FOLLOWING THE LORD JESUS AND HIS WORD IN THE REGENERATE LIFE;
NOT SEEKING INTERCOURSE WITH SPIRITS.
And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them which have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.—ISA. viii. 19, 20.
True Spiritualism, is spiritual mindedness. To BE SPIRITUALLY MINDED, SAYS THE APOSTLE, IS LIFE AND PEACE (Rom. viii. 6.) God is a Spirit, and True Spiritualism is to become like Him, and to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Man is a spirit clothed with a body: true Spiritualism is allowing the spirit to rule, and to keep the body in order. The interiors of the spirit are the will and the understanding; the will for the reception of Spiritual Love, from the Divine Love, the understanding for the reception of Spiritual Wisdom from the Divine Wisdom.
True Spiritualism, is, in, liberty, to receive such love with our WILLS while we obey the Divine Commandments and, in rationality, to receive such wisdom into our UNDERSTANDINGS. True Spiritualism is always in harmony with the Word of the Lord, which is SPIRIT AND LIFE. (John vi. 63.) True Spiritualism is heavenly mindedness. True Spiritualism is a loving obedience to the Divine Commandments. True Spiritualism is a regard for the Word.
The true Spiritualist; is one who communes with the Divine Spirit of our Lord at all times, referring all his thoughts and affections to Him. The Lord rules his inward man, the inward rules the outer; and this gives a sacred tone at all times to the mind and manners. Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. (Rom. viii. 9.) The true Spiritualist knows that the law of the Lord is spiritual, and he lovingly obeys it. He delights in the law of God after the inward man. (Rom. vii. 22). He mortifies the deeds of the body and finds the fruits of the Spirit to be love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law. (Gal. v. 22, 23.) The true Spiritualist, has his delights in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth he meditate day and night; or he knows it is the treasure-house of all wisdom, and true understanding. The Word is his light; the Word is his spirits food; the Word is his director and defense. The spiritual meaning of the Word of Heavenly Love and truth, is his especial delight. He prays in the Spirit, lives in the Spirit, sows in the Spirit, and of the Spirit reaps life everlasting.
Spiritualism in this sense, is an invaluable thing; it is worthy of all acceptation. But like other excellent things, it is often misunderstood. Counterfeits present themselves, and are often received. Let us then examine the subject, a little more closely.
I. True Spiritualism, is a devout and humble love of the will, laws, and order of the Lord: and this is true righteousness. Pseudo-spiritualism is the adoption of some human substitute for the Divine will, laws, and order; and this is self-righteousness. Should not it people seek unto their God?
II. True Spiritualism, is a devout love for the Holy Word, and a constant communion with the Lord by its means. To the law and to the testimony. Pseudo-spiritualism, is seeking direction and information on spiritual subjects by other means, such its by familiar spirits, table-turnings, spirit-rappings, &c.;
And when they shall say unto you, seek unto them which have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter; should not a people seek unto their God? If they speak not according to this Word it is because there is no light in them.
A devout love of the Divine will, laws, and order, perceives them, in all things. It sees the goodness of the Lord on every side, above and below. In the glorious sun-beams; in the silvery moon, and the star-spangled curtain of night; in the ever-changing grandeur of the clouds; in the airy ocean in which we live, with all the fragrant odors with which it is laden; in the beautiful trees, flowers, shrubs, and grasses of the world, and all the varieties of land and ocean, mountain and valley, hill and plain, forest and field, goodly river and tiny rill, stream and lake, with all the myriad forms of life and beauty with which they are peopled. The true Spiritualist rejoices in them all, is grateful for them all. And while he gazes on some lovely landscape where hill and dale, mood and water, sky and earth, trees and singing birds, all present their beauties to delight eye and ear and smell, his heart often offers its grateful incense of praise and thanksgiving. Bless the Lord, he says, all his works, in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord O my soul.
There is beauty in all this delectable world;
There is beauty above, and around, and below;
The heavens and the earth are but beauty unfurled,
From the Daisy’s sweet hue, to the sun’s golden glow.
The true Spiritualist sees, too, the lovingness of the Divine will, in all the relations of society. In the family circle, in the relations of parent and child, of brother and sister, husband and wife, in friend and fellow citizen, in thinker and worker, in rulers and ruled, in the thousand forms of busy life on land and sea, he beholds the ministries of love and wisdom, in which the will and law of the Almighty Father and Savior, are blessing His creature man.
He is grateful for his faculties of mind. He knows the grandeur of their powers. He knows they are inlets, by which Infinite Mercy imparts the thousand thousand blessings of knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and virtue. He is grateful for his senses, he is grateful for his body. He regards himself as he truly is, as a compound of wondrous appetites in such relation to all things in heaven and earth, that they may bless him, within and without that heaven may pour in its celestial riches, and earth its lower but yet beneficent treasures. He rejoices, from love, in the arrangements of Divine Providence, and humbly seeks to adapt himself to them. Thankful for all the blessings he obtains, thankful too for the difficulties which prepare him for higher blessings; he bears what, Mercy sees it fitting he should bear. He applies himself firmly when necessary, to the stern work of life, but he is lovingly grateful for every benefit he receives. He loves and labors in the work of regeneration. He blesses the Lord for his Word, as well as for his world; and the constant grateful acknowledgment of the true Spiritualist is, Bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies. Such is the true Spiritualist. His loving, faithful obedience to the Divine commandments by power from his Savior, neither seeking to go above nor below them, is the righteousness of God in him. He strives to walk by the Divine rule. He hears the Word like a voice behind him, saying, This is the way, walk thou in it, when he would turn to the right hand or to the left. (Isa. xxx. 21.)
Such is TRUE SPIRITUALISM; and to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
There is, however, a spurious spiritualism, a pseudo-spiritualism, a melancholy mixture of piety and bile, which jaundices the soul, and under the persuasion of being very religious, deems it a duty to be very miserable. Such a spirit throws a pall over creation, and sees nothing anywhere but lamentation and woe. Instead of the reasonable commands of the All–wise and All-good, this pseudo-religiousness caricatures religion, and condemns the greatest blessings and all the innocent enjoyments of life. This pseudo-spiritualism, in one department of Christendom, has frowned upon marriage, making its highest saintship consist in the rejection of life’s highest responsibilities, and its sweetest gifts.
This Pseudo-spiritualism placed the dirty saints of the Egyptian deserts on their pillars for years, imagining their lazy instincts to be holiness, and their groveling hideousness, until they approached a resemblance to the brutes amongst which they lived, the best preparation for heaven, the land of highest purity, and Divinest beauty. This fanaticism induced Pascal to be walled out from the lovely sights and sounds of nature, lest he might be allured to be happy, by the beauteous world of his Maker.
This pseudo-spiritualism, but real fanaticism, does not distinguish between the world of God, which is pious and beautiful, and worldliness, which is evil. In some, it condemns music; in others, painting and sculpture; in others dancing, as ministers to the senses, as if the senses were not from the Lord, and had not the sacred office of making the world subordinate to the eternal world in us. This morbid spirit makes religion sour, and hateful to the young: while true religion, embodied in the Savior, ever says, I come not to take your joy away from you, but that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be full. (John xv. 11.)
This pseudo-spiritualism looks condemnatory at the world, yet in its own bitter way is most keenly bent on having as much power and pelf in it as possible. It slights the easy, blessed commandments of the Lord, which are the laws of happiness, and has given hard commandments of its own, which take away all the delight out of life.
Pseudo-spiritualism makes long prayers, has a whining speech; revels in cant; but when weighed by the standard of doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with the Lord, is greatly deficient.
