aA
aA
aA
aA
aA
aA
ANF04. Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second
« Prev On the Opposing Powers. Next »

Chapter II.—On the Opposing Powers.

1.  We have now to notice, agreeably to the statements of Scripture, how the opposing powers, or the devil himself, contends with the human race, inciting and instigating men to sin.  And in the first place, in the book of Genesis,25232523    Gen. iii. the serpent is described as having seduced Eve; regarding whom, in the work entitled The Ascension of Moses25242524    This apocryphal work, entitled in Hebrew פטירת מִשה, and in Greek ᾽Ανάληψις, or ᾽Ανάβασις Μωυσέως, is mentioned by several ancient writers; e.g., by Athanasius, in his Synopsis Sacræ Scripturæ; Nicephorus Constantinopolitanus in his Stichometria, appended to the Chronicon of Eusebius (where he says the ᾽Ανάληψις contained 1400 verses), in the Acts of the Council of Nice, etc., etc. (Ruæus). (a little treatise, of which the Apostle Jude makes mention in his Epistle), the archangel Michael, when disputing with the devil regarding the body of Moses, says that the serpent, being inspired by the devil, was the cause of Adam and Eve’s transgression.  This also is made a subject of inquiry by some, viz., who the angel was that, speaking from heaven to Abraham, said, “Now I know that thou fearest God, and on my account hast not spared thy beloved son, whom thou lovedst.”25252525    Gen. xxii. 12.  The reading in the text is according to the Septuagint and Vulgate, with the exception of the words “quem dilexisti,” which are an insertion.  For he is manifestly described as an angel who said that he knew then that Abraham feared God, and had not spared his beloved son, as the Scripture declares, although he did not say that it was on account of God that Abraham had done this, but on his, that is, the speaker’s account.  We must also ascertain who that is of whom it is stated in the book of Exodus that he wished to slay Moses, because he was taking his departure for Egypt;25262526    Cf. Ex. iv. 24–26. and afterwards, also, who he is that is called the destroying25272527    Ex. xii. 23, exterminator.  Percussor, Vulgate; ὀλοθρεύων, Sept. angel, as well as he who in the book of Leviticus is called Apopompæus, i.e., Averter, regarding whom Scripture says, “One lot for the Lord, and one lot for Apopompæus, i.e., the Averter.”25282528    Lev. xvi. 8᾽Αποπομπαῖος is the reading of the Sept., “Caper emissarius” of the Vulgate, עֲזָאזל of the Masoretic text.  Cf. Fürst and Gesenius s.v.  Rufinus translates Apopompæus by “transmissor.”  In the first book of Kings, also, an evil spirit is said to strangle25292529    1 Sam. xviii. 10, effocare.  Septuagint has ἔπεσε:  Vulgate, “invasit;” the Masoretic text תִּצְלַח. Saul; and in the third book, Micaiah the prophet says, “I saw the Lord of Israel sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him, on His right hand and on His left.  And the Lord said, Who will deceive Achab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?  And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.  And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will deceive him.  And the Lord said to him, Wherewith?  And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.  And He said, Thou shalt deceive him, and prevail also:  go forth, and do so quickly.  And now therefore the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all thy prophets:  the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.”25302530    1 Kings xxii. 19–23.  Now by this last quotation it is clearly shown that a certain spirit, from his own (free) will and choice, elected to deceive (Achab), and to work a lie, in order that the Lord might mislead the king to his death, for he deserved to suffer.  In the first book of Chronicles also it is said, “The devil, Satan, stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number the people.”25312531    1 Chron. xxi. 1.  In the Psalms, moreover, an evil angel is said to harass25322532    Atterere. certain persons.  In the book of Ecclesiastes, too, Solomon says, “If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for soundness will restrain many transgressions.”25332533    Eccles. x. 4, “For yielding pacifieth great offences.”  The words in the text are, “Quoniam sanitas compescet multa peccata.”  The Vulgate has, “Curatio faciet cessare peccata maxima.”  The Septuagint reads, Ιαμα καταπαύσει ἁμαρτιας μεγάλας:  while the Masoretic text has מֵרְפֵּא (curatio).  In Zechariah25342534    Zech. iii. 1. we read that the devil stood on the right hand of Joshua, and resisted him.  Isaiah says that the sword of the Lord arises against the dragon, the crooked25352535    Perversum. serpent.25362536    Isa. xxvii. 1.  And what shall I say of Ezekiel, who in his second vision prophesies most unmistakeably to the prince of Tyre regarding an opposing power, and who says also that the dragon dwells in the rivers of Egypt?25372537    Ezek. xxviii. 12 sq.  Nay, with what else are the contents of the whole work which is written regarding Job occupied, save with the (doings) of the devil, who asks that power may be given him over all that Job possesses, and over his sons, and even over his person?  And yet the devil is defeated through the patience of Job.  In that book the Lord has by His answers imparted much information regarding the power of that dragon which opposes us.  Such, meanwhile, are the statements made in the Old Testament, so far as we can at present recall them, on the subject of hostile powers being either named in Scripture, or being said to oppose the human race, and to be afterwards subjected to punishment.

