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in simple truth, the semblance of form, and defined outline, which so generally attaches to this kind of supernatural appearance, should be enough to proclaim illusion somewhere; for, at all events, the senses are deceived, and this must be attended by deviation from the healthy action of the mental manifestations. And since this can alone be dependent upon some morbid condition of the manifesting organ, either temporary or permanent, we have reasoned back to the assertion, that the brain under these circumstances is always in a morbid state; in fact, that it is subjected to that "peculiar condition in which it has escaped the controul of the presiding mind, and continues to act on without direction or guidance." See Christian Observer, current vol. p. 71.
On the contrary, the position that apparitions are the result of past images recalled in the mind; in fact, recollected impressions of scenes long lost, only grotesquely associated, with an undue degree of intensity; is equally unsatisfactory and unconvincing: for,
In the first place, This hypothesis will not account for all supposed supernatural appearances; such, for instance, as that which made so powerful an impression on Colonel Gardiner, and similar spectra which have been experienced by many others and if the theory be inapplicable to all the particular cases, which it ought to explain, we have good ground for suspecting that it is not THE correct explanation of ANY, however it may seem to account for many of the attendant phenomena satisfactorily.
Secondly. The hypothesis will not account for the recalling of these recollected impressions at the precise moment at which apparitions are produced; since,if they were only recollected impressions, there can be no good reason why they may not be created at any time, especially by a voluntary effort of memory: a fortiori, therefore, is it most extraordinary, not only that
they cannot be reproduced by any effort of volition, however powerful, but that their appearance is actually independent of the will; and, more. over, that it is to be met with only and invariably, during the continu. ance of a state of morbid irritation of the brain?
Thirdly. This hypothesis will not account for the fearfulness with which an apparition is viewed. Ideas familiar to the mind, recollected impressions of past scenes and persons removed, when recalled by the aid of produce terror; but, on the conmemory, do not trary, a chastened satisfaction, or a mellowed sorrow: and this valuable mental attribute delights to dwell on the dear forms of those whom we have lost, and to contemplate the mental manifestations associated with such cherished remembrance. But the sudden and involuntary appearance of this very form, when suggested to the mind, produces a saisissement, which the system can scarcely sustain consistently with the integrity of its functions; and which plainly indicates an unusual or morbid state of the manifesting organ; namely, the brain.
(To be continued.)
ON THE DANGERS OF MINISTERS IN THE PRESENT DAY.
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
THE depravity of the human heart against which the minister of God has to watch, is the same in every age; but the deceiver of our souls varies the modifications of evil which he presents to it, in a manner calculated to evade the discriminating spiritual perception of the most watchful Christian; nay, even to allure the mind by introducing what is sinful under attractive colours in the filling up of the outline of positive duty. Hence arises a peculiar danger of the present times to the
ministers of the Gospel. The snares against which they need to maintain the greatest vigilance, are so interwoven with the business of their vocation, as to require continual Divine assistance to enable them, by careful circumspection, to detect and avoid them. It may therefore not be uninteresting or unprofitable to inquire into their nature and causes, in the various relative situations in which the minister of Christ is now con- tinually placed*.
I. The present times cause some peculiar snares to a minister in his preaching. The wide spread profession of religion, the prevailing acquaintance with the distinguishing doctrines of Christianity (arising from the fidelity with which the Gospel is extensively preached, from the circulation of religious publications, and other causes), though most desirable in themselves, are not unattended with great dan ger to the ambassador of Christ in the delivery of his sacred message. In every congregation there are many who know something of the theory of real religion: and the profession of it is easy; for if a person supports the leading religious institutions of the day, alleges an attachment to a few doctrines which are too often hastily taken for the whole Gospel, and is guilty of no flagrant inconsistency, he is at once classed with the faithful members of Christ's church. Ministers accordingly fall into the error of forming too good an opinion of the state of many of their hearers, hastily classing them with the true disciples of Christ, addressing them as such, and setting before them the trials, consolations, and experiences of the believer, instead of close appeals to their hearts and consciences, as needing con
• This important subject was lately brought before a clerical meeting in the county of Norfolk, at Norwich, and the following remarks were drawn up by the director of the day. Many of them were made by the members while the question was under discussion, and others occurred in some valuable letters received from experienced brethren in the ministry.
version to God; and are thus deceived themselves, and mislead their people, by too readily falling in with the idea they have formed of their own state. It is a question of solemn moment, whether the present condition of the church is not one which demands an awful sifting of the true servants of God from the immense mixed multitude who accompany the camp of Israel. Does it not seem necessary that the waters of the flood of religion which have, spread widely, but are shallow, should be collected into a deep though comparatively narrow channel; in which, ever flowing onward towards the ocean of the fulness of God, they shall neither be arrested in their course by the freezing blast of persecution, nor evaporate under the influence of the bright and wasting sunshine of ease and prosperity? Ministers are ensnared by external appearance and profession to lose sight of that important declaration, "Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way," and of such Scriptures in general as point out the difficulty of attaining the kingdom of heaven.
