Page images
PDF
EPUB

Dr. Macknight states that the name of Paradise, besides denominating the place where our first parents resided in the day of their innocence, was also given “to the situation where the spirits of the just after death reside in felicity till the resurrection ; as appears from our Lord's words to the penitent thief.”*

* Commentary on 2 Cor. xii. 4.

CHAPTER IX.

On the appearance of the Ghost of the prophet Samuel at Endor, and the

Spirit of Moses at the Transfiguration.

“Since we have spoken of witches,” said Lord Byron, “what think you of the

witch of Endor? I have always thought this the finest and most finished witch scene that ever was written or conceived, and you will be of my opinion if you consider all the circumstances, and the actors of the case, together with the gravity, simplicity, and dignity of the language. It beats all the ghost scenes I ever read.”

Kennedy's Conversations on Religion with Lord Byron and others.

A CAREFUL consideration of the extraordinary account given to us in the Old Testament of the coming of a spirit from the mansion in which it had been since the death of its body, must considerably advance our knowledge of the state of the souls of departed men, and although the spirit of the prophet made no communication of the secrets of the dead, yet the very fact of his visible appearance, his being able to see, to speak, and to hear, to come from his place of rest, and to return to it—all are wonderful, and of great consequence for us to be convinced of, if we can really take them in the plain and direct manner in which the story is told in Holy Writ.

Moses relates that the heathen had so strong a notion of a spiritual world of beings inferior to angels, that they built a superstitious practice upon it, of seeking their advice and

inquiring of them concerning things to come.* We are not entitled to doubt all the instances of the actual appearance of the ghosts or spirits of departed men which are mentioned as becoming visible to mortal eyes in ancient times, or of men and women having supernatural power by the aid of evil spirits ; but all farther communication between the spiritual world and mortals, by the appearance of any of the inhabitants of the former, seems to have been put a decided stop to since the time of our Lord and his Apostles; at which period heathen authors tell us the ancient oracles ceased to deliver any responses, and left the temples where they had for ages been worshipped. It has, no doubt, been maintained, that the heathen oracles were no more than the deceitful contrivances of their priests to impose upon a superstitious and ignorant people, and it may have been really so, indeed, in some instances, probably was the case, but there is nothing in the Bible against our admitting what was once the universal opinion, or that they were demons ; a race of spiritual beings whose existence it affirms. The daipovia (daimonia) of the Greeks were both good and bad, and although our translators generally render this word by devils, they are always distinguished in the original from those fallen angels whom we read of as being cast down from heaven. Indeed, even in our English version of the New Testament, daimonia is in one instance translated gods,-in St. Paul's speech to the Athenians, where he tells them that they were too much given to strange demons. Not that every image of metal, or wood, or stone, which they fabricated and worshipped, was so inspired, but that the oracular voices, which predicted events, proceeded from demons, ás was said to be the case at Delphos, Ephesus, &c. We are not to judge entirely by what now takes place, and because we are certain there are no such communications permitted in our days. We should remember that God himself appeared to men in old times, and angels frequently became visible on particular missions from on high. Human spirits

* See Deut. xviii. 9–12.

have also returned to the earth in visible forms, and the spiritual Being who was commissioned from God to make revelations of the future to St. John, told him that it was his fellow-servant, of his brethren that had borne testimony of Jesus,* that is—the soul of a departed believer in Christ.

The critical remarks which follow, on the appearance of Samuel, according to the Scripture relation, are by Dr. Campbell, and will be found to combine his usual acuteness and knowledge, with natural inferences from the text :

“ It has been speciously supported, that in the Mosaic economy there was no express revelation of the existence of the soul after death. Admitting this to be in some sense true, the Israelites were not without such intimations of a future state as types, and figures, and emblematical predictions could give them. Yet certain it is, that life and immortality were, in an eminent manner, brought to light only by the gospel.t But from whatever source they derived their opinions, that they had opinions on this subject, though dark and confused, is manifest, as from many other circumstances, so particularly from the practice of witchcraft and necromancy, which prevailed among them, and the power they ascribed to sorcerers, justly or unjustly, it matters not,

* Rev. xix. 10.

+ We read in our translations of the Epistles, that our Lord “ brought life and immortality to light through the gospel ;" (2 Tim. i. 10.) which has led many sincere Christians to understand that He first made this great truth known to the world as a discovery proceeding directly from himself, or rather a piece of knowledge which, in common with his Father and the hea,venly host, he being aware of, first communicated to man: but Øwriów does not properly signify to bring to light, but rather to throw light upon, and accordingly, Mr. Gilpin, in his Exposition of the New Testament, renders the sense of the passage—that the gospel “hath now in Christ abolished death, and thrown a new light upon immortality,” which it assuredly did. This explanation deserves particular attention, in as much as great misapprehensions have been founded on the translation in this instance in our Bibles. So far were the Jews, before our Lord's time, from having no ideas of a future state, that it is assumed in their Scriptures, and implied as an article of popular belief in the reputed heresy of the Sadducees.

See Acts xxiii. 6.; xxiv. 15. ; xsvi, 5–7.

of evoking the ghosts of the deceased. The whole story of the Witch of Endor is an irrefragable instance of this. For however much people may differ in their manner of explaining the phenomenon which it represents to us; judicious and impartial men, whose minds are not pre-occupied with a system, can hardly differ as to the evidence it affords, that the existence of spirits, in a separate state, was an article of popular belief, and that it was thought possible by certain secret arts to maintain an intercourse with them. Our question here is not, what was revealed to that people on this subject ? But what appears to have been the notions commonly entertained concerning it. Indeed the artifices employed by their wizards and necromancers alluded to by Isaiah, of returning answers in a feigned voice, which appeared to those present, as proceeding from under the ground, is a demonstration of the prevalency of their sentiments in regard both to the existence and to the abode of souls departed. For that these were the oracles intended to be consulted is manifest from the prophet's upbraiding them with it as an absurdity. * From the narrative of what passed at Endor, it may be observed, that in whatever way the facts may be accounted for by expositors, it was evidently believed, at the time, not only that the evocation of the spirits of the deceased was possible, but that the spirit of Samuel was actually evoked. Of this, Saul, who consulted him, appears to have had no doubt. Nay more, the sa

* The word “ absurdity" seems here to be misapplied. Consulting the spirits of deceased men or of demons, might be sinful, as showing a want of reliance on God, or as being against his commands, but their doing so was not absurd, as the story under review shows, for Samuel told Saul what the latter wished to know, and from what Dr. C. says, it appears that he believes, and with good reason, that there might have been no deception on the part · of the witch, but that she really brought the ghost of the prophet. The an

cients may have thus occasionally attempted to consult the spirits of their late fellow-men after their deaths, but from the information which has come down to us, they seem more frequently to have applied to greater oracles, or those in the temples of their gods, which, in some instances, were supposed to belong to a higher order of beings than the souls of men.

« PreviousContinue »