The Nature and Tendency of Modern Spiritualism


Chapter Seven. They Are not the Spirits of the Dead—They Are the Spirits of Devils

Besides the demons so often spoken of in the Scriptures (commonly translated devils), there is another class of spiritual existences recognized there, namely, the angels of God. We hold that none of these are the spirits of dead human beings. Angels have sometimes appeared in the similitude of men, but that a distinction is recognized is very plain. Paul says in Hebrews 2:16, that Christ took not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham; therefore the seed of Abraham are not angels. In the account of the transfiguration, which was the only instance of the appearance (after death) of any of Adam’s race, till after the resurrection of Christ, Moses and Elias are called by name, but they are not called angels. At the resurrection of Christ, “the angel of the Lord descended from heaven,” while saints came up out of their graves. NTMS 99.1

We elsewhere prove that the devil was not of human origin; as he was a sinner before the fall of the human race. Peter also says that the angels that sinned were cast down, to be reserved unto the Judgment. 2 Peter 2:4. Jude says the same. Verse 6. Paul says the saints shall judge angels; but this judgment, to which the fallen angels are reserved, is not in this life. 1 Corinthians 6:2, 3. The Saviour promised the apostles that, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, they shall sit upon thrones, judging. Matthew 19:28. And John located their occupancy of the thrones of judgment after the resurrection. Revelation 20. Thus the distinction of saints and angels is still preserved in the world to come. Again, that there are heavenly intelligences not of human origin is shown in Genesis 3, where it is stated that God placed cherubim to guard the way of the tree of life. This was before the death of any of the human race. NTMS 100.1

The passage of Scripture that is, perhaps, more than any other, pressed into the service of Spiritualism, is found in Revelation 22:9; but this also is made to serve in that cause by a perversion. Spiritualists affirm that the angel said he was one of the prophets. The word one is not in the text, neither is it necessary to be supplied to make sense of the text, or to make it harmonize with the general teachings of the Scriptures. To the contrary, we contend that the addition of this word gives a wrong sense to the passage-one not justified by the Scriptures; yet that addition is quite necessary to make it even seem to teach the spiritual theory. It is quoted with this addition by Judge Edmonds, in “Spiritual Tracts,” No. 2, p. 12, or “Reply to Bishop Hopkins;” by a Mr. Barnum, in a discussion at Clarksfield, Ohio, published at Oberlin; and is so used, though not in the form of a verbatim quotation, by Woodman, “Reply to Dwight,” p. 19; and by Gov. Tallmadge in the Introduction to the “Healing of the Nations,” p. 24. The angel refused to be worshiped by John, saying, “I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.” Now if there is an ellipsis to be supplied anywhere in the passage it is quite as natural to read it: “I am thy fellow-servant, and the fellow-servant of thy brethren the prophets,” etc. All intelligences are fellow-servants of the same Deity. NTMS 100.2

But if the passage contained the interpolated word, and read as quoted by Edmonds and others, it would not necessarily teach the spiritualistic view, as Enoch and Elijah did not die, and many saints were raised from the dead at the resurrection of Christ; and one of these could have said with truth what is attributed to the angel in Revelation 22:9. NTMS 101.1

This leads us to examine the subject of Scripture psychology, or perhaps more properly Scripture anthropology; for we wish to inquire what the Scriptures teach of man as a being, a subject of the government of God. And we feel confident that a fair examination of this subject must convince those who make the word of God their standard of faith that it is impossible that these rappers should be the souls or spirits of dead men. 5 NTMS 101.2

Man was formed of the dust of the earth; when the Lord breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, the man (that was made of the dust) became a living soul. Genesis 2:7. These words are translated from the Hebrew neh-phesh chayiah. The correct use of these words seems to be but little understood. It is generally supposed that the term soul, or living soul, implies an immortal, intelligent principle, superadded to the man that was made of the dust of the earth. But the Scriptures do not so teach. The man that was made of the earth became a living soul, or living creature. But he was made before he received the breath of life; of course he was then an inanimate, lifeless creature, or soul. Some reader may, perhaps, be shocked at the idea of a lifeless or dead soul; but the Scriptures are our guide, and they warrant the expression. In Numbers 6:6, the law of the Nazarite is that “he shall come at no dead body;” Hebrew, meth neh-phesh, literally, dead soul. 6 The same also in Numbers 19:13. Again, Ezekiel 18:4, says, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” There could then be no impropriety in calling it a dead soul. NTMS 102.1

