congregation of Israel in the case of Korah's insurrection : Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins; Nym. xvi. 26,
2. The latter, I must answer affirmatively :-If the ordinances be koly, why should you not take your part of them?
It is an unjust niceness, to abridge yourself of a blessing, for another man's unworthiness. Doubtless, there ought to be a separation of the precious from the vile; the neglect whereof is the great sin of those, whom in duty it concerns to perform it: but, where this is not accordingly done, shall I suffer for another's offence ? My own sins may justly keep me off from God's table: if another man's may do so too, I appropriate the guilt of his sin, to my own wrong. Surely it argues but small appetite to these heavenly viands, if you can be put off with a pretence of others' faults.
Judge of the spiritual repast by this earthly.
Were you thoroughly hungry, would you refrain from your meat because one of the guests hath a pair of foul hands ? That may be a just eye-sore to you, but no reason why you should forbear wholesome dishes : carve you for yourself, and look to your own trencher: he feeds for himself; not for you. Sin is the uncleanness of the soul, that cleaves closer to it, than any outward nastiness can to the skin: to feed thus foul, then, is doubtless unwholesome to himself; it can be no hurt to you.
But you are ready to strain the comparison higher, to your own advantage: “Say, that one of the guests hath a plague-sore running upon him: shall I then think it safe to sit at the table with him i now sin is of a pestilent nature; spreading its infection to others, besides its own subject : therefore, it is meet we keep aloof from the danger of his contagion." True, there are sins of a contagious nature, apt to diffuse their venom to others; as there are other some, whose evil is intrinsical to the owner : but these infect, by way of evil counsels, or examples, or familiar conversation; not by way of a inere extemporary presence of the person: by spreading of their corruption to those, that are taken with them ; not by scattering abroad any guilt to those, that abhor them. Well did our Saviour know how deadly an infection had seized on the soul of Judas: yet he drives him not from his board, lest his sin should taint the disciples. The Spirit, that writes to the Seven Asian Churches, saw, and professed to see, the horrible infection spread amongst the Thyatirians by the doctrine and wicked practices of their Jezebel: yet, all that he enjoins the godly party, is, to hold their own; Rev. ii
. 20, 21, 22, 25. Have no fellowship, saith the Apostle, with the unfruitful works of darkness; Eph. v. 11: lo, he would not have us partake in evil : he doth not forbid us to partake with an evil man in good works.
However, therefore, we are to wish and endeavour, in our places, that all the congregation may be holy; and it is a comfortable thing, to join with those, that are truly conscionable and carefully observant of their ways, in the immediate services of our God: yet, where there is neglect in the overseers, and boldness in the intruders, and, thereupon, God's sacred table is pestered with some unworthy guest; it is not for you, upon this ground, to deprive your