How many, for instance, are there with hard hearts! And what is hardness of heart but a sort of possession by the evil one? The drunkard has often moments of religious feeling, but there are numbers, and they perhaps what the world calls moral, well conditioned men, who seem to have no heart whatever for spiritual subjects. A true Christian cannot hear the name of Christ without emotion, but in this country there are multitudes, poor and rich, who are set upon nothing else whatever but on getting money, and who have no taste whatever for religion. Sometimes, I say, they are poor, and thus they not merely aim to get a livelihood, for this is right, but are engrossed with the thought. Religion seems to them, not a real thing, but a name, and to concern them no more than what is going on in China or Patagonia. It seems beside the mark, and they merely wonder and stare at those who introduce it.

The rich again are engrossed with the wish to make their wealth greater, and the pursuit of wealth blocks up the avenues to their hearts, and they have neither time, nor thought, nor love for the great things which concern their peace. What is all this but another possession of the devil, though very different from the former? It is like moping melancholy. The demoniac in the gospel, not only cried out and tore himself, but at other times he became dry or shrivelled, which seems to mean a sort of collapse. What is this love of the world, which we see whether in rich or poor, but a sort of shrivelling up or collapse of the soul? What then is so like a possession of Satan? And can any state be more fearful than that of an immortal being, who is to live for ever, attempting to live on mortal food, and having no relish for that immortal food, which alone is its true nourishment? ‘What is to be your food, my Brethren, when you get into the next world? Will this mortal food on which you feed now, be present to you then? What are your souls then to feed on? What is to employ them? Nay, what is to possess them? If a soul goes on contentedly, now the slave of the evil one, if he lets the evil one take up a lodgement in his breast, how is he to dislodge him ever? Will not that evil spirit necessarily and inevitably carry down that soul at once to hell, when death comes?

Faith & Prejudice sermon 6