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blance of men, than of all other creatures; since their deceit may be no less dangerous, in either ?
But as for these visible devils, they are, in these days, very rare ; and, where they have appeared, have wont to work more affright, than spiritual prejudice. Evil spirits are commonly most pernicious to the soul, when they are least seen; not caring so much for our terror, as our seduction.
O God, they are crafty ; but thou art wisdom itself: they are malicious; but thou art goodness. Let thy goodness and wisdom ever protect and safeguard us : so shall we be, not more wretched and unsafe in ourselves, than we shall be in thee secure and happy.
SECT. VII. THE VEHEMENCE OF SATAN'S LAST CONFLICTS. These spirits, because such are neither capable of sleep or weariness; as they are therefore ever busy and restless in their assaults, so their last conflicts use to be most vehement: whether it be, for that, now, the soul is passing out of their reach, as we find they did most tear and torture the demoniac, when they saw themselves upon the point of their ejection; or, whether it be, for that the painful agonies of death yield them more hopes of advantage, since the soul, while it is struggling with those last pangs, must needs have her powers distracted in her resistances. Cruelty, where it would prevail, will be sure to lay most load upon the weakest.
Hereupon it is, that holy men have been most careful to arm themselves strongliest, against those last onsets; and to bend all the forces of their souls, upon their safe dissolution. The holy sister of St. Basil, and Melania, whom St. Jerome magnifies for their sanctity, beseech God, with great fervency, that those envious spirits may not hinder them in their last passage ; and devout Bernard, to the same purpose, when he drew near his end, sues to his friend for his earnest prayers, that the heel of his life might be kept safe from the Serpent; so as he might not find where to fix his sting.
Hence it is, that, in former times, good souls have been so provident to hearten themselves against the faint pulse of their death, beds, with that vitiacum sacruni, the strongest spiritual cordial of the Blessed Eucharist : which hath yielded them such vigour of heavenly consolation, that they have boldly defied all the powers of darkness; and, in spite of all those assaults, have laid themselves down in peace.
O God, I know Satan can want no malice nor will to hurt. Í should be his, if I looked for favour from him. He must and will do so much of his worst to me, as thou wilt permit. Whether thou wilt be pleased to restrain him, or strengthen me, thy will be done. Oh, lead me not into temptation; and, when thou doest so, shew thyself strong in my weakness : arm me, for iny last brunt : stand by me, in my last combat ; make me faithful to the death, that thou mayest give me a crown of life,
any fault of mine; yea, that crucified Saviour should rather cry me mercy for keeping me thus long in hell :" to whom Macarius said, as he well might, “ Avoid, Satan.” I know not whether more to blame their Saint, if they report him right, for too much charity, or for too little grace and wit, in so presumptuous an endeavour. The very treaty was in him blasphemous; the answer, no other than could be expected from a spirit, obdured in malice, and des perate in that obduredness.
The truth is, he hates us, because he hated God first; and, like the enraged panther, tears the picture, because he cannot reach the person whom it represents.
He, that made him an angel, tells us what he is; since he made himself a devil, even a manslayer from the beginning. His very trade is murder and destruction; and his executions unweariable: he goes about continually, like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
It is no other, than a marvellous mystery of divine state, too deep for the shallowness of human souls to reach into, that God could, with one word of his powerful command, destroy and dissolve all the powers of hell; yet he knows it best not to do it: only we know he hath a justice to glorify, as well as a mercy; and, that he knows how to fetch more honour to himself, by drawing good out of evil, than by the amotion and prevention of evil. Glory be to that infinite power, justice, mercy, providence, that contrives all things, both in heaven and earth, and hell, to the highest advantage of his own Blessed Name, and to the greatest benefit of his elect.
SECT. V. THE VARIETY OF THE SPIRITUAL ASSAULTS OF EVIL SPIRITS. Out of this bellish niixture of Power, Skill, Malice, do proceed all the deadly Machinations of these Infernal Spirits; which have enlarged their kingdom, and furnished the pit of destruction.
