EDITORS NOTE: Through Hollywood and the false philosophies of apostate Christianity, many of us have fallen for a false notion of what it is to be “possessed”. It is our hope with the reprinting of this classic article from Apostle Willard Richards to overcome this false notion so that we can better overcome a situation we probably didn’t even know we were in. The original title of this article was, “False and Delusive Spirits”
Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, prove them, and learn whether they be God-like, and, if so, receive those spirits, but, if not, reject them; for whatsoever is not of God is evil. It is no uncommon thing for a false spirit to assume a more plausible appearance to a casual observer, than a true spirit would on the same subject; it was so formerly, it is so latterly.
We were forcibly reminded of these truths when a sister remarked in a recent conversation, “What a happy thing it would be if the writings of the clairvoyants and mesmerizers were true concerning the spirit world, for then all would be saved.” Yes, said we, just as happy a thing would it now be as it was in the councils of eternity, when the Father made proposals concerning the salvation of man, when he should sin on the earth; Jesus offered to redeem all who would repent and keep a celestial law; Lucifer, a younger brother, offered to save all; Jesus’ offer was accepted by the Father and Lucifer’s was rejected; and yet Lucifer’s proposition appeared so plausible, so much more liberal, noble, benevolent, and kind-hearted, that one-third part of the sons of God believed it and joined Lucifer’s standard. That was what made division in heaven and war followed; Lucifer, with one-third of the spirits of heaven, which he drew around him by his sophistry and false philanthropy, declared war against Jesus and the two-thirds that rallied round His standard to maintain the truth; and they fought until Lucifer and his followers were overcome and cast out of heaven, even unto the earth, and were cursed with this curse, even that they should not receive unto themselves bodies on the earth, like the two-thirds who maintained their integrity and fought by the side of Jesus.
This curse came through imbibing and exercising a false spirit, a sympathizing spirit, a spirit that will sympathize with misery or punishment, when misery is justly due by punishment. Lucifer made his followers believe that he was a far more tender-hearted and merciful being than Jesus, and got all he could to help him sympathize for the miseries that must follow the abominable crimes of man on the earth, and they want it for salvation anyhow, right or wrong; they were so good, so holy, and so benevolent they could not do otherwise.
There are multitudes of just such benevolent souls on the earth at the present day. Men may lie, steal, swear, get drunk, then murder and shed innocent blood, for which there is no forgiveness in this world nor the world to come, and for which as good a man as King David, “a man after God’s own heart,” was thrust down to hell, and there will remain till he has paid the uttermost farthing. And yet there are men in abundance on the earth who are possessed of the same holy benevolence with their father Lucifer, who will pray over them, exhort them to repentance, petition the governor to pardon them, and do all in their power to save them from the punishment decreed by the laws of heaven. They are so sympathetic, have so much kind-hearted feeling, so full of Christian benevolence, disinterested benevolence, they would save the rascals from punishment if possible. They can’t bear to have their poor fellow creatures suffer so much; it is too bad. Such conduct is the disinterested benevolence of which the world is so full and boasts so much.
But what is the benevolence of heaven, the sympathy of the Holy Ones in such matters? Down to hell where David went; down to hell, ye murderers, ye whose sins cannot be pardoned; ye have taken the blood of your fellows, and ye can’t restore it; therefore howl ye, for hot wrath is upon you, and he that sitteth in the heavens will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh. Your destruction cometh like the whirlwind, and no power can stay it.
Herein is the benevolence of God manifested; when there is no more hope of a man, instead of keeping him in the midst of the children of men to commit further outrages and mar the peace of His kingdom, He thrusts him down to his own place, to howl out his lamentations and work his passage to the last milestone; while the disinterested benevolence of the priests of Baal would pray him into heaven, in sprite of the decrees of heaven, with all his unpardonable sins upon his head, if they had the power.
They are so full of sympathy, “dear spirit, sweet spirit,” they would have all men saved; as much as the sister who had read clairvoyance till she had almost forgot her God and hoped the mesmeric world of spirits was true, or that the followers of Lucifer who lost their own salvation by exercising a spirit of false sympathy; and so will it be with all who forsake the living God, and raise up gods of their own imaginations and harbor false spirits.
False spirits are more subtle and more contagious than the small pox; their number and diversity of operations cannot be counted by man; and the first moment the Saints leave the path of duty, that moment they are subject to the influence of evil, false spirits, which once having taken possession of the soul, are difficult if not impossible to be removed, by the person so receiving them without assistance from those who have more wisdom. The great object of evil spirits is to get bodies, and the only chance they have is to dispossess a soul of the spirit of the Lord, the light of eternal truth, and take possession of that body thus dispossessed; and when thus once in possession, it may truly be said there is a body possessed of the devil.
Jesus and His disciples in different ages, have commanded the unclean and wicked spirits to depart out of those of whom they had taken possession, and they have departed; but there are those spirits which are not easily dispossessed and go out only by prayer and fasting. And again, there are those spirits that will hardly go out at any price, except it is by the will of those who harbor them. And of what class are they? They are invited spirits. Invited spirits? Yes, many spirits watch their opportunity to thrust themselves into a person when and where they are not wanted, and such are much more easily cast out than those who are invited guests.
For instance, a person for some real or supposed injury or neglect from a friend, wishes to retaliate, to be revenged, and of course opens the way and invites the spirit of jealousy to take possession; and the moment jealousy enters the breast, there is a perfect hell of happiness. No scheme that hell itself can devise to torment, perplex, harass, disturb, vex, or mar the peace of friend, wife, or husband, is left untouched, or unmoved; and by that time the breast of the harborer is opened to all the evil spirits of Pandemonium–all have free access, and oh, what a world of glory dwells there!
