Doctrines Of Devils
The devil has some remarkable ways of prosecuting his work of spiritual ruin and death. A favorite method, because a most successful one, is seen in his imitation of the works of God.
Sin is so dreadful a thing that with many it has to be sugar-coated to be taken; or cloaked and disguised to find entrance into the heart or home. Hell is so frightful an abyss that it has to be covered with flowers. The sights of moral ruin are so ghastly and gruesome that people have to be blindfolded in order to be led down into the depths of spiritual degradation.
Men who would not follow a wolf in his own hide and hair, are willing to be led by one in sheep’s clothing. And there are multitudes whose main objection to the devil seems to be his cloven foot and rattling chains. If the first can be concealed and the second wreathed and hidden under ribbons and roses, their only objection to a Satanic master is removed. The devil knows this, and in his attempt to destroy a human soul is compelled to come as a deceiver; the hook is covered with attractive bait, the trap or dreadful is concealed, the battery is masked.
In line with this procedure of deception we notice his imitation of the works of God. It is not only that he comes as an angel of light, talking like God and trying thereby to deceive the very elect, but he counterfeits the work of God and would thereby puzzle and destroy the people. It is to be remembered that when the Lord sent forth Moses and Aaron to his work, the devil dispatched magicians to divide the attention of the multitude. The servants of God had a rod and the messengers of Satan came similarly supplied. Aaron cast down his rod, and the magicians cast down theirs. Aaron worked miracles with his, and they wrought wonders with theirs.
To this day the adversary keeps up this strange and horrible imitation of divine things. He recognizes the power of the Gospel and produces a counterfeit one, which is so filled with a spurious love, pity and mercy as to allow sinning and has no hell. He notices the fact of a Spirit-called ministry, and at once puts his preachers in the field. Observing the power of the church and the readiness with which people assemble on the Sabbath, he dots the land with various kinds of Orders, Christian Science tabernacles, and halls of Free Thought.
Then he has his counterfeit revivals. The great stir and profound feeling of a genuine season of grace have to be imitated. He must work wonders with his rods in order to divert attention and confuse the multitude. So we behold great Union Meetings, with electric lights and abundance of sawdust, with flaring handbills, choral bands, rosetted ushers, star preachers in the pulpit, prominent laymen on the platform, card-signing in the pews, the general uprising to the inoffensive and liberal proposition that all who would like to meet their mothers in heaven to please stand for a moment, and the cheerful looking, eye-deceiving wind-up of the whole hollow affair by a general handshake. Spiritually lifeless and thoughtless people pronounce it a great success. They say so among themselves. They say it repeatedly, looking inquiringly into each others’ eyes to be reassured, because of a certain vague, inward unrest as well as conscious ignorance of what constitutes a real successful meeting. So they shake hands again, and say over and over that it was a splendid meeting, while angels grieve over the stupendous farce and failure in heaven, and devils laugh themselves black in the face in hell.
In addition to all this, along the line of deception come the doctrines of the devil. God has them, therefore Satan must have some, and they must be imitations of the truth or they could never stand a moment with vast bodies of people. They must be apparently stamped in heaven. The lead must have a coating of silver. Some word of God must be engraved over and about the counterfeit to make it appear a genuine coin of heaven. So we have passed off on the people:
License for liberty.
Imputed purity for imparted purity.
Antinomianism for obedience.
Affinities for Christian friendship.
Christian Science for Christian faith and prayer.
Free love for perfect love.
Unnatural sundering of family ties and relationships instead of the spiritual exalting of Christ as supreme over all.
Penance for repentance.
Reformation for regeneration.
Church works for good works, and so on through the whole catalogue.
There are many more, but we devote the remaining space of this chapter to the mentioning of only two.
One is “forbidding to marry.”
Paul mentions this in connection with his statement of “doctrines of devils.” As a teaching of Satan it is an unmistakable counterfeit of Christ’s words where He says that some make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. His idea is clear to any well-balanced spiritual man. There are circumstances and conditions in life when it may be best for a man or woman not to marry. There may be a work undertaken for Christ which, on account of its peculiarity, may be best served or accomplished by a single life. Because of this fact Bishop Asbury refused to wed, although possessed of a tender heart and with strong home interests.
Now, to have this recognition on the part of Christ of exceptional instances lifted up as a general rule for observation, as a law imposed upon all Christians, is to be wise above that which is written, and graver still is to teach something contrary to that which is written. It is a devil’s doctrine and a deplorable counterfeit of one of the divine teachings.
