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Chapter 19

Of the Cloven-Foot walking about the World without the Devil, (viz.) of Witches making Bargains for the Devil, and particularly of selling the Soul to the Devil.

I have dwelt long upon the Devil in Masque as he goes about the World incog. and especially without his Cloven-Foot, and have touched upon some of his Disguises in the Management of his Interest in the World; I must say some of his Disguises only, for who can give a full account of all his Tricks and Arts in so narrow a Compass as I am prescrib’d to?

But as I said, that every Devil has not a Cloven-Foot, so I must add now for the present Purpose, that every Cloven-Foot is not the Devil.

Not but that wherever I should meet the Cloven-Hoof, I should expect that the Devil was not far off, and should be apt to raise the Posse against him, to apprehend him; yet it may happen otherwise, that’s certain; every Coin has its Counterfeit, every Art its Pretender, every Whore her Admirer, every Error its Patron, and every Day has its Devil.

I have had some thought of making a full and compleat Discovery here of that great Doubt which has so long puzzl’d the World, namely, whether there is any such Thing, as secret making Bargains with the Devil, and the first positive Assurance I can give you in the Case, is, that if there is not, ’tis not his Fault, ’tis not for want of his Endeavour, ’tis plain, if you will pardon me for taking so mean a Step, as that of quoting Scripture; I say, ’tis evident he would fain have made a Contract with our Saviour, and he bid boldly (give him his due) namely, all the Kingdoms of the World for one bend of his Knee: Impudent Seraph! To think thy Lord should pay thee Homage! How many would agree with him here for a less Price! They say, Oliver Cromwell struck a Bargain with him, and that he gave Oliver the Protectorship, but would not let him call himself King, which stuck so close to that Furioso, that the Mortification Spread into his Soul, and ’tis said, he dy’d of a Gangreen in the Spleen. But take Notice and do Oliver Justice; I do not vouch the Story, neither does the Bishop say one Word of it.

Fame us’d to say, that the old famous Duke of Luxemburg made a Magic compact of this Kind; nay, I have heard many an (old Woman) Officer of the Troops, who never car’d to see his Face, declare that he carry’d the Devil at his Back. I remember a certain Author of a News Paper in London was once taken up, and they say, it cost him 50l. for printing in his News, that Luxemburg was Humpback’d. Now if I have resolv’d the Difficulty, namely, that he was not hump’d, only carry’d the Devil at his Back; I think the poor Man should have his 50l. again, or I should have it for the Discovery.

I confess, I do not well understand this compacting with such a Fellow as can neither write nor read; nor do I know who is the Scrivener between them, or how the Indenture can be executed; but that which is worse than all the rest is, that in the first Place, the Devil never keeps Articles; he will contract perhaps, and they say he is mighty forward to make Conditions; but who shall bind him to the Performance, and where is the Penalty if he fails? if we agree with him, he will be apt enough to claim his Bargain and demand Payment; nay, perhaps before it is due; but who shall make him stand to his.

Besides, he is a Knave in his Dealing, for he really promises what he cannot perform; witness his impudent Proposal to our Lord mentioned above. All these Kingdoms will I give thee! Lying Spirit! Why they were none of thine to give, no not one of them; for the Earth is the Lords and the kingdoms thereof, nor were they in his Power any more than in his Right: So (I have heard that) some poor dismal Creatures have sold themselves to the Devil for a Sum of Money, for so much Cash, and yet even in that Case, when the Day of Payment came, I never heard that he brought the Money or paid the Purchase, so that he is a Scoundrel in his Treaties, for you shall trust for your Bargain, but not be able to get your Money; and yet for your Part, he comes for you to an Hour: Of which by it self.

