Chapter 3.....Can the Dead Speak to Us?
if nothing else compels a man to address himself to such a question as this
with the utmost charity and tenderness. There are few people of mature age who
have not a loved one over there from whom some communication would be most acceptable.
Life is often a very solitary business for the widow or widower. Can we tell
such an one that the monotonous dreariness can be mitigated by fellowship with
the departed? If the assurance can be given let it be uttered without delay.
COMPASSION if nothing else compels a man to address himself to such a question as this with the utmost charity and tenderness. There are few people of mature age who have not a loved one over there from whom some communication would be most acceptable. Life is often a very solitary business for the widow or widower. Can we tell such an one that the monotonous dreariness can be mitigated by fellowship with the departed? If the assurance can be given let it be uttered without delay.
But truth comes before sentimentality, and charity bereft of truth may be dangerous in the extreme. Those who would attempt an answer to the question must be perfectly certain they do not overstep the truth and should be made to test their answers before the final verdict is given to those whose broken hearts make them peculiarly susceptible to the subtle appeal within the possibility.
Modern spiritism has made tremendous strides and we, cannot conceal, what we also deplore, the extraordinary impetus given to it by the last war. That wholesale slaughter gave the spiritists an opportunity of which they have taken ample advantage, and with the help of prominent publicists they may fairly be said to have made some impression upon the public mind. For that reason, this great peril must be faced by God's people. It is a peril and we ought to do everything in our power to prevent the tide of emotion carrying the unsuspecting out on to the billows of unbelief and despair, for that must be the ultimate destination of those who embark upon attempts to communicate with the dead. We must face the contentions of spiritism boldly in the certainty that there are no finer weapons in the universe than those we may use from the armoury of truth. There are at least four ways of meeting the claims of spiritism.
In the first place we may argue that the claim is absolutely false, and that communication with the unseen is an imposition upon our credulity. In part that would be a sound answer. There are mediums who take advantage of those who consult them and will communicate any " message " providing payment is made. Modem spiritism is by no means free from fraud and imposition. But it would be difficult to claim that such an answer covered the field. Certain spirit activities do take place, and of these spiritists are fully aware. Modem spiritists are not in the least disturbed by those who denounce the cult as a gigantic hoax; they know full well there is reality behind it.
In the second place we may contend that spiritism is largely telepathy. A good medium has a mind singularly receptive and as sensitive as a photographic plate. Curious results are therefore possible. What the hypnotised medium reveals is not suggested from the other side but may be the echo so to speak of the mind of the inquirer. One can appreciate how impressive such an apparent coincidence can be. A secret hope latent in the mind of the inquirer is marvellously declared by the medium to be a certain experience in the future, distant or near. It is not recognised perchance that the medium has been entirely dependent upon the seeker for the information imparted as a revelation from the unseen. Telepathy, in this and similar ways may fairly explain much that spiritists declare to be messages from the departed. But telepathy does not explain all.
In the third place it may be admitted that communication with the departed is an undoubted fact. On this point science must be silent, for having no proof of survival it cannot have evidence of communication. There is a tendency for scientists to attempt to correct traditional religious beliefs concerning the departed, but, strictly speaking in so doing they are entirely out of the sphere of their authority. Among spiritists, of course, there is vehement assertion of direct experience the reality of which they do not doubt. But pre-eminently the question at issue is one in which the Bible cannot be ignored and concerning it the verdict is unmistakable. In the Old Testament there is a striking example of communication with the departed. Saul sought out the witch of Endor and asked that he might be put in touch with Samuel, and in spite of doubts in interpretation, it does seem clear that Samuel and none other spoke to Saul.
We shall come back to this incident again, but here let me observe that Samuel's greeting to Saul is instructive "Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up?" In all the discussion today concerning communication with the departed the considerations advanced are always in the interests of those on this side of the grave. This incident, to which the spiritists confidently refer, indicates emphatically that the departed are not eager to be in touch with those they have left behind. They are at rest, and part of that rest is in release from the present world of anxiety, fear, distress and pain. They find their joy, not in seeking to get back to us, but in anticipating our arrival on the other shore.
In the New Testament we have the remarkable event of the Transfiguration. Moses and Elijah talk with our Lord, and the Spiritists claim this wonderful spectacle as a striking example of communication with the departed. In the strict sense of the word the claim must be conceded but there are other considerations. If we are to come to a proper conclusion upon the incident, however, we must observe that while Moses and Elijah talk with our Lord, they do not speak to Peter, James and John. The great figures of the Old Testament ignored the great figures of the New! Not a word is recorded as passing between them. It seems incredible that the golden opportunity of introducing the exponents of the law and of prophecy to the apostles of the gospel should have thus been missed. The silence here and elsewhere in the New Testament must be regarded as having some weight in coming to a conclusion on the question. Our Lord and His Apostles have crammed the New Testament with words of consolation and comfort with promises that have sustained men and women in every generation.
Who ever conceived the life to come in imagery and beauty, as did our Lord? Who ever chiselled out as on marble the assurances of God for those entering the gloom and those left behind? "Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God believe also in Me . . . I go to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am there ye may be also." The final balm for earth's sorrows is the other place He is preparing. The answer to the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death is the unfading glory that lies beyond, but there is no suggestion that in the meantime the sorrow may be eased by fellowship between those on either shore.
