The attitude of the Early Fathers to evil spirits. 

“Tertullian says, in his Apology addressed to the Rulers of the roman Empire:

. . Let a person be brought before your tribunals who is plainly under demoniacal possession. The wicked spirit, bidden to speak by a follower of Christ, will as readily make the truthful confession that he is a demon, as elsewhere he has falsely asserted that he is a god. Or, if you will, let there be produced one of the god-possessed, as they are supposed–if they do not confess, IN THEIR FEAR OF LYING TO A CHRISTIAN, that they are demons, then and there shed the blood of that most impudent follower of Christ.


Justin Martyr, in his second Apology addressed to the Roman Senate, says: “Numberless demoniacs throughout the whole world and in your city, many of our Christian men–exorcising them in the name of Jesus Christ who was crucified under Pontius Pilate–have healed and do heal, rendering helpless, and driving the possessing demon out of the men, though they could not be cured by all other exorcists, and those who use incantations and drugs.”

CYPRIAN expressed himself with equal confidence. After having said that they are evil spirits that inspire the false prophets of the Gentiles, and deliver oracles by always mixing truth with falsehood to prove what they say, he adds: “Nevertheless these evil spirits adjured by the living God IMMEDIATELY OBEY US, SUBMIT TO US, OWN OUR POWER, and are forced to come out of the bodies they possess. . . .”
Symptoms of Demon Possession.
Gleanings from “Demon Possession,” by Dr. J.L. Nevius.

  1. The one under demon-power is an involuntary victim. (The willing soul is known as a medium).
  2. The chief characteristic of demonomania is a distinct “other personality” within. (This is different to demon-influence, for in this men follow their own wills, and retain their own personality.)
  3. The demons have a longing for a body to possess (Matt. 12: 43, 8: 31), as it seems to give them some relief, and they enter the bodies of animals as well as men. There are distinctly individual peculiarities of the spirits.
  4. They converse through the organs of speech, and give evidence of personality, desire, fear.
  5. They give evidence of knowledge and power not possessed by the subject.In Germany, Pastor Blumhardt gives instances of demons speaking in all the European languages, and in some languages unrecognizable. In France there were some cases having the “gift of tongues,” speaking in German, Latin, Arabic.
  6. The demon in possession of the body, entirely changes the moral character of those they enter, compelling them to act entirely contrary to their normal behaviour.  Reserved, reticent men will weep, sing, laugh, talk, meek souls will rage, ordinarily pure-tongued men and women will speak of things not to be named among children of God, and act in manner and conduct contrary to their normal dignity and behaviour–all of which they are not responsible for whilst under “control” of this other personality within them. In brief, they will exhibit traits of character utterly different from those which belong to them normally.
  7. There are also nervous and muscular symptoms peculiar to demon possession in the body.
  8. There is also an afflatus of the breast, which is a special mark of demon possession, and
  9. Oracular utterances are given in jerks and sentences, quite unlike the calm coherent sequence of language seen in the utterances of the apostles at Pentecost.
  10. There is “levitation” of the body–well known by spiritists–when the subject will say he is quite unconscious of possessing a body–and there is invariably a passive mind. There is often a distinct voice which speaks through the lips of the subject expressing thoughts, and words unintentionally.

Demoniacal activity in later times.
From “Spirit Manifestations.” By Sir Robert Anderson.
“The Gospels testify to the activity of demons during the ministry of Christ on earth; and the Epistles warn us of a RENEWAL OF DEMONIACAL ACTIVITY in the “latter times,” before His return. “All Scripture is God-breathed”; but it would seem that sometimes the revelation was made with special definiteness, and this particular warning is prefaced by the words; “the Spirit saith expressly.” And it relates not to any new development of moral evil in the world, but to a new apostasy in the professing Church, a cult promoted by “seducing spirits” of a highly sensitive spirituality, and a more fastidious morality than Christianity itself will sanction (1 Tim. 4)

The Gospel narrative indicates that some demons were base and filthy spirits that exercised a brutalizing influence upon their victims. But the Lord plainly indicated that these were a class apart (“this kind” Mark 9: 29). They were all “unclean spirits,” but in Jewish use the word akatharios connoted spiritual defilement. That it did not imply moral pollution is proved by the fact that the Lord Jesus was charged with having a demon, though not even His most malignant enemies ever accused Him of moral evil. It was only by prayer that these filthy spirits could be cast out; whereas pious demons acknowledged Christ, and came out when His disciples commanded them to do so in His Name . . .”

