« AnteriorContinuar »
JOHN SELDEN'S EXORCISM
evident from his letters that he suffered under great irritability of his nervous system, the common effect of deranged digestion in men of sedentary habits, who are at the same time intense thinkers; and this irritability adding to and vivifying impressions made upon him in early life, and fostered by the theological systems of his manhood, is abundantly sufficient to explain all his apparitions, and all his mighty combats with evil spirits."
The sort of half-reverence with which my name is mentioned by ignorant persons, as if I were in some way a god myself, and a god to be conciliated at least by civil behaviour, not seldom extorts a smile from my lips, which may be taken in repayment of the smiles with which I am wont to be treated by the philosophers. It is said of Southey, that he could never think of me without laughing. This ludicrous vein has been ascribed to "the genuine humour of our Teutonic ancestors." Nevertheless, I am, alas! something more than a joke. Ridiculous, if you will, as the cause of all the evil ecclesiastically referred back to me, I am a very serious reality in the Papal confessional and in Protestant churches and chapels all over the world. And though I would gladly consent to be laughed out of existence, if laughing would do it, I fear that I can never be driven away except by processes of a sterner kind. This consideration has had great weight in inducing me to write my own Autobiography.
. The good sense which Luther shewed in regard to exorcism has led me to chat on in connection with a subject more profitable to others than myself. I must draw in the rein; yet I cannot withhold John Selden's (1584—1654) method of treatment, since it presents a striking exception to the credulity of the sixteenth century:
66 А person of quality came to my chamber in the Temple, and told me he had two devils in his head (I wondered what he meant), and just at that time one of them bid him kill With that I began to be afraid, and thought he was mad. He said he knew I could cure him, and therefore
EXPELS FOUR DEVILS.
entreated me to give him something, for he was resolved he would go to nobody else. I, perceiving what an opinion he had of me, and that it was only melancholy that troubled him, took him in hand, and warranted him, if he would follow my directions, to cure him in a short time. I desired him to let me be alone about an hour, and then to come again; which he was very willing to. In the meantime I got a card, and wrapped it up handsomely in a piece of taffeta, and put strings to the taffeta; and when he came, gave it him to hang about his neck; withal charging him that he should not disorder himself either with eating or drinking, but eat very little of supper, and say his prayers duly when he went to bed; and I made no question that he would be well in three or four days. Within that time I went to dinner to his house, and asked him how he did. He said he was much better, but not perfectly well; for in truth he had not dealt clearly with me; he had four devils in his head, and he perceived two of them were gone with that which I had given him, but the other two troubled him still. 'Well,' said I, 'I am glad two of them are gone; I make no doubt to get rid of the other two likewise.' So I gave him another thing to hang about his neck. Three days after he came to me to my chamber, and professed he was now as well as he ever was in his life, and did extremely thank me for the great care I had taken of him. I, fearing lest he might relapse into the like distemper, told him that there was none but myself and one physician more in the whole town that could cure the devils in the head, and that was Dr. Harvey (whom I had prepared); and wished him, if ever he found himself ill in my absence, to go to him, for he could cure him as well as myself. The gentleman lived many years, and was never troubled after."
BEKKER, SATAN'S GREAT ASSAILANT.
ATTACK AND DEFENCE: BEKKER, HENRY MORE, AND GOADBY.
THE sands of my existence are running down. What was once solid ground begins to tremble under my feet; and yet no pitched battle has been fought. To all outward appearance, my empire is as wide and my throne as firmly set as ever. If any disposition to yield on the part of my sacerdotal supporters has become manifest, it is only in consequence of the piercingness of my own eye, from which, as you may judge, my loving friend, few things are wholly hidden. In reality, however, I feel that the joints and bands of my existence are undergoing dissolution. And as I wish to communicate my own knowledge to you, I proceed to put before you two antagonists and one advocate of no ordinary mettle, who have their proper logical place at the point to which we have now arrived.
