Page images
PDF
EPUB

From what has been said under this argument, it follows irresistibly, that “casting out devils," whatever it may mean, does not mean curing the sick” of any simply natural diseases, nor rooting out “the evil principle.” What does it mean? “ Casting out devils.”' Nothing more nor less. On the whole subject of demoniacal possessions, I cannot better consult the instruction of the reader, or the strength of my own argument, than by quoting the following passage from Storr.

“Some of the narratives of the influence of demons are of such a nature, that no reasonable exposition can well be given of them, without admitting the reality of demoniacal agency. Such, for example, is the account of the expulsion of the devils from the two possessed men in the country of the Gergesenes. Jesus could not have addressed those demons and granted them permission to enter into the swine, if he had not really regarded demons as the cause of the disease of these individuals. Otherwise he would have confirmed an error of his contemporaries, not only with words, but actually by the performance of a miracle. We must carefully distinguish between the expressions, curing a demoniac or one possessed of a devil,' and 'expelling demons, or commanding them to depart.' It might indeed be conceded, that, according to the usage of the language, the expression demoniac, signified a person affected by a particular natural disease; and that the writers of the New Testament used it in its common acceptation, although that acceptation of the word originated in an erroneous opinion ; just as the word lunatic could with propriety be applied to a certain species of diseased persons, because, though it originated in error, it had by usage become the customary name of persons affected by a certain disease ; and yet it would by no means follow, that the person who thus uses the word in its ordinary acceptation, must have entertained

the erroneous opinion, that the subjects of lunacy were under the particular influence of the moon. Thus, when the astronomer uses the erroneous phraseology, 'the sun rises, or the sun goes down,' no one will think of charging him with holding that vulgar opinion. But if we suppose, that, when Jesus addressed the demons, and when he commanded them to be silent or to depart, he at the same time believed the disease to be entirely natural, and to have no connexion with demoniacal influence; we could not believe that Jesus merely used a peculiar customary expression, which usage had made proper ; but we must believe that he actually confirmed an erroneous opinion by the language which he used. In reference to the possession, mentioned Matthew, viii. 28, Hess remarks, the fact that these demoniacs had, agreeably to the narrative itself, actually been delivered from their affection (v. 32) before anything happened to the herd of swine, proves that it was not the possessed persons who threw themselves among the swine in a fit of madness, but that it was the devils who had been expelled from these persons.' And it is evident from the history of this event, that its objeci was to expose to view, (in reference to the defence of himself, which Jesus was compelled to make against the inost horrible slanders,) the number, legion, and malignity of these demons, and their actual, though involuntary subjection to Jesus; and the utmost publicity was given to this matter by the incident of the swine. Relative to the cures of the demoniacs in general, Hess remarks, ‘it cannot be denied, that the sacred historians did actually mean vexatious spirits, which grievously oppressed the bodies and minds of men. Agreeably to their intention, therefore, the numerous examples of the cures of demoniacs acquire a peculiar importance, inasmuch as Jesus appears, not only as their deliverer from bodily evil, but as the conqueror of hostile powers from the in

visible world. Paulus, in his Commentary on the New Testament, has maintained that the cures of the demoniacs were nothing else than cures of diseases of the mind, which were effected by the opinion in the deranged persons, that the demons which possessed them could not exist near that man of God, the Messiah; and therefore that they must necessarily flee at his approach.' In reply to this, a Tubingen writer justly remarks, “it is altogether incredible that in so short a time, and in the population of one small country, a mere opinion should of itself, in so many instances, have effected a permanent cure of mental derangement, a disease generally resulting from some radical disorganization of the body; or that in so many cases it should happen, that just at the precise time when Jesus approached such unfortunate beings, the bodily causes of their derangement should in so many instances have spontaneously vanished, and their minds have been restored by mere chance.'

