SAUL'S INTERVIEW WITH THE WITCH OF ENDOR, article in the Methodist Quarterly Review 1869
I SAMUEL XXVIII, 8-20.
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The practice of witchcraft and necromancy is of ancient origin. We trace it back through the mists of antiquity as far as to the patriarchal age, and even then its beginning reaches on into a remoter past. But whatever its origin, and whatever the real nature of its mysteries, it is every-where treated with sternest denunciation by the law of God. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Exod. xxii, 18. "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them." Lev. xix, 31. "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee." Deut. xviii, 10-12. In this last passage a necromancer is distinguished from a consulter with familiar spirits, but one person might practice many forms of witchcraft, so that a consulter with familiar spirits might also be a necromancer. Accordingly we find the Witch of Endor pretending to hold intercourse with the dead, though she is called a woman that had a familiar spirit. The primary sense of the Hebrew word (ni») translated familiar spirit is a skin-bottle, and is so rendered in Job xxxii, 19. The Septuagint renders it by "a ventriloquist", in reference, perhaps, to the manner in which persons of this craft uttered their responses. Hence Furst defines the word as "the hollow belly of conjurers, in which the conjuring spirit resides, and speaks hollow, as if out of the earth."
Saul's interview with the Witch of Endor has ever been regarded as a subject beset with peculiar difficulties. Justin Martyr and Origen held that, by the incantations of the Witch the spirit of Samuel actually appeared and conversed with Saul. Modern Spiritism has also affirmed that the Witch was a medium through whom the King of Israel received communications from the Prophet's spirit. But the majority of the older expositors, and some few moderns, believing it absurd to suppose that a holy prophet could be made to rise from the dead by the ministry of witchcraft, regard the supposed apparition as Satan personating Samuel. "It was not till the seventeenth century," says Keil, "that the opinion was expressed that the apparition of Samuel was merely a delusion produced
by the Witch, without any real background at all. After Reginald Scotus and Balthazar Bekker had given expression to this opinion, it was more fully elaborated by Antonius Van Dale, (1683;) and in the so-called age of enlightenment this was the prevailing opinion, so that Thenius still regards it as an established fact, not only that the woman was an impostor, but that the historian himself regarded the whole thing as an imposture." The prevailing opinion of modern divines is, that not by the magic arts of the Witch, but contrary to her expectations, and by the express permission and command of God, the Prophet Samuel actually appeared and spoke to Saul.
On the moral character of witchcraft there can be no controversy. It has ever been associated with venality and fraud, and bears the condemnation of God's holy law. We are driven, therefore, to adopt one of two conclusions. The mysteries of divination are certain psychological phenomena not yet fully explained by thorough scientific investigation, but of which Satan has taken advantage to deceive and lead captive the souls of men; or else, they are wrought by the immediate supernatural agency of Satan and his angels. This latter alternative we are slow to accept. We gather from the Holy Scriptures that the evil spirit is so limited to a certain definite sphere of operation that he is never allowed to use supernatural power to mislead where there is only human capacity to resist. Much more plausible, therefore, is the supposition that the marvelous feats of magic and witchcraft have a physiological and psychological basis in the human constitution.
Careful and continued investigations in Clairvoyance have, within the last century, shed much light on the mysteries of magic. We know that men have charmed serpents and serpents have charmed men. Why, then, should we doubt that man can charm man? We cannot doubt it, for the thing has often been done, and it has been shown beyond successful contradiction that, in accordance with certain laws of our being, one person can so fascinate another, and place himself in such electrical rapport with his soul, as to become sensible of what he feels or imagines. This power, however, exists in different degrees. Some persons it seems impossible to mesmerize at all, or at most only by long-continued efforts on the part of the operator; others are highly susceptible to mesmeric operations, and are easily thrown into a clairvoyant state. Others, again, have the rare power of spontaneously inducing upon themselves the clairvoyant state, and then seem to revel at pleasure amid the things that belong to the spiritual world. In this state some, with their eyes closed and bandaged, will accurately describe persons and places that are far away, and that could have been known to them at the time only by some inner sight. Now by coming in direct sensational contact with the soul of another, the superior clairvoyant becomes cognizant of the emotions that are agitating there. By the power of an inner vision he sees in that soul the images and impressions that are deeply wrought on the imagination and memory.
