Page images
PDF
EPUB

needs have looked, to see his great works patterned by those presumptuous rivals! Doth Moses turn his rod into a serpent? every of their rods crawleth, hisseth, as well as his. Doth he smite the waters into blood ? their waters are instantly as bloody as his. Doth he fetch frogs out of Nilus into Pharaoh's bed-chamber and bosom, and into the ovens and kneading-troughs of his people ? they can store Egypt with loathsome cattle, as well as he.

Åll this while, Pharaoh knows no difference of a god; and hardly yields, whether Jannes or Moses be the better man; although he might easily have decided it, out of the very acts done: he saw Moses his serpent devoured theirs; so as now there was neither serpent nor rod; and, while they would be turning their rod into a serpent, both rod and serpent were lost in the serpent, which returned into a rod: he saw that those sorcerers, who had brought the frogs, could not remove them; and, soon after, sees those jugglers, who pretended to make serpents, blood, frogs, cannot, when God pleaseth to restrain them, make so much as a louse.

But, supposing the sufferance of the Almighty, who knows what limits to prescribe to these infernal powers? They can beguile the senses, mock the phantasy, work strongly by philtres upon the affections, assume the shapes of man or beast, inflict grievous torment on the body, convey strange things insensibly into it, transport it from place to place in quick motions, cause no less sudden disparitions of it, heal diseases by charms and speils, frame hideous apparitions, and, in short, by applying active powers to passive subjects, they can produce wonderful effects; each of all which were easy to be instanced in whole volumes, if it were ueedful, out of history and experience.

Who then, O God, who is able to stand before these sons of Anak? what are we, in such hands? O match desperately una equal, of weakness with power, flesh with spirit, man with devils!

Away with this cowardly diffidence. Cheer up thyself, O my soul, against these heartless fears; and know, the advantage is on thy side. Could Samson have been firmly bound hand and foot by the Philistine cords, so as he could not have stirred those mighty limbs of his, what boy or girl of Gath or Ascalon would have feared to draw near, and spurn that awed champion? No other is the condition of our dreadful enemies: they are fast bound up with the adamantine chains of God's most merciful and inviolable decree; and forcibly restrained from their desired mischief. Who can be afraid of a muzzled and tied-up mastiff? What woman or child cannot make faces at a fierce lion, or a bloody Bajazet, locked up fast in an iron grate?

Were it pot for this strong and strait curb of Divine Providence, what good man could breathe one minute upon earth? The Demoniac in the Gospel could break his iron fetters in pieces, through the help of his legion: those devils, that possessed him, could not break theirs: they are fain to sue for leave to enter into swine; neither had obtained it, in all likelihood, but for a just punishment to those Gadarene owners. How sure may we then be, that this just hand of Omnipotence will not suffer these evil ones, to tyrannize over his chosen vessels, for their hurt! How safe are we, since their power is limited, our protection infinite !

SECT. IV. OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND MALICE OF WICKED SPIRITS. Who can know how much he is bound to God for safeguard, if he do not apprehend the quality of those enemies, wherewith he is encompassed ? whose Knowledge, and Skill, is no whit inferior to their power. They have not the name of Dæmons * for nothing : their natural knowledge was not forfeited by their fall: the wisdom of the Infinite Giver of it knows how rather, to turn it to the use of his own glory. However, therefore, they are kept off from those divine illuminations, which the good angels receive from God; yet they must needs be granted to have such a measure of knowledge, as cannot but yield them a formidable advantage. For, as spirits, being not stripped of their original knowledge together with their glory, they cannot but know the natures and constitutions of the creatures; and, thereby, their tempers, dispositions, inclinations, conditions, faculties; and, therewith, their wants, their weakness, and obnoxiousness; and, thereupon, strongly conjecture at their very thoughts and intentions, and the likelihood of their repulses or prevailings : out of the knowledge of the causes of things, they can foresee such future events, as have a dependance thereon. To which, if we shall add the improvement, which so many thousand years' experience can yield to active and intelligent spirits, together with the velocity of their motions, and the concurrent intelligence which those powers of darkness hold with each other, we shall see cause enough to disparage our own simplicity, to tremble at our own danger, and to bless God for our indemnity.

