Burning of the Magical Books ST May 18, 1882EGW
In the days of the apostles, the city of Ephesus was famed for the worship of the goddess Diana and the practice of magic. The temple of Diana was considered, for its size and splendor, one of the wonders of the world. Its surpassing magnificence made it the pride of both the city and the nation. The idol itself was but an uncouth wooden image, on which were inscribed mystic characters and symbols. These were supposed to possess great power. When pronounced, they were said to accomplish wonders. When written, they were treasured as a potent charm to guard their possessor from robbers, from disease, and even from death. Numerous and costly books were written by the Ephesians to explain the meaning and use of these mysterious symbols.
In this city, the very stronghold of superstition and sorcery, the apostle Paul labored for several years. Here the power of God was mightily displayed through his servant. The sick were healed, and evil spirits were cast out.
The miracles wrought by Paul in the name of Jesus, created great excitement in Ephesus. Among those who practiced magic arts were certain Jewish exorcists, who claimed to possess the same power exercised by Paul. Believing that the name of Jesus acted as a charm, they determined to cast out evil spirits by the same means which the apostle had employed.
An attempt was made by seven brothers, the sons of Sceva, a chief priest of the Jews. Finding a man who was possessed with an evil spirit, they addressed him, “We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.” But the evil spirit answered with scorn, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” and the man who was possessed attacked them with such violence that they fled out of the house, naked and wounded.
The discomfiture and humiliation of those who had profaned the name of Jesus soon became known throughout Ephesus, by Jews and Gentiles. It furnished unmistakable proof of the sacredness of that name, and the peril which they incurred who should invoke it, while they had no faith in Christ’s divine mission.
Many dared not breathe aloud the name, on which they had hitherto heaped reproach and blasphemy. A large number were convinced that Christ was all that Paul claimed him to be, and they determined to receive the gospel. These openly renounced the practice of sorcery, and acknowledged their secret arts to be deceptive and Satanic. They brought together the manuals of enchantment, the costly books containing the mystic symbols of Diana, and the secrets of their art, and burned them in the presence of all the people. The sacrifice thus made was estimated at fifty thousand pieces of silver, equal to about ten thousand dollars.
The conversion of these Ephesians was attended with the results that always follow genuine conversion. When convinced that their magical books were false and pernicious, they were unwilling to sell them and thus place temptation in the way of others. They promptly burned the records of divination, at a great personal sacrifice. The power of truth triumphed over men’s prejudices, favorite pursuits, and love of money.
Those magical books contained rules and forms of communication with evil spirits. They were, in fact, the regulations of the worship of Satan; directions for soliciting his help, and obtaining information from him. The system of magic or sorcery then extant was in reality the same as that which is now known as modern Spiritualism. Many were deceived in Paul’s day by this Satanic delusion, and many are deceived today by the same power. “Magical books” were not confined to the apostolic age, or to nations that are called heathen. The sorcerers of our time are taking advantage of the freedom of the press to spread abroad their baleful literature. Could all the productions of modern Spiritualism be treated as were the magical books of the Ephesians, one of Satan’s most successful avenues to destroy the souls of men would be cut off.
Witchcraft and sorcery are practiced in this Christian age and Christian nation, even more boldly than by the old-time magicians. Satan is finding access to thousands of minds by presenting himself under the guise of departed friends. The Scriptures of truth declare that “the dead know not anything.” Their thoughts, their love, their hatred, have perished. The dead do not hold communion with the living. But Satan—true to his early cunning, when in the form of a serpent he deceived the mother of our race—employs this device to gain control of the minds of men.
Paul warns his Corinthian brethren of the deceptive power of their great adversary. He declares, “I fear that by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
He writes to his son Timothy, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.”
In his second epistle to the Thessalonians, he warns them that the second advent of our Lord will be preceded by the working of Satan,” with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.”
