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OUR good old laws, framed when Christianity had a substance as well as a form, before philosophy had persuaded mankind that there is no such being as the Devil, and before a false church had ceased to bear witness against, and to teach her children, the power and continued operations of the Evil One, these laws rightly attributed the perpetration of the worst crimes to “ the instigation of the devil,” in persons who " had not the fear of God before their eyes.” It is our present purpose to consider the actings of the devil in tormenting the bodies of men; and for this purpose we shall select our facts chiefly from medical works written by persons who either know nothing of vital Christianity, or who, at least, leave all mention of it out of their writings.
The author of The Diary of a Physician says, “I cannot conceive that the people of whom the New Testament speaks as being possessed of devils, could have been more dreadful in appearance, or more outrageous in their actions, than was Mr. M- ; nor can I help suggesting the thought, that possibly they were in reality nothing more than maniacs of the worst kind. And is not a man transformed into a devil when his reason is utterly overturned ?” We maintain the affirmative of this proposition—namely, that maniacs are persons possessed of devils ;-but, passing by that point for the present, we see not upon what supposition it can be doubted, that, where facts are communicated which could not have been known but by supernatural communication, and which have the effect of tormenting either the minds or the bodies of those who are the objects of the information, such communication must have been made by Satan. The author above quoted relates the following case of this same Mr. M. “During one of his intervals of sanity, when the savage fiend relaxed for a moment the hold he had taken of his victim's faculties, M. said something according with a fact which it was impossible for him to have any knowledge of by the senses, which was to me singular and inexplicable. It was about nine o'clock in the morning of the third day after that on which the scene above described took place [when he attempted to destroy himself], “ that M., who was lying in a state of the utmost lassitude and exhaustion, scarcely able to open his eyes, turned his head slowly towards Mr. , the apothecary, who was sitting by his bedside, and whispered to him, . They are preparing to bury that wretched fellow next doorhush-hush! one of the coffin trestles has fallen-hush!' Mr. and the nurse, who had heard him, both strained their ears to listen, but could hear not even a
VOL. VI.-NO. II.
mouse stirring. • There's somebody come in-a lady, kissing his lips before he's screwed down-oh, I hope she won't be scorched—that's all!' He then turned away his head, with no appearance of emotion, and presently fell asleep. Through mere curiosity, Mr. looked at his watch; and from subsequent inquiry ascertained, that sure enough, about the time when his patient had spoken, they were about burying his neighbour; that one of the coffin trestles did slip a little, and the coffin, in consequence, was near falling; and finally, marvellous to tell, that a lady, one of the deceased's relatives I believe, did come and kiss the corpse, and cry bitterly over it. Neither Mr. nor the nurse heard any noise whatever during the time of the burial preparations next door, for the people had been earnestly requested to be as quiet about them as possible, and really made no disturbance whatever."
It tends not a little to confirm the position that we are now endeavouring to establish, to observe, that maniacs themselves frequently avow that they are possessed; and surely they must be the best judges. On one occasion, Mr. M. replied to a question which was asked him, that he “must consult his familiar.' At another time he said to his physician, “ There's one sitting by me tells me you are dealing falsely with me.” The doctor himself is obliged once to let out the truth; for he says, “ He looked at me with one of the most awful glances, full of dark diabolical meaning, the momentary suggestion of the great tempter."
The next instance which we shall quote is one of torment inflicted upon a sound mind and body, without the victim being possessed. “A young lady, of some personal attractions, most amiable manners, and great accomplishments, particularly musical, had been repeatedly solicited to sit down to the piano, for the purpose of favouring the company with the favourite Scottish air, The Banks of Allan Water. It was well known by several present, that she was engaged to a young officer who had earned considerable distinction in the Peninsular campaign, and to whom she was to be united on his return from the continent. The poor girl was absolutely baited into sitting down to the piano, when she ran over a few melancholy chords
with an air of reluctance. She had just commenced the verse, For his bride a soldier sought her, 8c., when, to the surprise of every body around her, she suddenly ceased playing and singing, without removing her hands from the instrument, and gazed stedfastly forward with a vacant air, while the colour faded from her cheeks, and left them pale as the lily. She continued thus for some moments, to the alarm and astonishment of the company, motionless, and apparently unconscious of any one's presence; but a few moments after, without moving her eyes, suddenly
burst into a piercing shriek. At length she began to mutter inaudibly; but by and by those immediately near her could distinguish the words, “ There, there they are—with their lanterns. Oh! they are looking out for the dead—they turn over the heaps -ah! now-no!-that little hill of slain-see, see !--they are turning them over one by one-there, THERE HE is! oh, horror! horror! horror! right THROUGH THE HEART!' and with a long shuddering groan she fell senseless into the arms of her horror-struck sister. A servant was instantly dispatched for
I found her in bed. She had not spoken a syllable since uttering the singular words just related. By the use of strong stimulants we succeeded in restoring her to something like consciousness. Oh, wretched, wretched, wretched girl,' she murmured at length, 'why have I lived till now? why did you not suffer me to join him ? I was going, and you will not let mebut I must go-yes, yes!'
“• Anne! dearest! why do you talk so ? Charles is not gone - he will return soon-he will indeed,' sobbed her sister.
“Oh, never, never! you could not see what I saw, Jane:' she shuddered : 'oh! it was frightful! how they tumbled about the heaps of the dead ! how they stripped -oh, horror, horror!'
My dear Miss you are dreaming-raving-indeed you are,' said I, holding her hand in mine: come, come, you must not give way to such gloomy, such nervous fancies—you must not indeed. You are frightening your friends to no purpose.'
