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doubts entertained as to the thing itself being attempted at all, or as to the best period for accomplishing it: fact might be set against fact, and argument against argument, and such calculations might be employed on either side as had no reference to the Bible or the Decalogue, and the whole matter might be settled the one way or the other without sacrificing a single precept of the Divine law. The moment, however, that a transgression of the Divine law, or, in one word, sin, is confessed to characterize any action, whether it be the action of individuals or of nations, that moment all worldly or secular reasoning is precluded; no question of pecuniary loss or gain is admissible; a slow or reluctant abandonment of what God forbids is nothing better than continued rebellion against him; and the only course for a good and pious mind to pursue is an instant, and total, and uncompromising renunciation of the practice or the deed, with whatever inconveniences and with whatever losses the renunciation may be attended.

"This is the rule of Scripture; and applying this rule to the subject under consideration, I think myself entitled to say, that when men allow that slavery is essentially sinful, and yet maintain that it should be abolished by degrees, they are guilty of some thing which is very like a contradiction in terms. For if it be of the essence of sin, that it is contrary to God's sovereign will, and that it should be abstained from or forsaken just because it is so, then to persist in it deliberately, whether with the view of ultimately deserting it or not, is tantamount to saying that there is no objection to it, or it is a practical denial of the very statement upon which the resolution to desert sin was taken. Slavery is not sinful to-day, and lawful or virtuous to-morrow. It is intrinsically, and thoroughly, and for ever sinful,-it is so, unless God, the arbiter of man's life, and of his freedom, and of his all, has specially appointed and sanctioned it. And, therefore, to go on indulging in it, under any pretext whatever, is nothing less than to set up our own views in opposition to the authority of the great Governor of the universe."

REPORT OF THE PEACE SOCIETY.

Though not members of the Peace Society, we are as truly desirous as any of its most zealous friends for "the promotion of permanent and universal peace." We cannot, therefore, but rejoice to hope, what the Report of the society assists to confirm, that a distaste for war and a desire to maintain international peace, are spreading widely throughout the civilized world; an effect which we, would not attribute merely to the exhaustion consequent upon the late European struggle, from the French Revolution to the battle of Waterloo, but to the extension of education, the diffusion of just principles of political economy, the salutary influence of wiser and more liberal commercial relations than once prevailed, grounded upon the simple maxim, that the interests of mankind are reciprocal, that peace and commerce are, beneficial, and war and restrictions injurious, to both parties; and not least, to the circulation of the Bible, and the efforts in progress to promote the knowledge and practice of its blessed principles. We do not mean that every true friend of Bible, Missionary, Education, or other religious or benevolent institutions, must become, of necessity, a member of the Peace Society,-he may have strong objections to so doing,-but he will be a friend of peace; he will study to maintain that peace which passeth all understanding, in his own heart; he will strive to promote peace all around him; he will educate his children in the principles of the Gospel of peace; and in proportion as these prevail, peace will prevail also: for whence come wars and fightings, but from the evil appetites and desires of weak, and proud, and angry, and sinful man? Every Christian is in this view a member of a peace society; and therefore, without entering at present upon an abstract discussion of the subject, in which we might not go to the length of some of our respected friends of this institution, we can heartily rejoice at its success, if only it has in any measure, by the mild weapons of argument and Scripture, succeeded in promoting more humane and Christian principles than those which usually prevail upon the fearful subject of war. We are not afraid that the exhortations of our pacific friends will ever make the world too gentle, too forgiving, too forbearing; nor do we see much danger of their banishing that instinct of self-defence which would repel serious hostile aggression, even by force, and we doubt not might lawfully do so. Most heartily, therefore, do we wish well to the cause of universal peace, that bright feature of Millennial blessedness, when the wolf shall lie down with the lamb, and they shall not hurt nor destroy in the holy mountain, because the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS. Philalethes; C. L. (Senior); A. D. L.; G. B.; P.; M. C, S.; Exarnus; T. G.; T. S.; N. J.; G. H. M.; T. B.; M. N. R.; E. B. M.; W. H. C.; ALBUM; SENRAB; and some papers without signature, are under consideration.

ERRATUM.-Page 351, col. 1, line 17, for it read “ori.”

CHRISTIAN OBSERVER.

No. 332.]

AUGUST, 1829.

[VOL. XXIX.

RELIGIOUS COMMUNICATIONS.

ESSAY ON SUPERSTITION.

WE

(Continued from p. 404.)

E must now say a few words on the subject of what are called presentiments.

I apprehend that, in every instance, presentiments may be referred to some antecedent physical or moral impression, and to its near or distant associations, however difficult it may be to trace them, and however illogically they may seem to be concatenated. Strong testimonies have been urged to prove that individuals under the influence of magnetism, or, as it has been perhaps more correctly designated, magnetic somnambulism, possess the power of predicting the day, the hour, the severity, the duration of an attack, for instance, of hysteria or epilepsy, and of various other bodily states. Now, if these testimonies are valid (if they are not, we cut the Gordian-knot at once by denying the existence of presentiment), there may be a peculiar state of the brain, produced by disease, as well as artificially induced by the agency of animal magnetism, in which it may be enabled to feel the approach of any great disaster to the constitution.