Let us now look also to the New Testament, where Satan approaches the Saviour, and tempts Him:  wherein also it is stated that evil spirits and unclean demons, which had taken possession of very many, were expelled by the Saviour from the bodies of the sufferers, who are said also to be made free by Him.  Even Judas, too, when the devil had already put it in his heart to betray Christ, afterwards received Satan wholly into him; for it is written, that after the sop “Satan entered into him.”25382538    Cf. John xiii. 27.  And the Apostle Paul teaches us that we ought not to give place to the devil; but “put on,” he says, “the armour of God, that ye may be able to resist the wiles of the devil:”25392539    Eph. vi. 13.  pointing out that the saints have to “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”25402540    Eph. vi. 12.  Nay, he says that the Saviour even was crucified by the princes of this world, who shall come to nought,25412541    Cf. 1 Cor. ii. 6. whose wisdom also, he says, he does not speak.  By all this, therefore, holy Scripture teaches us that there are certain invisible enemies that fight against us, and against whom it commands us to arm ourselves.  Whence, also, the more simple among the believers in the Lord Christ are of opinion, that all the sins which men have committed are caused by the persistent efforts of these opposing powers exerted upon the minds of sinners, because in that invisible struggle these powers are found to be superior (to man).  For if, for example, there were no devil, no single human being25422542    Nemo hominum omnino. would go astray.

2.  We, however, who see the reason (of the thing) more clearly, do not hold this opinion, taking into account those (sins) which manifestly originate as a necessary consequence of our bodily constitution.25432543    Ex corporali necessitate descendunt.  Must we indeed suppose that the devil is the cause of our feeling hunger or thirst?  Nobody, I think, will venture to maintain that.  If, then, he is not the cause of our feeling hunger and thirst, wherein lies the difference when each individual has attained the age of puberty, and that period has called forth the incentives of the natural heat?  It will undoubtedly follow, that as the devil is not the cause of our feeling hunger and thirst, so neither is he the cause of that appetency which naturally arises at the time of maturity, viz., the desire of sexual intercourse.  Now it is certain that this cause is not always so set in motion by the devil that we should be obliged to suppose that bodies would nor possess a desire for intercourse of that kind if the devil did not exist.  Let us consider, in the next place, if, as we have already shown, food is desired by human beings, not from a suggestion of the devil, but by a kind of natural instinct, whether, if there were no devil, it were possible for human experience to exhibit such restraint in partaking of food as never to exceed the proper limits; i.e., that no one would either take otherwise than the case required, or more than reason would allow; and so it would result that men, observing due measure and moderation in the matter of eating, would never go wrong.  I do not think, indeed, that so great moderation could be observed by men (even if there were no instigation by the devil inciting thereto), as that no individual, in partaking of food, would go beyond due limits and restraint, until he had learned to do so from long usage and experience.  What, then, is the state of the case?  In the matter of eating and drinking it was possible for us to go wrong, even without any incitement from the devil, if we should happen to be either less temperate or less careful (than we ought); and are we to suppose, then, in our appetite for sexual intercourse, or in the restraint of our natural desires, our condition is not something similar?25442544    Quod non simile aliquid pateremur?  I am of opinion, indeed, that the same course of reasoning must be understood to apply to other natural movements as those of covetousness, or of anger, or of sorrow, or of all those generally which through the vice of intemperance exceed the natural bounds of moderation.  There are therefore manifest reasons for holding the opinion, that as in good things the human will25452545    Propositum. is of itself weak to accomplish any good (for it is by divine help that it is brought to perfection in everything); so also, in things of an opposite nature we receive certain initial elements, and, as it were, seeds of sins, from those things which we use agreeably to nature;25462546    Quæ in usu naturaliter habentur. but when we have indulged them beyond what is proper, and have not resisted the first movements to intemperance, then the hostile power, seizing the occasion of this first transgression, incites and presses us hard in every way, seeking to extend our sins over a wider field, and furnishing us human beings with occasions and beginnings of sins, which these hostile powers spread far and wide, and, if possible, beyond all limits.  Thus, when men at first for a little desire money, covetousness begins to grow as the passion increases, and finally the fall into avarice takes place.  And after this, when blindness of mind has succeeded passion, and the hostile powers, by their suggestions, hurry on the mind, money is now no longer desired, but stolen, and acquired by force, or even by shedding human blood.  Finally, a confirmatory evidence of the fact that vices of such enormity proceed from demons, may be easily seen in this, that those individuals who are oppressed either by immoderate love, or incontrollable anger, or excessive sorrow, do not suffer less than those who are bodily vexed by devils.  For it is recorded in certain histories, that some have fallen into madness from a state of love, others from a state of anger, not a few from a state of sorrow, and even from one of excessive joy; which results, I think, from this, that those opposing powers, i.e., those demons, having gained a lodgment in their minds which has been already laid open to them by intemperance, have taken complete possession of their sensitive nature,25472547    Sensum eorum penitus possederint. especially when no feeling of the glory of virtue has aroused them to resistance.