In a Word, let me caution you all, when you trade with the Devil, either get the Price or quit the Bargain; the Devil is a cunning Shaver, he will wriggle himself out of the Performance on his Side if possible, and yet expect you should be punctual on your Side. They tell you of a poor Fellow in Herefordshire, that offer’d to sell his Soul to him for a Cow, and though the Devil promised, and as they say, sign’d the Writings, yet the poor Countryman could never get the Cow of him, but still as he brought a Cow to him, some body or other came and challeng’d it, proving that it was lost or stolen from them; so that the Man got nothing but the Name of a Cow-stealer, and was at last carried to Hereford Goal, and condemn’d to be hang’d for stealing two Cows, one after the other: The wicked Fellow was then in the greatest Distress imaginable, he summon’d his Devil to help him out, but he failed him, as the Devil always will; he really had not stolen the Cows, but they were found in his Possession, and he could give no Account how he came by them; at last he was driven to confess the Truth, told the horrid Bargain he had made, and how the Devil often promis’d him a Cow, but never gave him one, except that several Times in the Morning early he found a Cow put into his Yard, but it always prov’d to belong to some of his Neighbours: Whether the Man was hang’d or no, the Story does not relate; but this Part is to my Purpose, that they that make Bargains with the Devil, ought to make him give Security for the Performance of Covenants, and who the Devil would get to be bound for him, I can’t tell, they must look to that who make the Bargain: Besides, if he had not had a Mind to cheat or baffle the poor Man, what need he have taken a Cow so near home? if he had such and such Powers as we talk of, and as Fancy and Fable furnish for him, could not he have carried a Cow in the Air upon a Broom-stick, as well as an old Woman? Could he not have stole a Cow for him in Lincolnshire, and set it down in Herefordshire, and so have performed his Bargain, saved his Credit, and kept the poor Man out of Trouble? so that if the Story is True, as I really believe it is, either it is not the Devil that makes those Bargains, or the Devil has not such Power as we bestow on him, except on Special Occasions he gets a Permit, and is bid go, as in the Case of Job, the Gadaren Hogs, and the like.

We have another Example of a Man’s selling himself to the Devil, that is very remarkable, and that is in the Bible too, and even in that, I do not find, what the Devil did for him, in Payment of the Purchase Price. The Person selling was Ahab, of whom the Text says expresly, there was none like him, who did sell himself to work Wickedness in the Sight of the Lord, 1 Kings xxi. 20, and the 25. I think it might have been rendred, if not translated in Spight of the Lord, or in Defiance of God; for certainly that’s the Meaning of it; and now allowing me to preach a little upon this Text, my Sermon shall be very short. Ahab sold himself, who did he sell himself to? I answer that Question by a Question; who would buy him? who, as we say, would give any thing for him? and the Answer to that is plain also, you may judge of the Purchaser by the Work he was to do; he that buys a Slave in the Market, buys him to work for him, and to do such Business as he has for him to do: Ahab was bought to work wickedness, and who would buy him for that but the Devil?

I think there’s no room to doubt but Ahab sold himself to the Devil; the Text is plain that he sold himself, and the Work he was sold to do points out the Master that bought him; what Price he agreed with the Devil for, that indeed the Text is silent in, so we may let it alone, nor is it much to our Purpose, unless it be to enquire whether the Devil stood to his Bargain or not, and whether he paid the Money according to Agreement, or cheated him as he did the Farmer at Hereford.

This buying and selling between the Devil and us, is, I must confess, an odd kind of Stock-jobbing, and indeed the Devil may be said to sell the Bear-skin, whatever he buys; but the strangest Part is when he comes to demand the transfer; for as I hinted before, whether he Performs or no, he expects his Bargain to a Tittle; there is indeed some Difficulty in resolving how and in what Manner Payment is made; the Stories we meet with in our Chimney-Corner Histories, and which are so many Ways made Use of to make the Devil frightful to us and our Heirs for ever, are generally so foolish and ridiculous, as, if true or not true, they have nothing Material in them, are of no Signification, or else so impossible in their Nature, that they make no Impression upon any body above twelve Years old and under seventy; or else are so tragical that Antiquity has fabled them down to our Taste, that we might be able to hear them and repeat them with less Horror than is due to them.

This Variety has taken off our Relish of the Thing in general, and made the Trade of Soul-selling, like our late more eminent Bubbles, be taken to be a Cheat and to have little in it.

However, to speak a little more gravely to it, I cannot say but that since, by the two eminent Instances of it above in Ahab, and in Christ himself, the Fact is evidently ascertain’d; and that the Devil has attempted to make such a Bargain on one, and actually did make it with the other. The Possibility of it is not to be disputed; but then I must explain the Manner of it a little, and bring it down, nearer to our Understanding, that it may be more intelligible than it is; for as for this selling the Soul, and making a Bargain to give the Devil Possession by Livery and Seisin on the Day appointed, that I cannot come into by any Means; no nor into the other Part, namely, of the Devil coming to claim his Bargain, and to demand the Soul according to Agreement, and upon Default of a fair Delivery, taking it away by Violence Case and all, of which we have many historical Relations pretty current among us; some of which, for ought I know, we might have hop’d had been true, if we had not been sure they were false, and others we had Reason to fear were false, because it was impossible they should be true.

