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of bright sunshine: shows itself, and needs no other proof but its own evidence : they feel the hand of God moving them within, and the impulses of the Spirit, and cannot be mistaken in what they feel. Thus they support themselves, and are sure that reason hath nothing to do with what they see and feel in themselves: what they have a sensible experience of, admits no doubt, needs no probation.. Would he not be ridiculous, who should require to have it proved to him, that the light shines, and that he sees it? It is its own proof and can have no other. When the Spirit brings light into our minds, it dispels darkness. We see it as we do that of the sun at noon, and need not the twilight of reason to show it us. This light from heaven is strong, clear, and pure, and carries its own demonstration with it; and we may as rationally take a glow-worm to assist us to discover the sun, as to examine the celestial ray by our dim candle reason.” “ This,” he goes on to observe, “this is the way of talking of these men: they are sure, because they are sure : and their persuasions are right, only because they are strong in them. For, when what they say is stripped of the metaphor of seeing and feeling, this is all it amounts to: and yet these similes so impose on them, that they serve them for certainty in themselves, and demonstration to others.”
This we believe to be the true statement of the matter, and the evidence adduced in support of a supernatural illumination of the mind resolves itself, when examined and divested of figurative language, into this, namely, - a strong persuasion of the fact. But what proof is there that the persons thus affected are not self-deceived in this ? What test or criterion have they, by which they can distinguish these alleged extraordinary operations of the Spirit from the movements of an excited mind? If they have no evidence to offer in support of this save the strength of their persuasions, if they speak of a supernatural light which shines by its own inherent lustre, what is this but saying that they believe because they believe ? If they yield their belief to an impression or impulse because it comes from God, the reason, undoubtedly, is a good one. But the question is, How do they know it came from God? If the answer be, as in fact it is, that they are strongly persuaded of it, they know it to be so; the question recurs, Why are they persuaded of it? how do they know it to be so? If there be no proof of this, as there, confessedly, is not, besides the impression or impulse itself; if there be no rational grounds for this belief, as there is not, for, if there were, its whole nature would be changed ; then the statement of their belief is reduced to this, - they believe the impulse to be from God. because it is divine, and they believe it to be divine because it comes from God.
But further, the argument in support of the miraculous influences of the Spirit, not only, is thus found, when strictly examined, to revolve in a vicious circle, and is, in consequence, unavailing and nugatory; but is wanting in that very species of evidence on which it is professedly grounded. We ask particular attention to this point. This evidence in support of the supernatural influence in question, is, we are told, the highest possible. It is no less than the evidence of Consciousness. The impression, or state of mind, bears with it, it is said, the marks of its divine origin, and of this they are conscious. But of what are they conscious ? Of nothing, certainly, but the impression or state of mind itself. That it has these marks of divinity is merely a matter of inference. It is strong, it is peculiar, and hence they infer that it is divine. The whole evidence then of consciousness, which is so confidently relied upon, when closely analyzed, announts to this, and nothing more; - all that is made known by consciousness is the existence of the impression ; but that this impression is supernatural, which is the very point to be proved, is only an inference which the mind itself makes; and it is one, moreover, which, from the nature of the case, is extremely liable to be mistaken. There is then no evidence of consciousness whatsoever.
But, not only is the doctrine unsustained by any sufficient evidence, and not only is it wanting in that particular species of evidence, on which it professedly rests, but this is the fact in respect to a subject, that requires proof of a high and extraordinary kind. This will appear from considering that the influences of the Spirit under remark are of a miraculous or supernatural character. Now the only adequate proof of such a miraculous influence, is miraculous agency. Nothing short of this is sufficient evidence of the fact. Nothing less than this can substantiate it. No one, without this evidence, is authorized to believe that he is himself the subject of such an influence; and no one, without this evidence, has any claims to be considered by others as being the subject of such
an influence. Ordinary events are established by the ordinary processes of proof. Those which are extraordinary require to be authenticated by this kind of proof in a higher degree. But those which are asserted to be miraculous, that is, above or beyond the common laws of nature, require to be established by those proofs which are miraculous, that is, those which are above or beyond the common laws of nature. We repeat then, though it is almost a self-evident proposition, that the only sufficient proof of a miraculous influence exerted on any mind, is a miraculous agency, or exhibition of this influence. These principles are recognised in all the recorded acts of God's interposition in human affairs. When He gave the light of prophecy and divine revelations to holy men of old, He gave, with them, those visible signs of His peculiar power and presence, which were a decisive confirmation of them to their own minds, and to the minds of others. It was something beside a strong persuasion, in the mind of Moses, which urged him to go to the relief of his brethren in Egypt; and he did not venture to trust to any internal light on this subject, until it was authenticated, as the will of God, by the miraculous signs of the bush burning without being consumed, and by the conversion of the rod into a serpent. Gideon's fleece is another instance of the same fact. And our Saviour himself claimed not to be the Messiah upon the assurance of any inward light, invisible to others and inexplicable to himself, but upon the grounds of the miracles which he performed, and these were open, overt facts, facts addressed to all the senses. “ If," said he, “I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin.” And again, “ The same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me." And in like manner - "Though ye believe not me, believe the works ; that ye may
know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him.” And when the faithless Thomas would not give credence to the identity of Jesus, after his resurrection, even on the evidence of sight, but demanded the confirmation of touch also, our Lord mildly, indeed, reproved him for his incredulity, but, nevertheless, afforded to him the additional proof that he required. And now, to apply these remarks to the subject before us, if any claim to be the recipients of a supernatural illumination, we may not only properly withhold our belief of this fact, but we are imperatively obliged to reject any such claim, until they will give sufficient proof that it is
VOL. XVIII. - · N. S. VOL. XIII. NO. I.
