|EARTH'S EARLIEST AGES|
July 25, 2012|
by G. H. Pember
The seventh and most fearful characteristic of the days of Noah was the unlawful appearance among men of beings from another sphere. This, many would quickly reply, is certainly an event which has not yet startled our age, strange as our experiences may be: we have still something at least to wait for before the completion of that fatal circle of influences which ruined the old world. But a diligent comparison of Scripture with the things that are now taking place among us will give a very different impression, and induce a strong conviction that the advanced posts of this last terrible foe have already crossed our borders.
For it is no longer possible to deny the supernatural character of the apostacy called Spiritualism, which is spreading through the world with unexampled rapidity, and which attracts its votaries, and retains them within its grasp, solely by continual exhibitions of the miraculous. It is vain to speak of that power as mere jugglery which has convinced some of the elite of the literary world, which has caught in its meshes many scientific men, who at first only troubled to investigate for the purpose of refutation. Nor indeed can anything be more dangerous than utter incredulity: for the wholly incredulous, if suddenly brought face to face with the supernatural, is of all men the most likely to yield entire submission to the priests of the new wonder. Better far is it to prayerfully inquire whether these things are possible, and if so, in what light the Bible teaches us to regard them. We shall thus be armed against all the wiles of the Devil.
But an exposition of the nature and history of Spiritualism of sufficient length to exhibit its apparent identity with the antediluvian sin is a serious matter, and must not be commenced at the end of a chapter.
The open interference of evil spirits with our world might be reasonably expected.
The mere mention of the supernatural is often received with a smile of incredulous contempt. And there are not a few professing Christians who manifest great anxiety to limit the number and extent of past miracles, and to obscure the possibility of their recurrence in the present time, though they do not venture upon an absolute denial of God’s power to suspend or change His own laws. But that Satan can work wonders they will never allow: nay, in many cases they even refuse him a personal existence.
Surely such a state of mind must proceed either from ignorance or unbelief. For does not Paul speak of the working of Satan as being with all power and signs and wonders wrought in support of a lie?[i] And the simple assertion of Scripture, that the air which envelops our earth swarms with rebellious spirits, ought at least to prepare us for their occasional manifestation and open interference. Undoubtedly God has forbidden them either to communicate directly with man or to influence him for evil. Yet, since they are disobedient, and are not at present restrained by force, it is reasonable to believe that they sometimes break the former commandment even as they are continually defying the latter. And this supposition is confirmed by Scripture: for we find numerous allusions to dealings between men and demons in the Old Testament, while in the New witchcraft is treated as one of the manifest works of the flesh.[ii]
The Mosaic laws against witchcraft referred to no mere imposture, but to an actual connection with fallen spirits.
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,”[iii] was the injunction of the Lord by Moses. And that this law is not concerned with mere superstition or deception, but points to a wilful fellowship with the powers of evil, we may learn from the severity of the punishment. Yet many would persuade us that the numerous Biblical terms applied to the practisers of forbidden arts are merely intended to indicate different forms of imposture. One example will suffice to prove the folly of such an opinion.
In the twentieth chapter of Leviticus we find the following enactment;—“A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.”[iv] How, then, could an Israelitish judge decide in the case of a person arraigned under this law? Would not the whole issue depend upon the proof that the accused really had an attendant spirit? And is not the law an express declaration, not merely of the possibility, but also of the actual occurrence of such connections?
Scripture never denies the actual existence of the Heathen gods.
Indeed the Bible, as we have already seen, mentions many things which have no place in modem philosophies, and, among them, one which is of the utmost importance to our subject. For it plainly recognises spiritual existences behind the idols of Heathenism, and affirms that these existences are demons. An attempt has been made to disprove this statement on the ground that two Hebrew words, the one signifying “nothings” and the other “vanities,” are used as appellations of the Pagan gods, and that by such terms their non-existence is necessarily implied. But the fallacy of this inference may be exposed by a glance at the same words in other connections.
“Woe to the shepherd of nothing that forsaketh the flock !”[v] exclaims Zechariah. And certainly he does not speak of a purely imaginary shepherd, but of a worthless one, who is not what he pretends to be. Similarly Job, when he calls his friends “ physicians of nothing,”[vi] does not mean to tell them that they are non-existent, but merely, as our version has expressed it, that they are “physicians of no value.” The Jewish idea of the word as applied to Heathen deities may be seen in the Septuagint version of the ninety-sixth Psalm, where it is rendered by Baif.i6via. Hence the fifth verse is made to mean, “For all the gods of the nations are demons; but the Lord made the heavens.”[vii]
Again; the singular of the word for “vanities” is Abel, the name which Eve gave to her second son. But she had no intention of thereby denying the reality of his being. Nor when the preacher cries, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity,”[viii] can we understand him to be affirming the non-existence of the universe.
It is, therefore, evident that these terms when applied to the Heathen gods do not dispute the fact of their being, but the truth of their pretensions. Real powers they are, but only finite ones; and hence they have no just claim to the title of gods.
On the contrary, the Old Testament treats them as real potencies.
Scripture, then, contains nothing to disprove the existence of false gods, but, on the contrary, asserts and assumes it as a fact. For instance, when foretelling the death of the first-born of both man and beast, the Lord signified His intention of also punishing the gods of Egypt.[ix] And, in reference to the same event, Moses subsequently wrote;—“For the Egyptians buried all their first-born, which the Lord had smitten among them: upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments.”[x]
Again; in the tenth chapter of Deuteronomy we have the expression, “For Jehovah your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords.”[xi] And numerous are the Scriptural assertions that Jehovah is highly exalted above all gods, to be feared above all gods, and so on.
If, then. He executed judgment upon the gods of Egypt, they must have been living beings: if He is contrasted with other gods, they must be real existences.
And plainly indicates that they are demons. The seirim and shedim.
Nor does the Old Testament omit to hint at the nature of these so-called deities, as the following verses will show.
“And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto demons (Heb. seirini), after whom they have gone a whoring.”[xii]
“They sacrificed unto demons (Heb. shedim), not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.”[xiii]
“And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the demons (Heb. seiriin), and for the calves which he had made.”[xiv]
“Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto demons (Heb. shedim).”[xv]
In the place of the word seirim—which originally signified goats, and was afterwards used of wood-demons or satyrs—the Septuagint has rois uaraiols, that is, “vanities”: but in two passages of Isaiah it translates the same noun by Saipovia, “demons.”[xvi] And this latter rendering is authoritatively confirmed in the New Testament by the passage in the eighteenth chapter of the Apocalypse which is parallel to that in the thirteenth chapter of Isaiah.[xvii] Shedim—literally “mighty ones,” “lords”—is invariably interpreted in the Septuagint by Saipovia. Thus, of the two words, the first appears to have been applied either to the Heathen idols or to the spiritual powers behind them, the second only to the demons themselves.
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