Of the various Methods the Devil takes to converse with Mankind.
Having spoken something of Persons, and particularly of such as the Devil thinks fit to employ in his Affairs in the World, it comes next of course to say something of the Manner how he communicates his Mind to them, and by them to the rest of his Acquaintance in the World.
I take the Devil to be under great Difficulties in his Affairs on his Part, especially occasion’d by the Bounds which are set him, or which Policys oblige him to set to himself, in his Access to the conversing with Mankind; ’tis evident he is not permitted to fall upon them with Force and Arms, that is to say, to muster up his infernal Troops, and attack them with Fire and Sword; if he was not loose to act in this Manner as he was able, by his own seraphic Power to have destroy’d the whole Race, and even the Earth they dwelt upon, so he would certainly, and long ago have effectually done it; his particular Interests and Inclinations are well enough known.
But in the next Place, as he is thus restrain’d from Violence, so Prudentials restrain him in all his other Actings with Mankind; and being confin’d to Stratagem, and soft still Methods, such as Persuasion, Allurement, feeding the Appetite, prompting, and then gratifying corrupt Desires, and the like; he finds it for his Purpose not to appear in Person, except very rarely, and then in Disguise; but to act all the rest in the Dark, under the Vizor of Art and Craft, making Use of Persons and Methods conceal’d, or at least not fully understood or discover’d.
As to the Persons whom he employs, I have taken some Pains you see to discover some of them; but the Methods he uses with them, either to inform and instruct, and give Orders to them, or to converse with other People by them, these are very particular, and deserve some Place in our Memoirs, particularly as they may serve to remove some of our Mistakes, and to take off some of the frightful Ideas we are apt to entertain in Prejudice of this great Manager; as if he was no more to be match’d in his Politics, than he would be to be match’d in his Power, if it was let loose; which is so much a Mistake, that on the contrary, we read of several People that have abused and cheated the Devil, a Thing, which I cannot say, is very honest nor just, notwithstanding the old Latin Proverb, Fallere fallentem non est fraus, (which Men construe, or rather render, by way of Banter Upon Satan) ’tis no Sin to cheat the Devil, which for all that, upon the whole I deny, and alledge, that let the Devil act how he will by us, we ought to deal fairly by him.
But to come to the Business, without Circumlocutions; I am to enquire how Satan issues out his Orders, gives his Instructions and fully delivers his Mind to his Emissaries, of whom I have mention’d some in the Title to Chap. IX. In order to do this, you must form an Idea of the Devil sitting in great State, in open Campaign, with all his Legions about him, in the height of the Atmosphere; or if you will, at a certain Distance from the Atmosphere, and above it, that the Plan of his Encampment might not be hurried round its own Axis, with the Earth’s diurnal Motion, which might be some Disturbance to him.
By this fix’d Situation, the Earth performing its Rotation, he has every Part and Parcel of it brought to a direct Opposition to him, and consequently to his View once in twenty four Hours: The last time I was there, if I remember right, he had this Quarter of the World, which we call Christendom, just under his Eye; and as the Motion is not so swift, but that his piercing Opticks can take a strict View of it en passant; for the Circumference of it being but twenty one thousand Miles, and its circular Motion being full twenty four Hours performing, he has something more than an Hour to view every thousand Miles, which, to his supernatural Penetration, is not worth naming.
As he takes thus a daily View of all the Circle, and an hourly View of the Parts, he is fully Master of all Transactions, at least such as are done above Board by all Mankind; and then he dispatches his Emissaries or Aid du Camps to every Part with his Orders and Instructions: Now these Emissaries, you are to understand, are not the Witches and Diviners, who I spoke of above, for I call them also Emissaries; but they are all Devils or (as you know they are call’d) Devil’s Angels; and these may, perhaps, come and converse personally with the Sub-emissaries I mention’d, to be ready for their Support and Assistance on all Occasions of Business: These are those Devils which the Witches are said to raise; for we can hardly suppose the Master Devil comes himself, at the Summons of every ugly old Woman.
These run about into every Nook and Corner, wherever Satan’s Business calls them, and are never wanting to him; but are the most diligent Devils imaginable; like the Turkish Chaiux, they no sooner receive their Errand, but they execute it with the utmost Alacrity; and as to their Speed, it may be truly written as a Motto, upon the Head of every individual Devil,
Non indiget calcaribus.
These are those, who they tell us our Witches, Sorcerers, Wizards, and such Sorts of Folks converse freely with, and are therefore call’d their Familiars; and as they tell us, come to them in human Shapes, talk to them with articulate plain Voices, as if Men, and that yet the said Witches, &c. know them to be Devils.
