...The words "as an angel of light" recur as a refrain throughout the narrative. Many a one will exclaim: "How could a movement which denounces the devil and all his works, and which promotes piety and honors Christ be satanic?" But this ignores the solemn warning of our divine Lord, "They shall deceive, if it were possible, the very elect." A moment's thought might satisfy us that the false could never deceive the elect if it did not simulate all the characteristics of the true: honor paid to Christ, a high tone of spirituality, and a beautiful code of morals.
The very existence of the devil is a subject for jesting with men of the world. And the devil of "the Christian religion" has but little in common with the Satan of Scripture. Yet it is from Scripture alone that we can learn anything about his personality. Mentions of him in the Old Testament are few, but they are as significant as they are explicit. From the first page of Holy Writ to the last he is presented to us a "the deceiver." The story of the fall in Eden is generally misread. Eve was "thoroughly deceived" 1 Timothy 2:14. She was "beguiled" into accepting what he put before her, because it seemed to be in the line of God's purpose. She had misunderstood the words of the divine command and warning by taking them literally. The "tree of knowledge" was given to enable man to raise himself to a higher plane of being, and God would never damn His children for doing that which their own reason told them must be right. Such was Satan's teaching, and it is precisely what is preached in numberless "Christian" pulpits today. The devil did not attack the morals of our first parents, but he undermined and corrupted their faith.
So was it also in his dealings with Job. His effort was to estrange the patriarch from God by making him doubt the divine goodness. The Lord's words in Luke 22:31 seem to throw light on this mysterious narrative. The Revised Version marginal reading gives it, "Satan hath obtained you by asking"; Dean Alford's gloss is, "Hath obtained you--his desire is granted." The disciples were to be given over to the evil one to be tempted and sifted, just as Job had been, but the Lord's intercession and grace protected and restored them.
Certain other Old Testament passages might also deserve notice, such as Zechariah 3, where Satan sought to hinder the services of the high priest. But suffice it here to emphasize that in every case the sphere of his temptations was not morals but what is popularly called "religion."
When we turn to the New Testament I would claim prominence for the eighth chapter of John. "Ye are of your father the devil,": was the Lord's scathing reply to the Jews when, in rejecting His teaching, they fell back upon that figment of apostates, the fatherhood of God. "Ye are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has not stood in the truth because truth is not in him. When he speaketh the lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44).
"A murder from the beginning"--the beginning of what? Not of his own existence, for he was created in perfectness and beauty; nor of the existence of man, for, before the Eden fall, he had already dragged down others in his ruin. His being a murderer connects itself immediately with the truth which he refused, and the lie of which he is the father. These words of our divine Lord give us a glimpse into a past eternity, when, to the heavenly intelligences, the great mystery of God (Colossians 2:2) was first made known--the purpose of the ages, that a firstborn was to be revealed and that "in all things He might have the pre-eminence" (Colossians 1:18).
The greatest of these heavenly beings, whom we now know as Satan, claimed that place, and, rebelling against the divine counsels, he set himself from that hour to thwart them. Thus in was that he devised the ruin of our race. And in view of the promise to Eve, he may possibly have thought that either Cain or Abel was his rival, and so he won Cain over to his side and contrived the death of Able. But it is in the temptation of Christ that he and his lie are fully manifested. He claimed to meet the Lord on more that equal terms. Not one Christian in a thousand realizes the significance of the narrative. Having "led Him up" and given Him that mysterious vision of the kingdoms of the world, the devil said to Him, "To Thee will I give all this authority and the glory of them; for it hath been delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it. If Thou therefore wilt worship me it shall all be Thine: (Luke 4:6-7, RV).
This was not the raving of profanity or madness. It was the bold assertion of a disputed right. Satan claims to be the firstborn, the rightful heir of creation, the true Messiah, and as such he claims the homage of mankind. Men dream of a devil with horns and hoofs, an obscene monster who tempts the depraved to acts of atrocity or shame. But the Satan of Holy Writ "fashions himself into a angel of light," and "his ministers fashion themselves as minister of righteousness: (2 Corinthians 11:14-15, RV). Do angels of light or ministers of righteousness corrupt men's morals, or incite them to commit acts of vice or crime?
Such is the Satan of Scripture, a very different being from the mythical devil of Christendom, who though "omnipresent"--for he is always at the side of every man and woman and child--devotes his powers to making children disobedient and adults vicious. The Satan with whom we have to do is "the old serpent" of Eden, "the power of darkness" of the betrayal and crucifixion of the Son of God--that awful being whose divinely given title is "the god of this world"--not the instigator of its vices and its crimes, but the controller of its religion. Through ignorance of all this, people are deluded into assuming that any man who displays "spiritual power" and is "a minister of righteousness" must be a minister of Christ.
In these solemn days when the Christian dispensation is drawing to a close and the professing church is drifting to its predicted doom, Satan is preparing the way for the supreme delusion of a travesty of the incarnation. For "the man of sin" will be energized by him "with all power and signs and lying wonders" to impersonate the Christ and thus to command the worship of mankind. What wonder is it then if he feigns to honor Christ and bears testimony to His advent!