“ • What do you mean?' she replied, looking me suddenly full in the face: 'I tell you it is true! Ah me, Charles is dead !—I know it-I saw him! Shot right through the heart! They were stripping him, when—' and, heaving three or four short convulsive sobs, she again swooned. I, of course, did all my professional knowledge and experience suggested. departure; and, as I rode home, I could not help feeling the liveliest curiosity, mingled with the most intense sympathy for the unfortunate sufferer, to see whether the corroborating event would stamp the present as one of those extraordinary occurrences which occasionally come over us, like a summer cloud, astonishing and perplexing every one. “Now, will it be credited, that on the fourth morning of Miss
-'s illness a letter was received from Paris by her family, communicating the melancholy intelligence that the young captain had fallen towards the close of the battle of Waterloo ? for, while in the act of charging at the head of his corps, a French cavalry officer shot him with his pistol right through the heart.”
As soon as the intelligence was communicated to the poor girl she died. It has been necessary to abridge this affecting story, and thereby to deprive it of great part of the beauty with which
I took my
it is narrated; we therefore recommend our readers to peruse the volumes from which it is taken. There cannot be a more decided proof of Satanic agency
than this story affords. It was impossible for this young lady, in London, to know what had passed at the battle of Waterloo, fought on the very morning of the day in which she shewed so affecting an evidence of her perfect information of the details of her lover's death. The Evil One took this method of destroying the life of his victim, and succeeded. It is remarked in a note, that the word "epilepsy is derived from emiantis, a seizing, a holding fast. Therefore we speak of an ATTACK of epilepsy. . This etymology is highly descriptive of the disease in question; for the sudden prostration, rigidity, contortions, &c. of the patient, strongly suggest the idea that he was taken, or seized, ETTIN£pbels, by, as it were, some external invisible agent. It is worthy of notice, by the way, that enimentikos is used by ecclesiastical writers to denote a person possessed by a demon.”
In another part of his work the author gives an account of a patient being first attacked by epilepsy, and afterwards by mania. The effects of the former malady are scarcely less terrific than those of the latter. The victim was a young lady. “Oh that merciless, fiendish epilepsy! how it tossed about those tender limbs! how it distorted and convulsed those fair and handsome features ! To see the mild eye of beauty subjected to the horrible up-turned glare described above, and the slender fingers black and clenched, the froth bubbling on the lips, the grinding of the teeth-would it not shock and wring the heart of the beholder ? it did mine, accustomed as I am to such spectacles.
“ Insanity at length made its appearance, and locked its hapless victim in its embraces for nearly a year. She was removed to a private asylum ; and for six weeks was chained by a staple to the wall of her bed-room, in addition to enduring a strait waistcoat. On one occasion I saw her in one of her most frantic moods. She cursed and swore in the most diabolic manner, and yelled, and laughed, and chattered her teeth, and spit ! The beautiful hair was shaved off, and was then scarce half an inch long, so that she hardly looked like a female about the head. The eyes, too, were surrounded by dark areola, and her mouth disfigured by her swollen tongue and lips, which she had severely bitten. She motioned me to draw near her, when she had become a little more tranquil, and I thoughtlessly acceded. When I was within a foot of her, she made a sudden and desperate plunge towards me, motioning with her lips as though she would have torn me, like a tigress its prey. She once bit off the little finger of one of the nurses who was feeding her.”
In these disorders the strength is often superhuman, and what
the patient cannot, when free from paroxysms, by any means put forth. The gesticulations and contortions also in which they throw their limbs, without any expression or appearance of pain, are such as they could not employ at other times; and no person could be put into such attitudes without dislocating one or more limbs. This has also been the description given in all ages of demoniacal possessions. Not long ago, a young man in Edinburgh went suddenly out of his mind, and rushed into the street raving. He was followed and seized hold of by several men: at one blow he felled four of them prostrate before him, and he could not be secured without the assistance of nine strong men, he himself being below the middle stature. He remained insane during many months; and when restored to his right mind used frequently to laugh at the remembrance of his having been able to knock down so many men, each of whom was much stronger than himself. Poor fellow, he was most shamefully treated in a house called the Shells; and we trust that some persons, into whose hands these remarks may fall, will make it their duty to look after the treatment of the unhappy inmates of that wretched place. After what transpired before the Committee of the House of Commons upon mad-houses a few years ago, respecting Bedlam, the mad-houses in York, and some others, we are justified in expecting the worst possible instances of cruelty to be found in these abodes of misery. The poor man of whom we are writing has frequently shewn to his friends his back and shoulders lacerated with the floggings that he received in the Shells.
There is something very painful to the humane mind in the reflection that the victims of insanity are almost always ill-treated by the vulgar; more especially when there is good reason to believe that many of the persons confined on the plea of insanity are shut up through the ignorance or malevolence of their acquaintance, and that they are really under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Not many months ago, a young woman, in London, was powerfully impelled by the Holy Spirit to prophesy of the Lord's speedy return to the earth, and to give a solemn warning to all around her to be ready for that event. Her friends instantly sent for three physicians, who declared that, as her pulse was undisturbed, her faculties unimpaired, and that she shewed no symptom of unsoundness except in the above declarations, that she was afflicted with a species of insanity of the most hopeless description, and ordered her to be shut up forth with. Upon this inhuman sentence being communicated to her, she replied that she should submit to whatever she was subjected, as sent from her heavenly Father; and do so with cheerfulness, since even in the closest confinement they could not prevent the enjoyment of her Lord's presence, and the sunshine which illumined her soul whenever the power of the Spirit was upon her.