History has not yet enlighten’d us in this Part of useful Knowledge, or at least not sufficiently for a Description of the Persons or Habits of these Sorts of Appearances; as what Shapes they take up, what Language they speak, and what particular Works they perform, so we must refer it to farther Enquiry; but if we may credit History, we are told many famous Stories of these Appearances; for Example, the famous Mother Lakland, who was burnt for a Witch at Ipswich, Anno 1646, confessed at the Time of her Execution, or a little before it, that she had frequent Conversation with the Devil himself; that she being very poor, and withal of a devilish passionate, cruel and revengeful Disposition before, used to wish she had it in her Power to do such and such mischievous Things to some that she hated; and that the Devil himself, who, it seems, knew her Temper, came to her one Night as she lay in her Bed, and was between sleeping and waking, and speaking in a deep hollow Voice, told her; if she would serve him in some Things he would employ her to do, she should have her Will of all her Enemies, and should want for nothing: That she was much afraid at first, but that he solliciting her very often, bad her not be afraid of him, and still urg’d her to yield, and as she says, struck his Claw into her Hand, and tho’ it did not hurt her, made it bleed, and with the Blood wrote the Covenants, that is to say, the Bargain between them: being ask’d what was in them, and whether he requir’d her to curse or deny God or Christ? She said no.
N. B. I do not find she told them whether the Devil wrote it with a Pen, or whether on Paper or Parchment, nor whether she sign’d it or no, but it seems he carry’d it away with him. I suppose, if Satan’s Register were examin’d, it might be found among the Archives of Hell, the Rolls of his acta Publica; and when his Historiographer Royal publishes them, we may look for it among them.
Then he furnish’d her with three Devils, to wait upon her (I suppose) for she confess’d they were to be employ’d in her Service; they attended in the Shapes of two little Dogs and a Mole: The first she bewitch’d was her own Husband, by which he lay a while in great Misery and died; then she sent to one Captain Beal and burnt a new Ship of his just built, which had never been at Sea; these and many other horrid Things she did and confess’d, and having been twenty Years a Witch, at last the Devil left her, and she was burnt as she deserv’d.
That some extraordinary Occasions may bring these Agents of the Devil, nay, sometimes the Devil himself, to assume human Shapes, and appear to other People we cannot doubt; he did thus in the Case of our Saviour as a Tempter, and some think he did so to Manasses as a Familiar, who the Scripture charges with Sorcery, and having a Familiar or Devil; Fame tells us that St. Dunstan frequently converst with him, and finally, took him by the Nose; and so of others.
But in these modern Ages of the World, he finds it much more to his Purpose to work under Ground as I have observ’d, and to keep upon the Reserve; so that we have no authentick Accounts of his personal Appearance, but what are very antient or very remote from our Faith, as well as our Enquiry.
It seems to be a Question that would bear some debating, whether all Apparitions are not Devils or from the Devil; but there being so many of those Apparitions which we call Spirits, which really assume Shapes and make Appearances in the World, upon such Accounts as we know Satan himself scorns to be employ’d in, that I must dismiss the Question in favour of the Devil; assuring them, that as he never willingly did any good in his Life, so he would be far from giving himself the Trouble of setting one Foot into the World, on such an Errand; and for that Reason we maybe assur’d those certain Apparitions, which we are told came to detect a Murther in Gloucestershire, and others who appear’d to prevent the ruining an Orphan for want of finding a Deed, that was not lost, was certainly some other Power equally concern’d, and not the Devil.
On the other Hand, neither will it follow that Satan never appears in human Shape; for tho’ every Apparition may not be the Devil, yet it does not follow that the Devil never makes an Apparition: All I shall say to it is, as I have mention’d before, that generally speaking, the Devil finds it more for his Purpose, to have his Interest in the World propagated another Way; namely, in private, and his personal Appearances are reserv’d for Things only of extraordinary Consequence, and, as I may say, of evident Necessity, where his Honour is concern’d, and where his Interest could be carried on no other Way; not forgetting to take Notice that this is very seldom.
It remains to enquire, what then those Things are which we make so much stir about, and which are call’d Apparitions, or Spirits assuming human Shapes, and shewing themselves to People on particular Occasions? whether they are evil Spirits or good? and tho’, indeed, this is out of my Way at this Time, and does not relate at all to the Devil’s History, yet I thought it not amiss to mention it; (1.) Because, as I have said, I do not wholly exclude Satan from all Concern in such Things; and (2.) Because I shall dismiss the Question with so very short an Answer, namely, that we may determine which are and which are not the Devil’s, by the Errand they come upon; every one to his own Business; if it comes of a good Errand, you may certainly acquit the Devil of it, conclude him innocent, and that he has no hand in it; if it comes of a wicked and devilish Errand, you may e’en take him up upon Suspicion, ’tis ten to one but you find him at the Bottom of it.
