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Chapter 3

 

Demons (according to the Theology of the Gentiles) were —1. For their nature and degree, a middle sort of divine powers between the sovereign gods and mortal men. —2. For their office they were supposed to be mediators and agents between the celestial gods and men. —This proved from Plato, Plutarch, Apuleius, Celsus; in Origen, and St. Austin. —The doctrine of the mediation of demons glanced at and reproved by the Apostle, —Colossians 2: 8. —The distinction of sovereign gods and demons proved out of the Old Testament, and elegantly alluded to in the New, —I Corinthians 8: 5, 6.

 

          Meanwhile, let us first see what the Gentiles and their theologists understood by Demons; which when you have heard, I doubt not but you will confess the deifying and worshipping of saints and angels, with other parts of the idolatry of those who do this, to be as lively an image of the doctrine of demons as could possibly be expressed, and one whereby the apostasy of the latter times is, as by a character, distinguished from the heresies, false doctrines, and corruptions of all other times whatsoever.

 

          Demons, in the Gentiles’ theology, were (Deastri), or an inferior sort of deified powers, as a middle between the sovereign Gods and mortal men. So says Plato, (in Symposio;)* so say all the Platonists, and well nigh all other sects of philosophers. I am sure the most do;

 

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for it is a very ancient doctrine, insomuch that Plutarch* fetches this distinction between the sovereign Gods and demons, as far as the antiquity of Zoroaster.† “They seem to me” (saith he) “to have solved great and difficult doubts, who have placed the demons between the gods and men, and found out what, in some sort, unites and joins us with them; whether this be the doctrine of the Magi and Zoroaster, or the Thracian doctrine derived from Orpheus, or the Egyptian, or Phrygian, &c.” The sovereign or highest Gods, (which, amongst them, were properly called Gods,) were those whom they supposed to be in the heavens, yea, in the sun, moon, and stars, whence they called them “Gods above, celestial Gods,”‡ whom they affirmed to have neither beginning nor ending; as Apuleius, in his treatise concerning the demon of Socrates, “immortal, without any end or beginning, and altogether eternal.”§ And because they dwelt, in the heavenly lights, as it were souls in bodies, Plato thinks that the name  first came in consequence

 

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of the everlasting running and incessant motion of the heavenly bodies. (Cratyl. p. 397.)

 

          Now, these sovereign and celestial Gods they supposed so sublime and pure, as might not be profaned with approach of earthly things, or with the care and managing of mortal men’s business; and, therefore, they bring in that middle sort of divine powers which they call * demons, to be as mediators and agents between the sovereign Gods and mortal men. Thus, saith Plato, in his Symposium “God is not approached by men, but all commerce and intercourse between Gods and men is performed by the mediations of demons.” Do you wish to see in what particular?‡ “Demons,” saith he, “are reporters and carriers from men to the Gods, and again from the Gods to men, of the supplications and prayers of the one, and of the injunctions and rewards of devotion from the other.” And Apuleius in the place forequoted describes them thus: —§ “Demons are middle powers, by whom both our desires and merits pass unto the Gods; they are carriers

 

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between men on earth, and the Gods in heaven —hence of prayers, thence of gifts; they bring to and fro, hence petitions, thence supplies; or they are certain interpreters on both sides, and conveyers of recommendations.” “For,” saith he,* “it beseems not the majesty of the sovereign Gods to manage these things of themselves.” Whence it is that Celsus in Origen terms his demons: —† “The Peers, Presidents, Lieutenants, and officers of the Most High God, who, being neglected, can do as much hurt as the peers and officers of the Persian or Roman Kings.” Where note, by the way, that Celsus, as some others, did acknowledge but one sovereign God.

 

          By reason of this office of mediation, Plutarch (in his De defect. Orac.) calls the order of demons, agreeably to the doctrine of Plato, ‡ “the natures which interpret and minister,” also “attendants, recorders, overseers of sacred rites and mysteries.” To stay no longer here, take the sum of all in the words of Apuleius, in the book forenamed: —§ “All things are done by the will, power, and authority, of the celestial Gods; but withal by the service and ministry of the demons.” If I should bring all that I might

 

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to this purpose, I should be too tedious. Porphyrius in Eusebius, and Plutarch, skilful men in this kind of philosophy, will satisfy them fully to whom this is not sufficient.