And in such an impressive silence one may hear the pin drop! Mary and Martha weep over the departed Lazarus and their sorrow touches the heart of our Lord. In their distress He seeks to comfort them with the assurance of resurrection and all that that means. Martha understands, but human-like she asks for some present consolation. Here then is a woman struggling with a great grief, yet not a word falls from His lips to encourage her to speak to her departed brother. It is a literal truth that there is not one word recorded in the Gospels which suggests that our Lord encouraged or permitted communication with the departed. It will surely not be contested that He of all beings that ever walked this earth, knew most of the great issues on both sides of the river of death and He who, without doubt, knew most said nothing. And I think we may reverently claim that if He knew of any way by which common men and women might secure comfort and help through this vale of tears He owed it to them to open up the way and to take full advantage of it.
His silence is echoed by His Apostles. Paul comforted the Thessalonians in their sorrow and bereavement. They were not to sorrow as those without hope, but what hope did he set before them? The hope in which he revelled was not that of communication with the dead but the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. To keep the eye upward, looking for the unveiling of the Son of God was the joyful attitude he enjoined upon his converts. The dead in Christ were to rise first, and those alive were to be caught up to be for ever with the Lord. With these words they were to comfort one another. But as to finding comfort in speaking with the departed, the Apostle does not utter a syllable. No reasonable student of Scripture can ignore such testimony negative though it be. Paul claims to be a man directed by the Holy Spirit, taught of Him, and there can be no doubt that the claim is right. It surely cannot be a mere coincidence that neither the Lord Himself nor Paul His Apostle gives us any encouragement to seek the departed.
The fourth answer to the question I believe to be right. I do not believe the dead can speak to us, they do not wish to do so even if they could. Every attempt to get into touch with them is sin, and every message from the other side finds its origin not in the departed that we love but in the demons who impersonate them. The witch, in the Old Testament, is always represented as an abomination to the Lord, a snare to God's people. Why should the living seek the dead instead of seeking God ? inquires Isaiah, and in the question he presents a terrible alternative that is most impressive. When men seek the dead they must forsake God.
The people of Isaiah's time were departing from God and the farther they got from God the more widespread necromancy became in their midst. The revival of spiritism today is a disquieting portent that should bring God's people in earnest intercession to their knees that this departing from God may be stayed. Let the incident of Saul and the witch of Endor be admitted as an example of communication with the departed. I think it was a special case, permitted of God for Saul's undoing. The surprise of the witch clearly shows that she did not expect to see Samuel himself but his impersonation. But God stepped in for terrible ends. Yet, accepting this as a real example of communication with the departed it must be remembered that before Saul sought the witch of Endor the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him. If that is the preliminary to communication, what Christian man will wish to pay such a price? if we would establish communication with those who have have left us, we must break our fellowship with Him died for us! Those solemn alternatives are Scriptural and experience proves them to be inevitable.
In so far as there is any reality in spiritism it is of the devil. Modern exponents of the cult cannot ignore the Lord Jesus Christ; they declare Him to be an exceptionally good Medium. But the New Testament never gives Him that title; there He is always the One Mediator, redeeming man from his sin by His death on the Cross. The spiritists have no room for the Cross, albeit that was the one topic of conversation between Moses and Elijah and the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration.
They acknowledge Christ as a Medium but not as the One and Only Mediator for Sin. Spiritists despise the cross in which the Christian disciple finds his joy and peace, they are willing to find a place for Christ in their system of belief and practice but He must come without His Cross! That consideration alone should be final and conclusive to every child of God.
The suggestion may seem to be an anachronism, but in the New Testament the fellowship of the Table of the Lord which is supremely centred in His Cross, is placed in contradistinction to the fellowship of demons. What was real to the early Church ought not to be unreal to us. In the minds of some, the realm of evil has vanished and the devil and his angels no longer exist. But we cannot dissolve such gigantic realities with a thought from a brain however eminent. There are principalities and powers in the heavenlies with which we have to contend and they are much more than an imagination. These powers I believe are easily capable of exercising every possible deception upon us when once we turn from God. I have no doubt in my own mind, strengthened as it is by every testimony of Scripture that the modem communications with the departed are in reality commerce with the satanic realm. True Scripture is often quoted, but that is part of the deception, as our Lord well knew in the wilderness. Paul writes his warning in letters of fire, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly. " This is a word in emphatic terms, a warning by no means to be ignored. He speaks "expressly". What is this urgent, emphatic warning? " In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and the teaching of demons." Whether these be the last days or no is not here the question, but they are certainly days when the warning of the Apostle needs to be remembered for these are the days of seducing of spirits and teaching of demons. Let the child of God beware!
God's methods of comfort indicated in Scripture are at once strengthening and satisfying. The weary, the heavy-laden are directed to Jesus the Saviour whose tender words invite them, "Come unto Me." Graciously He offers that rest in Himself which none other can afford, satisfaction of heart and spirit to be derived nowhere else and from none else. Bruised and broken hearts may find in Him now ample consolation, increasing joy and peace until the daybreak, the shadows flee away, and those from whom we are parted shall be with us, by His grace, where He is. If we have Him, in time or eternity, we have all.
And should there be one to whom these words come home with conviction, having trespassed in this field of sin and known its results. Let him or her know that the call to God for help, the taking hold of the Cross by faith, with the renouncing of the devil, and the full acceptance of the Holy Spirit in the heart, means deliverance from the bondage that is worse than death. There will be a breaking in of light upon a darkness, which indeed can be felt.
"Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out."
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