Ghost of Samuel, or a Demon?

Ghost of Samuel or a Demon

Peter Martyr Vermigli
Common Places
First Part, Chapter 10, pp. 72-91
Translated by Anthony Marten (1583).

Ch. 10 Of appearings of devils; of their answers and sundry illusions.

Here I may not pass over certain obscure places, which we find in the history of Samuel (1 Sam. 28). But that they may be the better understood, we will in the expounding of them follow this order. First to inquire who it was that appeared at the call of the witch. Secondly, if it shall manifestly fall out that it was the devil, whether he can so appear, and know things to come. Lastly, if he can do this, whether it be lawful to ask counsel of him.

Who was that which appeared at the call of the witch?

As concerning this first question, it is of necessity, that either the same was Samuel or the devil. But if we affirm that it was Samuel, then will it be doubtful whether he came wholly both in body and soul, or in his body alone, or else in his soul alone.

It was not whole Samuel in soul and body.

If he came wholly in body and soul then must it needs be, that he rose from the dead. But this being an excellent great miracle, cannot be attributed either to the witch or to the devil; yea and there be some, which do not attribute that, no not to God. But those pestilent opinions are easily confuted by the very history of the holy scriptures. For we read of three in the Old Testament which were restored from death to life (1 Kings 17:22; 2 Kings 4:34); one by Elias, another by Elisha being yet alive (2 Kings 13:21) and the third by the bones of Elisha, when he was dead. (Mat. 9:25) In the New Testament we read of the chief ruler of the synagogue his daughter, of the widow’s son of Lazarus, Eutyches, and Dorcas (Luke 7:14; John 11:43; Acts 9:46; 20:10).

Wherefore if we deny that Samuel returned unto life, we do not therefore deny that God could not bring it to pass. For Christ proved the resurrection and said that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Luke 20:38). And Paul in the 15th of the first epistle to the Corinthians, by many reasons of purpose, confirmeth the resurrection of the dead, and in the epistle to the Hebrews he reckoneth it among the grounds of our religion (Heb. 6:2). It is an article of our faith. And undoubtedly, neither the Turks nor Jews deny that the dead shall rise again. But the Montanists, Originists, and such other furies which deny the resurrection, are plainly confuted out of Job, out of the Psalms, Isaiah, Daniel, and everywhere out of the New Testament.

We do not (I say) deny that it was done because it could not be done, but because such miracles, whereas they ought to be testimonies of the truth, would here be testimonies of lies and magical wickedness. And because it is not likely that God would permit it. For so notable a thing may not be attributed unto the power of the devil, because to be able to raise the dead belongeth only unto God. But Apollonius Tyaneus raised a maid. Indeed so it is written in his life. Howbeit the same in very dead was but a fantasy, and not a thing done. And that is also to be affirmed as touching Simon Magus.

It was not the dead carcass of Samuel.

And now that it was the carcass of Samuel it is not likely. Neither do any of the interpreters, saving only Burgensis, say that it was so. And undoubtedly a dead carcass is of itself senseless, and void of life. Neither could it have answered anything, unless the devil had put on the same. But the devil could do these things even without a dead carcass. For he might have taken upon him the form and figure thereof.

Whether it was the soul of Samuel.

2. Wherefore let us see whether it were the soul of Samuel or the devil. For the interpreters seem to write diversely of that matter. Some say that it could not be his soul because they think that the souls of men remain not after death. But these be wicked, mad, and doting opinions.

Undoubtedly souls remain after the death of the body.

For out of all doubt the souls of the godly are extant, and do live before God. For so God himself saith, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3:6). And Christ addeth thereunto, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:32). And Christ said to the thief, “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Certainly, “today” had been a very long time if he had commanded him to wait till the general resurrection! But a thousand years (say they) with the Lord are but as one day (Psal. 90:4; 1 Pet. 3:8). I grant, howbeit that adverb today is not always to be understood after that sort. Yea, and Augustine in his epistle to Dardanus, understanding that adverb properly, saith that the body of Christ was that day in the sepulcher, and his soul in hell; and that therefore of necessity the thief was present with the Godhead of Christ in paradise. For he granteth not, that either the soul or the body of the Lord could be in sundry places at one time. And Paul saith to the Philippians, “I desire to be loosed from hence” (Phil. 1:23). He saith not “and to sleep, and to be extinguished,” but “to be with Christ.” And it had been better to have continued living, than to have departed into sleep; for here we acknowledge and praise the Lord.

