Images de page
PDF
ePub

theological discussion was intended to be as much avoided as was consonant with the question ; because, having been already treated on by various Christian writers, it seemed to me desirable to urge the matter on the public attention, upon the reasons of worldly policy and expediency. With no view, then, to the disparagement of the overwhelming force from that quarter, which can be brought to bear upon the same side of the question, was the origin of oaths sought in a writer of “avowedly infidel principles." The bulk of mankind, it should be recollected, are so inclined to regard argument, built upon theology alone, as a matter-of-course work or duty. of the clergy, and therefore, possibly, the less accounted of, that sometimes it is well if the inexpediency and inutility of an erroneous system can also be proved, independent of, or in addition to the unhappiness of the religious error. For this reason have I omitted the introduction for discussion, of the scriptural prohibition, “ Swear not at all," upon which such considerable stress is laid by “ Quaker writers;" and shall only now remark, that, in common with many others, I have never taken this injunction as declarative of oaths being actually sinful in themselves, when they can be religiously taken, and irrevocably abided by ; but as intended to prohibit the custom among the Jews, especially of that period, and which is sufficiently notorious, of continually adjuring the name of the Almighty, in familiar conversation and their commercial dealings.

ON AN ALLEGED CASE OF SPECIAL MANIFESTATION

OF DIVINE DISPLEASURE.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer. I TAKE the liberty of sending you the particulars of a very extraordinary case, which occurred in my native village; but fearing that the authenticity of it may be doubted by many of your numerous readers, I beg leave to assure them, that it is an indubitable fact. The parties involved in the fol. lowing relation have for many years lived near my father's residence; and he has been in the habit of seeing them often, and has been perfectly acquainted with the circumstances. But not only might his testimony, but likewise that of the family, the principal inhabitants of Baltonsborough, and all the surrounding villages, be adduced in confirmation of the truth of the relation ; the case in question being of so singular a nature, that it obtained great notoriety throughout the surrounding country. This case has already been brought before the public, in the Lancet, by a Mr. Hoare, a very respectable surgeon living at Warminster, in Wiltshire ; but I have sent it to you, as I consider the narrative to be more suitable for a religious than a medical publication. It may possibly benefit the cause of religion in these days of infidelity and scepticism, by its affording a striking manifestation of the Divine displeasure, against a presumptuous and ungrateful individual ; and confirming the truth of a superintending Providence, which overrules the affairs of men.

Toward the latter end of the year 1831, died, a farmer Higgins, an inhabitant of Baltonsborough, near Glastonbury, in Somersethire ; some of the peculiar incidents of whose life are worthy of being recorded, and handed down to future generations, as an example of the Divine displeasure against hasty and inconsiderate resolutions, and violent imprecations against the arrangements of the Omnipotent will. From the time of his

derived from the page of inspiration? We meant nothing uncourteous; but the character, and the very title of our work, demand of us a jealous adherence to the Christian standard in all questions both of faith and ethics.

marriage, which took place in the year 1793, Higgins became extremely anxious for a son ; but his wife presenting him with three daughters in succession, and no son, he became very disconsolate, and even enraged at his repeated disappointment, and vowed, with an oath of imprecation, that should his next child be a daughter he would never speak to her. Before the birth of his fourth child he impiously repeated the same solemn vow: the child however, to his inexpressible joy, proved to be a boy; but the father's satisfaction was but of short continuance, for this long wished-for and much-desired son, was destined by Pr ence to be to hi the cause of years of remorse and pungent sorrow. Farmer Higgins, indeed, very soon had reason to repent of making such a rash vow; for the child, as soon as it began to take notice of surrounding objects, was observed to avoid him, and never could be induced, even for a moment, to remain in his arms. As the boy advanced in years, and the time of articulation arrived, his shyness towards his father became more and more apparent; and it was soon observed, that whilst he conversed freely with his mother and sisters, he never addressed a word to his father, or uttered a syllable in his presence. At first this shyness was thought to be accidental, as his father was much from home; but when the boy had gained the full powers of speech, and still observed a constant and marked silence towards him, it became but too evident that farmer Higgins was destined never to hold any conversation with his son.

The afflicted parent would often entreat him to speak to and converse with him, but neither entreaties, threats, nor promises were of the least avail; he even promised him the half of what he possessed, would he but converse or even speak to him, but it was all to no purpose. The mother also often admonished and desired him to oblige his father by talking to him ; but his reply invariably was, “ No, mother, do you not think I would talk to father if I could ? Whenever father approaches, my voice begins to falter, and before he comes within hearing, the power of speaking entirely fails me.” It is a very remarkable part of this young man's history, that the inability of speaking, applied to all other males * as well as the father; and this very singular feature in his life continued for thirty-five years, up to the period of farmer Higgins's death. Immediately after this occurrence he began to converse with all around, both males as well as females, taking upon himself the ordering and arrangement connected with his father's funeral, and he still continues to enjoy the full powers of speech. He was always a kind and dutiful child to his father, and cheerfully obeyed all his commands ; but it was observed that at his death he evinced great apathy, exhibiting no signs of distress or sorrow. He was fifteen

years of

age when he was first made acquainted with his father's vow, but it produced on him no perceptible effect,

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

JOHN WILLOT EASTMENT, Wincanton, Somersetshire.