But if, unto all these, we shall take notice of their Malice, na whit inferior to their power and knowledge, we cannot but be transported with wonder at our infinite obligations to the Blessed Majesty of Heaven, who preserves us from the rage of so spiteful, cunning, mighty enemies. Satan carries hostility in his very name; and, answerably, in his wicked nature : hostility to the God that made him, as the avenger of his sin; hostility, for his sake, to the creature, which that God made good: his enmity did, as himself, descend from the Highest, for it began at the Almighty; and remains, as implacable, as impotent.

It is a bold and uncouth story, and scarce safe to relate, which I find, in the Book of Conformity, reported, as recited by a demoniac woman, from the mouth of a certain friar, named Jacobus de Pozali, in his Sermon : That St. Macarius once went about to make peace betwixt God and Satan : that it pleased God to say, “ If the Devil will acknowledge his fault, I will pardon him :" to which the Evil Spirit returned answer, “ I will never acknowledge

* Ob scientiam nominali, Aug. I. ix. de Civ. Dei.

any fault of mine; yea, that crucified Saviour should rather cry me mercy for keeping me thus long in hell :" to whom Macarius said, as he well might, “ Avoid, Satan." I know not whether more to blame their Saint, if they report him right, for too much charity, or for too little grace and wit, in so presumptuous an endeavour. The very treaty was in him blasphemous; the answer, no other than could be expected from a spirit, obdured in malice, and des perate in that obduredness.

The truth is, he hates us, because he hated God first; and, like the enraged panther, tears the picture, because he cannot reach the person whom it represents.

He, that made him an angel, tells us what he is; since he made himself a devil, even a manslayer from the beginning. His very trade is murder and destruction; and his executions unweariable: he goes about continually, like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

It is no other, than a marvellous mystery of divine state, too deep for the shallowness of human souls to reach into, that God could, with one word of his powerful command, destroy and dis. solve all the powers of hell; yet he knows it best not to do it: only we know he hath a justice to glorify, as well as a mercy; and, that he knows how to fetch more honour to himself, by drawing good out of evil, than by the amotion and prevention of evil. Glory be to that infinite power, justice, mercy, providence, that contrives all things, both in heaven and earth, and hell, to the highest advantage of his own Blessed Name, and to the greatest beneħt of his elect.

SECT. V. THE VARIETY OF THE SPIRITUAL ASSAULTS OF EVIL SPIRITS. Out of this bellish nixture of Power, Skill, Malice, do proceed all the deadly Machinations of these Infernal Spirits; which have enlarged their kingdom, and furnished the pit of destruction.

It was a great word of the Chosen Vessel, We are not ignorant of Satan's devices ; 2 Cor. ii. 11. ( Blessed Apostle, thy illuminated soul, which saw the height of heaven, might also see the depth of hell: our weak eyes are not able to pierce so low.

That Satan is full of crafty devices, we know too well; but, what those devices are, is beyond our reach. Alas, we know not the secret projects of silly men, like ourselves : yea, who knows the crooked windings of his own heart? much less can we hope to attain unto the understanding of these infernal plots and stratagems: such knowledge is too wonderful for us : our clew hath not line enough to fathom these depths of Satan.

But, though we be not able possibly to descry those infinite and hidden particularities of diabolical art and cunning; yet our woeful experience, and observation, hath taught us some general heads of these mischievous practices: divers whereof I am not unwilling to learn and borrow of that great Master of Meditation, Gerson *, the

* Gerson, de Variis Diaboli Tentationibus.

learned Chancellor of Paris, a man singularly acquainted with temptations.

One while, therefore, that Evil One lays before us the incommodities, dangers, wants, difficulties of our callings; to dishearten us, and draw us to impatience and listlessness; and, rather than fail, will make piety a colour of laziness: another while, he spurs up our diligence in our worldly vocation; to withdraw us from holy duties.

One while, he hides his head, and refrains from tempting ; that we may think ourselves secure, and slacken our care of defence : another while, he seems to yield; that he may leave us proud of the victory.