The Bargains of this Kind, according to the best Accounts we have of them, used to consist of two main Articles, according to the ordinary Stipulations in all Covenants; namely,

1. Something to be perform’d on the Devil’s Part, buying.

2. Something to be performed on the Man’s Part, selling.

 

1. The Devil’s Part: This was generally some poor Trifle, for the Devil generally bought good Penny-worths, and oftentimes like a compleat Sharper, agreed to give what he was not able to procure; that is to say, would bargain for a Price he could not pay, as in the Case of the Hereford Man and the Cow; for Example, 1. Long Life: This tho’ the deluded Chapman has often had folly enough to contract for, the Devil never had Power to make good; and we have a famous Story, how true I know not, of a Wretch that sold himself to the Devil on Condition he, Satan, should assure him (1.) That he should never want Victuals; (2.) That he should never be a cold; (3.) That he should always come to him when he call’d him; and (4.) That he should let him live one and twenty Years, and then Satan was at Liberty to have him; that is, I suppose, to take him wherever he could find him.

It seems, the Fellow’s desire to be assur’d of 21 Years Life, was chiefly, that during that Time, he might be as wicked as he would, and should yet be sure not to be hang’d, nay, to be free from all Punishment; upon this Foot ’tis said he commenc’d Rogue, and committed a great many Robberies and other villanous Things; now it seems the Devil was pretty true to his Bargain in several of those things; particularly, that two or three times when the Fellow was taken up for petty Crimes, and call’d for his old Friend, he came and frighted the Constables so, that they let the Offender get away from them: But at Length having done some capital Crime, a Set of Constables, or such like Officers, seiz’d upon him, who were not to be frighted with the Devil, in what Shape soever he appear’d; so that they carry’d him off, and he was committed to Newgate or some other Prison as effectual.

Nor could Satan with all his Skill unlock his Fetters, much less the Prison Doors; But he was try’d, convicted, and executed. The Fellow in his Extremity, they say, expostulated with the Devil for his Bargain, the Term of 21 Years it seems not being expir’d. But the Devil, it is said, shuffl’d with him, told him a good while, he would get him out, bid him have Patience and stay a little, and thus led him on, till he came as it were within Sight of the Gallows, that is to say, within a Day or two of his Execution; when the Devil cavill’d upon his Bargain, told him, he agreed to let him live 21 Years, and he had not hindred him, but that he did not Covenant to cause him to live that Time; that there was a great deal of Difference between doing and suffering; that he was to suffer him to live, and that he did; but he could not make him live when he had brought himself to the Gallows.

Whether this Story were true or not, for you must not expect we Historians should answer for the Discourse between the Devil and his Chaps, because we were not privy to the Bargain: I say, whether it was true or not, the Inference is to our Purpose several Ways.

1. It confirms what I have said of the Knavery of the Devil in his Dealings, and that when he has Stock-jobb’d with us on the best Conditions he can get, he very seldom performs his Bargain.

2. It confirms what I have likewise said, that the Devil’s Power is limited; with this Addition, that he not only cannot destroy the Life of Man, but that he cannot preserve it; in short, he can neither prevent or bring on our Destruction.

 

I may be allow’d, I hope, for the Sake of the present Discourse, to suppose that the Devil would have been so just to this wicked, tho’ foolish Creature, as to have sav’d him from the Gallows if he could; but it seems, he at last acknowledg’d that it was not in his Power; nay, he could not keep him from being taken and carry’d to Prison, after he was gotten into the Hands of a bold Fellow or two, that were not to be fear’d with his Bluster, as some foolish Creatures had been before.

And how simple, how weak, how unlike any Thing of an Angelick Nature, was it to attempt to save the poor Wretch, only by little Noises and sham Appearances, putting out the Candles, rushing and josteling in the Dark, and the like! If the Devil was that mighty Seraph, which we have heard of, if he is a God of this World, a Prince of the Air, a Spirit able to destroy Cities and make Havock in the World; if he can raise Tempests and Storms, throw Fire about the World, and do wonderful Things, as an unchain’d Devil no Doubt could do; what need all this Frippery? and what need he try so many ridiculous Ways, by the Emptiness, nay, the silly nonsensical Manner, of which, he shews, that he is able to do no better, and that his Power is extinguish’d? In a Word, he would certainly act otherwise, if he could. Sed caret pedibus, he wants Power.

