I have examined the Antiquities of Satan’s History in the former Part of this Work, and brought his Affairs down from the Creation, as far as to our blessed Christian Times; especially to the Coming of the Messiah, when one would think the Devil could have nothing to do among us. I have indeed but touch’d at some Things which might have admitted of a farther Description of Satan’s Affairs, and the Particulars of which we may all come to a farther Knowledge of hereafter; yet I think I have spoken to the material Part of his Conduct, as it relates to his Empire in this World: What has happen’d to his more sublimated Government, and his Angelic Capacities, I shall have an Occasion to touch at in several solid Particulars as we go along.
The Messiah was now born, the Fulness of Time was come, that the old Serpent was to have his Head broken, that is to say, his Empire or Dominion over Man, which he gain’d by the Fall of our first Father and Mother in Paradise, receiv’d a Downfal or Overthrow.
It is worth observing, in order to confirm what I have already mention’d of the Limitation of Satan’s Power, that not only his Angelic Strength seems to have received a farther Blow upon the Coming of the Son of God into the World, but he seems to have had a Blow upon his Intellects; his Serpentine Craft and Devil-like Subtilty seems to have been circumscrib’d and cut short; and instead of his being so cunning a Fellow as before, when, as I said, ’tis evident he outwitted all Mankind, not only Eve, Cain, Noah, Lot, and all the Patriarchs, but even Nations of Men, and that in their publick Capacity; and thereby led them into absurd and ridiculous Things, such as the Building of Babel, and deifying and worshiping their Kings, when dead and rotten; idolizing Beasts, Stocks, Stones, any Thing, and even Nothing; and in a Word, when he manag’d Mankind just as he pleased.
Now and from this Time forward he appeared a weak, foolish, ignorant Devil, compar’d to what he was before; He was upon almost every Occasion resisted, disappointed, baulk’d and defeated, especially in all his Attempts to thwart or cross the Mission and Ministry of the Messiah, while he was upon Earth, and sometimes upon other and very mean Occasions too.
And first, how foolish a Project was it, and how below Satan’s celebrated Artifice in like Cases, to put Herod upon sending to kill the poor innocent Children in Bethlehem, in hopes to destroy the Infant? for I take it for granted, it was the Devil put into Herod’s Thoughts that Execution, how simple and foolish soever; now we must allow him to be very ignorant of the Nativity himself, or else he might easily have guided his Friend Herod to the Place where the Infant was.
This shews that either the Devil is in general ignorant as we are, of what is to come in the World, before it is really come to pass; and consequently can foretel nothing, no not so much as our famous old Merlin or Mother Shipton did, or else that great Event was hid from him by an immediate Power superior to his, which I cannot think neither, considering how much he was concern’d in it, and how certainly he knew that it was once to come to pass.
But be that as it will, ’tis certain the Devil knew nothing where Christ was born, or when; nor was he able to direct Herod to find him out, and therefore put him upon that foolish, as well as cruel Order, to kill all the Children, that he might be sure to destroy the Messiah among the rest.
The next simple Step that the Devil took, and indeed the most foolish one that he could ever be charg’d with, unworthy the very Dignity of a Devil, and below the Understanding that he always was allow’d to act with, was that of coming to tempt the Messiah in the Wilderness; it is certain, and he own’d it himself afterwards, upon many Occasions, that the Devil knew our Saviour to be the Son of God; and ’tis as certain that he knew, that as such he could have no Power or Advantage over him; how foolish then was it in him to attack him in that Manner, if thou beest the Son of God? why he knew him to be the Son of God well enough; he said so afterwards, I know thee who thou art, the holy One of God; how then could he be so weak a Devil as to say, if thou art, then do so and so?
The Case is plain, the Devil, tho’ he knew him to be the Son of God, did not fully know the Mystery of the Incarnation; nor did he know how far the Inanition of Christ extended, and whether, as Man, he was not subject to fall as Adam was, tho’ his reserv’d Godhead might be still immaculate and pure; and upon this Foot, as he would leave no Method untried, he attempts him three Times, one immediately after another; but then, finding himself disappointed he fled.
