by Al Benson Jr.
The Holy Scriptures warn in many places against God’s elect having anything to do with fortune tellers, astrologers, and those who seek to communicate with the dead. Leviticus 19:31, 20:6, and Deuteronomy 18:11 record some of these warnings. Those who profess a belief in the Holy Scriptures and in the Christian faith are exhorted to avoid these activities as they would the plague. Deuteronomy 18:12 says: “For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord:…” The truth presented in Scripture is that all who seek to deal in these forbidden areas, those who seek to communicate 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 relatives, it’s not dear old Uncle Harry from Hoboken, but is, in reality, something infinitely more demonic.
We hear much today about satanic activity and increased occult incidents, as though this were something that had suddenly sprung up in the last couple decades. In truth, activities in these realms has been going on for thousands of years, else the Lord would not have issued the prohibitions He did in the Old Testament Scriptures. Does anyone remember King Saul and the Witch of Endor?
Even in this country such activities are not new. Many well-known personalities in our own history have been caught up in these forbidden practices. One of the most well-known during the 19th century was author Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of that infamous 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. He struggled with the concept of “free moral agency” and free will, a debate which still continues today, with many sincere people on both sides of the question. Although orthodox in most areas, Rev. Beecher’s struggle in this area was a costly problem for his family. In time just about all of his children departed from his mostly Reformed faith,. some to slide into outright apostasy. Henry Ward Beecher, for all his reputation as a preacher and orator 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 came Harriet Beecher Stowe’s departures into spiritualism. This initially started, according to Milton Rugoff, in his book The Beechers, in 1843, when Harriet visited her brother Henry and his wife. Henry started “mesmerizing” (hypnotizing) Harriet, an experience she 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 Beecher’s wife that she would not even stay in the same room where it occurred. Harriet later consorted with at least two other hypnotists and became intrigued with this 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 away she got, the more bizarre her activities became.
By 1851 she was writing installments of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.. That propaganda piece (and that’s all it was) was so well touted that, within a few years, Abraham Lincoln, when meeting Harriet personally, referred to her as “the little lady who started the big war.” Maybe he thought that was as good a way as any to get him off the hook. Even though Harriet’s work was propaganda, it did rouse strong feelings on both sides.
At this point, I have a question, which I don’t think anyone else has asked up until now.. My question is–if Harriet persisted in her experiments into 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 what influences may have been present when Harriet wrote. Where did some of her ideas as expressed in the book, come from? Were they really hers? Or was there another source? Harriet did write other books, but this was easily the most influential nationally.
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. She 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 into this sort of thing. Even he husband, Calvin Stowe, also had “visions” and said he also often saw his dead first wife. You have to wonder, if Harriet and her family had 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 spiritualism with biblical miracles–another great error on her part.
For all his problems with election vs. free will, old Lyman Beecher would never have countenanced his children’s slide into apostasy. Yet his own theological struggles may well have helped to create the problem.
You may look at all this and say “interesting bit of history, but, so what?” Look at this country’s history from a Christian perspective. Ask yourself, what has apostasy had to do with the decline of America in the last 150 or more 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 took during the middle-to-late 1800s. If these people, and many others we could name, were indeed traveling the road of apostasy, whether they realized it or not, then what kind of influence did they exert on the country as a whole?
Years ago, Rev. Ennio Cugini of the Clayville Church in Foster, Rhode Island, told me that all of America’s problems could, in one form or another, be traced back to the root cause of apostasy (a falling away from biblical faith and truth). At that time I did not fully grasp all that his statement implied.I must say that, at this point in time, I have to agree with him. If our country was begun (from 1620 or shortly before in Virginia), with a Christian foundation. heritage, and history, and people have willingly departed from that, can we honestly expect anything but tribulations and problems? God said “This is the way, walk ye in it.” We have not done so. Do we expect a Sovereign God to bless disobedience? If we do, then we are even dumber than the Communists give us credit for being.
Were this country to return to its biblical, Reformation roots in repentance, seeking God’s forgiveness and direction, we might have a chance. Nothing less will suffice. In the Bible we have the truth about our lost condition, so let us begin to give heed to that truth, that whatever actions we take may be undertaken with the undergirding power and authority of God’s Word.