« PreviousContinue »
evil spirit. Who has not heard of ism, and Christianity were the ghosts the good demon of Socrates, and of of dead men. the evil genius of Brutus ? While | But some of you may say, You among the Jews and Christians so have proposed to dismiss this work of commonly are found the akatharta definition too soon: for here is the pneumata, or the ponera pneumata horrible word ghost! Of what is -the unclean and malign spirits, that term the sign in your style ? that our translators have almost uni- Well, we must explain ourselves. formly translated them devils.
Our Saxon forefathers, of whom In the Christian scriptures we meet we have no good reason to be ashamthe term demon, in one form or ano-ed, were wont to call the spirits of other, seventy-five times, and in such men, especially when separated from circumstances as, with but one or their bodies, ghosts. This, however, two exceptions, constrain us to regard they did, not with the terrible assoit as the representative of a wicked ciations which arise on our minds in and unclean spirit. So general is every pronunciation of that startling this fact, that Beelzebub is dignified | term. Guest and ghost, with them, “ The Prince of Demons”-unfor if not synonymes, were, at least, tunately rendered devils. This fre cousins-german. They regarded the quency of immoral and wicked asso body as the house, and therefore called ciations with the word daimoon may the spirit the guest; for guest and have induced our translators to give ghost are two branches from the same us so many devils in their authorized root. William Tyndale, the martyr, version. But this misapprehension of excellent memory, in his version is now universally admitted and re- of the New Testament, the prototype gretted; for while the Bible teaches of that of king James, very judiciously many demons, it nowhere intimates a makes the Holy Spirit of the Old plurality of Devils or Satans. There Testament the Holy Ghost of the is but one Devil or Satan in the New; because, in his judgment, it universe, whose legions of angels and was the promised guest of the Chrisdemons give him a sort of omnipre- tian temple. sence, by acting out his will in all Still it is difficult, I own, to hear their intercourse with mortals. This the word ghost, or demon, without evil spirit, whose official titles are the the recollection of the nursery tales Serpent, the Devil, and Satan, is and fictions of our irrational systems always found in the singular number of early education. We suffer little in both the Hebrew and Greek scrip- children to hear so much of tures; while demon is found in both
-"Apparitions tall and ghastly, numbers, indicating sometimes one, |
That take their stand o'er some new-opened grave,
And, strange to tell, evanish at the crowing of the and sometimes a legion.
But that we may not be farther till they become not only in youth, tedious in this dry work of definition, but often in riper years, the prey and and that we may enter at once upon sport of idle fears and terrors, “ which the subject with a zeal and spirit scarce the firm philosopher can scorn.” worthy of a topic which lays the axe Not only the grave-yard. at the root of the tree of modern
- But the lonely tower Sadduceeism, Materialism, and Scep-| Is also shunned, whose mournful chronicles hold,
So night-struck fancy dreams, the yelling ghost!” ticism, we shall proceed at once to sum up the evidence in proof of the Imagination once startled, proposition which we shall state as “ In grim array the nightly spectres rise ! the peculiar theme of this great
Oft have we seen the school.boy, with satchel in his
hand, When passing by some haunted spot, at lonely ev'n,
| Whistling aloud to bear his courage up. Suddenly is— The demons of Paganism, Juda- | he hears,
Or thinks he hears, the sound of something purring these, and all the Fathers of the first
at his heels. Full fast he flees, nor does he look behind him, two centuries, says, “ The notion of Till out of breath he o'ertake his fellows
demons, or the souls of dead men, Who gather round and wonder at the tale!”