This evidently proves that the Devil was ignorant of the great Mystery of Godliness, as the Text calls it, God manifest in the Flesh, and therefore made that foolish Attempt upon Christ, thinking to have conquer’d his human Nature as capable of Sin, which it was not; and at this Repulse Hell groan’d, the whole Army of regimented Devils receiv’d a Wound, and felt the Shock of it; ’twas a second Overthrow to them, they had had a long Chain of Success, carried a devilish Conquest over the greatest Part of the Creation of God; but now they were cut short, the Seed of the Woman was now come to break the Serpent’s Head, that is, to cut short his Power, to contract the Limits of his Kingdom, and in a Word, to dethrone him in the World: No doubt the Devil receiv’d a Shock, for you find him always afterward, crying out in a horrible Manner, whenever Christ met with him, or else very humble and submissive, as when he begg’d leave to go into the Herd of Swine, a Thing he has often done since.
Defeated here, the first Stratagem I find him concern’d in after it, was his entring into Judas, and putting him upon betraying Christ to the Chief Priest; but here again he was entirely mistaken, for he did not see, as much a Devil as he was, what the Event would be; but when he came to know, that if Christ was put to Death, he would become a Propitiatory and be the great Sacrifice of Mankind, so to rescue the fallen Race from that Death they had incurr’d the Penalty of, by the Fall, that this was the fulfilling of all Scripture Prophesy, and that thus it was that Christ was to be the End of the Law, I say, as soon as he perceiv’d this, he strove all he could to prevent it, and disturb’d Pilate’s Wife in her Sleep, in order to set her upon her Husband to hinder his delivering him up to the Jews; for then, and not till then, he knew how Christ was to vanquish Hell by the Power of his Cross.
Thus the Devil was disappointed and exposed in every Step he took, and as he now plainly saw his Kingdom declining, and even the temporal Kingdom of Christ, rising up upon the Ruins of his (Satan’s) Power; he seem’d to retreat into his own Region the Air, and to consult there with his fellow Devils, what Measures he should take next to preserve his Dominion among Men; Here it was that he resolv’d upon that truly hellish Thing call’d Persecution, by which, tho’ he prov’d a foolish Devil in that too, he flatter’d himself he should be able to destroy God’s Church, and root out its Professors from the Earth, even almost as soon as it was establish’d; whereas on the contrary, Heaven counter-acted him there too, and tho’ he arm’d the whole Roman Empire against the Christians, that is say, the whole World, and they were fallen upon every where, with all the Fury and Rage of some of the most flaming Tyrants that the World ever saw, of whom Nero was the first; yet in spight of Hell, God made all the Blood, which the Devil caus’d to be spilt, to be semen Ecclesiæ, and the Devil had the Mortification to see, that the Number of Christians encreased even under the very Means he made use of to root them out and destroy them: This was the Case thro’ the Reign of all the Roman Emperors, for the first three hundred Years after Christ.
Having thus tried all the Methods that best suited his Inclination, I mean those of Blood and Death, complicated with Tortures and all Kinds of Cruelty, and that for so long a Stage of Time as above; the Devil all on a suddain, as if glutted with Blood, and satiated with Destruction, sits still and becomes a peaceable Spectator for a good while; as if he either found himself unable, or had no Disposition to hinder the Progress of Christianity in the first Ages of its Settlement in the World: In this interval the Christian Church was establish’d under Constantine, Religion flourished in Peace, and under the most perfect Tranquillity: The Devil seem’d to be at a Loss what he should do next, and Things began to look as if Satan’s Kingdom was at an End; but he soon let them see that he was the same indefatigable Devil that ever he was, and the Prosperity of the Church gave him a large Field of Action; for knowing the Disposition of Mankind to Quarrel and Dispute, the universal Passion rooted in Nature, especially among the Church-Men for Precedency and Dominion, he fell to work with them immediately; so that turning the Tables, and reassuming the Subtilty and Craft, which, I say, he seem’d to have lost in the former four hundred Years, he gain’d more Ground in the next Ages of the Church, and went farther towards restoring his Power and Empire in the World, and towards overthrowing that very Church which was so lately establish’d, than all he had done by Fire and Blood before.