Moreover, we read that Lazarus was carried into felicity, and the rich glutton was cast into hell (Luke 16:22). And to that other rich man, which decreed with himself to enlarge his barns (and to lay up for many years to come) it is said, “Thou fool this night shall they take thy soul from thee” (Luke 12:20). Also Chrysostom, in his second homily of Lazarus, saith, The souls of men are not taken away all in one manner of estate: for some depart hence unto pain, and others being guarded with angels, are taken up into heaven. In the Apocalypse, the souls of the blessed receive long garments, they stand before the throne, and follow the lamb wheresoever he goeth (Rev. 7:14 and 14:4). When Steven was dying, he said, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). If the soul should have died utterly, why did he rather commend that than his body? Doubtless it cannot be found in any place that the godly commended their bodies unto the Lord. And in the second to the Corinthians, “For we know that if the earthly mansion of this our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building given of God; even an house not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1). These words are not to be understood of our state after the resurrection (for there we shall be clothed with our bodies also) and therefore they are meant of the state between our departure hence and the resurrection. Wherefore souls do remain after this life. And in the same epistle Paul saith; “Whether in the body, or out of the body I know not,” etc. (2 Cor. 12:3). Which proveth that the soul may be severed from the body. For he putteth a possibility both of the one way and the other. In this place therefore the question is not, as touching the body, but as touching the soul of Samuel.

Samuel or the Devil?

3. But the controversy is, whether this were Samuel or the devil? About which matter, not only the Rabbins, but also the Christian fathers have disagreed among themselves.

The Opinions of the Fathers.

Yea and among the latter writers Burgensis thinketh one way, and Lyra another. Justin Martyr against Triphon saith that it was Samuel. In which place he hath certain things which may not well be granted. For he saith that all souls before Christ, even of the godly, were after a sort under the power of the devil, so that he might bring them back when he would. But Christ saith that Lazarus was in the bosom of Abraham, and not in the power of the devil (Luke 16:22). But that (thou wilt say) is a parable. I grant it, yet is it drawn from things likely to be true, and which might be. Yea and Tertullian so accounted that narration to be done indeed, as he thinketh that Lazarus was John Baptist, and the rich glutton was Herod, and that Christ would forbear their names. In the 46th of Ecclesiasticus (v. 23) is set forth the praise of Samuel, where among other things it is said that he prophesied after that he was dead, and fore-shewed to the king the day of his death.

Contrariwise Tertullian in his book De Anima hath many things most worthy to be marked. For he calleth the arts of magic a second idolatry. For even as in the former the devil feigneth himself to be God, so in the latter he feigneth himself to be an angel, or a dead man, and seeketh both ways to be worshiped. And it is no marvel, if he dazzle the outward eyes of men when as he before occupied the eyes of the mind. For so (saith he) did the rods of Pharaoh’s sorcerers seem to be serpents (Ex. 7), but yet afterward falsehood was devoured up of the truth. And whereas the Symonians say that they can with their enchantments call up the dead unto life, that was only a mere imagination and a mock. And even so the devil in this place mocked both the witch and Saul, and deceived both the eyes of the one, and the ears of the other. In Libya (saith he) there be Nasomons, which lie at the tombs of their parents, and in Europe, Frenchmen which lie watching at the sepulchers of mighty men to the intent they may receive oracles from them after they are dead. But he saith that in those things there is no certainty or soundness, and that they be only vain lies and fantasies. Origin writeth nothing purposely of this matter. And yet in the history of Balaam he saith that good spirits do not obey magical incantations. Contrariwise Ambrose upon Luke in the first book and first chapter saith that Samuel prophesied even when he was dead. But without doubt he alludeth unto that place of the 46th chapter of Ecclesiasticus. As touching Chrysostom and Jerome I will speak afterward.

Augustine was doubtful whether it was Samuel or not.

4. Augustine did not always write of this thing after one manner. In the second book to Simplicianus, the third question, he saith that both may be defended. Yet as touching the first opinion he seemeth to doubt how Saul being a man now rejected by God, could talk with Samuel being a prophet and holy man. But he answereth that this is no new thing, for in Job (1:6) the evil spirits talked with God himself. And in the history of Ahab, the lying spirit offered his service unto the Lord (1 Kings 22). Yea and that princes do sometimes talk with thieves (yet to the intent they may punish them) whereas in the mean time they speak not with honest men whom they love and mean to defend.

The devil can do many things against the godly.

