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THE EXISTENCE AND AGENCY OF EVIL SPIRITS.
The bearings of this question upon the subject of the punishment of the wicked have been considered by Mr. B. of sufficient importance to justify the labor of 200 pages to disprove the existence of the devil. The relative importance of the subject would not sustain me in going fully into the proof of the reality and agency of evil spirits. Nor need I do it. It has been done by abler hands. Those who wish to read a popular yet sufficiently learned argument on that subject, are referred to “ Letters to Dr. Channing, by Canonicus.” My labor in this chapter, will be chiefly employed in exposing the fallacy of the argument of Mr. Balfour.
I need not trouble the reader with a particular notice of the first section, in which he draws a caricature of the common opinions on the subject of satan, with a design to set them forth in an odious light. In his second section he employs ten pages to prove that it was not a fallen angel that tempted Eve. He makes the serpent a personification of lust in Eve. He asks, What was it which deceived Eve and which Moses here represents by the subtilty of the serpent, and answers, it was lust or desire in Eve. The error of this interpretation has been happily exposed by an anonymous writer in the Christian Magazine, whose language in this and in a number of other cases in this chapter, I shall take the liberty to borrow, though in some cases in an abbreviated form. The writer above named carries out Mr. B.'s interpretation as follows—"Now lust was more subtle than any beast of the field, which the Lord God had made. And he (lust) said unto the woman, yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And
the woman said unto the lust or desire, we may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of it , neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the lust or desire said unto the woman-Ye shall not surely die, For God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods- knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired, or lusted for, or serpented, to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat.-Verse 13. And the Lord said unto the woman, what is this that thou hast done: And the woman said lust or desire beguiled me, and I did eat. And the Lord said unto lust or desire, because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field, and upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee (lust or desire) and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed, and it shall bruise thy (lust or desire) head, and thou (lust or desire) shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow, and thy conception; in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thy lust, desire, or serpent, shalt be towards thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."
In his next section, Mr. Balfour undertakes to examine all the passages where the word satan, or adversary occurs, in order to prove that it means only adversary. Most of this of course is a work of supererogation, for none ever pretended that the word adversary was always used in the sense of an evil spirit. You might as well construct a chapter, to prove that the word Messiah never means Christ, because in this and that instance it means simply the anointed, and is applied to priests or kings. The next passage in which the term satan occurs as a proper name is I. Chron. 11: 1. And satan stood up against Israel and provoked David to number Israel. On this passage, Mr. B. comes to the conclusion, p. 34, that the term Satan may mean some evil desire or passion in the mind of David, or some human adversary. Nor, says he, would it be very strange, that the anger of Jehovah was in this passage the satan referred to. Though Mr. B. appears at loss to determine who or what is meant by satan in this passage, yet after his labored criticism we may doubtless venture to read it thus--And some evil desire or passion in his own mind or some human adversary, or the anger of Jehovah, stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
The next remarkable passage, where satan is introduced as - representing a real person, or being, occurs in the first and second chapters of the book of Job. Here Mr. B. gives his own repeated assertions, to refute the heathenish notion of an evil being called Ahruman, and which he is pleased to call “the christians devil.” He is under the necessity however, of supposing that the term satan here, must allude to something, and chooses therefore that the Sabean and Chaldean freebooters, should receive this appellation. In order to obtain the true sense of the passage then, we may read it in the following manner: “Now there was a day, when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Sabean and Chaldean free-booters came also among them. And the Lord said unto the Sabean and Chaldean free-booters, whence comest thou? Then the Sabean and Chaldean free-booters answered the Lord and said, from walking to and fro in the earth, and up and down in it. And the Lord said unto the Sabean and Chaldean free-booters, Hast thou considered my servant Job ? That there is none like him in all the earth, a perfect and upright man, and one that feareth God and escheweth evil ? Then the Sabean and Chaldean free-booters answered the Lord and said,--Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about his house, and about ail that he hath on every side ? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now and touch all that he hath and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto the Sabean and Chaldean free-booters, Behold all that he hath is in thy power, only. upon himself put not forth thy hand. So the. Sabean and Chaldean free-booters went forth from the presence of the Lord.' Again
there was a day, when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Sabean and Chaldean freebooters came also among them, to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said unto the Sabean and Chaldean freebooters, from whence camest thou? And the Sabean and Chaldean free-booters answered the Lord and said, from going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto the Sabean and Chaldean free-booters, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in all the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedest me against him to destroy him without cause. And the Sabean and Chaldean free-booters answered the Lord and said, skin for skin, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto the Sabean and Chaldean freebooters, Behold he is in thy hand, but save his life. So went the Sabean and Chaldean free-booters forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown."
The next passsge to which we may turn our attention is Psalm 109: 4. For my love they are my adversaries, but I give myself unto prayer. Now as the original of the term adversary, (though here in the plural) is the same as that which in the sixth verse is translated, or as Mr. B. says, is left untranslated, satan, Mr. B. concludes that they must both mean the same thing. Indeed who ever will take the trouble to consult his "Inquiry,” will find him to insist that the terms satan and adversary are synonymous. He asserts, p. 62, respecting verse 6th, that “in the Jewish mode of parallelism, a wicked man, in the first part of the verse, is the same as satan in the second.” But Mr. B. cannot deny, on his own ground, that the terms he and him in this and some of the following verses refer to adversary or adversaries previously mentioned. Now, if adversary and satan, and wicked man, are synonymous, we may safely read the whole in the following manner. "For my love they
are my satans, but I give myself unto prayer. And satans have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love. Set thou a satan over satan, and let satan stand at satan's right hand; when satan shall be judged, let satan be condemned, and let satan's prayer become sin. Let satan's days be few, and let another take satan's office. Let satan's children be fatherless, and let satan's wife be a widow.". The reader may follow out the passage if he pleases and get the full sense of it according to our author.
Mr. B.invokes particular attention to his 4th Section of this Inquiry. What tbere is in it that demands that attention, I am unable to discover. The object is to prove, that the Jews got their notion of satan from the heathen, during their intercourse with them in the time of the captivity. I presume that all readers who are satisfied by such proofs as Mr. B. has exhibited, that the existence of the devil is not recognised in Scripture previous to the captivity, except as he dwelt in lust or desire or in the Sabean and Chaldean free-booters, will readily enough admit, that the Jews got their notion of him from the heathen. But those who are convinced, that the Scriptures taught the existence of evil spirits before the captivity, will not read his fourth section with much interest. What if the heathen did have such and such notions of evil spirits, that is no proof that the Jews had not previously notions more consistent and true.
When Mr. Balfour comes upon an examination of the evidence in the New Testament, he contrives by an artifice in which he is well practiced, to leave out of the examination a large number of passages commonly relied on.for proof of the existence and agency of evil spirits. This he does by considering the passages in which satan and diabolos occur, leaving out those in which daim on and daimonion occur. He justifies the rejection of these passages from the consideration, by one or two sweeping and false assertions. He says, “it is well known, that the words dai mon and daimonion have no reference to that being, christians call the devil, but to demons or dead men deified.” “ It is only with the word diabolos,