His Policy now seem’d to be edg’d with Resentment for the Mistakes he had made; as if the Devil looking back with Anger at himself, to see what a Fool he had been to expect to crush Religion by Persecution, rejoyc’d for having discover’d that Liberty and Dominion was the only way to ruin the Church, not Fire and Faggot; and that he had nothing to do but to give the zealous People their utmost Liberty in Religion, only sowing Error and Variety of Opinion among them, and they would bring Fire and Faggot in fast enough among themselves.
It must be confess’d these were devilish Politicks; and so sure was the Aim, and so certain was the Devil to hit his Mark by them, that we find he not only did not fail then, but the same hellish Methods have prevail’d still, and will do so to the End of the World. Nor had the Devil ever a better Game to play than this, for the Ruin of Religion, as we shall have room to show in many Examples, besides that of the Dissenters in England, who are evidently weaken’d by the late Toleration: Whether the Devil had any hand in baiting his Hook with an A— of Parliament or no, History is silent, but ’tis too evident he has catch’d the Fish by it; and if the honest Church of England does not in Pity and Christian Charity to the Dissenters, straighten her Hand a little, I cannot but fear the Devil will gain his Point, and the Dissenter will be undone by it.
Upon this new foot of Politicks the Devil began with the Emperors themselves: Arius, the Father of the Hereticks of that Age, having broach’d his Opinions, and Athanasius the orthodox Bishop of the East opposing him, the Devil no sooner saw the Door open to Strife and Imposition, but he thrust himself in, and raising the Quarrel up to a suited Degree of Rage and Spleen, he involv’d the good Emperor himself in it first and Athanasius was banish’d and recall’d, and banish’d and recall’d again, several times, as Error ran high, and as the Devil either got or lost Ground: After Constantine, the next Emperor was a Child of his own, (Arian) and then the Court came all into the Quarrel, as Courts often do, and then the Arians and the Orthodox persecuted one another as furiously as the Pagans persecuted them all before. To such a Height the Devil brought his Conquest in the very Infancy of the Question, and so much did he prevail over the true Christianity of the Primitive Church, even before they had enjoy’d the Liberty of the pure Worship twenty Years.
Flush’d with this Success, the Devil made one Push for the restoring Paganism, and bringing on the old Worship of the Heathen Idols and Temples; but like our King James II. he drove too hard, and Julian had so provok’d the whole Roman Empire, which was generally at that time become Christian, that had the Apostate liv’d, he would not have been able to have held the Throne; and as he was cut off in his Beginning, Paganism expir’d with him, and the Devil himself might have cry’d out, as Julian did, and with much more Propriety, Vicisti Galileane.
Jovian, the next Emperor, being a glorious Christian, and a very good and great Man, the Devil abdicated for a while, and left the Christian Armies to re-establish the Orthodox Faith; nor could he bring the Christians to a Breach again among themselves a great while after.
However, Time and a diligent Devil did the Work at last, and when the Emperors concerning themselves one way or other, did not appear sufficient to answer his End, he chang’d Hands again, and went to work with the Clergy: To set the Doctors effectually together by the Ears, he threw in the new Notion of Primacy among them, for a Bone of Contention; the Bait took, the Priests swallow’d it eagerly down, and the Devil, a cunninger Fisherman than ever St. Peter was, struck them (as the Anglers call it) with a quick Hand, and hung them fast upon the Hook.
Having them thus in his Clutches, and they being now, as we may say, his own, they took their Measures afterwards from him, and most obediently follow’d his Directions; nay, I will not say but he may have had pretty much the Management of the whole Society ever since, of what Profession or Party soever they may have been, with Exception only to the Reverend and Right Reverend among our selves.
The Sacred, as above, being thus hook’d in, and the Devil being at the Head of their Affairs, Matters went on most gloriously his own way; first, the Bishops fell to bandying and Party-making for the Superiority, as heartily as ever Temporal Tyrants did for Dominion, and took as black and devilish Methods to carry it on, as the worst of those Tyrants ever had done before them.