In common with Christians generally, Mr. Baxter attributes all spiritual power to either God or Satan; demons are altogether ignored. But the Gospels testify to the activity of demons during the ministry of Christ on earth, and the Epistles warn us of a renewal of demoniacal activity in the "latter times," before His return. "All Scripture is God-breathed," but it would seem that sometimes the revelation was made with special definiteness, and this particular warning is prefaced by the words, "the Spirit saith expressly." And it relates not to any new development of moral evil in the world, but to a new apostasy in the professing church, a cult promoted by "seducing spirits" of a highly sensitive spirituality, and a more fastidious morality than Christianity itself will sanction (1 Timothy 4).
The Gospel narrative indicates that some demons were base and filthy spirits that exercised a brutalizing influence upon their victims. But the Lord plainly indicated that these were a class apart ("this kind," Mark 9:29). They were all "unclean spirits," but in Jewish use the word akathartos connoted spiritual defilement. That it did not imply moral pollution is proved by the fact that demoniacs were allowed to frequent the synagogues. And the crowning proof is the fact that the Lord Jesus was charged with having a demon, though not even His most malignant enemies ever accused Him of moral evil. It was only by prayer that these filthy spirits could be cast out, whereas pious demons acknowledged Christ and came out when His disciples commanded them to do so in His name.
The most mysterious fact about these demons was their eagerness to acknowledge the Lord and to pay Him homage. For we read, "Devils came out of many, crying out and saying, Thou art Christ, the Son of God. And He, rebuking them, suffered them not to speak; for they knew that He was Christ" (Luke 4:41). It is an incidental but most striking proof of His deity that while the Jews rejected Him and His own disciples halted in their confession of Him, the demons, under some strange compulsion, gave this clear, bold testimony to His divine character and mission. This was not an isolated incident. We read again that "the unclean spirits, whensoever they beheld Him, fell down before Him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God" (Mark 3:11 RV). The mystery of it all is immensely deepened by reference to 1 John 4:2- 3; and Mr. Baxter tells us that it was the seeming failure of the test there indicated that confirmed Edward Irving and his followers in their delusion. And the record adds, "He charged them much that they should not make Him known." The Lord refused their homage, and it is impossible to believe that, at this time, Satan could have prompted it. Indeed, the facts disprove the figment that demons are mere puppets of Satan and that they act only under his orders. As fallen members of the heavenly hierarchy, they probably differ from one another not only in their capacities but in their idiosyncracies. If the present-day apostasies of spiritualism, Christian Science, and the new theology are winning core converts (from?) Christianity, it is because the demons who inspire them are pure and, in a real sense, both pious and beneficent. No one but a professional sceptic will doubt that the spiritualists have real dealings with the unseen world; but the intelligent Christian will recognize that it is not the dead who appear to them, but demons who impersonate the dead.
The career of H.J. Prince, of the Agapemone, deserves a passing notice in this connection. There lies before me, as I write, a statement from the pen of his relative, the late Me. A.A. Rees of Sunderland, whom I knew personally as a man of sound judgment and a true Christian minister. For five years, at Lampeter College, Prince and he were best friends. And he adds:
"Nor did I ever see or hear of an individual more thoroughly devoted to God than he was during that period....His private life, of which I was a perpetual eyewitness, was in harmony with what he appeared to be in public....He was unusually blessed, both in the edification of saints and the conversion of sinners, long before he entered the public ministry. He was a man of prayer and self-denial; and few were more deeply acquainted with the Scripture."
He then goes on to speak of Prince's fall:
"A book he read about the ministry of the "Holy Spirit" led him to give himself up unreservedly to the "Spirit's" (quotes mine..) guidance. From that time his desires deepened to do the will of God in all things. As he grew in this habit of yielding absolutely to spiritual guidance, the Bible became less and less his study, and he ended by neglecting it altogether. Being thus guided in every detail of his daily life, he no longer needed the written Word, and the total abnegation of his own judgment followed. This complete surrender of mind and will--his entire personality--to what he believed to be the guidance of the Holy Spirit, left him a prey to the terrible delusions in which he was at last engulfed."
It behooves us to profit by these warnings. "Experience keeps a dear school, yet fools will learn in no other." But we are to walk "not as fools, but as wise." And wisdom consists in "understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:15,17). Divine wisdom alone will avail us, for we have to do with beings "greater in power and might" than ourselves.
The only unique element in Irvingism was its personnel. The leaders were of a very different caliber from the men who led in earlier movements of a similar kind. Irving himself was lacking in judgment. But the men who surrounded him--English lawyers, bankers, merchants-- were in every way fitted to command confidence. They were eminent both as men and as Christians. And yet neither their natural shrewdness not their spiritual attainments saved them from becoming the dupes of "seducing spirits."
We are right in judging the Irvingite movement by what we see of it today, but the story of its origin is most solemn, and it is pathetic in the extreme. As we read of the wonderful meetings in which these great and good men poured out their hearts in yearning prayer for Pentecostal blessing; as we read of the deep, deep peace, and the ecstasy of joy, which they experienced when "the power" fell on them, and "great signs and wonders" awed them--gifts of tongues, gifts of prophecy, gifts of healing--we share their aspirations, we emulate their faith, and we long for such experiences. Then when we turn the page to find that all these gifts, which seemed so heavenly, were counterfeits, our first impulse might well be to forsake the path of discipleship and to doubt the faithfulness of God.
But such thoughts as these are evil. It behooves us rather to turn to the Epistle to the Ephesians and to read its concluding exhortations as not one in a hundred of us has ever read them before...
--Sir Robert Anderson
Submitted by Arne Herstad, email firstname.lastname@example.org