Of the Power of the Devil at the Time of the Creation of this World; whether it has not been farther straitn’d and limited since that Time, and what Shifts and Stratagems he is obliged to make use of to compass his Designs upon Mankind.
Cunning Men have fabled, and tho’ it be without either Religion, Authority or physical Foundation, it may be we may like it ne’er the worse for that; that when God made the Stars and all the Heavenly Luminaries, the Devil, to mimick his Maker and insult his new Creation, made Comets, in Imitation of the fix’d Stars; but that the Composition of them being combustible, when they came to wander in the Abyss, rolling by an irregular ill-grounded Motion, they took Fire, in their Approach to some of those great Bodies of Flame, the fix’d Stars; and being thus kindled (like a Fire-work unskilfully let off) they then took wild and excentrick, as also different Motions of their own, out of Satan’s Direction, and beyond his Power to regulate ever after.
Let this Thought stand by it self, it matters not to our purpose whether we believe any thing of it, or no; ’tis enough to our Case, that if Satan had any such Power then, he has no such Power now, and that leads me to enquire into his more recent Limitations.
I am to suppose, he and all his Accomplices being confounded at the Discovery of the new Creation, and racking their Wits to find out the meaning of it, had at last (no matter how) discover’d the whole System, and concluded, as I have said, that the Creature, call’d Man, was to be their Successor in the Heavenly Mansions; upon which I suggest that the first Motion of Hell was to destroy this new Work, and, if possible, to overwhelm it.
But when they came to make the Attempt, they found their Chains were not long enough, and that they could not reach to the Extremes of the System: They had no Power either to break the Order, or stop the Motion, dislocate the Parts, or confound the Situation of Things; they traversed, no doubt, the whole Work, visited every Star, landed upon every Solid, and sail’d upon every Fluid in the whole Scheme, to see what Mischief they could do.
Upon a long and full Survey, they came to this Point in their Enquiry, that in short they could do nothing by Force; that they could not displace any Part, annihilate any Atom, or destroy any Life in the whole Creation; but that as Omnipotence had created it, so the same Omnipotence had arm’d it at all Points against the utmost Power of Hell, had made the smallest Creature in it invulnerable, as to Satan; so that without the Permission of the same Power which had made Heaven, and conquer’d the Devil, he could do nothing at all, as to destroying any thing that God had made, no, not the little diminutive thing call’d Man, who Satan saw so much reason to hate, as being created to succeed him in Happiness in Heaven.
Satan found him placed out of his Power to hurt, or out of his Reach to touch; and here, by the way, appears the second Conquest of Heaven over the Devil; that having plac’d his Rival, as it were, just before his Face, and shew’d the hateful sight to him, he saw written upon his Image, Touch him if you dare.
It cannot be doubted, but, had it not been thus, Man is so far from being a Match for the Devil, that one of Satan’s least Imps or Angels could destroy all the Race of them in the World, ay World and all in a moment;
As he is Prince of the Power of the Air, taking the Air for the Elementary World, how easily could he, at one Blast, sweep all the Surface of the Earth into the Sea, or drive weighty immense Surges of the Ocean over the whole Plane of the Earth, and deluge the Globe at once with a Storm? Or how easily could he, who, by the Situation of the Empire, must be supposed able to manage the Clouds, draw them up, in such Position as should naturally produce Thunders and Lightnings, cause those Lightnings to blast the Earth, dash in Pieces all the Buildings, burn all the populous Towns and Cities, and lay wast the World;
At the same time he might command suited Quantities of sublimated Air to burst out of the Bowels of the Earth, and overwhelm and swallow up, in the opening Chasms, all the Inhabitants of the Globe?
In a Word, Satan left to himself as a Devil, and to the Power, which by virtue of his Seraphic Original he must be vested with, was able to have made Devilish Work in the World, if by a superior Power he was not restrain’d.