Surgeon, M. R. C. S.

Since I drew up the above statement, a second report of this case, by Mr. Hoare, has appeared in the Lancet (for April 7, 1832), accompanied with a letter, in corroboration of the principal fact, from Dr. Colston, a very respectable clergyman living in the parish adjoining Baltonsborough. Dr. C., however, states, that Eli Higgins, the young man in question, did a few years since speak to two different gentlemen, As soon as I read the above letter, I desired my father to call on the individual ; and he acknowledged, when the names of the persons mentioned in the Lancet were stated to him, that he did on one occasion say a few words to them: but he is totally unable to account for this exception, as he always felt distressed at being unable to converse like other young men.

I have ascertained the truth of this singular exception, from a wish not to state any thing more in reference to the above case, than what is perfectly correct.

J. W. E.

We hesitated as to the propriety of inserting the foregoing paper, but at length consented; as, whatever may be thought of the circumstances therein stated, they furnish a text for a discussion of several important questions connected with the doctrine of a superintending Providence, and for inquiring how far many well authenticated extraordinary events are to be considered as coming under this category. Our readers will call to memory the well-known memorial in the market-place at Devises, of a woman who was struck with death while uttering falsehoods and imprecations, and various similar narratives. We leave both the facts and the solution of the present case to the consideration of our correspondents. The writer sends us several references to vouch for his veracity: he should have added various other particulars, which will readily occur to a medical and moral observer. Admitting the facts, it may be worth considering whether the child had not been in his infancy so greatly terrified by the violent temper and perhaps severe usage of his father, that he fled from him in terror,

and felt unable to articulate a word in his presence. The influence of fear in taking away the power of utterance, however strong the volition, is well known, and is mentioned by the writers upon impediments of speech, as one of their chief causes. Mr. Thelwall, for instance, in his Letters to Mr. Cline on this subject, narrates some remarkable instances of this nature ; and states broadly, that numerous cases of stammering, stuttering, choaking, and other elocutionary impediments, which he had witnessed, arose from the early influence of terror, induced on a sensitive child by the severity of a nurse, schoolmaster, or brutal parent. A child frightened by a schoolmaster, lost both his speech and reason, and became an idiot for life. Many well-practised speakers, when overawed by nervous fear, have been unable to articulate a word, even with their book lying open before them. Might not Higgins's brutality of character, and his use of boisterous “oaths and imprecations,” accompanied perhaps by fierce gestures and blows, have terrified his infant child into silence; more especially as, from his absence from home, he did not see him often enough for familiarity to wear out the effect; so that the involuntary spasm of the vocal organs at length became habitual in his presence, and extended from him, by a natural association, to men in general ? The two exceptions might be in the case of men of very peculiar mildness, or under some strong emotion, which overcame for the moment the habitual association ; and might not that association itself at length wear out, when the death of him with whom it was connected no longer revived it? But whatever may be the physical solution of the facts, this does not interfere with the question, how far such cases as that related by our correspondent are to be viewed as special judgments of God, since the judgment may be no less exemplary when coming in the ordinary train of providential circumstances than if wrought by a special miracle. The further consideration of the whole matter, we leave to the judgment of our correspondents.

JEWISH PRAYER ON THE VISITATION OF THE CHOLERA.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer. As you have given us copies of different Christian prayers ordered to be used during times of pestilence, perhaps you would add the following Jewish prayer, issued by the Rev. Solomon Herschell, the chief Rabbi in England, to be used in all synagogues in the United Kingdom during the prevalence of the visitation which has afflicted so many parts of Europe.

“ O! thou most merciful King, who art great in counsel and powerful in deeds, whose eye observes the ways of man the work of thy hands, whom

thou didst create in thy glorious image; who of thy creatures can relate thy goodness ? What mortal can praise thee according to thy desert ? for thou art exalted above all, and thy dominion extendeth over all.

“ Yet thou hast given us, Almighty God! hearts to understand and to know that, although thou dwellest on high thou deignest to watch over the most humble, and, though thou hast established thy throne in heaven, how mighty is thy name in all the earth, which thou hast appropriated to man; for the request of his lips dost thou not withhold when he calleth on thee in the time of his distress; then dost thou hearken from heaven, for thou art near to all who supplicate thee, and a broken and a contrite heart thou dost not disregard. O! Omnipotent, blessed and praised be thy Name for ever. Amen.

“ We beseech thee, O Eternal ! incline thine ear to the supplication of thy people in the time of their trouble ; for thou hast visited various parts of the earth, pouring out thy wrath upon thy creatures, the inhabitants thereof, sending forth a deadly pestilence and mortal destruction. Every heart faints !- the whole frame trembles ! Alas! who can withstand his indignation or endure his fierce wrath ?