But what power (saith he) had the devil over Samuel, that he was able to bring him? He answereth that he had power to torment Job (Job 1:12, 2:6), and that he coveted to sift his disciples (Luke 22:31), that he set Christ upon the pinnacle (Mat. 4:5). And further, that if Christ without any diminishing of his honour might be hanged upon the cross, and afflicted with torments, it is likely that Samuel also might be raised again without any impairing of his felicity—doubtless not by any strength or power of the devil, but by the permission of God, that he might terrify Saul. So do some understand that which was done in Balaam (Num. 22:12), for he was a soothsayer, and took his journey to the intent that by magical charms he might curse the Jews: but God prevented the cunning of the devil. Howbeit of this matter I affirm nothing. But Augustine demandeth further, how Samuel being so good a man, did come unto an evil man? And he answereth that in this life also good men do come unto evil men. But this is a weak argument, for men do it in this life either of duty, or else of friendship, or familiarity. Now Samuel was out of this life, and was called by a witch, whom he ought not to have obeyed.

Scripture names things by what they represent.

But Augustine thinketh that it may be more easily answered if we say that it was not Samuel, but only a vain imagination and fantasy. Howbeit he cannot but grant that two things are against this opinion. One is that the scriptures do always so speak as if it had been very Samuel. But he answereth that it is the usual manner of the scriptures to call similitudes by the names of those things which they represent. For so the wooden images were called cherubims, and Solomon made brasen oxen (1 Kings 6:23; 1 Kings 7:25; 1 Sam. 6:11) and the Philistines gave silver mice. Neither do the holy scriptures lie when they speak after that sort. For men are wont commonly so to speak, and it pleased God to apply himself to the sense and capacity of man.

The devil sometimes speaks truthfully.

Another thing is that he truly fore-shewed what would come to pass, namely that Saul with his sons should be slain, and that the host of Israel should be overthrown (1 Sam. 28:19). But he answereth that this also is no new or wonderful thing, for the devils confessed Christ to be the Son of God (Mark 1:24). And in the Acts of the apostles, they gave a very goodly testimony of Paul’s doctrine (Acts 16:17). Even so in this place, God useth the service of the devil to the intent he might terrify Saul, that he, which had taken counsel of evil spirits, might be afflicted with an evil answer. But he addeth how might Saul be with Samuel, a wicked man with an holy prophet. Such he saith is the subtlety of the devil, always to mingle some truth with falsehood. For assuredly (saith he) there is great distance of place between the blessed souls and the reprobate. And this he proveth out of the history of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:26).

Of Ubiquity.

This I make mention of, for so much as I see that they which affirm the body of Christ to be in every place, have no reason so to say. For if that were true, then the souls of the godly should be in every place also. For Christ saith “Wheresoever I am there also my minister shall be” (John 12:26). And by this means there should be no differences between souls for all should be in all places. But they say that Jerome writeth thus against Vigilantius. For Vigilantius denied that we should call upon dead men, for they are in the bosom of Abraham, and do not wander about their sepulchers and ashes. Then are they not (saith Jerome) in any stinking prison, but in a pleasant and large custody, like certain fathers of the order of senators. But (saith he) They follow the Lamb wheresoever he goeth, now the Lamb is everywhere (Rev. 14:4). Further (saith he) shall we grant this unto devils, that they can wander up and down throughout the whole world, and shall we deny the same unto the blessed souls of godly men?

Jerome misseth concerning the ubiquity of souls.

Here Jerome (by his good leave may it be spoken) is somewhat out of the way, and yet he hath not spoken of that whereof these men did mean. He erreth in saying that the souls of dead men are conversant about their sepulchers, and that they are to be invoked, yet doth he not say that they be everywhere. He compareth them with spirits, which (he saith) do wander everywhere, that is, they be sometimes here and sometimes there. But if they were everywhere, they could not wander here and there, and change places. And therefore Jerome saith that neither the Lamb, nor the souls departed, nor devils be in every place, but that they in such sort wander at large, as they may be wheresoever they list. These things I have touched by the way.

But Augustine answereth that that saying of Samuel may be understood of the general state of death, and not of the equality of happiness. In the latter end he addeth that whereas there be but these two ways only, the former may not be admitted, unless it be proved to be possible that souls departed may by magical charms be called again, and bear the proportion of men’s bodies. And therefore of necessity the other way remaineth, namely, that it was done by the counsel and will of God. But by the power of incantation that could not be done, and yet by the purpose and commandment of God it might be brought to pass. And to this opinion I willingly agree. For if God will, I see not what should hinder it.

Augustine elsewhere argued against the ghost being Samuel.