The world in man, unregenerated, like the world out of him, uncultivated, is a world in disorder. The work of true religion is to reduce this inner world to order and beauty; to tame the passions, to conquer evil habits, to correct the temper, to learn the laws of truth and duly, and, humbly, but faithfully and lovingly carry them out, into every work of life. To do this is meek dependence on the Savor, and by His spirit, word, and example, thus to work out our salvation with fear and trembling but with trust, love, and perseverance; this is true Spiritualism.
Dark sensualism never does this holy life-work; for the soul whom it governs loves darkness rather than light, because its deeds are evil. Pseudo-spiritualism never does it. It pretends that the world cannot possibly be regenerated; so it builds castles in the air, and exults in fancied security. It lives upon morbid sentimentalities, and vainly dreams that with the body all the sins it fails to subdue, because it really loves them, will at last be put off.
Pseudo-spiritualism will not be merry, because it says this is worldly, as if anything could be less worldly than the hearty enjoyment of another’s joy, and the delighted smile that recognizes our Heavenly Fathers goodness; but it is grasping and keen in dealing, which is the essence of worldliness. Pseudo-spiritualism either rejects business as altogether unspiritual, and thinks that salvation will follow praying well and singing well, but cannot possibly have anything to do with working well; or it will submit to do business as an unmanageable necessity, as a totally different thing from religious duty. It wishes to be out of the world. It bans the world as a possession of evil ones, as an incurable den of the depraved. The Divine language of the Savior, I pray not that thou wouldst take them out of the world, but that thou wouldst keep them from the evil, is not understood by pseudo-spiritualism. Only the truly spiritually-minded trust in the Omnipotent power of God, their Savior, and work in faith, and hope, and love, until every department; of mind and life, and business, with them, has been corrected, transformed, and brought under the spirit of heaven. In them the wilderness has become like Eden, the desert-like the garden of God; joy and gladness is found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
When every man enters upon this holy work, of bringing heavenly feeling, and justice, and judgment into his avocation, whatever that may be: whether that of workman or employer, tradesman or merchant, statesman or subject, whether monarch or cottager, then will the world around us and the world within us, be like the world above us, the stars and those grand and solemn planets which do their work to a moment of time, and declare the glory of God.
This is Christian work. This is true saintly duty. Here is holy hardihood required; to go into each walk of business-life, and work out there the Christianisation of trade and employment of every kind, until the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.
O for the Christian workman who, from love to his Savior, will subdue his own evils, and the disorders of his trade, and help his fellows to work from the spirit, and by the laws of heaven. O for the Christian employers who will deliver their workman from unhealthy workshops and unhealthy hours, who will be content with modest gain, so that comfort and health may exist round them. O for the tradesman, the merchant, the broker, and the banker, who will have no frauds, either patent or conceded, in their transactions. O for Christian jurists who will do battle for the sake of Him who is the Truth and the Life, against all legal fictions, and let law be equity, and justice and judgment everywhere prevail. May Thy kingdom come, O Lord Jesus, Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven. This is true Spiritualism. This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (John v. 4.)
O the golden chains that link heaven to earth,
The rusts of all time cannot sever;
Evil shall die in its own dark dearth,
And the good liveth on for ever.
And, man, though he beareth the brand of sin,
And the flesh and the devil have bound him,
Hath a spirit within, to old Eden akin,
Only nurture up Eden around him.
We come now to the second form of pseudo-spiritualism, that which accounts it spiritualism, to consult with spirits, and seeks comfort slid direction by spirit-rappings, and other modes of dealing with the dead.
True Spiritualism, we have seen, is, holding communion with the Spirit of the Lord, and the means of doing that, are the truths of the Holy Word. The Word is a Divine ladder, reaching from earth to heaven, on which the angels ascend and descend.
With this means, provided by Heaven, our communications will be safe and sure. He who reads, loves, and practices the Word, will be associated with Heaven. All these are come to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly and church of the first-born. (Heb. xii. 22.)
But this association of men and angels takes place by the Divine care, unknown, except in special instances, on both sides. Time was, no doubt, when men and angels were visibly associated with each other; but since men fell from order into sin, the mercy of the Lord has interposed a veil between the two worlds, the world of spirits and the world of men; and, for kindest, obvious reasons. The law of association is, that like minds associate with like; evil men are associated with evil spirits; men in false principles with spirits like themselves, but with this difference, spirits are fixed in their principles, and far more subtle in them than men. If, therefore, a man were open to receive communications from spirits, they would be in similar principles to those he cherished, only more deeply in them; and the echoes of his own Phantasies from his associate spirit, would come back to him, invested with the supposed authority of heaven. Evil spirits would infuse lusts and infernal subtleties into their dupes, rendering salvation impossible. Instead of being led by the Lord, and freely working out his regeneration by the power of truth, he would be the creature of familiar spirits.
To some minds the entire consideration of this subject is an idle labor. They know nothing of angels or spirits, nor of their connection or association with man. The philosophy of the past century was so Sadducean, and so widely spread, that, to vast numbers, the subject of spiritual existence, was a thing exploded. When the Papal dignitaries had compelled Galileo to sign the declaration that the world was stationary, the truth compelled him, while he threw down the pen, to say-And yet it moves. So, men may ignore the spirit-world and immortal life, as much as they please; but yet, the facts of human experience, and the yearnings of the soul, as well as the teachings of Scripture, show that man lives after death, in a, world not far from us–a spirit-world–and, that communication with that world is possible.
So long and so drearily had materialism lain coldly on the best aspirations of the soul, that, when there came tidings, some years ago, of communications being had in America, with deceased relatives and this not in some one case, but in thousands of cases, and that similar communications could be obtained, by certain processes, in England or anywhere numbers rushed at once to experiments. These declared that, by moving tables, by speaking-mediums, by writing-mediums, and by raps, there mere intelligent communications obtained in very numerous instances. The adherents of these practices continued to multiply, and still perseveringly assert that they have actual experience of the absolute existence of their relatives and friends who have left the body. There are now, probably, some hundreds of thousands of such witnesses, and there is a large literature in support and illustration of their views, giving alleged examples of spirit-intercourse. There are cases of collusion, probably induced by impostors attempting what sincere minds have really achieved, and helping of experiments by enthusiastic and fanatical minds; with all this allowed for, yet there is an immense body of evidence that real communications with spirits can be obtained, have been, and are obtained. We seek not to contravene the evidence of such facts; we wish to warn against the danger of such communication, to show the rational ground for such danger, and to suggest the reason why it is expressly forbidden in the Word of God.
That such intercourse, and the existence and nearness of the spiritual world, should have been accepted as marvels of an astounding kind, is in itself a marvel. It is a sad disclosure of the paralysis of faith, during the last hundred years, in the souls of men. When the Son of man shall come, shall He find faith in the earth? must surely refer to this time, when men, with the forms of religion about them, and the words immortality, angels, spirits, devils, on their lips, and some faint whispers of a vague hope that they should meet their friends after death, yet started as from a deep slumber when told that life after death was a real fact; that men and women were still men and women when the outward covering of matter was left behind.
It came like a discovery of some unheard-of thing, instead of its being the constant living conviction of Christian minds. Yet, if the Bible is true, if the Savior is true, if the apostles have taught truly; if innumerable records of appearances from an inner world, ingrained in all histories of all ages, are not strange mendacities; if the yearnings and instincts of all men are not to be regarded as groundless, men do lire on in spiritual bodies, when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved. We rejoice to see the full recognition of this truth in the Essays and Reviews, both by Professor Williams (p. 90) and Mr. Wilson (p. 163).
