A SUBJECT OF PROPHECY
SIGN OF THE TIMES.
BY URIAH SMITH
THE REVIEW AND HERALD PUBLISHING CO.
Preface. Chapter One. Opening Thought. A Manifestation of Power. A Manifestation of Intelligence. The Progress of Spiritualism. Chapter Two. What is the Agency in Question? Credentials of the Bible. An Impossibility. The Soul Not Immortal. Chapter Three. The Dead Unconscious. Chapter Four. They Are Evil Angels. Warnings Against Evil Spirits. Chapter Five. What The Spirits Teach. They Deny All Distinction Between Right And Wrong. Dangers Of Mediumship. Miscellaneous Teaching. Spirits Cannot Be Identified. Chapter Six. Its Promises: How Fulfilled. Chapter Seven. Spiritualism A Subject Of Prophecy. Conclusion. Index Of Authors Referred To. Index Of Books, Papers, Etc., Quoted. Index Of Texts Of Scripture Illustrated Or Explained. Footnotes
For nearly fifty years Spiritualism has been before the world. This surely is time enough to enable it to show its character by its fruits. "By their fruits ye shall know them," is a rule that admits of no exceptions. If evil fruits appear, the tree is corrupt.
Spiritualism has made unbounded promises of good. It has claimed to be the long-promised second coming of Christ; the opening of a new era among mankind; the rosy portal of a golden age, when all men should be reformed, evil disappear, and the renovation of society cause the hearts of men to leap for joy, and the earth to blossom as the rose.
Has it fulfilled all, or any, of these promises? If not, is it not a deception? and if a deception, considering its wide-spread influence, and the number of its adherents, is it not one of the most gigantic and appalling deceptions that has ever fallen upon Christendom? The Bible in the plainest terms, declares that in the last days malign influences will be let loose upon the world; false pretensions will be urged upon the minds of men; and deceptions, backed up by preternatural signs and wonders, will develop to such a degree of strength, that, if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect. Is it possible that Spiritualism may be the very development of evil, against which this warning is directed?
To investigate these questions, and to show by unimpeachable testimony, what Spiritualism is, and the place it holds among the psychological movements of the present day, is the object of these pages. Not a few books have been written against Spiritualism; but most of them endeavor to account for it on the ground of human jugglery and imposture, or on natural principles, the discovery of a new and heretofore occult force in nature, etc., from which great things may be expected in the future. But rarely has any one discussed it from the standpoint of prophecy, and the testimony of the Scriptures, the only point of view, as we believe, from which its true origin, nature, and tendency, can be ascertained.
Many features in the work of Spiritualism would seem to indicate that the source from which it springs is far from good; but it is based upon a church dogma, firmly established through all Christendom, which in many minds is of sufficient weight to overbalance considerations that would otherwise be considered ample grounds for shunning or renouncing it. It is therefore the more necessary that the reader, in examining this question, should let the bonds that have heretofore bound him to preconceived opinions, sit loose upon him, and that he should put himself in the mood of Dr. Channing when he said: "I must choose to receive the truth, no matter how it bears upon myself, and must follow it no matter where it leads, from what party it severs me, or to what party it allies." And he should remember also, as the eminent and pious Dr. Vinet once sagaciously observed, that "even now, after eighteen centuries of Christianity, we are very probably involved in some enormous error, of which Christianity will, in some future time, make us ashamed."
In view, therefore, of the importance of this question, and the tremendous issues that hang on the decisions we may make in these perilous times, we feel justified even in adjuring the reader to canvass this subject with an inflexible determination to learn the truth, and then to follow it wherever it may lead.
U. S. Battle Creek, Mich., 1897.
What think ye? Whence is it—from heaven or of men? Such was the nature of the question addressed by our Saviour to the men of his time, concerning the baptism of John. It is the crucial question by which to test every system that comes to us in the garb of religion: Is it from heaven or of men? And if a true answer to the question can be found, it must determine our attitude toward it; for if it is from heaven, it challenges at once our acceptance and profound regard, but if it is of men, sooner or later, in this world or in the world to come, it will be destroyed with all its followers; for our Saviour has declared that every plant which our heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up. Matt. 15:13.
To those who do not believe in any "heavenly Father," nor in "Christ the Saviour," nor in any "revealed word of God," we would say that these points will be assumed in this work rather than directly argued, though many incidental proofs will appear, to which we trust our friends will be pleased to give some consideration. But we address ourselves particularly to those who still have faith in God the Father of all; in his divine Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, through whose blood we have redemption; in the Bible as the inspired revelation of God's will; and in the Holy Spirit as the enlightener of the mind, and the sanctifier of the soul. To all those to whom this position is common ground, the Bible will be the standard of authority, and the court of last appeal, in the study upon which we now enter.
A Manifestation of Power.
Spiritualism cannot be disposed of with a sneer. A toss of the head and a cry of "humbug," will not suffice to meet its claims and the testimony of careful, conservative men who have studied thoroughly into the genuineness of its manifestations, and have sought for the secret of its power, and have become satisfied as to the one, and been wholly baffled as to the other. That there have been abundant instances of attempted fraud, deception, jugglery, and imposition, is not to be denied. But this does not by any means set aside the fact that there have been manifestations of more than human power, the evidence for which has never been impeached. The detection of a few sham mediums, who are trying to impose upon the credulity of the public, for money, may satisfy the careless and unthinking, that the whole affair is a humbug. Such will dismiss the matter from their minds, and depart, easier subjects to be captured by the movement when some manifestation appears for which they can find no explanation. But the more thoughtful and careful observers well know that the exposure of these mountebanks does not account for the numberless manifestations of power, and the steady current of phenomena, utterly inexplicable on any human hypothesis, which have attended the movement from the beginning.
The Philadelphia North American, of July 31, 1885, published a communication from Thomas R. Hazard, in which he says:—
"But Spiritualism, whatever may be thought of it, must be recognized as a fact. It is one of the characteristic intellectual or emotional phenomena of the times, and as such, it is deserving of a more serious examination than it has yet received. There are those who say it is all humbug, and that everything outside of the ordinary course which takes place at the so-called seances, is the direct result of fraudulent and deliberative imposture; in short, that every Spiritualist must be either a fool or a knave. The serious objection to this hypothesis is that the explanation is almost as difficult of belief as the occurrences which it explains. There must certainly be some Spiritualists who are both honest and intelligent; and if the manifestations at the seances were altogether and invariably fraudulent, surely the whole thing must have collapsed long before this; and the Seybert Commission, which finds it necessary to extend its investigations over an indefinite period, which will certainly not be less than a year, would have been able to sweep the delusion away in short order."
The phenomena are so well known, that it is unnecessary to recount them here. Among them may be mentioned such achievements as these: Various articles have been transported from place to place, without human hands, but by the agency of so-called spirits only; beautiful music has been produced independently of human agency, with and without the aid of visible instruments; many well-attested cases of healing have been presented; persons have been carried through the air by the spirits in the presence of many witnesses; tables have been suspended in the air with several persons upon them; purported spirits have presented themselves in bodily form and talked with an audible voice; and all this not once or twice merely, but times without number, as may be gathered from the records of Spiritualism, all through its history.
A few particular instances, as samples, it may be allowable to notice: Not many years since, Joseph Cook made his memorable tour around the world. In Europe he met the famous German philosopher, Professor Zoellner. Mr. Zoellner had been carefully investigating the phenomena of Spiritualism, and assured Mr. Cook of the following occurrences as facts, under his own observation: Knots had been found tied in the middle of cords, by some invisible agency, while both ends were made securely fast, so that they could not be tampered with; messages were written between doubly and trebly sealed slates; coin had passed through a table in a manner to illustrate the suspension of the laws of impenetrability of matter; straps of leather were knotted under his own hand; the impression of two feet was given on sooted paper pasted inside of two sealed slates; whole and uninjured wooden rings were placed around the standard of a card table, over either end of which they could by no possibility be slipped; and finally the table itself, a heavy beechen structure, wholly disappeared, and then fell from the top of the room where Professor Zoellner and his friends were sitting.
In further confirmation of the fact that real spiritualistic manifestations are no sleight-of-hand performances, we cite the case of Harry Kellar, a professional performer, as given in "Nineteenth Century Miracles," p. 213. The seance was held with the medium, Eglinton, in Calcutta, India, Jan. 25, 1882. He says:—
"It is needless to say that I went as a skeptic; but I must own that I have come away utterly unable to explain by any natural means the phenomena that I witnessed on Tuesday evening."
He then describes the particulars of the seance. An intelligence, purporting to be the spirit of one Geary, gave a communication. Mr. Kellar did not recognize the name nor recall the man. The message was repeated, with the added circumstances of the time and particulars of a previous meeting, when Mr. Kellar recalled the events, and, much to his surprise, the whole matter came clearly to his recollection. He then adds:—
"I still remain a skeptic as regards Spiritualism, but I repeat my inability to explain or account for what must have been an intelligent force which produced the writing on the slate, which, if my senses are to be relied on, was in no way the result of trickery or sleight-of-hand."
