Devil Not A Personal Super-Natural Being, But The Scriptural
Personification of Sin In Its Manifestations Among Men, continued
great Satan, or adversary, then, which every man has to fear,
and which is ever inclining him to a course opposed to wisdom
and godliness, is the tendency of the mere animal instincts
to act on their own account. This tendency is the spirit or
inclination of the flesh, which must be vigilantly repressed
for a man to keep out of the way of evil. The truth alone,
which is the utterance and power of the Spirit, will enable
him to do this. If he surrender to the flesh, he walks in
the way of death. "If ye live after the flesh ye shall
die; but if ye, through the spirit, do mortify the deeds of
the body, ye shall live" (Rom. 8v 13).
object of the gospel being sent to the Gentiles by Paul, was
to "turn them from DARKNESS to light, and from
the power of SATAN unto God." Ignorance, or
darkness, is the great power of the adversary lurking within
us; for where a man is ignorant of God's will, the flesh has
a controlling power with him. The Gentiles are alienated from
God, "through the IGNORANCE that is in them"
(Eph. 4v 18). Enlightenment, through the hearing of the
Word, creates a new man within, who, in process of time, kills
the old man "which is corrupt according to the deceitful
lusts" (Eph. 4v 22), or, at least, keeps him under, lest
the new man become a castaway (1 Cor. 9v 27). Introduce the
active, plotting, intelligent fiend of orthodoxy, and the
whole picture is changed and involved in bewildering confusion.
But he cannot be introduced. Our experience forbids.
at the fact; men are prone to evil in proportion to the
relative strength of the animal nature. Some men are naturally
amiable, intellectual, benevolent, and correct; they cannot
be anything else in the circumstances and with the organisation
which they have. Others, again, are naturally coarse, rough,
brutish, thick-headed, low, and selfish, through the power
of ignorance and an inferior organisation, which prevent them
ever ascending to nobility of nature. Jesus recognises this
fact in the parable of the sower. The seed fell into different
kinds of soil. One is styled "good ground."
In this, the seed grew well, and brought forth much fruit.
In his explanation of the parable, Jesus defines the good
ground to be "honest and good heart" (Luke 8v 15).
This is in exact accord with experience. Only a certain class
of mind is influenced by the word of truth. There are people
on whom the preaching of the Word is wasted effort. Jesus
terms such "swine," and says, "Cast not your
pearls before them; give not that which is holy unto dogs."
A much larger result attends the proclamation of the truth
among the English, for instance, than among the Caribs of
South America, or the Zulus of Africa. The soil is better,
both as to quality and culture. Now, in view of this fact
that good and evil, in the moral sense, are determined by
organisation and education, what place is there for the Satan
of orthodox belief, whose influence for evil is reputed to
be of a spiritual order, and whose power is believed to be
exerted on all, without distinction of education, condition,
general explanations will cover all the other instances in
which the word "Satan" is used in the New Testament.
All will be found capable of solution by reading "Satan"
as the adversary, and having regard to the circumstances under
which the word is used. Sometimes "Satan" will be
found a person, sometimes the authorities, sometimes the flesh;
in fact, whatever acts the part of an adversary is, scripturally,
"Satan." "Satan" is never the superhuman
power of popular belief.
must now pass on to consider the word "devil." This
is the word which is more particularly associated, in the
popular mind, with the tradition of a supernatural evil being.
The orthodox believer, giving way to the Bible doctrine of
Satanism herein set forth, is prone to cling to the word "devil"
with the idea that here, at any rate, his darling theory is
safe; that, under the broad shelter of this world-renowned
term of theology, the personality of this arch-rebel of the
universe is secure from the arrows of criticism. We might
summarily dispose of this illusion, by pointing to the fact
that "devil," in many instances is used interchangeably
and along with "Satan," and that therefore, the
two stand or fall together. But as this, though logical, might
not be quite conclusive to the class of minds which these
lectures are intended to reach, we shall investigate this
part of the subject separately, and on its own merits.
then, with regard to the word "devil," Cruden remarks:
"This word comes from the Greek diabolos, which
signifies a calumniator or accuser." Parkhurst
says, "The original word diabolos comes from diabebola,
the perfect tense, ,middle voice of diaballo, which
is compounded of dia, through; and ballo, to
cast; therefore meaning to dart or strike through;
whence, in a figurative sense, it signifies to strike
or stab with an accusation or evil report." Hence,
Parkhurst defines diabolos as a substantive,-to mean
"an accuser, a slanderer," which he illustrates
by referring to I Tim. 3v 11; II Tim. 3v 3; Titus 2v 3 in
all of which, as the reader will perceive by perusing the
passages, it is applied to human beings.
this it will be perceived that the word "devil,"
properly understood, is a general term, and not a proper name.