3.  That there are certain sins, however, which do not proceed from the opposing powers, but take their beginnings from the natural movements of the body, is manifestly declared by the Apostle Paul in the passage:  “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh:  and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”25482548    Gal. v. 17.  If, then, the flesh lust against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, we have occasionally to wrestle against flesh and blood, i.e., as being men, and walking according to the flesh, and not capable of being tempted by greater than human temptations; since it is said of us, “There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man:  but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.”25492549    1 Cor. x. 13.  For as the presidents of the public games do not allow the competitors to enter the lists indiscriminately or fortuitously, but after a careful examination, pairing in a most impartial consideration either of size or age, this individual with that—boys, e.g., with boys, men with men, who are nearly related to each other either in age or strength; so also must we understand the procedure of divine providence, which arranges on most impartial principles all who descend into the struggles of this human life, according to the nature of each individual’s power, which is known only to Him who alone beholds the hearts of men:  so that one individual fights against one temptation of the flesh,25502550    Carnem talem. another against a second; one is exposed to its influence for so long a period of time, another only for so long; one is tempted by the flesh to this or that indulgence, another to one of a different kind; one has to resist this or that hostile power, another has to combat two or three at the same time; or at one time this hostile influence, at another that; at some particular date having to resist one enemy, and at another a different one; being, after the performance of certain acts, exposed to one set of enemies, after others to a second.  And observe whether some such state of things be not indicated by the language of the apostle:  “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what ye are able,”25512551    1 Cor. x. 13. i.e., each one is tempted in proportion to the amount of his strength or power of resistance.25522552    Pro virtutis suæ quantitate, vel possibilitate.  Now, although we have said that it is by the just judgment of God that every one is tempted according to the amount of his strength, we are not therefore to suppose that he who is tempted ought by all means to prove victorious in the struggle; in like manner as he who contends in the lists, although paired with his adversary on a just principle of arrangement, will nevertheless not necessarily prove conqueror.  But unless the powers of the combatants are equal, the prize of the victor will not be justly won; nor will blame justly attach to the vanquished, because He allows us indeed to be tempted, but not “beyond what we are able:”  for it is in proportion to our strength that we are tempted; and it is not written that, in temptation, He will make also a way to escape so as that we should bear it, but a way to escape so as that we should be able to bear it.25532553    Nec tamen scriptum est, quia faciet in tentatione etiam exitum sustinendi, sed exitum ut sustinere possimus.  But it depends upon ourselves to use either with energy or feebleness this power which He has given us.  For there is no doubt that under every temptation we have a power of endurance, if we employ properly the strength that is granted us.  But it is not the same thing to possess the power of conquering and to be victorious, as the apostle himself has shown in very cautious language, saying, “God will make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it,”25542554    1 Cor. x. 13. not that you will bear it.  For many do not sustain temptation, but are overcome by it.  Now God enables us not to sustain (temptation), (otherwise there would appear to be no struggle), but to have the power of sustaining it.25552555    Ut sustinere possimus.  But this power which is given us to enable us to conquer may be used, according to our faculty of free-will, either in a diligent manner, and then we prove victorious, or in a slothful manner, and then we are defeated.  For if such a power were wholly given us as that we must by all means prove victorious, and never be defeated, what further reason for a struggle could remain to him who cannot be overcome?  Or what merit is there in a victory, where the power of successful resistance25562556    Repugnandi vincendique. is taken away?  But if the possibility of conquering be equally conferred on us all, and if it be in our own power how to use this possibility, i.e., either diligently or slothfully, then will the vanquished be justly censured, and the victor be deservedly lauded.  Now from these points which we have discussed to the best of our power, it is, I think, clearly evident that there are certain transgressions which we by no means commit under the pressure of malignant powers; while there are others, again, to which we are incited by instigation on their part to excessive and immoderate indulgence.  Whence it follows that we have to inquire how those opposing powers produce these incitements within us.