But even if the possibility of such a case were admitted, it cannot be believed to be of frequent occurrence; and, with this single alleged exception, presentiments may be always traced to antecedent powerCHRIST. OBSERV. No. 332.

ful impression upon an anxious mind. There are two grounds on which this conviction is founded: first, that frequently the expected results are not realized; and secondly, that even when they are so, coincidence will often offer a just explanation; and if not, the influence exerted by the presentiment itself upon the brain, and, through it, upon all the other functions of the body, will be sufficient to induce a morbid state, which will border on the very verge of destraction. In order to be admitted as consequential, the results should be invariable, and should have no tendency to produce themselves; whereas they are confessedly rare, and these rare instances may easily arise from the physical influence of the first morbid impression.

To illustrate these positions by example: A. B. told me that he had a presentiment of his approaching that medicine dissolution, and would be of no avail, for that his days were numbered, his hour was determined, and he must die. Upon inquiry, he referred this impression to the " abundant revelations which he had." It is scarcely necessary for the author of the present essay to add, that he thought differently from his patient; neither needs he point out the source to which both the presentiment and the revelations were conjointly referred. the influence of medicine, this patient recovered perfectly; a proof

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of the absence of truth in the prediction of the sick man, and of the delusion under which he had labour ed relative to these supposed spiritual communications from on high; the whole of which had evidently resulted from the influence of disease upon the intellectual organ of a highly enthusiastic individual. Of such cases, I have known many, greatly exceeding those of an opposite description, of which, however, several have occurred to me. The following instance shall suffice, as an example taken from the genus.

C. D. became the subject of disease; for the effectual removal of which, a surgical operation was necessary. Upon its being proposed to the patient, she consented unhesitatingly, but affirmed that she should die from its consequences. No danger being really apprehended from the operation, a day was fixed for its performance; and it was discovered afterwards, that the patient had employed her time in the interval, in arranging her little domestic affairs, placing her drawers in order, attaching labels to her keys, and leaving the minutest directions behind her, that no confusion, or as little as possible, might ensue upon her decease. The hour for the operation arrived; it was most skilfully performed by the first British surgeon of his day; and was supported by the patient with the utmost fortitude. Upon being afterwards congratulated by her medical attendant, on the good prospect of complete recovery which was before her, she only repeated her conviction that she should die; and in fact, in three days she was a corpse. Now, though the want of invariability in the result would be quite sufficient to shew that such an impression could not emanate from an unchanging God; yet in the present case it must be manifest, how great an influence this deep, absorbing, and exclusive feeling must have exerted upon the physical system; depressing its power of vitality; depriving it of

the means of resisting the slightest shock to its integrity; and predisposing it to that irritation and inflammatory action, which so frequently blast the fairest prospect of recovery, as well as undermine the power of successful re-action, by which this result was to have been naturally effected.

Presentiment is sometimes supported by a variety of alleged warnings or omens, which are considered as indicative of some fatal event; though they may fail to define its particular nature, or the individual for whom the intimation was given. Generally speaking, it is supposed that these are tokens of death to the individual remarking them, or to some of his friends or connexions. This is certainly taking a tolerably extensive range for the truth of the vaticination; but even this is not suf ficient. So active is the busy passion of fear, that the disparity of members in a little social meeting, the ticking of the death-watch, a peculiar uneasy chirping of the cricket, the croaking of a raven, the appearance of a winding sheet on the candle, and a thousand other supposed omens, have struck terror into the hearts of the fearful, and sometimes, by the very influence of this terror upon the physical system, have given most undeservedly an air of truth to the presage by the illness and death which have followed.—In the case of E. F., who was labouring under most serious and alarming illness, one feature of which was profuse hemorrhage from the nose, it being very hot weather, the window was kept open during the whole night. It so happened, that a dog was observed to howl most piteously under the window, a death-watch repeated its ominous monitions behind the bed, a bat flew into the room and extinguished the candle, and a raven passing, alighted upon the windowledge, pecked with his beak, and flapped his wings against the (other) unopened window. Of course, the nurses all concluded that E. F. must inevitably die; but E. F. re

covered, and the whole concurrence of circumstances would find an easy explanation in the attraction afforded by the light to the bat, its irritation to the watchful dog, the odour of blood to the ill-omened croaker, and perhaps the animating summer weather to the ticking in

sect.

But the writer has seen all these omens falsified in a hundred cases; and it is clear, that if the predicted consequences shall only follow in a few instances, they must constitute exceptions to the rule,-not the rule itself; and must be unworthy of serious consideration. Besides, the veriest accident; atmospherical changes; the peculiar, but natural action of the insect; and a certain constitution of the air consumed by the candle, or some other mode of regulating its admission, will seem to explain all these influences, and to place them upon a basis which removes them greatly from our present range; referring them to mental ignorance, rather than to corporeal impression; only the agency of the former upon the latter must never be forgotten.

