The Damned Art of Witchcraft
Works IX, pp. 347-352.
The second kind of divination is by counterfeit and forged means, which are none of the creatures of God, whereof only one kind is mentioned in Scripture, namely, when Satan is consulted within the shape of a dead man. This is commonly called necromancy (or the black art) because the devil, being sought unto by witches, appears unto them in the likeness of a dead body. And it is expressly forbidden (Deut. 18:11), yea, condemned by the prophet Isaiah, who says in plain terms that God’s people ought not to go “from the living to the dead, but to the law and to the testimony” (Isa. 8:19–20).
A memorable example hereof is recorded in 1 Samuel 28, the observation whereof will discover unto us the chief points of necromancy. Saul was about to encounter the Philistines. Being forsaken of God who refused to answer him by dreams, urim, or prophets, Saul inquired for one who had a familiar spirit. And hearing of the pythoness at Endor, he went unto her by night, and caused her to raise up Samuel to tell him of the issue of the war. Now the witch, at his request, raised up the devil, with whom she was confederate, in Samuel’s likeness. He gave Saul an answer concerning his own overthrow and the death of his sons. This example declares plainly that there is a kind of divination whereby witches and sorcerers reveal strange things by means of the devil appearing unto them in the shapes or shadows of the dead.
Touching the truth of this example, two questions may be moved. The first is whether that which appeared was truly Samuel or not? Some say it was Samuel indeed. Others (who hold that there are no witches) deny that it was Samuel or the devil. They affirm it to be some other counterfeit coming in Samuel’s attire to deceive Saul. Both of these opinions are false, and here to be confuted.
Four Reasons Samuel Did Not Return From The Dead.
First, I prove that the opinion which says that true Samuel appeared unto Saul is a flat untruth by these reasons:
First, before this time God had withdrawn His Spirit from Saul, as He Himself confesses, and He denied to answer him any more by ordinary means in such sort as before He had done. Hereupon I gather that it was not probable that God would now vouchsafe him the favor to suffer Samuel to come unto him extraordinarily and tell him what should be the end of his war with the Philistines. And to this purpose it is affirmed twice in that chapter that God had taken His good spirit from Saul.
Second, the souls of the faithful departed are in the hands of God and do rest in glory with Him, and their bodies are in the earth and rest in peace there. So says the voice from heaven: “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord: for they rest from their labors, and their works (that is, the reward of their works) follow them immediately (or, at the heels, as the word signifies)” (Rev. 14:13). Now suppose the devil had power over Samuel’s body, yet to make true Samuel he must have his soul also. But it is not in the power of the devil to bring again the souls that are in heaven unto their bodies, and so to cause them to appear unto men upon earth, and to speak unto them. The devil’s kingdom is in hell and in the hearts of wicked men on earth; yea, while the children of God are in this world, he usurps some authority over them by means of their own corruption. But heaven is the kingdom of God and His saints, where Satan has nothing to do, considering that there is no flesh or corruption to make him entrance or yield him entertainment. Neither can it be proved by Scripture that the devil can disturb either the bodies or souls of them who die in the Lord. And, therefore, the witch with all her power and skill could not bring Samuel’s rotten body (for so no doubt it was by now) and soul together.
Third, this shape which appeared suffered Saul to adore and worship it, whereas the true Samuel would never have received adoration from Saul, the king, though it had been in civil manner only. Whom then did Saul adore? Answer. The devil himself, who being an enemy to the glory of God, was content to take to himself that honor which a king in duty is to perform to God Himself.
Fourth, if it had been true Samuel, he would certainly have reproved Saul for seeking help at witches, contrary to God’s commandment and that doctrine which he had taught him from God in his life time. But this counterfeit reproved him not, and therefore it is not likely to be the true prophet of God, but Satan himself, framing by his art and skill the person and shape of Samuel.
Objection from the Apocryphal book of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus.
But it is alleged to the contrary that Samuel, after his sleep, prophesied of the death of Saul. “After his sleep also he told of the king’s death” (Ecclesiasticus 46:20). Answer. That book penned by Jesus the son of Sirach is a very worthy description of Christian ethics, containing more excellent precepts for manners than all the writings of heathen philosophers or other men, but yet it is not Scripture. Neither did the church ever hold and receive it as canonical. Yea, the author himself insinuates so much in the beginning thereof, for in the preface he disables himself to interpret hard things, and after a sort craves pardon for his weakness, which is not the manner of the men of God, who were penmen of Scripture. For they were so guided by God’s Spirit in their proceedings that nothing could be hard unto them. No ordinary man has assurance of this privilege, and therefore this author, writing upon his own private motion, was subject to error. And no doubt this speech of his, being contrary to that which is recorded in the canonical Scriptures, is a flat untruth.
Objection. Scripture calls him Samuel.
Second, it is objected that the Scripture calls him Samuel, who appeared unto Saul. Answer. The Scripture does often speak of things, not as they are in themselves, but as they seem to us. So, it is affirmed that God made two great lights, the sun and the moon (Gen. 1:16). Whereas the moon is lesser than many stars, yet because in regard of her nearness to the earth, she seems to us greater than the rest, therefore she is called a “great light.” In like manner, idols in the Scripture are called gods, not that they are so indeed (for an idol is nothing (1 Cor. 8:4), but because some men do so conceive of them in their minds. In a word, the Scripture oftentimes does abase itself to our conceit, speaking of things not according as they are, but after the manner of men. And so, in this place it calls counterfeit Samuel by the name of the true Samuel because it seemed so unto Saul.