At last Satan declar’d for the Roman Pontiff, and that upon excellent Conditions, in the Reign of the Emperor Mauritius; for Boniface, who had long contended for the Title of Supreme, fell into a Treaty with Phocas, Captain of the Emperor’s Guards; whether the Bargain was from Hell or not, let any one judge, the Conditions absolutely entitle the Devil to the Honour of making the Contract, viz. That Phocas first murthering his Master (the Emperor) and his Sons, Boniface should countenance the Treason, and declare him Emperor; and in Return, Phocas should acknowledge the Primacy of the Church of Rome, and declare Boniface universal Bishop. A blessed Compact! which at once set the Devil at the Head of Affairs in the Christian World, as well Spiritual as Temporal, Ecclesiastick and Civil. Since the Conquest over Eve in Paradise, by which Death and the Devil, Hand in Hand, establish’d their first Empire upon Earth, the Devil never gain’d a more important Point than he gain’d at this time.
He had indeed prospered in his Affairs tolerably well for some time before this, and his Interest among the Clergy had got Ground for some Ages; but that was indeed a secret Management, was carried on privately, and with Difficulty; as in sowing Discord and Faction among the People, perplexing the Councils of their Princes, and secretly wheedling in with the dignified Clergy.
Also he had raised abundance of little Church-Rebellions, by setting up Hereticks of several Kinds, and raising them Favourers among the Clergy, such as Ebion, Cerinthius, Pelagius, and others.
He had drawn in the Bishops of Rome to set up the ridiculous Pageantry of the Key; and while he, the Devil, set open the Gates of Hell to them all, set them upon locking up the Gates of Heaven, and giving the Bishop the Key; a Cheat which, as gross as it was, the Devil so gilded over, or so blinded the Age to receive it, that like Gideon’s Ephod, all the Catholick World went a whoring after the Idol; and the Bishop of Rome sent more Fools to the Devil by it than ever he pretended to let into Heaven, though he open’d the Door as wide as his Key was able to do.
The Story of this Key being given to the Bishop of Rome by St. Peter, (who, by the way, never had it himself,) and of its being lost by Somebody or other, (the Devil it seems did not tell them who) and its being found again by a Lombard Soldier in the Army of King Antharis, who attempting to cut it with his Knife, was miraculously forced to direct the Wound to himself, and cut his own Throat; that King Antharis and his Nobles happened to see the Fellow do it, and were converted to Christianity by it, and that the King sent the Key, with another made like it, to Pope Pelagius, then Bishop of Rome, who thereupon assum’d the Power of opening and shutting Heaven’s Gates; and he afterwards setting a Price or Toll upon the Entrance, as we do here at passing a Turn-pike; these fine things, I say, were successfully managed for some Years before this I am now speaking of, and the Devil got a great deal of Ground by it too; but now he triumph’d openly, and having set up a Murtherer upon the temporal Throne, and a Church Emperor upon the Ecclesiastic Throne, and both of his own choosing, the Devil may be said to begin his new Kingdom from this Epocha, and call it the Restoration.
Since this time indeed the Devil’s Affairs went very merrily on, and the Clergy brought so many Gewgaws into their Worship, and such devilish Principles were mixt with that which we call’d the Christian Faith, that in a Word, from this Time the Bishop of Rome commenc’d Whore of Babylon, in all the most express Terms that could be imagin’d: Tyranny of the worst sort crept into the Pontificate, Errors of all sorts into the Profession, and they proceeded from one thing to another, till the very Popes, for so the Bishop of Rome was now called, by way of Distinction; I say, the Popes themselves, their spiritual Guides, profess’d openly to confederate with the Devil, and to carry on a personal and private Correspondence with him at the same time, taking upon them the Title of Christ’s Vicar, and the infallible Guide of the Consciences of Christians.
