Alexander Campbell Remarks to M. Winans (1842)





VOL. VI. B E T H A N Y,   V A. FEBRUARY, 1842. NO. II.

D E M O N O L O G Y.

JAMESTOWN, O., January 1, 1842.      

Dear brother Campbell,

      I NEVER have at any time been so gross a materialist as to suppose that the mere organization of matter was of itself that which thought and reasoned, or that life and thought were the mere effects of organization; but at the same time I have not been able to apprehend life nor thought abstract from organization. In the dead body I see organization without life or thought, and in the living body I can apprehend both life and thought; therefore, I conclude they are something added to organization; and this compound of organized matter, life, and thought constitute the living SOUL: thus man composed of all these parts, became a living soul; and neither of these parts separately constituted man a living soul. Therefore, when the immortality of man is spoken of, or alluded to in the scriptures, the whole compound is to be understood. The mere incorruptibility of his body would not fill the idea of his immortality, nor would the perpetual existence of life or thought fill the idea without the identity or organization.

      The salvation proposed in the gospel I understand to include the whole man, and to preserve his identity forever. The mere salvation of his body, without life or thought, would be but little better than the embalming practised by the ancients; and the salvation of life and thought abstract from the body, would be but little better than the practice now prevailing of printing the cogitations of the man and preserving them in the form of a book. In both of these ways we might have the dead constantly among us; but this would be a poor thing I conclude, when compared with the salvation proposed by the resurrection of the dead. This salvation, in which my identity, my life, and my thoughts or ideas are all preserved from destruction, is the salvation I desire and the one which I think is promised in the gospel--then to the limited stock of ideas which is stored away in my memory here, I hope to make constant additions forever; so that the sheet so often written over, to which you allude in your excellent Address on Memory will still contain more and more forever and ever. When ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands of such sheets, beginning at different periods of time, are all brought together into one great library, who could not spend an eternity in it? What an infinite field of knowledge is presented before us in contemplating the resurrection from the dead!

            In this lively hope I remain yours,
M. WINANS.      

JAMESTOWN, O., January 1, 1842.      

Dear brother Campbell;

      IN the late "Harbinger" you have laid a part of my difficulties on Demonology before your readers, and have added some remarks which are duly appreciated. No man can be more desirous to learn the nature and design of all things mentioned in the New Testament than I am. Since I began to read the scriptures as a revelation from God, I have read them as a revelation, and not as a riddle. I read of demons, and believed in their existence; but I did not understand them [65] to be the spirits of dead men, but supposed them to be the messengers of the Devil, by which he inflicted torments on the human family by these agents. I supposed him to compel men to do things contrary to their interests; that they were a kind of task-masters over men, somewhat like the Egyptians were over the children of Israel by the commands of their king Pharaoh, that God for a time thus suffered the Devil to domineer over men; so that he actually claimed universal dominion, and offered to give his dominion to Jesus on the condition that he would worship him, which he refused to do, but determined to wrest the government from him, and deliver men from his tyranny; which work he soon after commenced, and with a display of supernatural powers, of which the miracles of Moses were but a shadow, he hurled those demons commissioned of the Devil down to Tartarus, from whence they will not return until the Egyptians who were overwhelmed in the Red Sea, return--they, with all the enemies of God, whether originally angels or men, will be judged in the day appointed, and cast into the lake of fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.

      In regard to a spiritual system, I am not sceptical, but fully embrace the doctrine of angels and spirits; but that the system is composed in whole or in part of the spirits of dead men, previous to the resurrection is a dogma to which I have not fully assented. I learn that the resurrected saints are to be like unto angels; but that they are so before the resurrection is not told.

      The identity of abstract human spirits is beyond my ken. When united with bodies, either material or spiritual, I can apprehend and distinguish them; but pure abstract spirit, unmixed with mortal or immortal substance, is too remote to be seen in the lens of my microscope.

      I have some curious questions in store about the influence of bodies on spirits and vice versa.

