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ONE of the most astonishing features of the
present age, is the immense amount of
credulity which exists amongst the people of
countries the most educated, amidst all the
light and knowledge that we boast of over our
ancestors. It matters little that the
prognostications and promises of one pretended
prophet after another drop into nothing; the
very potsherds of their fallacies are picked
up and kept as precious and complete vessels,
sound and without crack or flaw. It matters
nothing that the most complete exposures of
fanatics and impostors are frequently made;
most frequently by themselves. Fresh gudgeons
are ever ready to bite at the barest hook.
The same principle which gives success to
Francis Moore, gentleman, and to Zadkiel, in
Almanacs, sends shoals of believers after any
man who chooses to play the founder of a
new sect. The same weakness of the human
mind which enriches the quack in physic,
gives an easy triumph to the quack in

There is scarcely a country in Europe
which has not, even in modem times, had
a number of religious quack-adventurers to
show; but the singularity is, that their
success is always in proportion to the freedom
of inquiry, and to the abundant means
of hearing and examining the truth. In
Italy, Matheo di Casale, who, in the present
century, gave himself out as the Messiah
and in 1805, managed with much ingenuity
to crucify himself, and to hang himself out of
his chamber window on a cross, in the public
street, attracted no followers. But, in Sweden,
the singular outbreak of what was called the
Preaching Epidemic, in 1842, notwithstanding
the existence of Protestantism, produced
the strangest vagaries amongst the
peasantry of Smoland, and was with difficulty
put down. In Lutheran Germany, the most
marvellous demonstrations of religious
imposture have appeared, and been attended
with incredible success. In J├Âllenbeck,
towards the close of the last century, there
were two shoemaker-families who gave
themselves out as the families who were to
produce the true Messiah ; and they found a
considerable number of disciples, who were by no
means daunted though the promised Shiloh,
like that of our own Johanna Southcott, never
appeared. But the most extraordinary
infatuation was that which the notorious
Rosenfeld contrived to excite and maintain, for
many years, in Prussia, in the very capital
itself, and in the country contiguous to it.
As this is comparatively unknown here, we
may take a brief glance at it, before directing
the reader's attention to certain persons and
things which are flourishing in London and in
the country near it, at the present moment.

In the middle of the eighteenth century
there might have been seen in the Ackermark,
in Priegnitz, and also in the neighbouring
country of Mecklenburg, a wandering man,
who, in dress and appearance, was not much
removed from a beggar. He never, however,
begged, except for a single glass of water,
or for a night's lodging. He appeared to
accept this hospitality chiefly that he might
enter into conversation with those whose
guest he was; and who were, for the most
part, shepherds, whom he met with in the
fields, or day-labourers, or weavers who lived
in remote and solitary places.

In the earlier part of his career he wore a
green gamekeeper's coat; which, being much
worn and torn, gave him more of the beggar's
look. His appearance had something in it
suspicious, and even fearful. His countenance
was pale, and of an earthy hue; his
eyes were set deep in his head, and his whole
body had a loose and flabby appearance.
People, however, were not afraid of him as of
a thief who sought a lodging in order to
disappear in the morning with booty. His
keeper's coat was the relic of a former service
with the Markgraf of Schwedt.

He carried no money and wore a long beard
on his chin, which proclaimed him a prophet.
He would suddenly step into the hut of a
herdsman with a biblical greeting; cast his
eyes towards Heaven as he received an
answer, turn his back, and sigh. The herdsman
would probably not see him again for
a year. But he did not depart in such
haste, where his salutation was received as
he wished. Where he found the right
ground for the seed, tinder for the sparks,
which he wished to shed, he entered into
long conversations on religion. He was
not, however, such a fanatic as to rush
rashly into a revelation of his extraordinary