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Alexander Campbell
Popular Lectures and Addresses (1886)





      And Gentlemen, members of the Popular Lecture Club:--

      While the antiquary is gathering up the mouldering ruins of ancient temples, palaces and cities, or poring over the coins, medals and statues of other ages, seeking to prove or to embellish some theory of the olden times; while the astronomer is directing his largest telescope to some remote ethereal field, far beyond the Milky Way, in search of new nebulæ unseen hitherto, in hope to find the nucleus of some incipient solar system; while the speculative geologist is delving down to the foundations of the eternal mountains, in quest of new evidences of his doctrine of successive and long-protracted formations of the massy strata of mother earth, "rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun;" while the skeptic is exultingly scanning the metaphysical dream of some imaginary system of nature, or seeking in the desolations of the ancient mythologies arguments against the mighty facts and overwhelming demonstrations of the Christian faith--may I be allowed, gentlemen, to invite you into the precincts of Demonology, to accompany me in a brief excursion into the land of demons, whence, dark and mysterious though it be, we may perhaps, guided by some friendly star, elicit some useful light on that grand and awful world of spirits which, as we descend the hill of life, rises higher and higher in its demands upon our time and thoughts, as embracing the all-absorbing interests of human kind?

      Think not, however, that I intend to visit the fairy realms and enchanting scenes of wild romance, or that I wish to indulge in the fascinating fictions of poets, ancient or modern; think not that I am about to ascend with old Hesiod into his curious theogony of gods and demigods, or to descend with the late Sir Walter Scott to the phantasmatic realms of Celtic and Scottish ghosts and demons. I aim at [379] more substantial entertainment, at more sober and grave realities, than the splendid fancies of those gifted and fortunate votaries of popular applause.

      The subject of demons, as forming a portion of the real antiquities of the world--as connected with Pagan, Jewish and Christian theology--the subject of demons, sometimes called devils, not in their fictitious, but in their true character, is that which I propose to discuss; for even here, as in every thing else, there are the fact and the fable, the true and the false, the real and the imaginary. The extravagant fancies of the poets, the ghosts and spectres of the dark ages, have spread their sable mantles upon this subject, and involved it either in philosophical dubiety or in a blind indiscriminate infidelity.

      The Christian philosopher in this department, as in most others, finds truth and fable blended in the same tradition; and therefore, neither awed by authority, nor allured by the fascinations of novelty, he institutes an examination into the merits of this subject, which, if true, cannot but deeply interest the thoughtful, and if false, should be banished from the minds of all.

      That a class of beings designated demons has been an element of the faith, an object of the dread and veneration, of all ages and nations, as far back as memory reaches, no one who believes in a spiritual system--no one who regards the volumes of divine inspiration, or who is even only partially acquainted with Pagan and Jewish antiquity, can reasonably doubt. But concerning these demons, of what order of intelligences, of what character and destiny, of what powers intellectual and moral, there has been much debate, and there is need of further and more satisfactory examination.

      Before entering either philosophically or practically into this investigation, it is necessary that we define the true and proper meaning of the term demon. This word, it is said, is of Grecian origin and character--of which, however, we have not full assurance. In that language it is written and pronounced daimoon, and, according to some etymologists, is legitimately descended from a very ancient verb, pronounced daioo, which means to discriminate, to know. Daimoon, or demon, therefore, simply indicates a person of Intelligence--a knowing one. Thus, before the age of philosophy, or the invention of the name, those were called demons, as a title of honor, who afterwards assumed the more modest title of philosophers. Aristotle, for his great learning, was called a demon, as was the celebrated Thucydides: hence among the Platonists it was for some time a title of honor. But this, it must be observed, was a special appropriation, like our use of the [380] words divine and reverend. When we apply these titles to sinful men, who, because of their calling, ought to be not only intelligent, but of a divine and celestial temper and morality, we use them by a special indulgence from that sovereign pontiff with whom is the jus et norma loquendi.

      But as some of the Platonists elevated the spirits of departed heroes, public benefactors and distinguished men into a species of demigods or mediators between them and the Supreme Divinity, as some of our forefathers were accustomed to regard the souls of departed saints, this term began to be used in a more general sense. Among some philosophers it became the title of an object of worship; while, on the other hand, it degenerated into the genii of poetry and imagination.

      In tracing the popular transitions of words, permit me, gentlemen, to say that we are not to imagine that they ceremoniously advance, like our naval and military officers, from one rank to another, by some systematic or conventional agreement. On the contrary, the transitions are exceedingly anomalous, and sometimes inverted. In this instance the term demon, from simply indicating a knowing one, became the title of a human spirit when divested of its clay tenement, because of its supposed initiation into the secrets of another world. Thus a separated spirit became a genius, a demigod, a mediator, a divinity of the ancient superstition, according to its acquirements in this state of probation.

      But we shall better understand the force and import of this mysterious word from its earliest acceptation among the elder Pagans, Jews and Christians, than from the speculations of etymologists and lexicographers. Historical facts, then, and not etymological speculations, shall decide not only its meaning, but the character and rank of those beings on whom, by common consent, this significant title was conferred.

      To whom, then, among Pagan writers shall we make our first appeal? Shall we not at once carry up the question to the most venerable Hesiod, the oldest of Grecian bards, whose style even antedates that of Homer himself almost one hundred years? Shall we not appeal to the genealogist of all the gods, the great theogonist of Grecian mythology? Who more likely than he to be acquainted with the ancient traditions of demons? And what is the sum of his testimony in the case? Hear him speak in the words of Plutarch:--"The spirits of mortals become demons when separated from their earthly bodies." The Grecian biographist not only quotes with approbation the views of Hesiod, but corroborates them by the result of his own researches, [381] avowing his conviction that "the demons of the Greeks were the ghosts and genii of departed men; and that they go up and down the earth as observers, and even rewarders, of men; and although not actors themselves, they encourage others to act in harmony with their views and characters." Zenocrates too, as quoted by Aristotle, extends the term to the souls of men before death, and calls them demons while in the body. To the good demons and the spirits of deceased heroes they allotted the office of mediators between gods and men.1 In this light Zoroaster, Thales, Pythagoras, Plato, Plutarch, Celsus, Apuleius, and many others regarded the demons of their times.

