There are two kinds of demons. Nearly everyone is familiar with the first kind. Almost no one is familiar with the second kind.
The first kind of demon is simply the demon of folklore. He comes to tempt, to whisper lies, to deceive a man into rejecting God. The first kind of demon is a Baal or a Dagon, who con men and distract them from the truth. Such demons betake themselves to bridges and cliffs and invite innocent passersby to leap off for no good reason. These are the malevolent beings who suddenly fling foul thoughts into a man’s head so that he will needlessly question himself, form a base opinion of himself, and act accordingly. We have read of such demons in Scripture, for they throw children into fire or water, or incite a man to cut himself with stones. These demons are commonly known by every nation of the world, Christian and heathen alike.
However, there is another variety of demon whose work is wholly unlike the first, for he is not a tempter or liar. The first kind of demon is highly intellectual, and, as Milton suggests in Paradise Lost, has been meticulously studying mankind for nearly eight thousand years now. The first kind has a file on you which is several feet thick. He knows your weaknesses, your strengths, and perpetually strategizes on how best to snatch your love of God. The second variety of demon is not so cunning, though. The second variety of demon does not labor to trick a man into sinning, but simply helps him get away with the sin he has already committed.
This demon has a name in the infernal kingdom. He is known as a cellar demon, for any sin which a man gets away with is cellared in his soul to ferment and grow rich and heady. While not all demons are of one mind on the matter, a great many fiends would prefer a man not commit a certain sin than that he commit that sin and immediately be found out. Demons are not so impatient as you might have been led to believe. For instance, if a demon has the chance to tempt a man to drunkenness on a Friday night, yet knows the man will be caught, or the demon can wait until Sunday evening to do his tempting, and knows the man will not get caught then, well, the average demon will wait. Many thousands of years ago, the much-celebrated demon Belial wrote a highly influential book entitled Stored Up Wrath. The very famous first line of that book is, “I play the long game,” and to this day, lesser demons encourage one another with those words on a daily basis.
You see, nothing mucks up the work of a demon quite like his subject getting caught, for getting caught leads to punishments, self-reflection, witnesses, the loss of anonymity. Contrary to what most human beings think, getting caught usually restores community and reinforces crumbling bonds of unity. There is little which is truer in a man’s soul than his deep-down yearning to be found out, for a man cannot be known until he is found, and every man wants to be known.
Cellar demons are not free, and tempters must hire them at exorbitant rates. A cellar demon is like an insurance policy which is taken out after a successful round of temptation. The cellar demon comes along and covers over a fellow’s tracks, brushes evidence under the rug, alerts the sinner to remove certain clues, directs the attention of the authorities to different matters. Teenage boys often believe themselves far more clever and sneaky than they truly are— it is rarely their own craftiness which allows them to get away with sin, and far more often the work of cellar demons. Cellar demons charge more to conceal the sins of teenage boys than they do the sins of housewives or the elderly, but tempters always pay up. Cellared sin is simply that valuable in the teenage soul.