Balthassar Bekker, a Dutch Protestant clergyman, was the first to strike a heavy blow at the pestiferous superstitions connected with witchcraft, belief in apparitions and other supposed operations in human society of "the devil and his angels," which, alas! still haunt and worry the less enlightened classes in both hemispheres. Dr. Bekker was born on the 20th of March, 1634, in a Friesland village, of which his father was the minister. Having been initiated into the elements of learning by that parent, he studied in the colleges of Gröningen and Franker, where he made such progress in scholarship as to be thought at a later day not unworthy to receive the honourable title of Doctor of Divinity. As a country parson at Oosterlittens, in Friesland, he devoted himself earnestly to his sacred duties, and manifested special interest in the instruction of children, which was neglected throughout the province. For this important purpose he established a species of Sunday-school. As an aid to his
instructional efforts, he published a short Catechism for children, and another for persons of more advanced age. These praiseworthy labours excited envy in some of his clerical brethren, whose indifference to the wants of the people seemed to be reproved by Bekker's intelligent zeal. A cry was raised against him. Being a student of the philosophy of Descartes, then feared by traditionalists, he was described as an enemy to religion. The charge was sustained out of his second Catechism, which fell under the clerical ban as containing "strange expressions, unscriptural positions and dangerous opinions." His assailants went so far as to charge him with Socinianism, which at that time was a serious crime in Holland, now among the freest lands of Europe and America, whether for religious or social liberality. The annoyances he underwent in consequence of his righteous endeavours, induced him to leave Friesland, and, after a change of place or two, he settled in Amsterdam (1679). The comet which appeared in 1680 and 1681, and which terrified the world, called forth from him another manly utterance in his Ondersoch over de Kometei, or Inquiry concerning Comets, wherein he attempted to calm men's minds by shewing that comets are not the presages or forerunners of calamity. This piece gained him great reputation, as did his Exposition on the Prophet Daniel, in which he gave abundant evidence of learning and sound judgment. But the work on which his fame is built is his Betooverde Wereld, The World Bewitched. What led him to write this important work was, as he declares in its Preface, his grief to see the great honours, powers and miracles which are ascribed to the devil. 66 It is come to pass," he says, "that men think it piety and godliness to ascribe a great many wonders to the devil, and impiety and heresy if a man will not believe that the devil can do what a thousand persons affirm he does. It is now reckoned religious if a man who fears God fears the devil also. If he is not afraid of the devil, he passes for an atheist, because he cannot think that there are two gods, the one good, the other
THE SCRIPTURE DOES NOT TEACH A PERSONAL SATAN. 331
bad. But these, I think, with much more reason, may be called Ditheists (believers in two gods). For my part, if on account of my opinion they will give me a new name, let them call me a Monotheist, for I am a believer in but one God." The object of the work, according to its author, was
to strip the devil of his power, and to drive him back from earth to hell." Guided by the Cartesian doctrine, which places the essence of spirits in the faculty of thought, he expressly denied the operation of evil spirits on human beings, and described the references to good angels in the Scripture as figurative representations of the agency of God. In a scriptural confession of his belief, which he laid before the Upper Consistory of Amsterdam, he denies the existence of angels as well as that of devils, but without giving his reasons. More emphatic are his declarations against the popular falsities which tell of covenants with the devil, of magic, of witchcraft, of ghosts, of demoniacal possessions, &c.; repudiating altogether the kingdom of Satan, to which was attributed a power equal to, if not greater than, that of the Creator.
He shews how that Scripture does not propound or set forth any doctrine or view of the devil as a matter of belief, but finding the notion already in existence, makes use of it for its own purposes. There are, he states, many things in Scripture on which no information is given and no acceptance demanded (e.g., the Urim and Thummim). The Bible is not given to teach us the nature of things or their real existence, but to shew us them in their relation to God and our own good; in other words, its position is not a strictly scientific one, but a religious and practical one. Accordingly, much of what is said of the devil must be looked on as faded flowers; and even the temptation of Christ, Bekker explains as an alternation of opposite thoughts which determine Jesus in favour of duty in its highest claims. The passage in 1 Peter v. 8, which describes the devil as a roaring lion which walketh about seeking whom he may devour, makes reference to the