Next to Apparitions, we find Mankind disturb’d by abundance of little odd reserv’d Ways which the Devil is shrewdly suspected of having a Hand in, such as Dreams, Noises, Voices, &c. smells of Brimstone, Candles burning blue, and the like.
As to Dreams, I have nothing to say in Satan’s Prejudice at all there; I make no Question but he deals very much in that Kind of Intelligence, and why should he not? we know Heaven it self formerly converst very often with the greatest of Men, by the same Method, and the Devil is known to mimick the Methods, as well as the Actions of his Maker; whether Heaven has not quite left off that Way of working, we are not certain; but we pretty well know the Devil has not left it, and I believe some Instances may be given where his Worship has been really seen and talk’d to in sleep, as much as if the Person had been awake with his Eyes open.
These are to be distinguish’d too, pretty much by the Goodness or Badness of the Subject; how often have Men committed Murther, Robbery and Adultery in a Dream, and at the same time except an extraordinary Agitation of the Soul, and express’d by extraordinary Noises in the Sleep, by violent Sweating and other such Ways, the Head has never been remov’d from the Pillow, or the Body so much as turn’d in the Bed?
Whether in such Cases, the Soul with all the Passions and Affections being agitated, and giving their full assent to the Facts, of whatever Kind soever, the Man is not as guilty as if the Sins so dream’d of his committing, had been actually committed? tho’ it be no Doubt to me, but that it is so, yet as it is foreign to the present Affair, and not at all relating to the Devil’s History, I leave it to the Reverend Doctors of the Church, as properly belonging to them to decide.
I knew a Person who the Devil so haunted with naked Women, fine beautiful Ladies in Bed with him, and Ladies of his Acquaintance too, offering their Favours to him, and all in his Sleep; so that he seldom slept without some such Entertainment; the Particulars are too gross for my Story, but he gave me several long Accounts of his Night’s Amours, and being a Man of a virtuous Life and good Morals, it was the greatest Surprize to him imaginable; for you cannot doubt but that the cunning Devil made every thing be acted to the Life with him, and in a manner the most wicked; he own’d with Grief to me, that the very first Attack the Devil made upon him, was with a very beautiful Lady of his Acquaintance, who he had been really something freer than ordinary with in their common Conversation; This Lady he brought to him in a Posture for Wickedness, and wrought up his Inclination so high in his Sleep, that he, as he thought, actually went about to debauch her, she not at all resisting; but that he wak’d in the very Moment, to his particular Satisfaction.
He was greatly concern’d at this Part, namely, that he really gave the Consent of his Will to the Fact, and wanted to know if he was not as guilty of Adultery, as if he had lain with her; indeed he decided the Question against himself, so forcibly, that I, who was of the same Opinion before, had nothing to say against it; however, I confirm’d him in it, by asking him these Questions.
1. Whether he did not think the Devil had the chief Hand in such a Dream? he answer’d, it could certainly be no body else, it must be the Devil.
2. I then ask’d him what Reason the Devil could have for it, if his Consent to the Fact in Sleep had not been criminal? That’s true indeed, says he, I am answer’d: But then he ask’d another Question, which, I confess, is not so easy to answer, namely, How he should prevent being serv’d so again.
Nor could all my Divinity or his own keep the Devil from attacking him again; on the other Hand, as I have said, he worried him to that Degree, that he injur’d his Health, bringing naked Women to him, sometimes one, sometimes another, sometimes in one Posture of Lewdness, sometimes in another, sometimes into his very Arms, sometimes with such Additions as I am not merry enough, and sometimes such as I am not wicked enough to put into your Heads; the Man, indeed, could not help it, and so the Devil was more Faulty than he; but as I hinted to him, he might bring his Mind to such a stated Habit of Virtue, as to prevent its assenting to any wicked Motion, even in Sleep, and that would be the Way to put an End to the Attempt; and this Advice he relish’d very well, and practised, I believe, with Success.
By this same Method, the same Devil injects powerful Incentives to other Crimes, provokes Avarice, by laying a great Quantity of Gold in your View, and no body present, giving you an Opportunity to steal it, or some of it, at the same time, perhaps, knowing your Circumstances to be such as that you are at that Time in a great want of the Money.