“Verily we know, O God! that thy ways are exalted, and thy judgments true and perfectly just; from thee no evil can proceed, for thou art the source of all goodness and grace; but truly our infirmities counteract thy benevolent intentions, O thou Most High! For in wrath dost thou remember mercy; for thou art a most compassionate and merciful King.

“ And thou, O Lord! art gracious; it is thou who changest times and alterest seasons; who dost decree a time to slay and a time to heal; in the moment of thy anger thy will is the preservation of life; for when men become thoughtless, and wildly follow the inclinations of their hearts, and forget their God and Creator, and even the pious man exerts not himself to recal them to thee, then thy arm arouseth them, and their chastisement is for their salvation; for in their distress they call on thee from the recesses of the heart, and thou hearkenest unto them from thy holy habitation, and when thou hearest thou dost pardon.

“O Almighty God! thou faithful Healer! who soothest the broken heart, and bindest up its wounds,—who hast looked down from heaven, and hast from thy goodness abundantly supplied the inhabitants of this kingdom with affluence and prosperity, and hitherto preserved them by thy mercy, and made a distinction between us and the inhabitants of other countries, and hast not suffered the destroyer to enter our boundaries, -we implore thee, hear our prayers. Behold! we enter thy gates with thanksgiving and praise; we will thank Thee, and bless thy Name; and with awe and trepidation we will present our supplications to heaven, thy holy habitation. O hearken to our entreaties, and accept our prayers in behalf of those who still abide thy dispensation! O let our prayers ascend as incense, and let the plague cease! O say to the destroying angel, “Stop thy hand!' O regard not our wickedness nor our sins, but grant favour to thy servants that no evil may befal us, and that the plague may not approach our dwellings! Shield us with thy protection, we beseech thee! Bless our sustenance, and withhold sickness from amongst us. In thy holy Name we trust, for thou hearest the prayers of all. Blessed art thou, O Eternal! who hearkenest to prayer.”

I might offer several reflections suggested by the above composition, but your readers will readily perform this office for themselves, I will, there. fore, only observe how remarkably this prayer contrasts with the prayers of those nations which have not known the one true God and his attributes, as revealed in a portion of his own inspired oracles ; for though the Jews disown“ Jesus Christ whom he hath sent,” and reject that portion of his Holy Word which relates to the fulfilment of the very prophecies they venerate, yet the Old Testament Scriptures which they acknowledge reveal to them his nature and perfections in a manner infinitely far above mere human reason; and it is the more astonishing, and shews the blindness of the human understanding and the hardness of the heart, unenlightened and unrenewed from above, that with so much knowledge of God, the Jew should still refuse to behold him in his beloved Son, the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person. Oh let our prayer be that the veil may be taken away, and that Israel and Judah may return to the Lord, and acknowledge their own true Messiah, and receive him to the salvation of their souls.

THEOGNIS.

CALAMITIES NOT UNATTENDED WITH MERCIES.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer. In the communications which the Christian world interchangeably maintain, it has become of late a prevalent practice to descant on the manifested judgments of God, without at the same time noticing the many mercies which strikingly commix light with the darkness. I am aware, Mr. Editor, that the sentiments which I am about to express are not in perfect coincidence with your own remarks on passing events: but in a momentous question which involves the knowledge of God, who “ maketh his sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust," a partial view of the argument ought to be avoided; and I therefore request the attention of your readers to the following considerations.

It appears to me, though I may perhaps be mistaken, that to view all calamities which befal a people as judgments, is calculated to prove ex. ceedingly injurious to the cause of truth and righteousness. Did not our blessed Saviour himself reprehend such a practice, when, alluding to those on whom the tower of Siloam fell, he said, “ Think ye that they were sinners above all men in Jerusalem ? I tell ye nay.” And I would ask, is not this disposition to trace every evil to the immediate hand of a retributive Providence apt to excite a spirit of censoriousness, and a too frequent attempt to condemn where angels remain silent? The operations of God which most efficiently display his power, whether of mercy or of judgment, are not discerned in the earthquake or in the fire, but in the still small voice. When the deluge descended and swept away the ancient world, the sojourners of earth were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, totally unconscious of impending evil. Again, in that vast scheme of mercy, the redemption of our race, how came it? Was it with those accompaniments which might excite universal attention ? Con. sider the birth of Christ—for that moment, and for that alone, a strange stagnation had arrested the current of human affairs. The incarnation of the Son of God was an event so transcendently important that the very wheels of human transaction seemed stayed, lest, as it were, the sound of such tumultuous movements should drown the still roll of heaven's charioteering. The revolutions of empires, the changes of dynasties, the endless opposition of forces which had so long desolated this fair portion of God's creation, were for the moment merged in universal peace, as if to welcome the coming of Him who is emphatically the Prince of Peace. And have not the Scriptures also declared, that when that judgment beside which all other judgments must sink into nothingness shall appear, the stealthiness of a thief in the night will be its characteristic? · If you ask any enlightened Christian how it is that in this world those who love God, and those who love him not, stand, as to outward events,

« PrécédentContinuer »