How weak a thing is it then, for any Man to expect Performance from the Devil? If he has not Power to do Mischief, which is his Element, his very Nature, and on many Accounts, is the very sum of his Desires; How should he have Power to do Good? how Power to deliver from Danger or from Death? which Deliverance would be in itself a Good, and we know it is not in his Nature to do Good to or for any Man?

In a Word, the Devil is strangely impudent, to think that any Man should depend upon him for the Performance of an Agreement of any Kind whatever, when he knows himself, that he is not able, if he was honest enough, to be as good as his Word.

Come we next to his expecting our Performance to him; tho’ he is not so just to us, yet, it seems, he never fails to come and demand Payment of us at the very Day appointed: He was but a weak Trader in Things of this Nature, who having sold his Soul to the Devil, so our old Women’s Tales call the Thing, and when the Devil came to demand his Bargain, put it off as a Thing of no Force, for that it was done so long ago, he thought he (the Devil) had forgot it. It was a better Answer, which they tell us, a Lutheran Divine gave the Devil in the Name of a poor Wretch, who had sold himself to the Devil, and who was in a terrible Fright about his coming for his Bargain, as he might well be indeed, if the Devil has such a Power, as really to come and take it by Force. The Story (if you can bear a serious one) is this.

The Man was in great Horror of Mind, and the Family fear’d he would destroy himself; at length they sent for a Lutheran Minister to talk with him, and who after some Labour with him, got out the Truth (viz.) that he had sold himself to the Devil, and that the Time was almost expir’d, when he expected the Devil would come and fetch him away, and he was sure he would not fail coming to the Time to a Minute; the Minister first endeavour’d to convince him of the horrid Crime, and to bring him to a true Penitence for that Part; and having as he thought made him a sincere Penitent, he then began to encourage him, and particularly, desir’d of him, that when the Time was come, that the Devil should fetch him away, he, the Minister, should be in the House with him; accordingly, to make the Story short, the Time came, the Devil came, and the Minister was present, when the Devil came; what Shape he was in, the Story does not say; the Man said he saw him, and cry’d out; the Minister could not see him, but the Man affirming he was in the Room, the Minister said aloud, in the Name of the living God, Satan, what comest thou here for? The Devil answer’d, I come for my own; the Minister answer’d, He is not thy own, for Jesus Christ has redeem’d him, and in his Name I charge thee to avoid and touch him not; at which, says the Story, the Devil gave a furious Stamp (with his Cloven-Foot I suppose) and went away, and was never known to molest him afterward.

Another Story, tho’ it be in it self a long one, I shall abridge (for your reading with the less Uneasiness) as follows.

A young Gentleman of ——berg, in the Elector of Brandenburgh’s (now the King of Prussia’s) Dominions, being deeply in Love with a beautiful Lady, but something above his Fortune, and whom he could by no Means bring to love him again, apply’d himself to an old thing call’d a Witch, for her Assistance, and promised her great Things, if she could bring the Lady to love him, or any how compass her, so as he might have his Will of her; nay, at last he told her he would give up his Soul to her, if she would answer his Desire.

The old Hag, it seems, having had some of his Money, had very honestly tried what she could do, but all to no Purpose, the Lady would not comply; but when he offer’d such a great Price, she told him, she would consider farther against such a Time, and so appointed him the next Evening.

At the Time appointed he comes, and the Witch made a long Speech to him upon the Nicety of the Affair; I suppose to prepare him not to be surpriz’d at what was to come; for she suppos’d he was not so very desperately bent as he appear’d to be; she told him it was a Thing of very great Difficulty; but as he had made such a great Offer, of selling his Soul for it, she had an Acquaintance in the House, who was better skill’d (than she was) in such particular Things, and would treat with him farther, and she doubted not but that both together they might answer his End. The Fellow it seems was still of the same Mind, and told her, he car’d not what he pawn’d or sold, if he could but obtain the Lady; well, says the old Hag, sit still a while, and with that she withdraws.

