“Dear Friends, do not believe every spirit, but
Test the spirits to see whether they are from
God, because many false prophets have
Gone out into the world.”
~1 John 4:1, English Standard Version
This journey toward Christ has not been an easy one. It has been filled with pitfalls, dark back alleys, and abandoned side streets. I have walked paths in which God had never intended me to walk. I was 15 when I publicly gave my testimony of belief in Christ, and it was not very long before the enemy came after me with a vengeance. There was no one in my life to help support me in this new journey of faith and I was too immature to figure it out on my own. Literally months after I was baptized, several events took place that would radically alter my life. Since that moment, that one horrific moment, I determined to set out on a course of self destruction. The voices screaming in my head said I needed to be punished for what I had done and I willingly obeyed. I finally came to end of myself at 21. Sitting on my bed, I contemplated where I had been: several sexual assaults, a string of abusive relationships, a failed marriage that had been incredibly twisted, and a pattern of drug and alcohol abuse. I had hit rock bottom and could see no other alternative but death.
This is the lie that he peddles to those who have skeletons in their closet. He whispers in our ears that God has abandoned us. He gets us to buy into Louis’ “vicious egotism” that even Christ’s sacrifice is not enough to pay the penalty for our sins.
Beloved, this is what Satan wants us to believe. This is the lie that he peddles to those who have skeletons in their closet. He whispers in our ears that God has abandoned us. He gets us to buy into Louis’ “vicious egotism” that even Christ’s sacrifice is not enough to pay the penalty for our sins. The voices are relentless; they hammer the negatives of our choices into our ears and the more those accusations are spoken, the more they are accepted as truth. As I read the conclusion of Captain Barton’s story, I could see so much of my own pitiful journey into self-abasement. What I find intensely ironic is that it is so much easier to uncover the lie in Barton’s story than it had been for me to discover it in my own. To me, this is power of good literature. It opens doors of understanding and allows for contemplation and application. As I delve into this final look at conquering the demons of the past, it is my prayer that the sad conclusion of Captain James Barton’s story will open eyes and set hearts free.
At the beginning of the hauntings, Barton makes the decision to stand against it by avoiding the locations where he had the encounters and keeping the situation a secret from those around him. During this time, the self-imposed isolation begins to take a toll on Barton. His friends notice his usually healthy appearance is becoming haggard and sickly. At social gatherings, his drinking is excessive and behavior uncharacteristically social to point of being obnoxious. When questioned in regard to this sudden change, Barton dismisses everyone’s concerns. It is not until the ghost reveals himself in front of several witnesses that Barton decides it would be in his best interest to seek wise counsel. Even with the counsel of a pastor, Barton still does not receive the advice he so desperately needs to free himself from the haunting presence. His ego will not allow him to condescend to pray to a deity that he cannot reconcile with his materialistic belief system. The situation appears hopeless on all fronts and his friends can no longer provide encouragement (Le Fanu 58). Le Fanu describes Barton’s situation:
“The intangible and, as it seemed, utterly malign influence was fast destroying his energies of intellect, character and health. His first object was now to return to Ireland and there, as he believed and now almost hoped, speedily to die” (58).
Satan’s lie begins to take ahold of every aspect of Barton’s life and leaves him a shell of his former self. Through a relentless spiritual bombardment, Satan robs Barton of all his enjoyment, hope, and, in my opinion, the most crucial theft, his independence of will (Le Fanu 58). This is the hopeless state that Satan seeks to drive all those he has in bondage. By destroying the independence of will, Satan has his victim poised and ready for the final, deadly assault.
For a short time, Barton finds a respite from the hauntings. He even begins to regain some of his former vigor and many of his friends feel he is finally on the mend. It is at this moment Satan chooses to stage his final spiritual assault, which proves to be the fatal turning point in Barton’s story. After a final confrontation with this demonic presence, Barton’s friends observe:
“A marked and unaccountable change…in the tone of his mind…he was no longer the excited and despairing man he had been before; a strange alteration had passed upon him- an unearthly tranquility reigned in his mind…” (Le Fanu 61).
He testifies to his friends that the demonic being promises him comfort by saying that the end of his desperate struggle is near, a promise that infuses him with hope (Le Fanu 61). He even goes so far as to tell his friends that God is willing to extend him mercy, bringing to his mind a much desired peace (Le Fanu 62). What message can a demon possibly bring that has the power to change a man so entirely and inspire hope? The message, as Barton shares it, is clear and incredibly terrifying; after one horrific encounter with his past sins, he must die.
