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Object of this illustration.

Excitement and delusion.

Before dismissing this illustration, I wish to remind my readers again, that I have been endeavoring to exhibit by it the spirit of mind with which we ought to receive the offer of mercy through Jesus Christ, not the nature of the atonement which he has made for sin. The case I have imagined could not safely occur in any human government, because there would be no way of ascertaining who among the convicts were truly penitent, and were really determined on leading a life of virtue in future. Several other difficulties, which in God's government do not exist, are unavoidable in every human empire. The spirit of mind with which the offer of free forgiveness in Jesus' name is welcomed or refused, is all which I design by this illustration to explain. If the heart is really ready to acknowledge its guilt, and willing to accept of pardon which it does not deserve, the offer of a Savior is most admirably calculated to restore peace of conscience, and heal the wounded spirit. And nothing but the Bible can make such an offer. Thus one of the most powerful means by which it changes character, is awakening the sensibilities of the heart through the exhibition of a Savior crucified for our sins, and leading us to feel that we may be forgiven, and the obligation and authority of the law we have broken be yet sustained.

5. These changes of character are often attended with strong excitement, and sometimes with mental delusion. My readers recollect that the first convict saw at one time a black coffin, according to his statement; and at another, he was addressed by an audible voice in his cell, telling him that his sins were pardoned. These two circumstances were what chiefly induced me to insert that narrative, that I might bring up distinctly this point, viz. that the changes of character produced by the Bible are often attended with mental delusion in little things, especially among those minds that have been but little disciplined by philosophical thought. I could not have a fair specimen without including an example of this

Anecdote of Brinley.


The human mind is so constituted, as all who have studied its nature are fully aware, that when any subject of great interest, or any strong emotion, takes possession of it, it operates immediately upon the body, producing sometimes animal excitement, and sometimes delusions of the So that these very delusions, and this very bodily excitement, prove the greatness and the reality of the emotions of heart which have occasioned them. If a man becomes very much interested in any scheme, how likely he is to become enthusiastic in it! And this enthusiasm the public usually consider as proving, not disproving, his sincerity. It indicates the strength of the interest which he feels. It is astonishing what extravagances people will put up with from men engaged in the prosecution of favorite plans, and will consider them as pleasant indications of the strength of the interest which is felt. Brinley, a famous canal engineer, was so much interested in his favorite mode of transportation, that he used to express the opinion that a canal was far more valuable to a country than a navigable river. He was once asked what he supposed Providence intended in creating rivers. He said they were good for nothing but to feed canals. story has been copied by every biographer of Brinley; it has been told again and again, in lectures and conversations and debates, as a pleasant instance of extravagance in a man devoted to a favorite pursuit, which proves nothing but the greatness of the interest he feels in it. Nobody ever thought the worse of Brinley for it, or distrusted his judgment on any point in the science of engineering. Millions were risked on his opinion while he was living, and his name is remembered with the highest respect. So Christians of uncultivated minds, will be sometimes extravagant in their opinions, or in their conduct, and only show by it the strength of the interest they feel.

And this

A man who is inventing a machine, will become so excited that he cannot sleep. He will perhaps, in his efforts to obtain repose, fall into an uncertain state, between

Cases of excitement.

sleeping and waking, in which, half in reverie aud half in dream, fancy will present him with splendid images of success. He will hear a voice or see a figure, or he will be assured by some extraordinary mode that he shall overcome all his difficulties, if he will persevere. In the morning, light and the full possession of his faculties return, and as he is generally a man of intelligence, he can analyze the operations of his mind, and separate the false from the true. If he was an unenlightened man, however, and should in the morning tell his story, how narrow would be the philosophy which would say to him, "Si, it is all a delusion. Your mind is evidently turned. You had better give up your invention, and return to other pursuits." It would be a great deal more wise to neglect altogether the story of supernatural voices and appearances which he might tell, and judge of the value of his proposed invention by examining impartially his plan itself, and calculating on sober evidence the probability of success or failure.