5. In the sixth question to Dulcitius, he hath in a manner the same that he hath to Simplicianus. But in the questions of the old and new testament (if that be Augustine’s book; which I speak, because of the censure and judgment of Erasmus, who hath separated that book from the works of Augustine) he accounteth it detestable for any man to think that it was Samuel whom the witch raised up—for it was only a delusion and an imagination. For the devil did this to bring himself unto honour, and to persuade men that the souls of the dead be in his power, and that they shall not escape from his hands after death. But if the history be well discussed, we shall not find any thing at all to prove that it was Samuel. But that Saul indeed, when he had heard the description of his apparel, and the fashion of his body, thought that it had been so: that the scripture applied itself to his mind and opinion. That Saul fell down and worshiped, and thereby the devil had that which he sought for. That Samuel would never have suffered it, but that he said Saul should be with him the next day, because he was wicked, and should perish everlastingly. But what shall we answer as touching Jonathan (“…to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me…” 1 Sam. 28:19) who was well known to be a just man? Wherefore this answer of Augustine seemeth to be feeble. In his second book De doctrina christiana the 26th chapter, he saith it was an image raised up by sacrilege. In another book De mirabilibus sacrae scripturae (if the same be Augustine’s book) he likewise denieth that it was Samuel indeed.

The dead know not what is done in this life.

Also in his little book De cura pro mortuis agenda, he hath many excellent things, but in the end he concludeth that it seemeth unto him, the souls of those which are departed be ignorant what is done in this life. For whereas they oftentimes appear and present themselves to living men, sometimes waking, and sometimes sleeping (cf. 2 Kings 22:23), that may be done by angels, either good or bad. And he saith that we ourselves do oftentimes present ourselves to our friends in our sleep, when as we ourselves think nothing thereof. And that he himself being at Milan, expounded a hard place of Cicero to his scholar Eulogius being asleep in Africa. And upon the Acts of the apostles, he saith that Saul being come near unto Damascus (Acts 9:12) God fore-shewed unto Ananias, that Saul in a dream had seen him put his hands upon him, and cure his eyes; (A revelation by a dream) and yet Ananias himself did not perceive the same. In like manner he saith, that at Milan, when a certain citizen was dead, there came a creditor, to whom he had sometime been indebted, and demanded his money, and when the son knew the creditor to be satisfied by his father while he lived, but yet having no quittance or discharge to shew, his father afterward shewed him in his sleep, in what place the acquittance was laid. This thing Augustine thinketh, not to be done by his father being dead, but by some angel. For if so be that the dead might be present in our affairs, they would not (saith he) forsake us in this sort, especially (saith he) my mother Monica, who in her life time could never be without me, would not now being dead thus leave me. Wherefore he concludeth at the length, that they know nothing of our doings, more than it shall please God himself to reveal unto them. Or else that angels or souls departing hence shall shew unto them, which notwithstanding (saith he) shew not unto them all things, but only such things as God shall permit them.

But yet he saith, it may be that God sometimes extraordinarily sendeth some man again into this life. For he saith that in the siege of the city of Nola, Felix the bishop of Nola being dead, was by many men seen defending the city. And that as Paul being taken up into the third heaven might be among the angels, so may souls likewise extraordinarily return again unto men. And that even so Moses and Elias were seen upon the mount with Christ. But if thou wilt say that Elias then lived, yet it is manifest that Moses was dead (Mat. 17:3). This is therein the opinion of Augustine. In which place he by the way toucheth in a manner the same things as concerning Samuel, which he did unto Simplicianus, namely, that it may be that God either by an extraordinary way sendeth again the souls of the dead unto their sepulchers, or else that it pleaseth him to have these things done by angels. But he never said that souls are in many places at one time.

6. Chrysostom (so far as I know) hath written nothing expressly of Samuel, but yet in his 29th homily upon Matthew, he saith, that it must in no wise be believed that the souls of dead men be conversant upon the earth. The rich man (saith he) desired that Lazarus might be sent back (Luke 16:31), but he obtained it not. Hereunto I add: by what means then could the witch obtain this concerning Samuel? For the consideration was alike on both sides. The souls (saith Chrysostom) be in a certain place waiting for the judgment, neither can they remove themselves from thence. And in his second homily of Lazarus, if the devil (saith he) have no power over them that be alive, how can he have any power over the souls of them that be dead? And in the fourth homily he saith if it should be so, there would be a great gap open for the devil to beguile and deceive. For under that shew he would return and teach errors. Howbeit that seemeth not to be of any force, for so God also, when he raised up the dead, and called back Elias and Moses, might seem to have opened a way unto errors. For under that shew also the devil might insinuate himself and deceive men. But it seemeth that Chrysostom restraineth this unto secret things, and unto the state of dead men. Certainly, they whom Christ and his apostles raised never taught what was done in the other life. They (saith Chrysostom) that lay hold of dreams, run into deceit. The same thing (saith he) would come to pass, if under this color of the dead it should be lawful to ask counsel of devils.

