Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/379

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365
EVIL SPIRITS.

ant Reformation, a seething mass of conflicting theological parties and opinions: the old Church, acknowledged even by its defenders to be corrupt, making what seemed to many its death-stand against Protestantism; and Protestantism divided into numberless hostile camps, each only with difficulty united against the common foe.

In these matters of history our minds ought to be especially free from prejudice. For example, the Reformation in the end undoubtedly accomplished a vast amount of good. It fostered among the Protestant churches a spirit of liberty and of free inquiry. It rejected multitudes of superstitions and of worn out theologic dogmas, it simplified the ritual, it encouraged the reading of the Scriptures, it curtailed the power of the clergy. The good effects of the Reformation were felt also after a time by the Roman Church itself—in greater definiteness of statement, in purified morals, in increased zeal. The Protestant Reformation, in fact, produced the reaction in favor of Roman Catholicism, and ushered in that brilliant era of Roman Catholic missionary effort which still, like an aureole of glory, crowns that ancient Church. But, although this is undoubtedly true, yet it can not be denied that the immediate effects of the Reformation were not entirely beneficial. It unsettled men's minds, it increased the doubt and uncertainty that weighed down upon men, and it in no wise lightened the gloom in which they groped their way. Moreover, "it was for a time only an exchange of masters. . . . The Protestant believed in his own infallibility quite as firmly as his opponent believed in the infallibility of the Pope. 'Faith' still meant an unreserved acceptance of the opinions of others. As long as such a conception existed a period of religious convulsion was necessarily a period of extreme suffering and terror."

As far, then, as the belief in evil spirits and other agents of Satan is concerned, the Protestant churches stood upon the same ground as that upon which stood the Roman Church. By both sections of the Christian world Satan and his angels were believed to be almost omnipresent. For example, Luther, courageous, full of common sense as he was, tells us that in the cloisters at Wittenberg he used to hear the devil talking to him; in fact, he was so accustomed to this that he naïvely relates that once, upon being awakened by the noise, he looked, and seeing that it was only the devil, he went to sleep again. The black stain on the wall of the cell at Wartburg still remains: Luther had thrown an inkbottle at Satan. He ascribed all his ailments except earache—I do not know why he made an exception of that—to the agency of evil spirits. He tells us that the devil frequently caught travelers and strangled them, and transported persons through the air. He had known Satan to appear in court as an innocent barrister;