By and by she comes in again with a Question in her Mouth; pray, says she, do you seek this Lady for a Wife, or for a Mistress, would you marry her, or would you only lie with her? The young Man told her no, no, he did not expect she would lie with him, therefore he would be satisfied to marry her, but asks her the Reason of the Question; why truly, says the old Hag, my Reason is very Weighty; for if you would have her for your Wife, I doubt, we can do you no Service; but if you have a Mind to lie with her, the Person, I speak of, will undertake it.

The Man was surpriz’d at that, only he objected that this was a transient or short Felicity, and that he should perhaps have her no more; the old Hag bid him not fear, but that if she once yielded to be his Whore, he might have her as often as he pleased; upon this he consents, for he was stark mad for the Lady; He having consented, she told him then, he should follow her, but told him, whoever he saw, he must speak to no body but her, till she gave him leave, and that he should not be surpriz’d, whatever happen’d, for no hurt should befall him; all which he agreed to, and the old Woman going out he follow’d her.

Being upon this led into another Room, where there was but very little Light, yet enough to let him see that there was no body in it but himself and the Woman, he was desired to sit down in a Chair next to a Table, and the old Woman clapping the Door too after her, he asked her why she shut the Door, and where was the Person she told him of? At which she answer’d there he is, pointing to a Chair at a little Distance: The young Gentleman turning his Head, saw a grave Kind of a Man sitting in an Elbow-Chair, tho’ he said, he could have sworn there was no body in the Chair when the old Woman shut the Door; however, having promis’d not to speak to any body but the old Woman, he said not a Word.

By and by the Woman making abundance of strange Gestures and Motions, and mumbling over several Things which he could not understand, on a suddain a large Wicker-Chair, which stood by the Chimney, removes to the other End of the Table which he sat by, but there was no body in the Chair; in about two Minutes after that the Chair remov’d, there appear’d a Person sitting in that too, who, the Room being, as is said, almost dark, could not be so distinguish’d by the Eye, as to see his Countenance.

After some while, the first Man, and the Chair he sat in, mov’d, as if they had been one Body, to the Table also; and the old Woman and the two Men seem’d to talk together, but the young Man could not understand any Thing they said; after some Time the old Witch turn’d to the young Gentleman, told him his Request was granted, but not for Marriage, but the Lady should love and receive him.

The Witch then gave him a Stick dipt in Tar at both Ends, and bid him hold it to a Candle, which he did, and instead of burning like a Stick it burnt out like a Torch; then she bid him break it off in the Middle, and light the other End; he did that too, and all the Room seem’d to be in a light Flame; then she said, deliver one Piece here, pointing to one only of the Persons, so he gave the first Fire-stick to the first Man or Apparition; now says she, deliver the other here, so he gave the other Piece to the other Apparition, at which they both rose up and spoke to him Words, which he said he understood not, and could not repeat, and immediately vanish’d with the Fire-sticks and all, leaving the Room full of Smoke: I do not remember that the Story says any Thing of Brimstone, or the Smell of it, but it says the Door continu’d fast lock’d, and no Body was left in the Room but the young Gentleman and the Witch.

Now the Ceremony being over, he ask’d the Witch if the Business was done? She said yes. Well, but says he, have I sold my Soul to the Devil? Yes, says she, you have, and you gave him Possession, when you deliver’d the two Fire-sticks to him. To him! says he, why, was that the Devil? Yes, says the old Hag. At which the young Man was in a terrible Fright for a while, but it went off again.

And what’s next, says he, when shall I see the Lady for whose sake I have done all this? You shall know that presently, said she, and opening the Door, in the next Room she presents him with a most beautiful Lady, but had charg’d him not to speak a Word to her: She was exactly dress’d like, and he presently knew her to be the Lady he desir’d; upon which he flew to her and clasped her in his Arms, but that Moment he had her fast, as he thought, in his Arms, she vanish’d out of his sight.

Finding himself thus disappointed, he upbraids the old Woman with betraying him, and flew out with ill Language at her, in a great Rage; the Devil often deluded him thus, after this, with Shews and Appearances, but still no Performance; after a while he gets an Opportunity to speak with the Lady her self in Reality, but she was as positive in her Denial as ever, and even took away all Hopes of his ever obtaining her, which put him into Despair; for now he thought he had given himself up to the Devil for nothing, and this brought him to himself; so that he made a penitent Confession of his Crime to some Friends, who took great Care of him, and encourag’d him, and at last furnish’d him with such an Answer as put the Devil into a Fright, when he came for the Bargain.