      Whoever, indeed, will be at pains to examine the Pagan mythologies, one and all, will discover that some doctrine of demons, as respects their nature, abodes, characters or employments, is the ultimate foundation of their whole superstructure; and that the radical idea of all the dogmata of their priests, and the fancies and fables of their poets, is found in that most ancient and veritable tradition--that the spirits of men survive their fallen tabernacles, and live in a disembodied state from death to the dissolution of material nature. To these spirits, in the character of genii, gods or demigods, they assigned the fates and fortunes of men and countries. With them a hero on earth became a demon in hades, and a demigod, a numen, a divinity, in the skies. It is not without some reason that the witty and ingenious Lucian makes his dialogist, in the orthodoxy of his age, ask and answer the following questions:--What is man? A mortal god. And what is God? An immortal man. In one sentence, all Pagan antiquity affirms that from Titan and Saturn, the poetic progeny of Cœlusm and Terra, down to Æsculapius, Proteus and Minos, all their divinities were the ghosts of dead men, and were so regarded by the most erudite of the Pagans themselves.

      Think not, gentlemen, that because we summon the Pagan witnesses first, we regard them as the first either in point of age or character. Far from it. They were a set of plagiarists, from Hesiod to Lucian. The Greeks were the greatest literary thieves and robbers that ever lived; and they had the most consummate art of concealing the theft. From these Pagans, whether Greeks or Romans, we ascend to the Jews and to the Patriarchs, whose annals transcend those of the most ancient Pagans many centuries. [382]

      In the times of the Patriarchs, in the infancy of the Abrahamic family, long before the time of their own Moses, we learn that in the land of Canaan, almost coeval with the promise of it to Abraham, demons were recognized and worshipped. The consultation of the spirits of the dead, the art and mystery of necromancy, familiar spirits, and wizards, are older than Moses, and are spoken of by him as matters of ancient faith and veneration. Statutes, indeed, are ordained, and laws are promulged from Mount Sinai in Arabia, by the Eternal King, against the worship of demons, the consultation of familiar spirits, the practice of necromancy, and all the arts of divination; of which we may speak more particularly in the sequel. Hence we affirm that the doctrine of a separate state--of disembodied ghosts, or demons--of necromancy and divination, is a thousand years older than Homer or Hesiod, than any Pagan historian, philosopher or poet whomsoever. And so deeply rooted in the land of Canaan, so early and so long cherished and taught by the seven nations, was this doctrine in all its branches, that, notwithstanding the severe statutes against it, traces of it are found among the Jews for almost a thousand years after Moses. Of the wicked Jeroboam it is said, "He ordained priests for the high places, and for the demons."2 Even David admits that his nation "learned the works of the heathen, served their idols, and sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons;" and he adds, "they ate the sacrifices of the dead;" a clear intimation that worshipping demons was worshipping the dead. Isaiah, too, lamenting their idolatry, asks the mortifying question, "Shall a people seek the living to the dead?"

      But there is a peculiarity in the acceptation of this term among Jews and Pagans which demands special attention. With them the term demon generally, if not universally, denoted an unclean, malign or wicked spirit; whereas amongst the Pagans it as often represented a good as an evil spirit. Who has not heard of the good demon of Socrates, and of the evil genius of Brutus? while among Jews and Christians so commonly are found the akatharta pneumata or the ponera pneumata--the unclean and malign spirits--that our translators have almost uniformly translated them devils.

      In the Christian Scriptures, we meet the term demon, in one form or other, seventy-five times, and in such circumstances as, with but one or two exceptions, constrain us to regard it as the representative of a wicked and unclean spirit. So general is this fact, that [383] Beelzebub is dignified "the prince of the demons"--unfortunately rendered devils. This association of the idea of wickedness with the word daimoon may have induced our translators to give us so many devils in their authorized version. But this misapprehension is now universally admitted and regretted; for, while the Bible teaches many demons, it nowhere intimates a plurality of devils or Satans. There is but one devil or Satan in the universe, whose legions of angels and demons give him a sort of omnipresence, by acting out his will in all their intercourse with mortals. This evil spirit, whose official titles are the serpent, the devil and Satan, is always found in the singular number in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures; while demon is found in both numbers, indicating sometimes one, and sometimes a legion.

      But, not to be tedious in this work of definition, and that we may enter at once upon the subject with a zeal and spirit worthy of a topic which lays the axe at the root of the tree of modern Sadducism, materialism and skepticism, we shall proceed to sum up the evidence in proof of the proposition which we shall state as the peculiar theme of this great literary adventure. That proposition is--The demons of Paganism, Judaism and Christianity were the ghosts of dead men.

      But some of you may say, You have proposed to dismiss this work of definition too soon; for here is the horrible word ghost. Of what is that term the sign in your style? Well, we must explain ourselves.

      Our Saxon forefathers, of whom we have no good reason to be ashamed, were wont to call the spirits of men, especially when separated from their bodies, ghosts. This, however, they did, not with the associations which arise in our minds on every pronunciation of that startling term. Guest and ghost, with them, if not synonyms, were, at least, cousins-german. They regarded the body as the house, and, therefore, called the spirit the guest; for guest and ghost are two branches from the same root. William Tyndale, the martyr, of excellent memory, in his version of the New Testament--the prototype of that of King James--very judiciously makes the Holy Spirit of the Old Testament the Holy Ghost of the New; because, in his judgment, it was the promised guest of the Christian temple.

      Still, it is difficult, I own, to hear the word ghost or demon without the recollection of the nursery tales and fictions of our irrational systems of early education. We suffer little children to hear so much of [384]

                          "apparitions tall and ghastly,
  That take their stand o'er some new-open'd grave,
  And, strange to tell, evanish at the crowing of the cock,"

      that they become, not only in youth, but often in riper years, the prey and sport of idle fears and terrors "which scarce the firm philosopher can scorn." Not only the graveyard,

                          "but the lonely tower
  Is also shunn'd, whose mournful cloisters hold--
  So night-struck fancy dreams--the yelling ghost."