This we have sundry Instances of in some merry Popes, who, if Fame lies not, were Sorcerers, Magicians, had familiar Spirits, and immediate Conversation with the Devil, as well visibly as invisibly, and by this means became what we call Devils incarnate: Upon this account it is that I have left the Conversation that passes between Devils and Men to this Place, as well because I believe it differs much now in his modern State, from what it was in his ancient State, and therefore that which most concerns us belongs rather to this part of his History; as also because, as I am now writing to the present Age, I choose to bring the most significant Parts of his History, especially as they relate to our selves, into that Part of Time that we are most concern’d in.
The Devil had once, as I observ’d before, the universal Monarchy or Government of Mankind in himself, and I doubt not but in that flourishing State of his Affairs, he governed them like what he is (viz.) an absolute Tyrant; during this Theocracy of his, for Satan is call’d the God of this World, he did not familiarize himself to Mankind so much, as he finds Occasion to do now, there was not then so much need of it; he governed then with an absolute Sway; he had his Oracles, where he gave Audience to his Votaries like a Deity, and he had his Sub-Gods, who under his several Dispositions receiv’d the Homage of Mankind in their Names; such were all the Rabble of the Heathen Deities, from Jupiter the Supreme, to the Lares or Houshold Gods of every Family; these, I say, like Residents, received the Prostrations, but the Homage was all Satan’s; the Devil had the Substance of it all, which was the Idolatry.
During this Administration of Hell, there was less Witchcraft, less true literal Magick than there has been since; there was indeed no need of it, the Devil did not stoop to the Mechanism of his more modern Operations, but rul’d as a Deity, and receiv’d the Vows and the Bows of his Subjects in more State, and with more Solemnity; whereas since that, he is content to employ more Agents and take more Pains himself too; now he runs up and down Hackney in the World, more like a Drudge than a Prince, and much more than he did then.
Hence all those Things we call Apparitions and Visions of Ghosts, Familiar-Spirits and Dealings with the Devil, of which there is so great a Variety in the World at this Time, were not so much known among the People, in those first Ages of the Devil’s Kingdom; in a Word, the Devil seems to be put to his Shifts, and to fly to Art and Stratagem for the carrying on his Affairs, much more now than he did then.
One Reason for this may be, that he has been more discover’d and expos’d in these Ages, than he was before; then he could appear in the World in his own proper Shapes, and yet not be known; when the Sons of God appear’d at the divine Summons, Satan came along with them; but now he has plaid so many scurvy Tricks upon Men, and they know him so well, that he is oblig’d to play quite out of sight and act in disguise; Mankind will allow nothing of his doing, and hear nothing of his saying, in his own Name; and if you propose any Thing to be done, and it be but said the Devil is to help in the doing it, or if you say of any Man he deals with the Devil, or the Devil has a Hand in it, every Body flies him and shuns him, as the most frightful Thing in the World.
Nay, if any Thing strange and improbable be done or related to be done, we presently say the Devil was at the doing it: Thus the great Ditch at Newmarket Heath, is call’d the Devil’s Ditch; so the Devil built Crowland Abby, and the Whispering-Place in Gloucester Cathedral; nay, the Cave at Castleton, only because there’s no getting to the farther End of it, is call’d the Devil’s A—— and the like: The poor People of Wiltshire, when you ask them how the great Stones at Stonehenge were brought thither? they’ll all tell you the Devil brought them: If any Mischief extraordinary befalls us, we presently say the Devil was in it, and the Devil would have it so; in a Word, the Devil has got an ill Name among us, and so he is fain to act more in Tenebris, more incog. than he used to do, play out of sight himself, and work by the Sap, as the Engineers call it, and not openly and avowedly in his own Name and Person, as formerly, tho’ perhaps not with less Success than he did before; and this leads me to enquire more narrowly into the manner of the Devil’s Management of his Affairs since the Christian Religion began to spread in the World, which manifestly differs from his Conduct in more antient Times; in which if we discover some of the most consummate Fool’s Policy, the most profound simple Craft, and the most subtle shallow Management of Things that can by our weak Understandings be conceiv’d, we must only resolve it into this, that in short it is the Devil.