For Satan, it seems, as the Story says, had the Impudence to demand his Agreement, notwithstanding he had fail’d in the Performance on his Part; what the Answer was I do not pretend to have seen, but it seems it was something like what is mention’d above, (viz.) that he was in better Hands, and that he durst not touch him.

I have heard of another Person that had actually sign’d a Contract with the Devil; and upon a Fast kept by some Protestant or Christian Divines, while they were praying for the poor Man, the Devil was oblig’d to come and throw the Contract in at the Window.

But I vouch none of these Stories, there may be much in them and much Use made of them, even whether exactly such in Fact, as they are related, or no; the best Use I can make of them, is this, if any wicked desperate Wretches have made Bargain and Sale with Satan, their only Way is to repent, if they know how, and that before he comes to claim them; then batter him with his own Guns; play Religion against Devilism, and perhaps they may drive the Devil out of their Reach; at least he will not come at them, which is as well.

On the other Hand, how many Stories have we handed about of the Devil’s really coming with a terrible Appearance at the Time appointed, and powerfully or by violence carrying away those, that have given themselves thus up to him; nay, and sometimes a Piece of the House along with them, as in the famous Instance of Sudbury, Anno 1662. It seems he comes with Rage and Fury upon such Occasions, pretending he only comes to take his own, or as if he had leave given him to come and take his Goods, as we say, where he could find them, and would strike a Terror into all that should oppose him.

The greatest Part of the Terror we are usually in upon this Occasion, is from a Supposition, that when this Hell-Fire Contract is once made, God allows the Devil to come and take the wicked Creature, how and in what manner he thinks fit, as being given up to him by his own Act and Deed; but in my Opinion there’s no Divinity at all in that; for as in our Law we punish a Felo de se, or Self-murtherer, because, as the Law suggests, he had no Right to dismiss his own Life; that he being a Subject of the Common-wealth, the Government claims the Ward or Custody of him, and so ’twas not Murther only, but Robbery, and is a Felony against the State, robbing the King of his Liege-Man, as ’tis justly call’d; so neither has any Man a Right to dispose of his Soul, which belongs to his Maker in Property and in Right of Creation: The Man then having no Right to sell, Satan has no Right to buy, or at best he has made a Purchase without a Title, and consequently has no just Claim to the Possession.

It is therefore a Mistake to say, that when any of us have been so mad to make such a pretended Contract with the Devil, that God gives him leave to take it as his Due; ’tis no such thing; the Devil has bought, what you had no Right to sell, and therefore, as an unlawful Oath is to be repented of, and then broken; so your Business is to repent of the Crime, and then tell the Devil, you have better consider’d of it, and that you won’t stand to your Bargain, for you had no Power to sell; and if he pretends to Violence after that, I am mistaken; I believe the Devil knows better.

It is true, our old Mothers and Nurses have told us other Things, but they only told us what their Mothers and Nurses told them, and so the Tale has been handed down from one Generation of old Women to another; but we have no Vouchers for the Fact other than Oral Tradition, the Credit of which, I confess, goes but a very little Way with me; nor do I believe it one Jot the more for all the frightful Addenda which they generally join to the Tale, for it never wants a great Variety of that Kind.

Thus they tell us the Devil carried away Dr. Faustus and took a Piece of the Wall of his Garden along with them: Thus at Salisbury the Devil as it is said, and publickly printed, carried away two Fellows that had given themselves up to him, and carried away the Roof of the House with them, and the like; all which I believe my Share of; besides, if these Stories were really true, they are all against the Devil’s true Interest, Satan must be a Fool, which is indeed what I never took him to be in the Main; this would be the Way not to encrease the Number of Desperadoes, who should thus put themselves into his Hand, but to make himself a Terror to them; and this is one of the most powerful Objections I have against the Thing, for the Devil, I say, is no Fool, that must be acknowledg’d; he knows his own Game, and generally plays it sure.