      Imagination once startled,

"In grim array the nightly spectres rise:
  Oft have we seen the school-boy, satchel in hand,
  When passing by some haunted spot, at lonely even,
  Whistling aloud to bear his courage up. Suddenly he hears,
  Or thinks he hears, the sound of something purring at his heels;
  Full fast he flies, nor does he look behind him,
  Till, out of breath, he overtake his fellows,
  Who gather round and wonder at the tale."

      Parents are greatly in fault for permitting such tales to disturb the fancies of their infant offspring. The love of the marvellous and of the supernatural is so deeply planted in human nature, that it needs but little cultivation to make it fruitful in all manner of fairy-tales, of ghosts and spectres. But there is an opposite extreme--the denial of spirits, angels, demons, whether good or bad. Here, too, media ibis tutissima--"the middle path the safer is."

      But to our proposition. We have, from a careful survey of the history of the term demon, concluded that the demons of Paganism, Judaism and Christianity were the ghosts of dead men. But we build not merely upon the definition of the term or on its philological history, but upon the following seven pillars:--

      1. All Pagan authors of note, whose works have survived the wreck of ages, affirm the opinion that demons were the spirits or ghosts of dead men. From Hesiod down to the more polished Celsus, historians, poets and philosophers occasionally express this opinion.

      2. The Jewish historians, Josephus and Philo, also avow this conviction. Josephus says, "Demons are the spirits of wicked men, who enter into living men and destroy them, unless they are so happy as to meet with speedy relief."3 Philo says, "The souls of dead men are called demons." [385]

      3. The Christian fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Origen, &c. depose to the same effect. Justin, when arguing for a future state, says, "Those who are seized and tormented by the souls of the dead, whom all call demons and madmen."4 Lardner, after examining with the utmost care the works of these and all the other fathers of the first two centuries, says, "The notion of demons, or the souls of dead men, having power over living men, was universally prevalent among the heathen of these times, and believed by many Christians."5

      4. The evangelists and apostles of Jesus Christ so understood the matter. As this is a very important, and, of itself, a sufficient, pillar on which to rest our edifice, we shall be at more pains to illustrate and enforce it. We shall first state the philological law or canon of criticism, on the generality and truth of which all our dictionaries, grammars and translations are formed. Every word not specially explained or defined in a particular sense; by any standard writer of any particular age and country, is to be taken and applied in the current or commonly received signification of that country and age in which the writer lived and wrote. If this canon of translation and of criticism be denied, then we affirm there is no value in dictionaries, nor in the acquisition of ancient languages in which any book may be written, nor is there any confidence to be placed in any translation of any ancient work, sacred or profane; for they are all made upon the assumption of the truth of this law.

      We have, then, only to ask, first, for the current signification of this term demon in Judea at the Christian era; and, in the second place, Did the inspired writers ever give any special definition of it? We have already found an answer to the first in the Greeks and Jews of the apostolic age, and of the preceding and subsequent ages. We have heard Josephus, Philo, Lucian, Justin and Lardner, from whose writings and affirmations we are expressly told what the universal acceptation of the term was in Judea and in those times. In the second place, the apostles and our Lord, as already said, use this word in various forms seventy-five times, and on no occasion give any hint of a special, private or peculiar interpretation of it; which was not their method when they used a term either not generally understood, or understood in a special sense. Does any one ask the meaning of the words Messiah, prophet, priest, elder, deacon, presbytery, altar, sacrifice, sabbath, circumcision, &c.? We refer him to the current signification of these words among the Jews and Greeks of that age. Why, then, should [386] any one except the term demon from the universal law? Are we not, therefore, sustained by the highest and most authoritative decision of that literary tribunal by whose rules and decrees all works sacred and profane are translated from a dead to a living tongue? We are, then, fully authorized to say that the demons of the New Testament were the spirits of dead men.

      5. But as a distinct historic evidence, and as confirmatory rather of our views than of the authority of the inspired authors, I adduce a very explicit and decisive passage from the epistle to the Smyrneans, written by the celebrated Ignatius, the disciple of the Apostle John. He quotes the words of the Lord to Peter when Peter supposed he saw a spirit or a ghost. But he quotes him thus:--"Handle me and see, for I am not--daimoon asomaton--a disembodied demon;"--a spirit without a body. This places the matter above all doubt that with those of that day demon and ghost were equivalent terms.

      6. But we also deduce an argument from the word angel. This word is of Bible origin, and confined to those countries in which that volume is found. It is not found in any of the Greek poets, orators or historians, so far as known to me. Of that rank of beings to whom Jews and Christians have applied this official title, the Pagan nations seem never to have had the first conception. It is therefore certain that they could not use the term demon interchangeably with the word angel, as indicative of an order of intelligent beings above men and intermediate between them and the Divinity. They had neither the name nor the idea of an angel in their mythology. Philo the Jew has, indeed, said that amongst the Jews the word demon and the word angel were sometimes used interchangeably; and some have thence inferred that lapsed angels were called demons. But this is not a logical inference; for the Jews called the winds, the pestilence, the lightnings of heaven, &c., angels, as indicative of their agency in accomplishing the will of God. In this sense, indeed, a demon might be officially called an angel. But in this sense demon is to angel as the species to the genus: we can call a demon an angel, but we cannot call an angel a demon--just as we can call every man an animal, but we cannot call every animal a man.

      Others, indeed, have imagined that the old giants and heroes, said to have been the fruit of the intermarriage of the sons of God with the daughters of men before the flood, were the demons of all the world--Pagans, Jews and Christians. Their most plausible argument is, that the word hero and the word love are identical; and that the loves of the angels the daughters of men was the reason that their [387] gigantic offspring were called heroes; whence the term was afterwards appropriated to persons of great courage as well as of great stature. This is simply ridiculous.

      But to return to the word angel. It is a Bible term, and not being found in all classic, in all mythologic, antiquity, could not have entered into the Pagan ideas of a demon. Now, that it is not so used in the Christian Scriptures is evident from the following reasons:--

      1st. Angels were never said to enter into any one.

      2d. Angels have no affection for bodies of any sort, either as habitations or vehicles of action.

      3d. Angels have no predilection for tombs and monuments of the dead.

