Medicine and Religion
Medicine and religion go hand in hand. At first this statement seems unfit, for today’s medical practices do much to help in the advancement of science, and very little for the advancement of religion. In the medical field, where religion is both your best friend and your worst enemy, this is not always the best of possible practices. People depend upon religion and spirituality when their health condition is in the worst of its possible states.
On the one hand, to a patient very ill religion is much like the good angel resting on your shoulder, with the bad angel rests on your left shoulder waiting for his/her opportunity re-emerge once things get better. Hospitals and doctors seem to forget that the evils of epidemics are very often the reasons their two occupational types often merge and take place in the same room as the rabbi, Deacon or pastoral counselor gets involved. Examples of these situations in the past for United States or North American history include the Nun’s hospital of the Middle Ages in Qébec around 1595-1610 known as l’hôpitale de la Nouvelle France. There was also the Quakers’ Friends Houses all throughout lower New York during the Revolutionary War. When the Yellow Fever epidemic struck the United States for the first time, there were the Alms houses of Philadelphia and New York. Likewise, for the next few decades, most of the first teaching hospitals were owned and operated by Presbyterian and Episcopalian groups, like the Nuns in Twin Cities with different wards assigned to the three breeds of practitioners then abound–homeopaths, eclectics and allopaths.
These unique healing places represent the important roles religion plays in assisting medicine in its clinical and academic advancements.
In spite of these signs of “good will”, medicine and its leaders also have their periods in history when the two forces go face to face.
- The “discovery” of the germ theory for example had its applications to the public use of wine and bread as part of the weekly mass.
- The modern anti-abortion movements are preceded by an interesting period of time in medical history when the Pope had to decide if the removal of a fallopian tube pregnancy through surgery, all done in order to save the pregnant woman’s life, was ethical and supported by the church.
Contrast this with the more recent activities and studies that religious leaders and researchers have engaged in regarding the power of prayer in healing. Prayer is much like Hahnemann’s original discovery that gave way to the development of the practice of homeopathy. Some natural philosophers interpreted homeopathic practice as engaging the “vibrations” of substance and matter to induce the cure.
Correspondence Letter to Mitchell by Samuel Brown, Medical Repository, 1799, p. 140
Still others like to think of this ‘power’ to heal as a result of natural opiates, or some thought-related body-mind process. Those into quantum healing will argue that prayer is very much a Jungian experience, one which makes use of some of the most basic belief systems people have, beliefs which themselves exist in the cosmos out there as some energy form that can be summoned if and when the right thought patterns and activities are engaged in. The quantum theory for prayer states that we engage ourselves in this “alternate reality” by knowingly involving ourselves in such processes and believing in these powers once they surface. This mental process sends out “vibrations”, quantum energy, whatever, that is required into the cosmos, with the hopes that something will happen. in this way we are wishing, hoping and praying for something to come into being that will work — like the healing of cancer or the riddance of a life long chronic disease.
Somehow, these takes on religion and medicine directly contrast with the other arguments out there for healing and religion. It is okay for a priest to talk about and believe in miracles, but if a psychiatric patient did this s/he might be accused of engaging in activities related to the religious part of the brain, that area of the cortex close to the anteromesial part of the temporal lobe. Others might simply conclude that the patient was delusional at worst, hyperreligious at best, like many of the most learned doctors out there practicing their own subjectively defined form of medicine, free of speculation and theoretical guesswork.
In recent years, the most influential post-modern part of medicine has been the temporary lull experienced in doctors accepting the possible relationships between various hard-core religious practices like intercessory prayer, receiving a blessing, engaging in a prayer to an especially chosen saint, or participating in a cleansing at the fountains in Lourdes, and inexplicable healing events actually happening. Medicine is not open-minded about religion. The ICDS for the miraculous cure in medicine is the diagnosis of “spontaneous remission”, not recovery, remission, meaning it could and is expected to come back, like the worst form of cancers.
