Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/373

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EVIL SPIRITS.

witchcraft. Sir Matthew Hale lays it down in one of his rulings that it is an undoubted fact that there is such a thing as witchcraft, and that witches ought to be punished. Even Shakespeare shared in the general belief; the witches in Macbeth were to him, not poetic creations, stern realities.

The question is, then: How did this marvelous delusion arise? Three causes, I believe, produced it. 1. To quote Lecky, the historian: "A religion that rests largely on terrorism will engender the belief in witches or magic; for the panic which its teachings create overbalances the faculties of the multitude." This is true: a cruel religion, as Christianity became when it began to rest more and more on the basis of eternal punishment and the wrath of God, will inevitably be haunted by the fear of evil spirits. Therefore it is that the religion of Zoroaster and that of Brahma have been free from the reproach of the persecution of witches and sorcerers. 2. The support from the Bible. Now, there is no doubt at all that the Bible does support the doctrine of evil spirits and witchcraft. And this fact alone is sufficient to destroy the orthodox theory of what Dr. Briggs calls "biblical inerrancy," or freedom from error, for not one person out of one hundred now believes in the reality of possession by evil spirits. There is, I say, no doubt that the Bible does teach this doctrine. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," was the repeated command in the Levitical law; this command was the foundation stone upon which the putting to death of witches rested. We all know the story of the witch of Endor, as told in the twenty-eighth chapter of the First Book of Samuel. Again, the devil afflicted Job in various ways, one way being the sending of a tempest which destroyed Job's sons. Great atmospheric disturbances were always ascribed to Satanic agency, although a nice distinction prevailed: when the destruction was great, it was ascribed directly to Satan; when small, to angels, the word angels being used in a double sense, as messengers of evil and messengers of good. To come to the New Testament. Philip baptizes Simon the sorcerer; and Saul of Tarsus finds in Paphos a certain sorcerer, a false phophet, a Jew named Bar-Jesus.

Whatever view we may take of the Bible, one thing is certain, it abounds with references to evil spirits, the Bible characters believed implicitly in the existence of such spirits, and there is no intimation given that the reign of such evil spirits should cease to exist until the end of all things. We are expressly told, indeed, that "when Christ had called unto him his disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits to cast them out"; and again: "And these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name shall they cast out devils."