But there is no doubt, at least to me, but that with his fall from Heaven, as he lost the Rectitude and Glory of his Angelic Nature, I mean his Innocence, so he lost the Power too that he had before; and that when he first commenc’d Devil, he received the Chains of Restraint too, as the Badge of his Apostacy, viz. a general Prohibition, to do any thing to the Prejudice of this Creation, or to act any thing by Force or Violence without special Permission.
This Prohibition was not sent him by a Messenger, or by an Order in Writing, or proclaimed from Heaven by a Law; but Satan, by a strange, invisible and unaccountable Impression felt the Restraint within him; and at the same time that his moral Capacity was not taken away, yet his Power of exerting that Capacity felt the Restraint, and left him unable to do, even what he was able to do at the same time.
I make no question, but the Devil is sensible of this Restraint, that is to say, not as it is a restraint only, or as an effect of his Expulsion from Heaven; But as it prevents his Capital Design against Man, who, for the Reason I have given already, he entertains a mortal Hatred of, and would destroy with all his Heart, if he might; and therefore, like a chain’d Mastiff, we find him oftentimes making a horrid hellish Clamour and Noise, barking and howling, and frighting the People, letting them know, that if he was loose he would tear them in pieces; but at the same time his very Fury shakes his Chain, which lets them know, to their Satisfaction, he can only Bark, but cannot Bite.
Some are of Opinion that the Devil is not restrain’d so much by the superior Power of his Sovereign and Maker; but that all his milder Measures with Man are the effect of a political Scheme, and done upon mature Deliberation; that it was resolved to act thus, in the great Council or P——t of Devils, call’d upon this very Occasion, when they first were inform’d of the Creation of Man; and especially when they considered what kind of Creature he was, and what might probably be the Reason of making him, (viz.) to fill up the Vacancies in Heaven; I say, that then the Devils resolv’d, that it was not for their Interest to fall upon him with Fury and Rage, and so destroy the Species, for that this would be no Benefit at all to them, and would only cause another original Man to be created; for that they knew God could, by the same Omnipotence, form as many new Species of Creatures as he pleased; and, if he thought fit, create them in Heaven too, out of the Reach of Devils or evil Spirits, and that therefore, to destroy Man would no way answer their End.
On the other hand, examining strictly the Mould of this new made Creature, and of what Materials he was form’d; how mixt up of a Nature convertible and pervertible, capable indeed of infinite Excellence, and consequently of eternal Felicity; but subject likewise to Corruption and Degeneracy, and consequently to eternal Misery; That instead of being fit to supply the Places of Satan and his rejected Tribe (the expell’d Angels) in Heaven, and filling up the Thrones or Stalls in the Celestial Choir, they might, if they could but be brought into Crime, become a Race of Rebels and Traytors like the rest; and so come at last to keep them Company, as well in the Place of eternal Misery, as in the Merit of it, and in a Word, become Devils instead of Angels.
Upon this Discovery, I say, they found it infinitely more for the Interest of Satan’s infernal Kingdom, to go another way to work with Mankind, and see if it were possible, by the strength of all their infernal Wit and Counsels, to lay some Snare for him, and by some Stratagem to bring him to eternal Ruin and Misery.
This being then approv’d as their only Method, (and the Devil shew’d he was no Fool in the Choice) he next resolv’d that there was no time to be lost; that it was to be set about immediately, before the Race was Multiplied, and by that means the Work be not made greater only, but perhaps the more difficult too; accordingly the diligent Devil went instantly about it, agreeably to all the Story of Eve and the serpent, as before; the belief of which, whether historically or allegorically, is not at all obstructed by this Hypothesis.
I do not affirm that this was the Case at first, because being not present in that black Divan, at least not that I know of, for who knows where he was or was not in his pre-existent State? I cannot be positive in the Resolve that past there; but except for some very little Contradiction, which we find in the sacred Writings, I should, I confess, incline to believe it Historically; and I shall speak of those things which I call Contradictions to it more largely hereafter.