Objection. The Apparition Prophesied Truly.
Third, that body which appeared prophesied of things that come to pass the day after, as the death of Saul and of his sons. These indeed so fell out, and at the same time, therefore it was like to be Samuel. Answer. There is nothing there said or done which the devil might not do. For when the Lord uses the devil as His instrument to bring some things to pass, He does beforehand reveal the same unto him. And look what particulars the devil learns from God, those he can foretell. Now the truth is that Satan was appointed by God to work Saul’s overthrow, and it was made known unto him when the thing should be done and by what means. And by none other the devil was enabled to foretell the death of Saul. Where (by the way) observe that in this case the devil can reveal things to come certainly, to wit, if he is appointed God’s immediate instrument for the execution of them or knows them by light of former prophecies in Scripture.
Objection. Ghosts Roam the Earth.
Fourth, dead men do often appear and walk after they are buried. Answer. It is indeed the opinion of the Church of Rome, and of many ignorant persons among us, but the truth is otherwise. Dead men do neither walk nor appear in body or soul after death. For all who die are either righteous or wicked; the souls of the righteous go straight to heaven, and the souls of the wicked to hell, and there remain till the last judgment. And, therefore, of the just it is said that they are “blessed when they die, because they rest from their labors” (Rev. 14:13). But how do they rest, if after they are dead they wander up and down in the earth?
If it is said that Moses and Elijah appeared when Christ was transfigured in the mount, and that Lazarus rose again, and at Christ’s resurrection many dead bodies rose again and appeared, I answer that there were two times when God suffered the dead to be raised up again, either at the planting of His church or at the restoring and establishing of it when it was razed to the foundation. Thus, at the restoring of religion in Elijah’s and Elisha’s times, the son of the Shunamite woman (2 Kings 4:34) and the widow’s son at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:21) were raised. Again, when God would restore His church, which was fallen to idolatry about the death of Elisha, He caused the like miracle to be wrought in the reviving of a dead man by the touching of Elisha’s dead carcass in the grave, thereby to assure the people of their deliverance, and to cause them to embrace the doctrine of the prophet after his death, which in his life they had condemned. In like manner at the establishing of the gospel in the New Testament, it pleased Christ to raise up Moses and Elijah, and to make them known to His disciples by extraordinary revelation, that they might believe that the doctrine which He preached was not new, but the same in substance with that which was recorded in the law and the prophets, both which were represented by Moses and Elijah. So also, He wrought the miracle upon Lazarus, the widow’s son, and Jairus’s daughter, thereby to show the power of His Godhead, the truth of His calling, and the testimony of His doctrine. And lastly, to make known the power of His resurrection, He caused some to rise and appear to others when He Himself rose again. But out of these two times we have neither warrant nor example that God suffered the dead to be raised up. Wherefore, those instances will not any way confirm Samuel’s appearing, which indeed was not true, but counterfeit and forged by the devil himself.
The Apparition Was Not A Person Disguised as Samuel.
Now for the opinion of those who deny that there are any witches, and thereupon hold that this was a mere cozenage [i.e. trick] of the witch, suborning some man or woman to counterfeit the form, attire, and voice of Samuel, thereby to delude Saul. This opinion is also untrue. For he who spoke foretold the ruin of Saul, his sons, and his army, yea, the time also wherein this was to come to pass. Whereas in likelihood no man or woman in all Israel could have foretold such things beforehand by themselves. It was not then any cozenage (as is affirmed), but a thing effected by the devil, framing to himself a body in the likeness of Samuel, wherein he spoke.
Observations About Witchcraft From 1 Samuel 28.
If, therefore, it is manifest that by counterfeit apparitions of the dead witches and sorcerers can foretell things to come, hence sundry points of witchcraft may be observed.
First, that there is a league between the witch and the devil. For this was the cause which moved Saul to seek to witches, because neither he himself nor any of his servants could raise up Satan in Samuel’s likeness, as the witch of Endor did. But Saul, being a king, might have commanded help from all the wise and learned men in Israel, for the effecting of such a matter. Why then would he rather seek to a silly woman than to them? The reason was because she had made a compact with the devil, for the using of his help at her demand, by virtue whereof he was as ready to answer as she to call him. Whereas Saul and the learned Jews, having made no such league, neither he by his power, nor they by their skill, could have performed such a work.
Second, the devil will be ready at the call and command of witches and sorcerers when they are intending any mischief. For here the witch of Endor no sooner spoke but he appeared, and therefore the text gives her a name that signifies one having rule and command over Pytho (that is, the familiar spirit). Yet when he is commanded, he yields not upon constraint, but voluntarily, because he builds upon his own greater advantage the gaining of the soul of the witch. Where, by the way, let it be observed what a precious thing the soul of man is; the purchasing whereof can make the proud spirit of Satan so far to abase itself as to be at the command of a silly woman. Again, what an inveterate malice Satan bears to man, which for the gaining of a soul will do that which is so contrary to his nature. It may teach man what to esteem of his soul, and not to sell it for so base a price.
Third, by this, the great power of the devil in the behalf of the sorcerer is made manifest. For he was presently at hand to counterfeit Samuel, and did it so lively and cunningly, as well in form of body as in attire and voice, that Saul thought verily it was the prophet. This may be a caveat unto us, not easily to give credit to any such apparitions. For though they seem ever so true and evident, yet such is the power and skill of the devil that he can quite deceive us, as he did Saul in this place.