The Hebrew word neh-phesh occurs in the Old Testament 745 times. It is translated soul, 473 times; life, 118 times: person, 29 times; mind, 15 times; heart, 15 times; body, 10 times; will, 4 times; thing, twice; beast, twice. It is translated 43 different ways, but is never spoken of as being immortal. It first occurs in Genesis 1:20: “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life;” Hebrew, soul; see margin. Also in verse 30: “And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life;” margin, Hebrew, a living soul. Verse 24 is nearly like verse 30, but neh-phesh is translated creature. On this passage, Dr. Clarke says:- NTMS 103.1

Neh-phesh chayiah; a general term to express all creatures endued with animal life, in any of its infinitely varied gradations; from the half-reasoning elephant down to the stupid potto, or lower still, to the polyp, which seems equally to share the vegetable and animal life.” NTMS 104.1

If this expression, living soul, applied to man in Genesis 2:7, proves his natural immortality, it would equally prove the immortality of those living souls or creatures spoken of by Dr. Clarke, as quoted above. But we do not consider that they prove the immortality of these inferior creatures or imply their equality with man; nor does man’s superiority and hope of immortality rest on such expressions. NTMS 104.2

The doctrine of inherent immortality, independent of the gospel of Christ, is not a Bible doctrine, and of course is not of divine origin. But it is the foundation of Spiritualism, and therefore we cannot wonder at the great efforts of Spiritualists to uphold the dogma. Were we ignorant of Satan’s devices, we should be astonished that a doctrine which has not a single testimony of Scripture to sustain it, should come to be a cardinal doctrine professedly based on the Scriptures. And when we see hundreds and thousands of professors of Christianity renouncing the Bible for Spiritualism, claiming that it affords the most reasonable and philosophical evidence of the immortality of the soul, we can but think it is because the words of the Lord in Genesis 3:19, and the gospel hope of the resurrection of the dead, have been rejected. NTMS 104.3

We are admonished by this that error is always dangerous in its tendency, whatever appearance it may present. It may in a measure be inert, and be regarded as harmless, or even useful, till called into activity by circumstances, and may then become the prevailing and overspreading abomination of the age. Error is never innocent. If it appears to be idle, it is yet like the seed thrown into the ground, which, though lost to the eye and beyond immediate notice, is nevertheless gaining strength to spring forth into life and activity. And as we do not expect a harvest except the grain passes through a process of gradual development, so error is often sown in stillness, and acquires strength without opposition, because the nature of its fruit is not yet apparent. By association, also, vice itself ceases to appear repulsive; therefore, we should not be surprised if those who have sported with error in its youth, should consent to nourish it in its age. That these remarks are pertinent, we think will appear on examination of the subject. NTMS 105.1

When man was created, he was subject to law, and (contrary to the teachings of Spiritualism) placed on probation, or made accountable for his actions. The Lord forbade a certain course of action, declaring as a penalty if he pursued it, that he should “surely die.” The serpent contradicted God, and said man should not die though he disobeyed God. Here the foundation was laid for the theory of Spiritualism. But the issue is on record-the result is apparent to all. The serpent “beguiled” them to destruction, as the Bible says. Adam died, Eve died, and their posterity are every day dying around us. But the deceptions of the “wicked one” are not ended. He has introduced false expositions of God’s word, and yet makes man believe that he was right. Satan assumes an air of wisdom, and introduces himself as a learned philosopher! telling man that his body was corruptible in its nature, and it would have died if he had never sinned! but his “soul” is immortal and cannot die though he sin ever so much. And this, alas, is currently believed. But if this were so, it would be more proper to say that the Lord beguiled man, making him believe that death was the consequence of his sin, and not of his nature; wherein then did the serpent lie? We ask the reader to pause and reflect, and turn from a doctrine involving such impious conclusions. NTMS 105.2

It is certainly safe and right to take the Lord’s own exposition of the penalty he threatened, as enunciated in the sentence pronounced against the transgression. The sentence pronounced by the Lord was this: That man should return unto the ground from whence he was taken. His action was this: He drove man out of the garden, and deprived him of the tree of life, lest he should eat and live forever. By this we learn what God meant when he told man he should die if he disobeyed. And here we have before us the record of the creation of man, his probation, his fall, the sentence, and its execution; facts in which we are all interested, a thralldom in which we are all involved, and hence the necessity exists for a full understanding of the subject. But not an intimation is given of a soul-entity or intelligent immortal principle that escaped the sentence. What, it may be inquired, became of his intelligence, his thoughts, when he returned to the earth? We will let David in the Psalms answer. As the organization of man was given by Moses, so the disorganization was described by David. Psalm 146:4: “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” This does not mean, as some have inferred, that his purposes perish; for David purposed to build a house for the Lord, which was carried out after his death; nor does it refer to what he has thought in the past; for David’s past thoughts are yet preserved in his writings. It can only refer to the power of thought, or process of thinking, which ceases at death. It is objected that this is a cheerless and repulsive view of death. We confess that it is so; but to the objector we say, You are then seeking just what the serpent hypocritically offered, but God denied, namely, a consequence of sin neither cheerless nor repulsive. But this should not be the direction of our investigation. The question is, What is truth? What say the Scriptures? He who prefers a pleasing fable to unpleasant truth may turn at once from God’s word to the vagaries and falsities of Spiritualism, where the “carnal mind” will find enough to please it. But we have to deal with facts, not with fancies; and where shall the truth be found? Most certainly with one of three classes:- NTMS 106.1

