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mentioned did so highly value it, yet, as I knew it would meet with some opposition, I did consider whether it was not better for me a while to suppress it. Being thus doubtful in my chamber, one fair day in the summer, my casement being open towards the south, I took my book, De Veritate, in my hand, and kneeling on my knees, devoutly said these words :
“O thou eternal God, author of the light which now shines upon me, and giver of all inward illuminations, I do beseech thee, of thy infinite goodness, to pardon a greater request than a sinner ought to make; I am not satisfied enough whether I shall publish this book De Veritate ; if it be for thy glory, I beseech thee give me some sign from heaven; if not,
I shall suppress
it.' “I had no sooner spoken these words, but a loud, though yet gentle, noise came from the heavens (for it was like nothing on earth), which did so comfort and cheer me, that I took my petition as granted, and that I had the sign demanded, whereupon also I resolved to print my book.
“This, how strange soever it may seem, I protest before the eternal God is true ; neither am I any way superstitiously deceived herein, since I did not only clearly hear the noise, but in the serenest sky that ever I saw, being without all cloud, did to my thinkivg see the place from whence it came.”
In a highly stimulated state, arising from the use of ardent spirits, laudanum, nitrous oxide, and other circumstances, the thoughts are often so vivid as to be mistaken for actual sensations, and the suggestions flow with such rapidity, that a person is often enabled to speak rapidly in extravagant poetry or prose. This is one kind of inspiration. Another is of a theological character, and is constituted by a inorbid state of the consciousness, in which a notion is vividly excited, and considered as true and emanating from some supernatural agency.
Joanna Southcott, under this affection, thought she was pregnant with a messenger from the clouds, and announced the forth-coming of the Messiah mentioned in scripture, together with other very wonderful prophecies. The London Encyclopædia gives the following account of this extraordinary woman.
“Joanna Southcott, a remarkable fanatic of recent times, who attracted by her pretensions numerous converts in London and its vicinity. They are said to have amounted at one period to upwards of 100,000. She was born in the west of England, about 1750, of very humble parents, and, being carried away by the fervor of a heated imagination, gave herself out as the woman spoken of in the book of Revelations. In this capacity, although altogether illiterate, she scribbled much mystic nonsense in the way of vision and prophecy, and for a while carried on a lucrative trade in the sale of seals, which were, under certain conditions, to secure salvation. A disorder of rather rare occurrence finally giving her the outward appearance of pregnancy, after she had passed her grand climacteric, she announced herself as the mother of a promised Shiloh, whose speedy advent she confidently predicted. More than one clergyman of the established church was numbered among her votaries. A cradle of expensive materials, and highly decorated, was prepared at a fashionable upholsterer's, for the expected babe. So fully persuaded were many of her attendants of the reality of her mission, that one of the ecclesiastics already alluded to, on receiving a remonstrance from his diocesan, offered to bind himself to resign a benefice he possessed into the bishop's hands, if the holy Joanna, as he styled her, should fail to appear on a specified day with the expected Shiloh. As a specimen of the extravagant delusion which may be popular in the neighbourhood of the most enlightened metropolis of the world, we subjoin a specimen or two of her reveries. “I have this to inform the public,' says the holy woman in her Warning to the whole World, p. 123, that the prophecies of this book show the destruction of Satan, and the coming of Christ's kingdom.
Here my readers may ask me, what ground I have to affirm this belief? I answer, from the truth that is past I have ground to believe that other truths will follow. From the former I judge the latter. The war that I foretold in 1792 we should be engaged in followed in 1793. The dearth, which came upon the land in 1794 and 1795, I foretold in 1792; and, if unbelief did abound, that a much greater scarcity would take place, and which too fatally followed. I foretold the bad harvest in 1797. I foretold, in letters sent to two ministers of Exeter, what would be the harvests of 1799 and 1800; that the former would be hurt by rain, and the latter by sun:—these followed as predicted. The rebellion which took place in Ireland, in 1798, I foretold in 1795, when the Irish soldiers rebelled in Exeter against the English officers. . . . I foretold the secret thoughts and conversation of people in Exeter, which took place in 1792. "The letter I sent to the Rev. Archdeacon Moore last spring foretold the harvest as it came. I was ordered to put it in my own hand writing, to prevent his reading it before the time was expired! You may marvel how a woman that professed to say she is called of God, to write such deep prophecies, and have the mysteries of the Bible explained to her, should write such a hand as no one can read. But this must be to fulfil the Bible. Every vision John saw in heaven must take place on earth; and here is the sealed book that no one can read.' The following is a communication given to Joanna in 1794 concerning the vials in the Revelation, and taken from the sealed writings opened January 12th, 1803.