The physiology of the spirit.
Gleanings from “Primeval Man unveiled.” By James Gall.
“The natural body has its senses, the spirit also has its senses . . .”

“There are busy senses within, examining and judging, approving and condemning, joying and grieving, hoping and fearing, after a fashion of their own, which no bodily sense can imitate . . .”

“There is a spirit within which we call ourselves, and it is perfectly distinct from the body in which we dwell . . .”

“If our spirits, which are generated in or with our bodies, are elaborated from immaterial substances into separate existences, constituting individual spirits . . . these individual spirits must be presumed to be composed of spirit substance or substances, and possessed of different faculties . . .”

“Our very language implies that the human spirit is an organism composed of parts mutually related, which, though individually different, are generically the same . . .”

It is a well established doctrine of Scripture, that the body is animated by an intelligent and immortal spirit, that feels and acts by means of its material mechanism, without being itself material . . .”

Demon Possession among Christians.
The Case of a Christian Lady
Extracts from private letters, by an Evangelist of repute in Germany.

“. . . In the Spring of this year (1912) [this servant of God] who was possessed, came here, and the spirits possessing her spoke through her in voices utterly unlike her own. They would utter through her the most awful blasphemies against God, and against our Lord Jesus Christ, and would prophecy concerning the Church . . .

Much prayer has been made for her, and with her. When the frenzy comes upon her, she is fearfully shaken, dashes about the room, made to howl like a dog, and her hands clenched, her face drawn with horrible contortions, etc., etc. But the marvel to everyone is that, although the frenzy is upon her every day, and sometimes once, twice, or more in one day, her health is perfect, she sleeps well, and in the interval is the MOST LOVELY SPIRITED CHRISTIAN WOMAN . . .”

Later. “. . . This sister is not one who has not got faith. She is well grounded in the same faith, and has the same light as we have; but we have here to do with a demon, the like of which I have never met before, nor read about . . . .

It would also be an error if one were to think that PRAYER AND COMMANDING had not been of any use, for in these last three weeks God has done great and glorious things, so that we are full of adoration. The demon is still there, it is true, but he has broken down mightily, so that he cannot any more torment the sister. He is quite powerless in her, and she looks so radiantly happy with a heavenly gladness, fresh and strong. Also the demon has been divested of all power over her lips. Instead of the blasphemies and ravings, there is only a desperate and plaintive howling . . and that lasts all the time we pray.”

Later. “For about a fortnight now the demon has been silent. For eight days he did not speak a single word, only he cried out twice: ‘THE AUTHORITY CASTS ME OUT!’ The only thing he does is howling and gnashing of teeth. Some days ago we prayed for about one-and-a-half hours. In this way it goes on now for ten or fourteen days–there is only this terrible crying, as if in great fear. There is not any blasphemy, nor cursing God, no more asserting threatenings, and all the sayings that he would not depart, that it would not suit him–all this has ceased. Instead of the dreadful ravings and outbursts of rage, there is now the desperate howling, often a dreadful screaming as if of fear, and the sister is almost free from his tormenting her . . . .

The demon must have received a terrible blow from God, so that his blasphemies have been silenced. It was so last evening; when we prayed, the desperate cry began at once, and I felt once more the impulse to command the demon in the Name of the Lord Jesus to depart. He then gave a great start, he trembled, howled, stretched out both hands as if imploring mercy, and begging us not to do that, but he was not allowed to utter a single word . But there followed strong reaction and vomiting, and this was repeated as often as I spoke the command in the Name of the Lord Jesus to depart.

Of course we have to go on praying just as earnestly, but as God has done such great things, and if we go on praying, also the last blow will be given. The demon will have to depart.”

Note: Further particulars of this case are given in “The Strong Man Spoiled,” by A.R. Habershon. (id. Morgan & Scott, London). The lady is now quite set free, and has been able to return to her mission work. It is stated clearly that her mental faculties were unimpaired, and she was able to prepare all the accounts and balance sheet of the mission she was engaged in, not long before the attacks became manifested.