The limits and design of this dissertation preclude any attempt at a physiological and psychological explanation of clairvoyance. But the facts by which the above statements may be sustained are all but innumerable, and will not be questioned by those who have given the subject a proper examination. These facts cannot be without cause, and there must be some clue to the mystery that surrounds them. We believe that the only successful way to refute and put to silence the pretensions of witchcraft is, not by denying her well-authenticated facts, and in the spirit of Popish bigotry persecuting all attempts at their scientific investigation, but by showing that all her lying wonders in the past are traceable to a foul and unholy use of powers peculiar to certain constitutions, but which were not at the time understood. It fell not within the province of divine revelation to communicate scientific instruction on this or any other subject, and therefore we are not to look to the Bible for an exposition of any problem in nature which it is the proper province of science to explain. But between the revelations of the Bible and of science there can be no real antagonism, for they are both, offspring of the everlasting Father.
We understand that the Witch of Endor was a clairvoyant of extraordinary power; that she could spontaneously place herself in sensational intercourse with the souls of those who came to inquire of her; and that with this power she united the practice of lying and deceit as she found occasion to serve her own dark purposes. We hope to show by fair and worthy criticism, that, upon this hypothesis, the narrative before us is capable of a happy and consistent explanation; and at the proper places in the course of the discussion, we shall urge what we regard as insuperable objections to the commonly received interpretation, which assumes an actual appearance of Samuel.
A preliminary question, worthy of a passing notice, is, How did the writer of this book of Samuel become acquainted with the facts which he has here recorded? There are two supposable ways. He could have received his information by immediate revelation from the Holy Spirit, or from the testimony of eye-witnesses. There are things recorded in the holy Scriptures which could have been learned only by direct revelation from Heaven; but where the things recorded are of such a nature as not to need a miraculous revelation to communicate them, we have no sufficient reason to believe that such a revelation was given. We therefore conclude that our author received his information originally from the two men (verse 8) who accompanied Saul to Endor, and were undoubtedly eye and ear witnesses of all that happened to him there.
The sacred writer introduces the narrative by reminding his readers of a fact already recorded in the previous history, that Samuel was dead and buried. He also informs us of an act of Saul's reign not recorded elsewhere, by which all persons addicted to the divining art had been driven out of the land of Israel. This had been done in accordance with the law, (Exod. xxii, 18 ; Lev. xx, 27,) and perhaps by the advice of the Prophet Samuel at an early period of Saul's reign. The deadly persecution had caused all witches that could escape to flee from the land, or else hide themselves in dark places of the wilderness. One female necromancer had concealed herself in the caverns at Endor,* and her dark retreat was known to some of Saul's servants.
In order to appreciate the wretched and abandoned state of Saul at the time of his intercourse with the woman at Endor, we should glance back for a moment over the misfortunes which befell him after his first transgression at Gilgal. Chap, xiii. At that time the Prophet announced to him that his kingdom should not be established in his posterity, but be given to one who had a better heart than he. And yet in the war with Amalek another fair trial was given him, and again he showed himself stubborn and rebellious. Chap. xv. Then Samuel uttered against him the final oracles of judgment: "Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he also hath rejected thee from being king." And as the venerable Prophet turned to leave him, Saul, seized by sudden fear and trembling, violently grasped the skirt of his mantle, and it rent in his h ands. Using the imagery thus afforded, Samuel immediately said to Saul, "The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine that is better than thou." This was the last interview with Saul that Samuel ever had; (verse 35;) for though Saul afterward came into Samuel's presence at Ramah, (chap, xix, 24,) and prophesied f before him, they had no intercourse with each other.
From the time of Samuel's last interview with him the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul. Chap, xvi, 14. The divine influences of which he had been made a partaker at the beginning of his career, (see chap, x, 10; xi, 6,) were withdrawn from him, and God no longer inspired him to noble enterprises. Then "an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him." A demon, sent by command of the Almighty, like those so often mentioned in the New Testament, entered into him, and took possession of his soul. But while he thus became possessed by a supernatural evil power, it is very likely that a mental disease, bordering on insanity, was the substratum on which the evil spirit worked. After Samuel's last words of judgment the King could not be happy in his kingdom. The more he thought upon his doom the more it harrowed up his soul. It was, perhaps, his highest ambition to be the father of a race of kings, and to have this hope suddenly dashed from him was to have darkness settle over all his life. "The Hebrew mind," says Kitto, "so linked itself to the future by the contemplation of posterity, that it is scarcely possible to us, with our looser attachment to the time beyond ourselves, to apprehend in all its intensity the deep distress of mind with which any Hebrew, and much more a king, regarded the prospect that there would be
'No son of his succeeding.'"
