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It may be objected, that though this word was by the Greeks, applied to beings very different from Jehovah, yet at the time of our Saviour, the Jews had long been habituated to the septuagint version, in which the term is applied to Jehovah; and therefore, in such use there could have been no ambiguity.
In answer to this, I observe, that there was a time, when the septuagint version was made. At that time, the word above mentioned was applied to a being, extremely different from those, who had been previously designated by that term. Therefore, were it necessary to suppose, that the term dæmon carries a different meaning in sacred, from what it does in profane writings, such change of meaning would have been analogous to another well known fact; and there. fore not incredible.
Dr. Lardner's testimony on this subject, is of great value, not only on account of his learning, integrity, and candor, but because he is known not to have held those sentiments, which we endeavor to defend. "As the full punishment, (says he,) of fallen angels, as well as of bad men, was deferred to the great day of general judgment; it was the opinion of many at that time, that some of those evil angels and spirits, were allowed, (though not without control,) to visit the region of our air, and this earth, and to inflict diseases and other calamities on men. Of this number, continues he, are these unclean spirits," meaning thereby those which went out of the man and passed into the swine, and which are, by the evangelist, denominated dæmons.
It is hence evident, from the concession of this learned writer, not only that many, at the time, when our Saviour was on carth, were of opinion, that wicked spirits superior to men, viz. fallen angels did inflict diseases; but that those unclean spirits, by the evangelists called dæmons, were of this number. In other words, that many did use the term dæmon then to denote a fallen angel. By consequence it was not exclusively used to express a departed human soul. (Lard. 1. 435.)
Lest the preceding remarks should appear, in any measure, obscure, I will again briefly state the great argument against possessions. Firstly, it is laid down, that dæmons, to whom the sacred writers attribute possessions, were generally understood before and after the time of Christ, to be heathen gods, or the souls of departed men :-It is then added, that the sacred writers, having given us no notice of using the term in a new or peculiar sense, did certainly employ it in reference to possessions, in the same sense, in which all other persons employed it. Therefore Christ and the evangelists could not design to assert, that the dæmoniacs were under any supernatural influence, whatever. In opposition to this, I have endeavored to show, I. That the conclusion does by no means result from the premises: II. That the only legitimate inference is, that the New Testament writers design to attribute certain disorders to pagan gods or the souls of dead men. III. That as this conclusion, which unavoidably results from the premises, does, by concession of those, who use the argument, contain a falsehood, there must be falsehood in the premises: IV. That accor dingly, by the same concessions, the term dæmon, does not always mean departed human souls, but sometimes evil spirits of a rank, superior to mankind, and it is allowed by Dr. Lardner, that among many, in our Saviour's time, it signified a fallen angel: and lastly, That the supposition, were it necessary to make it, that the sacred writers did use the term dæmons in a sense, somewhat peculiar, would not be incredible.
The truth is, that the terms, answering to damon, have great variety of meaning. They mean in general beings, superior to men. They may be supreme Gods, or subordinate gods; or, merely spirits, whether good or bad,whether of human or divine origin. By Scapula we are told, that dæmon means god: and that it is often indiscriminately applied to any god, or goddess. He quotes from Plato, a sentence in which the Governor of the universe is called da
pov μgrotos. Damon, on some occasions, seems to be synonymous with genius, and may be either good or bad. As we say, that a man was led to such an action, either by his good genius, or by his bad genius. By the dæmon of Socrates is generally understood a guardian, or friendly spirit. Some philosophers, as has already been observed, taught, that dæmons were evil spirits of a rank superior to mankind. By others, human souls are called dæmons.→ There is one term in popular use among ourselves, which I conceive, answers in general to the terms, which are used in Greek I mean the word spirits. This word we apply to beings both good or bad: to God, to angels, to devils, and to the souls of dead men. The agreement between the words daipoves, in Greck, and spirits in English, will further appear, if we consider, that the dæmons, mentioned in the gospel are often denominated unclean or evil spirits.
Were it said in the gospel, merely, that certain persons had dæmons, we could not thence conclude, that they were under bad influence, any more, than if it were said, that these persons had spirits. The character of the dæmons is to be learnt from the effects, which they produced; the language, in which they spake; and the manner, in which our Saviour treated them.
It now appears, I hope, that on supposition, the possessions were real; and the persons dæmonized were under the influence of malignant spirits, there is nothing wonderful in the use, which our Saviour and the evangelists made of the corresponding Greek terms.
The opponents, indeed, of the common opinion often resort to this position. "Christ and the evangelists must have used language, as it is commonly understood, or as it was used by others;" but it is most certain, if their sentiments on the general subject, be just, that he did not use language in this way.
In common use, by their own concession, the word daiDOYISODEVOS then, expressed not only the disorder itself,
whether of body or mind; but also the cause, whence it proceeded, namely, dæmons. But the New Testament writers, they tell us, mean to express by it, the disorder itself, but not the cause. When a Greek or a Jew said of any one, that he was a demoniac, he meant to assert two things, 1. That he was, in a particular manner, disordered, and, 2. That this disorder was produced by evil spirits. But the writers of the New Testament, according to the sentiments, which we oppose, when they used the like expression meant the former of these, but not the latter.
An objection against the doctrine of real possessions, drawn from the use of the term dæmon, was noticed in my last lecture. This term, it was there shown, is very general, and corresponds, in a great degree, to the English word spirit. It does not designate the moral character of the be ing, to whom it is applied. It is used in relation to the Supreme God, by Plato and Isocrates. It was used by certain philosophers, and afterwards by some of the christian fathers, to signify evil spirits of a rank superior to mankind. It was likewise used, and I apprehend, very commonly, to signify the souls of dead men.
The evangelists did not apply the term either, in the first or last of these senses, but in the second. that demoniacs were disordered by the
They did not assert
by the spirits of the dead, but by spirits of a malignant character, and of a rank superior to men. The term is not used, therefore, in the New Testament in a sense unknown among the Greeks.
But, even if it never had been, by the Greeks, applied to any beings, but the Supreme God, or human ghosts, we could not infer, that the evangelists uniformly applied it to these objects. For they use the word Seos to signify Jehovah, a being most strikingly different from the dapov peyrozos and the deified heroes of antiquity, who were indiscriminately denominated to.
I now proceed to notice a further objection: namely, that evil spirits seem never to have had such power, at any other period of the world, or at any other place, as the common opinion supposes them to have possessed in Judea, at the time of our Saviour.
This objection may be met, either by admitting or denying the fact.
I. Let the fact be conceded, that demoniacal possessions were seldom or never known, but in the land of Judea; and at the time, when Christ was engaged in his ministry on earth.
From the nature of the case, and from numerous express declarations in scripture, it is evident that there is perpetual hostility between the interest of Christ, and that of Satan. The nature of the case teaches this, because the grand object of the one is to promote order, virtue, and happiness; that of the other to promote confusion, vice and misery. The declarations of scripture, to which I refer, are these. "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. (Gen. iii. 15.) For this purpose, was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (1. John iii. 8.) Again, I beheld satan, as lightning fall from heaven." This last is termed, by Bp.Warburton, "a strong and lively picture of the sudden precipitation of the prince of the air, from the place where he