We have specific periods of time in medical history when religion and medicine seem to be on opposing ends of the moral arguments. During the early 19th century, medical writers often reflected back to their own family’s religious history along with their own. Doctors were at times self-confessed natural philosophers, but at other times individual devoted less to God Himself and more to the religious magical concept and their interpretations of how some of these miraculous healing and changes took place. Opposing the role of medicine in healing during these early 1800s were the yellow fever epidemics striking the region. These epidemics were claimed by some to be yet another version of the plague from the Old Testament. The resulting public reaction to the yellow fever, since it appeared very much directed mostly at the United States, and in particular two of its most congested, rapidly growing cities–New York and Philadelphia–was that we had to turn to God to find the cure and means for preventing any future deaths from occurring. Some doctors turn to God and Nature to try to explain this deadly syndrome–people in the city were cursed by the yellow fever, those living out in the country were not. Those living in the city environment, who were rich and dependent on many imported medical products, lived in opposition with the countryman, whose life depended more upon family beliefs and local plant remedies. Once again, the family residing on the countryside appeared blessed in some ways, and the rich businessman, lawyer, banker or politician surviving in the city setting seemed otherwise.
During the early 1800s, psychology had developed into its own profession. For this reason “mania” became the common disease or illness assigned to those bearing a religious mind, religious attitude, and religious behaviors. This new diagnosis was linked to “lunacy” and the church, loss of control and the church, craziness accompanied by overly active vocalizations and the church. And to the most religious of onlookers of these behaviors, since the church was the cause, the church had to also be the cure.
Camp Meetings came to be due to periods when public gathering satisfied the additional needs for security and stability lacking in what had become a rapidly growing, disease-ridden society. (We can also link these to the missionary practices involving local Delaware and Susquehanna Indian groups, who held outdoor gatherings attended by as many as one thousand converts residing along or near these New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York waterways.)
To non-participants, witnessing these revivals and “healing” events appeared to be just a regular part of church-going practices, with Pentecostals speaking in tongues, children falling to the ground because they were taken over by demons, and the seemingly commonplace old man or lady being told to rise from his or her bed of paralysis and immobility. All of these were examples of events that physicians had to make sense of based on their paradigm for the time. Viewing these events from the outside, they were more likely to link such practices to some sort of medical diagnosis. (See Mitchell’s review of “divine somnambulism” as an example.) Because these diagnoses are very much culturally defined, these traditions continue today, be they related to events common to the early 1800s, or to the early 21st century.
Epidemic Chorea is actually a predecessor to the typical chorea we often think more often about when this term is used. Epidemic chorea is a voluntary action engaged in by strongly devoted religious people. The chorea today such as Huntington’s Chorea is a result of aging and of physical and chemical changes taking place within the aging body. The Epidemic chorea of the Camp Meetings in New York during the early 1800s resulted in a number of interesting articles on this sociocultural, behavioral craze. No doubt during this time, prayers were more effective, and holy waters more capable of exorcising the demons needed to produce the cure from this terrible disease brought on by elation, uncontrollable passions, or possession. In the past or today, these types of human behavior continue to occur and even develop into new forms and new modes of human expression, as these behaviors continue to be practiced.
A recent tic-syndrome event noted in the news for example demonstrates this tendency for people to react to and to semiconsciously produce and perform according to specific physical activities seeming physically generated by the nervous system, but more than likely only imaginative and behavioral in its development and performance nature. One person comes down with this condition and other neighbors begin to realize their children are having the same problem. Next, some older family members, mothers and distant friends display the problem following a family visit. Sometimes we become what we believe we are, especially when it comes to health. That is the mind-body experience.
The following article is an example of the obvious and how we deal with it or not in medicine–medical journals are riddled with religious-based diseases, some truly physical in nature, many or most sociocultural in nature. Epidemic Chorea is there because it fit the allopathic philosophy and paradigm for the time. It is culturally-bound due to the uniqueness of this belief system required by regular doctors. Medicine was so different back then, versus today. Not that everything was “wrong” back then, just that the interpretations of things was different, mostly culturally. Like the intercessory prayer of today, or the quantum energy of tomorrow, the chorea of nineteenth century religious masses is a consequence of those who believe, from both ends of the stethoscope in this case.
