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ART. I.-1. A Letter on the Gifts of the Spirit. By THOMAS ERSKINE, Esq. Advocate. Greenock: 1830.
2. The Brazen Serpent, or Life coming through Death. By THOMAS ERSKINE, Esq. Advocate. Edinburgh: 1831.
3. Neglected Truths. By the Rev. A. SCOTT. London: 1830. 4. The Morning Watch, or Quarterly Journal of Prophecy, and Theological Review. Nos. 8. and 9. (Art. by the Rev. EDWARD IRVING.) London: 1830, 1831.
HALF the world is said not to know how the other half is living.
If this be true of the outside of life, it is much more so of the life within. Although most part of the knowledge which we possess of the moral and intellectual existence of each other, reciprocates in much smaller proportions than by halves, it might have been hoped that religion would be an exception; for of the common elements of our nature there is none, we believe, less seldom found wholly wanting in any individual than the religious principle. However, after all, a most unsatisfactory ambiguity hangs over the formation of this principle, as well as that of conscience. Every thing, in both instances, depends on the education which they receive. Fanaticism, indeed, may be satisfied with the identity of a name; for that answers the purposes of clamour. But if we seek to proceed farther, few are found possessed of the ability or the patience to analyze the various forms which the religious principle may assume, or to trace its probable nature and influence in particular cases. We soon tire of sifting out what it is our neighbours are really thinking and feeling on a mysterious question, complicated by an immensity and diversity of details.
The very same doctrines poured into minds of different strength and temper, combine and crystallize into very different
results. Not that there is any power of compression, which can keep the spirit of doctrines the same for long together; whatever sameness may be secured for the mere letterpress of a creed. The pride of orthodox unity of belief could never, in its most palmy state, reach farther than the shadow. The thing itselfthe entire, one solid shining diamond' of the controversial poet, has, especially in our schismatical times, been shivered into sparkles so numerous and minute, that considerable ingenuity, as well as memory, is necessary to distinguish and collect them -much more personally to distribute them to their respective claimants. These differences admit of no assignable limit. Extremes provoke each other to fly apart still farther. The principle of religious variances, so infinite in the case of individuals, extends to the great moral movements of society, where the strata of human opinion rise, one above another, in distinct masses of successive growth. There are consequently philosophical systems of Christianity, which suppose that the reformation will not only want, but must gradually go on, reforming; since dogmas depend for their real character on the nature of the times, as much as fruits on the quality of the soil in which they grow. Thus, the great body of German theologians, a few divines in England, and the school of Dr Channing in America, (whilst they are proceeding, it is true, by very different routes,) all agree in one main object. The canon of interpretation which they would establish, has a much deeper and more extensive character than any in Griesbach. Their object is to discover and apply in Christianity a power of internal developement and modification; so that, as mankind advances under its protection, Christianity shall itself advance too, and keep adapting and perfecting its tendencies in proportion to the progressive civilisation of every age. A duty of this sort would seem to be one of the chief literary uses of a priesthood, in the light of commentators and teachers, wherever the Scriptures are freely circulated, and private judgment is allowed. A very opposite sect, and one which is already making up in vehemence what it wants, and we trust will always want, in numbers, has lately risen up among us. Its teachers seem to treat with utter scorn all general reasoning and particular consequences; and to be at the same time equally careless and suspicious of authority; for which they apparently substitute some private illumination of their own. There is no saying what sudden turns the impulse of a leading member or two may, from time to time, give to a party which has no difficulty in assuming that every thing has been wrong up to the last religious novelty invented by some member of their society. But looking at the actual working of their system in its present hands, it can only
tend to bind the comprehensive universality of the Christian religion in the strict chain of literal interpretation, and to recall the faith of intelligent Christians to the prejudices of uneducated zealots and darker ages.
