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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Christianity And The Superstitious

As I noted in a previous article (What Do Atheism, Education, And Superstition Have In Common?), even atheists can be superstitious. Therefore, it is not surprising to me that from time to time I meet a superstitious Christian. The Bible opposes superstition in every form. Yet, you may come upon Christians who, for various reasons, have adopted an extra-Biblical superstition as part of their daily religious practice.

Ichabod Spencer was called to serve as colleague-pastor of the Congregational Church in Northampton, MA in 1828, the church made famous by Jonathan Edwards. Spencer’s ministry at Northampton from 1828-1832 was remarkably blessed with conversions. In the article below, Spencer shares his concern over the hindrance of superstition to true Christianity:

I was sent for by a woman who was in great distress in respect to her preparation for death. She was fully convinced that she should not live long, though now able to ride out daily, and seldom confined to her bed by her infirmity. She was a member of a neighboring church; but she said, “I have no peace at mind, and no witness that God has given me a new heart.”

I had not been acquainted with her before. She appeared to be an unimaginative, amiable woman, who loved her husband and her children; but she had not a very discriminating mind. Her wealthy, moral, but irreligious parents had done little for her, except to indulge her, and train her in the love of money and the enjoyments it can furnish.

I strove to instruct her in the way of life. I visited her almost every week for long time. She gained little or nothing in hope. There was something strange about her, which I could not understand. Her mind would be drawn off from the very things which I would be most anxious to fasten upon it.

One day she mentioned to me what a “bright witness,” as she called it one of her acquaintances had. She told me what it was. “It was a great light that appeared to her, and filled the room where she was.” The silly girl who told her this silly story some years before, had sometimes included her to attend religious meetings with her, among a class of people more apt to see such visions, and more fond of them than I am; and now, the poor woman’s mind was constantly on the look-out for “great lights.” With this expectation her mind was occupied; it was called off from the truth, and bewildered and confused by this superstition.

Again and again I explained to her the unscriptural nature of all such notions, and taught her that such “great lights,” existed only in the imaginations of people who were very nervous or very silly, or both. I thought I had succeeded in dissipating her superstitious notions, and for some months, during the lapse of which I often saw her, I had hoped that she was led to put faith before fancy, and look to Christ, and not to visions, for comfort and salvation.

But after all this, she sent for me. I went. She brought up the same story of a “great lights”, and asked me, – “Why don’t I see such witness”, “For three reasons,” said I: “first, you are not nervous enough; second, you are not imaginative enough; third you are not quite fool enough.”

Then I went over all the explanations of biblical religion again, and all the arguments to demonstrate the superstitions she had about some external witness, and expel it from her mind. She appeared to be convinced, and for some weeks enjoyed a rational hope in Christ. I had hope for her.

A few days before death she sent for me again. She was in great distress, in despair. She asked me if I thought she should “not have some bright witness before she died.” She died without it.

Superstition is mischievous. It hinders the exercise of faith, where faith exists; it prevents faith where it does not exist. Superstitious people are foolish. The sights they see, the strange sounds they hear, the voices whispering some words or some texts of scripture in their ears, are nothing but fancies, not facts; and if they were facts, they would be no evidence at all that these persons had become the children of God. Biblical evidences of religion are entirely different.

From: A Pastor’s Sketches, (1850)

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