First, Those who teach that the soul is immortal, and that death means eternal torment. This involves the idea that part of the human race are now, and have been for thousands of years, suffering unutterable torment; that they will be caused to appear in the Judgment, and then returned to their abode of woe, to suffer on in ever-increasing tortures to all eternity. But this is not only repulsive, but the Bible does not teach it, the penalty of the law does not include it, justice does not demand it, reason does not approve it, nor is there an attribute of God or of his government, as revealed in his word, that requires it; man is not held in check by it, because it is beyond the power of his imagination to reach it. Or, NTMS 107.1

Secondly, Those who deny a future Judgment, and punishment for sin. But this virtually ignores all government, tramples on justice, tolerates vice, and directly contradicts God’s word. Or, NTMS 108.1

Thirdly, Those who believe that man, in death, rests in unconscious sleep, awaiting the decision of the Judgment; that after that event the righteous will be raised to everlasting life and an inheritance in the kingdom of God; while the wicked, who have rejected the Saviour, and refused to seek for immortality, are judged unworthy of eternal life, and are destroyed by fire, which is the second death. This last view, we believe, is the truth. It accords with the account of the creation and the fall of man, with the psalmist’s view of death and the cessation of thought or the powers of the mind, and with the many scriptures that teach our dependence for eternal life on Jesus and the resurrection. NTMS 108.2

Solomon, comparing the state of the living and the dead, says, “The living know that they shall die,” which is the simplest knowledge, deduced from continuous observation; but, simple as it is, it is beyond the power of the dead; for “the dead know not anything.” Ecclesiastes 9:5. Hezekiah, king of Judah, praised God for the prolongation of his life, and acknowledged his opportunities to praise on this account. “For,” said he, “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.” Isaiah 38:18, 19. But Spiritualism teaches that the dead find more truth than the living. David asks: “Shall thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” Psalm 88:11, 12. Well might Isaiah ask even with astonishment, “Should not a nation seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?” when the dead know nothing, and are in the land of forgetfulness. NTMS 108.3

The word soul in the New Testament is from the Greek word psuche, which occurs 105 times. It is translated soul 58 times; life, 40 times; mind, 3 times; heart, twice; us, once; you, once. The originals from which the word soul is translated in the two Testaments occur 850 times, but it is never called immortal; it is in no place intimated that it is of an undying nature; immortality is never predicated of man until the resurrection, and then only of the righteous; it is to be sought for by well-doing. Romans 2:7. NTMS 109.1

Nor is the principle of immortality contained in the “breath of life,” which was breathed into man. It was strictly and only what the words imply-the breath of life; its effect was to make the man a living man. It is from this term that the word spirit is derived. Its property of vivifying, or giving life, is recognized by the apostle James, who says the body without the spirit is dead. This term is also applied indiscriminately to all living, breathing creatures, in Genesis 7:21, 22; and Solomon expressly declares of men and beasts that “they have all one breath,” or spirit. Ecclesiastes 3:19. NTMS 109.2

Spirit is translated in the Old Testament from two Hebrew words, n’shah-mah and roo-ach. N’shah-mah occurs 24 times, and is translated spirit, twice; breath, 17 times; blast, 3 times; soul, once; inspiration, once. Roo-ach occurs 442 times, and is translated 16 ways; namely, spirit, 282 times; wind, 97 times; breath, 28 times; mind, 6 times; etc. This word, roo-ach, is used in Ecclesiastes 21 times, and is rendered spirit, 18 times; wind, twice; and breath, once. In the text quoted, “They have all one breath,” or spirit, Ecclesiastes 3:19, the same word is translated spirit in the 21st verse, which speaks of the spirit of man and the spirit of the beast. This teaches that “a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast,” in death; for they are all of the dust, and all go to the dust, and have all one breath. The difference between men and beasts is shown in life-not in death. How highly, then, should we value the resurrection and Jesus the Life-giver! since all our hope rests on him. NTMS 110.1