In the mean time, be it one way or other, that is to say, either that Satan had no Power to have proceeded with Man by Violence, and to have destroy’d him as soon as he was made; or that he had the Power, but chose rather to proceed by other Methods to deceive and debauch him; I say, be it which you please, I am still of the Opinion that it really was not the Devil’s Business to destroy the Species; that it would have been nothing to the purpose, and no Advantage at all to him, if he had done it; for that, as above, God could immediately have created another Species to the same end, whom he either could have made invulnerable, and not subject to the Devil’s Power, or remov’d him out of Satan’s Reach, plac’d him out of the Devil’s Ken, in Heaven or some other Place, where the Devil could not come to hurt him; and that therefore it is infinitely more his Advantage, and more suited to his real Design of defeating the End of Man’s Creation, to debauch him and make a Devil of him, that he may be rejected like himself, and increase the infernal Kingdom and Company in the Lake of Misery in æternum.
It may be true, for ought I know, that Satan has not the Power of Destruction put into his Hand, and that he cannot take away the Life of a Man: and it seems probable to be so, from the Story of Satan and Job, when Satan appear’d among the Sons of God, as the Text says, Job i. 6. Now when God gave such a Character of Job to him, and ask’d him if he had consider’d his Servant Job, ℣ 8. why did not the Devil go immediately and exert his Malice against the good Man at once, to let his Maker see what would become of his Servant Job in his Distress? On the contrary, we see he only answers by shewing the Reason of Job’s good Behaviour; that it was but common Gratitude for the Blessing and Protection he enjoy’d, ℣ 10. and pleading that if his Estate was taken away, and he was expos’d as he (Satan) was, to be a beggar and a Vagabond, going to and fro in the Earth, and walking up and down therein, he should be a very Devil too, like himself, and curse God to his Face.
Upon this, the Text says, that God answered ℣ 11. Behold all that he hath is in thy Power; now ’tis plain here, that God gave up Job’s Wealth and Estate, nay his Family, and the Lives of his Children and Servants into the Devil’s Power; and accordingly, like a true merciless Devil, as he is, he destroy’d them all; he mov’d the Sabeans to fall upon the Oxen and the Asses, and carry them off; he mov’d the Chaldeans to fall upon the Camels and the Servants, to carry off the first, and murther the last; he made Lightning flash upon the poor Sheep, and kill them all; and he blow’d his House down upon his poor Children, and buried them all in the Ruins.
Now here is (1.) a Specimen of Satan’s good Will to Mankind, and what Havock the Devil would make in the World, if he might; and here is a Testimony too, that he could not do this without leave; so that I cannot but be of the Opinion he has some Limitations, some Bounds set to his natural Fury; a certain Number of Links in his Chain, which he cannot exceed, or, in a Word, that he cannot go a Foot beyond his Tether.
The same kind of Evidence we have in the Gospel, Matth. viii. 31. where Satan could not so much as possess the filthiest and meanest of all Creatures, the Swine, till he had ask’d leave; and that still, to shew his good Will, as soon as he had gotten leave, he hurried them all into the Sea and choak’d them; these, I say, are some of the Reasons why I am not willing to say, the Devil is not restrain’d in Power; but on the other side, we are told of so many mischievous things the Devil has done in the World, by virtue of his Dominion over the Elements, and by other Testimonies of his Power, that I don’t know what to think of it; tho’, upon the whole, the first is the safest Opinion; for if we should believe the last, we might, for ought I know, be brought, like the American Indians, to worship him at last, that he may do us no Harm.
And now I have nam’d those People in America, I confess it would go a great way in favour of Satan’s Generosity, as well as in Testimony of his Power, if we might believe all the Accounts, which indeed Authors are pretty well agreed in the Truth of, namely, of the Mischiefs the Devil does in those Countries, where his Dominion seems to be establish’d; how he uses them when they deny him the Homage he claims of them as his Due; what Havock and Combustion he makes among them; and how Beneficent he is (or at least negative in his Mischiefs) when they Appease him by their hellish Sacrifices.