In this book, the demon’s acknowledgment of the power and authority granted to those who commanded him, and the other spirits to depart, is striking. The spirit in possession said:

“Oh, this authority, this authority which they have now recognized, is an awful thing for hell!”

Pleading for mercy at another time the e.s. said, “Do leave off your commanding. For three weeks I have suffered unbearable torments because of it. Do not tell anybody that we had to yield to the authority . . . . Oh, these prayers of believers . . . they always pray, they are no longer afraid . . . .”

The working of evil spirits in Christian gatherings.

1. Supposed “conviction of sin” by deceiving spirits.
“. . . I united with a number of brethren and sisters one whole week every month, in prayer to God to pour out more of His Spirit, gifts and power. After having done this for some time with great earnestness, such powerful and wonderful manifestations of God and His Holy Spirit (apparently) took place, that we no longer doubted God had heard our prayer, and His Spirit had descended into our midst, and on our gathering. Amongst other things this spirit, which we thought to be the Holy Spirit, used a 15-year-old girl as his instrument, through whom everyone belonging to our gathering, and having any sin or burden of conscience, had it revealed to the gathering. Nobody could remain in the meeting with any burden of conscience without it being revealed to the meeting by this spirit. For example: A gentleman of esteem and respect from the neighbourhood came to the meeting, and all his sins were exposed in the presence of the gathering by the 15-year-old girl. Thereupon he took me into an adjoining room, so broken down, and admitted to me, with tears, that he had committed all these sins which the girl had exposed. He confessed this and all other sins known to him. Then he came again into the meeting, but hardly had he entered when the same voice said to him, ‘Ha! You have not confessed all yet, you have stolen 10 gulden, that you have not confessed.’ In consequence, he took me again into the adjoining room and said, ‘It is true, I have also done this . . . This man had never seen this 15-year-old girl in his life, neither she him.

With such events, was it astonishing that a spirit of holy awe came over all at the meeting, and there was one controlling note which can only be expressed in the words, ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?’ Fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. There was a most earnest spirit of adoration, and who could doubt when even the strong were broken down, and nobody dared remain in the meeting if they were a hindrance.

And, yet we had to unmask this spirit which had brought about these things–and which we took to be the Holy Ghost–as a terrible power of darkness. I had such an uneasy feeling of distrust which could not be overcome . . . As I made this known for the first time to an older brother and friend . . . he said, ‘Brother Seitz, if you continue to foster unbelief, you can commit the sin against the Holy Ghost which will never be forgiven.’ These were terrible days and hours for me, because I did not know whether we had to do with the power of God or a disguised spirit of Satan, and one thing only was clear to me, viz., that I and this meeting should not let ourselves be led by a spirit when we did not have clear light, and confirmation whether this power was from above or below. Thereupon I took the leading brethren and sisters to the uppermost room of the house, and made known to them my position, and said we must all cry and pray that we may be able to prove whether it was a power of light or darkness.

As we came downstairs the voice of this power said, using the 15-year-old girl as his instrument, ‘What is this rebellion in your midst? You will be sorely punished for your unbelief.’ I told this voice that it was true we did not know with whom we had dealings. But we wanted to be in that attitude, that if it was an angel of God, or the Spirit of God, we would not sin against Him, but if it was a devil we would not be deceived by him. ‘If you are the power of God, you will be in accord as we handle the Word of God.’ ‘Try the spirits whether they be of God.’ We all knelt down and cried and prayed to God in such earnestness, that He would have mercy upon us, and reveal to us in some manner, whom we had dealings with. Then the power had to reveal itself on its own accord. Through the person which he had been using as his instrument he made such abominable and terrible grimaces, and shrieked in such a piercing tone, ‘Now I am found out, now I am found out . . . .”

2. Supposed unity for “Revival.”   For some time now it has been on my mind to try to put into language some of the things which it has been my painful experience to witness, and pass through, in connection with the workings of Satan as an “angel of light,” but everything seemed so complicated and confused . . . .