well founded. And as the only sufficient evidence of this is supernatural power, and as they will not, it is to be presumed, require of us to believe in their peculiar light on less decisive proof than the Prophets, our Saviour, and his Apostles gave, we may wait, before we admit their high pretension in this respect, until they show its reality, by curing the sick with a word, raising the dead, ruling the elements, or by doing some other
works,” which none can do “unless the Father hath sent him.” We solemnly maintain that we are at liberty, nay, that it is our imperious duty, without at all calling their veracity or sincerity in question, to determine for ourselves, whether it be not more probable that they are deceived in their belief of a supernatural influence of the Spirit, than that a belief, which seems to us encumbered with insuperable difficulties, can be true. And we would conjure all serious inquirers on this subject to reflect how hazardous a thing it is to trust to mere internal convictions, which are independent of, and considered superior to, our rational faculties. What criterion have we, in such a case, by which we can distinguish true religion from superstition,
wisdom from folly, truth from error, sense from nonsense ? There is not a religious zealot in Christendom who is more fully conscious, more entirely convinced of his peculiar illumination, than is the poor maniac of the existence and reality of those images which are the creation of his own sick brain. And we cannot perceive why, on the principle maintained, the one has not the same right to insist on the strength of his convictions as the other. We would'here cite an instance in point. Within the circle of our own daily walks, there is an aged female, who sees, that is, in her own belief, sees a celestial messenger or angel from heaven, with whom she converses, and holds delightful, and, to her, edifying communion, and this, too, every successive morning and night. Nothing can exceed the strength of her conviction on this subject. It is clear, full, perfect, and no earthly being can dispossess her of it; whilst in all things else she is perfectly rational. Now if the mere convictions of a person in regard to any fact are to be taken as proof positive of the reality of the alleged fact, without further evidence, then this person is to be believed in regard to the undoubting persuasion of hers, though every one else perceives that it must be an instance of monomania, or partial insanity. And this example, too, may serve to illustrate the application and force
of the argument above stated in reference to the alleged evidence of consciousness. This person is as conscious of the presence and communion of this heavenly visitant, as any individual ever was of a supernatural influence. But of what is she conscious ? Of nothing but certain impressions on her mind, produced, as she believes, by the presence of an external object. That these impressions thus made are to be referred to a divine origin, is an inference of her own; and it is one, which all but herself conclude to be the effect of a mind, so far as this particular circumstance is concerned, diseased and disordered.
Such are the consequences of the disuse and disavowal of our rational faculties in regard to the subject of divine influence, and of believing because we believe. What, in fact, but this very thing in regard to religion generally, has led to all the delusions and excesses of fanaticism and enthusiasm, which have so often and so deplorably disgraced the Christian name? “Every conceit,” to quote again the authority of Locke, “that thoroughly warms our fancies, must pass for an inspiration, if there be nothing but the strength of our persuasions, whereby to judge of our persuasions : if reason must not examine their truth by something extrinsical to the persuasions themselves, inspirations and delusions, truth and falsehood, will have the same measure, and will not be possible to be distinguished."* Nor is this all. If mere persuasion, without proof, is a sufficient guide, then the more perfectly reason and common sense are silenced, the more perfect will the persuasion be, and consequently, more unquestioned its guidance, and more certainly divine. Yet further; if the strength of persuasions, in themselves considered merely, be sufficient evidence of their truth, then there is not a folly, or an extravagance, or an absurdity in opinion, of which men have been strongly persuaded, that is not true. And as men have been equally persuaded of the truth of absurdities and extravagances which are directly opposed to each other, these opposite absurdities and extravagances are equally true. Until
, then, some criterion or test is furnished, by which the alleged supernatural influence of the Spirit is to be distinguished from the natural movements of the mind, as it is operated upon by countless motives, known and unknown, and this too, distinct from, and in addition to the strong persuasion of
* Chap. above quoted, § 14.