And how shall that jealous spirit be removed? By the laying on of hands? The Lord deliver us from such an ordinance, in such a case. Why? That spirit was invited to take up its abode there, and while the spirit is made welcome by that person, what right have we to dispossess it? It would be abridging the agency of the individual who invited the spirit for any one to cause that spirit to depart, without the person’s leave; and we choose that all should exercise their own agency and responsibility, and then they are subjects of accountability.
Other spirits, not particularly invited or desired, gain an easy access to those who are careless, heedless, and but too indifferent to the statutes, ordinances, and duties of God’s kingdom; who neglect their prayers, their assembling together, and doing as they would be done unto; and from these spirits arise contention, strife, evil thinking, evil speaking, evil surmising, detraction, revenge, law-suits, and a host of such perplexing annoyances, sufficient to disturb a nation; but the man who is obedient to his God in all things, who knows no will of his own, only to do the will of his Father in the heavens, is free from these spirits; the Devil has no power over him, for he resists him, and evil spirits are compelled to flee at his rebuke.
Some may ask, “How shall I know when I am operated upon by a false spirit?” There are many keys by which the door of knowledge is unlocked to the Saints in relation to spirits, as well as other things pertaining to the kingdom; but one may suffice at the present time, for we have not designed this brief notice to cover all or any considerable portion of the ground which the subject includes.
The spirit of heaven is a spirit of peace, joy, comfort, consolation, and knowledge to its possessor, and all Saints who have enjoyed this spirit, (and all Saints have more or less) may know when this peaceful spirit dwelling within them is disturbed, that something is wrong, that some false spirit is lurking within or about them, striving to enter; and if they will resist the first impulse of their disturbed feelings and command Satan in the name of Jesus to depart, peace will instantly be restored to their souls.
It is not the wrong doings of others that destroy that peace within ourselves which the world can neither give nor take away; it is our own wrongs which cause that peaceful spirit to leave us; and would to God that His truth were indelibly imprinted on the heart and recollection of every Saint. It is your own wrongs or evil spirits that destroy your peace, and not the wrongs of your friend or neighbor. Know ye, all ye Saints, if the peace of heaven and a foretaste of the blessings of the celestial world are not continually with you, there is something wrong within; some foul spirit has got possession of yourself, and the quicker you dispossess it, the better.
Carry out this principle, and what will be the result? Every Saint will live by his creed, and “mind his own business.” Every dear wife will look with a zealous eye towards the happiness and welfare of her dear husband, and if she is tempted to think he is doing wrong, she will say, Get thee behind me, Satan; that is none of my business. I will do right, and that is enough for me, and I shall have peace in my soul. And so continue to do, till he has done so wrong that forbearance is no longer a virtue, then give him a divorce and do better if you can; but while you live with him, live in peace, and keep jealousy out of doors; if you don’t, you will always have hell within, and devils enough to carry it on. The moment you are jealous that your husband is wrong, that moment you are miserable, that misery is proof positive that you yourself are wrong, for it destroys your peace.
Jealous husbands are quite as bad and a little less excusable (if there can be any excuse) than jealous wives. Husbands, if your wives do wrong, teach them better if they are willing to be taught, and if they are not, keep out of their way till they are willing, and no quarreling between you. You need not fret your soul because your dear wife does wrong. Don’t let the devil destroy your peace and cause the Holy Ghost to depart from you, because your wife has given way to a bad spirit. Show yourself a man of God; be at peace with yourself, pray for her, and when she has been buffeted by the devil long enough, she will get tired of him, leave him, and return to you.
Some husbands are so mighty big because they are the head, that the wife has no room in the house; if she thinks, she thinks wrong; if she speaks, she speaks wrong; if she acts, she acts wrong; she can’t do a right thing for the life of her; and do what she will, no matter, she is as likely to get a cuffed ear as anything else, and a little more so; and if she should ask forgiveness, she would meet with the consoling retort from her dear lord, “yes, and you’ll do the same thing again next minute.” Why all this? Because the dear husband, the great lord of the house, has got so many devils in him, they make him so big there is not room for anybody else in that house.
The things of which we speak are but too common among the nations of Christendom, and too much of them have been brought together among the Saints; but it is time for Saints to stop such things. Husbands, love and cherish your wives as you ought; give them their place, their rights, their dominion, that they may act upon their agency, as you do on yours; and quit your fretting, and snarling, and quarreling with them, if you ever did it. What, a man quarrel with himself? Yes, just as well as quarrel with his wife–’tis all the same.
If there is one solitary case, such as we have supposed, among the Saints, we would venture a prescription. What, are you a doctor? We make no such pretensions, but men may say that we are. Let the husband who wants a quarrel with his wife go to some deep, remote canyon, where no human voice was ever heard or foot trod, there strip and fight till you are tired of it; then come home and behave yourself.
Let the wife who wants to pick a quarrel with her husband, retire to some dark room or cellar, which contains nothing but bare walls and total darkness, and there fight till you are tired of fighting; then return to your family and behave yourself. And when husband and wife have got through with their fights, they will each be willing to acknowledge that they had had as many devils in them as Mary Magdalene, or they would not have been such fools as to fight themselves at such fearful odds; and if they don’t, we’ll make another gratis prescription. (Mill. Star, vol. 14, pp. 277-280)