Another instance from "Home Circle," p. 25, is that of Mr. Bellachini, also a professional conjuror, of Berlin, Germany. His interview was with the celebrated medium, Mr. Slade. From his testimony we quote the following:—
"I have not, in the smallest degree, found anything to be produced by prestidigitative manifestations or mechanical apparatus; and any explanation of the experiments which took place under the circumstances and conditions then obtaining, by any reference to prestidigitation, is absolutely impossible. I declare, moreover, the published opinions of laymen as to the 'How' of this subject, to be premature, and according to my views and experience, false and one-sided."—Dated, Berlin, Dec. 6, 1877.
When professional conjurors bear such testimony as this, while it does not prove Spiritualism to be what it claims to be, it does disprove the humbug theory.
In addition to this, it appears that two propositions, one of $2000, and the other of $5000, have been offered to the one who claimed to be able to duplicate all the manifestations of Spiritualism, to duplicate two well-authenticated tests; but the challenge has never been accepted, nor the reward claimed. See Religio-Philosophical Journal, of Jan. 15, 1881, and January, 1883.
A writer in the Spiritual Clarion, in an article on "The Millennium of Spiritualism," bears the following testimony in regard to the power and strength of the movement:—
"This revelation has been with a power, a might, that if divested of its almost universal benevolence, had been a terror to the very soul; the hair of the very bravest had stood on end, and his chilled blood had crept back upon his heart, at the sights and sounds of its inexplicable phenomena. It comes with foretokening and warning. It has been, from the very first, its own best prophet, and step by step, it has foretold the progress it would make. It comes, too, most triumphant. No faith before it ever took such a victorious stand in its very infancy. It has swept like a hurricane of fire through the land, compelling faith from the baffled scoffer, and the most determined doubter."
Dr. W. F. Barrett, Professor of Experimental Physics in the Royal College of Dublin, says:—
"It is well known to those who have made the phenomena of Spiritualism the subject of prolonged and careful inquiry, in the spirit of exact and unimpassioned scientific research, that beneath a repellent mass of imposture and delusion there remain certain inexplicable and startling facts which science can neither explain away nor deny."—_"_Automatic, or Spirit, Writing,_"_ p. 11 (1896)._
In the Arena of November, 1892, p. 688, Mr. M. J. Savage, the noted Unitarian minister of Boston, says:—
"Next comes what are ordinarily classed together as 'mediumistic phenomena.' The most important of these are psychometry, 'vision' of 'spirit' forms, claimed communications by means of rappings, table movements, automatic writing, independent writing, trance speaking, etc. With them also ought to be noted what are generally called physical phenomena, though in most cases, since they are intelligibly directed, the use of the word 'physical,' without this qualification, might be misleading. These physical phenomena include such facts as the movement of material objects by other than the ordinary muscular force, the making objects heavier or lighter when tested by the scales, the playing on musical instruments by some invisible power, etc.... Now all of these referred to (with the exception of independent writing, and materialization) I know to be genuine. I do not at all mean by this that I know that the 'spiritualistic' interpretation of them is the true one. I mean only that they are genuine phenomena; that they have occurred; that they are not tricks or the result of fraud."
In the Forum of December, 1889, p. 455, the same writer describes his experience at the house of a friend with whom he had been acquainted eight or ten years. When about to depart, he thought he would try an experiment. He says:—
"She and I stood at opposite ends of the table at which we had been sitting. Both of us having placed the tips of our fingers lightly on the top of the table, I spoke, as if addressing some unseen force connected with the table, and said: 'Now I must go; will you not accompany me to the door?' The door was ten or fifteen feet distant, and was closed. The table started. It had no casters, and in order to make it move as it did, we should have had to go behind and push it. As a matter of fact we led it, while it accompanied us all the way, and struck against the door with considerable force."
From the same article, p. 456, we quote again:—
"I add one more experiment of my own. I sat one day in a heavy, stuffed armchair. The psychic sat beside me, and laying his hand on the back of the chair, gradually raised it. Immediately I felt and saw myself, chair and all, lifted into the air at least one foot from the floor. There was no uneven motion implying any sense of effort on the part of the lifting force; and I was gently lowered again to the carpet. This was in broad light, in a hotel parlor, and in presence of a keen-eyed lawyer friend. I could plainly watch the whole thing. No man living could have lifted me in such a position, and besides, I saw that the psychic made not the slightest apparent effort. Nor was there any machinery or preparation of any kind. My companion, the lawyer, on going away, speaking in reference to the whole sitting, said: 'I've seen enough evidence to hang every man in the State—enough to prove anything excepting this.'
"Professor Crookes, of London, relates having seen and heard an accordion played on while it was enclosed in a wire net-work, and not touched by any visible hand. I have seen an approach to the same thing. In daylight I have seen a man hold an accordion in the air, not more than three feet away from me. He held it by one hand, grasping the side opposite to that on which the keys were fixed. In this position, it, or something, played long tunes, the side containing the keys being pushed in and drawn out without any contact that I could see. I then said, 'Will it not play for me?' The reply was, 'I don't know: you can try it.' I then took the accordion in my hands. There was no music; but what did occur was quite as inexplicable to me, and quite as convincing as a display of some kind of power. I know not how to express it, except by saying that the accordion was seized as if by some one trying to take it away from me. To test this power, I grasped the instrument with both hands. The struggle was as real as though my antagonist was another man. I succeeded in keeping it, but only by the most strenuous efforts.
"On another occasion I was sitting with a 'medium.' I was too far away for him to reach me, even had he tried, which he did not do; for he sat perfectly quiet. My knees were not under the table, but were where I could see them plainly. Suddenly my right knee was grasped as by a hand. It was a firm grip. I could feel the print and pressure of all the fingers. I said not a word of the strange sensation, but quietly put my right hand down and clasped my knee in order to see if I could feel anything on my hand. At once I felt what seemed like the most delicate finger tips playing over my own fingers and gradually rising in their touches toward my wrist. When this was reached, I felt a series of clear, distinct, and definite pats, as though made by a hand of fleshy vigor. I made no motion to indicate what was going on, and said not a word until the sensation had passed. All this while I was carefully watching my hand, for it was plain daylight, and it was in full view; but I saw nothing."
We need not multiply evidence on this point. A remark by T. J. Hudson ("Law of Psychic Phenomena," p. 206, McClurg & Co., Chicago, 1894) may fitly close this division of the subject. He says:—
"I will not waste time, however, by attempting to prove by experiments of my own, or of others, that such phenomena do occur. It is too late for that. The facts are too well known to the civilized world to require proof at this time. The man who denies the phenomena of spiritism to-day is not entitled to be called a skeptic, he is simply ignorant; and it would be a hopeless task to attempt to enlighten him."
A Manifestation of Intelligence.
From the testimony already given it is evident that there is connected with Spiritualism an agency that is able to manifest power and strength beyond anything that human beings, unaided, are able to exert. It is just as evident that the same agency possesses intelligence beyond the power of human minds. Indeed, this was the very feature that first brought it to the attention of the public. Spiritualism, as the reader is doubtless aware, originated in the family of Mr. John D. Fox, in Hydesville, near Rochester, N. Y., in the spring of 1848. Robert Dale Owen, in his work called "Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World," p. 290, has given a full narration of the circumstances attending this remarkable event. The particulars, he states, he had from Mrs. Fox, and her two daughters, Margaret and Kate, and son, David. The attention of the family had been attracted by strange noises which finally assumed the form of raps, or muffled footfalls, and became very annoying. Chairs were sometimes moved from their places, and this was once also the case with the dining-room table. Heard occasionally during February, the disturbance so increased during the latter part of March, as seriously to break the nightly repose of the family. But as these annoyances occurred only in the night-time, all the family hoped that soon, by some means, the mystery would be cleared away. They did not abandon this hope till Friday, the 31st of March, 1848. Wearied by a succession of sleepless nights, the family retired early, hoping for a respite from the disturbances that had harassed them. In this they were doomed to especial disappointment. We can do no better than to let Mr. Owen continue the narrative, in his own words:—
"The parents had removed the children's beds into their bedroom, and strictly enjoined them not to talk of noises, even if they heard them. But scarcely had the mother seen them safely in bed, and was retiring to rest herself, when the children cried out, 'Here they are again!' The mother chided them, and lay down. Thereupon the noises became louder and more startling. The children sat up in bed. Mrs. Fox called her husband. The night being windy, it was suggested to him that it might be the rattling of the sashes. He tried several to see if they were loose. Kate, the younger girl, happened to remark that as often as her father shook a window-sash, the noises seemed to reply. Being a lively child, and in a measure accustomed to what was going on, she turned to where the noise was, snapped her fingers, and called out, 'Here, old Splitfoot, do as I do!' The knocking instantly responded.
"That was the very commencement. Who can tell where the end will be?
"I do not mean that it was Kate Fox, who thus, in childish jest, first discovered that these mysterious sounds seemed instinct with intelligence. Mr. Mompesson, two hundred years ago, had already observed a similar phenomenon. Glanvil had verified it. So had Wesley, and his children. So we have seen, and others. But in all these cases the matter rested there and the observation was not prosecuted further. As, previous to the invention of the steam engine, sundry observers had trodden the very threshold of the discovery and there stopped, so in this case, where the royal chaplain, disciple though he was of the inductive philosophy, and where the founder of Methodism, admitting, as he did, the probabilities of ultramundane interference, were both at fault, a Yankee girl, but nine years old, following up more in sport than in earnest, a chance observation, became the instigator of a movement which, whatever its true character, has had its influence throughout the civilized world. The spark had been ignited,—once at least two centuries ago; but it had died each time without effect. It kindled no flame till the middle of the nineteenth century.