It was a great word of the Chosen Vessel, We are not ignorant of Satan's devices; 2 Cor. ii. 11. ( Blessed Apostle, thy illuminated soul, which saw the height of heaven, might also see the depth of hell: our weak eyes are not able to pierce so low.
That Satan is full of crafty devices, we know too well; but, what those devices are, is beyond our reach. Alas, we know not the secret projects of silly men, like ourselves : yea, who knows the crooked windings of his own heart? much less can we hope to attain unto the understanding of these infernal plots and stratagems : such knowledge is too wonderful for us : our clew hath not line enough to fathom these depths of Satan.
But, though we be not able possibly to descry those infinite and hidden particularities of diabolical art and cunning; yet our woeful experience, and observation, hath taught us some general heads of these mischievous practices : divers whereof I am not unwilling to learn and borrow of that great Master of Meditation, Gerson *, the
* Gerson, de Variis Diaboli Tentationibus.
learned Chancellor of Paris, a man singularly acquainted with temptations.
One while, therefore, that Evil One lays before us the incommodities, dangers, wants, difficulties of our callings; to dishearten us, and draw us to impatience and listlessness; and, rather than fail, will make piety a colour of laziness: another while, he spurs up our diligence in our worldly vocation ; to withdraw us from holy duties.
One while, he hides his head, and refrains from tempting ; that we may think ourselves secure, and slacken our care of defence : another while, he seems to yield; that he may leave us proud of the victory.
One while, he tills us on, to our overhard task of austere mortification ; that he may tire our piety, and so stupefy us with a heartless melancholy: another while, he takes us off from any higher exercises of virtue, as superfluous.
One while, he turns and fixes our eyes upon other men's sins; that we may not take view of our own : another while, he amplifies the worth and actions of others, to breed in us either envy or dejection
One while, he humours our zeal, in all other virtuous proceedings; for but the colour of one secret vice: another while, he lets us loose to all uncontrolled viciousness; so as we be content to make love to some one virtue.
One while, under the pretence of discretion, he discourages us from good, if any way dangerous, enterprizes : another while, he is apt to put us upon bold hazards, with the contempt of fear or wit; that we may be guilty of our own miscarriage.
One while, he works suspicion in love, and suggests mis-constructions of well-meant words or actions; to cause heart-burning between dear friends : another while, under a pretence of favour, he kills the soul with flattery.
One while, he stirs up our charity to the public performance of some beneficial works; only to win us to vain-glory : another while, he moves us, for avoiding the suspicion or censure of singularity, to fashion ourselves to the vicious guises of our sociable neighbours.
One while, he persuades us to rest in the outward act done, as meritoriously acceptable: another while, under a colour of humility, he dissuades us from those good duties, whereby we might be exemplary to others.
One while, he heartens us in evil-gettings; under pretence of the opportunity of liberal alms-giving : another while, he closes our hands, in a rigorous forbearance of needful mercy ; under a fair colour of justice.
One while, he incites us, under a pretence of zeal, to violate charity, in unjust censures and violent executions : another while, under pretence of mercy, to bear with gross sins.
One while, he stirs us up, under a colour of charitable caution, to wound our neighbour with a secret detraction : another while,
out of carnal affections, he would make us the panders of others' vices.
One while, he sets on the tongue to an inordinate motion ; that many words may let fall some sin: another while, he restrains it in a sullen silence; out of an affectation of a commendable modesty.
One while, out of a pretended honest desire to know some secret and useful truth, he hooks a man into a busy curiosity, and unawares entangles the heart in unclean affections : another while, he brooks many a sin, with only the bashfulness of enquiry.
One while, he injects such pleasing thoughts of fleshly delights, as may at the first seem safe and inoffensive; which, by a delayed entertainment, prove dangerous and inflaming : another while, he overlays the heart with such swarms of obscene suggestions, that, when it should be taken up with holy devotion, it hath work enough to repel and answer those sinful importunities.