Saul's future thus became full of ghostly images, and when, disengaged at times from the excitements of war and the cares of government, he sat down to think over his darkened fortunes, his mind and heart, forsaken of all divine influences from Jehovah, became an easy prey to foul suspicions and gloomy fears—a most inviting state for demoniacal possession. The evil spirit, entering and reveling amid these mental disorders, carried him at times to the wildest height of madness and derangement.
We need not linger to trace onward the successive misfortunes of the unhappy Saul. They thoroughly convinced him . that his own reign must soon terminate, and he knew that David would succeed him. Chap, xxiv, 20; xxv, 25; compare also xxiii, 17. When now he saw the mighty host of the Philistines assemble and encamp at Shunem, armed and equipped for a most desperate battle, there fastened upon his soul the dark presentiment that his end was nigh. Fearful indeed must have been his emotions as the darkness of that last night gathered around him on the heights of Gilboa. All the dark past comes up before him, and the last solemn words of the departed Samuel seem to ring again upon his ear. Again in memory he stands at Gilgal, and again the image of the aged Samuel, wrapped in his mantle, rises up before him. What shall he do to relieve his burdened spirit? His physical strength is departing from him, for all day and all night thus far he has taken no nourishment. He calls around him. the most distinguished of Samuel's school of prophets, but they can give no comfort, for neither by vision nor by dream (Num. xii, 6) has Jehovah given them any message for Saul. One more resort for him is to inquire by the urim on the ephod of the high priest, a priest whom he had probably himself appointed in the room of the slaughtered Ahimelech. Chap, xxii, 18, But how could he expect an answer from that source when the blood of eighty-five priests was on his soul? To him all holy oracles are dumb, and he realizes the awful truth that he is God-forsaken. "I am sore distressed," he cries. "The Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more." Whatever dim and visionary hopes he may have cherished hitherto, all now are crushed, and the foul spirit that had formerly been driven from him by the magic power of David's harp again hovers about him and fills his imagination with ghostly specters. What shall he do? With fell purpose, and that impulsive rashness which was ever his easily-besetting sin, he resolves to take counsel of one who pretends to hold communion with the dead. Swept down by the raging cataract of accumulating woes, he still, like a drowning man, grasps at a straw. Surely no necromancer ever wished for a better subject to impose upon than was Saul when he approached the Witch of Endor.
Saul so carefully disguised himself that the woman did not recognize him when he came into her presence. Nothing could have been further from her thoughts than that the King of Israel, at that dark hour of midnight, and when the Philistine army lay between his camp and Endor, was presenting himself to inquire of her. The King made known his errand in language such as one who inquired of a necromancer would naturally use: "Divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me up whom I shall name unto thee." Her suspicions were at once aroused, and she charged him with laying a snare for her life. But Saul sware unto her by Jehovah that no harm should befall her; and when she asked him whom he would consult, he said, "Bring me up Samuel." What magic arts or incantations she proceeded to make use of we are not told; but the next utterance we have from her is one of excitement and alarm: "Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul."
How did the woman learn so soon that her guest was Saul? To this question the advocates of the common interpretation have failed to give any satisfactory answer. Some say that she inferred it from the venerable appearance of Samuel. But how could this be? There is no evidence that she had ever seen Samuel before; and even if she had, we fail to see how his mere appearance on this occasion could have convinced the Witch that it was Saul who inquired of her. Others say that she learned it from something that Samuel said. But as yet Samuel had not spoken. Rabbi Abrabanel supposes that when Samuel appeared he reverently bowed to Saul, from which the woman inferred that her consulter could be no less a person than the King of Israel. This supposition, however, is too absurd to need any refutation. But understand that the woman was a clairvoyant, and the answer to this question becomes easy and simple. This is acknowledged by Keil, the recent commentator, though in his exposition of the passage he teaches that Samuel actually appeared. He says, "Her recognition of Saul when Samuel appeared may be easily explained if we assume that the woman had fallen into a state of clairvoyance, in which she recognized persons who, like Saul in his disguise, were unknown to her by face."
But the writer says, "The woman saw Samuel." Yes, we reply; the clairvoyant of real power (and our interpretation assumes that the woman of Endor was such) can place herself in such electrical or sensational rapport with another's soul as to become cognizant of what is imaged there, and in this way the woman of Endor not only learned who her distinguished consulter was, but she saw prominent among the images that were pictured on his excited imagination the venerable form of the mantled Samuel. She saw him just as he appeared to Saul the last time, and just as his stern and threatening form had haunted that monarch's soul for many years.