having power over living men, was Parents are greatly at fault for universally prevalent among the permitting such tales to disturb the heathen of these times, and believed fancies of their infant offspring. The by many Christians." (Vol. viii. p. love of the marvellous and of the 368.) supernatural is so deeply planted in 4. The Evangelists and Apostles human nature, that it needs but little of Jesus Christ so understood the cultivation to make it fruitful in all matter. As this is a very important, manner of fairy tales, of ghosts, and and of itself a sufficient pillar on spectres. But there is an opposite which to rest our edifice, we shall be extreme-the denial of spirits, angels, at more pains to illustrate and enforce demons, whether good or bad. Here, it. We shall first state the philologitoo, media ibis tutissima—the middle cal law or canon of criticism, on the path the safer is. But to our pro- generality and truth of which all our position. We have, from a careful dictionaries, grammars, and translasurvey of the term demon, concluded tions are formed. Every word not that the demons of Paganism, Judaism, specially explained or defined in a and Christianity, were the ghosts of particular sense, by any standard dead men. But we build not only writer of any particular age and upon the definition of the term, nor country, is to be taken and applied on its philological history ; but upon in the current or commonly received the following seven pillars :
signification of that country and age 1. All the Pagan authors of note, in which the writer lived and wrote. whose works have survived the wreck If this canon of translation and of of ages, affirm the opinion that demons criticism be denied, then we affirm were the spirits or ghosts of dead there is no value in dictionaries, nor men. From Hesiod down to the in the acquisition of ancient languages more polished Celsus, their historians, in which any book may be written ; poets, and philosophers occasionally sacred or profane: for they are all express this opinion.
made upon the assumption of the 2. The Jewish historians, Josephus truth of this law. and Philo, also avow this conviction. We have then only to ask first for Josephus says, “ Demons are the the current signification of this term spirits of wicked men, who enter demon in Judea at the Christian era ; into living men and destroy them, and, in the second place, Did the inunless they are so happy as to meet spired writers ever give any special with speedy relief.” (De Bello Jud. definition of it? We have already cap. viii. 25; cap. vi. sec. 3.) Philo found an answer to the first in the says, “ The souls of dead men are Greeks and Jews of the apostolic age called demons.”
-also in the preceding and subsequent 3. The Christian fathers, Justin ages. We have heard Josephus, Martyr, Ireneus, Origen, &c. depose Philo, Lucian, Justin, and Lardner, to the same effect. Justin, when from whose writings and affirmations arguing for a future state, alleges, we are expressly told what the uni“ Those who are seized and tormented versal acceptation of the term was in by the souls of the dead, whom all | Judea and in those times ; and in the call demons and madmen.” (Jus. second place, the Apostles and our Apology, b. i. p. 65, par. 12, p. 54.) Lord, as already said, use this word Lardner, after examining with the in various forms 75 times, and on no most laborious care the works of occasion gave any hint of a special,
private, or peculiar interpretation of interchangeable with the word angel it; which was not their method when -as indicative of an intermediate they used a term either not generally order of intelligent beings above men, understood, or understood in a special and between them and the Divinity. sense. Does any one ask the meaning They had neither the name nor the of the word Messiah, prophet, priest, idea of an angel in their mythology. elder, deacon, presbytery, altar, sac- Philo, the Jew, has, indeed, said that rifice, sabbath, circumcision, &c. ? amongst the Jews the word demon We refer him to the current significa- , and the word angel were sometimes tion of these words among the Jews used interchangeably; and some have and Greeks of that age. Why, then, thence inferred lapsed angels were should any one except the term demon called demons. But this is not a from the universal law ? Are we logical inference ; for the Jews called not, therefore, sustained by the high- the winds, the pestilence, the lightest and most authoritative decision of nings of heaven, &c. angels, as indithat literary tribunal by whose rules cative of their agency in accomplishing and decrees all works sacred and the will of God. But in this sense profane are translated from a dead to demon is to angel as the species to a living tongue? We are, then, the genus : we can call a demon an fully authorised to say the demons of angel, but we cannot call an angel a the New Testament were spirits of demon just as we can call every dead men.