The former remarks of Professor Bunsen-But the second volume of Gott in der Geschichte seems to imply that, if the author recoils from the fleshy resurrection and Judaic Millennium of Justin Martyr, he still shares the aspiration of the noblest philosophers among ourselves, to a revival of conscious and individual life, in such it form of immortality art may consist with union with the Spirit of our Eternal Lawgiver. The latter, Mr. Wilson, states:–St. Paul represents the rising to life again, not as miraculous or exceptional, but as a law of humanity, or, at least, of Christian and spiritualized humanity; and he treats the resurrection of Christ, not as a wonder, but as a prerogative instance. Secondly, he shows, upon the doctrine of a spiritual body, how the objections against resurrection, from the gross conception of a flesh-and-blood body, fall to the ground.
And, in the foot-note, he observes:–So, in Luke xx. 27-35, the Sadducees are dealt with, in alike argumentative manner. They understood the doctrine of the resurrection to imply the rising of men with such bodies as they now have. The case supposed by them loses its point when the distinction is revealed between the animal and the angelic bodies.
To the fleshly doctrine of the resurrection of the earthly body, which derived originally from the Jewish residence in Babylon, early overlaid the grand scriptural doctrine of the resurrection of man in a spiritual body, is mainly due the Saduceeism of later ages.
When men see no prospect of life after death, except through the rising again of what moons have eaten, the winds have scattered, and the atoms which have been incorporated in human forms again and again, and belong as much to any one body in a thousand as to any other, their faith and hope grow dim. If is only when they have a living conviction of the truth embodied in the Saviors words, God is not God of the dead, but of the living; all live to him (Luke xx. 38); Today thou shalt be with me in paradise (Luke xxiii. 43), that they can truly feel the comfort flowing from a heartfelt utterance of the words of the sorrowing Psalmist, I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.
The doctrine of the Scripture undoubtedly is, that resurrection is immediate; and the spiritual world, though invisible to our earthly sight, is near. How else can we understand the visions so constantly related by the prophets, in which the inhabitants or the inner world are seen only by the opening of the eyes of the seer without any change of place? There are the visions of the patriarchs, of Joshua, of Elijah, Elisha, of Micaiah, of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, the apostles, especially St. John, whose whole Apocalypse is a series of spiritual scenes.
Unless this doctrine be admitted, how can we understand the consolatory assurance, The angel of the Lord encampeth round them that fear him (Psalm xxxvii. 4); He shall give his angels charge concerning thee to keep thee in all thy ways (Psalm xci. 11) ; Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation? (Heb. i. 14.) Without this doctrine, what can we make of the apostles assurance that true Christians are already in company, spiritually, With the spirits of just men made perfect, and an innumerable company of angels? (Heb. xii. 22-23.) Nay, the very mode of spiritual sight is explained in the Scriptures. The prophet Elisha was at the top of a mountain, with his young man, when the Syrian host were approaching to take him. The prophet knew his invisible protectors were near, for he could see them; the servant of the man of God could not, and he cried out, Alas! my master, what shall we do? The prophet said, Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
The prophet did more; he prayed for his weak servant, that his faith might be strengthened by sight. Elisha prayed and said, Lord, I pray thee OPEN HIS EYES that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and HE SAW; and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. (2 Kings vi. 17.) The young man was a spirit himself, having a spiritual body and senses, clothed with a material frame for a time: so are we all; and when the Lord sees it proper to open our eyes to see the things near us, but not usually beheld, there is no difficulty in the accomplishment.
The nearness of a world of mind, and of beings mentally associated with ourselves, is not difficult to conceive, and is indicated by a large mental experience which takes place with every soul. Who does not experience the frequent inflowing of thoughts, sentiments, and hopes other and higher than his own? In darkness comes light; in despair come hopes; in perplexities, solutions and unravelments such as we have never had before; these are often unexpected. Occasionally warnings, and admonitions are given so striking, that the most heedless are startled, and the most negative souls confounded and impressed. again, we often say such and such a thing struck us. Every one knows that each soul is in progression; the good men each day sees better things; the bad men worse. In philosophy, in science, in art, we say we invent, we discover, we find out. All these terms imply a perception of what other minds disclose rather than the origination of new ideas in ourselves. Columbus discovered America, but that only means he found out what was there. We invent, we find out, we discover new ideas, sentiments, and principles, but these were in existence before we discovered them, they come to us from the world of mind, from those minds associated with our own by the Divine wisdom of the Most High, who, being nearest to the states of our own, can most help. Every good and perfect gift cometh down from the Father of light. (James i. 17.) But as they come from Him, they are too perfect for us; they must be accommodated to our states by minds in succession, nearer and nearer to us, until me can receive them.
But this wonderful arrangement, this ladder of being, is of the Divine Providence alone; it is wisely hidden from us. It is no argument against the existence of this world of mind, this inner world, that it is not discernable by our natural senses: if it were, it would not be a spiritual but a natural world. There are many spheres of things only recently discovered, which yet have existed since the world begun. Electricity has but lately been discovered, though it pervades all nature. If we had been created without eyes, the world of light, with all its beauteous forms and colors, would have never been known to exist, though around us everywhere. We have undoubtedly five worlds around us, which co-exist without confusion, and each one only revealed by the sense peculiar for its observation; we mean the world of sight, the world of sound, the world of odor, the world of taste, and the world of touch. Why not, then, the world of spirit? The world of sound, from the deep bass of the oceans roar, to the larks shrill warble; from the gentlest whisper to the roar of multitudes; from the rustle of the leaf, to the innumerable sounds which compose the grand symphony of Nature’s wondrously varied musicall would have existed, though undiscovered by us, had we not been possessed of ears; and so with sight, taste and smell. When, therefore, revelation, reason, and experience combined to tell us an inner world exists, and man lives on, it is perfectly futile to object we have not seen it. It is wisely hidden from view; it exists, nevertheless.
This brings us to our immediate theme. To obtain open communication with this inner world, and to talk with the reputed dead, is not true Spiritualism; it is only another form of pseudo-spiritualism; its true name is spiritism.
True Spiritualism, we have seen, is spiritual-mindedness, that state of the soul which reveres the Lord and His Word, which labors in life to make the spiritual principles of love and light prevail in every pursuit, which is obedient daily to the commandments of God. But spiritism is very different from this; it is the pursuit of things forbidden.
The moment one sees the true character of spirit-connection with man, one may perceive the danger of intruding into the open knowledge of it.
If a person is associated for providential purposes with a spirit like himself though both the man and the spirit are mercifully unaware of the connection, there can no harm come. It is under the Divine government, and the Lord does all things well. He has veiled this connection from both, for wise and merciful objects; and thus, though supplying man with the inner elements of mental life, He preserves his freedom and guides him by His Word. But, if man rashly presume to put aside this providential guard, and open himself to visible spirit-communication, he makes himself the tool, it may be the sport, of spirits, who then know with whom they are present, and the echoes of his own phantasies by spirits no better than himself become to him sacred lights, though they are the merest flashes of falsehood.
But the practicers of these forbidden arts presume they are in good states, and sincerely desire to be led aright, and so must be ready for communication with spirits; and though it may be dangerous for others, they think it is quite safe for them. The very presumption that they are in good states, and in no danger, is inconsistent with humility, and ought to warn them to beware. Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall. The faith which is so poor as to need sight, is very weak, and implies much that is dangerous in the soul. The way to improve our faith, is to improve our PRACTICE, not to hunt after spirits. If any man will no His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. But not only is the presumption that we can, without risk, set a Divine safeguard aside, itself an evil, and itself calculated to lead to danger in such self-created intercourse with spirits, but when we know that the seeking of such intercourse is forbidden again and again in the Holy Word, what expectation ought we to have, of a course which implies strong self-will opposing the Divine will, and self-conceit setting at nought Divine wisdom? These, are but poor preparations for a safe intercourse with spirits.