      In these three particulars angels and demons stand in full contrast, and are contradistinguished by essentially different characteristics: for--

      1st. Demons have entered into human bodies and into the bodies of inferior creatures.

      2d. Demons evince a peculiar affection for human bodies, and seem to desire them both as vehicles of action and as places of habitation.

      3d. Demons also evince a peculiar fondness for their former mortal tenements: hence we so often read of their carrying the possessed into the graveyards, the tombs and sepulchres, where, perchance, their old mortalities lay in ruins. From which we argue, as well as from the fact that the Pagans knew nothing of a devil, nor an angel, nor Satan, before the Christian era, that when they, or the Christians or Jews, spoke of demons, they could not mean any intermediate rank of spirits apart from the spirits of dead men. Hence in no instance in Holy Writ do we find demon and angel used as convertible terms. Is it not certain, then, that they are the ghosts of dead men? But there yet remains another pillar.

      7. Among the evidences of the Papal defection intimated by Paul, he associates the doctrine concerning demons with celibacy and abstinence from certain meats, as chief among the signs of that fearful apostasy. He warrants the conclusion that the purgatorial prisons for ghosts and the ghostly mediators of departed saints, which, equally with the command to abstain from lawful meats and the prohibition of marriage to the clergy, characterize the times of which he spoke, are attributes of the same system, and indicative of the fact that demons and ghosts are two names for the same things. To this we add the testimony of James, who says the demons believe and tremble for their doom. Now, all eminent critics concur that the spirits of wicked men [388] are here intended; and need I add that oft-repeated affirmation of the demoniacs?--"We know thee, Jesus of Nazareth: art thou come to torment us before the time?" Thus, all the scriptural allusions to this subject authorize the conclusion that demons are wicked and unclean spirits of dead men. A single saying in the Apocalypse makes this most obvious. When Babylon is razed to its foundation, it is said to be made the habitation of demons--of the ghosts of its sepulchred inhabitants. From these seven sources of evidence--viz. the Pagan authors, the Jewish historians, the Christian fathers, the four Evangelists, the epistle of Ignatius, the acceptation of the term angel in its contrast with demon, and the whole of the New Testament--we conclude that the demons of the New Testament were the ghosts of wicked men. May we not henceforth reason from this point with all assurance as a fixed and fundamental principle?

      It ought, however, to be candidly stated that there have been in later times a few intellectual dyspeptics, on whose nervous system the idea of being really possessed by an evil spirit produces a frenzied excitement. Terrified at the thought of an incarnate demon, they have resolutely undertaken to prove that every demon named in Holy Writ is but a bold Eastern metaphor, placing in high relief dumbness, deafness, madness, palsy, epilepsy, &c.; and hence that demoniacs then and now were and are a class of unfortunates laboring under certain physical maladies called unclean spirits. Credat Judæus Apella, non ego.

      On the principle that every demon is an Eastern metaphor, how incomparably more eloquent than Demosthenes or Cicero, was he that had at one time within him a legion of Eastern metaphors struggling for utterance! No wonder, then, that the swineherds of Gadara were overwhelmed by the moving eloquence of their herds as they rushed with such pathos into the deep waters of the dark Galilee!

      Great men are not always wise. The seer of Mesopotamia was not only admonished, but reformed, by the eloquence of an ass; and I am sure that the Gadarene speculators were cured of their belief in Eastern metaphors when they saw their hopes of gain forever buried in the Lake of Gennesareth. It requires a degree of gravity bordering on the superlative, to speculate on an hypothesis so singularly fanciful and baseless as that which converts reason and eloquence, deafness and dumbness, into one and the same metaphor.

      Without impairing in the least the strength of the arguments in favor of actual possession by the spirits of dead men, it may be conceded, that because of the similarity of some of the effects of [389] demoniacal possession with those of maladies of the paralytic and epileptic character, it nay have happened on some occasions that persons simply afflicted with these diseases, because of the difficulty of always discriminating the remote causes of these maladies, were by the common people regarded as demoniacs, and so reported in the New Testament. Still, the fact that the Great Teacher himself distinguishes between demons and all human maladies, in commanding the apostles not only to "heal all manner of diseases--to cleanse the lepers and raise the dead," but also to "cast out demons;"--and the fact, still more palpable, that in number and power these demons are represented as transcending all physical maladies, preclude the possibility of contemplating them as corporeal diseases.

      "When I read of the number of demons in particular persons," says a very distinguished Biblical critic, "and see their actions expressly distinguished from those of the man possessed; conversations held by the demons about their disposal after their expulsion, and accounts given how they were actually disposed of; when I find desires and passions ascribed peculiarly to them, and similitudes taken from their manners and customs, it is impossible for me to deny their existence, without admitting that the sacred historians were themselves deceived in regard to them, or intended to deceive their readers."

      Were it not in appearance like killing those that are dead, I should quote at length sundry passages which speak of "unclean spirits crying with loud voice" as they came out of many that were possessed, which represent unclean spirits falling down before Jesus, and crying, "Thou art the Son of God," and of Jesus "charging them not to make him known;" but I will only cite a single parable framed upon the case of a demoniac. It is reported by Matthew and Luke, and almost in the same words. "When the unclean spirit," says Jesus, "is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest and finding none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept and garnished. Then he goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also to this wicked generation." On this observe, that "unclean spirits" is another name for demons--that is, a metaphor of a metaphor; for, if demons are metaphors for diseases, the unclean spirits are metaphors of metaphors, of shadows of shades. Again, the Great Teacher is found not only for once departing from himself, but also from all human teachers of renown, in basing a parable upon a parable, or a shadow [390] upon a shade, in drawing a similitude from a simile. His object was to illustrate the last state of the Jews. This he attempts by the adventures of a demon--first being dispossessed, finding no rest, and returning, with others more wicked than himself, to the man from whom he was driven. Now, if this was all a figure to illustrate a figure, the Saviour has done that which he never before attempted, inasmuch as his parables are all founded not upon fictions, but upon facts--upon the actual manners and customs, the incidents and usages, of society.