There is at this time a widely prevalent attachment to the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel; and the barren moral essays of the early and middle parts of the last century, would now, as sermons, be scarcely tolerated. But there is danger, lest, knowing the acceptableness to their hearers of certain doctrinal statements, important as they are, ministers should neglect the practical part of their preaching from a fear of being deemed what is called low, moral, and legal. There is reason to fear, that sermons on duties, on particular sins, and on many directly practical subjects, would be very unacceptable in some congregations, and those, perhaps, of considerable religious repute. Preachers knowing this may be ensnared by it, forgetting that, as labourers in their Lord's vineyard, it is their duty assi duously to labour, both that much fruit may be produced, and that it
may be brought to perfection. They are bound, accordingly, to take heed that they neglect not those important parts of a sermon, the home personal application of their subject to their hearers, and the minute detail of the influence of Christianity on the heart and conduct. Sufficient care is not always taken to delineate character, to appeal to the conscience, to strike home to the heart, and to make their applications effective. Are not some preachers too much satisfied with explaining a prophecy, or correctly and evangelically describing a doctrine, or unfolding a consolatory promise, without being sufficiently in earnest to arrest the minds of their hearers, till they lay hold of Christ and his truth, and are deeply in earnest to obtain the kingdom of heaven? Does not a consciousness of the unwillingness of their flocks to admit of close personal application, sometimes render this portion of their discourses too general and vague, and thus, though the arm which draws the bowstring be strong, and the clang of its discharge startling, the arrow passess harmless through the air, being shot at a venture?
The love of novelty, and the spirit of criticism, which greatly abound in some congregations in the present day, cannot be otherwise than snares to ministers of the Gospel, and often cause them in their sermons to provide too much for the understanding, and but little for the heart. There is also a prevalent idolatry of intellect with which Satan seems to be ensnaring the Christian world, and which causes a dangerous fastidiousness that preys upon the very vitals of Christian simplicity. The present is also an age of gaudy exhibition; so that, on public occasions, which ought to be made opportunities of striking home to the heart, in plain and closely applicatory language, too often, neither ministers nor their flocks are satisfied without exhibitions of imagination, ingenious rea
soning or studied composition, which are admired and criticised in a manner most inconsistent with spiritual profit and tending to injure the ministerial character and scriptural religion, both of preachers and hearers. It is evident how injuriously these causes must operate on a minister's retirement; for, instead of being employed in secret earnest entreaty to God for a blessing on a plain, faithful declaration of his whole counsel concerning mankind, he will be tempted to be contriving how most effectually to secure the evanescent and unsatisfactory reward of popular applause, the praise of men rather than that of God. Ministers are led also to forget, and to lead others to forget, that the Gospel is emphatically the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. Those whose business it is to declare the momentous truths of the word of God cannot expect to be greatly efficacious in their first object, the conversion of sinners, unless they preach home to their own souls as well as to those of their hearers; for it is impossible to apply with energy to others those doctrines in which they themselves do not take an intense personal interest. They must remember, that unless they themselves feed upon, and digest the same spiritual food which they convey to others, they cannot maintain in their own hearts the principle of the divine life in health and vigour, and thence, however great the apparent exertion of the moment, they will fail in all their efforts to wield the sword of the Spirit, so as to cause it to pierce deeply into the soul, and in bringing the penitent sinner to seek for healing, pardon, and ease, at the foot of the cross of Christ.
It is not intended by these remarks to disparage that large and full range of intellectual acquirement which every Christian minister ought, as much as possible, to attain, which so eminently distinguished our Reformers, and which may be well contrasted with the
shallow knowledge and cheap reputation with which many rest satisfied in the present age. It does not follow, that, because men are employed in the ministerial office, they are to be content to be found in the rear ranks of the intellect and knowledge of the day; but they should endeavour rather to step forward, and to bring, as far as possible, every acquirement into the service of their Master; taking heed, that, while they seek "to find out acceptable words," they do so only "for the Gospel's sake," and that their gathering of the treasures of wisdom may be solely for the purpose of casting them as a freewill offering at the feet of Christ.