As a final note, notice how throughout these two articles, the difference between ‘exercise’ and ‘exorcise’ is not fully understood.
XV. Account of a singular Convulsive Affection, which prevails in the State of Tennessee, and in other parts of the United-States. Communicated to the EDITOR by Felix Robertson, M. D., of Nashville, in Tennessee.
BELIEVING that the gentlemen (Mr. Maclin and Mr. Wilkinson) to whose politeness and attention I am indebted for the account of the rise and progress of the Epidemic Chorea, will have no objection to the publication of it, I send the paper, with permission, if you deem it worthy of the place, to insert it in one of the numbers of your Journal. For several reasons, I have been much more concise in my Inaugural Dissertation, on this subject, than I could have wished ; and I doubt not that those who have never seen the disease, may desire to be furnished with a more minute account of it, than that which I have given. I am, &c.
Felix Robertson. To Dr. Barton.
Philadelphia, May 30th, 1805.
It is with extreme diffidence that, according to your desire, I attempt to give a history of the Rise and Progress (in this place) of the affection which your friend and correspondent, Dr. Robertson, terms Chorea, or St. Vitus’s Dance. This diffidence arises from two circumstances, among, perhaps, many others : viz.
First, at this time, I have not sufficient leisure to reflect on, and to examine the subject; and
Secondly (which is a more substantial reason), I really doubt whether I know any thing as to the philosophy of the subject, without which a perfect history of the affection ought not to be expected; although I believe that (from every information that I have been able to collect) it is more prevalent here, and in the neighbourhood, than it is, or ever was, in any part of the world; and although I have (possessing the opportunity) paid attention to it, from its first commencement to the present time. However, so far as I shall attempt to proceed in the inquiry, I will endeavour to be as impartial a relator as possible.
This disease made its appearance, in this place, early in the summer of 1803, and increased in its effects with astonishing rapidity, until the latter end of that season. Since this period, the average number of subjects, each season, has not, I think, very greatly differed from what it was at that time, there being but little difference in the summer and the winter months.
So far from being considered as a disease, either contagious or epidemical, it has been, and still continues to be, recognized, generally, as a favourable religious visitation from the Deity, and is designated under the general appellation of the Religious Exercise.
The subjects of this exercise are mostly of the Presbyterian sect of religionists, and are very numerous in this county, there being four congregations. And of these, within such ages as are usually subject to its influence, I am satisfied, that one fourth, if not one third, or one half of them, are, and have been affected, under some one modification or Other of the exercise.
Some few Baptists have also been exercised; but it is remarkable, that I do not recollect to have heard of a single case among the sect denominated Seceders having taken it at their religious meetings, although they are very considerable in numbers ; nor do I remember a single instance of any person having taken it, except those who attended some religious meeting, or society ; and almost every one has, in the first instance, taken it in such meetings or society.
I have known some persons as young as six or seven years of age, and others, I think, upwards of sixty, affected; but a great majority are from the age of twelve to twenty, or twenty-five, and of the affected, there are more females than males. There is scarcely one girl in ten, between the age of twelve and twenty, that has not had, or now has, the exercise.
Of those persons who attend religious worship, and of both sexes, the affected are very generally such as are of the most vigorous and healthy constitution.
I do not recollect to have heard of any persons taking it in their sleep.
It has intermissions, which, however, are not regular. It does not appear with any malignant exacerbations. Some continue to have it from the first commencement of the affection.
The intermissions, in general, continue as long as the person is absent from worship. To this rule, however, there are exceptions; for the affection frequently recurs on a surprize, from serious reflection ; from depression of spirits; from sorrow, or from grief.
A discontinuance of the affection, for weeks or months,* is frequent; and, in some instances, there is a total cessation of the affection; while new cases are as frequently recurring.
The affected generally continue healthy; except in some few instances, where the affection, having been
VOL. II. PART I. M
more constant and violent, appears to have weakened the person, in some measure.
The paroxysm, if it may be so termed, continues from half an hour to an hour, or upwards ; or, perhaps, as long as the meeting, which they are at, continues ; but during such meeting the person will sometimes have only a single motion, or, at least, very few of them.