Even, when a person feels strongly the darkness of the age, and the immense importance of a recognition of the existence and immortality of man after death, yet he would do well to fear, rather than to seek any extraordinary communications.
Self-will often suggests its fitness to do great things; it wishes to be some great one: to seek power by spiritual gifts, did not die with Simon Magus. (Acts viii. 9) All the prophets of old, whose calling is especially described, feared and shunned the appointment from self-humiliation, except Balaam; he sought again and again to be sent, but the result was not encouraging.
Not only, however, is there obvious danger in the very nature of things, in seeking intercourse with the dread, but it is expressly forbidden as one of the abominations which Israel should especially shun.
And, here, allow me to remark, that if such intercourse were not possible it would be difficult to account for the strong prohibitions of the Bible, and the penalties with which they were accompanied. Partly from the Providential care which had led almost to forgetfulness of the crime, and partly from the materialism of the age, which scarcely knows anything of mind-existence separate from the body, those passages of Scripture which relate to forbidden arts, have been read with scarcely any perception of their meaning, or any idea of their having any concern for us. The dark mysteries of infernal magic were lost sight of, and necromancy supposed to be nothing but legerdemain. Necromancy, however, means consulting with the dead, and by noticing the passages in which that and kindred terms occur, we shall perceive the contrariety to Divine command, involved in seeking intercourse with spirits.
Take first our text, When they say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them. No expression could more aptly describe the relation between a man who has opened a communication with the spirit nearest to his state, than this, in Hebrew (Ob), familiar spirit. Wizards that peep, are no doubt those who have intercourse through glasses, or by some similar contrivance, while the muttering would apply to the unearthly noises, made in imperfect communications. Of all of them, is it, not most clear that they lead away from the Word, and are forbidden?
Divinations, and all forms of fortune-telling, are in the same category. They foster an anxious spirit. Heavenly-mindedness seeks not to know the future, but is content in the Lord Take no anxious thoughts for the morrow, is a law of heaven, and of heavenly men. A good future is always contained in a well-acted present. Should not a people seek unto their God. To the law and the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them. In Isaiah, xxix. 4, reference is again made to these familiar spirits. Thy voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust. Those who know anything of modern manifestations of spiritism, will perceive the similarity to this description of ancient manifestations. Rappings, with strange, peculiar sounds on the floor, in the dust; tappings on the floor or table, twitchings under the table, experiments needful to be done in the dark, or with very little light, all these indicate the affinity for such communications with the low and gloomy kingdom, not with the kingdom of light.
Communications with such spirits, evidently led to the Canaanitish abominations, which gave rise to the necessity for the extirpation of the polluted tribes which possessed the land, prior to Israel. And even now, sad experience in America, and in this country, had disclosed depths of abomination, which throw an awful light upon the pernicious results of these practices, and the necessity of their being so rigidly forbidden. Turn to Deut. xviii. 9-12. When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of these nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, a sorcerer,* an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or one who INQUIRES OF THE DEAD [scanner unable to insert phrase]. For all that doe these things are an abomination unto the Lord; and because of these abominations, the Lord thy God doth drive them out before thee.
The English version has observe of times; the true meaning, however, is sorcerer.
Here, we are undoubtedly informed, that questioning the dead and consulting familiar spirits, mere abominations which led to the driving out of the Canaanitish nations. The Israelites are warned against similar practices, and all who do them are called an abomination unto the Lord. In Leviticus, very emphatic notices of consulting with spirits occur. Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God. (Xix. 31.) Again,– And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people. (xx. 6.) And, once more,–A man also that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones; their blood shall be upon them. (27.)
Surely these passages are distinct enough, and masked enough, to lead every one to pause, before seeking intercourse with the dead–enough to induce all who love their fellow-creatures, to entreat them never to fancy that they are true Spiritualists, because they interrogate the dead. They but degrade a holy name to unhappy purposes. Such Spiritualism, is but the dread entrance to an enchanters cavern. There may be flowers there, but they are the gaudy poppies that allure, until the deadly narcotic is taken, which enfeebles, benumbs, and destroys.
Any one who has seen or read much respecting the communications from spirits, given through this pseudo or modern spiritualism, will be well aware of its unreliability for any genuine purpose of truth, or good. Sometimes a common-piece, but pious-looking sentence, is spelled out; and those well-disposed minds who have listened, in the hope of learning to become wiser and better, ore delighted; but, soon afterwards, there will b given sentiments of the most baneful kind, blasphemous and impure. No precautions prevent this. No one can ever tell who is speaking to him. The spirit may profess to be his father, mother, a dear departed child, or friend, a much reverenced teacher, or a notability of ancient times, whom you please. But, in almost every case, an attentive examination will show that there is only a personation there, not the real person; a lying spirit is abusing the credulity of the inquirer.
You may inquire for Burns, and some one will come and give you the lamest possible doggerel–a distinguished preacher, some esteemed departed friend, and some one will give you the most miserable twaddle. Swedenborg, who, instead of his own deep, wise sentences, will utter some vapid nonsense utterly dissimilar to the weighty words of the real man.
The Word of the Lord, which warns us on all points of danger, gives a striking instance of these personations. Saul, who had been elevated from a lowly station to a throne, had forgotten that obedience is better than sacrifice, and to hearken, than the fat of rams. Wealth and success had induced carelessness, self-sufficiency, jealousy, and contempt for the Word and the will of the Lord. The heroic David, he had treated with the utmost cruelty. Darkness came over him, and over his land. There was no answer from the Lord, when he inquired, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. It never occurred to Saul to try genuine repentance. He thought he would inquire of the dead. He well knew it was forbidden. He had himself in an earlier and a better time put away all whom he knew to deal with familiar spirits; but now this means occurred to him as the only way of escape from his many dangers. He remembered Samuel, his old, tried, faithful friend, the servant of God, who feared no man. He imagined, if he could get to him, even through a forbidden path, some counsel for good would be given. The Philistines threatened the loss of crown and kingdom. Too proud to sink into genuine humility, and seek pardon from the All-Merciful, he caught at another means. He inquired for a woman who had a familiar spirit, and learned there was one at Endor. He disguised himself, and went with some of his servants to consult this miserable person. She, afraid of the stringent law which she knew had been in force in the land, and not knowing the king, objected to be consulted, but at length gave way to Saul’s entreaty. She undertook to procure him the interview he sought. The veil is, as if it were, taken away in this strange scene. The woman declares she saw one come up whom she believed to be Samuel, for whom Saul had asked, and who purported to be Samuel.
But the circumstance of his coming up indicated that he belonged to the lower kingdom, rather than He higher. He had no word of comfort to give, but overwhelmed the king with reproach and with despair. His words descended like a pitiless storm, and the dismayed monarch fell to the ground. After awhile he rose up, and, having taken some refreshment, traveled all night to his camp, to prepare with withered courage and broken heart, to lose crown, kingdom, and life, on the morrow. Here is a case of a spirit from the lower kingdom pretending to be Samuel, breaking down the lest vestige of the kings hope, and overwhelming him with despair. Alas, for those who trust for deliverance to such means, instead of to a change of life, and to the Word of the Living God. The lying spirit who went to persuade Ahab that he might go to battle, and caused him to perish at Ramoth Gilead, is another instance of a similar kind. He filled the prophets of Ahab with the phantasy that he was the Spirit of God. Not by forbidden arts, not by the powers of darkness, can help ever come to man. There is only one way in which aid can be found; that is, come to the Savior, learn His Word, cease to do evil, learn to do well.
