What became of the Devil and his Host of fallen Spirits after their being expell’d from Heaven, and his wandring condition till the Creation; with some more of Mr. Milton’s absurdities on that subject.
Having thus brought the Devil and his innumerable Legions to the edge of the Bottomless-pit, it remains, before I bring them to action, that some enquiry should be made into the posture of their affairs immediately after their precipitate Fall, and into the place of their immediate Residence; for this will appear to be very necessary to Satan’s History, and indeed, so as that without it, all the farther account we have to give of him, will be inconsistent and imperfect.
And first, I take upon me to lay down some Fundamentals, which I believe I shall be able to make out Historically, tho’, perhaps, not so Geographically as some have pretended to do.
1. That Satan was not immediately, nor is yet lock’d down into the Abyss of a local Hell, such as is supposed by some, and such as he shall be at last; or that,
2. If he was, he has certain liberties allowed him for excursions into the Regions of this Air, and certain spheres of action, in which he can, and does move, to do, like a very Devil as he is, all the mischief he can, and of which we see so many examples both about us and in us; in the inquiry after which, I shall take occasion to examine whether the Devil is not in most of us, sometimes, if not in all of us one time or other.
3. That Satan has no particular residence in this Globe or Earth where we live; that he rambles about among us, and marches over and over our whole country, he and his Devils in Camps volant; but that he pitches his grand Army or chief Encampment in our Adjacencies or Frontiers, which the Philosophers call Atmosphere; and whence he is call’d the Prince of the Power of that Element or part of the World we call Air; from whence he sends out his Spies, his Agents and Emissaries, to get intelligence, and to carry his Commissions to his trusty and well beloved Cousins and Counsellors on Earth, by which his business is done, and his affairs carried on in the World.
Here, again, I meet Mr. Milton full in my face, who will have it, that the Devil, immediately at his expulsion, roll’d down directly into a Hell proper and local; nay, he measures the very distance, at least gives the length of the journey by the time they were passing or falling, which, he says, was nine days; a good Poetical flight, but neither founded on Scripture or Philosophy; he might every jot as well have brought Hell up to the Walls of Heaven, advanc’d to receive them, or he ought to have consider’d the space which is to be allow’d to any locality, let him take what part of infinite distance between Heaven and a created Hell he pleases.
But let that be as Mr. Milton’s extraordinary genius pleases to place it; the passage, it seems, is just nine days betwixt Heaven and Hell; well might Dives then see father Abraham, and talk to him too; but then the great Gulph which Abraham tells him was fix’d between them, does not seem to be so large, as according to Sir Isaac Newton, Dr. Halley, Mr. Whiston, and the rest of our Men of Science, we take it to be.
But suppose the passage to be nine Days, according to Mr. Milton, what follow’d? why Hell gap’d wide, open’d its frightful mouth, and received them all at once; millions and thousands of millions as they were, it received them all at a gulp, as we call it, they had no difficulty to go in, no, none at all.
Facilis desensus averni, sed revocare gradum
Hoc opus hic labor est.—— Virg.
All this, as Poetical, we may receive, but not at all as Historical; for then come difficulties insuperable in our way, some of which may be as follow: (1.) Hell is here supposed to be a place; nay a place created for the punishment of Angels and Men, and likewise created long before those had fallen, or these had Being; this makes me say, Mr. Milton was a good Poet, but a bad Historian: Tophet was prepar’d of old, indeed, but it was for the King, that is to say, it was prepar’d for those whose lot it should be to come there; but this does not at all suppose it was prepar’d before it was resolv’d whether there should be subjects for it, or no; else we must suppose both Men and Angels were made by the glorious and upright Maker of all things, on purpose for destruction, which would be incongruous and absurd.
But there is worse yet to come; in the next place he adds, that Hell having receiv’d them, clos’d upon them; that is to say, took them in, clos’d or shut its Mouth; and in a word, they were lock’d in, as it was said in another place, they were lock’d in, and the Key is carry’d up to Heaven and kept there; for we know the Angel came down from Heaven, having the Key of the Bottomless-pit; but first, see Mr. Milton.
