DOGMATIC AND SCHOLASTIC - THE VARIOUS QUESTIONS CONNECTED WITH IT CONSIDERED AND PROVED.
|The rich man and Lazarus|
CHAPTER XIII. THE PLACE WHERE PURGATORY IS. Part 3.
II. The limbus of the fathers is proved to be under the earth. cont.Whilst the opinion which says that Samuel himself appeared is far more probable, it must be allowed that the opinion which would have us believe it was the demon that appeared under his phantom should not be condemned. This latter should not be condemned, because it is not condemned by the Church, and it is supported by respectable authorities. We need only glance at the authorities, which we have cited above as in favour of this opinion, to be convinced that they are respectable. The opinion certainly borrows no little weight from their patronage. Tertullian (Lib. do Anima, chap. 57.) says: " It was then possible for the pythonic spirit to represent the soul of Samuel." Then he goes on to speak thus : " Otherwise be it far from us to believe that the soul of any saint, not to say a prophet, was brought forth by the demon." Simeon Metaphrastes relates that St. Pionius held the same opinion. In his life of this priest and martyr he gives his very words, which are these : " Therefore that ventriloquism woman did not bring back Samuel into this life, but tartarean demons, putting on the person and likeness of Samuel, may have made themselves visible to the ventriloquism woman and to Saul, who had forsaken God." Si. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil, and many others, understand the apparition in the same sense. Though St. Thomas seems to adhere to the side of those who hold that it was truly the apparition of Samuel, still he admits that the opinion which attributes it to the evil spirit is tenable when he says : " Although also it can be said that it may not have been the soul of Samuel, but the demon speaking in his person," &c. Furthermore, as we have said, this opinion is not condemned by the Church. There is no evidence that she ever raised her voice in condemnation of it. No sentence or decree of hers to that effect exists. Then we should not reprobate it, since the Church has not condemned it, and it is sustained by respect able authorities.
On the other hand, however, we may say that the opinion which maintains that Samuel appeared in person, is far and away more probable.
I. This is proved, from the natural and obvious sense of the text, which would indicate the real apparition of Samuel. The Scripture should be received in the natural and obvious sense, when this would involve nothing contrary to faith, or good morals, or otherwise absurd. But nothing of this kind is to be feared, neither of these evils will occur, if we read the present passage in the literal and obvious sense.
Anyone who takes the trouble of closely examining the passage, must come to the conclusion that it indicates the real apparition of the prophet. Let us repeat a few verses of it: " And Saul understood that it was Samuel, and he bowed himself with his face to the ground, and adored. And Samuel said to Saul: Why hast thou disturbed my rest, that I should be brought up ? . . . And Samuel said: Why askest thou me, seeing the Lord has departed from thee ? . . . . And forthwith Saul fell all along on the ground, for he was frightened with the words of Samuel." Observe that it is not said Saul imagined or thought, but he understood that it was Samuel. Though the name of Samuel is repeated six times, there is not one word in the context to insinuate that it was usurped in deception or delusion. The very tenor of his language leads us to believe that it was Samuel himself who appeared in his own person. His discourse with the wicked Saul was in every way worthy of the prophet. He foretold to the unhappy king all that afterward befell him. His prediction with regard to the king's family and people was in like manner verified. He reproaches the faithless monarch with his impiety. He repeats the name of the Lord with gravity and respect; what the evil spirit should not be suspected to have done. In fact, whoever, free from passion and prejudice, would read the whole discourse between the prophet and the king, should come to the conclusion that it indicates the real presence of Samuel himself, and not his shadow, or, much less, a demon under his appearance.
If there were any doubt in the matter, it is removed by what we read in Ecclesiasticus (xlvi. 23) in regard to this apparition. Here is what the sacred writer in this book says: ''After this he (Samuel) slept, and he made known to the king, and showed him the end of his life, and he lifted up his voice from the earth in prophecy to blot out the wickedness of the nation." In the Greek it is rendered : " After he had slept, he prophesied." The Syriac version has it thus : "After death he was interrogated, and he showed the king his way, and he lifted up from the earth his voice in prophecy to put an end to sins." It is a special theme of praise, bestowed on Samuel, that he alone, of all the prophets of the Lord, raised his voice in prophecy after death. But it would be no subject of praise or glory for Samuel, if an infernal spirit assumed his form, and, under it, rendered himself obsequious to the phythoness. Hence we must understand that it was Samuel in person, who raised his voice from the earth in prophecy. Had the authenticity of the Book of Ecclesiasticus been sufficiently laid before the Fathers, who have betaken themselves to the contrary side, there is no doubt, as Cornelius a Lapide remarks, that they would agree with the general opinion. On this account St. Thomas observes: "It can be said of Samuel that he appeared by divine revelation, according to what is said in Eccl. xlvi. &c.; or that apparition was pro cured by demons : if however the authority of Ecclesiasticus be not received" As all doubt as to the authenticity of this book has been long since set at rest, and it is received with equal authority to the rest of the Scriptures, we are obliged from it to look upon the apparition of Samuel as genuine, and in no sense produced by the evil spirit.
