It is true that the current of human opinion seems now to set in a different direction, and that if the evil spirit of persecution is again to re-appear on earth, his avatar must in all probability be made in a different form. Our brains are no longer, as Dr. Francis Hutchinson says of Bodinus, "mere storehouses for devils to dance in;" and if the influence of the great enemy is still as active as before on earth, in the shape of evil passions, he at least keeps personally in the background, and has changed his tactics entirely since the days of the c Malleus Maleficarum'.
" For Satan now is wiser than before, And tempts by making rich-not making poor".
Still however it is always a useful check to the pride of the human mind, to look to those delusions which have darkened it, more especially to such as have originated in feelings in themselves exalted and laudable. Such is unquestionably the case in regard to one of the gloomiest chapters in the history of human error, the belief in witchcraft and its consequences. The wish to raise ourselves above the visible world, and to connect ourselves with beings supposed to occupy a higher rank in creation, seemed at first calculated to exercise only a beneficent influence on the mind. Men looked upon it as a sort of Jacob's ladder, by which they were to establish a communication between earth and heaven, and by means of which angelic influences might be always ascending and descending upon the heart of man. But, unfortunately, the supposition of this actual and bodily intercourse with spirits of the better order, involved also a similar belief as to the possibility of establishing a free trade with the subterranean powers,
"Who lurk in ambush, in their earthy cover, And, swift to hear our spells, come swarming up and from these theoretical opinions, once established and acted upon, all the horrors of those tempestuous times flowed as a natural consequence. For thus the kingdoms of light and darkness were brought into open contest: if Satan was ready at every one's call, to send out his spirits like Swiss mercenaries, it became equally necessary for the true believer to rise in arms against him with fire and sword; any wavering on his part was construed into apostasy, and lie who did not choose to be persecuted himself was driven in self-defence to become a persecutor.