"And yet how trifling the step from the observation at Tedworth to the discovery at Hydesville! Mr. Mompesson, in bed with his little daughter (about Kate's age), whom the sound seemed chiefly to follow, 'observed that it would exactly answer, in drumming, anything that was beaten or called for.' But his curiosity led him no further.
"Not so Kate Fox. She tried, by silently bringing together her thumb and forefinger; whether she could obtain a response. Yes! It could see, then, as well as hear. She called her mother. 'Only look, mother,' she said, bringing together again her finger and thumb, as before. And as often as she repeated the noiseless motion, just as often responded the raps.
"This at once arrested her mother's attention. 'Count ten,' she said, addressing the noise. Ten strokes, distinctly given! 'How old is my daughter Margaret?' Twelve strokes. 'And Kate?' Nine. 'What can all this mean?' was Mrs. Fox's thought. Who was answering her? Was it only some mysterious echo of her own thought? But the next question which she put seemed to refute the idea. 'How many children have I?' she asked aloud. Seven strokes. 'Ah!' she thought, 'it can blunder sometimes.' And then aloud, 'Try again.' Still the number of raps was seven. Of a sudden a thought crossed Mrs. Fox's mind. 'Are they all alive?' she asked. Silence for answer. 'How many are living?' Six strokes. 'How many are dead?' A single stroke. She had lost a child.
"Then she asked, 'Are you a man?' No answer. 'Are you a spirit?' It rapped. 'May my neighbors hear, if I call them?' It rapped again.
"Thereupon she asked her husband to call her neighbor, a Mrs. Redfield, who came in laughing. But her cheer was soon changed. The answers to her inquiries were as prompt and pertinent, as they had been to those of Mrs. Fox. She was struck with awe; and when, in reply to a question about the number of her children, by rapping four, instead of three, as she expected, it reminded her of a little daughter, Mary, whom she had recently lost, the mother burst into tears."
We have introduced this narrative thus at length not only because it is interesting in itself, but because it is of special interest that all the particulars of the origin, or beginning, of such a movement as this, should be well understood. The following paragraph will explain how it came to be called "The Rochester Knockings," under which name it first became widely known. It is from the "Report of the 37th Anniversary of Modern Spiritualism," held in Brooklyn, N. Y., March 31, 1885, and reported in the Banner of Light, the 25th of the following month:—
"After a song by J. T. Lillie, Mrs. Leah Fox Underhill, the elder of the three Fox sisters (who was on our platform), was requested to speak. Mrs. Underhill said that she was not a public speaker, but would answer any questions from the audience, and in response to these questions told in a graphic manner how the spirits came to their humble home in Hydesville, in 1848; how on the 31st of March the first intelligent communication from the spirit world came through the raps; how the family had been annoyed by the manifestations, and by the notoriety that followed; how the younger sisters, Catherine and Margaret, were taken to Rochester, where she lived, by their mother, hoping that this great and apparent calamity might pass from them; how their father and mother prayed that this cup might be taken away, but the phenomena became more marked and violent; how in the morning they would find four coffins drawn with an artistic hand on the door of the dining-room of her home in Rochester, of different sizes, approximating to the ages and sizes of the family, and these were lined with a pink color, and they were told that unless they made this great fact known, they would all speedily die, and enter the spirit-world.
"Gladly would they all have accepted this penalty for their disobedience in not making this truth known to the world. She told how they were compelled to hire Corinthian Hall in Rochester; how several public meetings were held in Rochester, culminating in the selection of a committee of prominent infidels, who, after submitting the Fox children to the most severe tests,—they being disrobed in the presence of a committee of ladies,—reported in their favor.... All the time she was on our platform, there was a continuous rapping by the spirits in response to what was being said by the several speakers, also in response to the singing, and all our exercises."
In the same volume of the Forum from which quotations have already been made, M. J. Savage states many facts which have a determinate bearing on the point now under consideration; namely, the intelligence manifested in the spiritual phenomena. From these we quote a few. He says (p. 452 and onward):—
"I am in possession of quite a large body of apparent facts that I do not know what to do with.... That certain things to me inexplicable have occurred, I believe. The negative opinion of some one with whom no such things have occurred, will not satisfy me.... I am ready to submit some specimens of those things that constitute my problem. They can be only specimens; for a detailed account of even half of those I have laid by, would stretch to the limits of a book.
"A merchant ship bound for New York was on her homeward voyage. She was in the Indian Ocean. The captain was engaged to be married to a lady living in New England. One day early in the afternoon he came, pale and excited, to one of his mates, and exclaimed, 'Tom, Kate has just died! I have seen her die!' The mate looked at him in amazement, not knowing what to make of such talk. But the captain went on and described the whole scene—the room, her appearance, how she died, and all the circumstances. So real was it to him, and such was the effect on him, of his grief, that for two or three weeks, he was carefully watched lest he should do violence to himself. It was more than one hundred and fifty days before the ship reached her harbor. During all this time no news was received from home. But when at last the ship arrived at New York, it was found that Kate did die at the time and under the circumstances seen and described by the captain off the coast of India. This is only one case out of hundreds. What does it mean? Coincidence? Just happened so? This might be said of one; but a hundred of such coincidences become inexplicable."
The following is another instance mentioned by the same writer:—
"I went to the house of a woman in New York. She was not a professional. We had never seen each other before. We took seats in the parlor for a talk, I not looking for any manifestation. Raps began. I do not say whether they were really where they seemed to be or not; I know right well that the judgment is subject to illusion through the senses. But I was told a 'spirit friend' was present; and soon the name, time, and place of death, etc., were given me. It was the name of a friend I had once known intimately. But twenty years had passed since the old intimacy; she had lived in another State; I am certain that she and the psychic had never known or even heard of each other. She had died within a few months."
Mr. Savage then gives examples where the power in question was exclusively mental:—
"The first time I was ever in the presence of a particular psychic, she went into a trance. She had never seen, and, so far as I know, had never had any way of hearing of my father, who had died some years previously. When I was a boy, he always called me by a special name that was never used by any other member of the family. In later years he hardly ever used it. But the entranced psychic said: 'An old gentleman is here,' and she described certain very marked peculiarities. Then she added: 'He says he is your father, and he calls you ——,' using the old childhood name of mine."
Again, same page:—
"One case more, only, will I mention under this head. A most intimate friend of my youth had recently died. She had lived in another State, and the psychic did not know that such a person had ever existed. We were sitting alone when this old friend announced her presence. It was in this way: A letter of two pages was automatically written, addressed to me. I thought to myself as I read it,—I did not speak,—'Were it possible, I should feel sure she had written this.' I then said, as though speaking to her, 'Will you not give me your name?' It was given, both maiden and married name. I then began a conversation lasting over an hour, which seemed as real as any I ever have with my friends. She told me of her children, of her sisters. We talked over the events of boyhood and girlhood. I asked her if she remembered a book we used to read together, and she gave me the author's name. I asked again if she remembered the particular poem we were both specially fond of, and she named it at once. In the letter that was written, and in much of the conversation, there were apparent hints of identity, little touches and peculiarities that would mean much to an acquaintance, but nothing to a stranger. I could not but be much impressed. Now in this case, I know that the psychic never knew of this person's existence, and of course not of our acquaintance."
Mr. Savage then mentions cases which he calls still more inexplicable, because the information conveyed was not known either to the psychic (which seems to be the new name for medium) or to himself. He says:—
"But one more case dare I take the space for, though the budget is only opened. This one did not happen to me, but it is so hedged about and checked off, that its evidential value in a scientific way is absolutely perfect. The names of some of the parties concerned would be recognized in two hemispheres. A lady and gentleman visited a psychic. The gentleman was the lady's brother-in-law. The lady had an aunt who was ill in a city two or three hundred miles away. When the psychic had become entranced, the lady asked her if she had any impression as to the condition of her aunt. The reply was, 'No.' But before the sitting was over, the psychic exclaimed, 'Why, your aunt is here! She has already passed away.' 'This cannot be true,' said the lady; 'there must be a mistake. If she had died, they would have telegraphed us immediately.' 'But,' the psychic insisted, 'she is here. And she explains that she died about two o'clock this morning. She also says that a telegram has been sent, and you will find it at the house on your return.'
"Here seemed a clear case for a test. So while the lady started for her home, her brother-in-law called at the house of a friend and told the story. While there the husband came in. Having been away for some hours he had not heard of any telegram. But the friend seated himself at his desk and wrote out a careful account, which all three signed on the spot. When they reached home,—two or three miles away,—there was the telegram confirming the fact and the time of the aunt's death, precisely as the psychic had told them.