Let no one, therefore, mistake spiritism for Spiritualism. The one is a forbidden thing; the other is life and peace. The one is an intrusion into a dark path; the other is following the Lord Himself in the work of regeneration. The one is laying ourselves open to the wiles of Satan, decked as an angel of light; the other is taking the Divine means provided by our Heavenly Father, to prepare us for His kingdom.
In reply to the express and marked condemnations which the Word gives of the practice of consulting spirits, it is said by those who have gone so far in these habits, that the Word has but little weight with them. These are parts of the old law, and that law has been repealed. This is the ready reply always of those who seek to justify their own will, rather than to do the Divine will. The ten commandments are often disregarded on the same plea. But the Levitical law has not been superseded in the spirit, but only in the letter. The letter of the law was not abrogated for a lower and looser law, but for a higher and holier. The commandment, Thou shalt not commit murder, was not superseded by any law leaving persons at liberty to do this sin, but by recognizing the principle in the law more deeply and widely.
We are not to offend it by an angry feeling, by murdering a kind affection, or a holy thought, by doing anything that would injure our brother in mind, or in any way. So with every other law, the spirit of it is to be carried out more fully with the Gospel, than before. Think, not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets, said the Lord Jesus, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. v. 17-19.)
The precepts respecting inquiring of the dead, and consulting familiar spirits, ought not only to be kept by a Christian; but every desire to substitute any thing of our own, either in will or thought, instead of Divine guidance, ought to be eschewed, not lest, as in the old letter, we may be stoned to natural death, but lest, in the soul, we may be reduced by false principles to a state of spiritual death.
The Lord Himself in the New Testament, gave the very principle of these laws. The evil rich man in the parable, is represented, as desiring that Lazarus may be sent to warn those who were still living on the earth, in his fathers house, that by the superior influence of a voice from the dead, they might be induced to repent. We find constantly the same feeling now. Men continually suppose if they had miraculous proof of this or that truth of religion, they would certainly believe it. Their faith wavers, they think, because they have not evidence enough; they do not suspect that it is because they have not obedience enough. Goodness loves truth, seeks it, sad welcomes it; embraces it with a steady, firm grasp, and looks up for more. He that doeth good, cometh to the light. The man who does feebly the duties truth has already shown him, is weak and wavering in his belief. He is continually asking for truth to be proved, as if the only use he had for religion was to be always proving it; or, in other words, allowing his rationed faculty to play with it.
Truth is to be done, not sported with; loved for its use and worth, not for its fair appearance. Let evil be condemned and uprooted by truth, and more truth will be given. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
Not so, however, think the evil. They image if the truth were only more proved by miracle, or by voices from the dead, they would bow to its authority. But Divine Truth has judged differently. An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign and no sign shall be given unto them, but the sign of the Prophet Jonas. (Matt. xii. 39.) Repentance and humiliation are the means of improvement. There are really no other. This character of mind, tacitly lays the blame of unbelief on the Lord, for not having given proof enough of immortality, and the great truths of eternity. If one went unto them from the dead, they would repent. But what says the Divine Teacher. If they hear not Moses end the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (Luke xvi. 31.) This is not it the Old Testament, but in the New; not from Moses, but from the Sender both of Moses and all the Prophets. And, how markedly he shows the futility of all substitution of speaking from the dead, for that Living Glorious Word which is the voice of the Eternal Himself.
Surely, the Divine Speaker knew the real nature of man, and what is suited for his best interests. He could at His pleasure supply either miracles or spirit-teaching in this world. But He does not. He warns against it, and gives His Word instead. Is not this enough for a humble, faithful mind, to enable it to rest assured that this course must be the wisest and best.
But there can be no difficulty in seeing why it is so. The Word of the Lord gives communication with the Lord Himself, and angels, who are by Him seen to be the best to open to us liberty and light. It is the ladder on which the angels ascend and descend. (Gen. xxviii. 12, 13.) It is the transcript of the Eternal Wisdom, for the Word is God. We see the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man. (John i. 51.) By obeying the Word, in doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God, we are in the hands of the Lord, and all will be well. As we hear, so shall we see in the city of our God. (Ps. xlviii. 8.)
The Word gives us light. The Word gives us food. The Word gives us strength. The Word vanquishes our evils. And, as we become pure in heart, we see God. This is the very door of the sheepfold, for the Lord in His Humanity, and the Lord in His Word, are exactly parallel; by it, we enter in and are saved, while we go in and out and find pasture. On the other hand, by accepting the teaching of spirits, we are listening to we know not whom. We are like a person blindfold, holding out the hand to whomsoever may take it.
By the law of spiritual association, those spirits are nearest to a man who are nearest to his own sensual man will have a spirit more state. The sensual man will have a spirit more sensual than himself near him, but still nearly enough like him, to suggest his deeper obscenities, in the way most likely to be accepted. The man in fallacious notions, will have spirits disposed to the same fallacies, urging him on to more extravagant phantasies, to wilder delusions. Experience justifies this view. Spiritism, under one form or another, has often made itself strikingly manifest. Let persons give themselves perseveringly and fanatically to pray and long for spirit-intercourse, and it will sooner or inter come. The followers of the late Mr. Irving gave themselves for months to pray that they might be able to prophecy and to speak in strange tongues; and after a time, they began to experience strange wild impulses, urging them to scream gibberish, and to utter prophecies that never happened. True, the now tongues with which the Apostles spoke were to make them understood by foreign hearers, and the strange noises of these fanatics were to make them not understood; and the Divine prophecies came to pass, while these were constantly found erroneous; but the poor dupes of spirit-dictates were ever led on by fresh excuses, and listen tremblingly to new phantasies. The blind lead the blind, and both fall into the ditch. Fanatics of numerous persuasions: have obtained spirit-dictates while their zeal was furious Roman Catholic fanatics are always seeing crucifixes, and the Virgin Mary, and healing driveling directions to pilgrimages, scourges, and relies. Southcottians or Wroeites have had their polluted dreams echoed back, and Mormonites theirs.
So, by the spiritists of the present day, both in Europe and America, every ancient and every modern phantasy, however wild, from metempsychosis to murder, from the Atheism of Davis,* to the making of idolshas each its spirit-revelation and sanction. These efforts at spirit-communications constituted a delusion in the Apostolic times. Hence, Paul wrote, Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. (Col. ii. 18.) The fleshly mind boldly intrudes anywhere, everywhere, but only becomes more fleshly still.
See American works on Spiritualism: Spiritualism, by Judge Edmonds and Dr. Dexter. Modern Mysteries; Mahan. Three-fold Test of Spiritualism; Gordon. Spiritualism against Christianity; Daniels. Astounding Facts from the Spirit World; Gridley.
How grateful, then, should we be that the Most High has not left us a prey to these strange and terrible delusions, but has given us His Word to be an ever-glorious guide, adapted to our every condition, and caring for our every want.