There will arise no difficulty against faith or morals, when we take the apparition as that of the true Samuel. There is nothing against faith or morals in the text when it tells us: " Saul understood that it was Samuel, and he bowed himself with his face to the ground, and adored" It has been said by way of objection to the apparition, that the true soul of Samuel, if present, would have never allowed itself to be adored. But this objection disappears, when we reflect that there is here implied, not supreme adoration, called latria, such as is rendered to God, but suppliant, humble respect or honour, which the Jews were accustomed to pay to persons of pre-eminent dignity or holiness. Thus Saul adored Samuel, rendering to him, as the friend of God, an inferior honour. We find adoration used in the same sense in other parts of Scripture. For example, in the First Book of Kings (xxiv. 9.), it is written that " David, bowing himself down to the ground, worshipped" Saul. In the Vulgate edition of the Bible, the Latin word employed for worshipped is adoravit, the very same as is employed in the above verse. We have also another instance in the First Book of Kings (xxv. 23.), where adoration is used to signify humble respect for a person. It is stated that Abigail " fell before David, on her face, and adored upon the ground." This expression is so often used in Scripture to signify respect and veneration, but nothing more, for persons entitled thereto by their exalted position, or great sanctity, that it is unnecessary to dwell any longer on it.
There is nothing either contrary to faith or morals in his words, when the prophet said to Saul: "Tomorrow thou and thy sons shall be with me." There is no false prediction here, nor untruthfulness of any kind. Even though Saul, his sons, and his army were not slain on the day that proximately followed, there would be no want of truth in the prediction still; for to-morrow, as Theodoret and St. Jerome observe, does not always mean the day that proxi mately follows; but it more frequently refers to a thing that is approaching, although sometimes it may not come or happen for a while. St. Jerome (In chap. vi. Matt) speaks as follows: "Tomorrow in the Scriptures is understood to be the future time, according to what Jacob says : ‘My justice shall hear me to-morrow.' And when the altar was erected by the two tribes of Ruben and Gad .... Phinees answered that he had made the altar for this reason, lest to-morrow the possession of the worship of God maybe denied to his children. And thou shalt find many examples of this kind in the Old Testament." Phinees raised the altar to God, lest to-morrow, that is, at some future day, his children may cease to practise divine worship. Thus, in the place to which allusion is here made, tomorrow means merely some future time.
Some, like Usher, thought the prediction was fulfilled after some days. But in reality there is nothing to prevent us from holding that it was fulfilled on the following day. Saul and his sons may have been, and, in all probability, were slain on the very next day to that in which the prophecy of Samuel was uttered. All that intervenes in the Book of Kings between the apparition and the death of unhappy Saul, and that requires a longer interval than one day, or at least thirty-six hours, or thereabout, is introduced by anticipation, and belongs to an after date.
I have said " at least thirty-six hours ; " because if we suppose, as in justice we can, that the prediction was spoken after midnight, the ruin of Saul may be deferred for thirty-six, or even more, hours, and still fall on the day next after that of the prediction. If we compute the day from midnight to midnight, and suppose the apparition to have taken place an hour after midnight, or one o'clock in the morning, the ruin of Saul could have happened on the next day, say about one o'clock or later, in the afternoon, and be still thirty-six, or more, hours after the prediction.
When Samuel says, " Tomorrow thou shalt be with me;" it is scarcely necessary to observe, that he does not mean, that the impious Saul was to join him next day in the enjoyment of felicity. Saul committed suicide, and so could have no share in the happiness of Samuel. " Thou shalt be with me," includes nothing more than that Saul was to be next day numbered among the dead, and in the other world, like Samuel, though not in the same place with him.
Nor, by admitting the apparition of the true Samuel, will it follow, that we give the demon the power of calling forth the souls of those who are in glory. It was not the demon, but God himself, who, by His supreme authority, called up Samuel for the terror and punishment of a wicked prince. It was vain to expect the ventriloquist to bring him forth. It pleased God that, for the greater punishment of Saul, Samuel in person should denounce to him the evils that were about to befall him. The prophet was brought up, not by the power of the devil, but by the just judgment of God, to foretell the destruction of Saul, and to denounce his wickedness before his face. That this was so, is patent from the passage itself, in the twenty-eighth chapter of the First Book of Kings. Immediately that Saul asked the woman to raise up to him Samuel, she cried aloud without delay or hesitation : " Why hast thou deceived me ? for thou art Saul." If the apparition were the effect of magic, it should take some time to produce it, because the magical incantation would be long and tedious- Again, when the woman beheld Samuel she was so frightened that she " cried out with a loud voice; " whilst Saul, to inspire her with courage, said: " Fear not." What was it that struck her with terror ? Simply this, that Samuel appeared before she would employ her magic art to call him forth. I am aware that the Rabbins suppose the woman was startled because Samuel did not appear in the manner in which spirits were accustomed to appear to persons of her character. They say the dead were wont to appear to magicians, either with their feet upward, or on their back, as in the grave; and that Samuel, departing from this custom, appeared in a standing posture. But the most probable cause of her terror and exclamation was, that he had appeared before she performed, or even began, her in cantations ; and that, as Josephus tells us, he was arrayed like a priest 1, and in great majesty. The suddenness with which he anticipated her incantations, and the majesty and splendour of his appearance, struck her wicked heart with terror.
1 When the woman said that she " saw gods ascending out of the earth," she introduces a Hebrewism, which, to denote the greater dignity of a thing, adopts the plural for the singular number. In the Book of Exodus, (xxxii. iv.) where there was only one molten calf, it was said of it : " These are thy gods." The same Hebrew word, Elohim, is used in each place, and signifies, what it does.everywhere in Scripture, one God. When she says she saw gods, we should read her words as implying, that the splendour of Samuel was such, that he seemed to be God, and not a human creature.
Saul very well understood what she meant, and that her words had reference only to one person ; for he interrogated her in the singular number: "What form is he of." To this she, having relinquished the plural, replies in the singular number : "An old man cometh up, and he is covered with a mantle." Then, it is gratuitous and futile for the Rabbins to say that, because the plural form is adopted in the first instance, Moses appeared along