"Here are most wonderful facts. How shall they be accounted for? I have not trusted my memory for these things, but have made careful record at the time. I know many other records of a similar kind kept by others. They are kept private. Why? The late Rev. J. G. Wood, of England, the world-famous naturalist, once said to me: 'I am glad to talk of these things to any one who has a right to know. But I used to call everybody a fool who had anything to do with them; and with a smile—"I do not enjoy being called a fool." '
"Psychic and other societies that advertise for strange phenomena, must learn that at least a respectful treatment is to be accorded, or people will not lay bare their secret souls. And then, in the very nature of the case, these experiments concern matters of the most personal nature. Many of the most striking cases people will not make public. In some of those above related, I have had so to veil facts, that they do not appear as remarkable as they really are. The whole cannot be told."
A quotation from this same writer ("Automatic Writing," page 14), says:—
"I am in possession of a respectable body of facts that I do not know how to explain except on the theory that I am dealing with some invisible intelligence. I hold that as the only tenable theory I am acquainted with."
In the same work (page 19), the author, Mrs. S. A. Underwood, as the result of her communications from spirits, says:—
"Detailed statements of facts unknown to either of us [that is, herself and her 'control'], but which weeks afterward were learned to be correct, have been written, and repeated again and again, when disbelieved and contradicted by us."
On this point, also, as on the preceding, testimony need not be multiplied. The facts are too well known and too generally admitted to warrant the devotion of further space to a presentation of the evidence. The question must soon be met, What is the source of the power and intelligence thus manifested? But this may properly be held in abeyance till we take a glance at:
The Progress of Spiritualism.
during the fifty years of its modern history. It began in a way to excite the wonder and curiosity of the people, the very elements that would give wings to its progress through the land. Men suddenly found their thoughts careering through new channels. An unseen world seemed to make known its presence and invite investigation. As the phenomena claimed to be due to the direct agency of spirits, the movement naturally assumed the name of "Spiritualism." It was then hailed by multitudes as a new and living teacher, come to clear up uncertainties and to dispel doubts from the minds of men. At least an irrepressible curiosity was everywhere excited to know what the new "ism" would teach concerning that invisible world which it professed to have come to open to the knowledge of mankind. Everywhere men sought by what means they could come into communication with the spirit realm. Into whatever place the news entered, circles were formed, and the number of converts outstripped the pen of the enroller. It gathered adherents from every walk of life—from the higher classes as well as the lower; the educated, cultured, and refined, as well as the uncultivated and ignorant; from ministers, lawyers, physicians, judges, teachers, government officials, and all the professions. But the individuals thus interested, being of too diverse and independent views to agree upon any permanent basis for organization, the data for numerical statistics are difficult to procure. Various estimates, however, of their numbers have been formed. As long ago as 1876, computations of the number of Spiritualists in the United States ranged from 3,000,000 by Hepworth Dixon, to 10,000,000 by the Roman Catholic council at Baltimore. Only five years from the time the first convert to Modern Spiritualism appeared, Judge Edmonds, himself an enthusiastic convert, said of their numbers:—
"Besides the undistinguished multitudes, there are many now of high standing and talent ranked among them,—doctors, lawyers, and clergymen in great numbers, a Protestant bishop, the learned and reverend president of a college, judges of our higher courts, members of Congress, foreign ambassadors, and ex-members of the United States Senate."
Up to the present time, it is not probable that the number of Spiritualists has been much reduced by apostasies from the faith, if such it may be called; while the movement itself has been growing more prominent and becoming more widely known every year. The conclusion would therefore inevitably follow that its adherents must now be more numerous than ever before. A letter addressed by the writer to the publishers of the Philosophical Journal, Chicago, on this point, received the following reply, dated Dec. 24, 1895:—
"Being unorganized, largely, no reliable figures can be given. Many thousands are in the churches, and are counted there. It is claimed that there are about five million in the United States, and over fifty million in the world."
The Christian at Work of Aug. 17, 1876, under the head of "Witches and Fools," said:—
"But we do not know how many judges, bankers, merchants, prominent men in nearly every occupation in life, there are, who make it a constant practice to visit clairvoyants, sightseers, and so-called Spiritual mediums; yet it can scarcely be doubted that their name is legion; that not only the unreligious man, but professing Christians, men and women, are in the habit of consulting spirits from the vasty deep for information concerning both the dead and the living. Many who pass for intelligent people, who would be shocked to have their Christianity called in question, are constantly engaged in this disreputable business."
The following appeared some years ago, in the San Francisco Chronicle:—
"Until quite recently, science has coldly ignored the alleged phenomena of Spiritualism, and treated Andrew Jackson Davis, Home, and the Davenport brothers, as if they belonged to the common fraternity of showmen and mountebanks. But now there has come a most noteworthy change. We learn from such high authority as the Fortnightly Review that Alfred R. Wallace, F. R. S.; William Crookes, F. R. S. and editor of the Quarterly Journal of Science; W. H. Harrison, F. R. S. and president of the British Ethnological Society, with others occupying a high position in the scientific and literary world, have been seriously investigating the phenomena of spiritism. The report which those learned gentlemen make is simply astounding. There is no fairy tale, no story of myth or miracle, that is more incredible than their narrative. They tell us in grave and sober speech, that the spirit of a girl who died a hundred years ago, appeared to them in visible form. She talked with them, gave them locks of her hair, pieces of her dress, and her autograph. They saw her in bodily presence, felt her person, heard her voice; she entered the room in which they were, and disappeared without the opening of a door. The savants declare that they have had numerous interviews with her under conditions forbidding the idea of trickery or imposture.
"Now that men eminent in the scientific world have taken up the investigation, Spiritualism has entered upon a new phase. It can no longer be treated with silent contempt. Mr. Wallace's articles in the Fortnightly have attracted general attention, and many of the leading English reviews and newspapers are discussing the matter. The New York World devotes three columns of its space to a summary of the last article in the Fortnightly, and declares editorially that the 'phenomena' thus attested 'deserve the rigid scientific examination which Mr. Wallace invites for them.' This is treating the matter in the right way. Let all the well-attested facts be collected, and then let us see what conclusions they justify. If spirit communication is a fact, it is certainly a most interesting one. In the language which the World attributes to John Bright, 'If it is a fact, it is the one besides which every other fact of human existence sinks into insignificance.' "
One of the reasons why it would be quite impossible to state the number of real Spiritualists in our land to-day has already been hinted at in a foregoing extract. It is that "many thousands," and we think the number might in all probability be raised to millions, who are in reality Spiritualists, do not go by that name. They are in the various churches, and are counted there. Yet they believe the phenomena of Spiritualism, accept its teachings in their own minds, and quietly and constantly, as the Christian at Work avers, consult clairvoyants and mediums, in quest of knowledge. The grosser features of the teachings of Spiritualism which were painfully prominent in its earlier stages, which there is no reason to believe are discountenanced or abandoned either in theory or practice, are relegated to an invisible background, while in its outward aspect it now poses in the attitude of piety and the garb of religion. It even professes to adopt some of the more prominent and popular doctrines of Christianity. In this phase the average churchgoer cannot see why he may not accept all that Spiritualism has to give, and still retain his denominational relationship. Besides this, the coming to light, every now and then, of the fact that some person of national or world-wide fame is a Spiritualist, adds popularity and gives a new impetus to the movement. Such instances may be named as the founder of the Leland Stanford University, of California; the widow of ex-Vice-President Hendricks, of Indiana, who, it is said, is carrying on some very successful financial transactions by direction from the spirit world; and Mr. W. T. Stead, London editor of the Review of Reviews, who, in 1893 started a new quarterly, called The Border Land, to be devoted to the advocacy of the philosophy of Spiritualism, which he had then but recently espoused. In other countries it has invaded the ranks of the nobility, and even seated itself on the thrones of monarchs. The late royal houses of France, Spain, and Russia are said, by current rumor, to have sought the spirits for knowledge. No cause could covet more rapid and wide-spread success than this has enjoyed.
WHAT IS THE AGENCY IN QUESTION?
Having now shown that there are connected with Spiritualism supermundane phenomena that cannot be denied, and equally evident superhuman intelligence, sufficient to give to the movement unprecedented recognition in all the world, the way is open for the most important question that can be raised concerning it, and one which now demands an answer; and that is, What is the agency by which these phenomena are produced, and by which this intelligence is manifested? This question must be examined with the utmost care, and, if possible, a decision be reached of the most assuring certainty; for, as Mr. M. J. Savage says, "Spiritualism is either a grand truth or a most lamentable delusion."