Spiritism also tends to slavery. The person who takes spirit-dictates, imagines the spirit an authority. If he is a religious person, he thinks the dictator to be the Holy Spirit, and believes it his duty to submit implicitly to what is thus given. Revivalists are often the subjects of strange fanatical dictates, which are believed to be from the Holy Spirit, but are fraught with every extravagance, inducing spasmodic excitement, instead of patient rational self-denial, and steady obedience to the Divine commandments. The Word, on the contrary, opens the mind, and imparts freedom. The truth is unfolded to the soul like light to the eyes. It is proposed, and is adopted freely. It is judged by the intellect, and regarded, until it is understood and adopted. It is loved, because the mind sees it to be right. It is in harmony with the Lord, and with the universe, and it represses all evil and falsehood. Man accepts it as of himself and it imparts freedom more and more. He knows the truth, and the truth makes him free.
As he advances in the truth, its glorious beauties open more and more grandly to him, and they make him more and more free, as he is raised above his evils and errors, and enjoys, at last, the glorious liberty of the children of light.
Some, modern spiritists avoid the extreme slavery of others, partly, by the knowledge, that spirits are only human beings like themselves, and not infallible; and that such as communicate with spirit-seekers, are of a low and earthly kind. While such persons are ostensibly not guided by spirit-dictates, you will still find some mental conceits creep in, some notions of fancied superior wisdom, or peculiar holiness, assumed, which exhibit a frame of mind far less healthy than that which the Word imparts to those who love and do it. To know spirits, then, is not to be spiritual; it is often to become more carnal. Only by overcoming evils, and receiving the holy principles of truth and goodness, do we become truly spiritual.
Are we then, it may be said, not to accept any open communication with the eternal world? Are not messengers appointed by the Lord to convey His will and wisdom to mankind when He sees fit, now, as in ancient days? Accept, we answer, at once, whatever comes from the Lord. Far be it from us to say a word against any message or messenger that Infinite Goodness may employ to enlighten mankind, or any particular portion of it. But, when the Lord selects any one, He will select a mind suitable. He will prepare him for his office, and all will be well. What we oppose is, our seeking such intercourse–virtually selecting, and appointing ourselves. The danger lies in our daring to assume that we are in good states, fit to be great messengers of the Most High, and may break through the curtain, which hides the invisible from us, and shields us from intrusive spirits. Seek nothing of this kind–seek not to familiar spirits, but seek to be humble, to be obedient to the Lord, to be pure, and to be wise in the Holy Word. Thus will you become truly spiritual. Orderly Spiritualism comes from the Lord.
The Word, the only true leader of men, is represented by the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, which led the Israelites. In this, there was an angelic guard, an angelic guide. The angel was in the cloud, and the Lord was in the angel.
No familiar spirits were to be consulted, no inquiries of the dead were to be made, for their direction, On the day that the tabernacle was reared up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony; and, at even, there was upon the tabernacle, as it were, the appearance of fire, until the morning. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. (Num. ix. 15, 16.)
Just so is the Word of God to us. The letter, like a cloud, everywhere covers its Divine wisdom. Upon all the glory there is a covering. The natural man must not be dazzled; he must be gently led. Interested by the narratives and histories, the Psalms and the Prophets of the Sacred Book, and, above all, its life of the Redeemer, he is attracted to gaze upon this Divine cloud of witnesses. He sees a golden light break here and there, through its dim veils, and everywhere, a silver lining. He draws near from time to time, and listens. He finds a wondrous weight, a supernatural charm in that sacred cloud. If he earnestly desires to penetrate its varied shades, he finds at every point, an angel is in it. The Lord speaks to him from the cloud,–Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him. But, if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.
In Raphael’s grandest picture, the San Sisto at Dresden, the clouds above the virgin and child seem only at first the dim, checkered shades that indicate an ordinary sky; but on a nearer gaze, there are seen a crowded array of minute angel faces–the clouds are made up of them. So is it with the wondrous, glorious Word of God. Each verse has angelic influence in it, and the Lord is in the angel. My name is in Him. The mercy of the Lord is great unto the heavens, and His truth UNTO THE CLOUDS. Ps. lvii. 10.
It is true, those clouds are dark, very dark to some, but only to men of Egyptian mind. If merely natural man consult it, only to find the natural origin of all things, the ethnology of man, Divine geography, geology, astronomy, the rise and fall of nations, the learning of the Egyptians, and nothing more, it will be a cloud and darkness to these.
They will be puzzled at its strange events, puzzled at its curious science, puzzled at its unsatisfactory accounts of matters to them immensely important. They don’t see why the Divine Being should not be as earnest as they are, to speak of Cosmical Matter, the Nebular Theory, and the exact nature of comets. They would have a revelation to settle the Darwinian Speculation, the exact origin and history of the first human beings, the true classification of animals, plants, and minerals, the correct political course of nations, and their future destiny. Some wish to be made quite clear about the year of the downfall of the Pope and the Turk, and the find conflagration of all things. Instead of all this being clearly made out there are the faintest and strangest intimation son such subjects. The cloud is between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it is a cloud and a darkness to them, but it gives light by night to these. To those who are spiritual Israelites, Jews inwardly (Rom. n. 29), those who love the things of the Spirit of God, and through the letter of the Word, both in its history, literally true, and in its Divine allegories, seek to behold the things which belong to their peace, and the glories, which angels desire to look into, it will be a light by night to these. To their opened inner eyes, it will be full of angels faces, and the glory of the Lord will be there. It will be a cloud to guide them by day, and a pillar of fire by night.
The truly spiritual man has his alternations; his days of clearness, and nights of shade. Some nights are calm and lovely, with a splendid moon, and a sky brilliant with stars. He is in shade, but a glorious faith, and a thousand lights of heavenly knowledge, cheer and comfort him. Other nights are black with gloom, and very stormy; dangers press and trouble him, and threaten him sorely. The soul seems nearly overwhelmed, but, lo, the same cloud, the Word, that guided him in the day, becomes a pillar of fire by night; it is all a-glow with the Divine love; it protects the sacred interests of man from being injured; it goes between him and his tempters; it gives light to him, and secures that no injury is done from behind him.
The most precious powers of the brain are behind, in the cerebellum; the most precious affections of the soul are behind, hidden from view, in the recesses of the will. But the pillar of fire protects these, and having led by day, it guards by night, and thus serves in all states for a blessing. For the cloud of the Lord is upon the tabernacle by day, and fire is on it by night, in the sight of in the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
Thus guided, thus guarded, what needs any man with more? What can be more unwise than to seek for spirits as teachers, when One is our teacher, even Christ, in His Word? With the Word before us, the Divine Providence around us, and an obedient heart within us, all must be well. In keeping the commandments of our Savior, in fighting from faith and love, not; against the world, but against worldliness, and every known sin, we shall acquire that Spiritual tone of heart, mind, and life, in winch true Spiritualism consists.
Work from Spiritual virtues, and every work will become Spiritual. You will spiritualize your trade, your avocation, and employment, because filling it with the spirit of goodness and truth. Exterminate merely selfish and carnal ends, in what you do, and the life and peace of the Spirit, will take their places. I pray not that thou wouldst take them out of the world, said our Lord, but keep them from the evil. To vanquish evil in everything we do, and live and work in charity and love, is true Spiritualism. Once more, let me entreat you to avoid the pseudo-spiritualism of supposing you are spiritual because you know something of spirits, especially because you have violated the Divine commands, and sought to be familiar with spirits. To the Word and to the testimony.
Lastly. Let us notice the conclusion of the Divine words we have selected as the basis of our observations. To the law and the testimony; if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them. Strictly rendered, the latter portion of the text is, To them, there is no MORNING. Morning in the spiritual sense of the word, means the dawn of a better state. The regeneration of man and churches, is represented by morning. Thy people are willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning; thou hast the dew of thy youth. (Ps. cx. 3.)