I knew another, who being a Tradesman, and in great Distress for Money in his Business, dream’d that he was walking all alone in a great Wood, and that he met a little Child with a Bag of Gold in its Hand, and a fine Necklace of Diamonds on its Neck, upon the Sight, his Wants presently dictated to him to rob the Child; the little innocent Creature, (just so he dream’d) not being able to resist; or to tell who it was, accordingly he consented to take the Money from the Child, and then to take the Diamond Necklace from it too, and did so.
But the Devil, (a full Testimony, as I told him, that it was the Devil, not contented with that, hinted to him, that perhaps the Child might some time or other know him, and single him out, by crying or pointing, or some such Thing, especially if he was suspected and shew’d to it, and therefore it would be better for him to kill the Child, prompting him to kill it for his own Safety, and that he need do no more but twist the Neck of it a little, or crush it with his Knee; He told me he stood debating with himself, whether he should do so or not; but that in that Instant his Heart struck him with the Word Murther, and he entertain’d a Horror of it, refus’d to do it, and immediately waked.
He told me, that when he wak’d, he found himself in so violent a Sweat as he never had known the like; that his Pulse beat with that Heat and Rage, that it was like a Palpitation of the Heart to him, and that the Agitation of his Spirits was such, that he was not fully composed in some Hours; tho’ the Satisfaction and Joy that attended him, when he found it was but a Dream, assisted much to return his Spirits to their due Temperament.
It is neither my Business or Inclination to turn Divine here, nor is the Age I write to sufficiently Grave to relish a Sermon, if I was disposed to preach, though they must allow the Subject would very well bear it; but I shall only ask them, if they think this is not the Devil, what they think it is? If they believe it is the Devil, they will act accordingly I hope, or let it alone, as Satan and they can agree about it.
I should not oblige the Devil over much, whatever I might do to those that read it; if I should enter here upon a Debate of Interests, (viz.) to enquire whether the Devil has not a vast Advantage upon Mankind this Way, and whether it is not much his Interest to preserve it; and if I prove the Affirmative, I leave it to you to enquire whose Interest it is to disappoint and supplant him.
In short, I take Dreams to be the second Best of the Advantages the Devil has over Mankind; the first, I suppose, you all know (viz.) the Treachery of the Garrison within; by Dreams he may be said to get into the Inside of us without Opposition; here he opens and locks without a Key, and like an Enemy laying siege to a fortified City, Reason and Nature, the Governor of the City, keep him out by Day, and keep the Garrison true to their Duty; but in the Dark he gets in and parlees with the Garrison (the Affections and Passions) Debauches their Loyalty, stirring up them to Disloyalty and Rebellion, so they betray their Trust, Revolt, Mutiny, and go over to the Besieger.
Thus he manages his Interest, I say, and insinuates himself into the Inside of us, without our Consent, nay, without our Knowledge; for whatever Speculation may do, ’tis evident Demonstration does not assist us to discover which Way he gets Access to the Soul, while the Organ tied up, and dozed with Sleep has lock’d it up from Action; that it is so is clear, but how he does it is a Secret which I do not find the Antients or Moderns have yet made a Discovery of.
That Devil of a Creature, Mother Lakland, whose Story I mention’d above, acknowledg’d that the first Time the Devil attempted to draw her in to be a Witch was in a Dream, and even when she consented, she said, she was between sleeping and waking; that is, she did not know whether she was awake or asleep, and the cunning Devil it seems was satisfied with her Assent given so, when she was asleep, or neither asleep or awake, so taking the Advantage of her Incapacity to act rationally.
The Stories of her bewitching several People, and the manner in which they died, are so formidable and extravagant, that I care not to put any one’s Faith to the stretch about them, tho’ publish’d by Authority, and testified by Abundance of Witnesses; but this is recorded in particular, and to my Purpose, whether from her own Mouth or not, I do not say, namely, the Description of a Witch, and the Difference between Witches, and those other of Satan’s Acquaintance who act in his Name.
1. They have consulted and covenanted with a Spirit or Devil.
2. They have a Deputy Devil, sometimes several to serve and assist them.
3. These they employ as they please, call them by Name, and command their Appearance in whatever Shape they think fit.
4. They send them abroad to or into the Persons who they design to bewitch, who they always torment, and often murther them, as Mother Lakland did several.
As to the Difference between the several Devils that appear, it relates to the Office of the Persons who employ them; as Conjurers, who seem to command the particular Devil that waits upon them with more Authority, and raise them and lay them at Pleasure, drawing Circles, casting Figures, and the like; but the Witch, in a more familiar manner, whispers with the Devil, keeps the Devil in a Bag or a Sack, sometimes in her Pocket, and the like, and like Mr. Faux shews Tricks with him.