Likewise we see a Test of his wicked Subtilty in his Management of those dark Nations, when he was more immediately worship’d by them; namely, the making them believe that all their good Weather, Rains, Dews, and kind Influences upon the Earth, to make it fruitful, was from Him; whereas they really were the common Blessings of a higher Hand, and came not from him, the Devil, but from him that made the Devil, and made him a Devil or fallen Angel by his Curse.
But to go back to the Method the Devil took with the first of Mankind; ’tis plain the Policy of Hell was right, tho’ the Execution of the Resolves they took did not fully answer their End neither; For Satan fastening upon poor, proud, ridiculous Mother Eve, as I have said before, made presently a true Judgment of her Capacities, and of her Temper; took her by the right Handle, and soothing her Vanity (which is to this Day the softest Place in the Head of all the Sex) wheedl’d her out of her Senses, by praising her Beauty, and promising to make her a Goddess.
The foolish Woman yielded presently, and that we are told is the Reason why the same Method so strangely takes with all her Posterity (viz.) that you are sure to prevail with them, if you can but once persuade them that you believe they are Witty and Handsome; for the Devil, you may observe, never quits any Hold he gets, and having once found a way into the Heart, always takes care to keep the Door open, that any of his Agents may enter after him without any more Difficulty: Hence the same Argument, especially the last, has so bewitching an Influence on the Sex, that they rarely deny you any thing, after they are but weak enough and vain enough to accept of the Praises you offer them on that Head; on the other hand you are sure they never forgive you the unpardonable Crime of saying they are Ugly or Disagreeable: It is suggested that the first Method the Devil took to insinuate all those fine things into Eve’s giddy Head, was by creeping close to her one Night, when she was asleep, and laying his Mouth to her Ear, whispering all the fine things to her, which he knew would set her Fancy a Tip-toe, and so made her receive them involuntarily into her Mind; knowing well enough that when she had form’d such Ideas in her Soul, however they came there, she would never be quiet till she had work’d them up to some extraordinary thing or other.
It was evident what the Devil aim’d at, namely, that she should break in upon the Command of God, and so having corrupted her self, bring the Curse upon her self and all her Race, as God had threatn’d; but why the Pride of Eve should be so easily tickled by the Motion of her exquisite Beauty, when there then was no prospect of the use or want of those Charms? that indeed makes a kind of Difficulty here, which the learn’d have not determined. For,
1. If she had been as Ugly as the Devil, she had no body to rival her, so that she need not fear Adam should leave her and get another Mistress.
2. If she had been Bright and Beautiful as an Angel, she had no other Admirer but poor Adam, and he could have no room to be jealous of her, or afraid she should cuckold him; so that in short, Eve had no such Occasion for her Beauty, nor could she make any use of it either to a bad purpose or to a good, and therefore I believe the Devil, who is too cunning to do any thing that signifies Nothing, rather tempted her by the Hope of encreasing her Wit, than her Beauty.
But to come back to the Method of Satan’s tempting her, viz. by whispering to her in her sleep; ’twas a cunning Trick, that’s the Truth of it, and by that means he certainly set her Head a madding after Deism, and to be made a Goddess, and then back’d it by the subtle talk he had with her afterward.
I am the more particular upon this Part, because, however the Devil may have been the first that ever practised it, yet I can assure him the Experiment has been tried upon many a Woman since, to the wheedling her out of her Modesty, as well as her Simplicity; and the Cunning Men tell us still, that if you can come at a Woman when she is in a deep sleep, and Whisper to her close to her Ear, she will certainly Dream of the Thing you say to her, and so will a Man too.
Well, be this so to her Race or not, it was it seems so to her; for she wak’d with her Head fill’d with pleasing Ideas, and as some will have it, unlawful Desires; such, as to be sure she never had entertain’d before; These are supposed to be fatally infused in her Dream, and suggested to her waking Soul, when the Organ Ear which convey’d them was doz’d and insensible; strange Fate of sleeping in Paradise! that whereas we have Notice but of two Sleeps there, that in one a Woman should go out of him, and in the other, the Devil should come into her.
