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by the lapse of time, and by the common effect of distance in diminishing influence; but that they re-appear with pristine vigour, perhaps even with augmented power, however long may have been the interval and therefore it is that the brain does not supersede the effects of early over-excitement. A little friend of mine, not at all remarkable for timidity of character, passes the commencement of his nights in sleepless horror, from a morbid disposition to the production of unreal images. It is also remarked, that this horror is greatly influenced by the character of his reading during the preceding day. When this has been powerfully, excitant, especially if it has been some interesting fiction, the tendency is increased, and for the plainest reason :-the mind has been engaged upon the absolute creation of unreal images, and has been over-excited; all goes on tolerably well, so long as the courage imparted by society, action, day light, and employment, operate in sustaining the mind; but when these are abstracted, nameless fear predominates: and although he retires to bed with the resolution of a hero, physical irritability, terror, and cowardice, soon vanquish a better principle; and the result is, that the phantoms of brainular creation soon drive him from his pillow to the day-nursery, and to the protection of his attendants. And this is not a singular instance, even within my own moderately extensive observation.
Who is there that has not listened with intense interest to fairy tales-to tales of the genii-enchanted castles-supernatural aid -or the history of giants,-till he has expected to find a ghost at his elbow, and has been afraid to look behind him, from the apprehension of some unearthly visitant; till he has trembled at his shadow, or the sound of his own motions? Who is there that will not confess to have experienced the excessive ex
citement of works of fiction,-delighted, perhaps, in the interest produced, an interest amounting to palpitation and breathless anxiety for some imaginary distress? and yet who has not traced that the effect of this excitement was to unnerve him? to predispose him to entertain and to create situations of danger, and to people them with imaginary beings, of unknown agency, and immense though undefined power? Let this operate as a warning against the indulgence of an excessive and unhallowed taste for reading of this description.
Fiction in general, nay, even religious fiction, produces this effect upon the mind in the early habit of creating imaginary personages. This impression, and its consequent habit, will never be lost; but in after-life, under favourable circumstances, will be recalled, and will form one basis for the belief in apparitions.-A friend of mine, very lately, and during the early stages of the important discussion which has just so happily closed on the subject of Catholic concession, told me, that he had seen a lady in an agony of terror, which had caused many sleepless hours,--not arising from a consideration of the really fearful points of the question, but from an actual injury inflicted upon the sensorium in early life, by a sight of the terrible pictures in the Book of Martyrs; the recollection of which, with all its associated horrors, was ready to be called up afresh upon the first application of any exciting cause. This law is sufficiently well known; and did we need a proof of this assertionthe exhibition of a transparency setting forth the burning of Bishop Latimer, during a recent memorable electioneering contest, would be sufficient to shew that this power of awakening terrific images, after the days of childhood had passed by, had not been overlooked by those who had an object, doubtless in their view a laudable one, to accomplish. (To be continued.)
1829.] Scriptural Coincidences Our Lord's not praying for the World. 537
ON INCIDENTAL COINCIDENCES
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
AMONG the various arguments in proof of the authenticity of the Bible, the evidence drawn from undesigned coincidences is one of the most striking. Dr. Graves's work on the Pentateuch enters into this subject; and Paley's Horæ Paulina is as popular and interesting as it is convincing and instructive. The argument has also been alluded to in other works.
The following appears to me to be an instance of this coincidence. In the speech which Samuel addresses to the Israelites, previously to the appointment of a king, he mentions various calamities that should ensue from this act of rebellion against God. Amongst others he threatens the people with severe bondage. Now there is nothing in the history of the kings which would lead us to infer that any of these denunciations were carried into effect. From a passage in Jeremiah, however, we learn that one primary cause of the Babylonish captivity was, the neglect of the Sabbatical year. And in the Second Book of Chronicles it is said, that the land was to enjoy her Sabbaths during seventy years. Now my argument is, that this does not mean ten Sabbaths, one in each seven years, but seventy Sabbaths, -each year of the captivity being a Sabbath to the land; and this punishment of seventy captivity Sabbaths seems to me to imply that the observance of the Sabbatical year had been disused during as long a period as would have included seventy Sabbaths; that is, 490 years: a period which commences soon after the beginning of Saul's reign. It is not likely that Saul would hazard the innovation immediately on his ascending the throne; hence the period of hard service synchronises in all respects CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 333.
