網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

that of Deacon Branch among the rest—and communications, flatly contradictory to those of the other circle, were obtained in abundance. And thus it is in China (for, according to our author, they have spirit-circles there) the spirits are followers of Confucius; in Siam they are devoted to Buddha ; they are worshippers of Juggernaut in Hindostan, and in Christendom they are Catholic or Protestant, Churchmen or Dissenters, Orthodox or Heterodox, Christian or Infidel, according to the complexion of the circles in which they appear.

Similar evidence of the spirit-presence and similar responses can be obtained from the spirits of individuals yet alive, but supposed to be dead, as from those actually dead. A young man from Chicago, who had gone to reside in Cleveland, wrote to inform his friends that he was about to start for St. Louis. For upwards of five months after the reception of that letter nothing was heard of him, and it was supposed that he was dead. The disconsolate mother resorted to the spiritualistic circle, and there learnt-professedly from the spirit of her son—that he had been drowned in the Mississippi. When she got home she was met by her son, who had returned during her absence.

A person of strong will-power can confuse the so-called spirits and even compel them to answer falsely. In this way Dr. H. T. Bigelow, accompanied by N. J. Bowditch, Esq., compelled a spirit' to spell out its name, ‘M-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e H-u-m-b-u-g,' and to say that spirits lived on pork and beans. During a visit to Hamilton Mrs. Fish (a professional medium) made many disciples ; indeed, it seemed as if all who entered her circles became thoroughly convinced of the reality of the spirit-manifestations. At length, however, ten persons agreed to determine by experiment what answers they could will the spirits to give. Accordingly, having fixed upon a series of answers, they decided upon a mode of questioning that was not likely to awaken the suspicion of the medium, and then entered the circle.

The spirit which responded to the first inquirer gave his name as “The Devil, affirmed himself to have been dead two years, and to sustain to the inquirer the relation of uncle. The next spirit which responded professed to be that of one who was then in the circle, but was said to have died of hydrophobia six months before. At this point some of those in the secret, being unable to restrain their laughter, informed the medium of what had transpired. The circle was broken up immediately, and Mrs. Fish quitted Hamilton the very next morning. On one occasion in Leroy, New York, a circle, composed largely of sceptics, was astounded on hearing from the spirits the solemn affirmation, 'Ye must be born again.' In vain they tried for other answers

nothing could be obtained during the evening but the startling words of Scripture, 'Ye must be born again. The medium had just come from a religious service at which this great truth had been powerfully impressed upon her mind.

The Rev. J. H. S., pastor of the Baptist church at Poughkeepsie, N.Y., met, at the house of a friend, with a Mr. L., who expressed his surprise that he, an intelligent and thoughtful man, should believe in the doctrine of future retribution when such palpable evidence to the contrary could be presented. Here is a young man now present, he added, “whom I will introduce into the clairvoyant state, in which he will have a direct vision of the spirits of the dead.' This was done, and, on being asked what he saw, the young man replied that all were happy, very happy. Put me in communication with him,' said the minister, who happened to be a gentleman of strong mesmeric power; and, without speaking a word, he fixed his attention on one of the most depraved characters that had been known in that neighbourhood -a man who had been executed for murder. Soon the young man began to scream. He was asked what he saw. The name of this notorious criminal was given. “Where is he?' said Mr. S. •In hell, was the reply. 'I can't endure the sight of him. Do let me off. In a similar manner the medium, being in the mesmeric or odyllic state, is one in whom the predominant thoughts of those in the circle are unconsciously reproduced ; and, for that reason, they are regarded as responses from spirits outside the circle.

A member of the Bar in Cleveland, well known to Dr. Mahan, having engaged to take part in a public discussion on spiritualism, requested the privilege of witnessing some of the spirit phenomena, in order that he might be better prepared for his task. The first evening was spent in witnessing physical manifestations. The medium, placing the ends of her fingers on the top of a large table standing in the centre of the room, called upon the spirit of a person recently deceased to move it. The table moved. Seeing this, a physician who had accompanied the lawyer, placed a sheet of paper under the fingers of the medium, and still the table moved. Astonished and well-nigh confounded, they left with the impression that some mysterious power, for which they could not possibly account, was undoubtedly present. Next day, however, they agreed, with three of the leading men of the place-one a Congregationalist, one a Baptist, and the other a Universalist- to meet at the spirit-circle. They did so. The Congregationalist was first introduced, and, professedly, the spirit that had moved the table the previous evening responded to his inquiries. In reply to questions respecting heaven, hell, and eternal retribution, strictly evangelical views were given ; and in answer to the question,

What mode of baptism is correct ?' 'Sprinkling' was rapped out. With a pledge of secrecy he was dismissed, and the Baptist was introduced. With a similar pledge of secrecy he, too, was dismissed, and the Universalist was brought in. Lo! the very spirit which had given the preceding responses now denied in toto the doctrine of retribution, asserted that of universal salvation, and manifested utter indifference respecting baptism in any form.