So, my reader, when you hear of any thing which you deem extravagance or delusion among Christians, remember how immense a change the beginning of a Christian course sometimes is. The man has been all his life neglecting and disliking religion. He has been engrossed in sinful pursuits and pleasures, and perhaps addicted to open vice. All at once, while contemplating God's holy truth, his eyes are opened he sees his guilt, and his imminent danger of ruin. He is, and he must be, strongly excited. If he feels in any sense his condition, he cannot sleep. Can an arrested malefactor sleep quietly the first night in his cell? He must be strongly excited, and this excitement must, in many cases, bring something like temporary mental delusion. He must do and say many things in which the calm spectators cannot sympathize. But it is most certainly very unphilosophical to fasten upon these, and say it is all delusion and wildness. The real question to be considered is this: Is a bad character really changed for a good one? If so, it is a great moral change, invaluable in

Conversion a very great change.

Narrow views.

its nature and results, productive of inconceivable good to the individual himself, and to all connected with him. The excess of feeling is momentary and harmless. In regard to the permanency of the change in the case of those convicts, there is one whose subsequent character I have no means of knowing. The other however, when he was liberated, became a useful and respectable citizen; and after sustaining uninjured for two or three years the temptations of the world, he was admitted to a Christian church; and up to the latest accounts which I have been able to obtain, he was a most trustworthy man and an exemplary Christian. An abandoned profligate, imprisoned for his crimes, becomes a useful and a virtuous man. Can you expect such a change without excitement? How unphilosophical then is it to fasten upon the slight and momentary indications of excitement as evidence that there is nothing real in the case!


And yet unphilosophical as this is, I have no doubt that there are many persons whose eyes, if they were reading the first convict's story, would catch at once the accounts of the supernatural appearances which he thought he saw, and they would stop short there. "Ah!" they would say, "he heard a voice forgiving his sins-he saw a black coffin! It is all fanaticism and delusion." This is narrow-mindedThe intellect which reasons thus, is in such a state that it does not take a survey of the whole of a subject presented, so as to form an independent and unbiassed opinion. The man fastens upon one little blemish which happens to be turned toward him, and seeing no farther, he condemns the whole. Like the inexperienced mariner, who thinks he has come to a barren and inhospitable land, because he sees nothing but precipitous rocks or sandy beaches on the shore which first comes to view.

There is, however, a narrow-mindedness which may operate in another way. Many a sincere Christian will read such an account and be perfectly satisfied, because he meets with a few expressions of penitence, that the con

Danger on both sides.


The duty of submission.

He thinks the criminal has

vict's heart is really changed. certainly become a Christian, just because he talks like one. Whereas it is very possible that he is only repeating language which he has heard others use, for the sake of exciting sympathy, or pretending to be reformed, in hope of pardon and release from his cell. Now, it is as narrowminded to judge from a very partial knowledge of facts in one way as in another. An experienced Christian can indeed often form a tolerably safe opinion of the reality or fictitiousness of a pretended change, by conversation; but the great decisive evidence after all is perseverance in a holy life.

If then men who have been abandoned to vice become virtuous and trustworthy citizens, and exemplify for years the graces of the Christian character, we will bear with a little excitement, and even enthusiasm, at the time of the change. For it is, after all, of comparatively little consequence whether this excitement shows itself by some open manifestation, as by the black coffin rising to the disturbed imagination of the convict in his cell, or the loud shout,

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Glory to God," which resounds in the methodist camp; or whether it is subdued and restrained, as in the still solemnity of an inquiry meeting on the evening of the Sabbath, or in the solitary suffering of an awakened sinner mourning at midnight the burden of his sins. Remember that I say it is of little consequence, not that it is of none. It would be better if men would follow Jesus as readily and as easily as Matthew did. Jesus said unto him, "Arise and follow me; and he arose and followed him." Immedi-ate submission, with cordial confidence in the Savior, will at once remove all mental suffering and all cause for it. But if men will only give up their sins and lead lives of actual piety, we will not quarrel with them about the manner in which they enter the new way.

Such then are some of the effects of the Bible upon the human character considered in detail. I have thought it

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