But all these Kinds deal much in Dreams, talk with the Devil in their Sleep, and make other People talk with him in their Sleep too; and ’tis on this Occasion I mention it here; in short, the Devil may well take this Opportunity with Mankind, for not half the World that came into his Measures would comply, if they were awake; but of that hereafter.
And yet his thus insinuating himself by Dream, does not seem sufficient, in my Opinion, to answer the Devil’s End, and to carry on his Business; and therefore we must be forc’d to allow him a Kind of actual Possession, in particular Cases, and that in the Souls of some People, by different Methods from others; Luther is of the Opinion that the Devil gets a Familiarity with some Souls just at, or rather before their being embodied; as to the Manner and Method how he gets in, that is another Question, and may be spoken of by it self; besides, why may not he, that at Satan’s Request to enter into the Herd of Swine, said go, give the same Commission to possess a sort of Creatures so many Degrees below the Dignity of the Gaderenian Swine, and open the Door too? but as for that, when our Lord said go, the Devil never enquir’d which Way he should get in.
When then I see Nations, or indeed Herds of Nations set on Fire of Hell, and as I may say, enflam’d by the Devil; when I see Towns, Parties, Factions and Rabbles of People visibly possess’d; ’tis enough to me that the great Master of the Devils has said to him, go; there’s no need to enquire which Way he finds open, or at what postern Gate he gets in; as to his appearing, ’tis plain he often gets in without appearing, and therefore the Question about his appearing still remains a Doubt, and is not very easy to be resolv’d.
In the Scripture we have some Light into it, and that is all the Help I find from Antiquity, and it goes a great Way to solve the Phænomena of Satan’s appearing; what I mean by the Scripture giving some Light to it, is this; ’tis said in several Places, and of several Persons, God came to them in a Dream, Gen. xx. 3. God came to Abimelech in a Dream by Night, Gen. xxxi. 24. And God came to Laban the Syrian in a Dream, Matt. ii. 13. The Angel of the Lord appear’d to Joseph in a Dream; short Comments are sufficient to plain Texts, applying this to my Friend when he wanted to be satisfied about the How, relating to his Dream (viz.) how he should come to Dream such wicked Things? I told him, in short, the Case was plain, the Devil came to him in a Dream by Night: How and in what manner he form’d the wicked Representations, and spread debauch’d Appearances before his Fancy, by real Whispers and Voice, according to Milton, or by what other Methods, the Learned are not arriv’d to any Certainty about it.
This leads me necessarily to enquire whether the Devil or some of his Agents are not always in our Company, whether they make any visible Appearances or no? For my Part I make no Question of it, how else could he come at the Knowledge of what we do; for as I can allow him no Prescience at all, as for many Reasons I have observ’d already, he must be able to see and know us, and what we are about when we know nothing of him, or else he could know nothing of us and our Affairs, which yet we find otherwise; and this gives him infinite Advantage to Influence our Actions, to judge of our Inclinations, and to bring our Passions to clash with our Reason, as they often do, and get the better of it too.
All this he obtains by his being able to walk about invisible, and see when he is not seen, of which I have spoken already; hence that most wise and solid Suggestion, that when the Candles burn blue the Devil is in the Room, which great Secret in Nature, that you may more fully be convinc’d of its imaginary Reality, I must tell you the following Story which I saw in a Letter directed to a particular Friend, take it Word for Word as in the Letter; because I do not make my self accountable for the Facts, but take them ad referendum.
We had one Day, very early in the Morning, and for the most Part of the Day a great deal of Rain with a high Wind, and the Clouds very thick and dark all Day.
In the Evening the cloudy thick Weather continued, tho’ not the Rain, when being at a Friend’s House in —— Lane London, and several Ladies and some Gentlemen in the Room, besides two or three Servants (for we had been eating) the following Interlude happen’d for our Entertainment: When the Cloth was taken away, two large Candles were brought upon the Table and plac’d there with some Bottles and Glasses for the Gentlemen, who, it seems, were intending to drink and be very merry; two large Wax-Candles were also set on another Table, the Ladies being going to Cards, also there were two large Candles in Sconces over or near the Chimney, and one more in a Looking-Glass Sconce, on a Peer by the Window.
With all this Apparatus, the Company separating sat down, the Gentlemen at their Table, and the Ladies at theirs, to play as above; when after some time the Gentleman of the House said hastily to a Servant, what a P—— ails the Candles? and turning to the Servant raps out an Oath or two, and bids him snuff the Candles, for they burnt as if the Devil was in the Room.
