Religious Reality
By A.E.J. Rawlinson

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Chapter IV - The Works of the Devil

The devil is from one point of view a figure of Jewish and Christian mythology. The Jews, like other early peoples, believed in the existence of evil spirits or demons, to whose malignant agency they ascribed various diseases, both functional and organic, and in particular those unhappy cases of obsession, fixed idea, and multiple personality, which we should now class under the general head of insanity, and treat in asylums for the mentally deranged. The New Testament writings are full of this point of view, which is of course largely foreign to our minds to-day. The ordinary Englishman is not a great believer in devils or spirits of evil: though he does in some instances believe in ghosts, and is inclined to the practice of what in former ages was called necromancy–the attempt to establish an illicit connexion with the spirits of the departed–under the modern name of psychical research. There are, no doubt, some forms of psychical research which are genuinely scientific and legitimate. It is probable enough that there exists a considerable area of what may be called borderland phenomena to which scientific methods of inquiry may be found applicable, and which it is theoretically the business of science to investigate. But it is a region in which the way lies readily open to all kinds of superstition and self-deceit. The pursuit of truth for its own sake is essentially a religious thing: but the motives of many amateur dabblers in psychical research are far from being truly religious or spiritual. Much popular spiritualism, whether it assumes the form of table-turnings, of spirit-rappings, or of mediumistic seances, is thoroughly morbid and undesirable, and the Christian Church has rightly discouraged it.

It is not, however, necessary to believe literally in the devil, or in devils–concerning whose existence many persons will prefer to remain agnostic–in order to find in the figure of the devil, as he appears in Biblical and other literature, a convenient personification of certain forms of evil. There is an atmosphere of evil about us, a Kingdom of Evil, over against the Kingdom of Good: and there are suggestions and impulses of evil which from time to time arise in our minds, which–whatever may be the literal truth about them–not infrequently present the appearance of having been prompted by some mysterious external Tempter. Certainly deeds have been done in the present war which can only be described as devilish. The war has revealed on a large scale and in unmistakable terms the evil of which the heart of man is capable, and how thin in many cases is the veneer which separates the outwardly civilized European from the primitive savage. “For this purpose was the Son of GOD manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” And by the works of the devil we may understand especially cruelty, malice, envy, hatred and all uncharitableness, the spirit of selfishness which wars against love, and the spirit of pride which ignores GOD. We see these things exhibited upon the large scale in the conspicuous criminals among mankind, whom we are sometimes tempted to regard as devils incarnate. We need to be on our guard against the beginnings of them, and indeed in many cases their actual presence in an undetected but fairly developed form, in ourselves.

Christian men are to be kindly affectioned one towards another in brotherly love: in honour preferring one another–which is easier to say than to do. They are to refrain from rendering evil for evil, and to learn under provocation to be self-controlled. They are to be in charity with all men, and so far as it lies within their own power (for it takes two to make peace, as it takes two to make a quarrel) they are to live peaceably with all men. Wrath and clamour, lying and evil-speaking, back-biting and slandering, are all of the devil, devilish. Contrary to the works of the devil, which may be summed up under the three headings of lying, hatred, and pride, are the Christian ideals of truthfulness, love, and humility, with regard to each of which a few words may usefully be said.

(i) The devil is described in the New Testament as “a liar and the father thereof.” A Christian is to be true and just in all his dealings, abhorring crookedness: for the essence of lying is not inexactitude in speech, but deceitfulness of intention. Christian veracity means honesty, straightforwardness, and sincerity in deed as well as in word. A writer of fiction is not a liar: to improve in the telling an anecdote or a story is not necessarily to deceive others in any culpable sense; and moralists have from time to time discussed the question whether there may not be circumstances in which to tell a verbal lie is even a moral duty–e.g. in order to prevent a murderer or a madman from discovering the whereabouts of his intended victim. But casuistical problems of this kind do not very frequently arise, and in all ordinary circumstances strict literal veracity is the right course to pursue. [Footnote: Of course such social conventions as “Not at home,” “No trouble at all,” or “Glad to see you,” “No, you are not interrupting me,” etc., are hardly to be classed as “lies,” since they do not as a rule seriously mislead others, but are merely an expression of the will to be civil.]

Christian truthfulness, however, is in any case a much wider thing than merely verbal truth-telling: it implies inward spiritual reality, a genuine desire to see things as they are, a thirst of the soul for truth, and a hatred of shams. The worst form of lying is that in which a man is not merely a deceiver of others but is self-deceived, and suffers from “the lie in the soul.” The religion of Christ is always remorselessly opposed to every form or kind of humbug or of sham. Jesus Christ is the supreme spiritual realist of history. In His view the “publican” or acknowledged sinner is preferable to the Pharisee or hypocrite for the precise reason that the former is a more genuine kind of person than the latter. And to tell the truth in this deeper sense, that is, genuinely to face realities and to refuse to be put off with shams, to see through the plausibilities and to detect the hollowness of moral and social pretences and conventionalities, to have, in short, the spiritual and moral instinct for reality, is a much harder thing than to be verbally veracious. The true veracity can come only from Him who is the Truth: it is a gift of the Spirit, and proceeds from GOD who knows the counsels of men’s hearts, and discerns the motives and imaginations of their minds.