      Go on and, let us know all you have learned about demons; for I am anxious to apprehend that matter.

M. WINANS.      


Dear brother Winans,

      YOU believe in a spiritual system. You are like Paul--a Pharisee, and not a Sadducee. You believe three things which the ancient and modern Sadducees have not believed--a resurrection of the body, the existence of angels, and of spirits. You believe that no more will come out of the grave than goes into it--you believe what Matthew reports, viz.--that after Christ arose from the dead "many bodies of the saints came out of their graves and appeared to the living in Jerusalem." You do not believe that any souls came out of the graves, but you believe that bodies came out of the graves. All that dies goes into the grave, but all of man that dieth not goes somewhere else. The body you believe is a house, a home for the soul; and you believe that the spirit is the ghost or guest of that body. You believe that the Holy Spirit of the Old Testament is the Holy Guest or Ghost [66] of the New; and that it is so called because it now truly and really dwells in men on this earth. Such, my dear brother, is thy faith.--Now in this you believe in demons, or the spirits of dead men, living apart, or "absent from the body." From the necessity of your own premises you must believe it, unless you have found a third sort of spirits, or a new race of spirits which the Bible has not revealed nor named. The controversy between Paul and Epicurus, between Priestly and the Christians, between the Materialists and Spiritualists, has but three points--the resurrection of the body, angels and spirits. Spirits and angels are not one point: they are two points. Now the Bible reveals no race of spirits distinct from angels but human spirits. If brother Winans knows of another race of spirits than these, he will confer a great favor on the readers of the Harbinger by giving us a description of them.

      Now as demons are interchangeably called "spirit," "unclean spirits," "evil spirits," in the New Testament, and as that which "returns to God" when the body returns to the dust, is called "the spirit of a man"--as that which Stephen commended to Jesus, when dying, was not his body, but his spirit, we are, from the necessity of the case, as well as from all the other reasons suggested in the Essay on Demonology, constrained to regard demons as the spirits of dead men. The sacred style authorizes no other distinction in spirits than God, angels, and human spirits, bodied and disembodied. If you know of a new class, brother Winans, please define and locate them, and oblige yours sincerely and affectionately,

A. CAMPBELL.      
            January 22, 1842.

January 22, 1842.      


      My dear Sir--AS you presented me with a double epistle on the first instant, I, though not so affluent in time as you, will add a few words more in the form of a second epistle. Are you sure that angels are spirits at all? They have not flesh and bones we are sure, and what authority have you for supposing them to be spirits at all? You will say, "He makes his angels spirits;" but you will remember he also adds, "And his ministers are flames of fire." This is spoken of his messengers--the winds, the lightnings, and the agents of Nature. If the saints at the resurrection of the just are made like to the angels, will there not be spirits of angels and mere spirits? "Angels and spirits" are not angels or spirits. We never read of an angel of any sort entering into a man, unless in some figurative way, as Satan is said to have entered into Judas when his temptation took effect. [67]

      Angels, I presume, are not composed of body, soul, and spirit, as man is; but are simple and single existences. Man was not made in the image of angels; nor were they made in the image of God.--God exists in a bodied and disembodied form: so does man. So I am taught by Apostles and Prophets, and by the Great Teacher himself, who said, 'Men can kill the body, but not the soul.' Of course, then, when men are killed their bodies only are slain, and the spirit escapes. The body of Jesus was slain, but the spiritual existence within was not slain. "A body hast thou prepared me;" and that body of flesh he gave for the life of the world.

      I make no objections to your opinions about the number of unclean spirits that have haunted the world in the times of the Messiah, or his having sent them down in great multitudes to Tartarus, &c. as affording him an opportunity for demonstrating his divine supremacy over all; and that consequently the earth has been rid of these innumerable hosts that once lorded it over the living race. I will not enter into these speculations; but, as we both wish to understand the demons or unclean spirits that possessed living men, and were so often exorcised and dispossessed by the Holy Spirit in Jesus and the Apostles, I stand up for the letter of the Old and New Testament and the real antiquities of the world, both Jewish, Pagan, and Christian, on this subject, and as yet remain firm in the conclusion that demons, literally and properly so called in the New Testament, were not angels, but spirits, human spirits; for we know of no other spirits, because the Bible makes known no other.

