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so-called ministers of Christ would cut a sorry figure in the pulpit were it not for sermons made ready to their hands. And as such men preach only that they may live or gain renown, the sermons they seek are such as will best tend to make them popular. Hence thousands of church and chapel goers are weekly doomed to hear recitations of what the men neither know nor feel, while the men themselves are anxious afterwards to know how their sermon "took," and what amount of fame they are likely to reap from its delivery. True preaching is the declaration of what the preacher has himself felt, tasted, and handled, of the good word of God. He has not learned Christ who has acquired his knowledge of him as he has his grammar or arithmetic, by a more intellectual process. The true preacher “brings out of his treasury things new and old,” and the treasure is in his own “earthen vessel,” received in “ much affliction and joy of the Holy Ghost." In his view, experience of the things of God is the one thing needful ; hence all his preaching and all his labours are of such a character as to lead to the reception of the “engrafted word.” Therefore his utterances are not with “enticing words of man's wisdom;" but his ardent wish is that they may be in the “demonstration of the Spirit," so that the “faith of his hearers may not stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God.” Such a one is often a mystery to himself, for at times he is shut up and feeble, as though he knew nothing of what he is saying: at other times his soul wells up with matter and words; but always, whether bound or free, he is God's mouth-piece to some, who go to their homes admiring the riches of Divine grace, and glorying in the “cross of the Lord Jesus Christ,” while he himself wonders that God should use one, so utterly and everyway unworthy, to the blessing of bis Church and, instead of going about fishing for praise, he is eager to get to know if the Lord has condescended to use him for his glory ; and if he has, he sits before the Lord lost in wonder, love and praise.
We have seen that the two prevailing heresies of the times are superstition and rationalism, the one taking the form of spiritualism, the other of semi-infidelity.
This spiritualism cannot longer be treated with levity or ridicule. At first it was thought by some, as Professor Farraday, to be simply some unconscious and involuntary action of the muscles of the arm on a table ; by others to be a combination of mental and physical phenomena, producing a species of mesmerism. Most believed that it would have a short-lived popularity, and then die out, as have done other new-fangled oddities. But there were a few who saw deeper into the mystery, and who, not unwilling to be accounted fools for Christ's sake, raised their voices against it, and warned the Churches of it as a form of Diabolism. The late vicar
of Armley, near Leeds, was the first to set it forth in this light; and now there is scarce a person in this Empire, or in that across the Atlantic, who is conversant with the character of the system, but who regards it as bona-fide intercourse with the spirit-world. And can it for a moment be thought that three millions and a half of American adults, and thrice that number in Europe, amongst whom rank the elite of the intellectual world—lawyers, surgeons, authors, editors, and even Doctors of Divinity-can engage almost daily in the act of consulting their mediums," and still mistake a simple physical phenomenon for spiritual intercourse, if spiritual intercourse it be not? We ourselves have paid no little attention to this system ; we have read of the aspects of it as witnessed both in America and Europe, and have conversed with those who have seen it in operation in this country, besides reading accounts of what has been observed in the “spiritual circles” of London and elsewhere; and we hesitate not to say that to regard it as a simple delusion of the senses is to take a position considerably more absurd than to ascribe it to the action of evil spirits upon those who are wicked enough to seek their intercourse. We see nothing in this position at variance with either Scripture or reason. The word of God tells of the existence of both good and evil spirits, and also of the intercourse between them and incarnate men. And there is not a teacher of Bible truths in the world, we believe, who denies the benevolent agency of good spirits ; nor one who does not rejoice in teaching that the holy angels are ministering spirits to the Church in its present time-state. And the same book gives us many painful instances of demons talking and acting to the detriment of mankind. The Saviour delivered many who were possessed of evil spirits, and one who, for eighteen years, had been bowed together through diabolic agency. Luke xiii. 11-13. Paul and Silas exorcised an evil spirit from a young female in Philippi, who afterwards could not serve her masters as sbe had done. We know there are professed preachers of the Gospel who, disdaining to be so ignorant as to take the word of God in its obvious meaning, seek to explain these incidents in the light of Science, by making the events harmonize with simple nature. But this is to be wise above that which is written; to make revelation sit at the feet of “vain philosophy; and thus pave the way for the intrusion of rationalism.
Why should it be thought a thing incredible for men to bold intercourse with the powers of darkness ? Not one of the millions of those who daily indulge in “spirit-rapping” are above the admission of its spiritual character. Mr. Howitt, Mr. S. C. Hall, Mr. Charles Dickens (it is said) and (not least though last) the present astute Emperor of the French, all regard the notorious Home as—not charlatan, but truly and really in intercourse with the denizens of another world. The“ brothers Davenport” likewise exhibit phenomena which no mere conjuror can equal, though some have tried to do so, and which cannot be explained by any reference to science or the arts of legerdemain. The men themselves do not attempt to explain the modus operandi of their astonishing and awful exhibitions. An intelligent and pious writer in a religious periodical, says,—“A friend of mine went the other day to a performance of the Davenport Brothers, and assisted thereat. He bound the men, was bound to them, and the three thus bound were placed in a cabinet, thoroughly examined and ascertained to be merely a cupboard made of very thin wood, without secret places for the biding of confederates. This cupboard was placed upon tressels, was watched by a gentleman who stood behind it, and by the audience in front. While the cabinet doors were being closed, a naked arm and hand were thrust out at the cabinet door, while all three were bound with strong long ropes, my friend's hands upon their shoulders, none besides them in the cabinet, and human confederacy impossible. My friend asked that the guitar should be played, and forthwith one perched upon his head, and performing a sort of dance-tune, commenced to play vigorously. My friend then asked for a similar manifestation from a tambourine, which immediately began tapping him lightly over the head and breast, jingling the while most lustily, and eventually, with the guitar, settled down upon his knees. After this other marvels were done, and to crown all, the instruments of music were daubed over with phosphorous, and the lights turned out. Then the instruments bounded up into the air, whirled over the heads of the astonished audience, striking some of them, and my friend, then seated in the audience, caught one of them in his arms, and held it. And so on, marvels on marvels, for two hours. This some believed to be all clever tricking, but the many seemed to be possessed with the idea of a spirit manifestation.”
