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evil principle, which was afterwards personified and deified, Essenus thus writes p. 125. “Plutarch observes, that the doctrine of two contrary principles prevailed in all countries. The reason is obvious; evil abounded in every age and nation: and as men could not reconcile the notion of natural and moral evil with an all-wise and benevolent author, it was natural for them to reason in the following manner: 'Since nothing can come into being without a cause; and since that which is perfectly good cannot be the cause of evil, then there must exist a distinct principle in nature, as well for the production of evil as of that which is good.' In this manner argued the Persian sages; and Plutarch seems to have considered the argument conclusive. This doctrine was introduced into Judea before the age of Isaiah, who, as we have seen, thus sets it aside: "I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. xlv. 7."
3d. It may also be objected, "you have said, that the doctrine of an evil principle deified, was known as early as the days of Job, which was about the time of Moses: but is not this too early a date for the existence of such an opinion among men, and is there any proof that it existed at such a date?" Some notice was taken of this objection, Section 3. and I shall here add a few remarks in reply to it. It is then certain, that the worship of idols prevailed in the world before the days of Moses. If the question is examined, did the worship of idols or that of an evil principle first prevail? we think the evidence will be in favor of the latter. But, we have found it impossible to ascertain dates as to the first origin of either, both being lost in antiquity, where no dates are given. Essenus quoting from Plutarch, says p. 74. "There are others again, who call the good principle only God, giving the name of Demon to the evil being; in
which number is Zoroaster the Magian, who is said to have lived 5000 years before the Trojan war. Now, this philosopher calls the good principle Oromazes, and the evil one Arimanius; adding, moreover, that as of all sensible beings, the former bears the greatest resemblance to light, so the latter was most like darkness.' § 45, 40.
"The doctrine here stated is undoubtedly very ancient; but the earliness of the period in which Zoroaster is said to have lived is absurd, and must have proceeded from that propensity in which all nations indulged to magnify their own antiquity."
We have then all the evidence which the nature of the case will admit, that the doctrine of an evil principle deified, was known among men in the days of Job. If our orthodox brethren deny this, and can prove that their devil had another or better origin, we respectfully request them to prove it.
Such are the chief objections, which are likely to be made against my views of the devil, excepting such as might be made against any innovation in religious popular opinions. But as these have been stated and answered in my Inquiry into the words Sheol, Hades, &c. to it I refer the reader. In concluding this Section I would merely remark, that many have good reason to object against my views, for if they are true, what a great loss they must sustain in being robbed of their principal topics of preaching and religious conversation. The devil and eternal hell torments are themes on which many delight to dwell. They seem health to their navel and marrow to their bones, and to remove these would be taking away their gods, and what have they more?
CONCLUDING REMARKS, POINTING OUT THE EVILS WHICH HAVE ARISEN FROM THE COMMON OPINIONS ENTERTAIN ED OF THE DEVIL AND SATAN.
It would be an endless task, to detail all the evils which have resulted from the common opinions entertained of the devil. A few only I shall name, and leave the reader to pursue the subject. If it then be true, as I have attempted to show, that no such being as the devil exists, let the reader consider
1st. What a vast number of passages in God's word have been perverted in proof of this doctrine. They are almost innumerable. The texts which have been under our review in this investigation, are but a few of them, for many more, it is well known, are dragged in as collateral proof of it. Is there no evil then in misunderstanding and perverting God's word? No man will say so, who loves it, and trembles at it. It is one of the greatest of all evils, for it has been the fruitful source of many evils which have existed in the world. If this doctrine be false what a great change it produces on the whole face of the Bible.
2d. Let the reader consider the evil effects of this doctrine on mankind. A belief in the common opinions concerning the devil have laid the foundation for almost every other superstition among Christians. Take into view also, what unnecessary and distressing fears the belief of such opinions have given to children, and even persons of riper years. And who can tell the distress which they have given people,
when closing their mortal career. On weak minds, their influence has been such as to drive some to madness, and others to suicide. Most people would dismiss a domestic, if found frightening their children with ghosts and hobgoblins: but these same people, cheerfully pay a man to frighten both them and their children, one day in the week, with the devil. But what an excellent apology have such opinions afforded men for their sins. The devil has been obliged to bear the blame, while men have had all the pleasure of sinning. By such opinions, men's attention has been turned away from the true devil within them, to an invisible, imaginary being, called the devil, without them. While a deceived heart has been drawing them aside from truth and holiness, the doctrine of the devil helps to calm their fears, stupifies their conscience, and emboldens them to repeat their crimes. And why should it not, if it be true, that such a powerful, deceitful being as the devil, is continually influencing them to sin?
3d. The common opinions concerning the devil, are highly dishonorable to the character of God. We have never seen the least attempt made to show how such a being as the devil was for the honor of God's character. On the contrary it is believed, that sin dishonors God, and why not also the devil, the author of sin? And why should these be for his dishonor here, when God is finally to make them redound to his glory in the world to come? But if any man can explain, how the devil can be for the honor of God, either here or hereafter, we should be glad to see it done. How such a being, with such extraordinary powers, with this world for his range of wickedness, and existing forever the enemy of God and the tormenter of men, can be for the honor of Jehovah's character, is beyond all my feeble powers to comprehend. It seems to argue, that God could not, or
would not prevent his existence. That he cannot, or will not curtail his powers, confine him, restore him, or strike him out of existence. This evil, once introduced, is without remedy and without end. It is certainly a poor account of God to tell us, that the glory and honor of his character, is inseparable from the devil and sin, and that the eternal misery of this being, with multitudes of mankind, are to promote the glory of God forever. If this be glory and honor, pray what is dishonor or disgrace?
4th. The common opinions concerning the devil and satan, with others generally held, have tended to land men in downright infidelity. Is it any matter of surprise that men become infidels, when such opinions are presented to them as the religion of Jesus Christ? Is it not rather matter of wonder that all men are not infidels? Cast your eyes round the whole world, and say, if infidelity has not had its hot-bed, in the countries where such absurd and ridiculous opinions have been palmed on the world for religion by interested priests. Neither infidelity, nor idolatry, can be conquered or prevented, but by the truth of God.
5th. Such opinions, mixed with the religion of Jesus Christ, have been in time past, and must be while they are retained, a great hindrance to the universal reception of Christianity in the world. It is a question of no ordinary kind to a reflecting mind, Is the religion of Jesus Christ presented to the heathen in its pure unadulterated state? Or, are we introducing to them a human creed, containing articles derived from Zoroaster and the Grecian philosophy, and only supplanting one system of ignorance, superstition, and cruelty, by establishing another in some respects worse? Viewing the creeds taught the heathen generally, let us see if this is saying any thing but the truth.