      I have before said that spirits may be literally called angels; but it does not thence follow that angels are literally spirits, or may be so denominated. All men are animals; but all animals are not men. All spirits may be made messengers, or angels; but all messengers are not spirits. When Peter escaped from prison and came to the house of his friends, the disciples believed that it was his spirit or angel that came to the door. Thus we find spirit sometimes called angel. "Their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven," has been a perplexing phrase to commentators for ages. I have vacillated less or more as to its true import, generally inclining to the notion that those little ones who believed in Jesus were honored with guardian angels who stood before God. But as we have Peter's or "his angel," and "their angels," of the same category, I am not sure but a deeper insight into the demonology of the New Testament has furnished me with a clearer conception of that mysterious phrase. Thus it would mean that the spirits of such persons were favored with the light of God's countenance. I have sometimes supposed that Peter's angel, in the esteem of his Christian contemporaries, might [68] have been a messenger sent by him to inform the disciples of something he wished them to know. But as we have the two phrases, "his angel" and "their angels" of the same authority, antiquity, and style, I deem it safer to interpret them both by one law; and therefore make them stand for spirits here, as they were occasionally so contemplated by the ancients.

      We believe many facts we cannot explain. You and I believe a spiritual system; but can we explain it, its mode of existence or operation? We cannot; but we rise to it analogically, as we rise to the conception of the ether. We understand some of the laws of water, of atmosphere; but how little do we know of that ethereal expanse in which all the sublime agents that so incomprehensibly influence the winds, the floods, the lights and lightnings of heaven, and all manner of life terrestrial or planetary--that flood of sublimated matter in which floats a universe of worlds, itself so refined, so attenuated, and so subtle, that it eludes, and will forever elude, the analysis and comprehension of man. Of that unearthly matter, so elastic, imponderable, and pure, who can say what creations have been made, or shall hereafter be made. But enough. You believe in a spiritual system: so do I. We can no more explain how spirits operate on matter or on mind than we can explain how lightnings are generated, animated and influenced by the subtle agents that conglomerate, direct, and wield their power.

      I therefore go for facts which I can believe, and for definitions which I can understand; of which is the word demon, angel, spirit, and the powers and attributes assigned them. I value the doctrine concerning demons, so far as it is taught, not by the Pope, but by the Spirit, as unanswerable proof a spiritual system, of that power which spirits good and bad may exercise upon men.

      Fraternally yours in the hope of perfect knowledge,

A. CAMPBELL.      

[The Millennial Harbinger (February 1842): 65-69.]


      Alexander Campbell's "Remarks" to M. Winans was first published in The Millennial Harbinger, New Series, Vol. 6, No. 2, February 1842. The electronic version of the letters has been produced from the College Press reprint (1976) of The Millennial Harbinger, ed. Alexander Campbell (Bethany, VA: A. Campbell, 1842), pp. 65-69.

      Pagination in the electronic version has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. I have let stand variations and inconsistencies in the author's (or editor's) use of italics, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling in the letters. Emendations for accidental corruptions and misspellings are as follows:

            Printed Text [ Electronic Text
 p. 65:     wer[inverted e] the mere [ were the mere
            be ter than the practice [ better than the practice
 p. 66:     wi h a display [ with a display
            viz --that [ viz.--that
            Jerusalem " [ Jerusalem."
 p. 67:     "uncleah spirits," [ "unclean spirits,"
            fire " [ fire."
            Jndas [ Judas
 p. 68:     antiqui- ies [ antiquities
            vascillated [ vacillated

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
Derry, PA

Created 17 January 1999.
Updated 7 July 2003.

Alexander Campbell Remarks to M. Winans (1842)

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