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 the Christians, has been illustrated in the Classical Journal.
These, the writer observes, were a species of divination practised in the earlier ages of Christianity, and consisted in casually opening the Holy Scriptures, and from the words which first presented themselves deducing the future lot of the inquirer. They were evidently derived from the Sortes Homerica and Sortes Virgilanae of the Pagans, but accommodated to their own circumstances by the Christians.
Complete copies of the Old and New Testaments being rarely met with prior to the invention of printing, the Psalms, the Prophets, or the four Gospels, were the parts of holy writ principally made use of in these consultations, which were sometimes accompanied with various ceremonies, and conducted with great solemnity, especially on public occasions. Thus the emperor Heraclius in the war against the Persians, being at a loss whether to advance or retreat, commanded a public fast for three days, at the end of which he applied to the four Gospels, and opened upon a text which he regarded as an oracular intimation to winter in Albania. Gregory, of Tours, also relates that Meroveus, being desirous of obtaining the kingdom of Chilperic, his father consulted a female fortune-teller, who promised him the possession of royal estates; but to prevent deception and to try the truth of her prognostications, he caused the Psalter, the Book of Kings, and the four Gospels to be laid upon the shrine of St. Martin, and after fasting and solemn prayer, opened upon passages which not only destroyed his former hopes, but seemed to predict the unfortunate events which afterwards befel him.
A French writer, in 506, says, "this abuse was introduced by the superstition of the people, and afterwards gained ground by the ignorance of the bishops." This appears evident from Pithon's Collection of Canons, containing some forms under the title of The Lot of the Apostles. These were found at the end of the Canons of the Apostles in the Abbey of Marmousier. Afterwards, various canons were made in the different councils and synods against this superstition; these continued to be framed in the councils of London under Archbishop Lanfranc in 1075, and Corboyl in 1126.
The founder of the Francisians, it seems, having denied himself the possession of any thing but coats and a cord, and still having doubts whether he might not possess books, first prayed, and then casually opened upon Mark, chapter iv, "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables;" from which he drew the conclusion, that books were not necessary for him.
One Peter of Thoulouse being accused of heresy, and having denied it upon oath, one of those who stood by, in order to judge of 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 our Saviour, "What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?" and from thence concluded that the accused [pg 192] was guilty, and had nothing to do with Christ!
The extraordinary case also of King Charles I. and Lord Falkland, as applicable to divination of this kind, is related. Being together at Oxford, they went one day to see the public library, and were shown, among other books, a Virgil, finely printed and exquisitely bound. Lord Falkland, to divert the king, proposed that he should make a trial of his fortune by the Sortes Virgilanae. The king opening the book, the passage he happened to light upon was part of Dido's imprecation against Aeneas in lib. iv. l. 615. King Charles seeming concerned at the accident, Lord Falkland would likewise try his own fortune, hoping he might fall upon some passage that could have no relation to his case, and thus divert the king's thoughts from any impression the other might have upon him; but the place Lord Falkland stumbled upon was still more suited to his destiny, being the expressions of Evander upon the untimely death of his son Pallas, lib. xi. Lord Falkland fell in the battle of Newbury, in 1644, and Charles was beheaded 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 the Sortes Sanctorum of the Christians. The mode of practising it was by appealing to the first words accidentally heard from any one speaking or reading. The following is an instance from the Talmud:—Rabbi Jochanau and Rabbi Simeon. Ben Lachish, desiring to see the face of R. Samuel, a Babylonish doctor: "Let us follow," said they, "the hearing of Bath Kol." Travelling, therefore, near a school, they heard the voice of a boy: reading these words out of the First Book of Samuel, "And Samuel died." They observed this, and inferred from hence that their friend Samuel was dead, and so they found it. Some of the ancient Christians too, it seems, used to go to church with a purpose of receiving as the will of heaven the words of scripture that were singing at their entrance.
To pay a very great deference in opening upon a place of scripture, as to its affording an assurance of salvation, used to be a very common practice amongst the people called Methodists, but chiefly those of the Calvinistic persuasion; this, it is probable, has declined in proportion with the earnestness of these people in other respects. They had also another opinion, viz. that if the recollection of any particular text of scripture happened to arise in their minds, this was likewise looked upon as a kind of immediate revelation from heaven. This they call being presented or brought home to them!