It follows that just as every lie is of the devil, so all truth, of whatever kind, is of GOD. The Lord is a God of Knowledge, and every form of intellectual timidity and obscurantism is contrary to godliness. There can never be any opposition between scientific and religious truth, since both equally proceed from GOD. The Christian Church is ideally a society of free-thinkers, that is, of men who freely think, and the genuine Christian tradition has always been to promote learning and freedom of inquiry. It is worth remembering that the oldest and most justly venerable of the Universities of Europe are without exception in their origin ecclesiastical foundations. If the love of truth and the spirit of freedom which inspired their inception has at particular epochs in their history been temporarily obscured, if there is much in the ecclesiasticism both of the past and of the present which is reactionary in tendency and spirit, at least there have never been lacking protesting voices, and the authentic spirit of the Gospel tells always upon the other side. “Ye shall know the truth,” says a New Testament writer, “and the truth shall make you free.” [Footnote: The manifestations of the persecuting spirit and temper are not confined to the sphere of religion; the intolerance of the platform or of the press can be as bigoted as that of the pulpit: and secular governments also can persecute–not only in France or in Prussia. That it is part of the mission of Christianity to cast out the evil spirit of persecution, to destroy intolerance as it has destroyed slavery, is none the less true, in spite of the fact that both slavery and persecution have in the past found Christian defenders.]

(ii) In the second place, hatred is of the devil, and love is of Christ: the Christian is to love even his enemies. In a time of war, that is to say, whenever actual enemies exist, the natural man discovers in such an ideal only an immoral sentimentalism, and the doctrinaire pacificist occasionally uses language which gives colour to the charge. But Christianity has nothing in common with sentimentalism, and Christian is no merely sentimental affection which ignores the reality of evil or explains away the wrongfulness of wrong. In order to love his enemies it is not necessary for a Christian to pretend that they are not really hostile, to make excuses for things that are inexcusable, or to be blind to the moral issues which may be at stake. It has rightly been pointed out that “Love your enemies” means “Want them to be your friends: want them to alter, so that friendship between you and them may become possible.” More generally what is meant is that the Christian man is by the grace of GOD, to conquer the instinct of hatred and the spirit of revenge within his own heart, to be willing to serve others (his enemies included) at cost to himself in accordance with the will of GOD, to desire on behalf of all men (his enemies included) the realization of their true good. For wrongdoers chastisement may be the truest kindness. To allow a man, or a nation, to pursue an evil purpose unchecked would be no real act of love even towards the nation or the individual concerned. To offer opposition, if necessary by force, may in certain circumstances be a plain duty. That which we are to love, in those whose immediate aspect and character is both unlovely and unlovable, is not what they are, but what they are capable of becoming. We are to love that element in them which is capable of redemption, the true spiritual image of GOD in man, which can never be totally effaced. We are to remember that for them also the Son of GOD was crucified, that we also have need of forgiveness, and that “GOD commendeth His own love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”

(iii) The third great manifestation of the spirit and temper which is of the devil, devilish, is pride, which by Christian writers upon these subjects is commonly regarded as the deadliest of the so-called “deadly sins,” on the ground that it logically involves the assertion of a false claim to be independent of GOD, and is therefore fatal in principle to the religious life. Pagan systems of morality distinguish between false pride, the foolish conceit of the man who claims for himself virtues and capacities which he does not in fact possess, and proper pride, the entirely just appreciation by a man of his own merits and accomplishments at neither more nor less than their true value. The Christian ideal of humility is apt from this point of view to appear either slavish or insincere. The issue between Christian and pagan morals here depends upon the truth or falsehood of the Christian doctrine of GOD and of His relation to man. Once let a man take seriously the avowal that “It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves,” once let him grant the position that his life belongs to GOD and not to himself, and concur in the judgment of spiritual experience that whatever is good in him is the result not of his own efforts in independence of his Maker, but of the Divine Spirit operative within him, and it becomes obvious that “boasting"–as S. Paul expresses it–"is excluded.”

At the same time Christian humility is not self-depreciation. It has nothing in common either with the spirit of Uriah Heep, or with the false diffidence which refuses on the ground of personal insufficiency a task or vocation to which a man is genuinely called. These are both equally forms of self-consciousness. Humility is forgetfulness of self. The true pattern and exemplar of humility is the Christ, who claimed for Himself the greatest role in the whole history of the world, simply on the ground that it was the work which His Father had given Him to do. “I seek not Mine own glory: there is One that seeketh and judgeth.” The secret of humility is devotion to the will of GOD.


Preface  •  Author’s Preface  •  Introduction  •  Part I - The Theory of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - the Man Christ Jesus  •  Chapter II - The Revelation of the Father  •  Chapter III - The Fellowship of the Spirit  •  Chapter IV - The Holy Trinity  •  Chapter V - The Problem of Evil  •  Chapter VI - Sin and Redemption  •  Chapter VII - The Church and Her Mission in the World  •  Chapter VIII - Protestant and Catholic  •  Chapter IX - Sacraments  •  Chapter X - The Last Things  •  Chapter XI - Clergy and Laity  •  Chapter XII - The Bible  •  Part II - The Practice of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - The Christian Aim  •  Chapter II - The Way of the World  •  Chapter III - The Spirit and the Flesh  •  Chapter IV - The Works of the Devil  •  Chapter V - The Kingdom of God  •  Chapter VI - Christianity and Commerce  •  Chapter VII - Christianity and Industry  •  Chapter VIII - Christianity and Politics  •  Chapter IX - Christianity and War  •  Chapter X - Love, Courtship, and Marriage  •  Part III - The Maintenance of the Christian Life: Chapter I - How to Begin  •  Chapter II - Prayer  •  Chapter III - Self-Examination and Repentance  •  Chapter IV - Corporate Worship and Communion  •  Chapter V - The Devotional Use of the Bible  •  Chapter VI - Almsgiving and Fasting

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Religious Reality
By A. E. J. Rawlinson
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