      That must be a desperate position to sustain which degrades the Saviour as a teacher below the rank of the most ordinary instructors of any age. The last state of the Jews compared to a metaphor!--compared to a nonentity!--compared to a fiction! This is even worse than representing a trope coming out of a man's mouth, "crying with a loud voice," "wandering through dry places"--unfigurative language, I presume--seeking a period, and finding a comma--and at length, tired and fatigued, returning with seven fiercer metaphors more wickedly eloquent than himself, repossessing the orator, and making him internally more eloquent than before. It will not help the matter to say that when a disease leaves a man it wanders through dry or wet places, through marshes and fens, through deserts and prairies, and, finding no rest for its foot, takes with it seven other more violent diseases, seeks for the unfortunate man from whom the doctors expelled it, and, re-entering his unproved constitution, makes that its eternal abode.

      In one sentence, then, we conclude that there is neither reason nor fact--there is no canon of criticism, no law of interpretation--there is nothing in human experience or observation--there is nothing in all antiquity, sacred or profane--that, in our judgment, weighs against the evidence already adduced in support of the position that the demons of Pagans, Jews and Christians were the ghosts of dead men, and, as such, have taken possession of men's living bodies, and have moved, influenced and impelled them to certain courses of action.

      Permit me, gentlemen, to demonstrate that this is no abstract and idle speculation, by stating a few of the practical aspects and bearings of this doctrine of demonology:--

      1st. It relieves the Bible from the imputation of promulging laws against non-entities in its legislation against necromancers, diviners, soothsayers, wizards, fortune-tellers, &c. When Jehovah gave this law to Israel, he legislated not against mere pretences:--"You shall not permit to live among you any one that useth divination, an enchanter, a witch, a consulter of familiar spirits, a wizard or a necromancer; for all that do these things are an abomination to the Lord: and because [391] of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive these nations out before thee." A Divine law demanding capital punishment because of a mere pretence! The most incredible thing in the world! The existence of such a statute, as before intimated, implies not merely the antiquity of the fact of demoniacal influence, but supposes it so palpable that it could be proved by at least two witnesses, and so satisfactorily as to authorize the taking away of human life without the risk of shedding innocent blood.

      That there have been pretenders to such mysterious arts, impostors and hypocrites in necromancy, witchcraft and divination, as well as in every thing else, I doubt not; but if the pretence to work a miracle or to utter a prediction be a proof that there were true miracles and true prophets, the pretence of necromancy, witchcraft and divination is also a proof that there were once true necromancers, wizards and diviners. The fame of the Egyptian Jannes and Jambres who withstood Moses in the presence of Pharaoh--the fame of the woman of Endor, who evoked Samuel, or some one that personated him--and of the Pythonic damsel who followed Paul and Barnabas, and who enriched her master by her divination, stand on the pages of eternal truth as imperishable monuments not merely of the antiquity of the pretence, but of the reality of demoniacal power and possession.

      May I be permitted further to observe, on this mysterious subject, that necromancy was the principal parent of all the arts of divination ever practised in the world, and was directly and avowedly founded on the fact not only of demoniacal influence, but that demons are the spirits of dead men, with whom living men could, and did, form intimacies? This the very word necromancy intimates. The necromancer predicted the future by means of demoniacal inspiration. He was a prophet inspired by the dead. His art lay in making or finding a familiar spirit, in evolving a demon from whom he obtained superhuman knowledge. So the Greek term imports and all antiquity confirms.

      There are two subjects on which God is silent, and man most solicitous to know--the world of spirits, and his own future destiny. On these two subjects, ghosts who have visited the unseen world, and whose horizon is so much enlarged, are supposed to be peculiarly intelligent, and on this account were originally called demons, or knowing ones. But, this knowledge being forbidden--kindly forbidden--man to seek it at all, and especially by unlawful means, has always been obnoxious to the anathema of Heaven. Hence the popularity of the profession of evoking familiar spirits, and hence also the indignation of Heaven against those who consulted them. [392]

      Still, we will be asked, Has any spirit of man, dead or alive, power to foresee and foretell the future? Does any one know the future but God? To which we cheerfully respond, The living and inspired prophets knew only a part of the future. God alone knows all the future. But angels or demons may know much more of it than man. How this is, analogy itself will suggest. Suppose, for example, that one man, possessed of the discriminating powers of a Bacon, a Newton or a Locke, only of a more capacious and retentive memory, had been coeval with Cain, Noah or Abraham, and, with a deathless vigor of constitution, had lived with all the generations of men from their day till now: how great would be his comparative power of calculating chances and contingencies--the laws of cause and effect--and of thence anticipating the future! Still, compared with one who had passed that mysterious bourn of time, he would be but the infant of a day, knowing comparatively nothing of human destiny. Indeed, the powers of knowing peculiar to disembodied spirits are to us as inscrutable as the elements of their being. But that they know more of a spiritual system and more of human destiny than we do, all antiquity, sacred and profane, fully reveals and confirms.

      2. But a second practical aspect of this theory of demons demands our attention. It is a palpable and irrefragable proof of a spiritual system.

      The gross materialists of the French school, when atheism triumphed over reason and faith, proclaimed from their own metropolis, and cut it deep in marble, that death was an eternal sleep of body, soul and spirit. Since their day, the species has been refined and sublimated into an intermediate sleep of only some six or seven thousand years between our earthly exit and the resurrection-morn. These more speculative materialists convert demons into metaphors, lapsed angels, or devils--into any thing, rather than the living spirits of dead men.

      Our premises being admitted, they see that there must be a renunciation not only of the grosser but of the more ethereal forms of materialism, as held by those who lull the spirit to repose in the same sepulchre with its kindred mortality. They gain but little who assume that demons are lapsed angels rather than human ghosts; for who will not admit that it may be more easy for a demon, than for an angel who has a spiritual body of his own, to work by the machinery of a human body, and to excite the human passions to any favorite course of action? Were not this the fact, they must have tenanted the human house to little purpose, if a perfect stranger to all As rooms and doors could, on its first introduction, move through them as readily as they.