Such a belief as that attributed to Paulus in the preceding extract, requires a degree of faith “ a thousand times greater” than that held by the Orthodox. Yet he considered himself a most rational believer. The mode in which these evil spirits were connected with or affected particular individuals, who can define? The fact of such a connexion and such an influence who can deny? “ The phrases in which the demons are spoken of, “ being in," and " going out,” or “ being driven out,” are used, the first to denote the influence of the demon on the individual, the latter two to denote the cessation or removal of such influence. Christ possessed and employed the power to destroy this visible influence of the devil, in a visible manner. The like power he gave to his apostles, and they also frequently exerted it.” Beyond this, to attempt definition, were to be wise above what is written. If the philosophy of the day would allow us to retain the natural distinction

of final and efficient cause, the quotation above made would show that on the former of these something might be said.

I cannot enter fully into the subject of demoniacs. My argument does not require it. Yet I cannot say that I am satisfied with any exhibition of this subject, which has fallen under my eye. President Appleton has written more logically, and more to the purpose,

than
any

other writer. Yet Lectures, addressed to Under Graduates, would hardly admit a full statement of the subject. He has, however, stated fairly the pretended arguments of Farmer, Lardner, and Sykes, and annihilated them. His amenity of manner is equalled only by the pungency of his logic. Whoever seeks for truth on this subject, may be greatly aided by President Appleton, whose Lectures are less known and read than they deserve to be.

The word translated devils, in the plural number, would be more literally rendered by the word demons. The

question arises, What did this word mean in Judea in the time of Christ ? To settle this has called forth much investigation. President Appleton gives the result of this investigation thus : “ The word, dæmon, is very general, and corresponds, in a great degree, to the English word, spirit. It does not designate the moral character to which it is applied. It is used in relation to the supreme God, by Plato and Isocrates. It was used by certain philosophers, and afterward by some of the Christian Fathers, to signify evil spirits of a rank superior to mankind. It was likewise used, and; I apprehend, very commonly, to signify the souls of dead men. The evangelists did not apply the term either in the first or last of these senses, but in the second. They did not assert that demoniacs were disordered by the supreme Deity, or by the spirits of the dead, but by spirits of a malignant character, and of a rank superior to man. The term is not used, there

fore, in the New Testament, in a sense unknown among the Greeks.” President Appleton has given the sense, in which the evangelists used the word, correctly. It may be doubted, however, whether, in classical use, it had not a still greater latitude of meaning than he has assigned it. He, who wishes to know the whole truth, must not depend on the authorities cited by Farmer and Lardner, who had a theory to support, but must look farther. He should consult the Commentary of Proclus on the First Alcibiades of Plato, which he will find subjoined to Taylor's translation, and especially the work of J. G. Mayer, published at Tubingen, 1780, entitled, Historia Diaboli. His first chapter is full of information. In it he treats, to use his own words, de exsistentia Diaboli, dæmonumque, nec ex ratione, nec traditione, apud Chaldæos, Persas, Ægyptios, Græcos ut Pythagoram, Platonem, nec ex Judæorum scriptis, sed ex sola revelatione, demonstrabili ; contra Adæmonistas crassiores, Sadducæos subtiliores, speciatim Semlerum Tellerumque.*

I have already endeavored to show, that the explanation of the cures of demoniacs by the curing of simply natural disease, is wholly insufficient. President Appleton has argued the case of the cures of the demoniacs among the tombs, with irresistible effect on every mind, disposed to take the scriptural account to be what it professes to be. See his twenty-seventh Lecture. I wish to present a somewhat different view of this

but tending to the same point. This cure is re* Those to whom the words, “ fictions of oriental mythology,” are in the place of sense and argument, might do well to think, and thinking, to answer, Quid, quæso, communem illam persuasionem, de Deo bono maloque, quorum neuter ab altero dependeat, apud Chaldæos, Persas, Magos, Ægyptios, Chinenses magis peperit, quæ Manichæismi ante Manetem, omnes terras, ad ortum solis et occasum sitas pervadentis, causa exstitit, quam depravata illa de auctore mali traditio? Whence the Ophiolatria of Ægypt, India, Scandinavia, and Mexico, except from the influence of the Old Serpent, auctor mali?

case,

« PreviousContinue »