The Gentiles doctrine concerning the original of demons viz., that they were the souls of men deified, or canonized, after death. This proved out of Hesiod, Plato, Trismegist, Philo Biblius, the translator of Sanchoniathon, Plutarch, Tully. Baal, or Bel, or Belus, the first deified king; hence demons are called in Scripture, Baalim. Demons and heroes, how they differ. Demons called, by the Romans, Penates, Lares, as also Dii Animales, soul gods. Another and a higher kind of demons, such as never dwelt in bodies: these answer to angels, as the other (viz. the soul demons) answer to saints.
And thus I have shown you, (though but briefly, in regard to the abundance the argument would afford,) the nature and office of these demons, according to the doctrine of the Gentiles. I come now to another part of this doctrine, which concerns the original of demons, whom you shall find to be the SOULS OF MEN DEIFIED AFTER DEATH. For the canonizing of the souls of deceased worthies is not now first devised among Christians, but was an idolatrous trick, even from the days of the elder world; so that the Devil, when he brought in this apostatical doctrine amongst Christians, swerved but little from his ancient method of seducing mankind.
Let Hesiod speak in the first place, as being of the most known the most ancient. He tells us,
that* when those happy men of the first and golden age of the world were departed this life, the great Jupiter promoted them to be demons; that is, keepers and protectors, or patrons of earthly mortals, and overseers of their good and evil works, givers of riches, &c., and this saith he, is the kingly royalty given them.
And hence it is that Oenomaus, quoted by Eusebius, calleth these demon-gods, Hesiods Gods.
The next shall be Plato, who, in his Cratylus, says that Hesiod, and a great number of the rest of the poets, speak excellently, when they affirm that good men, when they die, attain great honor and dignity, and become demons , which is, saith he, as much as to say , wise ones; for wise ones, saith he, are only good ones, and all good ones are of Hesiods golden generation.
The same Plato would have all those who die valiantly in the field to be accounted of the golden kind, and § to be made demons, and the Oracle to be consulted how they should be buried
and honored; and accordingly, * ever afterwards their sepulchers to be served and adored as the sepulchers of demons. In like manner should be done unto all who, in their lifetime, excelled in virtue, whether they died through age or otherwise.: This place Eusebius quotes, (Praep. Ev., bk 13) to parallel with it the then harmless practice of Christians, in honoring the memory of martyrs, by holding their assemblies at their sepulchers; to the end that he might shew the Gentiles that Christians also honored their worthies in the worthiest fashion. But it had been well if, in the next ages after, this custom of Christians (then but resembling) had not proved the very same doctrine of demons which the Gentiles practiced.
But I go on, and my next author shall be Hermes Trismegistus, whose antiquity shall be very near the time of Moses. I will translate you his words out of his Asclepius, which Apuleius translated into Latin. There, having named Aesculapius, Osiris, and his grandfather Hermes, who were, as he saith, worshipped for demons in his own time, he adds further, that the Egyptians call them (namely, the demons) holy animals, and that amongst them (namely, the Egyptians), :through every city, the souls
of those are worshipped whose virtues are deified. And here note, by the way, that some are of opinion that the Egyptian Serapis, whose idol had a bushel upon his head, was Joseph, whose soul the Egyptians had canonized for a demon after his death.
Philo Byblius, the translator of Sanchoniathon, that ancient Phoenician historian, who lived before the times of Troy, and wrote the Acts of Moses and the Jews, saith Eusebius, very agreeably to the Scripture: and (saith he) learned his story of Jerom-baal, a priest of the God JEVO; Philo Byblius, I say, in a preface to his translation of this author, setteth down what he had observed and learned out of the same story, and might serve to help the understanding of those who should read it; namely, that all the barbarians, chiefly the Phoenicians and Egyptians, of whom the rest had it, accounted of those for the greatest gods (Dii maximi,) who had found out anything profitable for the life of men, or had deserved well of any nation; and that they worshipped these as Gods, erecting statues, images and temples unto them. And more especially they gave the names of their Kings, as to the elements of the world, so also to these their reputed Gods; for they esteemed the natural deities of the sun, moon, and planets, and those which are in these, to be only and properly Gods; so that they had two sorts of gods: some were immortals, and others were, as we may term them, mortalists.