In respect to the mode of action or gesture, this has varied, in general, in some degree from what it was at the first appearance of the affection. Indeed, at all times since, it has been almost infinitely different, and varied in different persons, and even in the same individual. It would be impossible to give a correct historical account of the varieties of the affection. A few of its most prominent or distinguishing features is all that I can attempt to delineate, at present.
Upon the first appearance of the affection, the agitations of the men were different from those of the women. The former were sometimes seized with a trembling, so violent as to make the seats or pews, at some distance, shake. This symptom was frequently followed by (apparently) the most painful wreathings of the body and limbs, with a disposition, or inclination, to tumble about on the ground. At other times, the affected would make one or several perpendicular vaults, to the height (or perhaps a greater height) that he naturally could by a voluntary exertion. These actions were frequently accompanied by a deep, loud,
and sudden groan, or rather a mournful shout, as if he were instantly struck with some dreadful pain.
I do not recollect (of late) to have heard of, or to have seen, any who have had the trembling part of the exercise: but to that, with the others, has succeeded what has been called the Jerks.
This consists in a sudden inclination, or reclining, of the shoulders, and is so quick, that the head appears to move too slow for the shoulders; the primary motion appearing to be in the breast. This is common to both sexes, but with this difference, that men seldom have more than one jerk, in several minutes, or perhaps hours or weeks; whereas, a woman will frequently continue a repetition of that motion as quick, or nearly as quick, as seconds, for ten or fifteen minutes, reclining backwards as far as her feet, or some other obstacle will permit her, and bending so far forwards, as almost to touch the floor with her head. The motion, in this case, is not, in general, so violent in women as in men; except the former be peculiarly strong and robust.
Women, also, have, not unfrequently, the single sudden jerk, which is usually accompanied with a loud groan, or shout.
Numbers of both sexes have, likewise, taken what is called the Running Exercise. That is, the person will start and run with uncommon swiftness (having the eyes closed), for perhaps fifty or one hundred yards, and then fall, apparently lifeless, upon the ground, and lie for several minutes, then rise, and appear to be perfectly well. This race probably continues to the utmost extent of a single breath.
There are a great many other gesticulations, mostly imitative of those actions which are common in domestic life, and chiefly peculiar to the female sex; to which are added dancing and singing. These make a conspicuous, figure in the general system.
The dance is usually performed by a perpendicular motion of the body and limbs, when in an erect position, both feet rising at the same time, although sometimes the feet move alternately. The hands and arms are generally protruded, and frequently elevated, while the head is supinely thrown back, the eyes being closed. In the mean time she makes a continual rotation of turnings and circles ; and all the movements are performed with softness, and a graceful elasticity.
During these evolutions, she generally commences her tune. This is pretty uniformly the same, and on a flat key, almost every other note touching the key, and not rising more than a fifth from the key-note. Then immediately succeeds something like swooning.
Some of the leading characteristics of the exercise, on its first appearance, as it respected women, were, that they took it with a convulsive agitation of the breast, and with apparent difficulty of breathing, accompanied by lamentable cries and ejaculations: to all which succeeded what is called the Silent Exercise.
In this affection, the patient, if she may be so called, sinks into a state of total inaction, her breathing being scarcely perceptible, while the complexion assumes an unusually high tinge of floridness. This stage sometimes continues above half an hour, or perhaps longer.
The subjects of all these exercises have generally the premonitory symptom (previous to the external emotion) of a compression, or weight in the chest, or about the heart. The motion gives them relief. No other complaints of corporal pain are made, and the subjects are generally pleased with it, and do not wish its abatement, in any shape whatever, a very few instances excepted. They have an uncontrollable desire of attending upon divine worship, particularly that of the social kind; and they are always impressed with serious and pious reflections at the time of exercise. Nay, the desire of praying is so strong, that even the most bashful girls are not deterred, by the presence of the greatest assembly of people, from performing that duty. This, they say, also gives them relief.