One while, he tills us on, to our overhard task of austere mortification; that he may tire our piety, and so stupefy us with a heartless melancholy: another while, he takes us off from any higher exercises of virtue, as superfluous.

One while, he turns and fixes our eyes upon other men's sins; that we may not take view of our own : another while, he amplifies the worth and actions of others, to breed in us either envy or de jection.

One while, he humours our zeal, in all other virtuous proceedings; for but the colour of one secret vice: another while, he lets us loose to all uncontrolled viciousness; so as we be content to make love to some one virtue.

One while, under the pretence of discretion, he discourages us from good, if any way dangerous, enterprizes : another while, he is apt to put us upon bold hazards, with the contempt of fear or wit; that we may be guilty of our own miscarriage.

One while, he works suspicion in love, and suggests mis-constructions of well-meant words or actions; to cause heart-burning between dear friends : another while, under a pretence of favour, he kills the soul with flattery.

One while, he stirs up our charity to the public performance of some beneficial works; only to win us to vain-glory : another while, he moves us, for avoiding the suspicion or censure of singularity, to fashion ourselves to the vicious guises of our sociable neighbours.

One while, he persuades us to rest in the outward act done, as meritoriously acceptable: another while, under a colour of humi. lity, he dissuades us from those good duties, whereby we might be exemplary to others.

One while, he heartens us in evil-gettings; under pretence of the opportunity of liberal alms-giving: another while, he closes our hands, in a rigorous forbearance of needful mercy ; under a fair colour of justice.

One while, he incites us, under a pretence of zeal, to violate charity, in unjust censures and violent executions : another while, under pretence of mercy, to bear with gross sins.

One while, he stirs us up, under a colour of charitable caution, to wound our neighbour with a secret detraction : another while,

out of carnal affections, he would make us the panders of others' vices.

One while, he sets on the tongue to an inordinate motion ; that many words may let fall some sin: another while, he restrains it in a sullen silence; out of an affectation of a commendable modesty.

One while, out of a pretended honest desire to know some secret and useful truth, he hooks a man into a busy curiosity, and unawares entangles the heart in unclean affections : another while, he brooks many a sin, with only the bashfulness of enquiry.

One while, he injects such pleasing thoughts of fleshly delights, as may at the first seem safe and inoffensive; which, by a delayed entertainment, prove dangerous and inflaming: another while, he overlays the heart with such swarms of obscene suggestions, that, when it should be taken up with holy devotion, it hath work enough to repel and answer those sinful importunities.

One while, he moves us to an ungrounded confidence in God, for a condescent or deliverance; that, upon our disappointment, he may work us to impatience; or, upon our prevailing, to a proud and over-weening opinion of our mistaken faith : another while, he casts into us glances of distrust, where we have sure ground of belief.

One while, he throws many needless scruples into the conscience ; for a causeless perplexing of it, afrighting it even from lawful actions : another while, he labours so to widen the conscience, that even gross sins inay pass down unfelt.

One while, he will seem friendly in suggesting advice to listen unto good counsel, which yet he more strongly keeps us off from taking; for a further obduration : another while, he moves us to slight all the good advice of others, out of a persuasion of our own self-sufficiency; that we may be sure to fall into evil.

One while, he smooths us up in the good opinion of our own gracious disposition, that we may rest in our measure: another while, he beats us down with a disparagement of our true graces ; that we may be heartless and unthankful.

One while, he feeds us with a sweet contentment, in a colourable devotion; that we may not care to work our hearts to a solid piety: another while, he endeavours to freeze up our hearts, with a dulness and sadness of spirit, in our holy services; that they may prove irksome, and we negligent.

One while, he injects lawful, but unseasonable motions of requi. site employments; to cast off our minds from due intention in prayers, hearing, meditation : another while, he is content we should over-weary ourselves with holy tasks; that they may grow tediously distasteful.

One while, he woos a man, to glut himself with some pleasurable sin ; upon pretence that this satiety may breed a loathing of that whereof he surfeits : another wbile, he makes this spiritual Grunkenness but an occasion of further thirst.

One while, he suggests to a man the duty he owes to the mains

« PreviousContinue »