others were called lunatics, as if affected by the moon. So modern times have had their St. Vitus' dance, and St. Anthony's fire, and these terms are used without scruple by those who have not the least notion of the interference of these saints in these particular disorders. Indeed, all great irregularities in the system of nature, of which raging madness is one, the ancients, both heathen and Jews, but especially the latter, were accustomed to attribute to supernatural agency. Thus, for instance, an unusual and lucky cast of the dice was called by the Romans the cast of Venus,' as if occasioned by that goddess. It is wonderful to me how any man, conversant with classic authors, can entertain any other opinion of the demoniacs of the New Testament. Indeed, it is the most remarkable instance I know of the triumph of prejudice and superstition over learning and good sense. This idea is nothing new. The same opinion was maintained by several great men, both of the last and present century; and, among the rest, by Joseph Mede, of Christ's College, Cambridge, as learned, and, in every view, as respectable a divine as England ever produced."

Such being the facts in relation to demons and demoniacs, we are led necessarily to adopt the following conclusions, namely:

1. That all that is said in the New Testament concerning demons is spoken in accordance with the generally received opinions of the people of that day, and without any intention to sanction those opinions, or give them the least countenance or support.

2. When persons are spoken of in the New Testament as having been possessed with demons, all that ought to be understood by it is, that the persons were laboring under some kind of disease, either bodily or mental, which was supposed to be occasioned by a demon or demons.

3. When the Jews accuse Christ of having a demon, - John 10: 20, 21, and 7: 20, and 8: 48, 49, 52, — and John the Baptist of having a demon, Matt. 11: 18, and Luke 7: 33,- all that is to be understood by it is, that either they accused them of this out of malice, or else they actually believed them to be deranged, and supposed their derangement to be occasioned by a demon. Indeed, they say of Christ, John 10: 20, " He hath a demon, and is mad." Now, all will admit that when they supposed John and Christ to have a demon, they were mistaken. Why, then, not

[ocr errors]

admit that they were equally as mistaken in supposing any one to

have a demon?

4. When it is said of Christ, and of his disciples, that they cast demons out of persons, we are to understand by it that they removed the diseases under which the persons were laboring, and which were supposed to be produced by demons. Indeed, it is expressly said of such, that "they were healed." Matt. 4: 24, and 12: 22, and 17: 18, and 15: 28; Acts 5: 16.

5. When Christ gave his disciples power to cast out demons, we are to understand that he gave them power to cure or remove those diseases which were supposed to be occasioned by evil spirits called demons.


we are

6. When it is said of Mary Magdalene that seven demons were cast out of her, we are to understand that a disease was removed from her which was supposed to be occasioned by the power of seven demons. And when it is said that a legion of demons were cast out of the Gadarene demoniac, Luke 8: 30, 33, to understand that he was cured of a madness of such malignant kind that it was supposed to be produced by the combined influence of a whole legion of demons. That his disease was madness is evident, not only from his conduct, but from the fact that it is expressly said of him, "he was restored to his right mind." Luke 8: 35, and Mark 5: 15.

7. When it is said of Christ that he cast a dumb demon out of one man,- Luke 11: 14,- and a blind and dumb demon out of another, Matt. 12: 22, we are to understand, not that the demons were blind, or dumb, or both, but that the person himself, in the one case, was dumb, and in the other, both blind and dumb. And as Christ restored the speech of one, and both the speech and sight of the other, hence it was supposed by the Jews that he had cast out the demons which were supposed by them to occasion these disorders.

[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]

To the views which we have presented on this subject, it will undoubtedly be objected as follows, namely:

1. "Both Christ and his disciples speak of demons as real beings, nor do they give the least intimation that they were not. Now, if they believed that the opinions of the Jews respecting demons were mere superstitious whims, why did they not inform them of this fact?"

ANSWER. We will answer this question by asking another. Christ speaks of mammon as a real being, Matt. 6: 24; Luke 16: 9, nor does he give any intimation that he did not believe in the existence of such a being. Now, if Christ believed that no such being as mammon existed, why did he not inform the people of that fact? Mammon was one of the heathen gods the god of riches; and if the silence of Christ respecting his disbelief in the existence of demons proves that such beings do really exist, then his silence respecting his disbelief in mammon proves that such a god as mammon does really exist. Again, Christ and his disciples speak of the devil, of death, and of wisdom, as real beings; but who believes that they intended to countenance the belief of the heathen respecting the existence of an evil god, or of the Jews respecting the existence of an all-powerful evil spirit, called the devil, who was once an angel of God? In Chapter II. of this work we have shown that Christ used the term devil in the same sense that the term Satan is employed in the Old Testament; and that it is not once used to signify a personal being called the devil. Is it to be supposed that, when Christ and his disciples speak of death and wisdom as personal beings, they meant to recognize the real existence of the angel of death, supposed to exist by the Jews? or the goddess of wisdom, supposed to exist by the heathen? Certainly not. No more is it to be supposed that, when they speak of demons, they meant to recognize the real existence of such beings. Once more. The disciples of Christ speak of the doctrine of preëxistence; John 9: 1–3; of the doctrine of transmigration; Matt. 14: 1, 2, and 16: 14; Mark 6: 15, 16; Luke 9: 7, 19; nor were either of these doctrines pointedly or particularly condemned by Jesus Christ. But are we to infer from this fact that these doctrines are true? In Gal. 3: 1, Paul speaks of witchcraft, nor does he say that he did not believe in witchcraft. But are we to infer from this that Paul really believed in the existence of witches? we read of a certain damsel who was possessed of ation," or "of Python," as it is in the margin. heathen prophetess, or fortune-teller, and it was supposed by the heathen that she was inspired by the spirit of Apollo Pythias. Paul is said to have cast this spirit out of her; and nothing is said, either by Luke or Paul, respecting the falsity of the heathen notions respecting the source of the inspiration of this damsel, nor even of