The Fellow going to snuff one of the Candles, snuffs it out, at which his Master being in a Passion the Fellow lights it again immediately at the other Candle, and then being in a little hurry, going to snuff the other Candle snuffed that out too.
The first Candle that was relighted (as is usual in such Cases) burn’d dim and dull for a good while, and the other being out, the Room was much darker than before, and a Wench that stood by the Ladies Table, bawls out to her Mistress, Law Madam! the Candles burn blue; an old Lady that sat by says, ay Betty! so they do; upon this one of the Ladies starts up, Mercy upon us, says she, what is the Matter! In this unlucky Moment another Servant, without Orders, went to the great Peer Sconce, and because, as he thought, he would be sure to snuff the Candle well, he offers to take it down, but very unhappily, I say, the Hook came out and down falls the Sconce Candle and all, and the Looking-Glass broke all to pieces, with a horrible Noise; however, the Candle falling out of the Sconce did not go out, but lay on the Floor burning dully, and as it is usual on such Cases, all on one Side, Betty cries out again, Law Madam, that Candle burns blue too; the very Moment she said this, the Footman that had thrown down the Sconce, says to his fellow Servant, that came to his Assistance, I think the Devil is in the Candles to Night, and away he run out of the Room, for fear of his Master.
The old Lady, who, upon the Maid Betty’s Notion of the Candles burning blue, had her Head just full of that old Chimney-Corner Story, the Candles burn blue when the Spirits are in the Room, heard the Footman Say the Word Devil, but heard nothing else of what he said; upon this she rises up in a terrible Fright, and cries out that the Footman said the Devil was in the Room; as she was, indeed, frighted out of her Wits, she frighted the Ladies most terribly, and they all starting up together, down goes the Card Table, and put the Wax-Candles out.
Mrs. Betty, that had frighted them all, runs to the Sconce next the Chimney, but that having a long Snuff, she cried out it burnt blue too, and she durst not touch it; in short, tho’ there were three Candles left still burning in the Room, yet the Ladies we’re all so frighted, that they and the Maids too run out of the Parlour screaming like mad Folks. The Master in a Rage kick’d his first Man out of the Room, and the second Man was run out to avoid, as I said before, the like, so that no Servant was to be had, but all was in Confusion.
The two other Gentlemen, who were sitting at the first Table, kept their Seats composed and easy enough, only concern’d to see all the House in such a fright; it was true, they said, the Candles burnt dim and very oddly, but they could not perceive they burnt blue, except one of those over the Chimney, and that on the Table, which was relighted after the Fellow had snufft it out.
However, the Maid, the old Lady and the Footman that pull’d down the Sconce, all insist that the Candles burnt blue, and all pretend that the Devil was certainly in the Room, and was the Occasion of it; and they now came to me with the Story, to desire my Opinion of it.
This put me upon Enquiry into the Notion of Candles burning blue when Spirits are in a Room, which upon all the Search into Things, that I am able to make, amounts to no more than this; that upon any extraordinary Emission of sulphureous or of nitrous Particles, either in a close Room, or in any not very open Place, if the Quantity be great, a Candle or Lamp, or any such little Blaze of Fire will seem to be, or to burn blue; and if then they can prove that any such Effluvia attends or is emitted from a Spirit, then when Satan is at Hand it may be so.
But then ’tis begging the Question grossly, because no Man can assure us that the Devil has any sulphureous Particles about him.
It is true, the Candles burn thus in Mines and Vaults, and damp Places; and ’tis as true that they will do so upon Occasion of very damp, stormy and moist Air, when an extraordinary Quantity of Vapours are supposed to be dispers’d abroad, as was the Case when this happen’d; and if there was any Thing of that in it on that Monday Night, the Candles might, perhaps, burn blue upon that Occasion; but that the Devil was abroad upon any extraordinary Business that Night, that I cannot grant, unless I have some better Testimony than the old Lady that heard the Footman’s out-cry but by halves, or than Mrs. Betty, who first fancied the Candles burnt blue; so I must suspend my Judgment till I hear farther.
This Story however may solve a great many of those Things which pass for Apparitions in the World, and which are laid to the Devil’s Charge, tho’ he really may know nothing of the Matter; and this would bring me to defend Satan in many Things, wherein he may truly be said to suffer wrongfully; and if I thought it would oblige him, I might say something to his Advantage this Way; however, I’ll venture a Word or two for an injur’d Devil, take it as you will.
First, it is certain, that as this Invisibility of the Devil is very much to our Prejudice, so the Doctrine of his Visibility is a great Prejudice to him, as we make Use of it.