Among these people, friendship towards each other is a very remarkable characteristic feature; as is the desire, that all others should be in the same situation with themselves. ”
Perhaps, I ought not to have omitted to mention, that involuntary laughing was very prevalent in the autumn of 1803, and in the spring of 1804. Indeed, there can be little doubt, that all the movements, &c., of the affected, are involuntary. It is, however, equally certain, that numbers endeavour to excite and promote the exercise, among whom I may mention the principal of our clergy.
Camp-meetings are held three or four times a year, and continue four days at a time. From one to four thousand persons usually attend, and encamp upon the ground. During these meetings, sermons are preached, addressed to the passions; and singing and praying are carried on, with scarcely any intermission, day and night. The hymns are of the most passionate kind, and are accompanied with melancholy music, which, however, is of a quick movement. There can be no doubt, that this gives a powerful spring to their exercises ; and, I think, among many other reasons, this is evident from the consequent different effect in the worship of the Seceders.
While I was just writing the above, a neighbouring countryman came in. He has himself been severely exercised since the first commencement of the affection. I asked him some questions, and his answers correspond with what I have stated respecting the desires and feelings of those who are exercised, and respecting the absence of pain. They all agree in asserting, that during these exercises, the senses remain in their full vigour; and that, even in their silent exercises, they know every thing that is passing about them. They also say, that their mental faculties, during the paroxysms, are preternaturally active and strong, particularly the judgment and the memory : that the latter is so much so, that almost every transaction of their past lives crowds in review in the mind, especially the transactions of a vicious kind. But it is probable, that the agency of the will, during these periods, is much weakened, and, perhaps, in some cases, entirely suspended. This conjecture is strengthened by the fact, that when a person is in the silent exercise, if a pin or a needle be introduced through the skill, it will cause no emotion or complaint, but will produce the sensation of pain. Is it possible that this can arise from a temporary disunion of some unknown animal fluid ? If so, there must (regularly) be a stronger connection between mind and matter than is generally supposed. However, this point must be left to be decided between the metaphysician and the materialist.
I do not know, that any applications have been made for medical assistance, in these affections. Yet I know one young man who lost blood for it, and the exercise left him. But whether the discontinuance took place from the bleeding, or from the circumstance of his. non-attendance on religious societies, is uncertain.
I am, Sir, your’s, &c.
John Wilkinson. Maryville (Tenessee), April 18th, 1805.
To Mr. William Maclin.
XIII. Thoughts on the Exercises which have occurred at the Camp-Meetings in the western parts of our country. Communicated to the Editor, by Mr. William Young, of Delaware.
IN the Medical and Physical Journal, part 1, vol. II, Dr. Robertson, of Nashville, denominates the exercises which have occurred at the camp-meetings in Tennessee, &c., an Epidemic Chorea; and, though not fond of disquisitions of this sort, I beg leave to offer a few observations in reply, and hope to disprove Dr. Robertson’s position.
The cogitations of conscience are generally hidden and inscrutable, but extraordinary impulses on the moral faculty are frequently manifested to observation. It is a commonly received maxim, that every operation of mind, and every act relating to religious worship should be treated with caution and liberality; but an attempt to explain such extraordinary exercises of mind, and gesticulations of body, as occurred in this case, is privileged by christian charity itself.
In considering this exercise as a bodily disease, Dr. Robertson must have overlooked, or not examined, the physiology of the mind. The ancient nosologists were often misled by mistaking symptoms for original affections, f i and an apparent similarity of symptoms formed the relationship of disease, and names were applied without regard to the real nature or seat of the disorder: hence, an inflammation of the meninges of the brain was termed head-pleurisy, and thus, also, the agitations of religious exercise are called St. Vitus’s dance. The misapplication of terms in medicine was a fruitful source of error in the dark ages of the world, and it was hoped that physicians had absolved themselves from the tyranny of custom; but Dr. R. has either misnamed this affection, or mistaken the influence of a convulsive operation of the moral faculty upon the system for au idiopathic bodily disease.