‘Nine days they fell, confounded chaos roar’d
‘And felt ten-fold confusion in their fall:
‘——Hell at last
‘Yawning receiv’d them all, and on them clos’d;
‘Down from the verge of Heaven, eternal wrath
‘Burnt after them ——
This Scheme is certainly deficient, if not absurd, and I think is more so than any other he has laid; ’tis evident, neither Satan or his Host of Devils are, no not any of them, yet, even now, confin’d in the eternal Prison, where the Scripture says, he shall be reserved in chains of darkness. They must have mean thoughts of Hell, as a Prison, a local Confinement, that can suppose the Devil able to break Goal, knock off his Fetters, and come abroad, if he had been once lock’d in there, as Mr. Milton says he was: Now we know that he is abroad again, he presented himself before God, among his neighbours, when Job’s case came to be discours’d of; and more than that, it’s plain he was a prisoner at large, by his answer to God’s question, which was, whence comest thou? to which he answer’d, from going to and fro thro’ the Earth, &c. this, I say, is plain, and if it be as certain that Hell closed upon them, I demand then, how got he out? and why was there not a Proclamation for apprehending him, as there usually is, after such Rogues as break prison?
In short, the true Account of the Devil’s Circumstances, since his Fall from Heaven, is much more likely to be thus: That he is more of a Vagrant than a Prisoner, that he is a Wanderer in the wild unbounded Wast, where he and his Legions, like the Hoords of Tartary, who, in the wild Countries of Karakathay, the Desarts of Barkan, Kassan, and Astracan, live up and down where they find proper; so Satan and his innumerable Legions rove about hic & ubique, pitching their Camps (being Beasts of prey) where they find the most Spoil; watching over this World, (and all the other Worlds for ought we know, and if there are any such,) I say watching, and seeking who they may devour, that is, who they may deceive and delude, and so destroy, for devour they cannot.
Satan being thus confin’d to a vagabond, wandring, unsettl’d Condition, is without any certain Abode; For tho’ he has, in consequence of his Angelic Nature, a kind of Empire in the liquid Wast or Air; yet, this is certainly part of his punishment, that he is continually hovering over this inhabited Globe of Earth; swelling with the Rage of Envy, at the Felicity of his Rival, Man; and studying all the means possible to injure and ruin him; but extremely limited in Power, to his unspeakable Mortification: This is his present State, without any fix’d Abode, Place, or Space, allow’d him to rest the Sole of his Foot upon.
From his Expulsion, I take his first View of Horror to be that, of looking back towards the Heaven which he had lost; there to see the Chasm or Opening made up, out at which, as at a Breach in the Wall of the holy Place, he was thrust Head-long by the Power which expel’d him; I say, to see the Breach repair’d, the Mounds built up, the Walls garison’d with millions of Angels, and arm’d with Thunders; and, above all, made terrible by that Glory from whose Presence they were expel’d, as is Poetically hinted at before.
Upon this sight, ’tis no wonder (if there was such a Place) that they fled till the Darkness might cover them, and that they might be out of the View of so hated a Sight.
Wherever they found it, you may be sure they pitch’d their first Camp, and began, after many a sour Reflection upon what was pass’d, to consider and think a little, upon what was to come.
If I had as much personal Acquaintance with the Devil, as would admit it, and could depend upon the Truth of what Answer he would give me, the first Question I would ask him, should be, what Measures they resolv’d on at their first Assembly? and the next should be, how they were employ’d in all that space of Time, between their so flying the Face of their almighty Conqueror, and the Creation of Man? as for the Length of the Time, which, according to the Learn’d, was twenty thousand Years, and according to the more Learned, not half a Quarter so much, I would not concern my Curiosity much about it; ’tis most certain, there was a considerable time between, but of that immediately; first let me enquire what they were doing all that time.
The Devil and his Host, being thus, I say, cast out of Heaven, and not yet confin’d strictly to Hell, ’tis plain they must be some where. Satan and all his Legions did not lose their Existence, no, nor the Existence of Devils neither; God was so far from annihilating him, that he still preserv’d his Being; and this not Mr. Milton only, but God himself has made known to us, having left his History so far upon record; several expressions in Scripture also make it evident, as particularly the story of Job, mentioned before; the like in our Saviour’s time, and several others.