It is proper that the claim which Spiritualism puts forth for itself, in this regard, should first be heard. This is so well known that it scarcely need be stated. It is that there is in every human being a soul, or spirit, which constitutes the real person; that this soul, or spirit, is immortal; that it manifests itself through a tangible body during this earth life, and when that body dies, passes unscathed into the unseen world, into an enlarged sphere of life, activity, and intelligence; that in this sphere it can still take cognizance of earthly things, and communicate with those still in the flesh, respecting scenes which it has left, and those more interesting conditions still veiled from mortal sight; that it is by these disembodied, or "discarnated" spirits that raps are given, objects moved, intelligence manifested, secrets revealed, slates written, voices uttered, faces shown, and epistles addressed to mortals, as friend would write to friend. If this be true, it opens what would indeed be considered a grand avenue of consolation to bereaved hearts, by giving them evidence that their departed friends still lived; that they recognized, loved, and accompanied them, and delighted still to counsel and instruct them. If not true, it is a masterpiece of superhuman craft and cunning; for it takes Christendom on the side where it is least guarded; as the view is everywhere held that the dead are conscious, and the only question would be as to their power to communicate with persons still living in the body; and it throws its arms around the individual when the heart is the most tender, when plunged into a condition in which every pang of bereaved sorrow, every tie of affection, and every throb of love, press him to crave with all his being that communication with the dead may be proved a fact, and to constrain him to accept the doctrine, unless kept from it by some power stronger than the cords that bind heart to heart in deathless love. If it be a deception, it occupies a vantage ground before which men may well tremble.
But, as has been already stated, the question is here to be discussed from the standpoint of the Bible; the Bible is to be taken as the standard of authority by which all conflicting claims respecting the nature of man, must be decided. The authenticity of the Scriptures, in reference to those who deny their authority, is an antecedent question, into the discussion of which it is not the province of this little work to enter. A word, however, by way of digression, may be allowed in reference to its authorship.
Credentials of the Bible.
1. The Bible claims to be the word of God. Those who wrote it assert that they wrote as they "were moved by the Holy Ghost;" and they append to what they utter, a "Thus saith the Lord."
2. If it is not what it claims to be, it is an imposture invented by deceivers and liars.
3. Good men would not deceive and lie; therefore they were not the ones who invented the Bible.
4. If, therefore, it was invented by men at all, it must have been invented by bad men.
5. All liars and religious impostors are bad men; but—
6. The Bible repeatedly and most explicitly forbids lying and imposture, under the threatening of most condign punishment.
7. Would, therefore, liars and impostors invent a book which more than any other book ever written, denounces lying and imposture, thus condemning themselves to the severest judgments of God, and at last to eternal death?
8. If, then, the Bible is not the invention of good men,—because such men would not lie and deceive; nor of evil men,—because such men would not condemn themselves; nor of good or evil angels, for the same reasons, who else can be its author, but he who claims to be, that is, the living God?
9. If, therefore, from the very nature of the case, it must be God's book, why not believe it, and obey it?
To return: Appeal is therefore made to the Bible; and the object is to learn what the Bible teaches about Spiritualism. When the claim is put forth that it is the disembodied spirits of dead men who make the communications, the Bible reader is at once aware of a conflict of claims. In times when the Bible was written, there were practices among men which went under the names of "enchantment," "sorcery," "witchcraft," "necromancy," "divination," "consulting with familiar spirits," etc. These practices were all more or less related, but some of them bear an unmistakable meaning. Thus, "necromancy" is defined to mean "a pretended communication with the dead." A "familiar spirit" was "a spirit or demon supposed to attend on an individual, or to come at his call; the invisible agent of a necromancer's will."—Century Dictionary. Spiritualists do not deny that their intercourse with the invisible world comes under some, at least, of these heads. But all such practices the Bible explicitly forbids.
Deut. 18:9-12: "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord." Lev. 19:31: "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God." See also, 2 Kings 21:2, 6, 9, 11; Rev. 21:8; Gal. 5:19-21; Acts 16:16-18; etc. Thus plainly in both the Old and New Testaments, are these practices forbidden.
But why does the Bible forbid such practices as necromancy, or a "pretended" communication with the dead?—Because it would be only a pretense at best; for such communication is impossible. The dead are unconscious in their graves, and have no power to communicate with the living. Let this truth be once established, and it is the death-blow to the claims of Spiritualism, in the cases of all who will receive it. Allusion has already been made to a popular and wide-spread dogma in the Christian church which furnishes a basis for Spiritualism. It is that the soul is immortal, and that the dead are conscious. Spirits make known their presence, and claim to be the spirits of persons who have once lived here in human bodies. Now if the Bible teaches that there is no such thing as a disembodied human spirit, a knowledge of that fact would enable one to detect at once the imposture of any intelligence which from behind the curtain should claim to be such spirit. Any spirit seeking the attention of men in this life, and claiming to be what the Bible says does not exist, comes with a falsehood on its lips or in its raps, if the Bible is true, and thus reveals its real character to be that of a deceiver. In this case the Bible believer is armed against the imposture. No man likes to be fooled. No matter therefore how nice the communicating intelligence may seem, how many true things it may say, or how many good things it may promise, the conviction cannot be evaded that no real good can be intended or conferred by any spirit, or whatever it may be, masquerading under the garb of falsehood, or pretending to be what it is not. On such a foundation no stable superstructure can be reared. It becomes a death-trap, sure to collapse and involve in ruin all those who trust therein.
It is very desirable that the reader comprehend the full importance of the doctrine, as related to this subject, that the dead are unconscious and that they have no power to communicate with the living. This being established, it sweeps away at one stroke the entire foundation of Spiritualism. Evidence will now be presented to show that this is a Bible doctrine; and wherever this is received, the fabric of Spiritualism from base to finial falls; it cannot possibly stand. But where the doctrine prevails that only the thin veil that limits our mortal vision, separates us from a world full of the conscious, intelligent spirits of those who have departed this life, Spiritualism has the field, beyond the possibility of dislodgment. When one believes that he has disembodied spirit friends all about him, how can he question that they are able to communicate with him? and when some unseen intelligence makes its presence known, and claims to be one of those friends, and refers to facts or scenes, known only to them two, how can the living dispute the claim? How can he refuse to accept a claim, which, on his own hypothesis, there is no conceivable reason to deny? But if the spirits are not what they claim to be, how shall the inexplicable phenomena attending their manifestations be explained?—The Bible brings to view other agencies, not the so-called spirits of the departed, to whose working all that has ever been manifested which to mortal vision is mysterious and inexplicable, may be justly attributed.
The Soul Not Immortal.
Spiritualism declares it to be the great object of its mission, to prove the immortality of the soul, which, it says, is not taught in the Scriptures with sufficient clearness, and is not otherwise demonstrated. It well attributes to the Scriptures a lack of plain teaching in support of that dogma; and it would have stated more truth, if it had said that the Scriptures nowhere countenance such a doctrine at all. But, it is said, the Scriptures are full of the terms, "soul" and "spirit." Very true; but they nowhere use those terms to designate such a part of man as in common parlance, and in popular theology, they have come to mean. The fact is, the popular concept of the "soul" and "spirit" has been formulated entirely outside the Bible. Sedulously, unremittingly, for six thousand years, the idea has been inculcated in the minds of men, from the cradle to the grave, that man is a dual being, consisting of an outward body which dies, and an inward being called "soul," or "spirit," which does not die, but passes to higher spirit life, when the body goes into the grave. The father of this doctrine is rarely referred to by its believers, as authority, possibly through a little feeling of embarrassment as to its parentage; for he it was who announced it to our first parents in these words: "Ye shall not surely die!" Gen. 3:4. When men began to die, it was a shrewd stroke of policy on the part of him who had promised them that they should not die, to try to prove to those who remained that the others had not really died, but only changed conditions. It is no marvel that he should try to make men believe that they possessed an immaterial, immortal entity that could not die; but, in view of the ghastly experiences of the passing years, it is the marvel of marvels that he should have succeeded so well. The trouble now is that men take these meanings which have been devised and fostered into stupendous strength outside the pale of Bible teaching, and attach them to the Bible terms of "soul" and "spirit." In other words, the mongrel pago-papal theology which has grown up in Christendom, lets the Bible furnish the terms, and paganism the definitions. But from the Bible standpoint, these definitions do not belong there; they are foreign to the truth, and the Bible does not recognize them. They are as much out of place as was the inventor of them himself in the garden of Eden. Let the Bible furnish its own definitions to its own terms, and all will be clear. The opinion of John Milton, the celebrated author of Paradise Lost, is worthy of note. In his "Treatise on Christian Doctrine," Vol. I, pp. 250, 251, he says:—
"Man is a living being, intrinsically and properly one individual, not compound and separable, not, according to the common opinion, made up and framed of two distinct and different natures, as of body and soul, but the whole man is soul, and the soul, man; that is to say, a body or substance, individual, animated, sensitive, and rational."
In this sense the word is employed many times; but whoever will trace the use of the words "soul" and "spirit" through the Bible, will find them applied also to a great variety of objects; as, person, mind, heart, body (in the expression "a dead body"), will, lust, appetite, breath, creature, pleasure, desire, anger, courage, blast, etc., etc., in all nearly fifty different ways. But it is a fact which should be especially noted, that in not a single instance is there the least hint given that anything expressed by these terms is capable of existing for a single moment, as a conscious entity, or in any other condition, without the body! This being so, none of these, according to the Bible, are the agency claimed to be present in Spiritualism.
