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fine themselves to the tacit impeachment and subversion of the latter by a studied exaltation of the former.
I propose, under the divine blessing, to elucidate by some instances derived from modern life the guilt here ftigmatised by the mouth of God; and the present and future woes here denounced by the same authority against every offender. The discussion lies at the root of all religion. Give me your diligent attention. And may the Spirit of God bless the good seed, which I may be made the inftrument of sowing in your
I. Among the most prominent illustrations of the present subject we may produce those persons, who represent enthusiasm as religion.
By enthusiasm, as applied with a reference to religion, I understand the subjection of the judgement, in points of religious faith or practice, to the influence of the imagination. The forms under which this influence manifests its predominance may be divers. The power which it exercises over one mind may in degree be greater or less than that which it possesses over another. But where ever, and in whatever shape and measure, it operates: there, and in that shape and meafure, exists enthusiasm.
instances enthusiasm suggests unauthorised ideas of personal communication between the individual and the Deity; of personal inspiration sensibly vouchsafed by the Holy Ghost in mode or measure different from that divine influence on the heart and understanding, which is promised to every Christian. Sometimes it deludes the mind with ideas equally unauthorised of the visible agency of the Spirit of God on others. On some occasions it pronounces with no less decision, and equally without the sanction of the Scriptures, that the miraculous interposition of the finger of God is clearly discernible in a recent and perhaps customary event. And not seldom, it impels pious men to carry their views of a particular doctrine beyond the sober tenor of the Scriptural declarations concerning that doctrine. In this instance, as the opinions of different persons concerning the extent and importance of an individual doctrine may be various, enthusiasm is less easily ascertained than when it
under one of the preceding forms: and in consequence, is frequently imputed by the careless, the ignorant, and the prejudiced, when it, does not exist. It is sufficient however for my present purpose, that under this shape also it is occasionally manifested.
Woe unto the world, said our Lord, because of offences. For it mufi needs be that offences come : but woe unto that man, by whom the offence cometh. It were better for him that a millftone were hanged about his neck, and be caft into the sea, than that be foould offend one of these little ones (a). Enthusiasm entails a woe on the person whom it infects. It darkens his understanding : it enslaves him more and more to the dreams of a heated fancy : it teaches him to judge whether he is in a ftate of salvation rather by internal impulses and reveries than by a comparison of his own dispositions and conduct with the characteristic marks, by which the Scriptures discriminate the true Christian; and thus contributes in various ways to ensnare him into errors dangerous to his soul, and to encrease the difficulties in the way of his return to the form of found doëtrine, the words of truth and foberness. But its pernicious effects on others, the mischiefs scattered far and wide by this evil when called good, are incalculable. Enthusiasm disparages genuine pięty, and causes it to be despised as lukewarm formality. It degrades many doctrines for the immoderate exaltation of one. It disgusts the sober and discourages the timid Christian. It exposes
(a) Matth. xvii. 7. Luke, xvii.
christianity to the scoffs and taunts of its enemies; and furnishes a specious plea to the children of this world, who labour to represent earnestness in religion as hypocrisy, folly, or fanaticism.
It is said, and truly said, that sincere piety is often an inmate in the breast which is the habitation of enthusiasm. It is to be deplored that sincere piety should ever be linked with an associate, by the continued operation of whose deluding influence it has frequently been at last extirpated from the bosom. Let fincere piety however be honoured, wherever it may be found. But let not the chaff be valued because of its conjunction with the wheat. Let not the base alloy be counted as a portion of the precious metal. It is also stated, and occasionally in the shape of an apology, that enthusiasm originates from ignorance, unaccompanied by evil design. The general statement may be grounded in truth. But let every man who urges it in the first place weigh the language of St. Paul, when that apostle describes himself as the chief of finners: and observe, secondly, that he attributes his sin to ignorance (6). I draw no parallel, no comparison, between enthusiasm and persecution.
(6) 1 Tim. 1. 12-16.
But I would fervently exhort you to deduce from the expressions of St. Paul the legitimate and universally applicable conclusion: that ignorance, when you are surrounded with means and opportunities of knowledge, is wilful ; that wilful ignorance is a fin; and that there is no offence for which wilful ige norance can be pleaded in justification.
II. Let us now turn our eyes to the opposite quarter: to men who denominate religion enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is on principle busy and loquacious. Lukewarmness, though capable of being roused to a turbulent defence of forms and of its own conduđ, is by nature filent and supine. Hence enthusiasm, in proportion to the relative number of its adherents, raises a much louder ftir, and attracts far more speedy and extensive notice, than lukewarmness. But let the torpid conviâion of the lukewarm be contrasted with the illusion of the enthusiast: and the former will prove itself not less dangerous, and generally, I fear, more deliberately criminal, than the latter.
The lukewarm Christian, if according to popular language he is to be called by the name of Christian, reduces religion to a ceremonial service, devoid of warmth, animation,