Page images

he thought it logically necessary to make a distinction between the real and the imaginary benefits; which he does in this manner-What say I then? that an IDOL is any thing; or that which is offered to Idols is any thing? No, (says he) both are nothing, i. e. are equally incapable of conveying benefits. That this must be his meaning, appears from his predicating the same thing both of the Idol and the offering. Now as the offering had a PHYSICAL existence, what hindered but that, in his opinion, the Idol might have a METAPHYSICAL? Though in an efficacious and MORAL sense, Both were nothing. This interpretation shews that the Apostle was perfectly consistent, when just before he calls these Idols NOTHING, and yet, presently after, says they were DEVILS, whom, we know, in his opinion, were SOMETHING. The calling these Idols, Devils, served to explain his meaning when he said Idols were nothing, to be this, that no benefit was to be expected from them. And to intimate yet further, that so far from receiving benefit from Idols, their Worshippers, by this intercourse with them, were subject to great harm and mischief. In order to insinuate this latter assertion, the Apostle changes his first idea of an Idol, which he used in common with the Gentiles, to this second, which he, and all the Christians of that time, had of them. The Idols, to whom the Gentiles intentionally sacrificed, were their national Gods, the celestial Bodies, their dead Ancestors; their Kings and Benefactors; all of them, long ago, engrafted into the publie worship. From such, the Apostle owns, they could receive neither good nor harm; these being only IDOLS OF THE BRAIN.-But SATAN or the DEVIL, as the Original Author and still the fomenter of Idolatry, makes him properly and peculiarly the IDOL of the altar. From such an Idol, they, to whom the Apostle writes, must readily confess, much harm would arise from communicating with him, in a Sacrificial or sacramental feast.

Of this capital Enemy of Mankind the Gentiles themselves had, somehow or other, received an obscure tradition; plentifully, indeed, contaminated with fable; which they still further polluted with new-invented Superstitions. Yet these still preserving a few traces of resemblance to the Mosaic History, and occasioning some conformity between the languages of error and revelation, have drawn unwary men into some dangerous conclusions, as if the Founders of our holy Religion had taken advantage of Pagan follies to form a system of DEMONOLOGY, agreeable to the preconceived fancies of their CONVERTS.-But of this, more in its place. The present occasion rather leads us to admire the Art by which the Sacred Writer has conducted his argument.

P. 405. K. It should seem most probable that the miraculous powers were, in general, occasional and temporary. But a learned Writer, who has declared himself of this opinion, hath unwarily put the gift of tongues into the number

"The Gift of Tongues upon the day of Pentecost" (says he) “was not lasting, but instantaneous and transitory; not bestowed upon them for the constant work of the Ministry, but as an occasional sign only, that a person endowed with it was a chosen minister of the Gospel: which sign, as soon as it had served that particular purpose, seems to have ceased, and totally to have vanished."*

Would reason, or the truth of things, suffer us to be thus compliant, we might concede to Unbelievers all which they fancy the Learned Writer hath procured for them, "that the power of tongues was temporary, and, like the power of healing, possessed occasionally," without being alarmed at any consequence they will be able to deduce from it. For let it be

· DR. MIDDLETON'S "Essay on the Gift of Tongues," vol. ii. of his Works, p. 79.

granted, that the gift of tongues returned as often as they had occasion for its use, and it is no great matter where it resided in the interim.

But neither reason, nor the truth of things, will suffer us to be thus complaisant. The power of healing the diseased (to which Dr. M. compares the gift of tongues) is, during the whole course of its operation, one continued arrest or diversion of the general laws of matter and motion; it was therefore very fitting that this power should be imparted occasionally. But the gift of tongues, when once it was conferred, became, from thenceforth, a natural power; just as the free and perfect use of the members of the Body, after they had been restored, by miracle, to the exercise of their natural functions. Indeed, the loss of this gift of tongues, after the temporary use of it, would imply other miracles, as oft as there was occasion to restore what was lost by actual deprivation. Unless we can suppose that the Apostles, in the exercise of this gift, were merely irrational organs, Automati, through which certain sounds were conveyed. In a word, it was as much in the course of nature for an Apostle, when the holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost had enabled him to speak a strange language, ever afterwards to have the use of that language, as it was for the Cripple, whom Jesus had restored to the use of his limbs on the sabbath day, ever afterwards to walk, to run, and perform all the functions of a man perfectly sound and entire.

In one thing, indeed, the power of healing the diseased, and of speaking with strange tongues, agreed.—As the Disciples could not heal at all times, and when they would; so neither could they speak when they would, in an unknown tongue, when it was first essayed. Yet when the holy Spirit had once enabled them to speak and understand a Language till then unknown to them, I conceive they must retain the use of it with the same facility as if they had acquired it in the ordinary way of instruction.

But the confusion in this matter, and the embarras which follows it, in the Doctor's stating the Question, arise from not distinguishing between the active power and the passive gift. In healing the diseased, the Apostles are to be considered as the Workers of a Miracle; in speaking a strange tongue, as Subjects of a miracle performed.*

P. 418. L. The serious Reader will be ready to ask, what learned discoveries they are which have encouraged these men to innovate from the common opinion concerning the Gospel Demoniacs? Have they found in the Scripture history of the Demoniacs any thing either hurtful to morals, or false in Physics? Nothing of either. And yet whatever is found there, they are not the finders.

An excellent Divine of the last age had, in his extensive researches into antiquity, collected, that both Jews and Gentiles, at and before the time of Christ, were infected with one common Superstition, that Demons and the Souls of wicked men deceased frequently seized upon the bodies of the living, and tormented them in various ways. Hence he too hastily, yet with his usual modesty, insinuated, that the Possessions recorded in the Gospel, and called demoniacal, might be of that imaginary sort; and no other in reality than OCCULT DISEASES; which being intractable by the art of medicine, were supposed to be supernatural (as if a good Physician was a match for any thing but the Devil).-To the unhappy wretches so afflicted, he supposed that Jesus might apply his salutary hands: and that to this malady, so

• He who would see a more complete account of this whole affair and its dependencies, is recommended to the FIRST BOOK of the Doctrine of Grace, or the Office and Operation of the Holy Spirit, third edition, Lond. 1763.

relieved, the People gave the fashionable name by which, at that time, it was commonly distinguished.

Without doubt this truly learned Divine went the more readily into this bold opinion, as he had observed it to have been God's gracious method, in the course of his DISPENSATIONS, to take advantage of men's habitual prejudices, towards the support of his Revelation, by keeping his servants attached to his Ordinances.

But, here, the excellent person should have distinguished (as his Followers* were not likely to do it for him) between RITES and DOCTRINES. As they were RITES only, of which God was pleased to avail himself, for the benefit of his People, in order to combat, or to elude, their fondness for Pagan usages. In matters of DOCTRINE, the like compliance was not, nor could be, safely indulged to them, without violating the truth of things; and therefore Sacred Scripture affords us no example of such a condescension. In things pertaining only to Rites we have, indeed, many instances. Thus the use of linen-garments, lighted lamps, lustrations, and a multitude of other usages, in themselves indifferent, were brought out of false Religions into the true and this, with high propriety and wisdom, while their new destination sanctified their use; and their use served to the easier introduction of the new establishment.-But to assert and support a groundless, superstitious opinion (if such it were) of Diabolical possessions, would be the infecting and contaminating the Christian Faith.

However, if the admirable Author of this hurtful Novelty did himself miss of so just and obvious a distinction, we have less reason to wonder that those of his Followers, who only aimed at something, by a faint reflection from the other's learning, should not hit (as we have said) upon what their Master had overlooked.

A late eminent Physician, who hath borrowed this notion professedly from this great man, acted a more modest and becoming part. He might pretend, by virtue of his Profession, and still more by his superior skill in it, to a profounder insight into Nature: At the same time, Theology being in another department, he was the more excusable, if he did not see all that this Divine Science opposed to the Opinion; an Opinion, which might be said to descend to him by inheritance from his great namesake and relation whose conciseness, strength, and modesty of reasoning, he hath so well copied, that to confute objections so borrowed, will be to overthrow the whole System of the Antidemoniac Party.t

In his Medica Sacra, he hath a chapter de dæmoniacis; in which he hath treated the Evangelic History with all that decency and reverence which becomes a true Scholar and a serious Professor of the Christian Faith.

The first observation I shall make, in the entrance on his argument, is general; and will serve to confute all who have written on the Question. It is this Our Antidemoniasts reason upon the case, not as they find it recorded by the Evangelists, but as they see it described only in a treatise of Medicine, by Aretæus, Fernelius, or any other of the faculty, where it stands unconnected with all moral as well as religious inquiries. But it hath been shewn at large, that these demoniacal possessions have a close relation to the Doctrine of REDEMPTION; and were therefore reasonably to "Ut redeam autem ad Dæmoniacos; non mea est, profecto, sed aliorum ante me pietate et doctrina præstantium virorum sɛn

Dr. Sykes-Dr. Lardner, &c. &c.

tentia quam hic propono. Et proximo quidem sæculo, inter nostrates etiam JOSEPHUS

MEADUS, Theologus, rerum sacrarum cognitione nulli secundus, luculenta dissertatione eam propugnavit. Cum ex eadem, igitur, ac ille, familia sim oriundus,” &c.—Præf. in Med. Sacr. p. ix. Authore RICHARDO MEAD.

be expected at the first promulgation of the GOSPEL. This sets the matter on quite another footing and that plausible reasoning, which attends the learned person's representation, entirely disappears, when we put the case as it was in fact.

1. This proper precaution, against so defective and foreign a representation of the case, being premised, I now proceed to the reasoning employed by our learned Physician to discredit the common Opinion of a real possession.

His first argument stands on the extent of the Superstition, which gave birth to so many imaginary possessions.

"It had not only infected the Mosaic Religion in particular, but had overrun paganism in general."-"As to the Jews, who were wont to ascribe whatever there was of prodigious in nature, to the MINISTRY OF ANGELS, they were easily brought to believe, that those dire diseases, which infected the Mind and Body equally and at once, and whose causes were unknown, could be no other than the work of the DEVIL."+

Let us allow all this-Let us allow that the Jews, at the time of Christ, were very superstitious in this matter. But then the learned Doctor, in his turn, will allow, that the Teachers of the Gospel, in the fulness of their inspiration, must needs be secure from an error, which so dreadfully affected the Religion they were intrusted to propagate, as Demonianism did, if it were an error. And if so, they knowingly and designedly gave it countenance and support. But how that will agree with their character and office, we shall see, as we go along.

Our Learned Doctor tells us further, "that the Jews not only gave credit to the works of the Devil, but believed in the ministry of ANGELS likewise." This seems to be one of those slips of the pen, to which Truth sometimes betrays those who write most cautiously against her; especially when they act the part of Believers; which, however, I will not suspect was the case here. For the Old Testament, which the learned Doctor reverences equally with the New, bears ample testimony to the real ministry of Angels; and with such circumstances attending it, as will not permit a Believing Caviller to evade it, by having recourse to vision, figure, or accommodation. For if the Angel who waylaid Balaam may be reduced to a dusky dream, those whom Abraham entertained in Broad daylight were more substantial. When, therefore, the learned Person puts the ministry and malice of good and bad angels on the same footing, he must confess that, if the reality of the former be proved, the reality of the latter will follow.

As to the abounding Superstition, in this matter, both amongst Jews and Gentiles, I do not see how that, in the least, alters the case. The Jews, of this time, by a more enlarged and unrestrained Commerce with their Pagan neighbours, had defiled the purity of their holy Religion by many opinions borrowed from the Gentile Philosophers. Thus they took, we may well suppose, the Doctrine of Demons from PLATO, and the pre-existence (if not a future state) from PYTHAGORAS. Notwithstanding, it is certain, that both

• "At non Judæis tantum, sed et aliis etiam gentibus in usu fuit insanos pro demoniacis habere."-P. 76. "A Chaldæis quidem ad Phonices, postea ad Egyptios propagata, ad Græcos deinde, hinc ad Romanos aliasque demum gentes temporis progressu Demoniaca ista Religio pervenit."-P. 74. "Judæi autem, siquid faceret Nutura, ad ANGELORUM supremi Dei Ministrorum operam referre soliti, facile in animum sibi inducere poterant, ut diras quasdam crederent ægritudines quæ mentem simul et corpus læderent, et quarum causas cognoscere nequirent, ab angelorum malorum èvepyelais exoriri."-P. 74.

Demoniacal possessions and future rewards and punishments are equally supported by the acts and doctrine of Jesus and his Disciples.

This too, let me observe-The Doctrines of the FALL and of the REDEMPTION (the two principles on which our holy Religion rises) are interwoven into the substance of the Christian Faith. If therefore we can suppose Demonianism to be only a threadbare fable, new-dressed, and offered, by way of accommodation, to amuse the followers of the Gospel, I cannot see what hinders our supposing, with SYNESIUS, a future state itself to be no


Both Opinions had the advantage of old prejudice in their favour. Yet if only one of them were true (namely, that of a future state), and the other of Demonianism, taught but by way of accommodation, we see, it could hold its ground no otherwise than from the difficulty of erasing it from the popular belief: yet so uncomfortable a doctrine, one should think, might be removed with very little trouble.

Nay, Jesus was even invited to help forward, as it were, its discredit, had it been only a delusion. A Father* mistook his Son's disorder to be LUNACY, when, according to the Historian, it was a DIABOLIC POSSESSION. And as such, Jesus treats it. He rebukes the DEVIL, who departed out of the Child, and he was cured from that very hour. And to prevent all mistake in this matter, when the Father had told Jesus that his Disciples could not cure the Child, our Lord, after upbraiding his followers for their want of faith, tells them, however, that this miracle of dispossession, the most difficult of all, required a more extraordinary preparation for the work, than any other, by acts of piety and humiliation. For which assertion an obvious reason may be assigned, this victory over Satan being a certain mark, that the Redemption was compleated and accomplished, this evidence of it was fitly reserved to be bestowed on the most perfect of the followers of Christ. Yet had the Satanic part been only a popular fancy, Jesus here might have decried it with advantage, while he had the Father of the sufferer on his side; who considered his Son's disease as a Lunacy only.

It may be said, perhaps, that the Doctrines of a future state, and that of Demoniacal possessions, which I put upon the same footing of Credibility (because the Gospel hath so put them), differ in this, that a future state may be proved by natural reason, which Demoniacal possessions cannot.— But what doth this objection infer more than this? that a future state makes part of Natural RELIGION; and Demoniacal possessions, a part of the REVEALED.

2. The ingenuous Discourser brings another objection to these possessions -Having collected together all the SYMPTOMS of this disorder, from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he concludes thus-" All these are the Symptoms of a natural disorder. They are more surprising, indeed, than those of other disorders, yet nothing supernatural."+-His learned Fellow Collegiate, Dr. J. Freind, treating the same subject, after he hath given us, from Ætius and Oribasius, a description of the madness called Lycanthropy, of which, one of the most striking SYMPTOMS was a fondness to wander amongst the Sepulchres of the dead, adds-the Demoniac in the Scriptures, who was POSSESSED WITH A LIKE SORT OF MADNESS, is represented as having his dwelling amongst the Tombs.+

The opinion of these two learned Naturalists is founded, we see, in this

Matt. xvii. 15.

"Insanorum sunt hæc omnia; utrum vero a Dæmoniis, an

vi morbi provenerint, disceptatur-neque enim alius quisquam inter omnes, qui humanum genus infestant, morbus tam naturæ vim excedere videtur."-P. 66. of Physic," part i. pp. 16-21.


« PreviousContinue »