 

          This was the philosophy that was universal in the apostles’ times, and the times long before them. Thales, Pythagoras, all the Academics and Stoics, and not many to be excepted, unless the Epicureans, taught this divinity. He that had rather read a Father of the Church, let him but turn over the eighth and ninth books of St. Austin De Civ. Dei, the eighteenth chapter of the former book, having this title: * — “What a religion is that teacheth men to use good demons for their advocates to commend them to the Gods?” The twenty-first chapter this: †— “Whether the Gods do use demons for their messengers and interpreters.” And of the ninth chapter of the ninth book, the title is this: ‡— “Whether the friendship and favor of the celestial gods may be procured for men by the intercession of demons.” And of the seventeenth chapter, this § — “To the attaining of blessedness, man hath no need of a demon for his mediator, but Christ alone.” The reading of which titles alone were sufficient to shew what

 

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was the supposed office of the demons among the Gentiles.

 

          This philosophy, therefore, so general, was that, without doubt, whereof St. Paul admonished the Colossians, to take heed lest they were spoiled with the vain deceit thereof, as being after the traditions of men, and rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For some Christians, even then, under a pretence of humility, of not approaching too nearly and too boldly to God, would have brought in the worship of angels instead of this of demons. But Paul tells them, that as in Christ dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead bodily, so that he needed no colleagues of mediation; so also were they complete in him, and needed, therefore, no agents besides him. Let no man, therefore (saith he), beguile you of your reward through humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, and not holding the head.

 

          Neither is the holy Scripture ignorant of this distinction of sovereign gods and demons. The first whereof, the celestial and sovereign gods, whether visible or invisible, it calls Tsaba hashamayim, the host of heaven. The other sort it styleth by the name of Baalim, that is, Domini, or Lords. And Manasseh, that king of idolaters, was complete for both of them. So we read, II Chronicles 33: 3, that “he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.” And, II Kings 23: 5, that good Josiah is said to have

 

 

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“put down the idolatrous priests which burnt incense to Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.” And, II Kings 17: 16, the Israelites are said to have worshipped all the host of heaven, and to have served Baal. Now, that these Baalims were no other than demon-gods appears by their cutting and lancing themselves who worshipped them.(a) I Kings 18: 28. For these tragic ceremonies are counted by those who treat about these mysteries as certain characters of demons. But this you shall have further confirmed in due place, where the arguments may be better understood.

 

          This distinction, also, of sovereign Gods and demons, I suppose, our apostle alludes to, I Corinthians 8: 5, 6, where he saith, — “Though there be that are called Gods, whether in heaven or in earth; as there be * Gods many,” that is, Dii coelestes, sovereign deities, “† and Lords many,” that is, ‡ demons, presidents of earthly things, “yet to us” Christians “there is but one” sovereign “God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we to him,” that is, to whom, as supreme, we are to direct all our services, “and but one Lord Jesus Christ,” instead of their many mediators and demons, “by whom are all things” which come from the Father to us, and through whom alone we find access unto him. The allusion, methinks, is passing elegant, and such as, I think, cannot be well understood

 

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without this distinction of superior and inferior deities in the theology of the Gentiles; they have a plurality in both sorts, and we Christians but one in each, as our apostle affirms. There wants but only the name of demons, instead of which the apostle put Lords, and that for the honor of Christ, of whom he was to infer, one Lord; the name of Christ being not to be polluted with the appellation of an idol. For had he said, “there be Gods many and demons many,” to keep up the opposition, he have been obliged to say, “to us, there is but one God, and *one demon.” Or it may be he alludes unto the Hebrew name Baalim, which signifies Lords; and those Lords, as I told you, were nothing else but demons. For thus would St. Paul speak in the Hebrew tongue, — “There are (Elohim Rabbim and Baalim rabbim) many Gods and many Lords.”

 

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