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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

The Modern Devil

The Modern Devil.

The mythological devil of times past has almost vanished from the earth. We rarely hear of him now. But the real devil of our time—what is that? Very different is he from our fathers' devil, who was afraid of a church in daylight, and slunk off, and was afraid to look at a Bible. The modern devil is respectable, and does all things decently and in order. His brutal hoofs and savage horns and beastly tail are all there, only discreetly hid under a dress which any gentleman might wear. They do not appear in his body, but in his face; you can see them there, though he does not mean you should. He rides in the streets, appears at public meetings, and sometimes presides over them. He is always on the side of the majority, or means to be. He does not like the majority, but he likes their power; he loves nobody but himself. He has large understanding, and a deal of cunning. He has great power of speech, and can argue your heart out of your bosom. He cares nothing for truth, only for the counterfeit of truth. He is well educated; knows as much as it is profitable for the devil to know; not truth, but plausible lies. He knows most men are selfish, and thinks all are. He knows men are fond of pleasure in youth and power in age, and that they can be cheated and wheedled, most of them. That is the chief philosophy the modern devil knows, all he wishes to know. He is cruel, sly, has a good deal of power to manage men, to suit his burdens to their shoulders. He thinks piety and goodness are nonsense; he never says so. His religion is church-going—for now the devil has learned a trick worth two of his old ones. He is always in his pew, with a neat Bible nicely clasped, with a cross on the side of it—for he is not afraid of the cross, as the old devil was. He fixes his cold hard eye on the minister, and twists his mouth into its Sunday contortions. He has read the "Bridgewater Treatises," and "Paley's Theology and Morality"; he knows the "Evidences" like a Doctor of Divinity, and he must not doubt the casting of the devils into swine, or that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. He is a life-member of the Bible Society, takes tracts without stint, page 51 obvious and universal one in nature, the good seem destined to predominate. Hence the low race inevitably ascends; the facts of science being thus made to harmonise with the warmest sympathies and finest feelings of the human heart.

Dr. Barry again is clearly in error as to the mental condition of the lower animals: he seems to regard it as fixed and unalterable. This is a profound mistake. Let Dr. Barry note well the low cunning and vacant look of a native dog, and compare it with the intelligence, benignity and sympathy of a thoroughbred Coolie, and he will not long remain unconvinced of the immeasurable superiority of the one over the other. And although he may not, like Saint Anthony of old, occasionally preach to the fishes, or say to the ass "thou art my brother," there is surely no reason why he should be so quick to disown his poor and less-gifted relations.

With one of Dr. Barry's statements I, indeed, must cordially agree; that namely, in which he affirms that "man differs from God, not in kind, but in degree." In other words, God is the infinite man, and man is finite God. But if this doctrine be true, does it not show that the grand fact in the history of the world is not the solitary and exceptionable union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, but the incarnation of the Deity in humanity at large? We are all then Sons of God; and the Son of God is not Christ, but Mankind. Here then is a noble prospect for the nations. When a man has realized it in all its significance, he has reached a height where the devil disappears for ever; and the grim dogma of eternal perdition is remembered but as some hideous dream from which one wakes up to perfect peace and security. Truly Dr. Barry, like other members of the Cloth, is picking up notions that will yet give the dry rot to his own system.

W. B.