Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

Now we do not propose to examine the first three of these points. Each affords the material for a distinct treatise. Neither could be adequately discussed within the space we have now at command. We now confine ourselves to the question of fact. Do such supernatural gifts really exist ? That they do subjectively, no Christian denies. That God deals with the human soul by the special and direct intervention of grace, all symbols, Romish as well as Reformed, unite in maintaining. Other portions of the vast fleet of creation He governs by subalterns, who act under the stress of fixed and pre-communicated laws. But in the human soul He resides as adiniral, directing it by specific orders given to it in person. Even the skeptical psychologist admits this. "If statistics are true, when applied to size and quantity,” says Max Simon, "they are not so when relating to life and strength.” And Brierre de Brismont, in his work on hallucinations, tells us that this is still more strikingly the case “ as we advance in the consideration of the nervous system.”

But have we proof of an objective supernaturalism? This question we now propose to consider in reference to one question alone. Can the great body of the phenomena appealed to by Dr. Bushnell and those who agree with him be accounted for on other than supernatural grounds? To facilitate this inquiry, we propose to subject these and kindred phenomena to an analysis, by which, if correct in point of fact, the great body of them will be disposed of. As to this correctness our readers must judge.

1st. Legerdemain and fraud.

None of Dr. Bushnell's cases, we are confident, fall under this head, but how is it with others ?

Double appearances are among the most insoluble of alleged supernatural phenomena. Yet observe the following:

Dr. Monsey, who was the medical adviser of Garrick, was called upon to pay a professional visit to that great actor. “Garrick," as his biographer, Taylor, tells us, “was announced for King Lear on that night, and when Monsey saw him in bed he expressed his surprise, and asked him if the play was to be changed. Garrick was dressed, but had his night-cap on, and the quilt was drawn over him to give him the appearance of being too ill to rise. Dr. M. expressed his surprise, as it was time for Garrick to be at the theatre to dress for King Lear. Garrick, in a languid and whining tone, told him that he was too much indisposed to perform himself, but that there was an actor named Marr, so like him in figure, face, and voice, and so admirable a mimic, that he had ventured to trust the part to him, and was sure the audience would not perceive the difference. Pretending that he began to feel worse, he requested Monsey to leave the room in order that he might get a little sleep, but desired him to attend the theatre and let him know the result. As soon as the Doctor quitted the room, Garrick jumped out of bed and hastened to the theatre. Monsey attended the performance. Having left Garrick in bed, he was bewildered by the scene before him, sometimes doubting, and sometimes being astonished at the resemblance between Garrick and Marr. At length, finding that the audience were convinced of Garrick's identity, Monsey began to suspect a trick had been practised upon him, and instantly hurried to Garrick's house at the end of the play; but Garrick was too quick for him, and was found by Monsey in the same state of illness."

A writer in the London Christian Observer, for 1813, tells us that in the middle of the last century, a small club of convivial personages was assembled at supper in Manchester. A chair at the bottom of the table was left empty by the absence of a member, who was known to be at the time confined upon a dying-bed. The waiters had quitted the room, and the members were speaking of their dying friend, when on a sudden the door opened, and his apparition, as was supposed, entered, shrouded in white, and pale and ghastly as an inhabitant of the tomb. It stalked to the unoccupied chair, sat down, looked around upon the company, rose again, and with slow and solemn step quitted the room. Overcome with awe, ill-prepared by their habits of life to resist the terrors of superstition, no one followed him. When all was over, however, they sent to the house of the sick man, and learned from the nurse that he had died a few minutes before they had seen his apparition. Could a ghost-story be more strongly authenticated; and could it be wondered at that this club should be dissolved, and that each member should thenceforward remain a firm believer in spectral appearances ? Thus matters continued for nearly ten years; when the nurse, on her dying. bed, confessed to the clergyman of the parish, that her fear of discredit for an act of negligence had led to this misapprehension of the facts of the case. She confessed that while the dying man was in a paroxysm of fever, she had quitted his chamber; that on her return, a few minutes after, she found that, with the strength not unusually attendant upon the last moments of life, he had fled; but that after a few minutes he returned with his sheet wrapped around him, lay down in his bed and died. The fact seems to have been, that, by force of custom he had thought of his club at the appointed day and hour, had crossed the street to the club-door, which joined the street, and thus terrified the society.

