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John Kelsey

It  is well for every person to be apprized of the fact, that, in all ages and all countries, there are religious enthusiasts, who, having given themselves up to heated imaginations, lose the power of judging according to truth and reason upon this particular subject. They see things by a false vision, and are not only deluded but they often delude others. These persons are monomaniacs—insane upon the subject of religion, though often sane upon all others.

It appears that every person is liable to this species of delusion, if he gives up the reins to his fancy, and ceases to be guided by common sense; and the frequency of such occurrences shows that this liability is by no means remote. In a recent case, a man by the name of Elijah Thayer, a native of Massachusetts, conceived the idea that the present dispensation was speedily to pass away, and that the second coming of Christ was to be realized in his own person.

Believing himself to be commanded by God to announce this event to the great powers of England, Rome, and Jerusalem, he took passage in the steamer Britannia, in September, 1842, and proceeded upon his mission. He was a common laborer, but he possessed a good deal of knowledge, especially of the Bible. He was rational and sagacious upon all subjects except that of his peculiar religious views; and even in maintaining these, he displayed much skill, and was singularly dexterous in the quoting of Scripture.

Soon after his arrival, he proceeded to Windsor, where Queen Victoria was then residing. He made application for an interview with her majesty, saying that he had a most important communication to make to her. Being requested to state the substance of it, he sent her word that Elijah Thayer, the prophet of God, had come, by the command of the Most High, to announce a mighty change, which was speedily to take place throughout the universe. The present system of things was to pass away; crowns, thrones and sceptres were to be trampled in the dust;kings and queens were to be reduced to the level of common mortals; universal equality was to be established among mankind; an era of peace was to begin, and he himself, Elijah Thayer, passing from the prophetic to the kingly state, was to reign in righteousness over the earth as Christ himself.

This message was delivered by Elijah, in his fur cap, and his long-skirted blue coat, with a perfectly sober face, to the queen's servants at Windsor Castle. These received the extraordinary tidings with decorous politeness, promised faithfully to deliver the message, and the prophet, well satisfied, went his way. He now proceeded to London, and visited the several Jewish synagogues, announcing to the high priests his wonderful mission. The last we heard of him, he was preparing to make his way to Rome, in fulfilment of his insane project.

It would be easy to add numerous instances of similar delusion. In 1790, an Englishman, by the name of Richard Brothers, announced that he had a mission for the restoration of the Jews and to make Jerusalem the capital of the world. He said that he was commanded to notify the king, the lords and the commons of the same, which he did in a manner so obstreperous, that he was lodged in Newgate prison.

Roger North gives us an account of one John Kelsey, a Quaker, who, about the year 1680, "went on a sort of pilgrimage to Constantinople, for converting the Great Turk; and the first scene of his action was standing up in a corner of the street, and preaching to the people. They stared at him, and concluding him to be out of his wits, he was taken and carried to the madhouse; there he lay six months. At last, some of the keepers heard him speak the word English, and told of it so that it came to the ambassador, Lord Winchelsea's ear, that he had a subject in the madhouse.

"His lordship sent and had him at his house. The fellow stood before the ambassador, with a dirty, ragged hat on, and would not put it off, though he was so charged and admonished; thereupon the ambassador ordered him down, and had him drubbed upon the feet, after the Turkish manner. Then he was anything and would do anything, and afterwards did own that that drubbing had a great effect upon his spirit.

"Upon searching him, there was found in his pouch, among a few beans, a letter to the Grand Signior, very long and canting; but the substance was to let him know that he was the scourge in God's hand with which he chastised the wicked Christians; and now, their wickedness was so great, that God, by the spirit, had sent him, to let him know that he must come forthwith to scourge them.

"He was sent for England, but got off by the way, and came up a second time to Constantinople, from whence he was more surely conveyed; and some that knew John, told Sir Dudley North that they had seen him on the Exchange, where he recognised the admirable virtue of Turkish drubbing."