"If weak thy faith, why choose the harder side?" [393]

      To allegorize demoniacal influences, or to metamorphose them into rhetorical imagery, is the shortest and the most desperate escape from all spiritual embarrassment in the case. But the harder you press the skeptical philosopher on the subject of his peculiar dogmas, the more bold his denial of all spiritual influences, celestial or infernal; and the more violently he affirms that demoniacal possessions were physical diseases; that necromancy, familiar spirits and divination, though older than Moses and the seven nations of Canaan, were mere pretences and an imposition on the credulity of man, as idle as the legends of Salem witchcraft, or the fairy tales of the mother-land of sprites and apparition. But this, let me tell you, skeptical philosopher, relieves not the hard destiny of your case. Whether necromancy in all its forms was real or pretended, true or false, affects not the real merits of the question before us.

      In this branch of the argument, it is perfectly indifferent to me whether it was a pretence or a reality; for, had there not been a senior and more venerated belief in the existence of a spiritual system--a general persuasion that the spirits of the dead lived in another world while their bodies lay in this, and that disembodied spirits were demons or knowing ones on those peculiar points so interesting and so unapproachable to man--who would ever have thought of consulting them, of evoking them by any art, or of pretending to have had any familiarity with them? I gain strength either by the denial or by the admission of the thing, so long as its high antiquity is conceded. I contend that a belief in demons, in a separate existence of the spirits of the dead, is more ancient than necromancy, and that it is a belief and a tradition older than the Pagan, the Jewish, or the Christian systems--older than Moses and his law--older than any earthly record whatever.

      Not a few of our modern sages ascribe to a Pagan origin that which antedates Paganism itself. They must have a Grecian, Roman or Egyptian origin for ideas, usages and institutions existent ages before the founders of those states or the inventors of their superstitions were born. No earthly record, the Bible alone excepted, reaches within hundreds of years of the origin of the idea of demons, necromancy, and of infernal as well as of supernal agency.

      Others there are who have more faith in what is modern than in what is ancient. They would rather believe their children than their fathers. The moderns, indeed, in most of the physical sciences, and in some of the arts, greatly excel the ancients, as they excelled its in architecture, sculpture, painting, poetry, &c. But though we excel [394] them so much in many new discoveries and arts, in traditionary and spiritual knowledge they greatly excelled us; excepting always that portion of the moderns fully initiated into the mysteries of the Bible. Some seem to reason as if they thought that the farther from the fountain the more pure are the waters--the longer the channel the freer from pollution. With me the reverse is the fact. Man was more intelligent at his creation and his fall, respecting his own being and destiny, than he has ever been since, except so far as he has been the subject of a new revelation. Would it not appear waste of time to attempt to prove that our national Government is purer now than it was while its founders were all living amongst us? Equally futile the attempt to prove that the Patriarchal, Jewish and Christian institutions were purer five hundred or a thousand years after than at their commencement. With Tertullian, I assert that in faith, religion and morality, whatever is most ancient is most true. Therefore the Patriarchs knew more of man living and dead, and of the ancient order of things in nature, society and art, than we, their remote posterity.

      The age of philosophy was the era of hypotheses and doubts. Man never began to form hypotheses till he lost his way. Having then traced the belief in demons and necromancy beyond the age of conjecture and speculative reasoning, and located it amongst the oldest traditions in the world, we are compelled by the dicta of our inductive philosophy to admit its claims to an experience, observation and testimony properly authenticated and documented amongst the earliest fathers of mankind. One of the oracles of true science is, that all our ideas are the result of sensation and reflection, or of experience and observation; that the archetypes of all our natural impressions and views are found in material nature; and therefore man could as easily create a world as a ghost, either by imagination, volition or reason. Supernatural ideas must therefore have a supernatural origin. So speaks the Baconian system; and therefore its author believed in demons, spirits and necromancy, as much as your humble servant, or any other living Baconian.

      When any man proves he can have faith without hearing and testimony--the idea of color without sight, or of hardness and softness, of heat and cold, without feeling, and understand all the properties of material nature without any of his five senses--then, but not till then, he may explain how, without supernatural influence, he may form either the idea or the name of a spirit, a ghost, or a demon--of a spiritual, invisible and eternal system of intelligences of a supernatural mould and temper. He who can create the idea of an abstract spirit, [395] or of a spiritual system of any sort, may create matter by volition, and a universe out of nothing.

      Dispose of the matter as she may, we affirm it as our conviction that Philosophy herself is compelled to admit the existence of demons, familiar spirits, and the arts of necromancy and divination, which all ancient literature and ancient tradition, all Patriarchal, Jewish and Christian records, assert. In this instance, as in many others, faith is easier than unbelief; and Reason voluntarily places herself by the side of Faith as her handmaid and coadjutor in sustaining a spiritual system, of which demons in their proper nature and character are an irrefragable proof.

      3. A third practical tendency of this view of demoniacal influence is to exalt in our esteem the character of the Supreme Philanthropist.

      We will be asked, Whence have all the demons fled? What region do they now inhabit? Have they not power to possess mankind as formerly? Are necromancy, divination and witchcraft forever exiled from the abodes of men?

      Many such questions may be propounded, which neither philosophy, experience nor religion can infallibly determine. But we may say in general and in truthful terms, that the heralds of salvation, from the day of their first mission to the end of their evangelical labors, cast out demons, restrained Satanic influence, and made inroads upon the power and empire of Beelzebub, the prince of the demons. The mighty chieftain of this holy war had a personal rencounter with the malignant chief of all unclean spirits, angelic and human, and so defeated his counsels and repelled his assaults, divesting him of much of his sway, and thus gave an earnest of his ultimate triumph over all the powers of darkness. His success and that of his ambassadors called from his lips two oracles of much consolation to all his friends: "I saw," said he, "Satan fall like lightning from heaven." This he spake when they told him, "The demons are subject to us through thy word." "Behold," he adds, "I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and on all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you." The partial dethronement of Satan, prince of the demons, is here fully indicated. The Roman orator uses this style when speaking of Pompey's overthrow. His words are, "He has fallen from the stars." And again, of the fall of the colleague of Antonius, "Thou hast pulled him down from heaven." So spake the Messiah:--"I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." His empire over men from that day began to fall. And on another occasion he says, "Now is the prince of this world cast out." These, together with similar [396] indications, allow the conclusion that the power of demons is wholly destroyed as far as Christians are concerned, and, if not wholly, greatly restrained in all lands where the gospel has found its way. With an old prophet or diviner who tried his hand against God's people once, we may say, "There is no enchantment against Jacob; there is no divination against Israel." Some arrogate to human science what has been the prerogative of the gospel alone. They say the light of science has driven ghosts and witches from the minds of men; whereas they ought to have said the gospel and power of its Author have driven demons out of the hearts and dispossessed them of their power over the bodies of men.