It is a word that is, and may be, applied in any case where
slander, accusation, or falsehood is exemplified. As Jesus
applied "Satan" to Peter, so he applied "devil"
to Judas: "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of
you is A DEVIL?" (John 6v 70). Judas proved a liar,
a betrayer, a false accuser, and, therefore, a devil. Paul,
in I Tim. 3v 11, tells the wives of deacons not to be devils.
His exhortation, it is true, does not appear in this form
in the English version. The words, as translated, are "Even
so must their wives be grave, not slanderers (diabolous)."
This is a plural inflection of the word translated devil,
and ought to be rendered uniformly with its occurrence elsewhere.
Either this ought to be "devils," or devil elsewhere
ought to be false accuser. The same remark applies
to II Tim.3v 2, 3 "For men shall be... without natural
affection, truce-breakers, false accusers (diaboloi)";
and to Titus 2v 3: "The aged women likewise, that
they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers
applied the term to the persecuting authorities of the Roman
State. He said in his letter, through John, to the church
at Smyrna, "The devil shall cast some of you into
prison" (Rev. 2v 10). The pagan authorities were the
accusers and hunters of the early Christians, bent upon "stabbing
through" and killing to the ground, the whole sect. In
the same book, the power of the world, politically organised
on the sin-basis (introduced under the symbol of a dragon,
having seven heads and ten horns), is styled "that old
serpent, which is the devil, and Satan." In these
instances, the popular construction of the word "devil"
is entirely excluded, and its meaning and use as a general
term are illustrated.
is, however, a wider use of it in the New Testament, which,
while superficially countenancing the orthodox view, is more
directly destructive of that view than even the limited cases
cited. It is that which personifies the great principle which
lies at the bottom of the rupture at present existing between
God and man, as pre-eminently the accuser and striker through
with a dart--the calumniator of God and the destroyer of mankind.
First, let the fact of this personification be demonstrated.
The evidence of it makes a powerful beginning in Heb. 2v 14,
where we read as follows:--
then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he
(Jesus) also himself likewise took part of the same, that
through death he might DESTROY him that had the
power of death, THAT IS, THE DEVIL."
the supposition that the devil here referred to is the orthodox
devil, or a personal devil of any kind, there are four absurdities
on the face of this passage.
the first place, to take on the weakness of flesh and blood
was a strange way of preparing to fight a powerful devil,
who, it would be imagined, would be more successfully encountered
in the panoply of angelic strength, which Paul expressly says
Jesus did not array himself in; for he says, "He took
not on him the nature of angels" (Heb. 2v 16).
the second place it was stranger still that the process of
destroying the devil should be submission to death himself!
One would have thought that to vanquish and destroy the devil,
life inextinguishable, and strength indomitable, would have
been the qualification. Undoubtedly they would have been so,
if, the Bible devil had been the orthodox devil--a personal
the third place, the devil ought now to be dead, or whatever
else is imported by the word "destroyed," for Christ
died nineteen centuries ago, for the purpose of destroying
him by that process. How comes it then, that the devil
is clerically represented to be alive and busier than ever
in the work of hunting immortal souls with gin and snare,
and exporting them to his own grim domain?
the fourth place, what an extraordinary proposition that the
popular devil has the "power of death!" It can only
be received on the supposition that the devil acts as God's
policeman: but this will not square with the Miltonic and
popular view, that God and the devil are sworn enemies, the
latter delighting to thwart the former to the utmost extent
of his power. Who made Adam mortal? Who punishes the infraction
of divine law? It is He who says, "I kill, and
I make alive" (Deut. 32v 39). God, and not the devil,
reigns. God dispenses retribution, and enforces His own law;
not a hostile archangel, presumed to be at eternal enmity
says, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested,
that he might destroy the works of the devil" (I
John 3v 8). Will Jesus effect the purpose of his manifestation?
If so (and. who will deny it?) will he not accomplish the
overturn of all that is done by the Bible devil? Will he not
destroy all his works? If so, it follows, if the Bible devil
is a personal devil, with a blazing hell choke full of damned
souls, that Christ will put out his hell, liberate his wretched
captives, and abolish himself. If the Bible devil is, the
orthodox devil, and human beings are immortal souls, universalism
is undoubtedly Scriptural; for Christ has come to destroy
the devil and all his works: but there is no devil of. the
supernatural order, and there are no immortal souls. The devil
Christ has come to destroy is sin. If anyone doubts this,
let .him reconsider Paul's words quoted above. What did Christ
accomplish in his death? Let the following testimonies answer:--
put away SIN by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb.
died for our sins according to the Scriptures"
(I Cor. 15v 3).
was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised
for our iniquities" (Isa. 53v 5).
own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree"
(1 Pet. 2v 24).
was manifested to take away OUR SINS" (I John 3v 5).
through death, destroyed, or took out of the way, "the
sin of the world ". In this, he destroyed the Bible devil.
