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USES OF KNOWLEDGE ON THIS SUBJECT.
I was a stricken deer, that left the herd
Though the character of this discussion, as well as its limited scope, have precluded many important remarks which come within the province of the physiologist, yet much that might be written is rendered unnecessary, by a knowledge which many derive from their own experience. It is a subject which, as we have said before, is too little examined and understood. “Many of our young preachers,” Dr. Alexander says, in his instructive book on Religious Experience, “when they go forth on their important errand, are poorly qualified to direct the doubting conscience, or to administer safe consolation to the troubled in spirit.
And in modern preaching there is little account made of the various distressing cases of deep affliction under which many serious persons are suffering. To no small proportion of the religious, both teachers and people, it seems to be a profound secret, how much the exercises of a changed heart may be affected by the health or the condition of the body.” They cannot understand how a man's brain and nervous system may so suffer from faults in his digestive organs, as to produce irritability of temper, unsteadiness in any pursuit or application, distrust of friends, fear of evil tidings, and doubts concerning his own salvation.
These are commonly regarded as moral affections, whereas they are in reality physical evils, which are to be remedied or removed by physical means. They are as legitimately symptoms of disease as is nausea, dimness of vision, or headache. And is a man unable to judge himself, much less is he qualified to meet the numerous cases that are almost daily presented in an extensive pastoral charge, when unskilled to distinguish, with some degree of accuracy, between influences which proceed from the body, and the principles, disposition, and state of the soul. As a part of his furniture for some of the most responsible labours of his calling, he needs a thorough acquaintance with a subject so closely connected with Christian experience.
Among the counsellors who so much aided the Rev. Timothy Rogers in his period of spiritual darkness, he quotes old Mr. Greenham as saying “ that there is a great deal of wisdom requisite to consider both the state of the body and of the soul. If a man that is troubled in conscience comes to a minister, it may be he will look all to the soul, and nothing to the body; if he cometh to a physician, he considereth the body, and neglecteth the soul. For my part, I would never have the physician's counsel despised, nor the labour of the minister neglected; because the soul and body dwelling together, it is convenient that as the soul should be cured by the word, by prayer, by fasting, or by comforting, so the body must be brought into some temperature by physic and diet, by harmless diversions, and such like ways—providing always, that it be so done in the fear of God, as not to think by these ordinary means quite to smother or evade our troubles, but to use them as preparatives, whereby our souls may be made more capable of the spiritual methods that are to follow afterwards."
The practical uses of the knowledge of which we come to speak now, cannot be fully enumerated, nor adequately described. As the apostle says of the inspired truth which he commends to Timothy, we would say, that it “is profitable for"
We mean to say, that here is presented a theory in casuistic divinity which solves innumerable cases of constant occurrence, by which many are often confounded without it. It is admitted that there is a difficulty to be encountered, in turning such doctrine on the subject of our spiritual maladies to a beneficial result, on account of the inability to convince the sufferer of the real cause of his despondency. He seems to lack the capacity of perceiving, or of applying the sort of truth which his case requires, however plainly it may be set before him; for, as President Edwards observes, in speaking of Brainerd, it is rare that melancholy people are sensible of their own disease—and that such things are to be ascribed to it as are undoubtedly its genuine fruits or effects. Otherwise we should be amazed at the perplexity and disconsolateness of some excellent characters, and the readiness with which they refuse to be comforted. Even the acute and discriminating Dr. Rush, so skilful in explaining and relieving the maladies of others, was utterly deceived in relation to his own. His Essay on the Influence of Physical Causes upon the Moral Faculty, evinces mature reflection, and accurate knowledge on this subject; and yet, when, in a state of religious despondency himself, he was assured by his pastor that it was a symptom of disease, he could not believe it. Nor did he become fully convinced that the cause of his spiritual distress was physical,