Saturday, September 03, 2005

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE AND SPIRITUALISM

by Al Benson Jr.

The Holy Scriptures warn in many places against the Lord's people having anything to do with fortune tellers, astrologers, and those who seek to communicate with the dead. Leviticus 19:31, 20:16, and Deuteronomy 18:11 record some of these warnings. People that profess a belief in the Bible and the Christian faith are warned to avoid these activities as they would the plague. Deuteronomy 18:12 states: "For all that do these things are an abomination to the Lord:..." The truth presented in Scripture is that all who seek to deal in these forbidden areas, all who seek to converse with the dead, are, in reality, influenced by what they do come into contact with. And what they come into contact with is not really deceased friends or dear old Uncle Louie, but something infinitely more demonic.

We hear much today about satanic activity and increased occult incidents, as if those were something that had, somehow, just sprung up in the last decade or so. In truth, activities in these realms have gone on for thousands of years, else the Lord would not have issued the prohibitions He did in the Old Testament Scriptures.

Even in this country such activities are not new. Many well known personalities in our history have been caught up in these forbidden practices. Aside from the Lincolns, one of the most well-known during the 19th century was Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of that infamous abolitionist propaganda piece "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Harriet, along with her prominent brother, Henry Ward Beecher, were two of the children of Rev. Lyman Beecher, a mostly orthodox Calvinist preacher that did, in some instances, struggle with the biblical doctrine of election. Although orthodox in most areas, Lyman Beecher's departure in this critical area into the "New School" concept of free will was a costly error for his family.

In time, just about all of his children departed from his mostly Calvinist faith, some to slide into outright apostasy. Henry Ward Beecher, for all his vaunted reputation as an orator and preacher of national importance, tossed aside sound biblical doctrines throughout his life as if he were discarding old, used overcoats. Finally, near the end of his days, he was, for all practical purposes, a Unitarian in spirit if not in name.

And then there was Harriet Beecher Stowe's departures into spiritualism. This initually started, according to Milton Rugoff, in his book "The Beechers" in 1843, when Harriet visited her brother, Henry and his wife. Henry started "mesmerizing" (hypnotising) Harriet, an experience that is described on page 267 of Rugoff's book. According to Rugoff, Harriet was convinced that she "had been brought to the verge of the spirit land." This particular session so frightened Henry's wife that she would not even stay in the same room where it occurred. It must have been a real beaut! Harriet later consorted with at least two other hypnotists and became intrigued with the concept as a way of communication with the spirit world--something she should have had nothing to do with according to biblical prohibitions. She, like brother Henry, had departed from her father's faith, and the further she got away the more bizarre her activities became.

By 1851 she was writing installments of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." That propaganda piece was so well touted that, within a few years, Abraham Lincoln, when meeting Harriet personally, referred to her as "the little lady that started the big war."

At this point I feel I should pose a question. If Harriet persisted in her experiments in the spirit world (and we know she was heavily into this in later years) then, to just what extent did this kind of activity influence what she wrote in "Uncle Tom's Cabin"? I believe it is worth raising the question as to just what influences may have been present when Harriet wrote. Where did some of the ideas she expressed come from? Were they really hers? Or was there some other source? Has she opened herself up to become some sort of "transmission belt" for something in the spirit world? Harriet did write other books, but this one was easily her most influential.

Harriet's son, Henry, (probably named for her brother) drowned in the Connecticut River on July 9, 1857. This threw Harriet into a depression that lasted for months. Note the paralell of a lost son with Mrs. Lincoln. Harriet was concerned about her son's eternal destination, as she was unsure of his relationship with God when he died. To ease her feelings, Harriet resorted to spiritualism in an attempt to contact her dead son. According to Rugoff, other family members were also into this sort of thing. Even Harriet's husband, Calvin Stowe, also had "visions" and said he often saw his dead first wife.

Had Harriet and her family not abandoned sound biblical teaching they probably would not have gotten involved in all this to begin with. In an article written for a newspaper after her son's death, Harriet sought to connect spirtualism with biblical miracles--another grave error on her part.

For all his problems with election vs. free will, old Lyman Beecher would never have coutenanced his childrens' slide into apostasy, yet, unwittingly, he had helped sow the seeds himself when he embraced "free will" over biblical truth.

You may be tempted to look at all this and say "So what"? If so, try viewing our history from a Christian perspective (something they didn't teach you in school). Ask yourself "What has apostasy had to do with the decline of America in the past 150 years? The biblical answer is "much in every way."

People such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher had a tremendous influence on the direction this country, particularly in the North, took during the middle-to-late 1800s. Ideas do have consequences. If these people and others we could name, were indeed, traveling the road to apostasy, even if they did not realize it, what sort of influence did this trend have on the country, and particularly on the Northern attitudes before and during the War of Northern Aggression?

Years ago, a friend, Pastor Ennio Cugini, of the Clayville Church in Rhode Island, told me that all of America's problems, in one form or another, could be traced back to the root cause of apostasy. At that time, I don't think I fully grasped all that his statement implied. By God's grace, I have learned a little since then. At this point in our history, viewing what has gone on and is now transpiring, I have to agree with Pastor Cugini. He had it all figured out long before most people even thought about it.

If this country was begun, both from Plymouth and Jamestown, with Christian foundations, heritage and history, and people have willingly departed from that, can we honestly expect anything but problems and tribulation? God said "This is the way, walk ye in it." We have not done so. Like those shallow thinkers who should "God bless America" do we expect a sovereign God to bless disobedience? If so, then we are even dumber than the Communists give us credit for being.

If this country were to return to its biblical, Reformation roots in repentance, seeking God's forgiveness, we might have a chance. Nothing less will suffice. The Bible reveals the truth about the human condition apart from Jesus Christ. Let us begin to give heed to that truth, that whatever actions we take might be undertaken with the undergirding power and authority of God's Word. Deo Vindice!

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