Another fact in reference to this point, should be allowed its decisive bearing. The question now under investigation is, Is the soul immortal, as Spiritualism has taken upon itself to teach, and claims to demonstrate? The Bible is found to be so lavish in the use of the terms "soul" and "spirit," that these words occur in the aggregate, seventeen hundred times. Seventeen hundred times, by way of description, analysis, narrative, historical facts, or declarations of what they can do, or suffer, the Bible has something to say about "soul" and "spirit." The most important question to be settled concerning them, certainly, is whether they are immortal or not. Will not the Bible, so freely treating of these terms, answer this question? Very strange, indeed, if it does not. But does it once affirm that either the soul or the spirit is immortal?—Not once! Does it ever apply to them the terms "eternal," "deathless," "neverdying," or any word that bears the necessary meaning of immortal?—Not in a single instance. Does it apply to them any term from which even an inference, necessary or remote, can be drawn that they are immortal? Even reduced to this attenuated form, the answer is still an emphatic and overwhelming, No! Well, then, does it say anything about the nature and capabilities of existence of that which it denominates soul or spirit?—Yes; it says the soul is in danger of the grave, may die, be destroyed, killed, and that the spirit may be wounded, cut off, preserved, and so, conversely, made to perish.
It is sometimes claimed that it is not necessary that the Bible should affirm the immortality of the soul, because it is so self-evident a fact that it is taken for granted. But no one surely can suppose that the immortality of the soul is more self-evident than that of Jehovah; yet the Bible has seen fit to affirm his immortality in most direct terms. 1 Tim. 1:17: "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." 1 Tim. 6:16: "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen." Let, then, similar Bible testimony be found concerning the soul; that is, that it is "immortal," or "hath immortality," and the taken-for-granted device will not be needed.
THE DEAD UNCONSCIOUS.
From the fact now established that the soul is not immortal, it would follow as an inevitable conclusion, that the dead are not conscious in the intermediate state, and consequently cannot act the part attributed to them in modern Spiritualism. But there are some positive statements to which the reader's attention should be called, and some instances supposed to prove the conscious state which should be noticed.
1. The Dead Know not Anything.—As a sample of the way the Bible speaks upon this question, let the reader turn to the words of Solomon, in Eccl. 9:5, 6, 10: "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in anything that is done under the sun.... Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
This language is addressed to the real, living, intelligent, responsible man; and how could it be plainer? On the hypothesis of the commonly believed distinction between the soul and the body, this must be addressed to the soul; for the body considered as the mere material instrument through which the soul acts, is not supposed of itself to know anything. The body, as a body, independent of the soul, does not know that it shall die; but it is that which knows, while one is alive, that it shall die—it is that same intelligent being that, when dead, knows not anything. But the spirits in Spiritualism do know many things in their condition; therefore they are not those who have once lived on this earth, and passed off through death; for such, once dead, this scripture affirms, know not anything—they are in a condition in which there is "no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom." This is a plain, straightforward, literal statement; there is no mistaking its meaning; and if it is true, then it is not true that the unseen agents working through Spiritualism, are the spirits of the dead.
2. The Spirit Returns to God.—Another passage from the same writer and the same book, may recur to the mind of the reader, as expressing a different and contradictory thought. Eccl. 12:7. "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." A careful analysis of this passage reveals no support for Spiritualism; for it does not say that the spirit, on returning to God, is conscious, or is capable of coming back and communicating with mortals. It is not denied that different component parts enter into the constitution of man; and that these parts may be separated. Solomon himself may therefore tell us what he means by the term "spirit" which he here uses. He employs the same word in chapter. 3:21 of this same book, but says that beasts have it as well as men. And then in verse 19, he explains what he means, by saying that they (man and the lower animals) all have one breath. The record of man's creation in Gen. 2:7, shows that a vitalizing principle, called the "breath of life," was necessary to be imparted to the organized body, before man became a living being; and this breath of life, as common to man and to all breathing animals, is described in Gen. 7:21, 22, by the term רוח (ruahh), the same word that is used for "breath," in Eccl. 3:19, "spirit," in verse 21, and "the spirit," which God gave to man, and which returns to God, in chapter 12:7. Thus it is clear that reference is here made simply to the "breath of life" which God at first imparted to man, to make him a living being, and which he withdraws to himself, in the hour of man's death. Job states the same fact, and describes the process, in chapter 34:14, 15: "If he [God] set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his [man's] spirit [same word] and his breath; ... man shall turn again unto dust." No one can fail to see here that Job refers to the same event of which Solomon speaks.
And at this point the question may as well be raised, and answered, Whence comes this spirit which is claimed to be the real man, capable of an independent and superior existence without the body? Bodies come into existence by natural generation; but whence comes the spirit? Is it a part of the body? If so, it cannot be immortal; for "that which is born of the flesh is flesh." John 3:6. Is it supplied to human beings at birth? If so, is there a great storehouse, somewhere, of souls and spirits, ready-made, from which the supply is drawn as fast as wanted in this world? And if so, further, is it to be concluded that all spirits have had a pre-existence? and then what was their condition in that state? And again, how does it happen, on this supposition, that this spirit in each individual exhibits so largely the mental and moral traits of the earthly parents? These hypotheses not being very satisfactory, will it be claimed that God creates these spirits as fast as children are born to need them? and if so, who brings them down just in the nick of time? and by what process are they incarnated? But if God has, by special act, created a soul or spirit for every member of the human family since Adam, is it not a contradiction of Gen. 2:2, which declares that all God's work of creation, so far as it pertains to this world, was completed by the close of the first week of time? Again, how many of the inhabitants of this earth are the offspring of abandoned criminality; and can it be supposed that God holds himself in readiness to create souls which must come from his hands pure as the dew of heaven, to be thrust into such vile tenements, and doomed to a life of wretchedness and woe at the bidding of defiant lust? The irreverence of the question will be pardoned as an exposure of the absurdity of that theory which necessitates it.
3. The Spirits of Just Men Made Perfect.—This expression is found in Heb. 12:23, and seems, by some, to recognize the idea that spirits can exist without the body, and are to be treated as separate entities. Thus interpreted it might appear to give some support to Spiritualism. But it will by no means bear such an interpretation. The apostle is contrasting the privileges of Christians in the present dispensation, with the situation of believers before the coming of Christ. What he sets forth are blessings to be enjoyed in the present tense. Yes, says one, that is just what I believe: We are come to spirits; they are all about us, and tip and talk and write for us at our pleasure. But hold! nothing is affirmed of spirits separately. The whole idea must be taken in. It is the "spirits of just men made perfect;" and the participle "made perfect" agrees with "just men," or literally "the just made perfect" (δικαίων τετελειωμένων), not with "spirits." It is the men who are made perfect to whom we are said to have come. But there are only two localities and two periods, in which men are anywhere in the Scriptures said to be made perfect. One is in this life and on this earth, and refers to religious experience ("Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect"); the other is not relative, but actual and absolute, and refers to the future immortal state when all the people of God will enter upon eternal life together ("God having provided some better thing for us, that they [the ancient worthies] without us should not be made perfect." Heb. 11:40). Thus, taken in either of the only two ways possible, the text furnishes no proof of Spiritualism. It doubtless refers to the present state, the expression, "spirits of just men," being simply a periphrasis for "just men," the same as the expression, "the God of the spirits of all flesh" (Num. 16:22), means simply "the God of all flesh," and the words "your whole spirit, and soul, and body" (1 Thess. 5:23), means simply the whole person.