He certainly did not destroy the popular devil in his death,
for that devil is supposed to be still at large, but in his
own person, as a representative man, he extinguished the power
of sin by surrendering to its full consequences, and then
escaping by resurrection, through the power of his own holiness,
to live for evermore. This is described as "God sending
His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin,
condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8v 3). Sin in
the flesh, then, is the devil destroyed by Jesus in his death.
This is the devil having the power of death, for it
is sin, and nothing else but sin that causes death to men.
Does anyone doubt this ? Let him read the following testimonies:
one man sin entered into the world, and death BY sin"
(Rom. 5v 12)
man CAME DEATH (I Cor. 15v 21).
wages of sin is DEATH" (Rom. 6v 23). "SIN
hath reigned unto death" (Rom. 5v 21). "SIN...
bringeth forth death" (James 1v 15). "The
sting of death is SIN" (I Cor. 15v 56).
regard to the fact that death was divinely decreed in the
garden of Eden, in consequence of Adam's transgression,
it is easy to understand the language which recognises
and personifies transgression, or sin, as the power or cause
of death. The foregoing statements express the literal truth
metonymically. Actually, death, as the consequence of sin,
is produced, caused or inflicted by God, but since
sin or transgression is the fact or principle that moves
God to inflict it, sin is appropriately put forward as
the first cause in the matter. This is intelligible
to the smallest intellect: but what has a personal devil to
do with it? He is excluded. There is no place for him.
if he be forced into the arrangement, the result is to change
the moral situation, alter the scheme of salvation, and produce
confusion: for if the power of death lies with a personal
power of evil, separate from and independent of man, and not
in man's own sinfulness, then the operations of Christ are
transferred from the arena of moral conflict to that of physical
strife, and the whole scheme of divine interposition through
him is degraded to a level with the Pagan mythologies, in
which gods, good and bad, are represented to be in murderous
physical-force hostility for the accomplishment of their several
ends. God is thus brought down from His position of supremacy,
and placed on a footing with the forces of His own creation.
the objector may say, True, sin is the cause of death; but
who prompts the sin? Is it not here that the devil of popular
belief has his work? Nothing can be more directly met by a
Bible answer:-- "Every man is tempted when he is drawn
away OF HIS OWN LUST, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived,
it bringeth forth sin, and sin, when it is finished,
bringeth forth death" (James 1v 14, 15). This agrees
with a man's own experience of himself; sin originates in
the untrained natural inclinations. These, in the aggregate,
Paul terms "another law in my members, warring against
the law of my mind." Every man is conscious of the existence
of this law, whose impulse, uncontrolled, would drive him
beyond the restraints of wisdom. The world obeyeth this law,
and "lieth in wickedness." It has no experience
of the other law, which is implanted by the truth. "ALL
that is in the world" John defines to be "the lust
of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life"
(I John 2v 16).
a man becomes enlightened in the truth, and is thus made aware
of God's will in reference to the state of his mind and the
nature of his actions, a new law is introduced. This is styled
"the Spirit," because the ideas upon which it is
based have been evolved by the Spirit, through inspired men.
"The words that I speak unto you," says Jesus, "they
are spirit, and they are life" (John 6v 63). Hence
the warfare established in a man's nature by the introduction
of the truth is a warfare of the two principles--the desires
of the flesh and the commands of the Spirit. This is described
by Paul in the following words :-- "The flesh lusteth
against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and
these are contrary the one to the other" (Gal. 5v 17).
"Walk in the Spirit," says he, "and ye shall
not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (verse 16).
He says in another place, "Let not SIN therefore reign
in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts
thereof" (Rom. 6v 12). These principles are brought
to a focus in the following extract from his letter to the
Roman ecclesia :--
they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the
flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of
the Spirit. For to be carnally-minded is death, but to be
spiritually-minded is life and peace. Because the carnal
mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the
law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are
in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh,
but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell
in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he
is none of his... Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not
to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after
the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do
mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many
as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God"
(Rom. 8v 5-9, 12-14).
view of these declarations of Scripture, the suggestion that
the personal devil's work is to suggest sin, has no place.
It is idle, false, and mischievous. It puts a man off his
guard to think he is all right if the devil let him alone.
There is no devil .but his own inclinations, which tend to
illegitimate activity. These are the origin of sin, and sin
is the cause of death. Both together are the devil. "He
that committeth sin is of the devil" (I John 3v
8). But why, it is asked, should such a plain matter be obscured
by personification? No other answer can be given than that
it is one of the Bible's peculiarities to deal in imagery
where the principles involved are too subtle for ready literal
expression. The world, which is merely an aggregation of persons,
is personified: "If ye were of the world, the world would.
love HIS own" (John 15v 19).