One while, he moves us to an ungrounded confidence in God, for a condescent or deliverance; that, upon our disappointment, he may work us to impatience; or, upon our prevailing, to a proud and over-weening opinion of our mistaken faith: another while, he casts into us glances of distrust, where we have sure ground of belief.
One while, he throws many needless scruples into the conscience ; for a causeless perplexing of it, a righting it even from lawful actions : another while, he labours so to widen the conscience, that even gross sins inay pass down unfelt.
One while, he will seem friendly in suggesting advice to listen unto good counsel, which yet he more strongly keeps us off from taking; for a further obduration : another while, he moves us to slight all the good advice of others, out of a persuasion of our own self-sufficiency, that we may be sure to fall into evil.
One while, he smooths us up in the good opinion of our own gracious disposition, that we may rest in our measure: another while, he beats us down with a disparagement of our true graces ; that we may be heartless and unthankful.
One while, he feeds us with a sweet contentment, in a colourable devotion ; that we may not care to work our hearts to a solid piety: another while, he endeavours to freeze up our hearts, with a dulness and sadness of spirit, in our holy services; that they may prove irksome, and we negligent.
One while, he injects lawful, but unseasonable motions of requisite employments; to cast off our minds from due intention in prayers, hearing, meditation : another while, he is content we should over-weary ourselves with holy tasks; that they may grow tediously distasteful.
One while, he woos a man, to glut himself with some pleasurable sin ; upon pretence that this satiety may breed a loathing of that whereof he surfeits : another while, he makes this spiritual çlrunkenness but an occasion of further thirst.
Dae wbile, he suggests to a man the duty he owes to the mains
tenance of his honour and reputation, though unto blood : another while, he bids him be tongue-proof; that he may render the party shamelessly desperate in evil doing.
One while, he allows us to pray long; that we may love to hear ourselves speak, and may languish in our devotion : ánother while, he tells us there is no need of vocal prayers, since God hears our thoughts,
One while, he urgeth us to a busy search and strong conclusion of the unfailable assurance of our election to glory, upon slippery and unsure grounds : another while, to a careless indifferency and stupid neglect of our future estate ; that we may perish through security.
One while, slighting the measure of contrition, as unsufficient ; another while, working the heart to take up with the least velleity of penitent sorrow, without straining it to any further afflictive degrees of true penance.
One while, suggesting such dangerous points of our self-examination, that the resolution is every way unsafe ; so as we must presume upon our strength, if we determine affirmatively; if negatively, decline towards despair : another while, encouraging a man, by the prosperous event of his sin, to re-act it; and, by the hard successes of good actions, to forbear them.
One while, under pretence of giving glory to God for his graces, stirring up the heart to a proud over-valuing our own virtues and abilities : another while, stripping God of the honour of his gifts ; by a causeless pusillanimity.
One while, aggravating our unworthiness to be sons, servants, subjects, guests, alms-men of the holy and great God: another while, upon some poor works of piety or charity, raising our conceits to a secret gloriation of our worthiness, both of acceptance and reward, and God's beholdingness to us.
Shortly, for it were easy to exceed in instances, one while, casting undue fears into the tender hearts of weak regenerates, of God's just desertions, and of their own sinful deficiencies : another while, puffing them up, with ungrounded presumptions of present safety and future glory.
These, and a thousand more such arts of deceit, do the evil spirits practise upon the poor soul of wretched man, to betray it to everlasting destruction. And if, at any time, they shall pretend fair respects, it is a true observation of a strict votary, That the Devils of Consolation are worse than the Alictive. O my soul, what vigilance can be sufficient for thee, while thou art so beset with variety of contrary temptations ?
SECT. VI. OF THE APPARITIONS AND ASSUMED SHAPES OF EVIL SPIRITS. Besides these mental and ordinary onsets, we find when these malignant spirits have not stuck, for a further advantage, to clothe themselves with the appearances of visible shapes; not of meaner