Because the children of men reject the plainest teachings of his word, and trample upon his law, God leaves them to choose that which they desire. They spurn the truth, and he permits them to believe a lie. They refuse to yield to the convictions of the Holy Spirit, and Satan, transforming himself into an angel of light, leads them captive at his will. If men were but conversant with the word of God, and obedient to its teachings, they could not be thus deceived; but they neglect the great detector of fraud, and the mind becomes confused and corrupted by the deceptive arts of men, and the secret power of the father of lies.
Men of intelligence are infatuated with Satanic sorcery as verily today as in the days of Paul. Thousands accept the opinion of the minister or obey the injunctions of the pope or priest, and neglect God’s word and despise his truth. God would have his people learn their duty for themselves. The Bible declares his will to men, and it is as much our privilege and our duty to learn that will as it is that of ministers and popes and priests to learn it. What they can read from God’s word, we can all read.
When the Ephesian converts burned their books on magic, they showed that they hated what they had once loved, and loved what they had once hated. The light of truth, shining into their minds, had convinced them of the unlawfulness of their arts, and had stirred their souls with abhorrence of their unholy deeds. Such a change is the best evidence of true conversion.
A person may not be able to tell the exact time or place, or to trace all the chain of circumstances in the process of conversion; yet this does not prove him to be unconverted. Said Christ to Nicodemus, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Though the work of grace is silent and almost imperceptible, it may be fully as effective as when its operations are more apparent. But if the heart has been renewed by the Holy Spirit, the life will bear witness to the fact. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Light and darkness are not more distinct than are the state of the converted and the unconverted. A change will be seen in the character, the habits, the pursuits. The contrast will be clear and decided between what they have been and what they are.
The world and the church have a right to expect such proof of true conversion as was given by the Ephesians,—proof that a new moral taste has been created. You may not have practiced sorcery, you may not have tampered with Spiritualism; but remember that “To whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey.” If you indulge in any practice forbidden in God’s word, you have yielded obedience to Satan; you are his servant.
Every unconverted man is fascinated, bewildered, by the bewitching power of the great deceiver. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?” Every person who cherishes a known error, in faith or practice, is under the power of sorcery, and is practicing sorcery upon others. Satan employs him to mislead other souls.
If we would indeed become children of God, we must renounce at once and forever, every sinful indulgence. We must close every avenue through which Satan may gain control of our thoughts or our affections. Many persons manifest determined hatred of some sins denounced in the word of God, while they at the same time indulge their favorite sin. Not so did the Ephesian converts. Their particular sin was magic. By this means Satan held them in his power. They might have been earnest and vigilant to correct other evils, but had they spared this one sin, they would erelong have yielded their faith. But they laid the axe to the root of the tree; they renounced the hidden things of darkness and destroyed that which had led them into sin.
This incident, was placed on record as an important lesson for every age. The Ephesians directed their efforts against the very sin of which they were guilty. Have the people of God in this age acted in like manner? There are many who manifest supreme devotion to their money, their business or their houses and lands. The ambitious man worships fame or honor as his idol. The covetous man fosters covetousness. The sensualist is wedded to his lust. These love their cherished objects of pursuit more than they love God. They are idolaters.
Those who venture to cherish the sin which they love best, are tampering with Satan’s sorcery. The enchanting power of temptation has paralyzed conscience and blinded reason, so that they do not perceive their danger. The magical books have not been destroyed.
When the truth, presented to the understanding, exerts its sanctifying power upon the heart, the sins which were once cherished will be put away, that Jesus may occupy the soul-temple. If covetousness has been indulged, it will be given up. If the love of the world has captivated the senses, a higher attraction will break its power. Deceit, falsehood, impurity, will be cleansed from the heart. He who maintains his allegiance to Christ, can render no service to Christ’s bitterest foe.
Many place themselves on the enchanted ground by frequenting scenes of amusement where fallen spirits congregate. Professing Christian, when you resort to the theater, remember that Satan is there, conducting the play as the master-actor. He is there to excite passion and glorify vice. The very atmosphere is permeated with licentiousness. Satan presides, also, at the masquerade and the dance; he throws around the card-table its bewitching power. Wherever an influence is exerted to cause men to forget their Creator, there Satan is at work, it matters not how innocent the guise under which he conceals his purpose.