Captain James Barton, by sake of desiring death above all things, accepts the false testimony of Satan and, by sake of his darkened image of God, allows himself to cling to a false belief that Satan and his legions will bring peace. Satan is not an agent of peace; he stands before man as an accuser (ESV Rev 12.10). He is a deceitful workman who disguises himself as a child of light (ESV 2 Co 11.13-14). At his very core, Satan is a murderer. Jesus speaks this warning in regard to his nature:
“He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (ESV Jn 8.44).
In his pleas to Dr. Macklin, Barton admits to longing for a spiritual power greater than the one plaguing him to come and promise him peace. He feels in his heart that is the only way he will be set free. He also very much believes that the message this greater power will bring will be a message of death. What Captain Barton so desperately longs for, Satan delivers.
Captain Barton falls for the same vicious egotism that plagues Louis; he deceives himself into thinking that there has never been another to commit as grievous a sin as he. He firmly believes with all his heart that the crime he has committed will never be reconciled to a holy God. Barton tells Macklin that:
“The awful, unutterable idea of eternity and infinity oppresses and maddens…the idea of an eternal Creator is to me intolerable” (Le Fanu 50).
Again, Barton holds only a darkened view of God’s mercy and equates Him with the malignant spirit that haunts him and “charges with hideous crimes…threatening…with coming vengeance and eternal misery” (Le Fanu 51). Barton believes that the God of the Bible is a God of fury, seeking to avenge Himself on the sinner with eternal pain and torment. In order to be fully free from the demon that so plagues him, Captain Barton need only to confess his sins, seek forgiveness, and accept that Christ’s death on the cross is sufficient to allow him to stand unblemished before a holy God. Instead, he chooses to believe the lie that there exists no power strong enough to acquit him of his crimes. I have also bought into this lie and I know that many others have as well. It is crucial that all who feel they have committed the “unpardonable sin” read the Scriptures and take these words to heart:
“…But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (ESV Ro 5.8)
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (ESV 1 Pe 3.18)
“For the death he died he died to sin, once for all…” (ESV Ro 6.10)
“And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (ESV Heb 10.10)
“…So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (ESV Heb 9.28).
The truth is that God did not abandon His people. He did not leave us alone to slowly be torn apart by the consequences of sin. Instead, He voluntarily chose to take on human flesh and suffer the cursed death of a sinner in order to set us free.
Scripture warns that in these last days there will be some who will depart from the faith and devote themselves to deceitful spirits (ESV 1 Ti 4.1). As a result of this truth, it is of paramount importance that believers are armed with the belt of truth firmly in place (ESV Eph 6.14). When confronting any spirit, Christians must subject that spirit to testing to ensure that it is of God (ESV 1 Th 5.19-21). This act of discerning between spirits should be our first line of defense when confronting any supernatural manifestation (Anderson 166). Sadly, however, this is not our first inclination, instead many cave under the pressure of accusation. While Scripture states that Satan stands before God as an accuser both day and night, relentlessly reminding God of every act of wrongdoing, God’s response to this accusation is simple and powerful:
“…Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser has been thrown down” (ESV Rev 12.10).
It is crucial to remember that Satan is a defeated foe. Christ bought for all the power to overcome death and join Him in His kingdom regardless of any skeletons that may be lurking in the closet.
Beloved, do not buy into Satan’s lie that Jesus is not strong enough to forgive your sins, it is a lie from the pit of Hell and designed for the express purpose of creating within you a “vicious egotism” to render you powerless.
Those have already been paid for with His blood the moment He is accepted as Lord and Savior. Beloved, do not buy into Satan’s lie that Jesus is not strong enough to forgive your sins, it is a lie from the pit of Hell and designed for the express purpose of creating within you a “vicious egotism” to render you powerless. For those who have humbled themselves before the cross of Christ, you have been set free (ESV 8.36)! The chains are gone and you are free to worship at the throne of grace. Praise be to God and our Lord Jesus Christ for such incredible mercies! Embrace the promise. Let go of the sin that so easily entangles, and run the race that God has set before you knowing that you are walking in absolute freedom (ESV Heb 12.1). Christ desires nothing less.
Anderson, Neil T. The Bondage Breaker: Overcoming Negative Thoughts, Irrational Feelings, Habitual Sins. Eugene:Harvest House. 1993. Print.
Biblegateway. Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles. 2001. Web. 28 July 2016.
Le Fanu, Sheridan. In a Glass Darkly. London:Wordsworth. 1995. Print.
Rice, Anne. Interview With The Vampire. New York:Ballantine. 2009. Print.