Farther, the simple, groundless, inexplicable presentiment, will be often found independently of these portents; and where this is the case, it is referable for the most part to a physical state of animal depression attendant upon the incubation of disease, and may generally be considered as of no consequence, yet does occasionally exert such a formidable and injurious influence upon the malady with which it is placed in contact, that it tends to throw a semblance of truth around itself, by the morbid sympathies which itself has developed, while it has diminished the vital energy of resistance to disease, and of the inherent power possessed by the animal frame to restore its healthy functions, where the balance has once been destroyed. Happy they, who escaping from the thraldom of ignorance, and its fearful imagery, are enabled to trace the finger of

God in all the events of life; to refer them, with their manifested results, to the wise and arbitrative will of the Supreme; and to trust in his care all they hold most dear, even where they cannot trace the footsteps of his power. All this frightful brood are called into being by the absence of a simple trust and sure confidence in God: and the knowledge of this should lead us to watch and pray against their influence; since to distrust him is to dishonour him, and to dishonour him is sin.

The case of martyrs, and the extraordinary composure with which they have endured torments, has, on the one hand, been mixed up with the idea of spiritual agency; and, on the other, has been referred by Dr. Hibbert to a certain physical condition, in which great suffering, not only ceases to be painful, but becomes, he says, the source of grateful sensation. Now, the idea that pain can change its nature, cease to be such, and commute its peculiar attributes for the manifestations of pleasure, is certainly too absurd to be endured; and only shews how far a favourite hypothesis may delude the mind into unreal creations; and thus actually becomes a proof, how very far a peculiar physical condition of the reasoning organ may operate in perverting the manifestations of mind.

This opinion of Dr. Hibbert has subjected him to the merited castigation of the author of a recent work on the subject of supernatural manifestations, entitled, "Past Feelings Renovated," who, however, errs equally on the opposite side of the question. The case of Theodorus is referred to by both these writers, in proof of their respective positions. It is related of him, that he underwent a continuous torture for ten hours. "While enduring the extremity of pain, he was comforted by (as he conceived) a bright messenger from Heaven, who allayed his sufferings, by wiping the per

spiration from his body, and by pouring cold water upon his irritated limbs, till he was free from pain. It is a fact, that the martyr continued upon the scaffold in the sight of all men, smiling, and even singing, until it was thought expedient to take him down." This was conceived to be in consequence "of supernatural interposition; and why should we doubt it?" This example will afford a good opportunity of offering a few remarks on this question, as it affects the case of martyrs in general.

With regard to this particular instance, which is a very common example of the genus, if we allow its truth, we must also embrace its circumstances; by which we must go farther than even the admission of spiritual agency; for we must recognize the material action of wiping away perspiration, the presence of a material something by which it was absorbed, and the actual material affusion of cold water, and of the action by which its application was made. But if so, the laws of nature must have been interfered with, and a miracle is produced. But this is not contended for; and if it were so, the cause would be at once removed from the present question of spiritual agency. How then are the facts to be explained? Most readily.

In the first place, the mind of the martyr will have been subjected long before the period of martyrdom, to the conflicting influence of the fear of bodily suffering on the one hand, and of a prominent desire to be found a faithful witness of the truth, even unto death, on the other; while the depressing agency of the former will have been gradually superseded, by the prospect of that glorious inheritance, even the crown of life, promised to the good and faithful servant and soldier of Jesus Christ. The result of this frequent contemplation will be a firm reliance on the support promised from on high; a sure trust and confidence in the

comforting and sustaining presence of him who has promised to be with his people in their hour of extremity. As the period of final suffering approaches, the feelings would be more highly wrought upon; and the temporary agonies of dissolution will be more constantly contrasted with the glory which shall follow, and which would be realized at death. Then, again, there will be a prominent desire to prove the sincerity of faith in Christ, by complete obedience to his will; this will be accompanied by a very great effort to bear the allotted torture, and to sustain the evidence for truth, by shewing the firmness of real belief in its doctrines, and their power to support the mind, under the most painful circumtances, without a murmur, or an expression of impatience. These are powerful motives to mental effort; but there yet remains to be considered their bodily influence.

The agency of these continued powerful impressions upon the brain will be such as to exalt its vitality, to increase its energy, to call up an extraordinary supply of blood, to augment its natural powers of manifestation, to continue a degree of excitement, by which the patient is carried out of himself; he is animated by the glow of enthusiasm (the word has its good, as well as its bad sense), and his feelings are wrought up to extacy. Now this is a brainular state, and one which predisposes to the creation of supernatural appearances; and it would not be surprising, if the real mental support and consolation, promised to those who wait upon God, and especially vouchsafed under these circumstances, should by the martyr, in his ecstatic state, be mistaken for extraordinary spiritual agency, and should thereby be invested with a form and locality which are really the result of long excited brainular action.

The Christian has nothing to fear from this view of the subject; the promised strength from on high,

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