4.  With respect to the thoughts which proceed from our heart, or the recollection of things which we have done, or the contemplation of any things or causes whatever, we find that they sometimes proceed from ourselves, and sometimes are originated by the opposing powers; not seldom also are they suggested by God, or by the holy angels.  Now such a statement will perhaps appear incredible,25572557    Fabulosum. unless it be confirmed by the testimony of holy Scripture.  That, then, thoughts arise within ourselves, David testifies in the Psalms, saying, “The thought of a man will make confession to Thee, and the rest of the thought shall observe to Thee a festival day.”25582558    Ps. lxxvi. 10.  Such is the reading of the Vulgate and of the Septuagint.  The authorized version follows the Masoretic text.  That this, however, is also brought about by the opposing powers, is shown by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes in the following manner:  “If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for soundness restrains great offences.”25592559    Eccles. x. 4; cf. note 8, p. 329.  The Apostle Paul also will bear testimony to the same point in the words:  “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of Christ.”25602560    2 Cor. x. 5.  That it is an effect due to God, nevertheless, is declared by David, when he says in the Psalms, “Blessed is the man whose help is in Thee, O Lord, Thy ascents (are) in his heart.”25612561    Ps. lxxxiv. 5.  The words in the text are:  Beatus vir, cujus est susceptio apud te, Domine, adscensus in corde ejus.  The Vulgate reads:  Beatus vir, cujus est auxilium abs te:  ascensiones in corde suo disposuit.  The Septuagint the same.  The Masoretic text has מְסִלּוֹת (“festival march or procession:”  Furst).  Probably the Septuagint and Vulgate had מַעֲלוֹת before them, the similarity between Samech and Ayin accounting for the error in transcription.  And the apostle says that “God put it into the heart of Titus.”25622562    2 Cor. viii. 16.  That certain thoughts are suggested to men’s hearts either by good or evil angels, is shown both by the angel that accompanied Tobias,25632563    [See book of Tobit, chaps. v. vi.  S.] and by the language of the prophet, where he says, “And the angel who spoke in me answered.”25642564    Zech. i. 14.  The Vulgate, Septuagint, and Masoretic text all have “in me,” although the Authorized Version reads “with me.”  The book of the Shepherd25652565    Shepherd of Hermas, Command. vi. 2.  See vol. ii. p. 24. declares the same, saying that each individual is attended by two angels; that whenever good thoughts arise in our hearts, they are suggested by the good angel; but when of a contrary kind, they are the instigation of the evil angel.  The same is declared by Barnabas in his Epistle,25662566    Epistle of Barnabas.  See vol. i. pp. 148, 149. where he says there are two ways, one of light and one of darkness, over which he asserts that certain angels are placed;—the angels of God over the way of light, the angels of Satan over the way of darkness.  We are not, however, to imagine that any other result follows from what is suggested to our heart, whether good or bad, save a (mental) commotion only, and an incitement instigating us either to good or evil.  For it is quite within our reach, when a malignant power has begun to incite us to evil, to cast away from us the wicked suggestions, and to resist the vile inducements, and to do nothing that is at all deserving of blame.  And, on the other hand, it is possible, when a divine power calls us to better things, not to obey the call; our freedom of will being preserved to us in either case.  We said, indeed, in the foregoing pages, that certain recollections of good or evil actions were suggested to us either by the act of divine providence or by the opposing powers, as is shown in the book of Esther, when Artaxerxes had not remembered the services of that just man Mordecai, but, when wearied out with his nightly vigils, had it put into his mind by God to require that the annals of his great deeds should be read to him; whereon, being reminded of the benefits received from Mordecai, he ordered his enemy Haman to be hanged, but splendid honours to be conferred on him, and impunity from the threatened danger to be granted to the whole of the holy nation.  On the other hand, however, we must suppose that it was through the hostile influence of the devil that the suggestion was introduced into the minds of the high priests and the scribes which they made to Pilate, when they came and said, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.”25672567    Matt. xxvii. 63.  The design of Judas, also, respecting the betrayal of our Lord and Saviour, did not originate in the wickedness of his mind alone.  For Scripture testifies that the “devil had already put it into his heart to betray Him.”25682568    John xiii. 2.  And therefore Solomon rightly commanded, saying, “Keep thy heart with all diligence.”25692569    Prov. iv. 23.  And the Apostle Paul warns us:  “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest perhaps we should let them slip.”25702570    Heb. ii. 1.  And when he says, “Neither give place to the devil,”25712571    Eph. iv. 27. he shows by that injunction that it is through certain acts, or a kind of mental slothfulness, that room is made for the devil, so that, if he once enter our heart, he will either gain possession of us, or at least will pollute the soul, if he has not obtained the entire mastery over it, by casting on us his fiery darts; and by these we are sometimes deeply wounded, and sometimes only set on fire.  Seldom indeed, and only in a few instances, are these fiery darts quenched, so as not to find a place where they may wound, i.e., when one is covered by the strong and mighty shield of faith.  The declaration, indeed, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,”25722572    Eph. vi. 12. must be so understood as if “we” meant, “I Paul, and you Ephesians, and all who have not to wrestle against flesh and blood:”  for such have to struggle against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, not like the Corinthians, whose struggle was as yet against flesh and blood, and who had been overtaken by no temptation but such as is common to man.