Certainly, when Satan first made the Attempt upon Eve, he did not think he should have so easily conquered her, or have brought his Business about so soon; the Devil himself could not have imagined she should have been so soon brought to forget the Command given, or at least who gave it, and have ventur’d to transgress against him, and made her forget that God had told her, it should be Death to her to touch it; and above all, that she should aspire to be as wise as him, who was so ignorant before, as to believe it was for fear of her being like himself, that he had forbid it her.
Well might she be said to be the weaker Vessel, tho’ Adam himself had little enough to say for his being the stronger of the two, when he was over-persuaded (if it were done by Persuasion) by his Wife to do the same thing.
And mark how wise they were after they had Eaten, and what Fools they both acted like, even to one another; nay, even all the Knowledge they attain’d to by it was, for ought I see, only to know that they were Fools, and to be sensible both of Sin and Shame; and see how simply they acted, I say, upon their having committed the Crime, and being detected in it.
‘View them to Day conversing with their God,
‘His Image both enjoy’d and understood,
‘To Morrow skulking with a sordid Flight,
‘Among the Bushes from the Infinite,
‘As if that Power was blind, which gave them Sight;
‘With senseless Labour Tagging Fig-Leaf Vests,
‘To hide their Bodies from the sight of Beasts.
‘Hark! how the Fool pleads faint, for forfeit Life,
‘First he reproaches Heaven, and then his Wife;
‘The Woman which thou gav’st as if the Gift
‘Could rob him of the little Reason left,
‘A weak Pretence to shift his early Crime,
‘As if accusing her would excuse him;
‘But thus encroaching Crime dethrones the Sense,
‘And intercepts the Heavenly Influence,
‘Debauches Reason, makes the Man a Fool,
‘And turns his active Light to Ridicule.
It must be confess’d that it was unaccountable Degeneracy, even of their common Reasoning, which Adam and Eve both fell into upon the first committing the Offence of taking the forbidden Fruit: If that was their being made as Gods, it made but a poor Appearance in its first coming, to hide their Nakedness when there was no body to see them, and cover themselves among the Bushes from their Maker; but thus it was, and this the Devil had brought them to, and well might he, and all the Clan of Hell, as Mr. Milton brings them in, laugh and triumph over the Man after the Blow was given, as having so egregiously abused and deluded them both.
But here, to be sure, began the Devil’s new Kingdom; as he had now seduc’d the two first Creatures, he was pretty sure of Success upon all the Race, and therefore prepar’d to attack them also, as soon as they came on; nor was their encreasing Multitude any Discouragement to his Attempt, but just the contrary; for he had Agents enough to employ, if every Man and Woman that should be born was to want a Devil to wait upon them, separately and singly to seduce them; whereas some whole Nations have been such willing subjects to him, that one of his Seraphic Imps may, for ought we know, have been enough to guide a whole Country; the People being entirely subjected to his Government for many Ages; as in America, for example, where some will have it, that he convey’d the first Inhabitants, at least if he did not, we don’t well know who did, or how they got thither.
And how came all the Communication to be so entirely cut off between the Nations of Europe and Africa, from whence America must certainly have been peopl’d, or else the Devil must have done it indeed? I say, how came the Communication to be so entirely cut off between them, that except the time, whenever it was, that People did at first reach from one to the other, none ever came back to give their Friends any account of their Success, or invite them to follow? Nor did they hear of one another afterwards, as we have Reason to think: Did Satan politically keep them thus asunder, lest News from Heaven should reach them, and so they should be recover’d out of his Government? We cannot tell how to give any other rational Account of it, that a Nation, nay a Quarter of the World, or as some will have it be, half the Globe, should be peopled from Europe or Africa, or both, and no body ever go after them, or come back from them in above three thousand years after.