      The error of these admirers of human science does not differ much from that of some European theologists concerning Mary Magdalene. They think her to have been an infamous rather than an unfortunate woman out of whom were driven seven devils. They have disgraced her memory by erecting "Magdalene Hospitals" for infamous, rather than for unfortunate, females; not knowing that it was the misfortune rather than the crime of Mary of Magdala, that seven demons had been permitted to assault her person.

      As to the abodes of the demons, we are taught in the Bible what the most ancient dogmatists have said concerning their residence in the air: I say we are taught that they dwell pro tempore in the ethereal regions. Satan, their prince, is called "the prince of the power of the air." The great Apostle to the Gentiles taught believers to wrestle against "wicked spirits that reside in the air;" "for," says he, "you fight not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world; against spiritual wickedness in high places"--properly rendered "against wicked spirits in the regions of the air." Paul's shipwreck at Malta by the Euroclydon, and Job's misfortunes by an Arabian tempest, demonstrate the aerial power of this great antagonist when permitted to exert it against those whom he envies and calumniates.

      Evident it is, then, from such testimonies, facts and allusions, that the atmosphere, or rather the regions above it, the ethereal or empyreal, and not heaven, nor earth, nor hell, is the proper residence of the ghosts of wicked men. They have repeatedly declared their perfect punishment or torment as yet future, to be after the coming of the Lord, when he shall send the devil and his emissaries into an eternal fire. How often did they say to Jesus, "Art thou come to torment us before the time?" That they are miserable, wretchedly miserable, is inferrible from the abhorrence of their nudity and their awful forebodings [397] of the future. They vehemently desire to be embodied again. They seek rest, but find none, and would rather possess any corporeity, even that of the swine, than continue naked and dispossessed. Their prison is called by the Messiah "outer darkness;" by Paul it is called epourania, high places, aerial regions. This is the Hebrew-Greek name of that region in which there is neither atmosphere nor light; for, strange as it may appear, the limits of our atmosphere are the limits of all terrestrial light. These intervals between the atmospheres of the planets are what we would call "outer darkness." Could a person ascend some fifty miles above the earth, he would find himself surrounded by everlasting night--no ray from sun, or moon, or stars could find him where there is no medium of reflection.

      That demons may still give oracles, as they were wont to do before the Christian era, and possess living men in heathen lands, or in places where Christianity has made little progress, is not altogether improbable. Of this, indeed, we have not satisfactory evidence, and therefore ought not to speak dogmatically. Many affect to regard the whole subject as a piece of childish superstition, as did our two great poets Scott and Byron, who, nevertheless, like them, are under the influence of that same childish superstition. One thing is abundantly evident, that although the number of such spirits is vast and overwhelming, and their hatred to the living intense and enduring, the man of God, the true Christian, has a guardian angel, or a host of sentinels around him that never sleep; and, therefore, against him the fiery darts of Satan are employed in vain. For this we erect in our hearts a monument of thanks to Him who has been, and still is, the Supreme Philanthropist and Redeemer of our race.

      This view of demonology not only vindicates the law of Moses from the imputation of catering to the superstitious prejudices of mankind, and justifies Paul in placing witchcraft amongst the works of the flesh; it not only affords to weak and doubting minds new and striking evidences of a spiritual system, and shows our great indebtedness to the Author of the Christian faith for rescuing man from the tyranny of the arch-apostate, the prince of demons; but it also inducts us into more grand and sublime views of the magnitude, variety and extent of the world of spirits--of our relations to them--and of our present liability to impressions, suggestions and influences from classes of agents wholly invisible and inappreciable by any of those senses which connect us with external and sensible existence. That we are thus susceptible it were foolish and infidel to deny. How many well-authenticated facts are found in the volumes of human experience of [398] singular, anomalous and inexplicable impulses and impressions wholly beyond all human associations of ideas, yet leading to actions evidently connected with the salvation of the subjects of them, or of those under their care! And how many have, by some malign agency, been suddenly and unexpectedly led into the most fatal positions and precipitated to ruin, when such exigencies prove to be exceptions to all the known laws of cause and effect, and contrary to all their wonted courses of action! To assign to these any other than a spiritual cause, it seems to me, were to assign a non causa pro causa; for on no theory of mind or body can they be so satisfactorily explained, and so much in harmony with the Bible method of representing such incidents. Thus the angel of the Lord smote Herod that he died, and in dreams has he admonished the faithful of the ways and means of escaping impending evils.

      Will it not be perceived and admitted that if evil demons can enter into men's bodies and take away their reason and excite them to various preternatural actions, and if in legions they may crowd their influences upon one unhappy victim, spirits, either good or bad, may make milder and more delicate approaches to the fountains of human action, and stir men up to efforts and enterprises for weal or woe, according to their respective characters and ruling passions?

      Certain it is that angels have not only demonstrated their ability to assume the human form, but to exert such influence upon the outward man as to prompt him to immediate action--as in the case of Peter, who was suddenly stricken on the side by the hand of an angel when fast asleep between a Roman guard, and roused to action. The gates and bars of the prison open at his approach and shut on his escape, touched by the same hand; and thus the apostle is rescued from the malice of his foes.

      What in extended view of the intellectual and moral universe opens to our contemplation from this point! We see an outward, visible universe, studded with constellations of suns and their attendant systems, circling in unmeasured orbits around one invisible and omnipotent centre which controls them all. Amazed and overwhelmed at these stupendous displays of creative power, wisdom and goodness, in adoring ecstasy we inquire into the uses of these mighty orbs, which, in such untold millions, diversify and adorn those undefined fields of ethereal beauty that limit our ideas of an unbounded and inconceivable space. Reasoning from all our native analogies, and from the scattering rays of supernal light that have from suns unseen reached our world, we must infer that all these orbs are the mansions of social beings, of every [399] conceivable variety of intelligence, capacity and employment, and that in organized hierarchies, thrones, principalities and lordships, they constitute each within itself an independent world--of which societies we are allowed to conclude that there are as many varieties as there are planets for their residence.

