RELIGIOUS FORTUNE TELLING.
Using the Bible to predict the future.Although fortune telling is forbidden in the Bible, many have fallen under the error of using the Bible to predict the future or to tell fortunes. Biblomancy is a form of divination (fortune telling) which seeks answers to questions by opening the bible at random, the theory being that the passage selected will form a sort of personal revelation.
The following is an interesting article taken from The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Vol. 10, Issue 273, September 15, 1827.
The Sortes Sanctorum, or Sortes Sacrae, of theChristians, has been illustrated in the ClassicalJournal.
These, the writer observes, were a species of divinationpractised in the earlier ages of Christianity, and consisted incasually opening the Holy Scriptures, and from the words whichfirst presented themselves deducing the future lot of the inquirer.They were evidently derived from the Sortes Homerica andSortes Virgilanae of the Pagans, but accommodated to theirown circumstances by the Christians.
Complete copies of the Old and New Testaments being rarely metwith prior to the invention of printing, the Psalms, the Prophets,or the four Gospels, were the parts of holy writ principally madeuse of in these consultations, which were sometimes accompaniedwith various ceremonies, and conducted with great solemnity,especially on public occasions. Thus the emperor Heraclius in thewar against the Persians, being at a loss whether to advance orretreat, commanded a public fast for three days, at the end ofwhich he applied to the four Gospels, and opened upon a text whichhe regarded as an oracular intimation to winter in Albania.Gregory, of Tours, also relates that Meroveus, being desirous ofobtaining the kingdom of Chilperic, his father consulted a femalefortune-teller, who promised him the possession of royal estates;but to prevent deception and to try the truth of herprognostications, he caused the Psalter, the Book of Kings, and thefour Gospels to be laid upon the shrine of St. Martin, and afterfasting and solemn prayer, opened upon passages which not onlydestroyed his former hopes, but seemed to predict the unfortunateevents which afterwards befel him.
A French writer, in 506, says, "this abuse was introduced by thesuperstition of the people, and afterwards gained ground by theignorance of the bishops." This appears evident from Pithon'sCollection of Canons, containing some forms under the title ofThe Lot of the Apostles. These were found at the end of theCanons of the Apostles in the Abbey of Marmousier. Afterwards,various canons were made in the different councils and synodsagainst this superstition; these continued to be framed in thecouncils of London under Archbishop Lanfranc in 1075, and Corboylin 1126.
The founder of the Francisians, it seems, having denied himselfthe possession of any thing but coats and a cord, and still havingdoubts whether he might not possess books, first prayed, and thencasually opened upon Mark, chapter iv, "Unto you it is given toknow the mystery of the kingdom of God; but unto them that arewithout, all these things are done in parables;" from which he drewthe conclusion, that books were not necessary for him.
One Peter of Thoulouse being accused of heresy, and havingdenied it upon oath, one of those who stood by, in order to judgeof the truth of his oath, seized the book upon which he had sworn,and opening it hastily, met with the words of the devil to ourSaviour, "What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?"and from thence concluded that the accused [pg 192] wasguilty, and had nothing to do with Christ!
The extraordinary case also of King Charles I. and LordFalkland, as applicable to divination of this kind, is related.Being together at Oxford, they went one day to see the publiclibrary, and were shown, among other books, a Virgil, finelyprinted and exquisitely bound. Lord Falkland, to divert the king,proposed that he should make a trial of his fortune by theSortes Virgilanae. The king opening the book, the passage hehappened to light upon was part of Dido's imprecation againstAeneas in lib. iv. l. 615. King Charles seeming concerned at theaccident, Lord Falkland would likewise try his own fortune, hopinghe might fall upon some passage that could have no relation to hiscase, and thus divert the king's thoughts from any impression theother might have upon him; but the place Lord Falkland stumbledupon was still more suited to his destiny, being the expressions ofEvander upon the untimely death of his son Pallas, lib. xi. LordFalkland fell in the battle of Newbury, in 1644, and Charles wasbeheaded in 1649.
The kind of divination among the Jews, termed by them Bath Kol,or the daughter of the voice, was not very dissimilar to theSortes Sanctorum of the Christians. The mode of practisingit was by appealing to the first words accidentally heard from anyone speaking or reading. The following is an instance from theTalmud:—Rabbi Jochanau and Rabbi Simeon. Ben Lachish,desiring to see the face of R. Samuel, a Babylonish doctor: "Let usfollow," said they, "the hearing of Bath Kol." Travelling,therefore, near a school, they heard the voice of a boy: readingthese words out of the First Book of Samuel, "And Samuel died."They observed this, and inferred from hence that their friendSamuel was dead, and so they found it. Some of the ancientChristians too, it seems, used to go to church with a purpose ofreceiving as the will of heaven the words of scripture that weresinging at their entrance.
To pay a very great deference in opening upon a place ofscripture, as to its affording an assurance of salvation, used tobe a very common practice amongst the people called Methodists, butchiefly those of the Calvinistic persuasion; this, it is probable,has declined in proportion with the earnestness of these people inother respects. They had also another opinion, viz. that if therecollection of any particular text of scripture happened to arisein their minds, this was likewise looked upon as a kind ofimmediate revelation from heaven. This they call being presented orbrought home to them!