« PreviousContinue »
with the truth of the case. The text says expressly that she was dispossessed by Paul's commanding the evil spirit to come out of her; and that the dispossession was visible by some alteration produced in her body, upon the departure of the spirit
: For, 18. He came out of her the same hour. 19. And when her masters saw that the hope af their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, &c. If there was nothing here but mere imposture, how came the damsel to change her conduct upon Paul's saying to the evil spirit, I command thee, in the name of Jesus Chrisi, to come out of her ? or whát efficacy was there in these words to persuade her? As to the supposition, that this young woman was under the power of some distemper, which the apostle cured miraculously, no stress can be laid upon it, till the persons who make it point out a mere natural distemper, by the power of which they who labour under it are enabled to divine things secret, and to foretėl things future. If the feats performed by the ancient pretenders to divination, were not the effects of imposture, they had no relation to distempers, either of the body or of the mind. The method in which the apostle treated the Pythoness at Philippi, shews that such of the heathen priests or priestesses as really possessed a spirit of divination, were under the influence of evil spirits, who in the course of the providence of God, are for the wisest reasons permitted to delude those who will not attend to the dictates of reason. The story of the witch of Endor, is the same in kind with that of the Pythoness in the Acts, and with the inspirations and divinations of the heathen priests, and shews beyond contradiction, that mankind have had communication with evil spirits. Wherefore, say the patrons of the real possession, though these instances are not mentioned in the gospels, yet, being found in the sacred records and other credible histories, they are undeniable examples of real possessions, and add great strength to the arguments offered to prove, that the possessions spoken of in the gospels were not figurative but real. This species indeed, which shewed itself by divinations and soothsayings, was much more rare than those mentioned in the gospels. Nevertheless, if credit can be given to history sacred and prophane, it cannot doubted that this species hath really existed. Much fraud and imposture may have been used to support false pretensions of this kind. Nevertheless, to give rise to them, and to support their credit in all the heathen countries, through such a course of years, some instances of true divination must have happened, however rare we may suppose them to have been. • If modern instances of possession are demanded, the physician Oribasius, born in the beginning of the fourth century at Bergamus, will furnish what is required, in the eighth and tenth books of his collections, wrote about the year of our Lord 360, as these are cited by Dr Hilary, Method of improving Medical Know
ledge, p. 114. Hilary's words are, “ He (Oribasius) also first describes a peculiar kind of madness, which he calls AuxxvAgostia, which probably was more frequent in those warmer countries, or in that
age, than it is in ours; as it is also mentioned by Ætius, Paulus, Actuarius, and some others, who lived and wrote soon after him; and it most probably is the same disease which is called Demoniac in the Scripture, from its Arabian name, and has been also described by some more modern authors, Donatus ab alto Mari, and Forrestus, though it is seldom or never seen now. Meric Casaubon, in his treatise of Enthusiasm, offers particular examples. For, chap. 2. p. 36. he writes as follows: First then, we shall observe a concurrence of natural causes. This is granted by all physicians and naturalists. Melancholici, maniaci, ecstatici, phrenetici, epileptici, hystericæ mulieres :-To all these natural diseases and distempers, enthusiastic divinatory fits are incidental. I do not say, that it doth happen very often ; that is not material, whether often or seldom." But when it doth happen, as the disease is cured by natural means, so the enthusiasms go away, I will not say by the same means, but at the same time. -Those men and women, which, when they were sick of those diseases, did foretel divers things which came to pass accordingly, and some of them (which I think more wonderful, as more remote from natural causes) had spoke some Latin, some Greek, some Hebrew, or any other language whereof before they had no use nor skill, when once cured of these diseases, they return to their former ignorance and simplicity. This is granted by all.” Next, he mentions one Levinus Lemnius, who endeavoured to prove that these things proceed from natural causes. « But his reasons (says he) are no ways satisfactory. And that these extraordinary operations do rather proceed from the devil, to me is a great argument, besides other reasons, because the very self same things are known to happen to divers that are immediately possessed, without any bodily distemper, other than the very possession, which must needs affect the body more or less. To pass by divers relations of latter times, I shall content myself with the testimony of one, a man of exquisite learning, and a curious sifter of truth in doubtful points, and a man of that integrity," &c. In proof of his integrity, he mentions his making open recantation of, and writing against judicial astrology. “ Georgius Raguseius is the man, whose words in his second book, De Divinatione, Epist. de Oraculis, are, • Novi ego Venetiis
, &c. I have known at Venice, a certain poor woman which was possessed ; sometimes she would be stupid and sottish, sometimes she did speak with divers tongues, and discourse of things belonging to the mathematics and philosophy; yea, and to divinity. I do not write here what I have heard from others, but myself have disputed with her more than once. As for them, VOL. I. 2
who in those distempers are reported to have spoken languages before unknown to them, because I see that some are not very prone to believe it, it being a thing, in very deed, liable to much inposture ; although I do not see what can be excepted or objecte ed against this one, were there no other, this one example, 1 say, which we have here out of Raguseius ; yet to give the reader, in a matter of such importance, some farther satisfaction: to let that p.iss,
which, durst I trust my memory when I was so young, I could say of a woman possessed, in Sedan, where I 'tlien lived and went to school, that spake Hebrew, and familiarly discoursed in hier fits with some skilful in that language; to let that pass, I say, because I dare noť trust my memory : what can any man rational and discreet, answer to that which Fernelius, a man so learned and religious, and by profession a physician, &c. doth relate of his own knowledge and experience, De abditus rerum causis, lib. ii. c. 16. of one that was his patient, and not his patient only, but of divers other learned physicians, who were entertained about him at the same time, and all joined in the cure; by all whom he was beard to speak Greek in his fits, which otherwise was altogether unknown to him.” Casaubon mentions other examples, and among the rest, Psellus, a very learned man and philosopher, in a treatise of his rige erigysies daruowv, of the power of demons, hath a verý particular relation of a woman that was possessed, and in her fits spake the Armenian tongue very readily, to which being a Grecian, she was otherwise altogether a stranger.' The above acknowledgment, concerning the influence of demons in enthusiastic divination, is the more remarkable, that Casaubon wrote his treatise to shew, that the effects of enthusiasm, commonly ascribed to the operation of superior powers upon the human mind, may all be accounted for by natural causes.
