Much has been said through the Protestant press of late of the wonderful revival in Ireland, and the most flattering hopes have been cherished of the speedy overthrow of the Papal, and prevalence of the Protestant cause in that country. The following description of its attendant characteristics, from a celebrated Protestant Bishop, will show that the anticipated transmigration from Catholicism to Protestantism is to result in no great improvement. We copy the article from the Banner of Liberty, for the perusal of our readers.
In former ages the delusive spirit of anti-Christ has produced results of a similar type. Those of whom we read in the early days of christianity, who were possessed with devils, were subjected to physical derangement, falling down, losing their reason, and becoming unmanageable. In the early settlement of Kentucky, Benedict describes the manifestation of the most unreasonable and even ludicrous demonstration of religious insanity; such as jerking, biting, barking, crawling about on the floor or ground, to become as little children.
There is scarcely less fanaticism displayed at the present day, not only in Ireland, but also in our own country, by humanly planned, and humanly conducted revivals. Nor have we any right to look for any better results from any religious excitement that can possibly arise from anything short of the quickening power and grace of God. The asylums for the insane in our country afford fearful proof of the deleterious effects religious excitements produce, by stirring appeals made to the fleshly passions of the people. Lashed to a tempest of terror, the frightened victims of alarm, instead of being scared into immortal life, are driven to madness and distraction, while the doctrine of the Bible remains true, that “the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” Isa. xxxii. 17.
THE DEAN OF DERRY ON THE IRISH REVIVAL.
In a letter to his brother, the Bishop of Raphoe, the Dean of Derry, (Episcopal) says:
“Time, of course, can alone satisfactorily test this as to each individual case. I am strongly inclined to think, however, that many of the cases, and a few of the accompanying phenomena, are to be assigned to lower causes. Some of the seizures have taken place under such circumstances, and accompanied by such symptoms, as to have all the appearance of an epidemic attack - the physical effects not being preceded by any apparent exercise of the mind, or referable to any previous excitement. I have met with cases, of persons who had not been at any meetings, and who had given little or no thought to the subject, suddenly struck in their houses, and even in their beds. One woman, who had felt ill and low, but without any apparent reason, all day, fell out of her bed in a state of insensibility, followed by the usual symptoms. Others have described it as beginning with a pricking sensation in the soles of the feet, gradually advancing upward till it reached the breast, when it become insupportable, and led to fainting, screaming, &c.; and I myself saw a woman who, while sitting in a neighbor’s house, conversing on ordinary matters, was siezed with a sudden faintness and all the appearances of a strong hysterical affection. The sensations, as almost invariably described to me, are a great weight and oppression about the heart, with a distressed, anxious feeling: not generally accompanied by a very acute sense of guilt, but rather by a sense of want and restlessness, and an earnest desire for relief, leading to strong and passionate prayers and, cries. This state is usually followed by a kind of trance, in which visions are presented of Satan under various forms, and offering various temptations; of the torments of the lost; of the Savior at length coming to their rescue, and occasionally of the glories of heaven. A sense of relief and happiness then succeeds, lighting up the countenance and showing itself by every outward demonstration of pleasure, but accompanied and followed for several days by great bodily weakness and exhaustion, much excitability of mind, a disinclination to return to their ordinary vocations, and an almost irrepressible desire to be with those who have been similarly affected. This is nearly the universal process, so far as has come under my notice, and is regularly looked forward to in all its stages by those who are either visited or desire to be. Now while in this there is much that is natural enough, on the supposition of a real work of God’s grace in the heart, there is much also that has no necessary connection with such a process, and that may reasonably be referred to natural causes. Atmospheric influences with some, apprehension with others, the excitement of crowded meetings and vehement addresses, a general feeling of expectation and awe, and even a strong desire to be themselves the subjects of this remarkable visitation. Nay, in some cases, exhaustion from long standing pressure and foul air. Any of these may account for the convulsive or hysterical attacks. The visions, &c., are the natural and common result of extreme weakness and exhaustion of mind and body, and the season of relief and comfort may, in a great measure, arise from the abatement or removal of these physical derangements. I am inclined to think that in many instances the entire effect produced may be traced to such causes, and probably much of the outward demonstration, in all. In fact, these phenomena furnish no satisfactory test. I think, therefore, that they ought not to be encouraged, but deprecated. It is a striking circumstance connected with the remarkable revival at Combuislang, in Scotland, in the year 1742; as related by the minister, the Rev. W. McCulloch, that far more of those who were brought at that time under concern without these bodily agitations, persevered in gospel holiness, than of such as were so affected, and this I believe is generally found to be the case, as though the salutary influence was liable to evaporate in the over excitement of mind and body. It would, I think, be very desirable to call attention to the constant recognition of this truth in our church’s services, which abound with supplication for that heavenly gift, and to exhort our people to earnest prayer, both public and private, for the outpouring of a large measure of the Spirit among us. This might be accompanied by such information as to the progress of the movement as can be relied on for accuracy and the absence of exaggeration: care being taken, at the same time, to caution the people against yielding to over excitement, against considering swoons, or convulsions, or visions as in themselves any essential part of God’s work in the heart, or as such to be desired or looked for.”
November 15, 1859.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 278 - 280