IT is of great importance to quote Scripture as far as possible only in the sense intended to be conveyed by the Holy Spirit in the particular passage quoted; and this though a sentiment or doctrine be, in itself, according to truth.
I am led to this remark by the interpretation often given to a passage in the seventeenth chapter of St. John's Gospel, verse 9; which I have often heard cited in a manner which gives me great pain. "I pray not," says our Saviour, "for the world." Now from these words is often drawn a representation of our Lord's character totally at variance with the gracious original; and a conclusion is deduced, calculated greatly to harden the heart, that there are multitudes of our fellow-creatures for whom we have no right to pray. It was only at one of our last public anniversaries that I heard this passage thus quoted by one minister, in reply to another, of more enlarged, and, as I think, more scriptural views, who had been warmly exciting the auditory to prayer for all mankind. Now, without at all entering into the controversy between Calvinists and Arminians, it is clear to every sober Scripture-student, that these words of our Lord have no such restrictive meaning as is thus affixed to them. The doctrines of grace, emphatically so called, and of the Divine sovereignty, I would maintain in all their scriptural fulness; but this beautiful chapter of holy writ has been greatly misunderstood, and perverted in their support. There are three distinct subjects in the prayer of our Great
Intercessor. First, he prays for his immediate disciples; secondly, for those who should believe on him through their word; and thirdly, for the world at large. From the first to the end of the nineteenth verse, his prayer is confined exclusively to his disciples; and to mark this the more distinctly, and for that purpose only, as the context manifests, he says at the ninth verse, "I pray not for the world;" they are not at this moment the subjects of my intercession, but only these my disciples, who have been with me during my ministry on earth. When he had concluded his petitions for them, he enlarged his prayer for his church; that is, for all who, during the present dispensation, should believe on him through their word, whether preached or written. But he does not stop here, for he expressly declares at the twenty-first verse, that the great object he had in view in so earnestly praying that his church might be one in his Father and himself, was, that "the WORLD may believe that thou hast sent me.' Here, then, our Lord distinctly prays for the world; and it is evident, therefore, that the former expression was designed only for the purpose which I have mentioned.
H. S. C. H.
FAMILY SERMONS.-No. CCLIX*.
Matt. xii. 43-45.-When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return to my house, from whence I came
• We briefly reviewed the first volume of Dr. Dwight's valuable sermons, lately published, and promised to notice the second. We shall, perhaps, best discharge this duty to our own satisfaction, and that of our readers, by copying one of the discourses, with only a slight curtailment, as a Family Sermon. After this ample citation,we need not add a syllable to recom. mend the volume.
out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished; then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits, more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there ; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
THESE words are a part of a discourse addressed by Christ to certain of the Scribes and Pharisees. In consequence of the sermon which he had uttered after they had charged him with casting out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons, they demanded of him a sign from heaven; that is, a proof of his Messiahship. Their application for this sign seems to have been made, partly with a design of putting a stop to the distressing reproofs of Christ, and partly with the hope of confounding him by disproving his pretensions. In this reply, Christ refuses them any other sign besides that of Jonas; the prophet, whose temporary burial in the fish strongly typified that of Christ in the earth. Then, resuming the same forcible strain of rebuke, he uttered several very solemn and awful threatenings, and concluded his remarks with the text. A more dreadful picture of the guilt and danger of these men, and of all who are like them, was never drawn.
Interpreters have extensively, and, as I believe, justly, considered this parable as a representation of the state of a sinner, in some degree affected with a sense of his guilt, forming resolutions of amendment, and making some attempts towards evangelical reformation; but finally relinquishing all, and returning again to his evil ways. Our Saviour subjoins, "So shall it be, also, unto this wicked generation."
Plainly, therefore, this parable is a description of the moral state of the Jews, to a considerable extent, at the time when it was spoken.
1829.] Family Sermons.-No. CCLIX. On Matt. xii. 43-45.