For God to institute marriage and bless it, and throw regulations about it, and then turn about and “forbid” it, would be to involve the Divine Being in the most remarkable changeableness and inconsistency. No sensible man, one would think, much less a Christian, who is not a fanatic, could believe this of God, and yet this counterfeit of Christ’s words is out and passing current in many honest minds.
The reader of church history is well acquainted with the origin and spread of this doctrine of the devil in the Dark Ages in the Catholic Church; also of the profound moral disaster which followed upon its reception. The spiritual havoc it wrought in monastery, convent and parish was a sufficient proof in itself to show it was not of God.
That such a doctrine and practice should spring up now in the midst of an evangelical Christianity, and among spiritual people, creates a profounder astonishment than that felt when reading of its first appearance at a time when the devil seemed to have control not only of the world but of the church.
There is not only danger to the soul in going contrary to the Word, but in going beyond the Word. Satan endeavors to make all go down that he can in the first way, and is not the less diligent to secure the fall of others in the second. This last class are generally the morbidly conscientious and the uninstructed. The first class he gets to sin outright, the second he influences to run a duty to such extremes that injury to the body and influence, and finally sin itself, is certain to be the result. He of course starts them out with a Bible quotation, but sees to it that the fired up life runs clear past the depot, then into a side track, and at last down a bank with a final plunge into the woods.
If Satan cannot induce a man to violate the commandments, then the next attack will be to make him do more than the Scripture requires.
Fasting is all right, but the devil would have the conscientious Christian go to such an extent in its observance that instead of its becoming an act of grace it proves a means of prostrating the physical nature, weakening the mental forces, disqualifying one for the service of God, and in a word a bondage and affliction. Dress reform is right, but the adversary delights to turn the duty into a hobby and degenerate the woman or man into scarecrows. Just as plainly marriage is stated in the Bible to be “honorable among all,” and God says “the bed is undefiled;” whereupon Satan would bring these words to naught by the twisting, distorting and misapplication of the utterances of Christ in regard to some becoming eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, and by equally remarkable perversions of other passages in the Word. For a person to receive and defend this distortion of truth is simply to charge that God has foisted an impure institution on the world; it is to be wise above that which is written; it is t o follow a doctrine of the devil; and it is to bring ourselves where Christ can say of us as He once did to the Jews, that we have ignored weightier matters and gone to observing the commandments of men.
A second Satanic doctrine mentioned by Paul is seen in the words, “Commanding to abstain from meats.”
That God in the Old Dispensation prohibited his people from eating the flesh of certain animals, we all well know. But equally well it should be known that the sanitary idea was not the main reason in so doing, but it was a typical method of teaching truth, and one of numerous ways adapted to make a peculiar people.
That this meat restriction has been removed we are doubly taught by the vision of the sheet containing all kinds of unclean animals and let down thrice before Peter under the command to “Rise, slay and eat;” and by the plain statement of the Bible, when Paul, in speaking of “meats,” says about them:
“Which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.”
Today we have, in spite of all this, a class of Christians who prohibit certain kinds of meat like the flesh of swine; and still another class who forbid all kinds of meat. One is the Judaist, and the other the Monastic of the church. The first seems to be ignorant of the Word in its deeper and fulfilled senses and the other has gone beyond the Word and bids us keep a commandment of men that has its origin in a doctrine of the devil.
To hear these two classes talk one is made to feel that the world has rolled backward into the Dark Ages, and farther back still to the very twilight and beginning of spiritual things, while lessons that were supposed to have been finally learned have all been forgotten and need to be retaught again.
According to history as well as the Bible, there are one of three courses which a church or individual can take in the religious life. First, there is the way of backsliding, moral looseness and general worldliness Second, there is the road of asceticism or monasticism. And, third, there is the straight path, which avoids both of the other roads, and that is neither loose nor ascetic, neither worldly nor monastic. It bears the cross, denies self daily, but is not sour or hermitic. It has liberty instead of license, and while free is never free to do wrong, and while unworldly has not withdrawn its love, sympathies and labors in behalf of the world.
Both churches and individuals have gone off into the right and left forks of the road; some into worldliness and sin, and others to a dark, unbending, repelling asceticism. Both conditions are lamentable, and both are calamitous. The devil is determined if he can to get us into one or the other of these two ways. May the Saviour deliver the church, and save us as individuals from these directly opposite perils. May we enter upon and remain in the strait way which is so narrow as to exclude sin, but so high that one in it can see and touch heaven all the time.
In this life we can be social, yet not convivial; joyful, but not frivolous; serious, but not gloomy; religious, but not fanatical; in the world and yet not of the world, and so following the commandments of God rather than the doctrines of the devil, we will glorify our Father in heaven at all times as pure, sound, wholesome, faithful, well-balanced, thoroughly saved men and women.