This section is from the book "Faith - Healing. Christian Science And Kindred Phenomena", by James Monroe Buckley. Also available from Amazon: Faith-Healing, Christian Science and Kindred Phenomena.
Impressions are closely allied to presentiments, and many persons, both devout and undevout, yield to their influence. Baseball pitchers, prize-fighters, soldiers, and politicians are subject to them. The celebrated Dr. Nathan Bangs, a minister of great influence and strength of character, early in life was accustomed to believe in and follow impressions. The manner in which he was delivered from the fear of them is described in Stevens's "Life of Bangs," page 101:
On a certain occasion, when the weather was very cold and the snow deep, the mind of Dr. Bangs became more than usually impressed with the value of souls. As he rode along he came opposite a dwelling which stood quite a distance back in the held, and instantly he became impressed with the thought that he ought to go and talk and pray with that family. Ho was in a feeble condition, no path had been made to tho house, and he knew it would bo dangerous for him to wade that distance and expose himself to the cold. So he resisted tho impression and passed on; but no sooner had he passed the house than it became doubly strong, and " ho finally turned back, tied his horse to the fence, waded through the snow to the house, and not a soul was there ! "
His friend and successor in Canada, Dr. Fitch Reed, who communicated these facts to Dr. Stevens, says, " From that time he resolved never to confide in mere impressions".
A ludicrous instance of an impression connected with a supposed answer to prayer was notorious in highest circles of American society, and culminating in Europe, has startled the world within a few years the city of New York forty years ago. A gentleman of excellent character prayed that he might receive an impression from God when he should come into the presence of the person who would make him a suitable wife. He received assurance that his prayer would be answered, and tried to maintain a devout and expectant frame of mind. The months passed without a sign, but one day, while walking up Broadway, he saw a lady walking before him whose motions were exceedingly graceful, and instantly came the impression, " This is the woman whom God hath chosen for thee." For a long time he followed her in silence. At last the object of his anxiety turned into a side street. He turned also, and at that moment she dropped her handkerchief. He hastened forward to take it from the ground, and as she lifted her veil to thank him he perceived that she was of African descent ! In an instant his faith in impressions was forever destroyed, and it was his custom in speaking of the occurrence to say that he had learned that prayer could not be substituted for common sense.
The number of impressions of which nothing comes is so much greater than those which appear to be fulfilled as to satisfy rational minds that they are not to be relied upon; and this requires on moral grounds the further conclusion that they are not of supernatural origin.
"Imperative conceptions," known among the insane, often have parallels among the sane. It is common for lunatics who have committed some atrocious act to assign, and often with absolute truth, that " it had to be done," or that they " had to do it." Certain crimes committed by the sane under a powerful influence have also been excused upon that ground, when a just view would show that, though strongly impelled, they were not incapable of resisting the impression, and were therefore responsible. I venture to affirm that there are few who have not at some time in their lives felt almost irresistibly drawn to perform an act, make a decision, or utter a word which they knew was not expedient; but the conviction that "it had to be done" predominated, and in many instances they have yielded. Where the consequences are not serious the effects may still be evil, for when the "ego" yields contrary to the judgment its power of resistance is lessened. These imperative impressions, which in the purely insane absolve from guilt, are often seen in their germs in the conduct of children who are dominated by their imaginations and sensibilities.
These are all akin to the state of mind in which presentiments arise.1