While men are slumbering in sin and darkness, it is dreary and harassing night with them. When they become sensible of their wretchedness, and yearn for a better life, they look for a new morning. My soul waiteth for the lord, more than they that watch for the morning. (Ps. cxxx. 6.) How important, then, is the announcement respecting those who forsake the Word, and give themselves to familiar spirits; to them there is no MORNING, no dawn-light. The Word is the source of spiritual light to man. The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. (Psalm cxix. 130.) Spirits are the embodiments of the past. Hence the strange phantasies which have been given to the world from spirit-authorship, the transmigration of souls, and every foolish and dark fallacy of heathendom have been revived. There is night and a dark past enough, but no MORNING. But to those who look to the Savior, and who trustingly learn and love to do His Word, the Sun of righteousness ariseth with healing in His wings.
To the penitent lover of the Word, light ariseth; a new morning comes. To those who faithfully keep the Lord’s commandments, His mercies are new every morning. And, when first a full, holy light breaks over the soul who turns to the Lord, what a glorious morning is that! New hopes, new warmth, new light, new end adoring gratitude, like the new splendors of a glorious dawning, rise over the soul. Life, then, becomes enriched with an everlasting worth. All things become new. It is as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rein. (2 Sam. xxiii. 4.) This true Spiritualism let us adopt and follow; but let us as carefully shun every practice of which these Divine words give the result. To them there is no morning.
Oh, glorious Word! best gift of God to man. Unfolder of Divine treasure; light in our darkness; strength in our weakness; food of the soul; healer of sorrow; defender from evil; inspirer of freedom; may Thy Divine lessons ever guide and bless us, raising us above the cares and the fears of this life, and guiding us to that still better life where Thou art at once the glory and the sun.
May Thy direction be with us always as a guiding pillar. May our journeyings through life be guided by Thee, as was Israel by Thy symbol. When the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. At the commandment of the Lord they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed. They kept the charge of the Lord at the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses. (Num. ix. 21, 23.)
As some of our readers may not be aware of the strange character, which spiritism has assumed both in Europe and America, some few works have been referred to which unveil it, that it maybe known how terrible are the dangers which Divine Providence intended to guard us against, by closing up open intercourse with spirits, and warning us against it in the Word. These warnings were reiterated in the writings of that remarkable man, Swedenborg; and the rational necessity for them, was explained by him, nearly one hundred years before the occurrences took place which so amply justify them.
The spirit-manifestations, which have been so largely developed by rappings, table-movings, and varied mediumships, commenced in the family of a person named Fox, in a small wooden house, at Hydesville, in the town of Arcadia, county of Wayne, State of New York, not far from the City of Rochester. The date of the first account is April 11, 1848. The desire, however, to communicate with the invisible had been greatly stimulated by the writings of Andrew Jackson Davis, a young shoemaker, who commenced to give extraordinary lectures in a clairvoyant state, after being mesmerized by a Mr. Levingston, a tailor, and subsequently by a Dr. Lyon, a medical gentleman, whose mental state was tolerably well reflected in Daviss Lectures. This was in 1845. These lectures contained a view of the universe in accordance, mainly, with Fourierism, and Dr. Lyon, we believe, was a Fourierist.
Davis also knew some little, but very little, of Swedenborg. The Rev. Mr. Fishbough, another chief associate of Davis at this time, was a Universalist, and the spirits mentally associated with Dr. Lyon and Mr. Fishbough could fully account for all the wonderful revelations of Andrew Jackson Davis, the Poughkeepsie seer. These, however, were astounding at the time; especially so to those who understood nothing of the association of spirits with man; end of such are the great mass of mankind.
The wonderful tidings of Davis’s Lectures, the mesmeric operations then very prevalent, the striking circumstances of clairvoyance, then little understood, induced an intense desire with many to penetrate, if possible, the deep mysteries of nature and so came the strivings for spirit-communications, the mental longing and abstraction which have led to all the strange and wild disclosures of spiritism. In the communications, much is occasionally uttered that is pious and true; yet this is always extremely commonplace, and mixed up with things most vicious and false. Herein consists the great danger. Davis himself, by far the most wonderful of these mediums, is one of the coolest possible utterers of Atheism and blasphemy. The Rev. T. L. Harris, was so captivated by Davis’s* Revelations at first, as to exclaim, When that book is published, I shall lock the Bible in the drawer under the desk, put the key in my pocket, and preach the angel-utterances of the New Philosophy. He, along with Mr. Fernald, and some others, were for a time full of zeal for this, and formed part of a committee for spreading his views, but afterwards separated from him, retaining, however, enough of both his views and his language to account for the curious mixture of truth and error observable in the writings of Mr. Harris.
See Davis’s Autobiography, pp. 342, 345.
It may not be amiss to insert, the account of a scene between Mr. Davis and Mr. Harris, related by the former, as it illustrates that want of rational power to grasp firmly Divine truths, and follow them stably to their legitimate and consistent conclusions, which united to his straining after spirit-guidance, and slight appreciation of the Word of God, has left Mr. Harris still a prey to the strongest vagaries.
He had not rational strength of mind to throw aside fully his old theological notions which lurk about him in attenuated forms, the ghosts of former days. Hence his rejection of the resurrection of the material body, but his own notion of a future resurrection of something neither spirit, nor body, which the angels are now needing; his rejection of the destruction of the world by fire, but, at the same time, his announcement of some terrible event, quite of the Dr. Cumming stamp, being at hand. His feeble appreciation of THE WORD, is manifest from its slight presence in his writings, and from the significant fact that in his preaching you hear a text uttered at the commencement, which is rarely ever noticed afterwards. But we insert the conversation:–
What have you resolved to do, Brother Harris? I inquired.
Having privately withdrawn from the Universalist denomination, said he with deep energy,
I am now preparing a course of lectures to deliver on my western tour.
Have you made out the plan of your trip? I asked.
I shall need your impressions, Brother Davis, on the best course for me to pursue, said he with much emotion. I shall consider myself in due wisdom, as acting under your guidance.
Has Brother Fishbough got the Revelations published yet? I asked for as I had just returned from the journey, I had not ascertained the facts.
No, he replied; the book is expected here about the first of August. I am anxiously waiting to see it out. Have you seen the pretended review in the Troy Whig?
Mr. Harris then read a manuscript closing with the following: In March last, he [Mr. Davis] stated that a further development of his powers would soon occur. This has taken place. He is now able, without being magnetized, to make full use of his spiritual powers–to heal the sick-to foretell future events–to see the most distant occurrences–to solve the most abstruse questions in psychology–and to declaim for hours with the eloquence of an angel, in defense and exposition of the principles he has revealed.
After Messrs. Davis and Harris had separated, the former reflected upon the spirit of exaggeration in the latter, and concludes as follows:–
This ended my meditations on that matter. But there was another thing that troubled me: his positive exaggeration of my personal abilities. Why, I don’t pretend to foretell future events, thought I, only so far as they lie in the track of fixed principles. And again, I cannot declaim for hours with the eloquence of an angel. The fact is, people complain that I don’t talk enough, and that, when I do talk, I bungle words together so, that I am often unintelligible to them.
Thus meditating, I began to feel alarmed. That wont never do, I mentally exclaimed. Brother Harris will speak of me in his lectures, without qualification, as being an angel and all that, when I am nothing of the kind any more than he is. My thoughts began to succeed each other with tumultuous speed, but excusing Benevolence soon checked and quieted them; and I thus soliloquized —Oh, never mind. Brother Harris is a poet. Thats the way with poets. They don’t tell things just as they appear to common people. Its all right for him, and I guess Ill let it pass, and not think nor worry any more about so trifling and manifest a matter.