man an animal, but we cannot call 5. But as a distinct evidence of the every animal a man. historic kind, and rather as confirm- Others, indeed, have just as fanciatory of our views than of the autho- fully imagined that the old giants and rity of inspired authors, I adduce as a heroes, said to have been the fruit of separate and independent witness a the intermarriage of the sons of God very explicit and decisive passage with the daughters of men before the from the epistle to the Smyrneans, flood, were the demons of all the written by the celebrated Ignatius, world-Pagans, Jews, and Christians. the disciple of the Apostle John. He Their most plausible argument is, quotes the words of the Lord to Peter that the word hero and the word love when Peter supposed he saw a spirit are the same; and that the love of or a ghost. But he quotes him thus the angels for the daughters of men
-" Handle me and see me, for I am was the reason that their gigantic not a doimoon asomaton-a disem- offspring were called heroes. Whence bodied demon ;”—a spirit without a the term was afterwards appropriated body. This places the matter above all to persons of great courage as well as doubt that with them of that day a de- of great stature. This is sublimely mon and a ghost were equivalent terms. ridiculous.
6. But we also deduce an argument But to return to the word angel. from the word angel. This word is It is a Bible term, and not being of Bible origin, and confined to those found in all classic, in all mythologic countries in which that volume is antiquity, could not enter into the found. It is not found in all the Pagan ideas of a demon. Now that Greek poets, orators, or historians, it is not so used in the Christian so far as known to me. Of that scriptures is evident, for the following rank of beings to whom Jews and reasons : Christians have applied this official 1st. Angels were never said to title, the Pagan nations seem never enter into any one. to have had the first conception. It 2nd. Angels have no affection for is, therefore, certain that they could bodies of any sort, either as habitanot use the term demon as a substitute ' tions or vehicles of action.
3rd. Angels have no predilection | cur that the spirits of wicked men are for tombs and monuments of the dead. here intended ; and need I add that
In these three particulars angels oft-repeated affirmation of the demoand demons stand in full contrast, and niacs, “We know thee, Jesus of Nazaare contradistinguished by essentially reth ; art thou come to torment us different characteristics ; for— before the time ?” Thus all the scrip
lst. Demons have entered into tural allusions to this subject authohuman bodies and into the bodies of rize the conclusions that demons are inferior creatures.
ghosts, and especially wicked and 2nd. Demons evince a peculiar unclean spirits of dead men. A sinaffection for human bodies, and seem gle saying in the Apocalypse makes to desire them both as vehicles of this most obvious. When Babylon action and as places of habitation. is razed to its foundation, it is said to
3rd. Demons also evince a peculiar be made the habitation of demonsfondness for their old mortal tene- of the ghosts of its sepulchred inhaments ; hence we so often read of bitants. From these seven sources them carrying the possessed into the of evidence, viz.—the Pagan authors, grave-yards, the tombs, and sepul- the Jewish historians, the Christian chres, where, perchance, their old fathers, the four Evangelists, the mortalities lay in ruins.
epistle of Ignatius, the acceptation of From which fact we argue, as well the term angel in its contrast with as from the fact that the Pagans had demon, and the internal evidences of neither Devil, nor Angel, nor Satan, the whole New Testament, we conin their heads before the Christian clude that the demons of the New times, that when they, or the Chris- Testament were the ghosts of wicked tians, or the Jews spoke of demons, men. May we not henceforth reason they could not mean any intermediate from this point with all assurance as rank of spirits, other than the spirits a fixed and fundamental principle ? of dead men. Hence in no instance It ought, however, to be candidly in holy writ can we find demon and stated that there have been in latter angel used as convertible terms. Is times a few intellectual dyspeptics, it not certain, then, that they are the on whose nervous system the idea of ghosts of dead men ? But there yet being really possessed by an evil remains another pillar.