I might, before I quit this Point, seriously reflect here upon our Beau mond (viz.) the gay Part of Mankind, especially those of the Times we live in, who walk about in a Composure and Tranquillity inexpressible, and yet as we all know, must certainly have all sold themselves to the Devil, for the Power of acting the foolishest Things with the greater Applause; it is true, to be a Fool is the most pleasant Life in the World, if the Fool has but the particular Felicity, which few Fools want, (viz.) to think themselves wise: The learned say, it is the Dignity and Perfection of Fools, that they never fail trusting themselves; they believe themselves sufficient and able for every Thing; and hence their want or waste of Brains is no Grievance to them, but they hug themselves in the Satiety of their own Wit; but to bring other People to have the same Notion of them, which they have of themselves, and to have their apish and ridiculous Conduct make the same Impression on the Minds of others, as it does on their own; this requires a general Infatuation, and must either be a Judgment from Heaven, or a Mist of Hell; nothing but the Devil can make all the Men of Brains applaud a Fool, and can any Man believe, that the Devil will do this for nothing? no, no, he will be well paid for it, and I know no other Way they have to compound with him, but this of Bargain and Sale.

’Tis the same thing with Rakes and Bullies, as ’tis with Fools and Beaus; and this brings me to the Subject of buying and selling it self, and to examine what is understood by it in the World, what People mean by such and such a Man selling himself to the Devil: I know the common Acceptation of it is, that they make some Capitulation for some Indulgence in Wickedness, on Conditions of Safety and Impunity, which the Devil promises them; tho’ as I said above, he is a Bite in that too, for he can’t perform the Conditions; however, I say, he promises boldly, and they believe him, and for this Privilege in Wickedness, they consent, that he shall come and fetch them for his own, at such or such a Time.

This is the State of the Case in the general Acceptation of it; I do not say ’tis really so, nay ’tis even an Inconsistency in it self; for one would think, they need not capitulate with the Devil to be so, and so, superlatively wicked, and give him such a Price for it, seeing, unless we have a wrong Notion of him, he is naturally enclin’d, as well as avow’dly willing to have all Men be as superlatively wicked as possibly they can, and must necessarily be always ready to issue out his Licenses gratis, as far as his Authority will go in the Case; and therefore I do not see why the Wretches that deal with him, should article with him for a Price; but suppose, for Argument sake, that it is so, then the next Thing is, some capital Crime follows the Contract, and then the Wretch is forsaken, for the Devil cannot protect him, as he promised; so he is Trust up, and like Coleman at the Gallows, he exclaims that there is no Truth in Devils.

It may be true, however, that under the powerful Guard and Protection of the Devil, Men do sometimes go a great Way in Crime, and that perhaps farther in these our Days of boasted Morals than was known among our Fathers; the only Difference that I meet with between the Sons of Belial in former Days, and those of our Ages, seems to be in the Devil’s Management, not in theirs; the Sum of which amounts to this, that Satan seems to act with more Cunning, and they with less; for in the former Ages of Satan’s Dominion, he had much Business upon his Hands, all his Art and Engines, and Engineers also, were kept fully employ’d, to wheedle, allure, betray and circumvent People, and draw them into Crimes, and they found him, as we may say, a full Employment; I doubt not, he was call’d the Tempter on that very Account; but the Case seems quite alter’d now, the Tables are turned; then the Devil tempted Men to sin, But now, in short, they tempt the Devil; Men push into Crimes before he pushes them; they out shoot him in his own Bow, out run him on his own Ground, and, as we say of some hot Spurs who ride Post, they whip the Post-Boy; in a Word, the Devil seems to have no Business now but to sit still and look on.

This, I must confess, seems to intimate some secret Compact between the Devil and them; but then it looks, not as is they had contracted with the Devil for leave to sin, but that the Devil had contracted with them, that they should sin so and so, up to such a Degree, and that without giving him the Trouble of daily Solicitation, private Management, and artful screwing up their Passions, their Affections and their most retir’d Faculties, as he was before oblig’d to do.

