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"Faith builds a bridge across the gulph of death,
"To judge the spirits whether they are of God, we must antecedently judge our own spirit whether it be of reason, and sound sense; whether it be fit to judge at all by being sedate, cool, and impartial; free from every biassing passion, every giddy notion, or bigotted opinion. This is the first knowledge, and previous judgment—to understand ourselves, and know what spirit we are of. Afterwards we may judge the spirit of others; consider what their personal merit is, and prove the validity of their testimony by the solidity of their brain, and purity of their heart." These are the sentiments of a piercing genius of the last century. When the mind is taken up in the contemplation of its own feelings, when under religious fervours or transports, arising from mental exercises upon divine subjects, and is taught previously to believe in the immediate operations of the Spirit by physical power, and names the feelings so, they become at once exalted by name, into the character of the Spirit's own immediate, personal operations. The heathen, before the coming of Christ, had their fancied inspirations. It was not less common amongst the Latins than the Greeks. There were persons who were said to have seen some species of divinity, and to have felt the immediate operations which threw them into such transports as overcame their reason. These ecstasies expressed themselves outwardly in quakings, tremblings, tossings of the head, and limbs, agitations, and (as Livy, who lived before the time of Christ, calls them,) fanatical throws, or convulsions. No poet can do any thing great in his own way without some fancied inspiration. Even Lucretius makes use of inspiration when he writes against it. He first raises an apparition in a divine form, to emulate, and conduct him in his very work of degrading every thing that is divine.
Atheism itself is not exempt from enthusiasm; for, as some have remarked, there have been enthusiastic atheists. Our Saviour knew too well the existence of this principle in the human mind, and the sad effects of it, when left to regulate, and determine the truth in the affairs of religion, to place any reliance upon it. So far from that, he often argues both with his disciples, and his adversaries as with reasonable men on the principles of reason. Without this faculty, he well knew they could not be susceptible of either religion, or law; and without its proper exercise they would be as apt to believe error as truth. He argued from prophecy, and the conformity of the event with the prediction. He argued from the testimony of John the Baptist, who was generally acknowledged to be a prophet. He argued from the miracles which he himself performed, as incontrovertible evidence that God almighty operated by him, and sent him. He expostulates with his enemies for not using their reason on the subject: Why, said he, even of yourselves judge ye not what is right? In like manner we are called upon by the Apostles of our Lord to act the part of wise men, and judge impartially of what they say. Those who do so are highly commended for the candour, and prudence they discover in an affair of so great consequence. Acts 17. 11. We are even commanded to be always ready to give an answer to every man that asketh us a reason for our hope. 1 Pet. 3. 15. And earnestly to contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. Jude 3. Without any aid from secret, unintelligible, and incommunicable feelings, and supposed operations, God has given demonstrative evidence, in clear, and distinct propositions, in his word, and its practical connexion with the mind, its powers, and operations, and the external circumstances, and internal condition of the human frame, sufficient to confirm the wavering, to convince the impartial, and dispassionate, to silence the gainsayer, and to render inexcusable the infidel, and atheist. This evidence, it is our duty (and of course we have a capacity) to examine, and to permit our belief to go no further than it justifies. We must prove all things, as we are most expressly commanded by holy writ, if we would ever hope to hold fast that which is good. 1 Thess. 5. 21.
Enthusiasm is the delusion of a mind falsely supposing itself under the immediate inspiration of God. It disqualifies the mind for the use of ordinances, for intellectual, and moral purposes, and refuses to the word of God the instrumental agency of communicating the knowledge of invisible, and spiritual things to it. It denies that the entrance of God's word giveth light; that it giveth understanding to the simple-that it is the mean through which the Spirit of God communicates the things of God.
Enthusiasm is the peculiar engine of satan, by which he does most harm. He first operated upon the imagination of our first parents to sin against God; and since the establishment of the Gospel dispensation, he advances his own kingdom by passing the delusions of imagination for the dictates of the Holy Ghost. He has many ways of tempting man to sin: but, if any please him most, it is when these delusions of imagination, and feelings are taken for the inspirations of the Spirit of God. It is the effect of enthusiasm in the mind to make those delusions the test, and rule of truth-the standard of orthodoxy: then with conscientious sincerity, every man's experience is to be squared by it— like the iron bed of Percustes, it is to be lopped or stretched as the standard requires. Out of this delusion arises an abundant crop of such fruit as is agreeable to the parent stock above described; a multiplicity of denominations springing up, and with the strange fire with which each warms their devotions, they would consume one another. Amongst such, the great test of christianity, which inspiration has established in the scriptures, seems, by common consent, to be regarded as spurious, viz. "by this ye shall know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another. Neither pray I for these (the immediate disciples) alone; but for them also which shall believe on me through their word, that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent If a man say I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar." Enthusiasm having established the rule, the conscience feels very easy, and really sincere in obeying it. It was with an eye to this character of the human mind, that
Christ told his disciples that "the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." This prediction was not only verified in the death of the Apostles, but in the martyrdoms, in many succeeding ages, of the true christians, which were executed in the name of Je-sus Christ.
They who are not made wise by the word of God, and would yet be doing great things in an extraordinary character, are in danger of the evil spirit, who has ever taken advantage of that zeal which is without knowledge, and turns it to his own purposes.
Enthusiasm proceeds from ignorance of the scriptures, as well as their design, and use. The regular way to true piety is by knowledge. There is no real enthusiasm until we are taken off from the word of God, and have assumed some other principle of knowledge.
Not understanding rightly the means of grace, or thinking them below their attention, they claim the grace of God without means, and wait as for the blowing of the wind; and, indeed, should they use the means, they do it with an eye to immediate physical operations; which, being contrary to his will, who hath appointed an inward, and outward religion, accommodated both to the soul, and body of man, it is not strange if they get something else instead of it. Enthusiasm affects great, and extraordinary fervors of devotion, above the measure of other men; and discourages the piety of sober christians, as formal, and lifeless. The proof of its pretensions being not in its fruits, but in its feelings, which are evidence only to the person himself; it refuses to be brought to a trial, and so is above conviction. And, if submitted to the test, there is scarcely any trait of resemblance between it, and the standard rule prescribed by God himself. An enthusiast is not obliged to answer any thing, having an inward testimony that he is right, and all others are wrong; and to question this is to quench the Spirit, and despise prophesying; so it is impossible they should be reclaimed If pressed a little hard upon the subject, they take refuge in the declaration of Christ to Nicodemus, "the wind bloweth where it listeth, and ye hear the sound thereof," &c. But no sound can be described as having been