5.  We are not, however, to suppose that each individual has to contend against all these (adversaries).  For it is impossible for any man, although he were a saint, to carry on a contest against all of them at the same time.  If that indeed were by any means to be the case, as it is certainly impossible it should be so, human nature could not possibly bear it without undergoing entire destruction.25732573    Sine maxima subversione sui.  But as, for example, if fifty soldiers were to say that they were about to engage with fifty others, they would not be understood to mean that one of them had to contend against the whole fifty, but each one would rightly say that “our battle was against fifty,” all against all; so also this is to be understood as the apostle’s meaning, that all the athletes and soldiers of Christ have to wrestle and struggle against all the adversaries enumerated,—the struggle having, indeed, to be maintained against all, but by single individuals either with individual powers, or at least in such manner as shall be determined by God, who is the just president of the struggle.  For I am of opinion that there is a certain limit to the powers of human nature, although there may be a Paul, of whom it is said, “He is a chosen vessel unto Me;”25742574    Acts ix. 15. or a Peter, against whom the gates of hell do not prevail; or a Moses, the friend of God:  yet not one of them could sustain, without destruction to himself,25752575    Sine aliquâ pernicie sui. the whole simultaneous assault of these opposing powers, unless indeed the might of Him alone were to work in him, who said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”25762576    John xvi. 33.  And therefore Paul exclaims with confidence, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me;”25772577    Phil. iv. 13. and again, “I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”25782578    1 Cor. xv. 10.  On account, then, of this power, which certainly is not of human origin operating and speaking in him, Paul could say, “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor power, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”25792579    Rom. viii. 38, 39.  The word “virtus,” δύναμις, occurring in the text, is not found in the text. recept.  Tischendorf reads Δύναμεις in loco (edit. 7).  So also Codex Siniaticus.  For I do not think that human nature can alone of itself maintain a contest with angels, and with the powers of the height and of the abyss,25802580    Excelsa et profunda. and with any other creature; but when it feels the presence of the Lord dwelling within it, confidence in the divine help will lead it to say, “The Lord is my light, and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the protector of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When the enemies draw near to me, to eat my flesh, my enemies who trouble me, they stumbled and fell.  Though an host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in Him shall I be confident.”25812581    Ps. xxvii. 1–3.  From which I infer that a man perhaps would never be able of himself to vanquish an opposing power, unless he had the benefit of divine assistance.  Hence, also, the angel is said to have wrestled with Jacob.  Here, however, I understand the writer to mean, that it was not the same thing for the angel to have wrestled with Jacob, and to have wrestled against him; but the angel that wrestles with him is he who was present with him in order to secure his safety, who, after knowing also his moral progress, gave him in addition the name of Israel, i.e., he is with him in the struggle, and assists him in the contest; seeing there was undoubtedly another angel against whom he contended, and against whom he had to carry on a contest.  Finally, Paul has not said that we wrestle with princes, or with powers, but against principalities and powers.  And hence, although Jacob wrestled, it was unquestionably against some one of those powers which, Paul declares, resist and contend with the human race, and especially with the saints.  And therefore at last the Scripture says of him that “he wrestled with the angel, and had power with God,” so that the struggle is supported by help of the angel, but the prize of success conducts the conqueror to God.