In America the spiritualists have their regular seances or exhibitions, not, be it observed, as acts of curiosity or amusement, nor yet to find out the cause of that which they witness, but as acts of Divine worship, and as means of grace! There is not one of the three and a half millions of members of this community but who looks upon himself as a member of the church of Christ, who regards the utterances of the medium as the revelation, through him, of the mind and will of God, and, what is worse still, regards the teachings of the medium as being of more importance, and more to be rejoiced in than those of the Bible! And these are the declarations of the Quarterlies, the monthly magazines, the weekly newspapers, and the postal correspondences belonging to this strange religious community. (To Mr. Hepworth Dixon we are indebted for most of this information).
And not long ago a celebrated English author said that these revelations were the ontflows of the heart of our kind heavenly Father, in pity to His earthly children, who were bewildered and misguided by the many and conflicting teachings of the religious world; and that they would prove to be the greatest boon which God had ever conferred on mankind, in bringing together and harmonizing the various religious sects, and in putting down and stamping out the ravings of infidelity. Herein we see the wickedness of the system. Had it simply professed to be a strange phenomenon, and did those who “spirit-rap” do so for the sake of pastime, we should simply rank it with card-playing and the like; but when it takes the place of a means of grace, and puts the medium in a higher office than the preacher of the Gospel, and his utterances as being worthy of more respect and of a higher faith than the sure word of bible revelation, then indeed it behoves us to “cry aloud and spare not,” lest even the “
very elect” should be deluded and led away.
But this is not all, nor even the worst, for the “revelations” which are given assail the most sacred doctrines of the Bible, and the highest sanctions of morality. An American writer, named Grant, in a recent work on this subject, entitled Spiritualism Unveiled, tells us that “spiritualism is indeed an utter and total apostacy from the Christian faith. Man is, by the spirits, affirmed to be his own judge. He is also affirmed to be his own Saviour. The existence of a personal God, of the personal coming of Christ, and of the resurrection of the dead, are all denied.” The New York correspondent of the Morning Herald, in September, 1866, writes as follows: "A most extraordinary convention is the National Convention of Spiritualists in session during the present week at Providence, Rhode Island. They have never before so openly defied the laws of God and the usages of society. Among the resolutions adopted is the following : Whereas a large and intelligent portion of the people of this country having mentally and spiritually outgrown the forms, ceremonies, creeds, dogmas, fables, and superstitions of the Christian churches, Resolved, that we, as a religious organization of Spiritualists and Reformers, put forth the following declaration of objects and principles :-(1.) We discover no practical utility in any of the various ceremonies, rites, and formulas of any of the various churches, and, therefore
, abandon all, and establish none, but leave each individual to follow the dictates of his or her conscience, believing that God cannot be informed, influenced, or glorified, or praised by human or finite beings.?” The marriage vow is also said to “impose no obligation;" and the result of this is that "husbands, who had for years been so devotedly attached to their wives that they have said nothing in the world but death should part them, have abandoned their wives, and formed criminal connection with other females," and this at the bidding of the Spirits. At a Convention at Ravenna, Ohio, in 1857, a Mrs. Lewis said : “ To confine her love to one man was an abridgement of her rights. Although she had a husband, she considered herself married to the whole human race." “ It is reserved for this our day, under the inspiration of the Spiritworld, for a quiet, equable, retiring woman to rise up in the dignity of her womanhood, and declare in the face of her oppressors and a scowling world—I will be free!” “It is also well known that many once-devoted wives have been seduced, and have left their husbands and helpless children to follow some higher attractions ; while many well-disposed girls have been deluded by "affinity'notions, and led off by affinity hunters, to be deserted in a few months.” And this is the system which, “ from a small beginning among the Fox girls, some nineteen years ago, has spread till it has become world-wide in its influence among many of the first men and women of both continents. No other system of religion ever made so great a progress in so short a time, or ever had a better prospect of bringing the whole world into its embrace. Its doors are open for Romanists and Protestants, infidels and atheists, the lewd and the virtuous, Mahomadans, Pagans, and Jews; all are invited, all are welcome to this broad church. Scores of ministers have left other churches to preach this new gospel of Spiritualism." “ And this new Gospel can boast of having made throughout the world about 20,000,000 converts, a number, it is said, which is being augmented every day.”
Now, whether this terrible heresy is really what its patrons profess and believe, namely, the teachings of spirits through the agency of mediums, or is simply the result of delusion, the effect is the same.
Hence, it matters little, so far as the practical effect is concerned, whether we are believed, or laughed at, when we give it as our solemn conviction that what is received and taught by the Spiritualists is really a “doctrine of demons," made known through those who have given themselves up to the evil work, and make their boast of being “mediums.” Swedenborgianism has done much in the past to foster this delusion by preparing peoples' minds for its reception, by boasting that their religion was given to their oracle by the Ministration of Angels. A love of the marvellous, a thirst for signs of the truth of Christianity, is as old, at any rate, as the “ Dives” of our Saviour's discourse, who wished a messenger from heaven to be sent to warn his irreligious brethren least they should fall into his condemnation. Child-like faith is essential to safety, for unless we “hear Moses and the prophets ”—God's own teachers—neither will we be truly converted through the persuasions of good spirits, much less of bad ones.
Before we conclude our article, we must turn our serious attention to the spread, even in high and heavenly places, of the infidel