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children might feel, who, playing in some spacious garden full of many paths, saw one of their number severely punished for turning down a certain path in which to all appearance there was nothing objectionable.
But any apparent injustice would itself have tended to separate the unfallen angels also from God, and would have made Him appear to be evil in their eyes, so that even conscience in some degree would have approved of their rebellion against Him. To have destroyed Satan at once might, so to speak, have immortalized his influence and rendered it permanent, a destruction of a spirit of evil, and yet its reproduction in other intelligences.
Was it, in fact, possible to have destroyed him at once ? What is the destruction of a spirit ? Scripture tells us that Satan is to be destroyed, but we cannot apply our ideas of physical destruction to spiritual destruction. We cannot say that a spirit may be decomposed like so much matter. There is good reason, however, for believing that visible and material things are types of spiritual things, and if so, we may perhaps obtain some conception of the nature of spiritual destruction from the parallel of physical destruction.
Now, the death of the body is consequent on the separation of the spirit from it, but this does not define the nature of the destruction of the body itself. The loss of sight, speech, hearing, and even feeling, may be conceived as taking place without any loss of vitality, although in such a case the spirit would be in a prison, unable to communicate or perceive, and therefore itself dead to the world around it; or, in addition to this, we might conceive the spirit or mind to be completely idiotic and without intelligence, and yet the body itself, although its existence would be almost vegetable, might be very far from being dead.
When the body, however, itself is dead, it not only ceases to be the means of manifestation, expression, and
perception to the spirit, but all its purely physical actions and functions are also at an end. Even then its destruction is not immediate. It still exists, with at first hardly any perceptible change, but a process of consumption and disintegration has nevertheless set in, which, imperceptible at first, eventually reduces it to à shapeless mass, and its destruction as a body is then complete.
So it may be with the spirit. The spirit lives in action. A motionless mind is unthinkable, and although in sleep some of its faculties may be inactive, yet the activity of the spirit itself is probably as great as ever. If, then, all possibility of action was for ever taken from it, then, although it might exist for a time on memory, yet we may conceive that a spiritual process, parallel to that physical decay which takes place in a dead body, might eventually ensue. Is not something of the nature of this process seen in the madness and idiocy resulting from long confinement and isolation from the outer world, and the consequent diminution of objects for thought ?
Now, just as Christ, who had the Spirit of God without measure, said of Himself, ‘My meat is to do My Father's will,' so the meat and drink of the great Spirit of evil is to do all evil. Christ is 'the Saviour,' as Satan is the destroyer,' and the subjects for the activities of each are the spirits and souls of men. If, then, there were no subjects for the exercise of the activities of the Spirit of evil, all his possibilities of action would cease, and a process of destruction would probably commence, the nature of which we may dimly conceive, both by the analogous disintegration and destruction of a body, when all its functions and activities have ceased, and also by the more direct, but partial parallel of mental decay consequent on isolation from objects of thought.
The Scriptures tell us that the ultimate result of Christ's incarnation and death will be to make an end of sin’ and to bring in everlasting righteousness' (Dan. ix. 24; John i. 29); and when this is the case, and the whole human race are redeemed from iniquity, then the influence of Satan on them will cease, and with that cessation, subjects for the exercise of his malice will cease to exist, and further activity on his part will be im. possible. It may be that when this is the case, and sin, and therefore Satan, have been manifested to be wholly evil, that the latter will in addition be shut up, and cut off from all communication with the redeemed universe of God; and that this, which before would have appeared arbitrary and, as already explained, probably useless, will consummate that death of all his powers which will be the beginning of his punishment and destruction. This process of destruction, while in strict obedience to the essential nature of things, and the necessary result of the final triumph of good, may yet be long and terrible, the mighty mind revolving unceasingly on its memories of a fruitless past in bitterest rage and despair, calling up a picture which the mind shrinks from contemplating, and which may be aptly symbolized by the physical torment of a lake of fire (Rev. xx. 10).
That something of the nature of this spiritual destruction of the Spirit of evil is to take place is implied by the statement that Christ 'through death should destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil' (Heb. i. 14). Death is here stated to be the work of Satan, and Christ speaks of him as a murderer from the beginning' (John ix. 44). The death referred to is evidently not mere physical death, but that spiritual death, or separation from God, which is the cause of all evil, all suffering, and, as we shall point out later, all physical death. Satan's one object has been to separate, or alienate the human race from God, and thus cause them to die spiritually; and this he commenced to do with our first parents, and, possibly before them, with
his fellow-angels, whom he seduced from their allegiance to God; and being thus the originator of death, was a murderer from the beginning.
But when, through the death of Christ, the redemption of the human race is complete, and their recovery to God has been effected, then his power to effect this death or separation from God will be destroyed; and in that destruction he himself will also be destroyed,* and death will be for ever abolished from the creation of God, according as it is written, 'The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death' (1 Cor. xv. 26).
It is true that we can only perceive the nature of these things 'through a glass darkly'; but there is nevertheless ample evidence to show that the Creator is no arbitrary Being creating or even permitting evil in order to enhance His own glory in its overthrow and the punishment of its followers, but a just and righteous God, whose acts are the expression of essential and immutable laws which are, like Him, just, righteous, and necessary, and the very expression of His mind. In short, that in the face of this evidence we are forced to conclude that the things which are could not have been otherwise.
* Whether the word destroyed'implies ultimate annihilation, or only the destruction of Satan as the power of evil, is open to question. The former has been here suggested, but if the passage in Rev. xx. 10 is to ke interpreted literally, bis existence will be eternal. The analogy of things supports the former conclusion, but in either case the fate of Satan and the lost is too terrible to contemplate.
THE CONSTITUTION OF MAN.
In considering the origin of evil in the human race, it is evident that man, as a free agent, was liable, like Satan, to be tempted and to fall, irrespective of any influence from without. Scripture, however, tells us that man was tempted from without by Satan, and the reason of this being permitted may be gathered from the principles already presented.
Moral evil, or sin, being a necessary result of the creation of free agents, and the very recognition of righteousness as good having been shown to depend on the recognition of its contrary as evil, it was impossible, in the very nature of things, for God to create a race of beings perfectly righteous at the first moment of their existence; that is to say, loving righteousness and hating wickedness, before the good of the one and the evil of the other had been fully manifested.
The gradual moral education of all created intelligences was therefore a necessity before they could be delivered from the danger of moral evil, and be made fitting recipients of the highest love of the Creator, and capable of eternal happiness.
Solemn and awful, then, as this absolute necessity of evil is, and full of warning for ever to us and to all created intelligences, yet it is infinitely more satisfactory