Many who cannot be attracted by the allurements of pleasure, are ensnared by the teachings of “science falsely so-called.” These are led to extol human reason, above divine revelation; to exalt nature, and forget the God of nature. Is there no magic, no sorcery, going on around us?
The press is now sending out books in great numbers, that teach the ignorant and unsuspecting how they may serve Satan. There are works breathing the poison of skepticism and infidelity. There are treatises on money-making, that fill thousands of minds with fancies and follies, that fire thousands with an insane desire to amass wealth. There are fascinating volumes, that portray with all the power of human eloquence the lives of those who have made fame their god. And outnumbering all other productions of the press, like the swarms of locusts that darkened the whole land, comes the flood of novels and romances, to cultivate in the youth a love-sick sentimentalism, to teach them that courtship and marriage are the great object of their existence, and to unfit them for the practical duties of a useful life.
Satan is seeking by every means he can devise, to suggest doubts concerning the truth of God’s word. Those who are naturally inclined to skepticism should, above all others, avoid everything that would strengthen this dangerous tendency. On the contrary, many read with avidity skeptical writings which exert such a deceptive, bewitching power that the reader seeks in vain to free the mind or purify the heart from the unholy spell. Evil angels, having once gained access, suggest doubts that human reasoning is powerless to remove. When God speaks to the soul, those who would be free will cut every tie that holds them under Satan’s power. They will destroy that which so nearly proved their ruin, lest it prove the ruin of others.
Many a work is highly prized for its wealth and beauty of language, when these are but a fair garment to conceal principles that in their native deformity would shock the reader. Those principles have led the author step by step away from God, from hope, and Heaven. Will they not exert the same influence upon the reader? The course of the Ephesians was the only safe course for them; it is the only safe course for you. Destroy these agencies of Satan. Put beyond your reach that which has power to seduce you.
The authors of no small share of current literature are men who have lived in the atmosphere of vice, and who are slaves of passion. Poets of brilliant talents have perverted their powers to the service of Satan. Over all that is good, and pure, and noble, they have cast the darkness of their own base thoughts. They encourage dissipation and sanction vice.
The bewildering brilliancy, the deceptive pathos, of many a gifted author, are Satan’s bait to allure and destroy the souls of men. Many who are in no danger from the productions of the gross and sensual, are deceived by writers who virtually clothe Satan in angel’s garments and make him a benefactor of the race. Such works are legion.
Have the disciples of Christ burned the magical books? Have they made a decided change in their principles and habits of life? Have they separated themselves from the enchantments of the world? Those who, knowing their danger, will yet venture into places of worldly, demoralizing amusement, or who will poison the mind with the literary productions of the skeptic, or the sensualist, are guilty of presumption. God does not give his angels charge to keep those who choose to walk in forbidden paths.
When in the way of duty we are brought into trial, as was Daniel in the king’s court, we may be assured that God will preserve us. But if, through stubbornness, hardihood, or bravado, we place ourselves under the power of temptation, we shall fall, sooner or later.
We are living at a time when Satan’s power is great. “As a roaring lion, he walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Anon, he will quell his roar to the faintest whisper, that he may deceive the unsuspecting by his hellish arts. The glories of the world are presented in glowing colors to fascinate the senses, to beguile unstable souls. What have professed Christians done to close every avenue whereby Satan can approach them? Have they given proof of the work wrought in them by the Holy Spirit? Have they erected barriers, firm and strong, between their soul and every earthly idol?
The infidel, when converted, will abhor the books that led him to doubt the word of God. The dissolute man who has purified his soul by obedience to the truth, will not venture into the haunts of dissipation, from curiosity or habit. Neither will he permit his mind to dwell upon such scenes, portrayed in the pages of the sensualist. He will be awake to his danger, shunning temptation himself, and earnestly warning others of its bewitching power. Whatever the idol previously cherished, the converted man will not only resist evil, but will, so far as possible, place himself beyond the power of Satan. Again we would ask the followers of Christ, “Have you burned the magical books?” ST May 18, 1882 – ST May 18, 1882, par. 33