Thus saith Philo Byblius, out of the Phoenician history; from which testimony we may borrow
some more light concerning those Baalims in Scripture. For Baal, or Belus, whose worship Jezebel, the daughter of Ithobaal, King of Tyre, brought into Israel, was a deified Phoenician King of that name, as Virgil will tell us, in the verse concerning the Phoenician Queen Dido.* She filled with wine the bowl, which Belus and all her ancestors since Belus used. (b)
Baal, or, in the Chaldee dialect, Bel, (for all is one,) was the first King of
Babel after Nimrod; and the first, as it is written, that ever was deified, and
reputed a God after death; whence afterwards they called all other demons
Baalim, even as because the first Roman Emperor was called Caesar, thence were
all the Emperors after him styled Caesars.
(c) And it may be that this is part of that which Philo Byblius, out of
Sanchoniathon, would tell us, that the barbarians, especially the Phoenicians,
&c., gave names from their kings to such as were
canonized after death. For so we see here, that the Babylonians, and the
neighboring countries, which spoke the Hebrew tongue, or some dialect thereof,
called all demons Baalim, from the first demon or deified King in the world,
Baal or Belus. For at the time when Belus reigned in
pattern in the world of ambitious dominion, was also the foundress of idols,* and the mother of the fornication and abominations of the earth.
And because we have fallen upon the naming of demons, let us observe another mystery of names, out of Plutarch (De defect. Orac.) which may help us out of, or prevent some difficulties, namely, that demons are sometimes called by the names of those celestial gods whose ministers and proctors they are, and from whom they receive their power and divinity; as Apollos demon, Apollo; Jupiters demon, Jupiter; and so the rest. To which is agreeable what Eusebius quotes of Diodorus, viz., that the Egyptians affirmed such as had been great benefactors when they lived, to be deified after their death, and some of these to be called by the very names of the celestial gods.
The same Plutarch in the same place doth acquaint us with this pretty conceit, which being to the purpose, I will not omit; namely, that the souls of men took degrees after death; first they commenced heroes who were as probationers to a demonship; then after a suitable time demons; and after that, if they deserve well, to a more sublime degree. Howsoever it be, demons and heroes differed but in more and less antiquity;
the more ancient heroes being called demons, and the younger demons, heroes.
But that we may return again closer to the matter in hand, this order of demons, or soul-gods, as I may call them, found place in the religion of the elder Romans, who called them Penates, Lares, and Manii Dii; and when once they began to canonize their deceased Emperors, which was from the time of Augustus, they called them divi, or gods, which word before that time was more general. Tully in his second book De Legibus, shall be my witness, that his countrymen acknowledged this distinction of sovereign gods, and soul-deified powers; for there you shall find this law.* Let them worship the gods; both those who were ever accounted celestial, and those whom their own merits have advanced to heaven. And again, let the rights of separate souls be kept inviolable, and let them account the deceased worthies as gods. Would God the present Christian Romans had not renewed this law.
Yea so strongly was this doctrine embraced amongst the Gentiles, that some of their latter theologists thought even the souls of wicked men and tyrants had a power after death, and that of these came evil demons which hurt
men; and yet to these they ordained temples and sacrifices to keep them from hurting them, as well as to the good demons for helping them. But the ancients gave this honor to the souls of virtuous men only.
Thus you have learned the original of demons according to the ancient and general opinion of the Gentiles. But besides these demons whose original you have heard, (I mean besides soul-demons and canonized mortals,) their theologists bring in another kind of demons more high and sublime, which never had been the souls of men, nor ever were linked to a mortal body, but were from the beginning, or without beginning, always the same. (d) So Apuleius tells us in his book on the God of Socrates, saying,* (there is another and a higher kind of demons, who having been ever free from the bonds and ties of the body, may be regarded as peculiar powers. Plato thinks, that from these more exalted demons men are supplied with witnesses and guardians. This sort of demons doth fitly answer and parallel that sort of spiritual powers which we call angels, as the former of soul-demons those which, with Roman Catholics, are called saints.