The mass of interpreters have strangely assumed that the woman's alarm and outcry must have been caused by the sudden and unexpected appearance of Samuel. She saw Samuel, indeed, and the manner in which she saw him in Saul's excited soul was one means of her recognizing Saul. But her own words most clearly show that her alarm was not at the sight of Samuel, but at finding that the very monarch of Israel had himself detected her in her sorceries. We understand that the alarm of the woman was so great at her recognizing Saul that she came out of her clairvoyant state. What she had now seen in that one vision of Saul's soul was a sufficient basis for her to devise and utter the responses which follow, and which pretend to come from Samuel.
The King was convinced that she had seen some marvelous sight, and after quieting her fears, he asked her what she saw. She replied, "I saw gods ascending out of the earth." The word "gods," is somewhat indefinite, and by it she may have meant one thing and he have understood another. But did she see gods? We must remember that these words are the sayings of a witch, and she alone, not the writer of them, nor the interpreter, is responsible for their truth. Whether true or false, we regard them as a part of the devices by which she sought to terrify and impose upon Saul and his servants. But we have every reason to believe that at the moment she became clairvoyant Saul's soul was full of ghostly fears. Dark specters haunted his imagination, and he expected every moment to see some strange apparition start up in horrid reality before him. As she looks in upon this disordered state of his soul, and sees these ghostly pictures pass like so many shadows, over his wild imagination, she aptly describes the sight as that of gods coming up out of the earth.
Then Saul asked, "What is his form?" He uses the singular "his form," though the Witch had spoken in the plural, of "gods." She probably alluded to the ghostly specters which she saw in his imagination, of which the image of Samuel was the most prominent; but he, expecting to see the dead Samuel arise, or hear him speak, conceived in his soul the image of that Prophet as he last appeared to him. The clairvoyant having seen that form altogether prominent in his imagination proceeds to describe the god. "An old man cometh up, and he is covered with a mantle." The King could not conceive of Samuel except in connection with that mantle whose skirt he laid hold of and rent when the Prophet uttered against him the last bitter oracle of judgment. 1 Sam, xv, 27.
“And Saul perceived that it was Samuel.” Observe, it is not said that Saul saw Samuel. He formed his opinion entirely from the woman's words. She described the form of Samuel exactly as he appeared at Gilgal—an old man wearing a mantle—and from this description, not from actual sight, he "knew" that it was Samuel. So overpowering was the impression thus made upon his mind, and so awe-struck was he with the thought of the Prophet's presence, that “he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed himself.”
“And Samuel said to Saul.” Did, then, Samuel actually speak? We understand that as the Witch did all the seeing for Saul, so also she did all the speaking to him. She was the medium both of sight and sound. The Septuagint version calls her a ventriloquist, and she may have caused her voice to sound from some dark corner, so that Saul and his servants believed it to be the voice of Samuel. But it is not necessary to suppose this. Saul unquestionably believed that the woman was holding intercourse with the real Samuel, and reporting to him what Samuel said. And so any one, who sought unto the dead in this way, though he saw and heard the necromancer utter the communication with her own lips, if he believed that it came from the person sought would naturally speak of it in this way. So when Saul's servants afterward reported this interview they would naturally say, “Samuel said to Saul;” not “the woman said to Saul;” for they undoubtedly believed that the communication came from Samuel.
It should here be observed how perfectly non-committal the sacred historian is in recording this mysterious transaction. He records the whole matter precisely as it was reported to him by the two eye-witnesses, and these witnesses reported it precisely as it appeared to them. We believe that Saul's servants were imposed upon and deceived. They believed that Samuel had spoken to their King; but the sacred writer expresses no opinion in the case. He may have believed their report as they did, but he does not say so. And in this respect the sacred writers are all in striking harmony. They never commit themselves to any explanation of the mysteries which they record. They represent the magicians of Egypt as working miracles in opposition to Moses, but they make no attempt to indicate or explain the nature of those miracles. Nor need we suppose that they themselves had any settled opinions in the case. They recorded many things which they did not understand, and though they may have inquired and searched diligently into their nature, the Holy Spirit has signally preserved them from expressing their own conclusions.