This also appears more agreeable to the Nature of the Thing; and as it is a most exquisite part of Satan’s Cunning, so ’tis an undoubted Testimony of his Success; if it was not so, he could never bring his Kingdom to such a height of absolute Power as he has done; this also solves several Difficulties in the Affair of the World’s present Way of sinning, which otherwise it would be very hard to understand; as particularly how some eminent Men of Quality among us, whose upper Rooms are not extraordinary well furnished in other Cases, yet are so very witty in their Wickedness, that they gather Admirers by hundreds and thousands; who, however heavy, lumpish, slow and backward, even by Nature, and in force of Constitution in better things, yet in their Race Devil-wards they are of a sudden grown nimble, light of Foot, and outrun all their Neighbours; Fellows that are as empty of Sense as Beggars are of Honesty, and as far from Brains as a Whore is of Modesty; on a sudden you shall find them dip into Polemicks, study Michael Servetus, Socinus, and the most learned of their Disciples; they shall reason against all Religion, as strongly as a Philosopher; blaspheme with such a Keenness of Wit, and satyrise God and Eternity, with such a Brightness of Fancy, as if the soul of a Rochester or a Hobbs was transmigrated into them; in a little length of Time more they banter Heaven, burlesque the Trinity, and jest with every sacred thing, and all so sharp, so ready, and so terribly witty, as if they were born Buffoons, and were singl’d out by Nature to be Champions for the Devil.

Whence can all this come? how is the Change wrought? who but the Devil can inject Wit in Spight of natural Dullness, create Brains, fill empty Heads, and supply the Vacuities in the Understanding? and will Satan do all this for nothing? No, no, he is too wise for that; I can never doubt a secret Compact, if there is such a thing in Nature; when I see a Head where there was no Head, Sense in Posse where there is no Sense in Esse, Wit without Brains, and Sight without Eyes, ’tis all Devil-Work: Could G—— write Satyrs, that could neither read Latin or spell English, like old Sir William Read, who wrote a Book of Opticks, which when it was printed, he did not know which was the right Side uppermost, and which the wrong? Could this eminent uninform’d Beau turn Atheist, and make wise Speeches against that Being, which made him a Fool, if the Devil had not sold him some Wit in exchange for that Trifle of his, call’d Soul? Had he not barter’d his Inside with that Son of the Morning, to have his Tongue tip’d with Blasphemy, he that knew nothing of a God, but only to swear by him, could never have set up for a Wit, to burlesque his Providence and ridicule his Government of the World.

But the Devil, as he is God of the World, has one particular Advantage, and that is, that when he has Work to do he very seldom wants Instruments; with this Circumstance also, that the Degeneracy of human Nature supplies him; as the late King of France said of himself, when they told him what a Calamity was like to befal his Kingdom by the Famine: Well, says the King, then I shall not want Soldiers; and it was so, want of Bread supplied his Army with Recruits; so want of Grace supplied the Devil with Reprobates for his Work.

Another Reason why, I think, the Devil has made more Bargains of that Kind we speak of, in this Age, is, because he seems to have laid by his Cloven-Foot; all his old Emissaries, the Tools of his Trade, the Engineers which he employ’d in his Mines, such as Witches, Warlocks, Magicians, Conjurers, Astrologers, and all the hellish Train or Rabble of human Devils, who did his Drudgery in former Days, seem to be out of Work: I shall give you a fuller Enumeration of them in the next Chapter.

These, I say, seem to be laid aside; not that his Work is abated, or that his Business with Mankind, for their Delusion and Destruction is not the same, or perhaps more than ever; but the Devil seems to have chang’d Hands; the Temper and Genius of Mankind is alter’d, and they are not to be taken by Fright and Horror, as they were then: The Figures of those Creatures was always dismal and horrible, and that is it which I mean by the Cloven-Foot; but now Wit, Beauty and gay Things, are the Sum of his Craft, he manages by the Soft and the Smooth, the Fair and the Artful, the Kind and the Cunning, not by the Frightful and Terrible, the Ugly and the Odious.

When the Devil for weighty Dispatches,
Wanted Messengers cunning and bold,
He pass’d by the beautiful Faces,
And pick’d out the Ugly and Old.

Of these he made Warlocks and Witches,
To run of his Errands by Night,
Till the over wrought Hag-ridden Wretches,
Were as fit as the Devil, to fright.

But whoever has been his Adviser,
As his Kingdom encreases in Growth;
He now takes his Measures much wiser,
And Trafficks with Beauty and Youth.

Disguis’d in the Wanton and Witty,
He haunts both the Church and the Court,
And sometimes he visits the City,
Where all the best Christians resort.

Thus dress’d up in full Masquerade,
He the bolder can range up and down,
For he better can drive on his Trade,
In any one’s Name than his own.




Daniel Defoe

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