      In all these intellectual assemblages, spread over the area of universal being, there are but two distinct and essentially diverse confederations--one under the rightful sovereignty of Messiah, the Lord of all, the other under the usurped dominion of that spirit who has spread over our planet all the anarchy and misrule, all the darkness and gloom, all the sorrow and death, which have embittered life, and made countless millions groan in spirit and sigh for a discharge from a conflict between good and evil, pleasure and pain, so unequal and oppressive.

      This rebel angel, of such mysterious character, is always found in the singular number--as the Satan, the Devil and the Apollyon of our race. With him are confederate all disloyal spirits that have conspired against Heaven's own will in adoration of their own. In reference to this usurper and his angelic allies against the Lord's Anointed, we are obliged to consider those unhappy spirits who during their incarnation took sides with him in his mad rebellion against the Eternal King. The number of angels that took part with him in his original conspiracy remains amongst the secrets of eternity, and will not be divulged till the devil and his angels, for whom Tophet was of old prepared, shall be separated from the social systems of the universe and publicly sentenced to the bottomless gulf of irremediable ruin.

      The whole human race, at one time or another, have been involved in this war against Heaven. Many have, indeed, deserted the dark banners of Beelzebub, and have become sons of light. Hitherto, alas! the great majority have perished in the field of rebellion and gone down to the pit with all their armor on. These spirits, shown to be the demons of all antiquity, sacred and profane, are now a component part of the empire of Satan, and as much under his control as the conspirators that took part with him in his primeval defection and rebellion.

      How numerous they are, and how concentrated are their efforts, may be gleaned from sundry allusions in the inspired writings, especially from the melancholy history of the unfortunate Gadarene who dwelt among the tombs, tortured by a legion of them--not, perhaps, by six thousand demons, according to the full standard of a Roman legion, but by an indefinite and immense multitude. How innumerable, then, the agents, demoniac and angelic, on Satan's side! [400] What hosts of fallen men and angels have conspired against the happiness of God's moral empire! No wonder that Satan is sometimes spoken of as omnipresent! If Napoleon, in the day of his power, while in the palace of the Tuileries, was said to be at work in Spain, in Portugal, in Belgium and in France at the same moment, with how much less of the figurative may Satan, whose agents are incomparably more numerous and diversified, as well as of vastly superior agility and power, be represented as wielding a sort of omnipresent power in all parts of our terraqueous habitation! And how malignant, too! The fabled Furies were not more fierce than those unclean and mischievous spirits whose pleasure it was to torture with the direst agonies the unhappy victims whom they chose to mark out for themselves.

      But here we must pause; and, with this awful group of exasperated and malicious demons in our horizon, it is some relief to remember that there are many good spirits of our race, allied with ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, of angels of light, all of whom are angels of mercy and sentinels of defence around the dwellings of the righteous, the true élite of our race. These, we learn from high authority, are ministering spirits waiting on the heirs of salvation. These attending spirits know our spiritual foes, and are able to cope with them; for when Satan and Michael fought for the body of Moses, the fallen seraph was driven to the wall and lost the day. For how many services rendered, for how many deliverances from evil spirits and from physical disasters, we are indebted to the good and benevolent, though invisible, agents around us, will never be known, and therefore never told, on earth; but it may nevertheless be known hereafter.

      With what unspeakable pleasure may some happy being in this assembly yet sit down, side by side, with his own guardian spirit under the eternally verdant boughs of the life-restoring tree in the paradise of God, and listen to the ten thousand deliverances effected for him by the kind ministrations of that generous and beneficent minister of grace, that watched his path, numbered his steps, and encamped around his bed from the first to the last moment of his terrestrial day! With what grateful emotions will the ransomed spirit listen to the bold adventures and the triumphant rencounters with belligerent foes of his deliverer! and while in the midst of such social raptures he throws his immortal arms around his kind benefactor, he will lift his bright and beaming eye of grateful piety to Him who gave him such a friend and deliverer in the time of peril and of need, and who, [401] through such a scene of trials and of conflicts, brought him safely to the city of eternal rest!6 [402]

      1 Hence the saint worship and saint mediators of the dark ages, and of the less favored portions of the Anglo-Saxon race. [382]
      2 Deuteronomy xviii. 10; Leviticus xvii. 7, &c; 2 Chron. xi. 15; Psalm cvi. 37. [383]
      3 De Bello Jud., cap. viii. 25; cap. vi. sect. 2. [385]
      4 Jus. Apology, b. i. p. 65, par. 12, p. 54. [386]
      5 Vol. viii. p. 368. [386]
      6 The preceding essay is an almost extemporaneous effusion on a subject requiring much and profound thought. The invitation to address THE POPULAR LECTURE CLUB of the city of Nashville was received but a few evenings before it was spoken. Meanwhile, having almost daily lectures on portions of the Christian system, I had leisure only to sketch, with much rapidity, at various intervals, the preceding remarks. True, indeed, the subject had been often on my mind, especially since the time of my writing a few essays on that skeptical and abstract something called Materialism. The facts and observations crowded together in this popular lecture are matters of grave and serious import, and not hasty or crude imaginations, occurring at the impulse of the moment. I would rather have given them under a more logical and philosophical form; but this is not the most popular nor, to the great mass, the most intelligible form. At the request of some who heard them, and of many who heard of them, I am induced to publish the identical draft which I read to the audience, with only a very few verbal alterations.
      I think the subject of demons is one that fairly comes in the path of every student of the New Testament, and ought to be well understood; and as the reader will doubtless have observed, I regard it as constituting an irrefragable proof of a spiritual system, a full refutation of that phantasm called Materialism, to those who admit the authority of Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles. To such it is more than a mere refutation of materialism: it is a demonstration of a separate existence of the spirits of the dead--an unequivocal evidence of a spiritual system, and of a future state of rewards and punishments.       A. C. [402]


[PLA 379-402]

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Alexander Campbell
Popular Lectures and Addresses (1886)