Thus far, then, we find no evidence that Samuel actually appeared. The words "Samuel said to Saul" necessarily imply at most only that Saul and his two servants believed and reported that Samuel had actually spoken. Who can show that the words must necessarily mean more? The narrative also very clearly teaches that Saul himself saw nothing. He believed from the woman's representation of her vision that Samuel was there, but he saw him not. We have also observed that the woman's alarm was caused by her recognition of Saul, not by the appearance of Samuel. But while we find no evidence of an actual appearance of Samuel, there are several considerations which convince us that that holy Prophet had no personal connection at all with this affair at Endor. First, the manner of his appearance. He is represented as an old man, coming up out of the earth, and covered with a mantle. If now he really came from Paradise, it is passing strange that he should have appeared in this way. Can we well believe that a sainted prophet would return from the world of glory, bearing the marks of decrepitude and age, and wearing again the cast-off garments of his mortality? And is it not more natural to suppose that he would have appeared, not as coming up out of the earth, but as coming down from above? Another more weighty consideration is the time and occasion of his appearance—after Jehovah had refused to answer Saul by urim and by prophets, and apparently through the medium of a witch! It has often been said that Samuel appeared at the command of God, and not by any instrumentality of the Witch, but this statement is utterly destitute of support from the narrative. The woman herself confessed that her alarm was at recognizing Saul, not at seeing Samuel. We have also noticed that she did all the seeing. She saw the gods ascending; she saw the old man with the mantle; and it was only after she told her vision that Saul knew (not saw) that it was Samuel. Therefore, they who affirm that Samuel appeared to Saul, or that he came contrary to the woman's expectations, and not by her sorcery, have the whole narrative against them. Consider then the utter absurdity of maintaining that, after the law had uttered its heaviest execrations against all forms of witchcraft, and after Jehovah had refused to answer Saul by urim, by prophets, and by dreams, the Holy One then sent Samuel from heaven to answer him through the agency of a miserable witch!
Still another consideration at war with the supposition that Samuel actually appeared and spoke on this occasion, is the nature of the communication itself which pretends to come from him. A careful examination of his words will show that he uttered nothing worth calling a saint from heaven to tell, nothing which the woman might not, under the circumstances, and having the excited soul of Saul unvailed to her inner sense, have most naturally devised to awe and terrify the King, and perfect upon him her imposition. Let us examine the language.
The first utterance is unworthy of a holy prophet sent on a mission of God from the land of the blest: "Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up?" The Hiphil of the verb, in every place where it occurs, signifies to disturb, disquiet, or alarm. In Job xii, 6, it is rendered provoke. The common interpretation affirms that Samuel rose from the dead by special permission and express command of God. How, then, could the Prophet truthfully say that Saul had disturbed him? Can it be aught but a pleasure for any of the saints in light to obey Jehovah's orders? Or if the order be supposed to involve a, painful duty, would it not be rebellion for the servant to complain? How absurd, in the light of Christian truth, to imagine the sainted Samuel coming at the command of God from the world of spirits, and angrily complaining to Saul that he had disquieted him! Surely the question savors more of the theology of heathenism than of Holy Scripture, and is explicable only when regarded as a device of the witch to awe and subject to her own will the soul of Saul.
We pass to the next utterance: "Wherefore dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?" It required no prophet to rise from the dead to suggest this question to the God-forsaken King; and if we regard it as any thing more than another device of the woman to increase Saul's terror, we involve ourselves in the absurdity, already presented above, of supposing that after Jehovah had in his law condemned all seeking unto necromancers, and after he had refused to answer the King by urim and by prophets, he nevertheless disturbed a holy prophet from his rest in heaven, and suffered him to rise from the dead apparently as if forced up against his will by the arts of witchcraft!
If, now, the reader will turn to chapter xv, which contains the account of Samuel's last interview with Saul, he will find that the following words are in substance a repetition of verses 18, 26, and 28 of that chapter: "The Lord hath done for himself as he spake by me; for the Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbor, even to David; because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day." Now we submit whether any expositor has ever shown or can show a worthy reason for Samuel's coming from Abraham's bosom to repeat these words to Saul, who already had them deeply imprinted on his memory. If Lazarus could not revisit the world to warn the living of their danger because they had Moses and the Prophets, (Luke xvi, 31,) still less can we suppose that a sainted prophet would be permitted to return and repeat to an incorrigible transgressor the very oracles of his earthly ministry.
