and forcibly felt the truth of these words ; ' For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in high places.' The reader may probably wonder at all this; but I do not: for although Satan be cast out of us, yet he will harass and perplex us, whenever liberty shall be given him ; but beyond his chain he cannot go. And although the all-wise God permitted bim on this occasion to try my faith, yet he graciously upheld me; so that I could say, in the midst of all, whilst thou, O Lord, art with me, I fear not, even though the room should be full of devils. Yet, notwithstanding the succonr which I received, so powerful was the temptation, that I many times went to the door with a design to go down stairs; and many times was I on the very point of calling out and alarming the house ; but I did not, being strengthened of the Lord. Nevertheless, like the watchman, I longed to see the light of the morning; and had I been immured in a dungeon, and heavily fettered with irons, I think I could not have been more desirous of my liberty; than I then was for the return of the morning. When the day-light appeared, I perceived that my apartment joined to the church-yard. I was very glad to survey my lodgings by the light of day; and still more so, to behold the glorious sun rising above the horizon, and covering the fields and hedges with his glory. At an early hour I left this house, and have never visited it since. I was afterwards informed that this very house bad for. merly been the residence of Sir Hugh Calverley, who, in the reign of King James (as the History of England informs us) was tried at York for the murder of his wife and two children, in a tii of lunacy; and standing neuter, was pressed to death in the Castle. Report says, that he appeared again, and that after some time he was conjured down; but this report I give to the reader as I received it, not being called to hazard any opinion on the subject. Why this bappened to me, has been thus far hidden from me ; but I may, perhaps, be permitted to know hereafter, wherefore the enemy was thus allowed to buffet me. In the mean time I know that the righteous Judge of all the earth cannot but do right. Possibly it was sent to me as a thorn in the flesh, lest I should be exalted above measure, as we had so good a time the night before, and as the people generally had made more to do about me than they ought to have done. It is but too common a thing, even for those who have grace, to give that glory to man which belongs to God alone; for he will not give his glory to another. But if he permitted the enemy thus to tempt me, and try my faith, I will praise my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, that he also preserved me from the power of the temptation, and made it the means of bringing me nearer to himself. For I could then say, I fear nothing wbilst thou art with me, and it then seemed to me that I was in less danger from a legion of devils in the room, than from one in my heart. For some time I resolved to mention this circumstance to no one but my wife, to whom I told it when I got home. But about three years afterwards, having a circumstance similar to mine related to me by a gentleman, called Parson Greenwood, this brought out my secret. The report of this singular occurrence spread rapidly and widely: and it is for this reason that I have deemed it expedient to give so full an account of the matter in this place, for the satisfaction of my readers."

“Leaving this mysterious event, the followers of Christ may rest assured that neither men nor demons can act against them, but by permission of their heavenly Father; the angels of God have an especial charge to accompany, defend, and preserve them against such power and influence. These, when necessary, will guide their steps out of the way of danger; suggest to their minds prudent coun. sel ;-and minister to them, as heirs of salvation,

“Mr. Wesley was charged with credulity, but his biographer, (Watson's Life of Wesley, fourth edit. p. 372.) in his defence, says, 'He lived in an age in which he thought men in danger of believing too little, rather than too much, and his belief in apparitions is at least no proof of a credulousness peculjar to bimself.' With respect to the strange accounts' which he inserted in his Magazine, and strange indeed some of them were, it has been falsely assumed that he himself believed them entirely. This is not true. He frequently remarks, that he gives no opinion, or that he knows not what to make of the account,' or that he leaves every one to form his own judgment concerning it. He met with those relations in reading, or received them from persons deemed by him credible, and he put them on record as facts reported to have happened. Now as to an unbeliever, one sees not what sound objection he can make to that being recorded which has commanded the faith of others; for, as a part of the history of human opinions, such accounts are curious, and have their use. It neither followed that the editor of the work believed every account, nor that his readers sbould consider it true beenuse it was printed. It was for them to judge of the evidence on which the re.

lation stood. Many of these accounts, however, Mr. Wesley did credit, because he thought that they stood on credible testimony; and he published them for that very purpose, for which he believed they were permitted to occur,-to confirm the faith of men in an invisible state, and in the immortality of the soul."

“ Dr. A. Clark, in answer to Priestley's System of Materialism, observes, • The story of the disturbances at the parsonage-house in Epworth, is not unique ; I myself, and others of my particular acquaintances, were eye and ear-witnesses of transactions of a similar kind, which could never be traced to any source of trick or imposture, and appeared to be the forerunners of two very tragical events in the disturbed family; after which no noise or disturbance ever took place. In the history of my own life I have related this matter in sufficient detail.'