IV. Thus have I represented fairly the arguments on the one side and the other, in this important question. To attempt the decision of a point, about which the learned have been so much divided, may appear arduous. Yet it may be worth while to consider, whether what follows does not approach nearer to the truth in this matter, than either of the bpinions illustrated above.
From the accounts given by the evangelists, it appears, that all the possessed persons laboured under the oppression of some violent bodily distemper or other, such as the epilepsy, the palsy, lunacy, madness, and the like. It is evident likewise, that these diseases are ascribed expressly to the operation of Demons; but whether they produced them by natural causes, or without them, is not said. Thus, John X. 20. And many of them said, He hath a devil and is mad. Matt. ix. 32. Then was brought uinto him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb. Matt. xvii
. 15. Lurd,
15. Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is lunatic. 18. And Jesus rebuked the devil. See alsò Mark ix. 25. And particular ly Luke xiii. 11,-16. where an uncommon distemper is expressly ascribed to the operation of Satan, by our Lord himself. A woman who had a spirit of infirmity, and was bowed down, is said by him to have been bound by Satan eighteen years. So likewise the apostle Peter, in his speech to Cornelius, ascribes the diseases which our Lord cured, to the operation of Satan. Acts x. 38. Jesus of Nazareth who went about doing gsod, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil. Moreover, the reader must have observed, that though the demons, upon falling in our Lord's way confessed their presence by speech; yet to others they manifested themselves chiefly by the
uncommon operation of the distempers which they occasioned. The case of the sons of Sceva, is the only instance I remember, where the demon confessed his presence by speech to any but to our Lord and his apostles. Do not these things make it probable, that the possessions mentioned in the gospels, were úiseases carried to an uncommon height by the presence arid agency of demons? And if this is allowed to have been the true nature of these possessions, there will be found, withorit doubt, abundant exampless of the like possessions in all ages. For there is nothing absurd in supposing that there always have been, and still are in the world, many incurable Ciseases, which, though commoniy attributed in natural cause, are really the effect of the invisible operation of devils, who have power given them for that purpose. The possibility of the thing will not be disputed, when it is remembered, that in Scripture extraordinary natural evils are ascribed to the agency of evil spirits; and that on this very account, Satan is thrice by our Lord himself, styled, the prince of this world, John xii. 31. xiv. 30. xvi. 11. And by Paul, the prince of the power of the air, Eph. ii. 2. And his angels, The rulers of the darkness of this world, Eph. vi. 12. On the other hand, extraordinary blessings are attributed to the ministry of good angels, Psal. xxxiv. 7. xlviii. 16. who for that reason are called ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto them who shall be heirs of salvation, Heb. i. 14. If therefore the operation of demons upon the bodies of men is allowed to be a thing possible, I see no reason why it should not be admitted in fact, especially as the scripture seems to assert it. The only circumstance that can leave any manner of doubt is, that in our Saviour's time the demons confessed their presence to him and his apostles by speech ; whereas, either before or since, no such thing is known to have happened. Yet we may suppose, that nothing but the presence and power of the Son of God, and of his immediate messengers acting by his authority, extorted this confession from the devils, constraining them to appear, contrary to their inclination, to their common method of acting, and to their interest; their influence, whether by temptation upon the mind, or by operation upon the bodies of men, being always most certain when they themselves are most concealed. To conclude, this notion of possession does not necessarily imply, that evil spirits constantly inhabit and govern the bodies of the persons possessed by them, far less that they act upon and influence their minds ; but only that they are often present with them, occasioning the distempers under which they labour, and in some rare instances, that they speak as from the persons possessed, who on all these accounts are properly enough called demoniacs, and said to be possessed with devils.