Imatges de pàgina

in her ears. She would frequently mutter to herself, and her ways and habits were nearly all of them singular.

There is scarely a person of adult age here present, this evening, I venture to say, who has not, more than once during his or her life, been a little surprised by the unexpected appearance of some one who had just been the subject of conversation. These cases have occurred so repeatedly, that long ago it passed into a proverb that a certain noted character is always near when you are talking about him!

Are thoughts of an individual suggested to us by his approach, when entirely unseen? Such has been the opinion of some, and I see nothing very unreasonable in it. It may be that in walking we influence this thin and subtile atmosphere that surrounds us, in like manner as the gliding boat approaching the shore, moves the waters in advance of its prow; creating undulations, which are followed, one after another, the first wave subsiding far up on the strand, some seconds before the boat's keel lies aground. We know not half the mysterious connection of mind with the material universe.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in our philosophy."

In various ways do "coming events cast their shadows before." A thousand curious facts might be collected, to show how true it is, that

"Lulled in the countless chambers of the brain,
Our thoughts are linked in many a hidden chain."

Prophecy is not confined to subjects of a religious na-
Predictions are often uttered, and afterwards


literally verified, which have relation to secular matters-the rise or fall of a nation, a dynasty, or administration; the discovery of a continent or island upon this globe, or the discernment of a planet, before unseen, by an additional lens to the telescope; valuable inventions and improvements in the mechanic arts, with various other matters. The spirit of Prophecy is not restricted in its operation, but pervades different departments.

John Quincy Adams, among others, is a political prophet. Else how could he declare, as he did, years beforehand, that if Gen. Harrison were nominated for the Presidency, he would "come in like a whirlwind"? We all know that such was the fact.

The following magnificent passage from the prose writings of the great English poet MILTON, may be regarded as a prophecy. Whether it has ever yet been realized, or is waiting for its fulfilment, judge ye. "Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks; methinks I see her as an eagle muing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full mid-day beam; purging and unscaling her long abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance; while the whole noise of timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love the twilight, flutter about, amazed at what she means, and in their envious gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and schisms."* There was a person who lived during the latter part *Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing.

of the last century, who was a mechanical prophet, if I may so call him. He left, in writing, a remarkable prediction concerning the wonderful triumph of mechanism. He was a very able, practical mechanic; and was therefore well fitted to prophecy the future developments and new uses of mechanical power. He predicted the application of steam to the propelling of machinery, for years before Robert Fulton had tried any successful experiment. His name was OLIVER EVANS, and he rcsided in New York. He attempted to invent something on the plan of a steamboat, and succeeded so far as to obtain a patent: and had he been encouraged, the world might have been further advanced than it now is, in respect to mechanical science. But as he had no worldly wealth and his friends lacked faith in his projects, he was disheartened; and finally died poor and neglected. He constructed his model about the year 1785, twentytwo years, at the least, before Fulton ran his first large boat on the river Hudson. Before he died, Evans prophe. sied in these words: "The time will come when people will travel in stages, moved by steam engines, from one part of the country to another, almost as fast as birdsfifteen or twenty miles an hour. Rail-ways will be laid, nearly horizontal, made of wood or iron. These engines will also propel boats twelve miles an hour. There will be hundreds of boats running on the Mississippi; but the velocity of boats through the water will not be equal to that of carriages through the air, as the resistance of water is much greater than that of air." This is well

authenticated as the veritable prediction of Oliver Evans. We have no idea of the amount of bravery it required to prophecy thus, in his time: for even fifteen or twenty years afterwards, Fulton was sorely ridiculed for cherishing the idea that a boat could be propelled by steam. So much was he laughed at and his scheme hooted, that he was ashamed to try his first experiment in this country; and so he went to France, and tried it on the river Seine. What, think you, would be the emotions of either of these two individuals, were they now in this world, and should they take passage from Boston, in the Providence rail-road cars at four o'clock, to-morrow afternoon, and wake up on the morning of the next day in New York harbor!

Possibly, some may be inclined to say, that the parallel which I have attempted to run between ancient and modern prophets cannot be well sustained; because, in the present age, men foretell occurrences in accordance with some natural law-mental, physical, or social, or all three combined. Very well: how know we that such was not the case of the Biblical prophets, to some extent? Would God, who controls the universe by universal law, place into the the hands of fallible men the power to interrupt or overleap his laws? What evidence of this can we find in the prophetic books? They say, be sure, that "the word of the Lord" came unto the prophets, at certain times, bidding them prophesy, &c. But are we to suppose they heard the Invisible speak

ing vocally in their ears? They simply adopted the poetic idiom of the East, in alluding to their visions and revelations. No doubt God's spirit came to them as silently as the fragrance of a rose is wafted to our senses! Could they not, in their calm, meditative hours, have discerned, through all the gilded, spangled trappings of a throne, the secret influences at work to undermine it? Could they not be impressed, from the sinfulness of a haughty, luxurious and polluted nation, that the seeds of ruin were germinating in the soil of its body-politic and body-social; even though its condition, in both these respects, were (to the superficial observer) apparently free from noxious tendencies? They were, some of them, truly great prophets-highly gifted, with minds enriched by experience and deep meditation: they were not mere passive viaducts, but doubtless had some judg ment and volition of their own.

You will perceive that I do not deny the spirit of prophecy to those Bible writers for whom it is claimed. I accord it to them, in a high degree. Great and good were they; though I see no proof that they were infallible, or exempt from the liability of mistake. I believe most reverentially that the same spirit of prophecy which fired their souls moves the hearts of some men now. And where is there any thing in the whole Bible to contradict this? There is not a single intimation in either the Old or the New Testament, that the gift of prophesying should ever be entirely withheld from mankind. On the con

« AnteriorContinua »