Without entering into the many questions suggested by the above remarks, we will only ask any thoughtful reader whether there is the least semblance of proof of direct Satanic influence in the circumstance above related. Mr. Burdsall is described as a rough plain man, of little or no education, but of great piety and zeal; and distinguished by rustic unpolished eloquence, mixed with extraordinary sallies of drollery, “which,” it is said, “unquestionably very often added to the number of his congregation,” who came “in expectation of enjoying a laugh ;" though“ if the broad stroke of natural humour caused a smile, it was generally followed by some solemn truth.” All this we doubt not is very accurate; but it does not appear that Mr. Burdsall was a man whose soberness of judgment was so conspicuous that his evidence upon such a question as the above was very weighty. He was probably, like most persons of his education and station of life in those days, in country places especially, very superstitious before his conversion; and the opinions current among the early Methodists were not likely to cure this infirmity.

The question is, Was it more likely that there was either trick or illusion ; or that Satan was really permitted to proceed to acts of bodily violence? We are not to be deterred from expressing our opinion by a quotation from Dr. A. Clarke, “ in answer to Priestley's System of Materialism;"- '-a very inappropriate place, we might have supposed, for such“ material” stories as those with which it is connected. To cast a man three times out of his bed; or to cause all the strange noises, tossings of furniture, and the like, at Epworth, is apparently more of a material than an incorporeal transaction. But the question of materialism has nothing to do with the matter. Satan is a non-corporeal being; but we know, from the inspired pages, that he has been permitted to exercise corporeal influence; there is therefore no doubt that, if God so allowed, he might shew his agency by audible or visible signs. The only point is, Did he do so in the above instance ?

Of this there is not any proof. A good weak man thought so, but that is all.. No object is assigned for the visitation, except that it might be to try the constancy of the sufferer; but it is merely conjecture that God was pleased to allow this particular species of trial ; or even if he did, the trial would be as great if the impression was vivid upon Mr. Burdsall’s mind, as if Satan actually upheaved his bed. As for the story about somebody having been pressed to death in the house, in the reign of king James, what has it to do with Mr. Burdsall ? The very allusion to it, as well as the significant remark that the large antique oaken-wainscoted room opened to a church-yard, seems to shew that the good man's mind was not weaned from the superstitious nursery fictions and village legends which haunt the imaginations of our peasantry, but which, it is to be hoped, will be eradicated as sound scriptural education prevails over fairy tales and horrifying romances.

The occurrence might obviously have originated either in trick or in delusion. The late Dr. Booker of Dudley, with the aid of charitable friends, supported, during many years, a man who had been frightened into idiotcy by the wantonness of some youthful companions, in upheaving his bed. He was a young gentleman of remarkably elegant mind, amiable character, and good talents, and seemed likely to be an honour to his friends and a blessing to all around him. He was the pupil of a respectable surgeon; and one of his companions—the fact is worth relating as a warning to children 'and young persons against the frequent violation of the divine command of doing to our neighbour as we would be done by—one of his companions, in play, concealed himself under his bed, and upheaved it several times. The youth shrieked orce, and next morning was found an incurable idiot. It is quite within the scope of possibility that some trickster wished to amuse himself with good Mr. Burdsall; and if so, the old room and the wool-sacks might offer facilities for so doing; and he would of course conceal himself before the good man could grope under the bed,

But there is no need for this conjecture; for delusion of mind will readily account for the circumstances. Mr. Burdsall had had a long and fatiguing journey in the snow; he had then preached and spent the evening under great excitement, sitting up to a very late hour, twelve o'clock, quite contrary to his usual habits, and most probably partaking of a very hearty supper after his fatigues ;—we write with gravity, as becomes the subject, and should grieve to have our remarks perverted to levity. Now if any medical man were asked what would be the likely result, he would reply, that he would probably suffer under indigestion, and perhaps awake with the night-mare, fancying all sorts of horrors. Upon opening Dr. Johnson's Dictionary at the word Night-mare, we read “ night, and maru, a spirit; a morbid oppression in the night, resembling the pressure of weight upon the breast.Now, says Mr. Burdsall, “ I had not been asleep long before I thought something crept up to my breast, pressing me much.What was this but the night-mare? He adds: “ I was greatly agitated, and struggled hard to awake. In this situation, according to the best judgment I could form, the bed seemed to swing, as if it had been hung in slings, and I was thrown out on the floor.” But is it not most likely that it was his own brain that was dizzy, or “ seemed to swing;" and that in his agitation and violent struggles, he rolled out of his strange bed; which might really be somewhat unstable, as if hung in slings.” Whether the second and third occurrences were dreams, or “ morbid impressions ;” or whether he did really roll out of bed twice more, is not of much consequence; all that we mean to say is, that it is more likely that he was labouring under delusion, than that Satan was permitted to up-heave his bed, and cause it to “ swing;" and that he was, as he believed, literally, not spiritually, wrestling against “ the rulers of the darkness of this world.” We notice the subject, because the story has just been reprinted, and is urged as an illustration of the power of our spiritual enemy; whereas we consider it to rest upon misapprehension, and to be calculated, like many other injudicious narratives, to confirm the infidelity or scepticism which it is piously, but not discreetly, adduced to



To the Editor of the Christian Observer. Having only just seen your Number for March, I venture, though late, to send you a few remarks on the subject which is brought forward in the paper on Twelfth-night Entertainments. Having been early taught by a revered father—also a father in the Church-to regard consistency in the family of a Clergyman as next in importance to the consistency of the individual himself, I am anxious to add my testimony in favour of that straight and narrow course which he kept in guiding his family. The result of our recollection of his mode of dealing with us, and of our later observations on the tendency of irresolution on this important subject, is a feeling of unfeigned thankfulness for having been so led ourselves, and a determination, by God's help, to follow in the same steps with our own rising families ; and may it please the God of our father to vouchsafe a continuance of his blessing.

