then, the demons are the founders and maintainers of idolatry; as the "powers of the air," they afflict mankind with pestilence and famine; as "unclean spirits," they cause disease of mind and body.
The significance of the appearance of Jesus, as the Messiah or Christ, is the reversal of the satanic work, by putting an end to both sin and death. He announces that the kingdom of God is at hand, when the "prince of this world" shall be finally "cast out" (John xii, 31) from the cosmos, as Jesus, during his earthly career, cast him out from individuals. Then will Satan and all his deviltry, along with the wicked whom they have seduced to their destruction, be hurled into the abyss of unquenchable fire—there to endure continual torture, without a hope of winning pardon from the merciful God, their Father; or of moving the glorified Messiah to one more act of pitiful intercession; or even of interrupting, by a momentary sympathy with their wretchedness, the harmonious psalmody of their brother angels and men, eternally lapped in bliss unspeakable.
The straitest Protestant, who refuses to admit the existence of any source of divine truth, except the Bible, will not deny that every point of the pneumatological theory here set forth has ample scriptural warranty: the Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse assert the existence of the devil and his demons and hell, as plainly as they do that of God and his angels and heaven. It is plain that the Messianic and the satanic conceptions of the writers of these books are the obverse and the reverse of the same intellectual coinage. If we turn from Scripture to the traditions of the fathers and the confessions of the churches, it will appear that in this one particular, at any rate, time has brought about no important deviation from primitive belief. From Justin onward, it may often be a fair question whether God, or the devil, occupies a larger share of the attention of the fathers. It is the devil who instigates the Roman authorities to persecute; the gods and goddesses of paganism are devils, and idolatry itself is an invention of Satan; if a saint falls away from grace, it is by the seduction of the demon; if a heresy arises, the devil has suggested it; and some of the fathers go so far as to challenge the pagans to a sort of exorcising match, by way of testing the truth of Christianity. Mediæval Christianity is at one with patristic, on this head. The masses, the clergy, the theologians, and the philosophers alike, live and move and have their being in a world full of demons, in which sorcery and possession are
- Tertullian ("Apolog. adv. Gentes," cap. xxiii) thus challenges the Roman authorities: let them bring a possessed person into the presence of a Christian before their tribunal; and, if the demon does not confess himself to be such, on the order of the Christian, let the Christian be executed out of hand.