A family of spiritualists, well known to our author, became convinced of the error of spiritualism through the reception of a communication from the spirit of a person supposed, at the time, to be dead, but who, as subsequent events proved, was at the time really alive. They still form the circle occasionally, and find that they can control this mysterious power just as effectively as when they believed in the reality of the spirit manifestations. The following is given as the result of their experiments and observations: (1) Any spirits that they choose to call will answer. (2) Any answers that they choose to conceive of and decide upon can be obtained. (3) Nothing can be more manifest to their minds than the fact that they themselves, and not spirits out of the body, control the answers.

And now we cannot do better than conclude in the words of Dr. Mahan :

Such is spiritualism. We have examined its high claims and found them empty and vain. We have handled the spirits, and found them absolute insubstantialities. We have scrutinised the facts set forth as the basis of the system, and found them wholly mundane in their character, and presenting no evidence whatever of a super-mundane origin. Our aim has been a far higher one than the mere overthrow of a dangerous and insinuating system of delusion and error-namely, in the first instance, to lay the foundation for a full and satisfactory explanation of certain mysterious facts in nature and the experience of humanity-facts which have been in all ages very fruitful sources of superstition, religious delusions, and unbelief ; and, in the next place, to prepare, as far as may be done in such a connection, for a better understanding of the ways of Providence on the one hand, and of the real claims, on the other, of that Divine revelation which constitutes the last and only hope of fallen humanity.

S. G. B.

III.—THE POSITION AND THEOLOGY OF THE

BROAD CHURCH.

NOTHIXG is more evident from the history of Christianity than the extreme liability of the Church to allow important truths to fall into the background, and to give undue prominence to others.

The great religious movements of the past have all aimed at restoring to its rightful position some forgotten or neglected doctrine. Zeal for this doctrine has resulted in giving it too large a place in the Church's teaching, and in throwing others equally important into the shade. In building up one side of the edifice of truth another has been overthrown. To correct these evil effects of excessive zeal, a further movement is originated, and this, in turn, produces similar consequences. One of the most important illustrations of this process in modern times is the Broad Church movement of the Episcopal Church of England. This movement has powerfully influenced the religious thought and life of the present generation. The literature it has produced is, perhaps, as widely read among Nonconformists as among Churchmen. These facts, together with the attitude assumed by the movement towards Dissent, render it a subject of considerable interest to Nonconformists. It will be generally admitted that there have been thinkers of the Broad school more or less in every age and in every section of the Church. It is our province here, however, only to deal with the modern development of this school of thought within the Church of England. It is well known that there are three distinct schools of thought in the English Episcopal Church, viz., the High Church, sometimes called the Anglican, Tractarian, Oxford, or Ritualistic; the Low Church, or Evangelical ; and the Broad Church. It will be necessary at the outset briefly to mark off the position of these three schools, in order to place the Broad Church position in clearer outline.

The High Church party regard theology and ritual as of equal importance, insisting on the authority of the Church and priesthood, sacramental grace, Apostolic succession. The Low Church in doctrine is moderately Calvinistic and Evangelical, thinking little about sacramental grace and efficacy. In government they hold to Episcopacy, but rather as expedient than absolutely necessary and binding. The Broad Church may be said to come between the two, and yet is antagonistic to both—antagonistic to the Evangelicals in theology, though agreeing with them in the main about government; antagonistic to the High Church in almost everything, especially in relation to the Church and priesthood.

An examination of the special points of disagreement between the High Church and this new party, or section-for they disclaim the name 'party'—will give us their views in regard to the Church, the priesthood, and kindred subjects.

The Tractarian school looks to the past, and takes authority as its guide. Tradition and Church authority are exalted to a level with the Scriptures. In this way they obtain their theory of the Church, which is regarded as the mediator between God and the individual. In their sense of the term, the Church is the clergy, and is a sort of chartered corporation, by being attached to which any given individual acquires such and such privileges. Broad Churchmen utterly repudiate both this theory and the foundation on which it is built. They reject tradition or authority as a guide, and make conscience, as directed now by the living will of God,' the basis of their teaching. Their theory of the Church is very clearly stated by Dr. Arnold, of Rugby, the founder of the school :

The Scripture notion of the Church is, that religious society should help a man to become himself better and holier, just as civil society helps us in civilisation. In this simple and Scriptural view of the matter all is plain. We were not to derive our salvation through or from the Church, but to be kept or strengthened in the way of salvation by the aid and example of our fellow-Christians, who were to be formed into societies for this very reason, that they might help one another, and not leave each man to fight his own fight alone.

The Popish and Oxford, or Tractarian, view is denounced as priestcraft, because it lays the stress not on the relation of a man's heart towards God and Christ, as the Gospel does, but on something wholly artificial and formal-his belonging to a certain so-called society; and thus it claims to step in and interpose itself as the channel of grace and salvation when it is certainly not the channel of salvation, because it is visibly and notoriously no sure channel of grace ; whereas, all who go straight to Christ without thinking of the Church do manifestly and visibly receive grace, and have the seal of His Spirit, and, therefore, are certainly heirs of salvation. This, I think, applies to any and every church, it being always true that the salvation of a man's soul is effected by the change in his heart and life, wrought by Christ's Spirit; and that his relation to any church is quite a thing subordinate and secondary : although, where the church is what it

« 上一頁繼續 »