Surely no serious Christian can answer the question in the paper to which I refer, except in the negative, as to whether it is fit that the tabret and the dance should be heard within the walls of a Parsonage. But the difficulty is, When and where is the Christian parent to draw the line? Is he, as soon as his children have ceased to be children, to put down their annualor more frequent occasions of social enjoyment, in order to keep out “ the tabret and the dance ?" In my humble opinion, if he cannot keep out such amusements from the walls of the Parsonage without taking this step, he ought to do so. But might not this alternative have been prevented ? Surely there must have been something wrong in the mode of training, that a clergyman's family should desire such amusements! I do not mean to imply that a religious education will inevitably produce a religious character : but God most usually blesses a simple godly training of a child, “in the way he should go ;" so that it is a rare occurrence for a family, which had been so brought up, to place a parent in such a dilemma-of course supposing that both parents act in concert.

And here I would venture to ask,-do religious parents begin early enough in making a selection of suitable companions for their children I feel that discretion should be used by the Christian as early, and with the same anxiety, in religious points, as is manifested by the world in matters which they deem essential. Is the family, from which you have the opportunity of engaging a play-fellow for your child, one the sentiments and habits of which are agreeable with yourown? with which you yourself have formed, or could satisfactorily form, a friendship? Then are you justified in trusting your child. But if there is not this safeguard in the principles of the parents, why should a childish intimacy be formed, the inconsistency of which, though not particularly apparent while the little ones are playing their childish games, may lead to painful difficulties as their minds unfold, seeing that their respective courses are to be so different. I well remember the difficulty in which a young friend was placed by forming an acquaintance with a worldly family, which had in kindness invited both her and myself to a birthday party. On the part of my parents the invitation was declined, and I had some other indulgence. She was allowed to go, and after a few visits she found herself drawn into what she would gladly have escaped,-a dance.

In a clergyman's family I feel that a further limitation is needful ; and that the parents' visiting is not a test of suitableness for the children's doing the same. In a family, the members of which are welldisposed, but have not come to any decision on the subject of religion, may be found such inconsistencies as the following :-their minister invited to join their social circle, and to read the Scriptures and offer up prayer, one day ; and another, when by themselves, their old amusements of cards and dancing not discarded. Their friendly reception of their minister therefore does not constitute them a safe family for the clergyman's family to have unreserved intercourse with.

When we were children we sometimes had a “ twelfth cake," which a kind friend sent us, and a joyful occasion it was ; but the children who came were those whose parents would as little encourage dancing as our own. Therefore, when we grew older, and our childish games were laid aside, we found our enjoyments eitherin music, and of this there is abundant provision for family use of a superior order, neither confining the lover of music to the simplicity of a hymn, nor offending the ears of the Christian by the frivolities contained in too many of the popular pieces,) or in schemes of benevolence, which had the greater charm from being carried out in concert with our friends. There are numberless objects of interest for which the Christian parent will cultivate a taste in his children, to fill up their hours of leisure and recreation, that they may not be hours of listless longing for forbidden plea. sures. The country especially furnishes the opportunity of studying nature, and making collections in its various branches.

There was one point which greatly aided our contentment in being debarred the amusements which others followed. We were brought up with that respect for paternal authority, which, alas ! is too little cultivated in the present day. While we loved our parents, we also venerated them, and we knew that what they deemed unsuitable for us was so, and was not to be thought of. They also did not refuse, without our knowing the principle on which they acted. They made us partners, as it were, in maintaining the consistency of the family. It is needless to say that the judicious parent will guard against any tendency on the part of his children to the feeling of boasting of their separation, or glorying in it; and will endeavour to cultivate a meek spirit under a sense of the responsibility which is attached to their opportunities for good or for injury to the cause of God by their conduct.




For the Christian Observer. I VENTURE to suggest for consideration a plan towards augmenting illendowed benefices, which would be just, safe, and voluntary; and would cost no person a shilling. Let the Queen Anne's Bounty Commissioners (or some other suitable Board) be empowered to buy, sell, or exchange advowsons; and to take from one benefice to add to others in the manner following. A patron holds the advowson of a benefice worth £700 per annum ; the Board purchases the advowson ; and sells to three poor benefices a perpetual annuity of £100 per annum each, payable out of the proceeds of the purchased living, upon the death of its incumbent; and also sells the advowson diminished to £400 per annum. The Board being a permanent body, always having capital to avail itself of favourable opportunities for

« VorigeDoorgaan »