The pitiable weakness to which a devotee of spirits is reduced, is evinced by even the dressed-up account of Mr. Harris in the Preface of the Lyric of the Golden Age. He unquestionably possesses brilliant talents, though defective in the higher qualities of rational judgment. We insert the following extract as an illustration of the helpless way in which he was conducted by spirits without any rational judgment of his own:–
On his return from the South, in July last, Mr. Harris located himself at a quiet country house near the foot of Schroon Lake, for the purpose of recreation and repose, having previously learned from his spiritual friends that they had communications to make from the interior. On this occasion he was accompanied by a learned and gentlemanly associate, in the person of Mr. B., who had previously assisted him in the capacity of amanuensis. After a long days ride they arrived at the village of Pottersville, in Warren county, N. Y., weary with the journey, and oppressed with the heat of the day.
Soon after their arrival Mr. Harris was entranced, and induced to walk at twilight to an eminence at the East, a distance of half a mile from the village. On reaching the place, his spirit friends and guardians identified themselves, and informed Mr. H. and his associate that the hotel at which they proposed to sojourn was unsuited, to the character of the medium, and the objects of their retirement. The right arm of Mr. Harris was then made rigid, and pointed in a south-easterly direction, whereupon the spirit, en rapport with his organization, proceeded to say, that if they would but travel a short distance in that direction, they would find a place precisely suited to their necessities. Accordingly, on the following morning, Mr. B., pursuing the course previously indicated by the spirit, crossed a bridge at the outlet of the lake, and found the place denoted, but he was himself utterly averse to remaining there, and repeatedly interrogated the spirits, respecting their designs.
It is pitiable to see a man of unquestionable ability, and apparently of much excellence of character, yielding himself thus blindly to spirit-direction. Still more pitiable are the accounts we elsewhere read of him, and Dr. Scott, mesmerizing a Mrs. Benedict until they could get through her communications from John and Paul the communications that led them to form the community of Mountain Cove, that ended so miserably for all, and landed Mr. Harris once more into bitter infidelity. Since then, his visions of fairies, and scenes of earth, a little gilded by fancy, announce not the true seer, but the self-absorbed one, who makes a fantastic world, and peoples it with his own abstractions.
Still lower are the depths of spirit-mania, into which thousands of others have sunk. In America, Polytheism, Demonism, and Idol-making and worship have been openly revived, by spirit-communications, and at the same time and by the same authority, the grossest immoralities and the saddest insanities have been the result. We could easily parallel them, by instances in our own country, and cases within our own knowledge. Both Davis and Harris, and many others, profess to have communicated with Swedenborg; and many spiritists, who know little of his peculiar mission or teaching, assert their practices to be in harmony with both.
We shall take this opportunity of showing how completely that greater writer has warned against the dangers, now unhappily so abundantly evident. Through Swedenborg the Lord warned men afresh, and gave the rational grounds for the warning, lest for want of knowledge they might rush into practices destructive to their freedom, and thus to their manhood, and be led to accept the vagaries of how spirits, rather than wall; in the only true path, the highway of the Word of God. It is wrong for men to break through to spirits unauthorized; it is equally wrong for spirits to break through to men. When did disobedience to the All-Good lead to anything but disaster?
We will first show the teachings of Swedenborg, who was especially prepared and guarded by the Lord, to give the knowledge of the other life and its laws, that they might be rationally understood and acted upon, without, being obtained at the serious risks and detriment which would follow in case that knowledge had been obtained through promiscuous communication with spirits. Spirits, coming to man against the Lord’s command, MUST BE EVIL. SWEDENBORG SAYS:–
Man is in association with spirits like himself.–The spirits who are adjoined to man are of the same quality as he is himself, as to affection or love. Good spirits are adjoined to him by the Lord, but evil ones are invited by man himself (H. H. No. 295.)
Good spirits are indeed adjoined to those who are not capable of being reformed and regenerated, but only that they may be withheld from evil as much as possible, for their immediate conjunction is with evil spirits, who communicate with hell, and are like themselves. If they be lovers of themselves, or lovers of gain, or lovers of revenge, or lovers of adultery, similar spirits are present, and, as it wore, dwell in their evil affections ; and so far as man cannot be restrained from evil by good spirits, evil spirits inflame him with evil lust; and in proportion as lust prevails, they adhere to him, and do not recede. Thus, a wicked man is conjoined with hell, and a good man with heaven (H. H. 295).
The Divine care, lest spirits should know with whom they are, and thus injure them.
The greatest care is exercised by the Lord to prevent spirits from knowing that they are attendant on man for, if they knew it, they would speak with him, and, in such case, evil spirits would destroy him; for evil spirits, because they are conjoined with hell, desire nothing more earnestly than to destroy man, not only as to the soul, that is, as to faith and love, but also as to the body. (H. H. 292.)
To speak with spirits at this day is rarely granted, because it is dangerous; for then they know that they are with man, which otherwise they do not know, and with deadly hatred, and desire nothing more vehemently than to destroy man both soul and body. This also they effect with those who have indulged much in phantasies, so as to remove from themselves the delights which are suitable to the natural man. (H. H. 249.)
Various spirits excite evil and false principles. It is believed by many that man may be taught of the Lord by spirits speaking with him; but they who believe this, and are willing to believe it, do not know that it is connected with danger to their souls…. The speaking spirit is in the same principle with the man to whom he speaks, whether they be true or false, and likewise he excites them, and by his affection, conjoined to the mans affection, strongly confirms them…. From this consideration, it is evident to what danger man is exposed who speaks with spirits…. Man is ignorant of the quality of his own affection, whether it; be good or evil, and with what other beings it is conjoined; and if he is in the conceit of his own intelligence, his attendant spirits favor every thought which is thence derived. In like manner, if any one is disposed to favor particular principles enkindled from a certain fire, which has place with those who ire not in truths from genuine affection, when a spirit from similar affection favors mans thoughts or principles; the one leads the other, as the blind lends the blind, until both fall into the pit. (A. E. 1182.)
Dealing with spirits led to enormities amongst the ancients.–The Pythonics, or those who had familiar spirits, formerly were of this description, and likewise the magicians in Egypt and in Babel, who by reason of discourse with spirits, and of the operation of spirits felt manifestly in themselves, were called wise.
But by this the worship of God was converted into the worship of demons, and the Church perished; wherefore such communications were forbidden to the sons of Israel under penalty of death. It is otherwise with those whom the Lord leads; and He leads those who love truths, and will to do them from Himself. All such are enlightened when they read the Word, for the Lord is in the Word, and speaks with every one according to his comprehension. (A. C. 1183.)
No one is really reformed by speaking with spirits. Speaking with the dead would have the same effect as miracles, of which above; viz., that a man would be persuaded and compelled to worship for a short time; but forasmuch as this deprives man of rationality, and at the same time shuts in evils, as was said above, when this charm or internal restraint is dissolved, the included evils break out with blasphemy and profanation; but this only happens when spirits induce some dogmatic principle of religion, which is never done by any good spirit, still less by any angel of heaven. (D. P. 134-1/2.)
Nothing can be more strikingly proved and illustrated than the warnings and cautions of the great Swedish seer, by the follies and blasphemies of Pseudo-spiritualism. Once more, then, let us carefully shun these, and be guided by the only true teacher, the Lord in His Word.
Author: Jonathan Bayley—Twelve Discourses (1862)