Next follows the only utterance of all this pretended communication of Samuel that seems to indicate superhuman knowledge: "The Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines, and to-morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me; the Lord also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines." If there is any thing in the entire passage that looks like a communication from a supernatural source it is here. But where, in this prediction, is there involved any conceivable object of sufficient importance to Saul or to any one else to call Samuel from the spirit-world to tell? Dr. Clarke says that "Samuel did actually appear to Saul; and that he was sent by the especial mercy of God to warn this infatuated king of his approaching death, that he might have an opportunity to make his peace with his Maker." But there is no shadow of evidence that Samuel actually appeared to Saul at all; and if such an unusual effort had been made by the mercy of God to secure Saul's conversion before his death, is it not passing strange that no intimation either of its success or failure is anywhere given us in the word of God? Then we may observe that the words "thou and thy sons shall be with me" are somewhat open to suspicion. It is usually understood that the words with me refer to the state of the dead generally, and were spoken in accordance with the ideas of that age; but we submit whether a holy prophet, fresh from Paradise, who must have known that in that world there was a great and impassable gulf between the righteous and the wicked, (Luke xvi, 26,) would have expressed himself in this way. If Saul died in his sins, as we have every reason to suppose, how was he, a vile transgressor, to become at once associated with the sainted prophet? Jesus said to the dying thief, "To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise;" but we have evidence of the thiefs repentance and conversion, none whatever of Saul's. In 1 Chronicles x, 13, we read, "Saul died for his transgression ... and also for asking by a familiar spirit to inquire." How could this be according to Clarke's opinion? Punished with death for inquiring at a source whence he received revelations which enabled him "to make his peace with his Maker" before death, and attain to everlasting life!
Finally we ask, what is there in this prediction more wonderful than what many a second-rate fortune-teller of modern times, under the same circumstances, might have told? The woman saw all Saul's despair and terror. He himself had said in her presence, "I am sore distressed: for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more." She knew that the Philistines had every probability of victory on the morrow, and it is highly probable that Saul had the dark presentiment of his own death mirrored in his soul. This presentiment a clairvoyant might have seen. She might have discerned in the tendencies of Saul's emotional nature a settled purpose to commit suicide rather than fall a living prey into the hands of the uncircumcised Philistines. She might also have seen in that soul-picture the image of the monarch's sons. For them he trembled as well as for his kingdom, and the bitterest drop in his cup of sorrows was the prospect that his name and lineage would be cut off. Chap, xxiv, 21. She might have been persuaded that warriors like Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchi-shua were no more likely to survive defeat than their father. Look now at all these things which the woman had before her, and where is there aught exceedingly wonderful in this announcement? In such a crisis as was sure to come upon the morrow, Saul's own death could hardly be uncertain. This had possibly become a foregone conclusion in his own mind, and had driven him in such madness of despair to inquire of one that had a familiar spirit.
We conclude, then, that this pretended communication from Samuel contains nothing worth calling a sainted prophet from heaven to declare, and some parts of it are unworthy of such an origin. It contains nothing which the woman might not, under the circumstances, have told, and it is most easily explicable when regarded as a part of her devices to awe and terrify the King.
We need not linger to comment on the events that followed this interview, or on the overwhelming effect that it had on Saul. We have endeavored to give a more satisfactory solution of the difficulties of this portion of Scripture than the common interpretation affords us, and we apprehend opposition only from those who scoff at the words Clairvoyance and Mesmerism, and without proper examination deny all their alleged facts and wonders, and cry them down as delusion and deviltry. That there has been any amount of fraud practiced by the devotees of Mesmerism is a fact abundantly well known, but that there are also numberless facts, put beyond all question by hundreds of careful and most inquisitive witnesses—facts as mysterious and wonderful, if not as celebrated, as this interview of Saul with the Witch of Endor—no intelligent person, who has carefully examined the subject, can deny. Indeed, what a tremendous power have the mysteries of divination exerted over the human heart in all the ages past. How large a chapter of human history would it require to record them all! To affirm that these are all the immediate works of the devil, and not in any form to be meddled with by men, is in one sense to surrender to the Evil One and pay him reverence. If the mysteries in question lay beyond the sphere of human history and experience, the Christian might indeed be content to let them alone; but since they are interwoven with human experience in every age, it is exceedingly important that their real nature be shown. They who cry down all attempts to explain these mysterious phenomena are helping on the triumphs of the devil. They say, in effect, that here at least Satan has all the advantage, and we must sound a retreat before him. But if we show that these mysteries of witchcraft have their explanation in peculiar physiological and psychological phenomena of the human constitution, which have been hitherto misunderstood, we at once gain a noble triumph over our ancient foe, and drive the Prince of darkness from a throne of power over the human heart, where he has too long held undisputed empire.