4. Spirits in Prison.—The apostle Peter uses an expression, which, though perhaps not often quoted in direct defense of Spiritualism, is relied upon extensively in behalf of the doctrine of the conscious state of the dead, which, as already shown, is the essential basis of Spiritualism. And such texts as these are here noticed to show to the general reader, that the Bible contains no testimony in behalf of that doctrine, but positively forbids it, as further quotations will soon be introduced to show. The passage now in question is 1 Peter 3:19, where, speaking of Christ, it says: "By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison." By the use of strong assumption, and some lofty flights of the imagination, and keeping in the background the real intent of the passage, a picture of rather a lively time in the spirit world, can be constructed out of this testimony. Thus the spirits are said to be the disembodied spirits of those who were destroyed by the flood. See context. They were in "prison," that is, in hell. When Christ was put to death upon the cross, he immediately went by his disembodied spirit, down into hell and preached to those conscious intelligent spirits who were there, and continued that work till the third day when he was himself raised from the dead. A thought will show that this picture is wrong, (1) in the time, (2) in the condition of the people, (3) in the acting agent, and (4) in the end to be attained. Thus, when Christ had been put to death, he was "quickened" (or made alive), says the record, "by the Spirit." This was certainly not a personal disembodied spirit, but that divine agency so often referred to in the Scriptures. "By which," that is, this Spirit of God, he went and preached. Then he did not go personally on this work. The "spirits" were the antediluvians; for they were those who were disobedient in the days of Noah. Now when were they preached to? Verse 20 plainly tells us it was "when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah." In accordance with these statements now let another picture be presented: Christ, by his Spirit which was in Noah (1 Peter 1:11), and thus through Noah, preached to the spirits, or persons, in Noah's time, who were disobedient, in order to save all from the coming flood who would believe. They were said to be "in prison," though still living, because they were shut up under condemnation, and had only one hundred and twenty years granted them in which to repent or perish. Thus Christ was commissioned to preach to men said to be in prison, because in darkness, error, and condemnation, though they were still living in the flesh. Isa. 61:1. Dr. Adam Clarke, the eminent Methodist commentator (in loco), places the going and preaching of Christ in the days of Noah, and by the ministry of Noah for one hundred and twenty years, and not during the time while he lay in the grave. Then he says:—
"The word πνεῦμασι (spirits) is supposed to render this view of the subject improbable, because this must mean disembodied spirits; but this certainly does not follow; for the spirits of just men made perfect (Heb. 12:23), certainly means righteous men, and men still in the church militant: and the Father of spirits (Heb. 12:9) means men still in the body; and the God of the spirits of all flesh (Num. 16:22 and 27:16), means men, not in a disembodied state."(1)
5. Cannot Kill the Soul.—"Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matt. 10:28. We know what it is to kill the body; and by association of ideas, it seems quite natural to form a like conception of the soul as something that can be treated in the same way. Then if the soul cannot be killed like the body, the conclusion seems easy of adoption that it lives right on, with all sensations preserved, as it was with the body before its death. If it were not for the pagan definition of "soul," which here comes in to change the current of thought, such conclusions drawn from this text would not be so prevalent; and a little attention to the scope of Christ's teaching here will readily correct the misapprehension. This is brought out clearly in verse 39: "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." This is easily understood. No one will question what it is to lose his life; and Christ says that he who will do this for his sake, shall find it. Any one who has been put to death for his faith in the gospel has "lost his life" (had the body killed) for Christ's sake. But Christ says, Do not fear them, even if they do this. Why?—Because ye shall find it—the life you lost. When shall we find it?—In the resurrection. John 6:40; Rev. 20:4-6. The expression, "shall find it," thus becomes the exact equivalent of the words, "are not able to kill the soul;" that is, are not able to destroy, or prevent us from gaining that life he has promised, if we suffer men, for his sake, to "kill the body," or deprive us of our present life. The correctness of this view is demonstrated by the word employed in these instances. That word is ψυχή (psuche). It is properly rendered "life" in verse 39, and improperly rendered "soul" in verse 28. This lesson, that men should be willing to lose their life for Christ's sake, was considered so important that it is again mentioned in Matthew, and reiterated with emphasis by Mark, Luke, and John; and they all use this same word ψυχή, which is rendered "life." In one instance only in all these parallel passages have the translators rendered it "soul;" and that is Matt. 10:28, where it is the source of all the misunderstanding on that text.
6. Souls Under the Altar.—As a part of the events of the fifth seal as described in Rev. 6:9-11, John says he saw the souls of the martyrs under the altar, and heard them crying for vengeance. If they could do that, it is asked, cannot disembodied souls now communicate with the living? Not to enter into a full exposition of this scripture, and the inconsistencies such a view would involve, it is sufficient to ask if these were like the communicating spirits of the present day. How many communications have ever been received by modern Spiritualists from souls confined under an altar? In glowing symbolism, John saw the dead martyrs, as if slain at the foot of the altar; and by the figure of personification a voice was given to them, just as Abel's blood cried to God for vengeance upon his guilty brother (Gen. 4:10), and just as the stone is said to cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber to answer it. Hab. 2:11.
7. The Medium of Endor.—Aside from the direct teaching of the Scriptures, it is still held by some that there are scenes narrated in the Bible which show that the dead must be conscious. The first of these is the case of Saul and the woman of Endor, whom he consulted in order to communicate with the prophet Samuel, as narrated in 1 Samuel 28. Here, it must be confessed, is brought to view an actual case of spirit manifestation, a specimen of ancient necromancy; for the conditions, method of procedure, and results, were just such as pertain to the same work in our own day. But then, as now, there was no truth nor good in it, as a brief review of the narrative will show. (1) Samuel was dead. (2) Saul was sore pressed by the Philistines. Verse 5. (3) God had departed from him. Verse 4. (4) He had cut off those who had familiar spirits and wizards, out of the land, because God had forbidden their presence in the Jewish theocracy, as an abomination. Verse 3; Lev. 19:31. (5) Yet in his extremity he had recourse to a woman with a familiar spirit, found at Endor. Verse 7. (6) She asked whom she should bring up, and Saul answered, Samuel. Verse 11. (7) Saul was disguised, but the familiar spirit told the woman it was Saul, and she cried out in alarm. Verse 12. (8) Saul reassured her, and the woman went on with the seance. Verse 10. (9) She announced a presence coming (not from heaven, nor the spheres, but) up out of the earth, and at Saul's request gave a description of him, showing that Saul did not himself see the form. Verse 13. (10) Saul "perceived" that it was Samuel (not by actual sight, but from the woman's description; for the Hebrew ירע and the Septuagint, γινωσκώ, signify to know, or perceive, by an operation of the mind.) Verse 14. (11) The woman supposed it was Samuel; Saul supposed it was Samuel; and that personation is, then, by the law of appearance, spoken of, in whatever it said or did, as Samuel; as, "Samuel said to Saul," etc. Verse 15. (12) Was Samuel really there as an immortal soul, a disembodied spirit, or as one raised from the dead?—No; because (a) immortal souls do not come up out of the ground, wrapped in mantles, and complain of being disquieted and brought up; (b) Samuel was a holy prophet, and if he was conscious in the spirit world, he would not present himself at the summons of a woman who was practicing arts which God had forbidden; (c) God having departed from Saul, and having refused to communicate with him on account of his sins, would not now suffer his servant Samuel to grant him the desired communication through a channel which he had pronounced an abomination; (d) Samuel was not present by a resurrection, for the Devil could not raise him, and God certainly would not, for such a purpose; besides Samuel was buried at Ramah, and could not be raised at Endor; (e) It was only the woman's familiar spirit, personating Samuel as he used to appear when alive—an aged man clothed with a mantle. His object was to make both the woman and Saul believe it was Samuel, when it was not, just as communicating spirits to-day try to palm themselves off for what they are not. As a specimen of ancient Spiritualism, this case is no particular honor to their cause; and as a proof of the immortality of the soul, and the conscious state of the dead, it is a minus quantity.
8. The Transfiguration.—Jesus took three of his disciples, Peter, James, and John, apart into a high mountain, and was transfigured before them; his face became as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light, just as it will be in the future kingdom of glory, which this scene was designed to represent. And there then appeared Moses and Elias talking with Christ. But Moses had died in the land of Moab nearly fifteen hundred years before, and it is at once concluded that the only way to account for his appearance on this occasion, is to suppose that he was still alive in the spirit world, and could appear in a disembodied state, and talk with Jesus as here represented. But such a conclusion is by no means necessary. Jesus was there in person, Elias was there in person; for he had not died, but had been translated bodily from this earth. Now it would be altogether incongruous to suppose that the third member of this glorious trio, apparently just as real as the others, was only a disembodied spirit; an immaterial phantom. Unless the whole scene was merely a vision brought before the minds of the disciples, Moses was as really there, in his own proper person, as Jesus and Elias. But there is no way in which he could thus be present, except by means of a resurrection from the dead; and that he had been raised, and was there as a representative of the resurrection, is proved, first by his actual presence on this occasion, and secondly, by the fact that Michael (Christ, who is "the resurrection and the life," John 11:25) disputed with the Devil (who has the power of death, Heb. 2:14) about the body of Moses. Jude 9. There could be no other possible ground of controversy about the body of Moses except whether or not Christ should give it life before the general resurrection. But Christ rebuked the Devil. Christ was not thwarted in this contest, but gave his servant life; and thus Moses could appear personally upon the mount. This makes the scene complete as a representation of the kingdom of God, as Peter says it was (2 Peter 1:16-18); namely, Christ the glorified King, Elias representing those who will be translated without seeing death, and Moses representing those who will be raised from the dead. These two classes embrace all the happy subjects of that kingdom. This view of the matter is not peculiar to this book. Dr. Adam Clarke, on Matt. 17:3, says: "The body of Moses was probably raised again, as a pledge of the resurrection."(2) And Olshausen says: "For if we assume the reality of the resurrection of the body, and its glorification,—truths which assuredly belong to the system of Christian doctrine,—the whole occurrence presents no essential difficulties. The appearance of Moses and Elias, which is usually held to be the most unintelligible point in it, is as easily conceived of as possible, if we admit their bodily glorification."
Those passages which speak of Christ as the "first-fruits," the "first-born from the dead," the "first-born among many brethren," "of every creature," etc., refer only to the chief and pivotal importance of his own resurrection, as related to all others; and Acts 26:23 does not declare that Christ should be the first one to be raised from the dead, but that he first, by a resurrection from the dead, should show light to the Gentiles. (See the Greek of this passage.) These scriptures therefore prove no objection to the idea that Moses had been raised from the dead, and as a victor over the grave, appeared with Christ upon the mount. Thus another supposed stronghold affords no refuge for the conscious-state theory, or for Spiritualism.
