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Facts and Events of an extraordinary Nature, which can scarce be accounted for upon any other Supposition. But though they are in a State of Disobedience and Apostacy from God, yet they are still subject to his Dominion, and under his fovereign Cognizance and Control. They are said to be reserved unto Judgment; they are even now under the penal Effects of the divine Displeasure : but there is a farther Punishment prepared for them; and, in the mean Time, God suffereth them to act according to their Nature, only that he setteth Bounds to their Rage, and overruleth their Designs and Attempts to the wise Purposes of his Government. And if we had a distinct View of this part of the divine Administration, it would undoubtedly open a most surprising Scene. What can be more admirable, than to confider vast Numbers of evil Spirits, of
great Might, Subtilty, and Industry, who, if left to themselves, would spread Ruin and Misery far and wide, yet all under the Control of the supreme universal Lord, who, by a Wisdom which exceeds all Comprehension, defeateth their Malice, and confoundeth their Devices ; and often ordereth it so, that they really execute his Will, whilst they think only of gratifying their own corrupt Inclinations.
It appears from Scripture, that evil Spirits are made use of as Instruments for ferving the Ends of the divine Government. Remarkable to this Purpose is that parabolical Vision of the Prophet Micaiah; i Kings xxii. 19-23. in which God is represented as on a Throne seated in awful Majefty, and that a Spirit presented himself before him, offering to be a lying Spirit in the Mouth of Ahab's Prophets, to persuade him to go up to Ramoth-Gilead, and was allowed to do it accordingly. The several Circumstances in this Representation are not to be strictly urged, or taken in a literal Sense. But the general Design of it is manifest ; which is to fignify, that God, as the righteous Governor of the World, did, in his just Judgment, suffer Ahab to be deceived by a lying Spirit in the Mouth of his false Prophets; in consequence of which he went up to Ramotb-Gilead, where Providence ordered it so, that he was Nain by the Syrians, as a just Punishment for his great Wickedness. And yet it is to be observed, that in this Cafe Abab was not laid under a Neceffity of being deceived, nor would have been so, if it had not been his own Fault. For he was faithfully warned of it by one whom he knew to be a true Prophet of the Lord, though he hated him for telling him ungrateful Truths. But he 3
rejected rejected the Warning which was given him, and gave himself up to the Delusions of the false Prophets, whom he himself maintained to footh and flatter him; because what they spake, and the Advice they gave, was agreeable to his own Inclinations and Views.
It may reasonably be supposed, that God makes use of evil Angels in some of those Plagues and Calamities, which are from Time to Time laid upon the human Race, and especially in inflicting Punishments upon the wicked. Thus particularly with regard to the Egyptians we are told, that be caft upon them the Fierceness of bis Anger, Wrath and Indignation and Trouble, by sending evil Angels among them. Pfal. lxxviii. 49. And they are also suffered to assault and harass good Men, which they do several Ways; though God, in his wise Providence, over-rules their pernicious Counsels and Attempts to the real Advantage of his chofen.
Any one that is acquainted with the sacred Writings both of the Old Testament and the New, must be sensible, that evil Spirits are frequently represented there as tempting, moving, and inciting Men to Sin. Thus it is observed concerning Yudas Iscariot, that the Devil put it into his Heart to betray Jesus. John xiii. 2. And concerning Ananias and Sapphira, that Sa
tan filled their Hearts, that they should lie against the Holy Ghost. Aits v. 3. This is not to be understood as if the one or the other were compelled by Satan to do what they did. It was really and properly their own Fault, and was originally owing to their covetous Disposition; and Satan took Advantage from it to urge them forward for executing his malicious Purposes. Yet Providence ordered it so, that Good was brought out of these Evils. For, in the Case of Ananias and Sapphira, their Sin, and the Punishment inflicted on them for it, was over-ruled to the better Establishment of the Gospel, and the procuring a greater Reverence and Sanction to the apostolical Authority, which was of mighty Importance at the first founding of the Christian Church: And, in the other Case, Satan's Malice and Subtilty in tempting Judas to betray Jefus: was over-ruled, contrary to his Intention, to the Overthrow of his Kingdom, and to the promoting the Salvation of Mankind.
It hath been frequently urged as an Objection against the holy Scriptures, that the weak and helpless human Race is there represented as expofed a Prey to evil Spirits, Adversaries mighty and powerful, subtile and malicious, ever seeking to destroy; and that this can scarce be reconciled to the Notion of a wise and good Provi
dence, presiding over the World, and must needs give a strange Idea of God, and fill the Minds of Men with continual Anxieties and Terrors. But if the Matter be fairly considered, it will appear that there is no just Foundation for such an Objection, and the Clamours which have been raised upon it.
That there are Spirits of a superior Order to Man, not tied down to such gross fleshly Bodies as ours are, is, as hath been already hinted, agreeable to Reason and to the common Sentiments of Mankind. And that some of these Angels or Spirits are evil and wicked, is as supposable, as that by an Abuse of their Liberty many of the human Race are so. And supposing that there are such evil Angels or Spirits, it may be expected that they will exert their bad Dispositions in suitable Actions; and that if they have Access and Intercourse with our World, they will endeavour to employ their Powers and Abilities in doing what Mischief they can among Mankind. Nor is it any more inconsistent with the Wisdom and Goodness of God to permit such evil Spirits to act according to their wicked Purposes and Inclinations in endeavouring to tempt Men to sin, than it is inconsistent with his Wisdom and Goodness, to suffer wicked Men to tempt, harass, persecute their Fellow-creatures in this State of VOL. I.