First, his attacks seem to be made upon the most spiritual souls–those who have made the fullest surrender to God, and who recognize a spiritual affinity, which they believe if broken, mars the whole purpose of God (1 Cor. 1: 10). The lying spirit insists on one mind, and judgment, and one expression. These souls thus “joined” form the “Assembly,” so called, and claim Psalm 89: 7. Everything is brought into the “Assembly” for decision, the assertion being that no individual soul can get the mind of the Lord, based on Prov. 11: 14, 5: 22, and 20: 18. Hours were spent in bringing the tiniest details of daily life before the Lord. The leader spread each matter, asking that all might be brought to one mind. The response was then given by each one in some word of Scripture. The attitude taken to receive the supposed “word of the Lord,” was the RESISTANCE OF ANY THOUGHT OR REASON, and LETTING THE MIND BECOME A PERFECT BLANK. If anyone ventured to give an opinion–or any judgment–they were ruled out of fellowship; the fact of reasoning being the proof of the “flesh-life.”

The discipline ministered to such was severe indeed. They were not allowed to speak to anyone, or to do any kind of work. In some cases this lasted for weeks, and even months. The effect upon the mind was very terrible. The only way back was by making a statement in the “Assembly” which satisfied them that there was true repentance.

Prov. 21: 4, and Isaiah 59: 3, are the words given for not working, and Rom. 8: 8. Prayer and reading the word–all adds to sin–consequently the soul is shut up in torment and despair, being excluded from all meetings.

Second. The “manifestation of the Spirit” in prophecy, prayer and travail. One person would often pray for an hour, and sometimes two hours, without a break. Messages, too, would often last for two hours, and the whole meeting for eight or nine hours. Anyone yielding to sleep or exhaustion, was at once pronounced “in the flesh,” and a hindrance to the meeting.

“Travail” was manifested by tears, groans and twisting of the body; and with some it was exactly like hysterics, and would last for hours. This was greatly encouraged as the means whereby God would work for the deliverance of souls–and those who did not come under this manifestation, were judged as preserving their own life, not willing to “let go”–lovers of themselves; and it was believed that when the whole company were unitedly under the so-called “manifestation of the Spirit” then God would break through in Revival. I might say here, that all this began with a nightly prayer meeting for Revival, with no limit as to time.

The paralyzing fear of resisting God by any lack of submission, and evading the Cross by an unwillingness to suffer, just sways the soul; and it dare not yield to one thought contrary to the “mind of Christ” in the “Assembly . . .”

3. Supposed manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
From a book recently published, said to contain the very words of the Lord Jesus, spoken THROUGH some of His children, and written down as spoken in the first person, the following brief extract is taken, showing the extract of the mediumistic control by deceiving spirits, which some are believed to be the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord Jesus is supposed to have said:–
“The manifestations of the Spirit, in some things, are very strange. Sometimes He will twist the body this way, and that, and the meaning is dark to you. I want you to know some things about this part of the Spirit’s work. I want you to see that they are not useless.

If you had spoken in your own tongue, when the Spirit came in, it would have graciously blessed you; but perhaps you might have thought it was yourself , as many have. So the Spirit comes in and speaks in an unknown tongue to you, that you might know that it was NOT YOURSELF SPEAKING . . .

Your hands He has often lifted up, and again He has raised your fingers in various ways. Your eyes open and shut by the Spirit now, as they did not before. Your very head has been shaken by the Spirit, and you have not known why He did this. You have thought sometimes, it was just to show He was living there, and that is true, but there is more in it than that, and He will show you as well as He can, in a few words, what some of these things are . . .

Some things in the manifestations are very peculiar to you. You have gone on wondering about them. Don’t think it strange that the Spirit works in you in many ways. His work is more than a two-fold work. It is manifold. This is puzzling many minds. They see the Spirit shaking. They hear Him singing. They FEEL HIM LAUGHING, and they are sometimes tried with His various twistings and jerkings, as though He would tear them to pieces.

Sometimes it seems He is imitating the animals in various sounds and doings. This has been all a mystery to the saints. His work, I say, is manifold. He seeks, in some, to show them that they are all one with each other, in the whole creation . . . If He shows you, by making a noise as of some wild animal, and that you are like that, you must not despise His way of working, for the Holy Spirit knows why He does it. He makes these noises in the animals, can’t He make them in you?