The influence of physical causes upon the intellectual faculties, and especially upon the moral faculty, is too well known to admit of a single doubt, and the immediate operation of the feelings and passions of the mind upon the moral faculty have given rise to all those gesticulations of body, which have astonished a dispassionate public, and which Mr. Wilkinson has judiciously described.
From Mr. Wilkinson’s history it is evident, that feeling had a large share in producing the exercise; and the fact of its not having occurred among the Seceders, who are numerous in the same district, is a strong evidence in support of this position. The latter confine themselves to the use of the old Psalms, which are serious and doctrinal, and also to the old tunes, which are slow and plaintive; while the others use hymns of the most empassioned kind, and accompanied with melancholy music, of a quick movement.
“The effects of music upon the moral faculty,” says Dr. Rush, “have been felt and recorded in every country. Hence we are able to discover the vices and virtues of different nations by their tunes, as certainly as by their laws. The effects of music, when simply mechanical, upon the passions, are powerful and extensive. But it remains yet to determine the degrees of moral ecstacy that may be produced by an attack upon the ear, the reason, and the moral principle at the same time, by the combined powers of music and eloquence.
“The eloquence of the pulpit is nearly allied to music, in its effects upon the moral faculty. There must be a defect of eloquence in a preacher, who, with the sources for oratory which are contained in the Old and New Testaments, does not produce, in every man who hears him, at least a temporary love of virtue. I grant that the powers of eloquence cannot change men into christians, but it certainly possesses the power of changing brutes into men. Could the eloquence of the stage be properly directed, it is impossible to conceive the extent of its mechanical effects upon morals. The language and imagery of a Shakspeare, upon moral and religious subjects, poured upon the passions and the senses, in all the beauty and variety of dramatic representation, who could resist or describe their effects?”
To the combined influence of music and eloquence is added the excitement of camp-meetings, in which the sympathy of association conspires to give a sudden impulse to the moral faculty, which it can neither resist nor confine within ordinary limits; and the violent and irregular excitement produces a proportionate ) e-action upon the nervous system, and consequent convulsive motions of body. These motions are of a mixed kind, Voluntary and involuntary. Sensation is not destroyed, nor the will suspended, but the inordinate re-action of the moral faculty upon the common sensorium, with equal suddenness and force, induces confused exercises of mind and mixed motions of body.
The stimulus of more common passions, as those of patriotism, of love, of social joy or grief, not unfrequently produce the most exalted acts of virtue, and the most debasing examples of vice. Man is the creature of feeling; hence, in sacred writ, the heart of man is addressed as the seat of his affections, both virtuous and vicious; and the moral faculty is represented by “the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world*.”
A serious contemplation of the attributes of Deity gives rise to the most exalted sentiments of which the human mind is susceptible, and the force of religious excitement is oftentimes irresistible. Neither persecution nor famine could destroy it. Witness the christian martyrs, who suffered every torture which the evil genius of the age could invent, and were finally consumed at the stake, without evincing a single sensation of pain or regret; nay, who died exulting in the sacrifice of their lives, through an invincible sense of devotion. Mahometans and Pagans also endure many privations in their systems of devotion, and thousands of” them have surrendered their lives to the enemies of theif
* See Rush’s Inquiries, vol.ii, p. 4. VOL. III. PART I. P
creed. If the revealed system of Christianity be true, mahometanism must be a delusion; and if an improper exercise of the moral faculty will excite men to endure torture and death, surely a sudden excitement of the same faculty, by the glorious realities of the gospel; a pathetic description of the bleeding hands and dying groans of an efficient Saviour; the exaltation and happiness of believers in time and eternity; and the endless miseries of the unbelieving in death, in judgment, and futurity, may reasonably be admitted to produce temporary gesticulations of body.
From this cursory view of the operations of the moral faculty, I think it is evident, that the exercises in question were improperly denominated chorea sancti viti; neither are we authorized to believe them to be a special “visitation from the Deity.” I, however, hope not to be accused of deteriorating this religious exercise; far, very far from this is my wish. I presume not to condemn the persons thus influenced, nor to detract from the sincerity of their devotion; but my wish is to remove the delusion of supposing it to be a bodily disease, and leave the intrinsic merits of the subject to Him, who ” searcheth the hearts and trieth the reins of the children of men;” and who can direct the exercises of the synagogue and the camp to his own glory.