A short while ago, the discourses and writings of these persons would have led a stranger, unacquainted with Christianity, to conclude, that the principal point, raised and revealed by it, was the fact and period of the Millennium. The rage for prophetical interpretation having a little subsided, and discussions on the humanity of Christ being found to be a topic better suited to the councils of divines than popular assemblies, the enthusiasm of disciples might have had time to cool. But about this time, two cases of miraculous pretensions happen to have been most unexpectedly, but most opportunely, submitted to the chance of a credulous or contemptuous public. No Hierophants to a party ever better deserved a godsend of this description; for none could more immediately, or more industriously, avail themselves of that mysterious predisposition to superstition, the germ of which is more or less latent in almost every human heart. Few of our readers are probably aware of the cases in question; fewer still know any thing of the portentous controversial superstructure, more curious even than the events on which it has been raised. We are tempted to notice the subject, by the confidence with which the argument has been maintained, as regards both the particular instances, and the general principle. We are, in the meantime, a little afraid of incurring, in the opinion of some of our friends, the fate which Wall, speaking of Irenæus, anticipates from succeeding generations, for all who undertake to answer the idle enthu siastic stuff' of their contemporaries. So,' he says, any 'book written now in answer to the Quakers, &c. will, in the 'next age, seem to be the work of a man who had little to do.' A short statement is necessary to explain the nature of these facts; it being remembered, that they are gravely relied on as manifestations directly and visibly divine; and that they have the honour of being the immediate cause of the promulgation of a rather novel view of the Christian dispensation. There are two cases. That of Miss Fancourt is a singular cure, stated to be received in answer to prayer; that of the Macdonalds is proclaimed as being a renewal of the gift of tongues. The Morning Watch, a publication, in ability, inconsistency, and
*The political articles are not the least extraordinary parts of this extraordinary journal. Any reasonable person, who would take the trouble to dip into them, would learn in an instant what value to put
fierceness, worthy of Cromwell's camp, (for nothing since has been published like it,) contains the only particulars, in the shape of evidence, which we have yet seen. In a latter part of the eighth number, (page 948,) it seems allowed that it may possibly be necessary to give up the case of Mary Campbell, and that of other persons of weak judgment, who shall have proved, by their extravagant and unwarrantable presumptions, that they have mistaken false confidence for faith. Nothing, therefore, need be said of her adventures. But the case of the Macdonalds of Port- Glasgow, and their friends, is supported as being perfectly distinct. In respect of these, some farther well-attested facts were promised us. They were to be verified, it was said, by the examination of all the parties, and be made indisputable by the first medical authorities. A subsequent number has, however, lately appeared, in which two separate articles are dedicated to Miss Fancourt; but not a word of the Macdonalds. The doctors, it seems, therefore, are rather shy of their certificate. The experience of doctors in the Fancourt case will probably prevent reference to this sceptical profession. In our narrative and critical commentary we will give the sex precedence.
The cure of Miss Fancourt of a spine complaint, in answer to the prayer of Mr Greaves, has been the subject of prolonged polemical contention between the Morning Watch and the Christian Observer. The lady, belonging to a religious family, and herself of religious character, had been ill for eight years, and during the last two years was confined wholly to her couch. Mr Greaves' believed that God had sent him that day to receive an answer to his many prayers in behalf of Miss Fancourt.-She 'observed him often during the evening engaged in silent suppli'cation.' His final address to her, her conduct thereon, and the whole relation, can leave no question of the religious excitement, which indeed such a transaction necessarily implies, in all who are parties to it. The only question on the evidence, applies to the remaining fact-was the disorder in a state to be subject to he influence of a charm of this description? There is a difference
upon mere declarations of political opinion, (delivered, for instance, as instructions to the public on the present measure of reform,) under the sanction of the otherwise distinguished names of Mr H. Drummond and Mr Spencer Perceval. The reasonings and the conclusions are just what might be expected from writers who seem to consider, that a course of lectures on prophecy is the best preparatory study for young diplomatists; and that the only infallible guide in doubtful cases of external and internal policy, is to be found in the numerals of Daniel and the visions of the Apocalypse.
of opinion among her medical attendants on the point, whether the disease had been at any time organic, or was always functional only. But Dr Jervis, who alone appears to consider that a curvature of the spine had at one time actually taken place, expressly adds, Her disease had probably been some time since 'subdued, and only wanted an extraordinary stimulus to enable her to make use of her legs.' (P. 153.) For the purpose, therefore, of the present question, although Dr Jervis admits that the disease had been at a former period organic, whilst Mr Travers regards it as chiefly, if not entirely, a disease of function,' they both agree, as men of science, forming their judgments on the symptoms which they observed during their professional attendance, that, in point of fact, her disorder was in a state to be cured by a medicine of this sort administered through the mind. Mr Parkinson concurs in the opinion, that there had been nothing in the illness or the recovery, but what might be accounted for by natural means. The surgical question, whether a change of structure, which has once taken place, is permanent or removable, they may settle among themselves. All we want now is their joint and several opinion on the facts of the case before them; and that we have. The latter part of Mr Travers's letter is worth transcribing from the pages of the Morning Watch, on account of its general application to occurrences of this description. A volume, and not an uninteresting one, might be compiled of histories resembling Miss Fancourt's. The truth is, these are the cases upon which, beyond all others, the empiric thrives. Credulity, the foible of a weakened, though vivacious intellect, is the pioneer of an unqualified and overweening confidence; and thus prepared, the patient is in the most hopeful state for the credit, as well as the craft, of the pretender. This, however, I mention only by the way, for 'the sake of illustration. I need not exemplify the sudden and ' remarkable effects of joy, terror, anger, and other passions of 6 the mind, upon the nervous system of confirmed invalids, in restoring to them the use of weakened limbs, &c. They are as much matters of notoriety as any of the properties and powers of direct remedial agents recorded in the history of 'medicine. To cite one: A case lately fell under my notice, of a young lady, who, from inability to stand or walk without acute pain in her loins, lay for near a twelvemonth upon her 'couch, subjected to a variety of treatment by approved and not inexperienced members of the profession. A single visit from 'a surgeon of great fame in the management of intractable cases, 'set the patient upon her feet, and his prescription amounted 'simply to an assurance, in the most confident terms, that she must disregard the pain, and that nothing else was required