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THE THREE DEVILS:
LUTHER'S, MILTON'S, AND GOETHE'S.1
LUTHER, Milton, and Goethe: these are very strange names to bring together. It strikes us, however, that the effect may not be uninteresting if we connect the names of those three great men, as having each represented to us the Principle of Evil, and each represented him in a different way. Each of the three has left on record his conception of a great accursed being, incessantly working in human affairs, and whose function it is to produce evil. There is nothing more striking about Luther than the amazing sincerity of his belief in the existence of such an evil being, the great general enemy of mankind, and whose specific object, in Luther's time, it was to resist Luther's movement, and, if possible, “ cut his soul out of God's mercy." What was Luther's exact conception of this being is to
1 Fraser's Magazine, Dec. 1844.
be gathered from his life and writings. Again, we have
Milton's Satan. Lastly, we have Goethe's Mephisto\ pheles. Nor is it possible to confound the three, or for
a moment to mistake the one for the other. They are as unlike as it is possible for three grand conceptions of the same thing to be. May it not, then, be profitable to make their peculiarities and their differences a subject of study? Milton's Satan and Goethe's Mephistopheles
have indeed been frequently contrasted in a vague, | antithetic way; for no writer could possibly give a
description of Goethe's Mephistopheles without saying something or other about Milton's Satan. The exposition, however, of the difference between the two has never been sufficient; and it may give the whole speculation greater interest if, in addition to Milton's Satan and Goethe's Mephistopheles, we include Luther's Devil. It is scarcely necessary to premise that here there is to be no theological discussion. All that we propose is to compare, as we find them, three very striking delineations of the Evil Principle, one of them experimental, the other two poetical.
These last words indicate one respect in which, it will be perceived at the outset, Luther's conception of the Evil Principle on the one hand and Milton's and Goethe's on the other are fundamentally distinguishable. All the three, of course, are founded on the Scriptural
proposition of the existence of a being whose express function it is to produce evil. Luther, firmly believing every jot and tittle of Scripture, believed the proposition about the Devil also; and so the whole of his experience of evil in himself and others was cast into the shape of a verification of that proposition. Had he started without such a preliminary conception, his experience would have had to encounter the difficulty of expressing itself in some other way; which, it is likely, would not have been nearly so effective, or so Luther-like. Milton, too, borrows the elements of his conception of Satan from Scripture. The Fallen Angel of the Bible is the hero of Paradise Lost; and one of the most striking things about this poem is that in it we see the grand imagination of the poet blazing in the very track of the propositions of the theologian. And, though there can be no doubt that Goethe's Mephistopheles is conceived less in the spirit of Scripture than either Milton's Satan or Luther's Devil, still even in Mephistopheles we discern the lineaments of the same traditional being. All the three, then, have this in common—that they are founded on the Scriptural proposition of the existence of an accursed being whose function it is to produce evil, and that, more or less, they adopt the Scriptural account of that being. Still, as we have said, Luther's conception of this being belongs to one category; Milton's and Goethe's to