A critical attention to Mr. Wilkinson’s description of the rise and progress clearly evinces the nature and form of this affection. “The paroxysms (says Mr. W.) seldom returned but during attendance on religious worship;” hence they were merely occasional.
“It has varied from the beginning, and has been almost infinitely different and varied in different persons, and even in the same individual.”
Many of the gesticulations are “imitative of those actions which are common in domestic life, and chiefly peculiar to the female sex.”
“Some of the leading characteristics of the exercise, on its first appearance, as it respected women, were, that they took it with a convulsive agitation of the breast, and with apparent difficulty of breathing, accompanied with lamentable cries and ejaculations; to all which succeeded what is called the silent exercise.”
The subjects of these exercises ” have an uncontroulable desire of attending upon divine worship, particularly that of the social kind;” and a strong ” desire that all others should be in the same situation with themselves.”
Mr. W. considers all the movements of the affected as involuntary, but adds, “it is, however, equally evident, that numbers endeavour to excite and promote the exercise, among whom I may mention the principal of our clergy.”
If we combine the varied forms of the exercise, the imitative actions of many, the lamentable cries and ejaculations of others, the general desire of social communion, and the acknowledged efforts of the clergy, into one view, and consider ” sensibility as the avenue to the moral faculty,” it will lead us to a knowledge of this singular affection. A propensity to imitation, arising from the sympathy of association, and the influence of society, in exciting passion and emotion, so universally affect mankind, that “he must be more or less than man, who kindles not in the common blaze” of tumultuous excitement,
The efforts of the clergy to excite and promote the exercise are avowed by Mr. W., and their powers of accomplishing the object must be admitted. Zeal, somewhat fervent, is certainly laudable in the preachers of the gospel, and the man of sensibility may not only become excited in the pulpit, but, if eloquent, or even declamatory, may impress the same sensations in his audience. Such were the powers of eloquence possessed by the famous Massillon, notwithstanding he read his sermons, ” that he drew a whole audience, by an instantaneous impulse, upon their feet,” in terrific expectation of the terrors of the last judgment being about to fall upon them. If a Parisian audience could be thus excited, how much more easily may the congregated thousands of a western camp, predisposed by the sympathies of association, be aroused to tumultuous exercise.
Declamation is considered an essential part of pulpit oratory, as the feelings and passions are the avenues to the understanding; but whether it be useful, or laudable, to carry the work upon the passions so far as is now practised, I presume not to determine, but leave occurring at Camp-Meetings. 117
this question to the ministers of the gospel, and the Master of congregations whom they serve.
The desire of exercised persons, that ” all others should be in the same way with themselves,” is perfectly natural. We find the same principle influencing all classes of society, and it was evinced by our mother Eve: when she had eaten of the fruit of knowledge, she desired Adam to partake with her, that he might become a co-partner in sensation, for ” it was pleasant to her eyes.” But when the voice of justice sounded in their ears, ” Adam, where art thou?” we find the moral faculty was excited; they were ashamed; and, conscious of guilt, had hidden themselves among the trees of the garden,
The desire of the truly pious man, that others should participate in the mercies of redemption, is one of the strongest emotions of his soul: it is of heavenly origin, and in nature divine. We find that our Saviour “wept” over Jerusalem, and lamented her apostacy, in the most tender strains of compassion; St. Paul was almost willing to become accursed for his kinsmen after the flesh; Dives begged and beseeched father Abraham to send one from the dead, to warn his brethren of his misery and their approaching ruin; and love to the brethren is a cardinal point of the christian’s faith; nay more, the joys of heaven will not be complete until ” the congregation of the Saints” is accomplished.
To the clergy it more especially belongs to define the nature of this unusual affection; and if these cursory thoughts should excite their attention to the subject, the writer will be fully compensated. His sincere wish is to promote enquiry, and leave the decision to the dispassionate consideration of the public.
I am yours, &c.,
William Young. February 20th, 1806.