By his Invisibility he is certainly vested with infinite Advantages against us; while he can be present with us, and we know nothing of the Matter, he informs himself of all our Measures, and arms himself in the best and most suitable manner to injure and assault us, as he can counteract all our secret concerted Designs, disappoint all our Schemes, and except when Heaven apparently concerns it self to over-rule him, can defeat all our Enterprizes, break all our Measures, and do us Mischief in almost every Part of our Life, and all this, because we are not privy to all his Motions, as he is to ours.
But now for his Visibility and his real Appearance in the World, and particularly among his Disciples and Emissaries, such as Witches and Wizards, Demonaists, and the like: Here, I think Satan has a great deal of Loss, suffers manifest Injury, and has great Injustice done him; and, that therefore I ought to clear this Matter up a little, if it be possible, to do Justice to Satan, and set Matters right in the World about him, according to that useful old Maxim of setting the Saddle upon the right Horse, or giving the Devil his due.
First, as I have said, we are not to believe every idle Head, who pretends even to converse Face to Face with the Devil, and who tells us, they have thus seen him, and been acquainted with him every Day: Many of these Pretenders are manifest Cheats; and, however, they would have the Honour of a private Interest in him, and boast how they have him at their Beck, can call him this Way, and send him that, as they please, raise him and lay him when and how, and as often as they find for their Purpose; I say, whatever Boasts they make of this Kind, they really have nothing of Truth in them.
Now the Injuries and Injustice done to the Devil, in these Cases, are manifest; namely, that they entitle the Devil to all the Mischief they are pleased to do in the World; and if they commit a Murther or a Robbery, fire a House, or do any Act of Violence in the World, they presently are said to do it by the Agency of the Devil, and the Devil helps them; so Satan bears the Reproach, and they have all the Guilt; this is, (1.) a grand Cheat upon the World, and (2.) a notorious Slander upon the Devil; and it would be a public Benefit to Mankind, to have such would-be-Devils as these turn’d inside out, that we might know when the Devil was really at work among us, and when not; what Mischiefs were of his doing, and which were not; and that these Fellows might not slip their Necks out of the Halter, by continually laying the Blame of their Wickedness upon the Devil.
Not that the Devil is not very willing to have his Hand in any Mischief, or in all the Mischief that is done in the World; but there are some low priz’d Rogueries that are too little for him, beneath the Dignity of his Operation, and which ’tis really a Scandal to the Devil to charge upon him. I remember the Devil had such a Cheat put upon him in East-Smithfield once, where a Person pretended to converse with the Devil Face to Face, and that in open Day too, and to cause him to tell Fortunes, foretel Good and Evil, &c. discover stollen Goods, tell where they were who stole them, and how to find them again, nay, and even to find out the Thieves; but Satan was really slandered in the Case, the Fellow had no more to do with the Devil than other People, and perhaps not so much neither: This was one of those they call’d Cunning-Men, or at least he endeavour’d to pass for such a one, but ’twas all a Cheat.
Besides, what had the Devil to do to detect Thieves, and restore stollen Goods? Thieving and Robbing, Trick and Cheat, are part of the Craft of his Agency, and of the Employments which it is his Business to encourage; they greatly mistake him, who think he will assist any Body in suppressing and detecting such laudable Arts and such diligent Servants.
I won’t say, but the Devil, to draw these People we call Cunning-Men, into a Snare, and to push on his farther Designs, may encourage them privately, and in a manner that they themselves know nothing of, to make use of his Name, and abuse the World about him, till at last they may really believe they do deal with the Devil, when indeed ’tis only he deals with them, and they know nothing of the Matter.
In other Cases he may encourage them in these little Frauds and Cheats, and give them leave, as above, to make use of his Name to bring them afterwards, and by Degrees to have a real Acquaintance with him; so bringing the Jest of their Trade into Earnest, till at length prompting them to commit some great Villany, he secures them to be his own, by their very Fear of his leaving them to be exposed to the World; thus he puts a Jonathan Wild upon them, and makes them be the very Wretches they only pretended to be before: So old Parsons of Clithroe, as Fame tells, was twenty five Years a Cunning-man, and twenty two Years a Witch; that is to say, for five and twenty Years, he was only pretending to deal with the Devil, when Satan and he had no manner of Acquaintance, and he only put his Leger-de-main upon the People in the Devil’s Name, without his leave; but at length the Devil’s Patience being tir’d quite out, he told the old Counterfeit, that in short, he had been his stalking Horse long enough, and that now, if he thought fit to enter himself, and take a Commission, well and good; and he should have a Lease to carry on his Trade for so many Years more, to his Heart’s content; but if not, he would expose his Knavery to the World, for that he should take away his Peoples Trade no longer; but that he (Satan) would set up another in his Room, that should make a meer Fool of him, and carry away all his Customers.