In Acts 16: 16,


spirit of divin

This damsel was a

[ocr errors]


the inspiration itself. But are we to infer from this that Luke and Paul believed she was really inspired, and that, too, by the spirit of a dead man? Christ and his disciples speak of these, and many other things, in the common language of the age, and they frequently allude to the opinions of the Jews, without telling us how those opinions originated, or whether they believed them true or false. In the language of Mr. Balfour: "To have corrected all the false opinions of the age, would have been an arduous and vain work ; and had they not spoken of things in the common language of other people, they could not have been understood; but would have subjected themselves to the charge of vanity and affectation. They did then what we do now speak in the popular language of the day. We speak now of St. Anthony's fire, St. Vitus' dance, and of the rising and setting of the sun; and people would smile at the man who refused to do so."

[ocr errors]

2. It is objected that "Jesus spoke of Beelzebub as the prince of demons; Luke 11: 18, 19, and never intimated that no such being existed; but, on the contrary, spoke as if such a being did really exist."

ANSWER. When Jesus spoke of Beelzebub, he spoke in answer to a charge brought against himself by the Jews, namely, that he cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub. He spoke in accordance with the generally received opinion, and reasoned with the Jews on their own received principles. He showed the inconsist ency of supposing that Beelzebub would lend his aid in overcoming and casting out his own demons. The argument was conclusive; and it appears the Jews deemed it so, for they never undertook to refute it. The Jews evidently believed Beelzebub to be the prince of demons. But what authority had they for thus believing? Certainly not the authority of the Bible; for that contains no such doctrine. On the contrary, it affirms that Baal-zebub was the god of Ekron, 2 Kings 1: 2, 3, 6, 16. After the Jews adopted the heathen fables respecting demons, and the prince which presided over them, it was the easiest thing in the world to apply the terms Beelzebub and Satan to that prince.

3. It is said that "Jesus rebuked these demons; but how could he rebuke a thing which did not exist ?"

ANSWER. - When it is said that Jesus rebuked these demons, we are to understand that he rebuked the disease, which was sup

[ocr errors]

posed to be produced by demons. And that there is nothing inconsistent in this idea, must be admitted, inasmuch as it is expressly said of Peter's wife's mother, who was sick of a fever, that Jesus "rebuked the fever, and it left her." Luke 4: 38, 39.

4. "These demons are represented as talking; but how could they be said to talk, unless they really existed?"

ANSWER. - When these demons are represented as talking, we are to understand by it, not that the demons spoke, but that thc persons themselves, who were supposed to be possessed, uttered the words which are ascribed to the demon. It was supposed, by those who believed in demoniacal possession, that all the actions, words or deeds, of the man thus possessed were produced by an evil spirit, and hence, whatever the demoniac himself said or did was ascribed to the demon. Besides, the language which is ascribed to the demons in Luke 4: 40, 41, is, in Luke 4: 33-36, Luke 8: 26-38, Matt. 8: 28-34, and Mark 5: 1-21, ascribed to the demoniacs themselves.

5. "These demoniacs acknowledged themselves to be possessed with demons; but how is this fact to be accounted for, if, indeed, there was no such thing?"

ANSWER. How is it to be accounted for that, during the time of the Salem witchcraft, many persons acknowledged themselves to be bewitched; and even, in some cases, that they were witches, and had power to bewitch others? The fact is, it was a current opinion among the Jews that madness was owing to a possession with an evil spirit; hence the madmen themselves, who once had their senses, must of course have had the same notion. “ These madmen, as is not uncommon, knew themselves to be so; and, therefore, thought themselves possessed, and spoke in that character." They not only believed themselves to be possessed, but they thought that the process of expelling the demons from them would be attended with pain. They also believed that these demons were sent to punish them for their sins; and that the demons themselves would some time or other be sent to some place of punishment. Hence, they besought Jesus to "torment them not." Luke 8: 28. This is explained by the next words. "For he (Jesus) had commanded the unclean spirit to come out." The demoniac thought it would be a painful operation to expel the demons, and chose to remain as When it is said the demons "besought Jesus that ho

he was.

« VorigeDoorgaan »