9. The Rich Man and Lazarus.—With the features of this parable, as found in Luke 16, which is supposed to prove the dead conscious, and Spiritualism possible, the reader is doubtless familiar. It should ever be borne in mind that this is a parable; and in a parable, neither the parties nor the scenes are to be taken literally, and hence no doctrines can be built upon such symbolic representations. But not only is it a parable, but it is a parable based upon traditions largely entertained by the Jews themselves in the time of Christ. Thus T. J. Hudson ("Law of Psychic Phenomena," p. 385) says:—
"It is a historical fact, nevertheless, that before the advent of Jesus, the Jews had become imbued with the Greek doctrine of Hades, which was an intermediate waiting station between this life and the judgment. In this were situated both Paradise and Gehenna, the one on the right, and the other on the left, and into these two compartments the spirits of the dead were separated, according to their deserts. Jesus found this doctrine already in existence, and in enforcing his moral precepts in his parables, he employed the symbols which the people understood, neither denying nor affirming their literal verity."
Thus Christ appealed to the people on their own ground. He took the views and traditions which he found already among them, and arranged them into a parable in such a way as to rebuke their covetousness, correct their notions that prosperity and riches in this life are tokens of the favor and approbation of God, and condemn their departure from the teachings of Moses and the prophets. As a parable, it is not designed to show the state of the dead, and the conditions that prevail in the spirit world. But if any persist that it is not a parable, but a presentation of actual fact, then the scene is laid, not in the intermediate state, but beyond the resurrection; for it is after the angels had carried Lazarus into Abraham's bosom. But the angels do not bear any one anywhere away from this earth, till the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead. Matt. 24:30, 31; 1 Thess. 4:15-17. Finding no support in this portion of scripture for the conscious-state theory, with its spiritualistic possibilities, appeal is next made by the friends of that theory to the case of—
10. The Thief on the Cross.—Luke 23:39-43. When one of the malefactors who were crucified with Jesus, requested to be remembered when he should come into his kingdom, according to the record in the common version, the Lord replied, "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." To go from death into paradise the same day, means to go into the spirit world without a body, or discarnated, as Spiritualists claim. And so it would be if such was Christ's promise to the thief; but it was not.
The little adverb "to-day" holds the balance of power as to the meaning of this text. If it qualifies Christ's words, "Verily I say unto thee," it gives one idea; if it qualifies the words, "Thou shalt be with me in paradise," we have another and very different idea. And how shall the question of its relationship be decided?—It can be done only by the punctuation.
Here another difficulty confronts us; for the Greek was originally written in a solid line of letters, without any punctuation, or even division into words. Such being the case, the punctuation, and the relation of the qualifying word "to-day," must be determined by the context. Now it is a fact that Christ did not go to paradise that day. He died, and was placed in the tomb, and the third day rose from the dead. Mary was the first to meet him, and sought to worship him. But he said, "Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father." John 20:17. Paradise is where the Father is (see 2 Cor. 12:2-4; Rev. 2:7; 22:1, 2), and if Christ had not been to his Father when Mary met him the third day after his crucifixion, he had not then been to paradise; therefore it is not possible that he made a promise to the thief on the day of his crucifixion, that he should be with him that day in paradise.
But further, the day of the crucifixion was the day before the Sabbath; and it was not lawful to leave criminals on the cross during that day. John 19:31. If they were still living when the time came to take them from the cross, they were taken down, and their legs were broken to prevent their escape. The soldiers on this occasion broke the legs of the two thieves, because they were still alive; "but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs." Verses 32, 33. The thief therefore lived over into the next day.
Thus there are two absolutely insuperable objections against allowing the adverb, "to-day," to qualify Christ's promise, "Thou shalt be with me in paradise:" (1) Christ did not go to paradise that day; and (2) The thief did not die that day. Before these facts the conscious-state argument built upon this incident, vanishes into thin air. Just place the comma (a punctuation mark not invented till 1490) after "to-day" instead of before it, and let that word qualify the verb "say" and emphasize the time when it was spoken, and all is harmonious. The thief's request did not pertain to that day, but looked forward to the time when Christ should come into his kingdom; and Christ's promise did not pertain to that day, but to the time in the thief's request; so he did not falsify it by not going to his Father for three days afterward. The thief is quietly slumbering in the tomb; but Christ is soon coming into his kingdom. Then the thief will be remembered, be raised from the dead, and be with Christ in that paradise into which he will then introduce all his people. Thus all is as clear as a sunbeam, when the text is freed from the bungling tinkering of men.
The strongest texts and incidents which are appealed to in defense of the conscious-state theory, have now been examined. If these do not sustain it, nothing can be found in the Bible which will sustain it. All are easily harmonized with these. Thus in Paul's desire to "depart and be with Christ" (Phil. 1:23), he does not there tell us when he will be with Christ; but he does tell us in many other places; and it is at the resurrection and the coming of Christ. Phil. 3:11; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17. When he speaks of our being clothed upon with our house from heaven (2 Cor. 5:2), he tells us that it is when "mortality" is "swallowed up of life." But that is only at the last trump. 1 Cor. 15:51-54. If we are told about the woman who had had seven husbands (Matt. 22:23-28), no hint is given of any reunion till after the resurrection. If God calls himself "not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt. 22:32), it is because he speaks of "those things that be not as though they were" (Rom. 4:17), and the worthies of whom this is spoken, are sure to live again (Heb. 11:15, 16), and hence are now spoken of as alive in his sight, because they are so in his purpose. Texts which speak of the departure and return of the soul (Gen. 35:18; 1 Kings 17:21, 22), are referable to the "breath of life," which is the meaning of the word in these instances rendered "soul."
Three passages only have been referred to, which declare positively that the dead know not anything. It was thought preferable to answer certain objections, before introducing further direct testimony. But there are many such passages, a few more of which will now be presented, as a fitting conclusion to this branch of the subject. The reader's careful attention is invited to a few of the various texts, and the conclusions that follow therefrom.
1. Death and Sleep.—Death, in numerous passages is compared to sleep, in contrast with the wakeful condition. See Ps. 13:3; Job 7:21; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 1 Cor. 11:30; 15:51; 1 Thess. 4:14; etc. But there is only one feature in sleep by virtue of which it can be taken as a figure of death; and that is, the condition of unconsciousness which shuts up the avenues of one's senses to all one's environment. If one is not thus unconscious in death, the figure is false, and the comparison illogical and misleading.
2. Thoughts Perish.—So David testifies: "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." Ps. 146:3, 4. The word "thoughts" does not here mean simply the projects and purposes one has in view, which do often fail, when the author of them dies, but it is from a root which means the act of thinking, the operation of the mind; and in death, that entirely ceases. It cannot therefore be the dead who come out of the unseen with such intelligence as is shown in Spiritualism.
3. Job's Statement.—Speaking of a dead man, Job (14:21) says: "His sons come to honor, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them." If the dead cannot take cognizance of matters of so much interest as these, how can they communicate with the living as the spirits do?
4. No Remembrance of God.—David, in Ps. 6:5 and 115:17, again testifies: "For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?" "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence." Is it possible that any righteous man, if he is living and conscious after going into the grave, would not praise and give thanks to the Lord?
5. Hezekiah's Testimony.—Hezekiah was sick unto death. Isa. 38:1. But he prayed, and the Lord added to his days fifteen years. Verse 5. For this he praised the Lord, and gave his reasons for so doing in the following words (verses 18, 19): "For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day." This is a clear affirmation that in death he would not be able to do what he was able to do while living.
6. New Testament Evidence.—The New Testament bears a corresponding testimony on this subject. None will be saved except such as Christ raises up at the last day. John 6:39, 40. No one is to receive any reward before the resurrection. Luke 14:14; 2 Tim. 4:8. No one can enter God's kingdom before being judged; but there is no execution of judgment before the coming of Christ. 2 Tim. 4:1; Acts 17:31; Luke 19:35; etc. If there is no avenue to a future life by a resurrection, then all who have gone down in death are perished. 1 Cor. 15:18. Such texts utterly forbid the idea of consciousness and activity, on the part of any of the human family, in death.
This part of the subject need not be carried further. It has been dwelt upon so fully simply because of its determinate bearing on the question under discussion. Spiritualism rests its whole title to credence on the claim that the intelligences which manifest themselves are the spirits of the dead. The Bible says that they are not the spirits of the dead. Then if the Bible is true, the whole system rests upon deception and falsehood. No one who believes this will tamper with Spiritualism. One cannot have Spiritualism and the Bible, too. One or the other must be given up. But he who still holds on to the theory that the dead are conscious, contrary to the testimony of the Scriptures has no shield against the Spiritualistic delusion, and the danger is that he will sooner or later throw the Bible away.
THEY ARE EVIL ANGELS.
As the Bible plainly shows what the spirits which communicate are not, it just as clearly reveals also what they are; so that in no particular is one left to conjecture or guesswork. There is an order of beings brought to view in the Scriptures, above man but lower than God or Christ, called "angels." No Bible believer questions the existence of such beings. It is sometimes asserted that angels are departed human spirits; but this cannot be; for they appear upon the stage of action before a single human being had died, or a disembodied spirit could have existed. When the world was created, Job declares that "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." These are two of the names applied to these beings, but they are also known by a number of others. They are 167 times called angels; 61 times, angel of the Lord; 8 times, angel of God; 17 times, his angels; 41 times, cherub and cherubim. There are also such names as seraphim, chariots, God's hosts, watchers, holy ones, thrones, dominions, principalities and powers,—all referring to the different orders of these heavenly beings.