The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 67: Ancient and Modern Sorcery
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The Scripture account of Saul's visit to the woman of Endor
has been a source of perplexity to many students of the Bible.
There are some who take the position that Samuel was actually
present at the interview with Saul, but the Bible itself furnishes
sufficient ground for a contrary conclusion. If, as claimed by some,
Samuel was in heaven, he must have been summoned thence,
either by the power of God or by that of Satan. None can believe
for a moment that Satan had power to call the holy prophet of
God from heaven to honor the incantations of an abandoned
woman. Nor can we conclude that God summoned him to the
witch's cave; for the Lord had already refused to communicate
with Saul, by dreams, by Urim, or by prophets. 1 Samuel 28:6.
These were God's own appointed mediums of communication,
and He did not pass them by to deliver the message through the
agent of Satan.
The message itself is sufficient evidence of its origin. Its
object was not to lead Saul to repentance, but to urge him on to
ruin; and this is not the work of God, but of Satan. Furthermore,
the act of Saul in consulting a sorceress is cited in Scripture as
one reason why he was rejected by God and abandoned to
destruction: "Saul died for his transgression which he committed
against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he
kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar
spirit, to inquire of it; and inquired not of the Lord: therefore
He slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of
Jesse." 1 Chronicles 10:13, 14. Here it is distinctly stated that
Saul inquired of the familiar spirit, not of the Lord. He did not
communicate with Samuel, the prophet of God; but through the
sorceress he held intercourse with Satan. Satan could not present
the real Samuel, but he did present a counterfeit, that served his
purpose of deception. [p. 684]
Nearly all forms of ancient sorcery and witchcraft were
founded upon a belief in communion with the dead. Those who
practiced the arts of necromancy claimed to have intercourse
with departed spirits, and to obtain through them a knowledge
of future events. This custom of consulting the dead is referred
to in the prophecy of Isaiah: "When they shall say unto you,
Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that
peep and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God?
for the living to the dead?" Isaiah 8:19.
This same belief in communion with the dead formed the
cornerstone of heathen idolatry. The gods of the heathen were
believed to be the deified spirits of departed heroes. Thus the
religion of the heathen was a worship of the dead. This is evident
from the Scriptures. In the account of the sin of Israel at Bethpeor,
it is stated: "Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began
to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they
called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people
did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself
unto Baalpeor." Numbers 25:1-3. The psalmist tells us to what
kind of gods these sacrifices were offered. Speaking of the same
apostasy of the Israelites, he says, "They joined themselves also
unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead" (Psalm 106:28);
that is, sacrifices that had been offered to the dead.
The deification of the dead has held a prominent place in nearly
every system of heathenism, as has also the supposed communion
with the dead. The gods were believed to communicate their will
to men, and also, when consulted, to give them counsel. Of this
character were the famous oracles of Greece and Rome.
The belief in communion with the dead is still held, even in
professedly Christian lands. Under the name of spiritualism the
practice of communicating with beings claiming to be the spirits
of the departed has become widespread. It is calculated to take
hold of the sympathies of those who have laid their loved ones
in the grave. Spiritual beings sometimes appear to persons in
the form of their deceased friends, and relate incidents connected
with their lives and perform acts which they performed while
living. In this way they lead men to believe that their dead
friends are angels, hovering over them and communicating with [p. 685] them. Those who thus assume to be the spirits of the departed
are regarded with a certain idolatry, and with many their word
has greater weight than the word of God.
There are many, however, who regard spiritualism as a mere
imposture. The manifestations by which it supports its claims
to a supernatural character are attributed to fraud on the part of
the medium. But while it is true that the results of trickery have
often been palmed off as genuine manifestations, there have also
been marked evidences of supernatural power. And many who
reject spiritualism as the result of human skill or cunning will,
when confronted with manifestations which they cannot account
for upon this ground, be led to acknowledge its claims.
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