8. The view of the nature of Satan and his servants just examined was, for a long time, the belief inculcated by the Church in regard to them. At the present day, the belief in regard to demons is as follows: *
“God, being essential goodness and essential holiness, did not create them evil and maleficent. God’s beneficent hand, whose pleasure it is to bestow on its entire works a reflex of God’s infinite perfections, had originally laden them with the most magnificent gifts. To the super eminent qualities of their nature, God added munificence of God’s favor. God made them in all respects similar to the sublime spirits who inhabit the region of glory and felicity; disseminated among all the orders of those glorious spirits and mingled with all their ranks, they were called to the same aim and the same destiny; their Chief was the most beautiful of the archangels. They might all have merited remaining forever in the path of righteousness, and might thus have obtained admission to the enjoyment of the eternal happiness of Heaven. This last favor would have been the crown of all the other favors of which they had been the objects; but it was to be the reward of their docility, and they rendered themselves unworthy of it, and lost it by a revolt equally audacious and insensate.
“What was the rock on which their perseverance was wrecked? Of what truth did they lose sight? What act of faith or of adoration did they refuse to God? The Church and the annals of Sacred History do not enlighten us explicitly in regard to these points; but it appears certain that they failed to acquiesce in the meditation of the Son of God for themselves, and in the exaltation of the human nature of Jesus Christ.
“The Divine Word, by whom all things were made, is also the sole Mediator and Savior in Heaven and upon the Earth. The supernatural destiny of an eternal existence has only been granted to angels and to human beings in view of the incarnation and merits of the Divine Word; for there is no proportion between the merits of the most eminent spirits and the recompense of eternal life, which is a sharing of the attributes of God Himself; no creature could have attained to such an exaltation but for the intervention of this marvelous and sublime charity of the Son of God. But, in order that the latter should bridge over the infinite distance which separates the Divine Essence from the creatures which are the works of its hands, it was necessary that the Word should unite in His own person the two extremes, that He should associate His Divinity with the nature of the angels or with the nature of men; and He chose the latter.
“This intention, conceived from all eternity, was revealed to the angels long before its accomplishment; the God-Man was shown to them in the future as He who was to confirm them in grace and to introduce them into glory, on condition that they should adore Him on the Earth during His mission, and in Heaven throughout the ages of eternity. An unhoped-for Revelation, a wonderful Vision, ravishingly delightful for all generous and grateful hearts; but a profound mystery, overwhelming for the pride of arrogant and haughty spirits! The supernatural endowment, the immense weight of glory, thus offered to their acceptance, was not, then, to be simply and solely the recompense of their personal merits! They could never, throughout eternity, attribute to themselves the title and the possession of this immense and magnificent endowment! A Mediator between them and God! What an insult to their dignity! ,What an injustice to themselves! What an infringement of their rights that this preference was gratuitously accorded to the human race! Were they, one day, to behold the human nature, so inferior to their own, deified by its union with the Word, and seated at the right hand of God, on a throne of resplendent glory? Should they consent to offer eternally, to that lower nature their homage and their adoration?
“Lucifer and the third part of the angels succumbed to these proud and jealous thoughts. Saint Michael, and with him the greater number of angels, exclaimed, ‘who is like unto God? God is the Master of God’s gifts, and the Sovereign Lord of all things! Glory to God and to the Lamb that is to be slain for the salvation of the world!’ But the Chief of the rebels, forgetting that it was to his Creator he owed his nobility and his prerogatives, listened only to his own rash anger, and cried, ‘It is I, myself, who will ascend into Heaven; I will establish my dwelling above the stars; I will seat myself on the Mount of Alliance, on the flanks of the North wind; I will rise above the highest clouds, and I will be as the Almighty!’ Those who shared his sentiments received his words with a murmur of applause; he found sympathizers in every rank of the hierarchy; but their numbers did not screen them from the chastisement they had incurred by their rebellion.”
* The following quotations are taken from the Lenten-Pastoral of Cardinal Gousset, Archbishop of Rheims, for 1865. From the personal worth and exalted position of the author here quoted, these extracts may be regarded as expressing the latest opinion of the Catholic Church upon the subject of demons; an opinion shared by all the orthodox churches of Christendom.