Page images

i. 24. On another occasion one of the devils "besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country;" (Mark v. 10.) or as St. Luke expresses it, "They besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep; " (Luke viii. 31.) by which must be understood the bottomless pit; since, on having their request granted, they immediately entered the swine, and of their own accord, rushed down into the sea.

Our Lord has foreshewn their dreadful doom; in which all who remain under the dominion of Satan must likewise partake: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Matt. xxv. The constant contemplation of this their certain end must greatly aggravate the malignity of evil spirits: nothing is so hardening as despair. Their sin was unpardonable; and Christ "took not on him the nature of angels," (Heb. ii. 16.) to work out for them the redemption which in his infinite compassion he vouchsafed to achieve for their wretched victim, man. There could be none to tempt Satan into rebellion, as he tempted Eve to disobedience; and how irritating must it be to a mighty, spiritual, angelic being, to see a creature formed out of the dust, redeemed from his power at so vast a price as the blood of the incarnate God, while he, and the myriads of his companion spirits, are passed by-left to perish for ever! We see with what horrible rage and cruelty he used the power for a short time committed to him, that the innocent


Jesus might suffer. Most signally was he baffled! he came against Christ to tempt and seduce, and was repelled, put to shame, and driven away: he came against him to smite and kill, and in so doing was himself destroyed his usurped empire wrested from him, the prey for which he had so long toiled taken out of his net, and the mortal bruise inflicted on his accursed head. Our blessed Lord, in the immediate prospect of his sufferings, said, "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out." John xii. 31. The result was certain, the triumph secured. He had before, in the rich success of the first Gospel missionaries, beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven (Luke x. 18.) now, in the contemplation of his own death, "the travail of his soul," he saw him cast out from his last refuge, our earth, and about to sink into the lake of fire.

The order of events, as regards this final casting out, is very distinctly set forth. We have already seen the predictions of that short period of great wrath, when Satan and his attendant devils shall try the world with unprecedented calamities, and gather its kings and captains to battle against the King of kings, and Lord of lords. At this point, vengeance first overtakes him : his chosen instrument the Beast, and the false Prophet that wrought miracles before him, are taken, and cast alive into a lake of fire, burning with brimstone : Rev. xix. 20. and then follows the event to which the

Church looks forward with such longing desire :


I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand : and he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled and after that he must be loosed a little season." Rev. xx. 1—3. This chaining and imprisoning of Satan during a thousand years, whether they be literal years, or prophetic years of days-every day a year, is most mercifully revealed to us, as the most encouraging support under the trials that precede it. Christ will then have taken to him his great power, and will reign, not as a preached but as a present Saviour and King. No longer shall the perfidious enemy snatch away the seed of divine truth from the human heart, as now he does: Matt. xiii. 19. no longer shall he prevail to sow his worthless tares among the true wheat of the Church, verse 39, his hateful presence will no longer vex, nor his malignant power oppress the world. Violence shall cease; "They shall not hurt nor destroy, in all my holy mountain:" Isaiah xi. 11. ignorance, superstition, and unbelief shall vanish; "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."

The creatures of Jehovah shall no longer be beguiled

into tempting and dishonouring their Creator, by following after false gods, or setting up stumbling-blocks of rebellious iniquity in their hearts, for "The Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day, there shall be one LORD, and his name One." Zech. xiv. 9. It is impossible to conceive the amount of happiness to be derived from the mere absence of Satan, even were no positive blessing to accompany the negative good: but since his capture and committal will be the result of His coming again into the kingdom whose right it is, we may well be glad, and rejoice in the prospect, and comfort one another with these words.

This, however, is not a final casting-out of our restless enemy: sufficient evil will yet lurk in some parts of the renewed earth for him to practise his old craft upon; and he will have liberty so to do. "When the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle." Rev. xx. 7,8. Who these nations are, or under what circumstances they will at that period be placed, we cannot possibly say. It is idle, and worse than idle, for men to guess, to predecate, to dogmatize, on matters where the most learned has no other data to guide him than is vouchsafed to any babe in a Sunday-school. We know that the Lord hath spoken it; therefore we know that it shall come to pass. Satan's prison-door shall be

opened, his chain removed, and immediately he will return to his ancient work of deceiving men. It is appalling to observe with what fierce earnestness he is bent on this detestable employment. His hatred of man is ever breaking out; and what must they expect to endure who, through their rejection of Christ's gospel, doom themselves to be his wretched companions for ever! Hell, as a place of flames and torments, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,” is invested with mystery, that shrouds its terrors, and leads bold unbelievers to scoff at what they cannot comprehend; but hell, as manifested in the character and actings of Satan, is a comprehensible and a fearful reality! To be condemned, even for a short time, to the exclusive society, and subjected to the taunts and revilings of a person who utterly hates us, and by all means seeks our hurt, is an infliction that few would like to brave: but this is a helpless bondage for ever and ever along with one who, as a powerful angel, must always be stronger than we; and whose torments, while we partook of them, would perpetually incite him to tenfold ferocity against us, as a means of their great aggravation.

And here we may remark how unscriptural, how insulting to the God, who is truth, are those deceptive notions of which Satan himself is, beyond a doubt, the author and instigator, but which for a time prevail over the faith of many believing people, picturing hell as a mere Romish purgatory, a place where departed souls

« PreviousContinue »