Upon this, the old Man consider’d of it, took the Devil’s Counsel, and listed in his Pay; so he, that had plaid his Pranks twenty five Years as a Conjurer, when he was no Conjurer, was then forc’d really to deal with the Devil, for fear the People should know he did not: Till now he had ambo dexter, cheated the Devil on one Hand, and the People on the other; but the Devil gain’d his Point at last, and so he was a real Wizard ever after.
But this is not the only way the Devil is injur’d neither, for we have often found People pretend upon him in other Cases, and of nearer Concern to him a great deal, and in Articles more Weighty, as in particular, in the great Business of Possession; it is true this Point is not thoro’ly understood among Men, neither has the Devil thought fit to give us those Illuminations about it, as I believe he might do; particularly that great and important Article, is not, for ought I can see, rightly explain’d, namely; whether there are not two several Kinds of Possession, (viz.) some wherein the Devil possesses us, and some in which we really possess the Devil; the Nicety of which I doubt this Age, with all its Penetration, is not qualified to explain, and a Dissertation upon it being too long for this Work, especially so near its Conclusion, I am oblig’d to omit, as I am also all the practical Discourses upon the Usefulness and Advantages of real Possession, whether consider’d one Way or other to Mankind, all which I must leave to hereafter.
But to come back to the Point in Hand, and to consider the Injustice done to the Devil, in the various Turns and Tricks which Men put upon him very often in this one Article (viz.) pretending to Possession, and to have the Devil in them, when really it is not so; certainly the Devil must take it very ill, to have all their demented, lunatick Tricks charg’d upon him; some of which, nay, most of which are so gross, so simple, so empty, and so little to the Purpose, that the Devil must be asham’d to see such Things pass in his Name, or that the World should think he was concern’d in them.
It is true, that Possession being one of the principal Pieces of the Devil’s Artifice in his managing Mankind, and in which, with the most exquisite skill he plays the Devil among us, he has the more Reason to be affronted when he finds himself invaded in this Part, and angry that any Body should pretend to possess, or be possess’d without his leave, and this may be the Reason for ought we know, why so many Blunders have been made, when People have pretended to it without him, and he has thought fit not to own them in it; of which we have many Examples in History, as in Simon Magus, the Devil of London, the fair Maid of Kent, and several others, whose History it is not worth while to enlarge upon.
In short, Possessions, as I have said, are nice Things, as it is not so easy to mimick the Devil in that Part, as it may be in some other; designing Men have attempted it often, but their manner has been easily distinguish’d, even without the Devil’s Assistance.
Thus the People of Salem in New-England pretended to be bewitch’d, and that a black Man tormented them by the Instigation of such and such, whom they resolv’d to bring to the Gallows: This black Man they would have be the Devil, employ’d by the Person who they accus’d for a Witch: Thus making the Devil a Page or a Footman to the Wizard, to go and torment whoever the said Wizard commanded, till the Devil himself was so weary of the foolish Part, that he left them to go on their own Way, and at last they over-acted the murthering Part so far, that when they confess’d themselves to be Witches, and possess’d, and that they had Correspondence with the Devil, Satan not appearing to vouch for them, no Jury would condemn them upon their own Evidence, and they could not get themselves hang’d, whatever Pains they took to bring it to pass.
Thus you see the Devil may be wrong’d, and falsely accus’d in many Particulars, and often has been so; there are likewise some other sorts of counterfeit Devils in the World, such as Gypsies, Fortune-Tellers, Foretellers of good and bad Luck, Sellers of Winds, Raisers of Storms, and many more, some practis’d among us, some in foreign Parts, too many almost to reckon up; nay I almost doubt whether the Devil himself knows all the Sorts of them; for ’tis evident he has little or nothing to do with them, I mean not in the Way of their Craft.
These I take to be Interlopers, or with the Guinea Merchants leave, separate Traders, and who act under the Skreen and Protection of Satan’s Power, but without his License or Authority; no doubt these carry away a great deal of his Trade, that is to say, the Trade which otherwise the Devil might have carried on by Agents or his own; I cannot but say, that while these People would fain be thought Devils, tho’ they really are not, it is but just they should be really made as much Devils as they pretended to be, or that Satan should do himself Justice upon them, as he threaten’d to do upon old Parsons of Clithroe abovemention’d, and let the World know them.