It must also be admitted, that in another most remarkable respect, the power of the enemy of mankind was rather enlarged than bridled or restrained, in consequence of the Saviour coming upon earth. It is indisputable, that in order that Jesus might have his share in every species of delusion and persecution which the fallen race of Adam is heir to, he personally suffered the temptation in the wilderness at the hand of Satan, whom, without resorting to his divine power, he drove confuted, silenced, and shamed, from his presence. But it appears that, although Satan was allowed upon this memorable occasion to come on earth with great power, the permission was given expressly because his time was short.
The indulgence which was then granted to him in a case so unique and peculiar, soon passed over, and was utterly restrained. It is evident, that after the lapse of the period during which it pleased the Almighty to establish his own Church by miraculous displays of power, it could not consist with his kindness and wisdom, to leave the Enemy in possession of the privilege of deluding men by imaginary miracles calculated for the perversion of that faith, which real miracles were no longer present to support. There would, we presume to say, be a shocking inconsistency in supposing, that false and deceitful prophecies and portents should be freely circulated by any demoniacal influence, deceiving men's bodily organs, abusing their minds, and perverting their faith, while the true religion was left by its great Author devoid of every supernatural sign and token, which, in the time of its Founder and hi? immediate disciples, attested and celebrated their inappreciable mission. Such a permission on the part of the Supreme Being, would be (to speak under the deepest reverence) an abandonment of his chosen people, ransomed at such a price, to the snares of an enemy, from whom the worst evils were to be apprehended. Nor would it consist with the remarkable promise in holy writ, that " God will not suffer his people to be tempted above what they are able to bear." (I Cor. x. 13.) The Fathers of the Faith are not strictly agreed at what period the miraculous power was withdrawn from the Church ; but few Protestants are disposed to bring it down beneath the accession of Constantine, when the Christian religion was fully established in supremacy. The Roman Catholics, indeed, boldly affirm, that the power of miraculous interference with the course of nature is still in being; but the enlightened even of this faith, though they dare not deny a fundamental tenet of their church, will hardly assent to any particular case, without nearly the same evidence which might conquer the incredulity of their neighbours the Protestants. It is alike inconsistent with the common sense of either, that fiends should be permitted to work marvels which are no longer exhibited on the part of Heaven, or in behalf of religion.
It will be observed that we have not been anxious to decide upon the limits of probability on this question. It is not necessary for us to ascertain in what degree the power of Satan was at liberty to display itself during the Jewish dispensation, or down to what precise period in the history of the Christian church cures of demoniacal possession, or similar displays ot miraculous power, may have occurred. We have avoided controversy on that head, because it comprehends questions not more doubtful than unedifying Little benefit could arise from attaining the exact knowledge of the manner in which the apostate Jews practised unlawful charms or auguries. After their conquest and dispersion, they were remarked among the Romans for such superstitious practices ; and the like, for what we know, may continue to linger among the benighted wanderers of their race at the present day. But all these things are extraneous to our enquiry, the purpose of which was to discover whether any real evidence could be derived from sacred history, to prove the early existence of that branch of demon-ology which has been the object, in comparatively modern times, of criminal prosecution and capital punishment. We have already alluded to this as the contract of witchcraft, in which, as the term was under stood in the middle ages, the demon and the witch or wizard combined their various powers of doing harm, to inflict calamities upon the person and property, the fortune and the fame, of innocent human beings ; imposing the most horrible diseases, and death itself, as marks of their slightest ill-will ; transforming their own persons and those of others at their pleasure ; raising tempests to ravage the crops of their enemies, or carrying them home to their own garners ; annihilating or transferring to their own dairies the produce of herds ; spreading pestilence among cattle, infecting and blighting children ; and, in a word, doing more evil than the heart of man might be supposed capable of conceiving, by means far beyond mere human power to accomplish. If it could be supposed that such unnatural leagues existed, and that there were wretches wicked enough, merely for the gratification of malignant spite, or the enjoyment of some beastly revelry, to become the wretched slaves of infernal spirits, most just and equitable would be those laws which cut them off from the midst of every Christian commonwealth. We have, therefore, advanced an important step in our enquiry, when we have ascertained that the witch of the Old Testament was not capable of anything beyond the administration of baleful drugs, or the practising of paltry imposture ; in other words, that she did not hold the character ascribed to a modern sorceress. We have thus removed out of the argument the startling objection, that, in denying the existence of witchcraft, we deny the possibility of a crime which was declared capital in the Mosaic law ; and are left at full liberty to adopt the opinion, that the more modern system of witchcraft was a part, and by no means the least gross, of that mass of errors which appeared among the members of the Christian Church, when their religion, becoming gradually corrupted by the devices of men, and the barbarism of those nations among whom it was spread, showed a light, indeed, but one deeply tinged with the remains of that very pagan ignorance which its Divine Founder came to dispel.