6.  Nor are we, indeed, to suppose that struggles of this kind are carried on by the exercise of bodily strength, and of the arts of the wrestling school;25822582    Palæstricæ artis exercitiis. but spirit contends with spirit, according to the declaration of Paul, that our struggle is against principalities, and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world.  Nay, the following is to be understood as the nature of the struggles; when, e.g., losses and dangers befall us, or calumnies and false accusations are brought against us, it not being the object of the hostile powers that we should suffer these (trials) only, but that by means of them we should be driven either to excess of anger or sorrow, or to the last pitch of despair; or at least, which is a greater sin, should be forced, when fatigued and overcome by any annoyances, to make complaints against God, as one who does not administer human life justly and equitably; the consequence of which is, that our faith may be weakened, or our hopes disappointed, or we may be compelled to give up the truth of our opinions, or be led to entertain irreligious sentiments regarding God.  For some such things are written regarding Job, after the devil had requested God that power should be given him over his goods.  By which also we are taught, that it is not by any accidental attacks that we are assailed, whenever we are visited with any such loss of property, nor that it is owing to chance when one of us is taken prisoner, or when the dwellings in which those who are dear to us are crushed to death, fall in ruins; for, with respect to all these occurrences, every believer ought to say, “Thou couldst have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above.”25832583    John xix. 11.  For observe that the house of Job did not fall upon his sons until the devil had first received power against them; nor would the horsemen have made an irruption in three bands,25842584    Tribus ordinibus. to carry away his camels or his oxen, and other cattle, unless they had been instigated by that spirit to whom they had delivered themselves up as the servants of his will.  Nor would that fire, as it seemed to be, or thunderbolt, as it has been considered, have fallen upon the sheep of the patriarch, until the devil had said to God, “Hast Thou not made a hedge about all that is without and within his house and around all the rest of his property?  But now put forth Thy hand, and touch all that he hath, (and see) if he do not renounce Thee to Thy face.”25852585    Cf. Job i. 10, 11.  “Nisi in faciem benedixerit tibi.”  The Hebrew verb בָּרַוִ has the double signification of “blessing” and “cursing.”  Cf. Davidson’s Commentary on Job, p. 7.  Septuag. εὐλογήσει.

7.  The result of all the foregoing remarks is to show, that all the occurrences in the world which are considered to be of an intermediate kind, whether they be mournful or otherwise are brought about, not indeed by God, and yet not without Him; while He not only does not prevent those wicked and opposing powers that are desirous to bring about these things (from accomplishing their purpose), but even permits them to do so, although only on certain occasions and to certain individuals, as is said with respect to Job himself, that for a certain time he was made to fall under the power of others, and to have his house plundered by unjust persons.  And therefore holy Scripture teaches us to receive all that happens as sent by God, knowing that without Him no event occurs.  For how can we doubt that such is the case, viz., that nothing comes to man without (the will of) God, when our Lord and Saviour declares, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father who is in heaven.”25862586    Matt. x. 29.  But the necessity of the case has drawn us away in a lengthened digression on the subject of the struggle waged by the hostile powers against men, and of those sadder events which happen to human life, i.e., its temptations—according to the declaration of Job, “Is not the whole life of man upon the earth a temptation?”25872587    Cf. Job vii. 1.  The Septuagint reads, πότερον οὐχὶ πειρατήριον, etc.; the Vulgate, “militia,” the Masoretic text has צָבָא.  Cf. Davidson’s Commentary on Job, in loc.—in order that the manner of their occurrence, and the spirit in which we should regard them, might be clearly shown.  Let us notice next, how men fall away into the sin of false knowledge, or with what object the opposing powers are wont to stir up conflict with us regarding such things.


« Prev On the Opposing Powers. Next »

Advertisements


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |