Spiritism - Ancient and Modern
A lady who had been a Spiritist, tells of how she developed the "clairaudient ear," or the power of hearing the spirits when others heard nothing. (And, by the way, all should avoid everything of this kind as they would avoid a plague; they should, if approached thus, at once turn their hearts to the Lord in prayer for aid to resist the intrusion.) This woman's relatives have been interested for some years in Present Truth, and pointed out to her that her communings were not with dead friends, but with the fallen angels, "demons," and finally got her to the point of reading "STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES." This displeased the "spirits," who for a time almost prevented her study by an incessant opposition, such as "Don't read that," "That's not true," etc., etc. Gradually she asserted her will, calling on the Lord for help, and we understand that now she is quite free from their intrusions.
Another case which came to our attention was that of a boy of 19 years, in Eastern Pennsylvania, who was terribly oppressed by demons. One of the Lord's people, hearing of the case, called to see him, taking a copy of the Spiritism pamphlet. Its presence so aggravated the boy that it had to be removed before the brother could talk to the possessed one. The spirits having him under their control nearly set him wild until the book was removed. "The darkness hateth the light." We do not doubt that these evil spirits would do injury to the servants of the Truth if permitted. Evidently they are under some restraint as respects the Lord's people. Later on they may be permitted to operate through others, as Satan entered into Judas before the betrayal.
The following from an exchange, The Prophetic News, may serve to further emphasize the foregoing:
"I was induced to yield my hand to be controlled by a spirit, in consequence of reading what Mr. Stead wrote in the Review of Reviews about Spirit-Writing. Thus was the first step taken on this forbidden yet fascinating course. I look back on that first step and remember that I never uttered, in the perplexity that filled my mind, a prayer to God. I should have at once sought the guidance of God. Before I thought of so doing, I was seized with the desire to seek this newly-found source of help. I fear much I am not alone in being foolishly misguided by the perusal of spiritualistic literature which is now being circulated far and wide in England.
"The spirit that came and offered me his aid forbade my praying to God, assigning as a reason that I was now under special heavenly guidance, superseding the need of prayer, and that my heavenly inheritance was sure. That was strange counsel, and it was still stranger that I should have for one moment harbored it; but harbor it I did.
"But, in addition, this messenger of Satan forbade my study of the Scriptures, for I had lately commenced a methodical reading thereof. The reason given for this on the part of my evil counsellor was that the work I was now under so strong an obligation to execute, was so urgent that no time could be spared for other mental occupation.
"Under the pretense of aiding me I was now 'interviewed' by other spirits, who declared themselves to be the spirits of departed mortals. One assumed the character of what I might call ultra piety, and warned me from coming into association with and under the influence of a certain minister of the Gospel residing in the neighborhood—one who would certainly have counselled me in my perplexed state of mind with wisdom—but against him my 'interviewer' uttered base slanders. This spirit hindered me greatly by making long discourses.
"Another spirit declared himself to have been the former English ambassador to the nation of these persecuted Christians concerning whose distressing condition my heart was bleeding; and in language befitting a statesman he related his remarkable experience in the executing of his ambassadorial office. Then he desired my work to take a form which I subsequently found to be the worst under the circumstances, and that I should communicate it to an important public functionary. This was so opposed to my judgment that I could not yield assent to it.
"After this the first spirit that came to me under the garb of a guardian angel declared that the spirit of my beloved mother had been permitted to visit me for a few minutes, and that she entreated me to transmit a message to a relative residing abroad, and that, though I was ignorant of the purport of this message, she would herself guide my pen in writing it down. I took the pen into my hand, holding it loosely for her to guide it. A strong wish came upon me to see my mother's form. Then, to my great astonishment, her portrait was instantaneously and with consummate skill drawn on the paper before me. I now watched with breathless interest the writing of the message. It was traced in her well-known (to me) handwriting. Only two words were written, but they were written three times. The words written, with tremulous haste and urgency, were SAVE SOULS, and with a quick movement the pen was made to drop.
"Such a message from such a source smote my heart with its deep solemnity. But I could not bring myself to send the message. I felt it would be wrong to send it. The relative for whom it was intended was already engaged in Christian mission work, and somehow I shrank from bringing on his mind the influence of a message from whence I hardly knew. I felt a total disinclination for any further communications from spirits, and I determined to receive no more from so dubious a source. But I was not to be so easily disentangled from this net into which in an evil moment I had deliberately placed my feet.
"In disgust, and as if to take a plunge out of the vortex into which I had been stealthily drawn, I threw into the fire the portrait of my mother and all the spirit-writing. I would not believe that the spirit of that dear Christian—my mother—was wandering on this earth in company with others who gave me such disastrous counsels, and failed in their promise to strengthen and aid me. I even came to the conclusion that these spirits had attempted an impersonation of that departed saint, and had written that solemn message in order to induce me to believe in their celestial character and the sanctity of their intentions, that I might be induced to follow their perilous injunctions.
"To justify their proceedings they were apt in misquoting Scripture. There was a terrible mystery in this, and it filled me with dire forebodings. I then said to myself, half aloud, 'Can it be possible that there are evil spirits who have power to communicate with mortals and deceive them?'
"A spirit answered, 'Yes,' and added that they themselves would now act evilly towards me and that I was in their power to be punished, since I had sought to obtain knowledge forbidden to mortals.
"With this startling declaration they changed their character and conduct to me.
"I now believed that I had committed a sin in consulting them; but it was done in ignorance (it was a culpable ignorance, nevertheless) and with innocent intent. Surely I could trust in Divine mercy to pardon me.
"But the spirit answered my thought by declaring that the Divine mercy should not reach me, but that he would accuse me before the Recording Angel of this deadly sin—intercourse with spirits—and would call for immediate judgment!
"Let it be remembered that these very spirits by their lying deception had induced me to cease from prayer and the study of Scripture, and had declared that my heavenly inheritance was sure. They left me to execute their threat.
"Soon after this a remarkable vision appeared by the permitted instrumentality of these tormentors. One night the wall at the end of my room seemed to vanish, and a large open space appeared. At one side was a dais with steps which appeared to lead up to an exalted throne, half hidden by clouds. Before the dais a number of celestial beings stood in a semi-circle, and, apart from the rest, at the foot of the dais, was a terrible form. I knew this was the 'Prince of Darkness,' and I instinctively felt he was there as my accuser, and I seemed to have no advocate. This terrible vision at first seemed a confirmation of the spirit's threat, yet there was one essential difference. It was not, as they said, an avenging angel, but Satan, who accused me. I wanted to reflect on this vision and the new conditions environing me, but spirit voices continually interrupted me, so that I could neither think nor pray, but only repeat to myself some such words as 'O Lord, in Thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded.'
"I could not stop their verbal communications, their small but intensely clear voices followed me everywhere.
"The spirits told me that the torments of hell, in which I had not believed, awaited me, and that in the internal fires of the earth souls were in torment; and that the intensity of the punishment was proportioned to the guilt of the offender. They declared that I should know by experience the reality of eternal punishment that very night. The fact that I was still in mortal flesh would not impede them; there appeared to be some truth in their threat that they could cause death—or rather, the cessation of mortal existence, for they gave me an immediate and startling demonstration of their power in causing violent spasms and palpitations of the heart, while I was quite calm in mind. Indeed my imperturbable calmness caused them to remark that I was one of the bravest of mortals, but they would yet overcome me with greater terrors. But I ultimately found that they possessed no supreme power over the 'King of Terrors.' They then left me, and in the darkness and the silence of the night I waited, expectantly, believing that a terrible ordeal awaited me, for I knew that my enemies were powerful and malignant.
"The wall of my room again seemed to disappear, and I was conscious that a spirit had entered and touched me, and a voice declared that he who had entered was an administrator of justice in the infernal regions. He demanded of me if I knew why he had been summoned to me.
"I replied that I only knew that my enemies accused me, and that if he was the servant of God I desired him to tell me what was the will of God that I should now do, for I desired only to know, and do that will.
"He answered in some such words as these: 'You are free; you cannot come within my province. I only punish those who will not obey God, and now I leave you.'
"I was inexpressibly thankful to be delivered from such threatening peril, and that a powerful spirit had acknowledged that Divine Power overruled in hell, and that he acted in subserviance to it.
"All these spiritualistic manifestations were far from being the phantasmagoria of dream or fancy; they too evidently belonged to the stern and abiding realities of life. They were manifestations of that great, and potent, and eternal realm of spiritual power which mortal vision may not yet behold. Throughout this ordeal I was calm, and possessed that intensification of consciousness that is aroused by tragic circumstances.
"I resolved that as I had encountered these unique and tragic conditions not from personal needs or seeking personal aims, the result of this experience should also have a wider range of influence.
"I had more to learn and to endure. I was even to learn that my deliverance from the power of demons, like my faith, was of an imperfect character.
"The remainder of the night I passed in peace. In the morning I recommenced the study of Holy Scripture; it became to me the most important concern of my life.
"But to my great distress the evil spirits immediately returned to me with ceaseless interruptions to prevent my study. They determined to keep me from the knowledge of a full deliverance.
"They compelled me to listen to their account of an insurrection on earth against Divine power which they had long been planning, but which was ere long to be carried out. They asserted that their mighty potentate and chief had obtained the vicegerency of earth, that he was the prince of this world, and that he would subjugate it as it never yet had been subjugated to his control, and that he would raise a storm of persecution against the followers of Christ. There was, in fact, to be a new putting forth of hellish influence upon the earth.
"I was compelled to hear from these spirits the unfolding of their diabolical scheme. They brought many proofs to substantiate the fact that their power on earth was already greatly increased and was increasing. The prospects, therefore, that seemed in store for the world overwhelmed me with dismay. They asserted that their great potentate—'the god of this world' (Satan)—had so subverted Christendom that at least the great ecclesiastical systems known as the Roman, Greek and Anglican Churches would more entirely be subservient to him. I was inclined to disbelieve their statements. I wished that they could have been disproved, but facts appeared to corroborate them. I then for the first time observed that the Church of Rome was gaining great power, and as for the Greek Church in Russia, it was then inflicting terrible persecutions on the true followers of Christ—Christians—who would not practise idolatry.
"It was now made apparent to me that these spirits who had hypocritically proffered their aid for the persecuted Christians had themselves instigated idolatrous Churchmen to persecute them. I gathered further that the servants of the great potentate of darkness had sown error and discord freely in the other churches in Christendom, and that these would advance in error and in distance from God; that they had power to distract the attention and to deaden the perceptions of men who otherwise would arrest the progress of evil.
"The spirits then spoke with sardonic triumph of their school of materialistic philosophy and their teaching on Cosmogony as opposing that of the Book of Genesis—a system that modern science has found so acceptable as appearing to fit in with what the bowels of the earth have displayed, but which entirely leaves out of its thoughts the operation of God's hand in judgment at the fall of man, when not only man was morally and physically ruined, but that which was once pronounced 'very good' fell with the first man, so that the 'whole creation'—material and immaterial—groans for deliverance.
"A spirit calling himself Lord Beaconsfield declared that he would aid me by dictating a work of fiction that should surpass all his earthly efforts and would produce a small fortune for me and that I should thus obtain the reputation of being a great genius by simply acting as his amanuensis, and he added the more alluring temptation to me—that the spirits could and would confer on me such knowledge and power that I myself should be considered by the world as a brilliant writer, and win fame and fortune.
"Perhaps his offer has been made to and accepted by some of our present writers of brilliant but pernicious fiction, especially those who have popularized and dignified Satan himself; some of whom I know are students of Occultism.
"One spirit professed to be the originator of such systems as Theosophy and Agnosticism. They had previously declared that 'thought-reading' was under their domination and effected by them. I gathered, generally, though it was not very clearly expressed, that mesmerism and hypnotism were likewise agencies in their hands.
"And now, as another confirmation of the ascendancy the spirits still had over me, they fulfilled their previous threat to call blaspheming demons to madden me. At their bidding these base spirits came and uttered horrible blasphemies until it seemed as if all hell was let loose upon me for a little while. Then the spirits used one last awful device to overthrow me, and nearly succeeded.
"In the midst of all these difficulties and dangers by which I was well-nigh overwhelmed, a commanding voice from an invisible spirit called me, saying words to this effect, 'That I had become so environed and besieged by evil spirits that there was no deliverance for me on earth, and that he—an angel of the Lord—had descended from heaven to bear me this command from the Lord Jesus—that I must die by my own hand to escape my persecutors, and that my soul should then find rest in heaven.' I had so strong a desire for life that nothing less than a Divine command, as I believed it, could have induced me to take my life.
"I did not question the words proceeding evidently from so high an authority. I could not conceive it possible that the spirits would command mortals to die by using the sacred name of Christ. Yet it was the device of the Devil and I fell into it.
"I was perfectly calm in my mind and determined I would obey the Divine command, and trust in the Lord. Then, in the last prayer I thought to breathe on earth, I protested to the Almighty that I took my life believing I was acting at the bidding of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thereupon I drank a poisonous draft and quickly fell into a comatose state, but I did not awake in hell or in heaven, for I was allowed to recover, though only after much difficulty and suffering.
"But whilst I was recovering, the inexorable voice repeated the previous message, upon which I seized an instrument; the only instrument at hand was a very small dagger, with which, having failed to cut my throat, I severed the temporal artery. Determined to make death swift and sure this time, I endeavored to cut another artery, and with the blood streaming from my head I fell to the ground insensible.
"Again the spirits were foiled in their intention. The noise of my fall instantly brought assistance, and I recovered. My recovery was, I might almost say, a miracle. I am convinced that God did in a very remarkable way interpose His healing hand that I might be physically healed.
"But above all I was delivered from the tormenting presence and persecution of these demons. Christ, who when on earth healed those who were demonized, and 'healed all that were oppressed of the devil,' mercifully healed me; He commanded them to leave me. I recognized the supreme need of a Redeemer. I believed His Word that 'No man cometh unto the Father but by Me, and he that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.' I knew of the Blood of Jesus which cleanses from all sin—of that ONE offering perfected on the Cross by which Christ has perfected His believing people. This blessed knowledge dawned upon my soul despite all the efforts of the powers of darkness to prevent me from obtaining it.
"I beg every reader of this to fly from Spiritualism. Do not play with tools such as 'Planchette,' 'thought-reading,' 'Ouija boards,' etc. I feel that my life has been preserved that I might use this personal experience and knowledge of Satanic power that I have passed through, and witness against the snares of Spiritualism, declare its Satanic nature, and the potency of Christ as a Deliverer from it."
The above shows something of the ingenuity and versatility of the demons. To some, on the contrary, they report that there is no hell. To Swendenborg they gave visions of seven hells and seven heavens, which helped him frame a new religion to entrap honest souls. How evidently we all need to "hold fast the faithful Word." The Apostle forewarned us we should specially need this "armor" as the "evil day" draws on.
"For this cause was the Gospel preached to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." (1 Pet 4:6.) No Bible topic requires more careful discrimination in its study than does the subject of death. This is mainly because of the general confusion of mind which came upon Christendom during the long centuries of the Church's comparative darkness, when Bibles (the Lamp of God upon the Christian path), were scarce, and when few could read the truths of priceless value, that were chained to lecterns. In consequence of this confusion we hear intelligent people talk ignorantly and stupidly respecting death. They make confusion worse confounded by telling us of Adam's spiritual death and discussing "natural" death and "the death that never dies," etc., etc.
To get the Bible view of death we need to brush away such foolish babblings and confine ourselves to Bible language and the rational thought connected therewith. For instance, according to the Bible, there is no "natural death"—it is not natural for man to die. It is according to the Bible arrangement and man's nature that he, as well as angels, should live—live eternally, if obedient to the Divine commands. Death, therefore, is the unnatural thing! Do we think of angels as dying, and of Heaven as filled with cemeteries? Have they doctors and undertakers there? Surely not! Yet it would be just as proper to speak of natural death amongst the angels as in respect to men. But neither is proper.
The term spiritual death so frequently used respecting Adam and his fall is wholly unscriptural. No such expression is found in the Bible; neither such a thought. Adam could not die a spiritual death, because he was not a spirit being. He was an earthly being—not an angel, but a man. As the Scriptures declare of Adam, "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; and crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands"; "over the beasts of the field, the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air."—Heb. 2:7; Psa. 8:5-8.
From the moment of disobedience and Divine condemnation Adam and his race have been judicially dead and gradually going down, down, down, in degradation and into the tomb.
Speaking of the dying race from the judicial standpoint our Savior called them all dead. He declared that none has even a reckoned life, except such as by faith accept Him as their Life-giver—Savior. His words are, "He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son shall not see life." Speaking to one who believed on Him the Savior said, "Let the dead bury their dead"; go thou and preach the Gospel. (Matt. 8:22.) From the right standpoint His meaning is evident. Let the dead, the condemned and legally dead world, look out for its own affairs. You become one of My followers and carry My message of life and love to as many as have ears to hear!
Consider now in the light of the foregoing, the meaning of St. Peter's words in 1 Peter 4:6. We perceive how the Gospel message from first to last has been preached to a dead world—to a world under sentence of death—to a world "dead in trespasses and in sin" and unworthy of Divine notice. Jesus, during His ministry, preached the Gospel amongst those judicially dead through trespasses and sins. A few had the hearing ear and accepted the good Message and gave their hearts to God and accepted the terms of discipleship—to walk in the Master's footsteps in the Narrow Way faithfully unto death—willingly offering, sacrificially, their little all in the service of God, His Truth, His righteousness, His people. These few, as we have seen, the Savior recognized as having life — as having "passed from death unto life."
By and by when all eyes and ears of understanding shall be opened and the blessing of the Lord through Messiah shall be world-wide, it will not be merely a calling to righteousness that will be extended. A command will be enforced by disciplines, "stripes," "corrections in righteousness," to the intent that the dead world in general may be blessed and be resurrected—lifted up, up, up, out of sin and death conditions to the human perfection bestowed upon Adam and his race in creation. Only the unwilling and disobedient will die the Second Death, from which there will be no redemption, no resurrection.
"Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit, by which [two experiences—death and resurrection] He preached unto the spirits in prison." (1 Pet. 3:18, 19.) This text has been made the basis for some peculiar presentations. From it some have deduced an intermediate state lasting between death and the resurrection. Others have claimed it as an authority for the doctrine of Purgatory. The difficulty in every case seems to be the failure to remember that the Bible always and everywhere teaches that the dead are really dead, that they know nothing, and that, therefore, it would be impossible to do any preaching to the dead humans. Undoubtedly the theory that people are more alive after they die than when they were alive, is responsible for nearly all the foolish things which we have all at some time professed to believe.
Before dismissing the thought that these "spirits in prison" are human spirits, let us note the fact that to say, "human spirits," is an absurdity of itself, because human beings are not spirits, and spirit beings are not humans. "Who maketh His angels spirits" is the Scriptural proposition. True, we do sometimes speak of humans as possessing a spirit of life, but by this we merely mean that they possess the power or energy of life, and the same would be equally true of the lower orders of creation, beasts, fish, fowl, etc.
Again, we sometimes speak of the Church as spirit beings—begotten of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Apostle speaks of the natural man in contrast with the New Creature, a spirit being. To appreciate this statement we must remember that the Church class receives the begetting of the Holy Spirit to the end that, if faithful, they may attain unto a spirit resurrection and become spirit beings, like unto the angels and like to the Redeemer. But we are not spirits yet, except by faith—by hope. However, the context shows that the Apostle had no reference to the Church, either; we were not in prison; we received the Message of salvation through the Apostles.
The spirits to whom the message was given had proven themselves disobedient, says St. Peter. He even tells us the time of their disobedience; namely, that it was "in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing." Surely, if noticing these particulars mentioned in the context, no one would be excusable for misunderstanding this Scripture and considering it in any way applicable to humanity in general. However, it is helpful to us to learn the full particulars of the matter. What was their disobedience, and when and how were they imprisoned?
Turning to Gen. 6:1-5, we find there the cause of the disobedience of those angels, who for a time had been permitted to see what they could do for the uplift of humanity, or, rather, permitted to demonstrate that the downward tendency of sin is incurable except in the manner which God has already arranged for through Messiah and His glorious reign of a thousand years.
Instead of those angels helping mankind out of sin they helped themselves into sin, and by so doing they increased the depravity amongst humanity, until the astounding record is that "the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thought of his heart was only evil continually." The particular sin of those angels was that when they were granted the privilege of materializing—of taking human bodies for the sake of helping and instructing mankind—they misused this power and took to themselves the daughters of men for wives.
Thus these angels came gradually to prefer to live as men amongst men, and to rear earthly families, rather than to abide in the condition in which they were created—spirit beings, higher than humans. Not only was this wrong in the sense that it was taking a course in opposition to the Divine arrangement, but it was wrong also because the thing was done for the cultivation and gratification of lust, and it led to their own moral defilement as well as having a baneful influence upon humanity; for we can readily see that for the angels, of superior powers and intelligence, to become leaders in lustful practices would mean a great influence upon mankind toward sin and defilement of mind and body.
We are particularly told that the offspring of this improper union between the angels and the daughters of men were giants, both physically and mentally superior to the fallen human family —"men of renown." And this statement, that they were "men of renown," was at a time when manhood's estate was reached at a hundred years, and implies that God did not interfere to hinder or stop the progress of sin for perhaps several centuries. In the meantime the race had become so corrupt that apparently only Noah and his family were uncontaminated—all others had more or less come under the influence, directly or indirectly, of these fallen angels or their giant sons. Hence, of Noah it was written (not that he was a perfect man, but), "Now Noah was perfect in his generation" (uncontaminated) and his family apparently the same. Hence these alone were saved in the ark, while all the remainder, more or less contaminated, were destroyed by the flood.
It was then and there that God imprisoned those spirits, angels, who kept not their first estate, and are, therefore, called fallen angels, devils, demons. They were not imprisoned in some far-off world called hell, nor are they engaged there in stoking fires for the torture of poor humanity. Following the leading of the Scriptures we find that when the flood came they were not destroyed, because, while their fleshly bodies which they assumed might indeed perish, yet they would merely dematerialize, or assume their spirit conditions again.
The record is that God cast them down, that He condemned them to an overthrow—that they might not any longer associate with the holy angels, but must be reserved in tartarus—our earth's atmosphere. Here they were imprisoned, not in a special place, but in the sense of having their liberties restrained, "in chains of darkness." They were no longer permitted to materialize, and thus to associate with humanity. These things are distinctly told us by St. Jude and St. Peter (Jude 6; 2 Pet. 2:4, 5)—an explanation in full harmony with the Genesis account of their fall.
We, of course, cannot know that all of those fallen angels are still in a disloyal condition of heart. On the contrary, in harmony with our text, we may suppose that some of these fallen angels have since repented of their wrong course, and it would be none too strong a way to state the matter—that any such repentant ones would surely have terrible experiences as a result. To be obliged to be in close touch and relationship with the more evil and malignant ones, and to have knowledge of all their evil designs and efforts, would be a terrible experience, and, besides this, we may be sure that the rebellious would not hesitate to persecute the repentant ones in every conceivable manner, as they would be lawless, regardless of the Divine will.
On the other hand, the repentant ones would be obliged to restrain themselves and to not render evil for evil, knowing that this would be contrary to the Divine will. In other words, repentant ones amongst those fallen spirits, influenced by the preaching of Jesus, or otherwise, would have a kind of purgatorial experience, and the very thought calls forth our sympathy.
When imprisoned or cut off from the privilege of materialization, many of the fallen spirits, we know not what proportion, continued their active opposition to God, after the manner of Satan. Hence they are spoken of as his angels, his messengers, his servants, and he is spoken of as Beelzebub, the Prince of Demons. Satan, who sinned much earlier than the others, and in a different way, the Scriptures tell us was an angel of a higher rank, or a higher nature, and this superiority of his has made him the Prince or ruler over the hosts of fallen spirits.
The fight of Satan and his fallen angels is against God, against all who are in harmony with Him, against all the regulations of righteousness, and against all the channels and servants whom the Lord may use. St. Paul's words along this line are forceful; he remarks that God's people contend not merely "with flesh and blood," but also "with wicked spirits in high positions," and the question arises, "Who is sufficient for these things?" The reply is that none is sufficient; without the aid of the Redeemer His Church would be quite overcome and vanquished by evil.
Likewise, without the Redeemer's aid through His Kingdom, without the binding of Satan, without our Lord's releasing of the world from the bondage of sin and death, there would be no hope of the world's recovery from its present bondage. But with the Apostle we exclaim, "If God be for us, who can be against us?"—Rom. 8:31.
Satan's original plan of attack was to bring our race under his influence by misrepresentation—by putting darkness for light and light for darkness—for instance, the temptation under which Mother Eve fell. Satan there represented himself as Eve's friend, giving her sound advice. He represented God as having a selfish motive behind His command that our first parents should not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan declared that God had told an untruth when He said that the penalty for sin would be death. Satan declared that man cannot die.
And has he not since kept up the same line of falsification? And has he not deceived the whole world upon this very subject? Do not all peoples in every land believe that when a man dies he does not die, but gets more alive—exactly Satan's lie of the first instance? How few have believed God, even amongst His people who truly love Him, and who truly desire to believe the teachings of His Word! We have all been under a kind of "hoodoo." "The god of this world [Satan] hath blinded" our minds on this subject. We are now coming to see that death is the penalty for sin, and that the resurrection is the salvation which God has promised and will provide.
Satan has had powerful allies and servants in the fallen angels, and it is through their persistence that his lie has triumphed over the Divine Word of Truth—"Dying, thou shalt die." These fallen spirits have made various manifestations in every land for centuries, and thereby have apparently substantiated the theory that a dead man is more alive than when he was alive. Knowing that mankind would have nothing to do with them if their real personality were known, they hide their personality, and represent themselves as our dead friends who desire to speak with us, either directly or through mediums.
A further desire of these angels is to obsess or to get possession of a human being. Being chained, or restrained in the privilege of materialization, the next most desirable thing, in their estimation, is to gain control over a human being, and to use his body instead of their own. This is styled obsession, and persons so afflicted today are sent to an insane asylum, where, it is estimated, they constitute at least one-half of the entire number. In the days of our Lord these were not mistakenly supposed to be insane, but rightly declared to be obsessed. All remember the New Testament account that our Savior and His Apostles cast out fallen spirits from humanity.
We need not discuss this question with Bible students, for it is too well recognized to be disputed. We suggest a topical study of this subject by all of our readers. See how many times Jesus and the Apostles cast out demons, and note the particulars. Although we still have with us spirit mediums, and many obsessed, we cannot know whether the proportionate number is greater or fewer than in our Lord's day. Since the world's population today is so much larger, the same number of evil spirits (which do not increase) would show proportionately less. But, however that may be, we may assume that some fruitage resulted from the great sermons preached to these in connection with the death and resurrection of our Lord, respecting which St. Peter speaks. (1 Pet. 3:18, 19.) Additionally, St. Paul remarks, "Know ye not that the saints shall judge angels?" (1 Cor. 6:3.) We do know that the holy angels need no judging, no trial, hence the Apostle must in some way refer to a trial or judgment or testing of these spirits in prison who were once disobedient, in the days of Noah. And if the judgment or testing is a part of the Divine Plan, it implies a hope for them, and in conjunction with St. Peter's statement in our text it gives the reasonable inference that the preaching which Jesus did to them was not wholly in vain.
Here arises another question: If Jesus was really dead, as the Scriptures declare, if "He poured out His soul unto death," and "made His soul an offering for sin," and His soul was not raised from the dead until the third day after His crucifixion, how could He in the meantime preach to spirits in prison, or to anybody else? We reply that He could preach in the same way that the Apostle refers to, saying, "He, being dead, yet speaketh" (Heb. 11:4); and again, in the same way that the blood of Abel is said to have cried to God—figuratively. Of one thing we are sure, namely, that Jesus gave no oral address while He was dead. He preached in the way we sometimes refer to when we say, "Actions speak louder than words."
It was the great object lesson which the fallen angels saw that constituted to them the great sermon that gave them a ground for hope. On several occasions the fallen spirits, when commanded to come out of human beings, declared that they knew Jesus. In the long ago they had known Him, when, as the Only Begotten of the Father, and His Representative, He had created them and all things that are made, and was also the Mouthpiece for all Divine orders and regulations. They realized that He had come into the world to be its Redeemer; they perceived the great stoop that He had made from His lofty position on the heavenly plane to the servant position on the human plane. They admired His loyalty and faithfulness to God, but doubtless believed Him to be foolish; they never expected Him to rise from the dead. But when they perceived His resurrection on the third day, to glory, honor and immortality, "far above angels, principalities and powers and every name that is named," His sermon to them was complete, namely, that "the wages of sin is death," but that "the gift of God is eternal life." (Rom. 6:23.) And as they realized thus the power of God and the love of God for His human creatures, the Apostle's words imply that this constituted to them a message of hope. Perhaps if they would show full contrition God eventually would have mercy upon them, even as He had had mercy and had provided for humanity.
The lesson is one for all. God's power is Infinite, so is His love, His mercy, His goodness. Nevertheless, every wilful sin will have its punishment, a just recompense of reward, and only the willing and obedient shall have the Divine favor and everlasting life. Let each apply the lesson to himself.
[For more details on the fallen spirits' methods of deceit, through Spiritism, hypnotism, "spirit healing," "faith healing," "flying saucers," "reincarnation," etc., and instances of many people, including prominent clergymen, being deceived, see our Spiritism is Demonism and "Faith Healing" booklets and various issues of our monthly magazine, The Bible Standard—copies free on request.]
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