Take also the following, given in the same journal. It was the object, some fifty odd years ago, of a certain party in the kingdom of Prussia, to separate the successor of Frederic the Great of Prussia from the interests of that wary and ambitious prince. Weary of the wars in which he engaged the country, these persons were desirous of robbing him not merely of his throne, but of his life. It chanced, however, that the young prince was not to be seduced, except by a peculiar process, to any such nefarious attempt. He was neither ambitious nor sanguinary; and, unless when stimulated by peculiar feelings, was of a cold and phlegmatic temperament. When once, however, those feelings were roused, his ardor became very great. He was superstitious, credulous, and sensual. On these yielding points of his nature, then, the conspirators resolved to practice. Accordingly, jugglers of all sorts were set to work and among others, an infamous fellow of the name of Gustfragog. The “Ghost Seer" of Schiller gives a pretty accurate picture of one of the scenes exhibited to the prince, and by which even a firmer mind than his might have been deeply affected. It is unnecessary to state the political result of the

plan. It is more to our present purpose to add, that the success of this man assisted to diffuse a taste for necromancy over the nation. “ Tricks," is the summary of this by the writer in the Christian Observer, “were devised and executed which serve to illustrate and confirm the opinion, that in all ages, much of what has been referred to spectral appearances has far more connection with the living than the dead. Gustfragog, in the presence of the narrator abovementioned, produced the shades of the dead, invisible music, called out voices from the dead walls, in short, made matter loquacious, music philosophical, at his pleasure."

So also of a well-known and painful narration told by the late Mr. Washington Allston. A student at Cambridge dressed himself up in white as a ghost to frighten his companion, having first drawn the bullets from pistols which he kept at the head of his bed. As the apparition glided by his bed, the youth laughed and cried out:“ Vanish, I fear you not.” The ghost did not obey him, and at length he reached a pistol and fired it, when seeing the ghost immovable, and invulnerable as he supposed, a belief in a spirit instantly came over his mind, and convulsions succeeding, his extreme terror was soon followed by death.

Predictions, accompanied by ghostly horrors such as this, often bring about their own fulfillment. Dr. Rush, we have heard, told a story of a farmer, near Philadelphia, who took the yellow fever upon hearing from a party of medical students, who wanted to play a practical joke upon him, that he displayed the premonitory symptoms of that disease. Suppose the communications had been made to him under the mask of a simulated apparition, and suppose the imposition had remained undetected, would we not have had a ghost story equal in authentication to the strongest which modern supernaturalism can present?

2d. Mistake of Senses.

Mr. Dendy, in his Philosophy of Mystery, tells us that when at Paris, a few days after the death of Marshal Ney, the servant, ushering into a soirée the Mareschal Ainé, announced by

mistake Mons. Le Mareschal Ney. Instantaneously, says the narrator, the form of the Prince of Moskeva was before his eye.

Now here was an apparition produced by mental association. No one accustomed to the examination of testimony in courts of justice, but will recollect many similar cases. In one case, familiar to the present writer, a witness made a deposit in bank A in mistake for bank B. The appearance of the two buildings was very much the same. Some time afterwards, when the deposit in bank B was denied, he was ready to testify, not only to the fact of the deposit, but to an alleged conversation he had with the receiving.teller at the time. The fact was, that he assumed a stand-point, and then grouped in vision around that stand-point all the incidents properly belonging to it.

Visual mistakes find their place here. Thus Lord Nelson's sailors conjured up the bloated corpse of the murdered Prince Caraccioli, as it floated erect towards their ship, as a ghost fraught with a supernatural warning.

A lady was some years back attending a sick husband in a little town on the Hudson river. The windows of the room they occupied looked directly down on a grave-yard. Towards midnight, on Saturday, the disease of the sick man approached a crisis, and his wife was earnestly praying for his recovery. Suddenly she saw in the graveyard a spectral figure in white robes, apparently waving its arms to her as if with a gesture of assent. She called to it the attention of the nurse, who at once fainted. It seemed as if the sick man at once began to recover, but the wife was too much overawed to be willing to remain in a neighborhood open to such apparitions. She was about to remove, when the difficulty was solved by the following account given to her by her washerwoman: “I am obliged to move also, for I have no place to dry my clothes. Last week we were forced to hang them in the churchyard, and then I forgot them, and had to run in towards midnight to catch them up in my arms, so as to keep them from being seen on Sunday morning."

Mr. Dendy tells us of a farmer of Teviotdale, who in the

« ElőzőTovább »