Jerome hath nothing of this matter, but that upon the seventh chapter of Isaiah he saith that many thought Saul to have had received a sign out of the earth, and from the depth of hell, when it seemed that Samuel did rise up. This he saith is the opinion of others, not his. Further he saith that it seemed to be Samuel, but yet that it was not he. And upon Jeremiah 12 he writeth thus:

“God heareth them not in the time of necessity and distress, because they also would not hear the voice of the Lord. And this did Saul also suffer; for when as he being sore afraid of the Philistines army, was not worthy to receive the word of the Lord, he turned himself to the witch, to the intent he might learn that of idols, which by earnest prayer and tears he should have obtained of the Lord. By which words we learn that although the Lord will not favorably hear us, yet we must not leave praying, neither must we run to devils, who cannot help the worshipers of them, but must crave the help of the Lord.”

But by these words he defineth not whether the devil by himself, or by the soul of Samuel brought again, answered to the questions of enchantment.

Lyra thinketh that it was very Samuel; which he gathered partly by the text itself, and partly by that place of Ecclesiasticus [46:19-20]. And as when Balaam would have raised the devil, God intermeddled his own self: even so when this witch called unto her an evil spirit, God sent Samuel. And by this means (saith he) we do not confirm, but we do quite overthrow magical arts.

Howbeit all these arguments be weak. First, because Ecclesiasticus is not of the canonical scriptures. Secondly, it might be called Samuel because it seemed to be Samuel. Now by this means art magic might have gotten authority. For albeit thou wilt say that Samuel obeyed not the charms, yet he might seem to have obeyed them. But injury (he saith) had been done unto Samuel if the devil had suborned himself under his person. But this maketh no matter, for the devil doth oftentimes put on the person of God, and the prophets of the devil behave themselves as if they were the apostles and prophets of God.

Paulus Burgensis thinketh by reason of that place in Ecclesiasticus that the spirit of Samuel was not brought, but his carcass only, and yet that in any wise it was Samuel, for thus it is written in Ecclesiasticus, “And when he was fallen asleep,” but the devil he saith doth not sleep. And he saith also that he complained, because the woman had troubled him, seeing his body was now at rest, but neither is this indeed of any great importance. For first it seemeth not credible that a mangled and rotten carcass could be brought into that place. Secondly, if it had been so, Saul himself might have seen the same.

Galatinus thinketh that it was the very spirit of Samuel. But in that he suffered himself to be worshiped, he saith that either it was a civil kind of worship only, or else that Saul worshiped God himself. Howbeit, these also are but weak and vain arguments. For if Saul would have worshiped God, why doth he it then at the last, when he heard that Samuel was come? And as touching the civil worshiping, Saul was a king, and for so much as he had no superior magistrate, he could civilly worship no man. But he addeth, that such a like thing was done under Ahaziah the Kings (2 Kings 1:3) For when he had sent a messenger, to ask counsel of Beelzebub, the god of Ekron, God withstood it by Elias his prophet and gave answer (and one of the captains of Ahaziah fell down and worshiped Elias). Howbeit this similitude is altogether unlike, for Elias was then living, and was seen of the messengers.

It was but an imagination.

7. But to shew at the last what mine opinion is, I am moved by these reasons to think that it was but an imagination. First, seeing God would not give answer unto Saul, neither by prophets, nor by priests, nor by dreams, it is not credible that he would answer him by the dead, and especially seeing he had expressly forbidden that by the law (Deut. 18:11). Further, it must needs be done, either by the will of God, or by the power of art. By the will of God it could not be done, because he forbade it. Neither by the power of art; for witches have no power over the godly. Moreover, Samuel must have come, either willingly, or constrained. Willingly he could not, for then he should have consented unto witchcraft, and to say that he came against his will, that were not fit. I know these reasons are not so strong, that they can persuade an obstinate man. But yet if we consider what belongeth unto God, and what should revoke us from evil arts, they be effectual enough.

In the decretals, the 26th question in the chapter, Nec mirum, it is written that it was only a shew and a fantasy. These words be out of Isidorus, but in the end Augustine is added.

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