spirit produces a phrenzied excite7. Among the evidences of the ment. Terrified at the thought of papal defection intimated by Paul, an incarnate demon, they have resohe associates the doctrine concerning | lutely undertaken to prove that every demons with celibacy and abstinences single demon named in holy writ is from certain meats, as chief among but a bold eastern metaphor, placing signs of that fearful apostacy. He in high relief dumbness, deafness, warrants the conclusion that the pur- madness, palsy, epilepsy, &c. ; and gatorial prisons for ghosts and ghostly hence demoniacs then and now are a mediators of departed saints, which, class of unfortunates laboring under equally commanding to abstain from certain physical maladies called unlawful meats, and forbidding to marry, clean spirits. Credat Judæus Apcharacterize the times of which he pella, non Ego. spoke, are attributes of the same sys- On the principle that every demon tem, and indicative of the fact that is an eastern metaphor, how incomdemons and ghosts are two names for parably more eloquent than Demosthe same beings. To this we add thenes or Cicero was he that had at the iestimony of James, who says the one time a legion of metaphors within demons believe and tremble for their him struggling for utterance ! No doom. Now all eminent critics con- I wonder, then, that the swineherds of Gadara were overwhelmed by the demons about their disposal after moving eloquence of their herds as their expulsion, and accounts given they rushed with such pathos into the how they were actually disposed of ; deep waters of the dark Galilee ! when I find desires and passions
Great men are not always wise. ascribed peculiarly to them, and The seer of Mesopotamia was not similitudes taken from their manners only admonished, but reformed by and customs, it is impossible for me the eloquence of an ass ; and I am to deny their existence, without adsure that the Gadarene speculators mitting that the sacred historians were cured of their belief in eastern were themselves deceived in regard metaphors when they saw their hopes to them, or intended to deceive their of gain for ever buried in the lake of readers.” Gennesareth. It requires a degree Were it not in appearance like of gravity, bordering on the superla- | killing those that are dead, I should tive, to speculate on an hypothesis quote at length sundry passages so singularly fanciful and baseless as which speak of " unclean spirits crythat which converts both reason and ing with loud voices” as they came eloquence, deafness and dumbness, out of many that were possessed, into one and the same metaphor. which represent unclean spirits fall
Without impairing in the least the ing down before Jesus, and crying, strength of the arguments in favor of “Thou art the Son of God,” and of actual possession by the spirits of Jesus “ charging them not to make dead men, it may be conceded, that, him known;" but I will only cite a because of the similarity of some of single parable framed upon the case the effects of demoniacal possession of a demoniac. It is reported by with those maladies of the paralytic Matthew and Luke, and almost in the and epileptic character, it may have same words. " When the unclean happened on some occasions that spirit,” says Jesus, “is gone out of a persons simply afflicted with these man, he walketh through dry places, diseases, because of the difficulties of seeking rest and finding none. Then always discriminating the remote he saith, I will return into my house causes of these maladies, were, by from whence I came out; and when the common people, regarded as he is come he findeth it empty, swept, demoniacs, and so reported in the and garnished. Then he goeth and New Testament. Still the fact that taketh with himself seven other spirits the Great Teacher himself distin- more wicked than himself, and they guishes between demons and all enter in and dwell there ; and the human maladies, in commanding the last state of that man is worse than Apostles not only to “heal all manner the first. Even so shall it be also to of diseases—to cleanse the lepers, and this wicked generation.” On which raise the dead,” but also to “ cast out observe, that “unclean spirits" is demons ;” and the fact still more another name for demons—that is, a palpable, that in number and power metaphor of a metaphor ; forif demons these demons are represented as are metaphors for diseases, the untranscending all physical maladies, clean spirits are metaphors of metaprecludes the possibility of contem- phors, or shadows of shades. Again, plating them as corporeal diseases. I the Great Teacher is found not only
“When I read of the number of for once departing from himself, but demons in particular persons,” says also from all human teachers of rea very distinguished Biblical critic, nown, in basing a parable upon a “and see their actions expressly dis- parable, or a shadow upon a shade, tinguished from those of the man in drawing a similitude from a simile. possessed ; conversations held by the 'His object was to illustrate the last