But in every age and every coun-
I. We perceive the miserable condition of an impenitent sinner, before he is awakened to a serious conviction of his guilt: "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man." From this clause we learn that, to the eye of God, the soul of such a man is the habitation of a foul and wicked spirit, who there fixes his abode. Nay, he appropriates this abode to himself as his own property. Then he saith, "I will return to my house, from whence I came out." My house:" language plainly adopted, because he regards it as his settled proper residence, the dwelling where he steadily lives, and is literally at home. Think, I beseech you, of the import of these extraordinary words. What would be the condition of the poor wretch, of whom a fiend from the bottomless pit should take entire possession, so as to render the soul of the man his property, his house, the place where he always dwelt, and where he had an undisputed controul? Think what an inhabitant is here pourtrayed. Of what an inmate has such a soul become the tenement ! What employments must such a being pursue in its secret chambers!
How plainly must it be his prime
What in this case must be the
But such, in substance, is the real state of the man in question. The affections, the purposes, and the character, are such as to be justly described by this strong symbolical language. The soul is such, as if inhabited and corrupted by this destroyer. how miserable, a condition is that of a hardened sinner, sold to sin, and devoted by himself to destruction!
II. We learn, that convictions of sin constitute, in the eye of God, an important change in the state of
"When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man." The change of which I have spoken is so great 4 A 2
as to be justly represented by this imagery. Before, the unclean spirit dwelt in the soul without disturbance. Now, he finds himself so strenuously resisted, that, in despair of future success, he quits a habitation which has become so uncomfortable, because it promises so little opportunity of doing mischief.
Certainly this is a great and desirable change. The subtlety, malice, and domination of a fiend, of passions and appetites strongly resembling the character of a fiend, have in some good measure been overcome. The captive is in a good degree inclined to understand and pursue his own salvation. Many of his incumbrances are shaken off; many of his discouragements removed. The victory, indeed, is not final. Yet it is a victory of vast importance; and if perseveringly pursued, will be followed by consequences interesting beyond conception. How fervently, then, ought every person in this situation to labour, that he may secure all which he has gained, and take advantage of his present commanding ground to acquire all which remains. How diligently ought every such person to watch against every danger, the approach of every temptation, the assaults of every enemy, and especially the dreadful possession from which he has just escaped. How ardently ought he to strive against the returns of stupidity, backsliding, and corruption. How fervently to pray, that God would enable him to persevere, advance, overcome every obstacle, and finally win the prize of immortal life.
III. We are here taught, that beings absolutely sinful find neither rest, nor enjoyment, but in doing evil. "He walketh through dry (that is, desert) places, seeking rest, and findeth none." Wickedness is a spirit absolutely solitary. All its social character, all its sympathy, is nothing but the disposition which unites banditti in the fell purpose of plundering, pollution, and murder.
With others it joins, solely because it cannot accomplish its foul ends alone. Even with these it has no union of heart, no fellow-feeling, no real sociality. It attracts nothing, and nobody. Every thing it repels. Hell, with all its millions, is a perfect solitude to each of its inhabitants. They unite only to destroy each other, or to accomplish elsewhere the same work of ruin. Not one of them can find a single friend in all the vast multitude around him. Nay, this immense multitude serves only to make him feel, that he is more entirely alone, more perfectly friendless, more absolutely destitute of confidence, affection, and hope. Such is the true nature of sin, or selfishness, in every human breast: and although its tendencies are strongly resisted by natural affection in the present world, it bursts, in innumerable instances, this bond, and discovers its fiend-like character in the terrible crimes to which it goads our miserable race. And even when this spirit appears in a milder form, and assumes no violence, nor any apparent malice, still both its character and its employments are substantially the same. To corrupt is to destroy. The process is indeed slower; but it is equally sure. The aspect exhibited by the spirit of corruption is indeed less forbidding; but the mischiefs which it does, are not in the end less dreadful. Every tempter to evil is an enemy.
IV. Persons under conviction are always in danger of falling anew into hardness of heart. He saith, "I will return to my house, from whence I came out." The first victory which is gained when the soul becomes covinced of its sins, is far from being final. It is a happy beginning, and, if followed by vigorous and unremitted efforts, is a propitious prelude to future success. But he who rests here, and feels as if he had already attained, or were already safe, is ruined. He has become convinced of his guilt, and has thus ad