II. The foregoing appear to be some of the principal snares arising from the aspect of the present times to ministers in their preaching; but amongst the evil intermixed with the good of these days, there are many dangers to be avoided by them, arising from the mode of conducting religious societies, and the share they are called to take in the affairs of such institutions. There is at this moment much excitement in the church of Christ, and particularly in this country, and many valuable institutions are raised up amongst us by means of which much good is effected, both at home and abroad. These societies, though far from being perfect instruments of benefit, or in all respects, as regards their machinery, incapable of being improved, are still great blessings to mankind; and ministers, who are also themselves much indebted to them, could by no means be justified in standing aloof from them, because of some errors arising from the infirmity of human nature in their management. The degree, however, of active aid, which ministers may individually give to those justly popular institutions will depend on many circumstances; but they must, in every case, inquire into and avoid the snares arising from them, especially where they may tend to interfere with their
usefulness, as ministers of parishes, congregations, or preachers of the word of God. They should be careful to prevent the duties of the public hall or committee room encroaching on those of the closet and the study, lest, while speaking to admiration, and arguing with success, they become lean in their own souls, feeble in their prayers, and barren in their sermons. For if this be the case, though good may be done abroad, and schemes of usefulness proceed at home, there will be few conversions, little of edification in particular ministerial charges, and little depth of piety in the minister's own heart. Notwithstanding the general diffusion of religious knowledge, how little do we hear at present, in this kingdom, of remarkable conversions, or of what are called revivals of religion? And how often has it been confessed by ministers who have taken the most prominent part at the public meetings of religious societies, and who have been most successful in producing that excitement which is so much to the taste of the present age, that it required no ordinary prayer and watchfulness to prevent these popular engagements becoming in private a snare to their own souls?
Remarks such as these, are, however, easily made, and it is not difficult to perceive these dangers; but it is not so easy to avoid them; to steer safely between the Scylla and Charybdis of active popular exertion on the one hand, and indolent negligence on the other. To the majority of ministers, however, the latter is perhaps the greater danger. There is much, both of talking and of working, in the present busy age; and so far as the former promotes the latter, it is well; but are not ministers too prone to forget whose they are, and whose message they bear; and are they not too readily prevailed on to use merely human to the neglect of Divine means for promoting even the interests of religion?
III. Again: the present state of the Christian's intercourse with the world is pregnant with snares to the minister of God. In these times, and in this country, the line of separation between the visible church of Christ, and the world, is becoming very indistinct. In some matters, confessedly indeed of minor importance, yet not wholly indifferent as indications of character, it has become often difficult to distinguish the follower of Jesus Christ from the slave of the world. In dress, conversation, and general deportment, a spirit of worldly conformity has come over the church, from the contagion of which her ministers themselves have not escaped. But there is a ministerial propriety which should be observed in these things, very different from the mere love of singularity indeed, if ministers be truly consistent in their conduct, they will be quite singular enough without any affectation of singularity in dress, manners, or general habits. Our Saviour prays his Father not to take his disciples out of the world, but to keep them from the evil; and the only sure mode of avoiding this evil is to keep the doctrine and example of our Saviour Christ prominently before us; prominent as respects ourselves, our families, our social circles, and our civil intercourse. The great difficulty is to avoid apparent moroseness on the one hand, and an assimilation to that which is below the scriptural standard on the other. It is as wrong for a Christian minister austerely to reject every courteous approach of a worldly acquaintance, as it would be to associate with him in those habits and pursuits which are inconsistent with the life of true religion in the soul. A minister may be as much in danger of being led into the assumption of an appearance above himself, as of descending into the frivolous inconsistencies of those from whose souls has not been expelled the love of the world by the powerful influence of the love of
God. The flame of religion soon loses its etherial brightness in the noxious vapours of this world's atmosphere.
In times when there was a more distinct separation between the Christian and the world than at present, his line of conduct was obvious; he had only to obey to the letter the command, "Come ye out from among them." But now it requires no small share of prudence and piety to manage a proper and necessary intercourse with society, so as both to receive and convey benefit, and to exhibit advantage ously, and without ostentation, the effect of that grace which "worketh in the believer mightily." There are in these days many persons of property, character, and elevated station, who, though they have taken no decided step in personal religion, are induced to patronize various religious institutions: and it is evident that a minister requires much wisdom to know how to demean himself towards such persons, in a manner that shall command their respect and approbation for his consistency of conduct, and tend by the Divine assistance to convince them of the necessity of entering for their own safety into the same ark which they are pointing out for the safety of others. The honest, but injudicious conduct of some ministers may have excited prejudices which a different, though equally Christian, deportment might have dispelled; while, on the other hand, many persons, displeased with the flattery with which they have been received, have retired in disgust from a field of exertion, which might have been made a blessing to themselves, as well as to their fellow-creatures. The only way in which a minister can escape from the many snares arising from the unavoidable intercourse which he must hold with the world in the present times is by earnestly seeking after the spirit and mind of Christ, and that wisdom from above which is gentle as well as pure, and which