The equivalent of roo-ach of the Old Testament is pnewma in the Greek of the New Testament. It is also variously translated, as follows: Ghost, 92 times; spirit, 291 times; wind, once; life, once-margin, breath; in all, 385 times. Though these words are translated so many different ways, and used with every possible shade of meaning, the idea of immortality, or a continuous conscious existence after death, is never associated with them. NTMS 110.2

In the Scriptures, life-eternal life, is presented as a subject of hope. Titus 1:2. It is promised by and through Jesus Christ; John 10:28; 3:16; 6:40; 1 John 5:10, 11; and it is to be given at the coming of Christ, in the resurrection. Colossians 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 5:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 15:52-55. NTMS 110.3

The Scripture truths that we have here presented in brief will give the reader readily to understand that the common-very common phrases, immortal soul, and deathless spirit, are not Bible terms, nor is the idea that they are designed to convey sanctioned by the Bible. To use them as they are used by Spiritualists, and in the current theology of the day, is to give false ideas of fallen humanity, and to rob the gospel of Jesus, the Life-giver, of its prerogatives and glory. The following summary of the writings of Paul on this subject shows the wide difference between the modern views, and the views of the writers of the Scriptures:- NTMS 111.1

“1. The apostle Paul is the only writer in the whole Bible who makes use of the word immortal or immortality. NTMS 111.2

“2. He never applies it to sinners. NTMS 111.3

“3. He never applies it to either righteous or wicked in this world. NTMS 111.4

“4 He never applies it to men’s souls at all, either before or after death. NTMS 111.5

“5. He speaks of it as an attribute of the King Eternal. 1 Timothy 1:17. NTMS 111.6

“6 He declares that he is the only possessor of it. 1 Timothy 6:16. NTMS 111.7

“7. He presents it as an object which men are to seek after by patient continuance in well-doing. Romans 2:7. NTMS 111.8

“8. He speaks of it as revealed or brought to light (not in heathen philosophy, but) in the gospel of the Son of God. 2 Timothy 1:10. NTMS 111.9

“9. He defines the period when it shall be “put on” by the saints of God, and fixes it at the resurrection, when Christ who is our life, shall appear. 1 Corinthians 15:52, 54; Colossians 3:4. NTMS 111.10

“10. Therefore he never taught the immortality of the soul as it is now taught, and hence, when he declared that sinners should be destroyed, or perish, or die, or be burned, or devoured by fire, he did so without any ‘mental reservations,’ or ‘theological definitions.’ In other words, he said what he meant, and meant what he said.”-Pauline Theology. 7 NTMS 111.11

There are those who will meet this with the cry of “materialism,” rather than with argument; and with them materialism is nearly synonymous with infidelity. On this we call the reader’s attention to the following extracts from Dr. Chalmers’ sermon on the new heavens and earth, which, though very brief, are sufficient to disarm the candid of all prejudice on this subject:- NTMS 112.1

“The common idea of paradise is that of a lofty aerial region, where the inmates float in ether, or are mysteriously suspended upon nothing, where all the warm and sensible accompaniments which give such an expression of strength and life and coloring to our present world are attenuated into a sort of spiritual element that is meager and imperceptible, and utterly uninviting to the eye of mortals here, where every vestige of materialism is done away, and nothing left but certain unearthly scenes that have no power of allurement, and certain unearthly ecstacies with which it is impossible to sympathize. NTMS 112.2

“The holders of this imagination forget all the while that really there is no essential connection between materialism and sin; that the world which we now inhabit had all the amplitude and solidity of its present materialism before sin entered into it; that God so far on that account from looking slightly upon it after it had received the last touch of his creating hand, reviewed the earth and all the green herbage, with the living creatures and the man whom he had raised in dominion over them, and he saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good. NTMS 112.3

“They forget all the while that on the birth of materialism, when it stood out in the freshness of those glories which the great Architect of nature had impressed upon it, the ‘morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.’ NTMS 112.4

“They forget the appeals that are made everywhere in the Bible to this material workmanship, and how from the face of these visible heavens, and the garniture of this earth upon which we tread, the greatness and goodness of God are reflected on the view of his worshipers. NTMS 113.1

“No, the object of the administration we are under is to extirpate sin, but not to sweep away materialism; the fires of the last day may melt its solid elements until they are utterly dissolved, but out of the ruins of this second chaos another earth will arise, a new materialism in beauty and magnificence, a ‘new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.’” NTMS 113.2

The unreliability of the spirits, and the certain tendency of their teachings, are further shown by the following statement, which we believe is fully justified by the Scriptures:- NTMS 113.3