Nay, that those Countries should be peopled when there was no Navigation in use in these Parts of the World, no Ships made that could carry Provisions enough to support the People that fail’d in them, but that they must have been starved to death before they could reach the Shore of America; the Ferry from Europe or Africa, in any Part (which we have known Navigation to be practised in) being at least 1000 Miles, and in most Places much more.
But as to the Americans, let the Devil and they alone to account for their coming Thither, this we are certain of, that we knew nothing of them for many hundred Years; and when we did, when the Discovery was made, they that went from Hence found Satan in a full and quiet Possession of them, ruling them with an arbitrary Government, particular to himself; He had led them into a blind Subjection to himself, nay, I might call it Devotion, for it was all of Religion that was to be found among them) worshipping horrible Idols in his Name, to whom he directed human Sacrifices continually to be made, till he deluged the Country with Blood, and ripen’d them up for the Destruction that follow’d, from the Invasion of the Spaniards, who he knew would hurry them all out of the World as fast as he (the Devil) himself could desire of them.
But to go back a little to the Original of Things, It is evident that Satan has made a much better Market of Mankind, by thus subtilly attacking them, and bringing them to break with their Maker as he had done before them, than he could have done by fulminating upon them at first, and sending them all out of the World at once; for now he has peopled his own Dominions with them, and tho’ a Remnant are snatch’d as it were out of his Clutches, by the Agency of Invincible Grace, of which I am not to discourse in this Place; yet this may be said of the Devil, without Offence, that he has in some Sense carried his Point, and as it were forc’d his Maker to be satisfied with a Part of Mankind, and the least Part too, instead of the great Glory he would have brought to himself by keeping them all in his Service.
Mr. Milton, as I have noted above, brings in the Devil and all Hell with him, making a Feu de Joye for the Victory Satan obtain’d over one silly Woman; indeed it was a Piece of Success greater in its Consequence than in the immediate Appearance; nor was the Conquest so compleat as Satan himself imagin’d to make, since the Promise of a Redemption out of his Hands, which was immediately made to the Man, in behalf of himself and his believing Posterity, was a great Disappointment to Satan, and as it were snatch’d the best Part of his Victory out of his Hands.
It is certain the Devils knew what the meaning of that Promise was, and who was to be the Seed of the Woman, namely, the incarnate Son of God, and that it was a second Blow to the whole infernal Body; but as if they had resolved to let that alone, Satan went on with his Business; and as he had introduc’d Crime into the common Parent of Mankind, and thereby secured the Contamination of Blood, and the Descent or Propagation of the corrupt Seed, he had nothing to do but to assist Nature in time to come, to carry on its own Rebellion, and act it self in the Breasts of Eve’s tainted Posterity; and that indeed has been the Devil’s Business ever since his first Victory upon the Kind, to this Day.
His Success in this Part has been such, that we see upon innumerable Occasions a general Defection has follow’d; a kind of a Taint upon Nature, call it what you will, a Blast upon the Race of Mankind; and were it not for one thing, he had ruined the whole Family; I say, were it not for one thing, namely, a selected Company or Number, which his Maker has resolv’d he shall not be able to corrupt, or if he does, the sending the promis’d Seed shall recover back again from him, by the Power of irresistible Grace; which Number thus selected or elected, call it which we will, are still to supply the Vacancies in Heaven, which Satan’s Defection left open; and what was before fill’d up with created Seraphs, is now to be restor’d by recover’d Saints, by whom infinite Glory is to accrue to the Kingdom of the Redeemer.
This glorious Establishment has robb’d Satan of all the Joy of his Victory, and left him just where he was, defeated and disappointed; nor does the Possession of all the Myriads of the Sons of Perdition, who yet some are of the Opinion will be snatch’d from him too at last; I say, the Possession of all these makes no amends to him, for he is such a Devil in his Nature, that the Envy at those he cannot seduce, eats out all the Satisfaction of the Mischief he has done in seducing all the rest; but I must not preach, so I return to things as much needful to know, tho’ less solemn.