"No man by learning can these truths find out:
peace in England after this shall be, Because the remnart will believe in me.'
"In p. 37, we find the following prophecy,
“I write to you, Sir, as a friend, to judge for yourself. If unbelief do still abound, the next harvest will be worse than the last, and your repentance may come too late. I am ready to answer for myself in all I have said or done. I have written no cunningly devised fable to any man, but written to make known unto all men the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; and am, with the greatest respect, your humble servant,
JOANNA SOUTHCOTT. “Now, I must beg my readers to observe,' says the prophetess, this letter was written the 2d of March, in the year 1800; and the harvest that followed was worse, as foretold, than the former of 1799. —With regard to her last and most extraordinary attempt at delusion, more than one medical man who examined her, attested her pregnancy; and a numerous body of partizans were the dupes of her imposture to the moment of her death. Dr. Reece gives the following account of a visit, at which he was present a few weeks before she died. Five or six of her friends, who were waiting in the next room, were admitted into her bed-chamber. She desired them,' says our author, “to be seated round her bed; when spending a few minutes in adjusting the bed clothes with seeming attention, and placing before her a white handkerchief, she thus addressed them, as nearly as I can recollect, in the following words.- My friends, some of you have known me nearly twenty-five years, and all of you not less than twenty. When you have heard me speak of prophecies, you have sometimes heard me say that I doubted my inspiration. But at the same time you would never let me despair. When I have been alone it has often appeared delusion; but, when the communication was made to me, I did not in the least doubt. Feeling, as I now do feel, that my dissolution is drawing near, and that a day or two may terminate my life, it all appears delusion.'--She was by this exertion quite exhausted, and wept bitterly. On reviving, in a little time, she observed that it was very extraordinary, that after spending all her life in investi
gating the Bible, it should please the Lord to inflict that heary burden on her. She concluded this discourse, by requesting that every thing on this occasion might be conducted with decency. She then wept; and all her followers present seemed deeply affected, and some of them shed tears. 'Mother,' said one (I believe Mr. Howe), 'we will commit your instructions to paper; and rest assured they shall be conscientiously followed.' They were accordingly written down with much solemnity, and signed by herself, with her hand placed on the Bible in the bed This being finished, Mr. Howe again observed to her, 'Mother, your feelings are hu
We know that you are a favored woman of God, and that you will produce the promised child; and whatever you may say to the contrary will not diminish our faith.”
This assurance revived her, and the scene of crying was changed with her to laughter. She died 27th December 1814; four days after which event her body was inspected, but no child was found. The faith of her disciples, however, was not extinguished by her death. The dead body was kept warm for four days, according, as was said, to her own directions, in hopes of a revival, and the birth of the promised child; and it was not consigned to the dissector, till putrefaction had rendered it extremely offensive. Hopes are even yet, we understand, cherished, that, although she has been withdrawn for a season, she will one day return with her son, and fulfil the promises, whose accomplishment has been delayed on account of the wickedness of the world. In fact, as some of her disciples, and particularly Mr. Sharp, have suggested, that she is the woman described at the beginning of the twelfth chapter of the Revelation; it is evident from the perusal of that chapter, that both the mother and the child were to disappear from the earth, but to return at the end of a period not easy to be defined. Mr. Sharp publicly asserted his conviction that she was only gone to heaven for a season, in order to legitimate the embryo child. In this persuasion he, as well as many others, lived and died, nor is the sect yet extinct; on the contrary, within