If Hell did not immediately ingulph them, as Milton suggests, ’tis certain, I say, that they fled Somewhere, from the anger of Heaven, from the face of the Avenger; and his absence, and their own guilt, wonder not at it, would make Hell enough for them wherever they went.
Nor need we fly to the Dreams of our Astronomers, who take a great deal of pains to fill up the vast Spaces of the starry Heavens with innumerable habitable Worlds; allowing as many solar Systems as there are fix’d Stars, and that not only in the known Constellations, but even in Gallaxie it self; who, to every such System allow a certain number of Planets, and to every one of those Planets so many Satellites or Moons, and all these Planets and Moons to be Worlds; solid, dark, opaque Bodies, habitable, and (as they would have us believe) inhabited by the like Animals and rational Creatures as on this Earth; so that they may, at this rate, find room enough for the Devil and all his Angels, without making a Hell on purpose; nay they may, for ought I know, find a World for every Devil in all the Devil’s Host, and so every one may be a Monarch or Master-Devil, separately in his own Sphere or World, and play the Devil there by himself.
And even if this were so, it cannot be denied but that one Devil in a place would be enough for a whole systemary World, and be able, if not restrained, to do mischief enough there too, and even to ruin and overthrow the whole body of People contain’d in it.
But, I say, we need not fly to these shifts, or consult the Astronomers in the decision of this point; for wherever Satan and his defeated Host went, at their expulsion from Heaven, we think we are certain, none of all these Beautiful Worlds, or be they Worlds or no, I mean the fix’d Stars, Planets, &c. had then any existence; for the Beginning, as the Scripture calls it, was not yet Begun.
But to speak a little by the rules of Philosophy, that is to say, so as to be understood by others, even when we speak of things we cannot fully understand ourselves: Tho’ in the Beginning of Time all this glorious Creation was form’d, the Earth, the starry Heavens, and all the Furniture thereof, and there was a Time when they were not; yet we cannot say so of the Void, or that nameless no-where, as I call’d it before, which now appears to be a some-where, in which these glorious Bodies are plac’d. That immense Space which those take up, and which they move in at this Time, must be supposed, before they had Being, to be plac’d there: As God himself was, and existed before all Being, Time, or Place, so the Heaven of Heavens, or the Place, where the Thrones and Dominions of his Kingdom then existed, inconceivable and ineffable, had an existence before the glorious Seraphs, the innumerable company of Angels which attended about the Throne of God existed; these all had a Being long before, as the Eternal Creator of them all had before them.
Into this void or abyss of Nothing, however unmeasurable, infinite, and even to those Spirits, themselves Inconceivable, they certainly launch’d from the bright Precipice which they fell from, and here they shifted as well as they could.
Here expanding those Wings which Fear, and Horror at their Defeat furnish’d them, as I hinted before, they hurried away to the utmost Distance possible, from the Face of God their Conqueror, and then most dreaded Enemy; formerly their Joy and Glory.
Be this utmost remov’d Distance where it will, Here, certainly, Satan and all his Gang of Devils, his numberless, tho’ routed Armies retired. Here Milton might, with some good Ground, have form’d his Pandemonium, and have brought them in, consulting what was next to be done, and whether there was any room left to renew the War, or to carry on the Rebellion; but had they been cast immediately into Hell, closed up there, the Bottomless pit lock’d upon them, and the Key carried up to Heaven to be kept there, as Mr. Milton himself in part confesses, and the Scripture affirms; I say, had this been so, the Devil himself could not have been so ignorant as to think of any future Steps to be taken, to retrieve his Affairs, and therefore a Pandemonium or Divan in Hell, to consult of it, was ridiculous.
All Mr. Milton’s Scheme of Satan’s future Conduct, and all the Scripture Expressions about the Devil and his numerous Attendants, and of his actings since that time, make it not reasonable to suggest that the Devils were confin’d to their eternal Prison, at their Expulsion out of Heaven; But that they were in a State of Liberty to act, tho’ limited in acting, of which I shall also speak in its place.