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15. There are many other enthusiasts of this sort. Such, for instance, is the fiery zealot for religion; or, more properly, for the opinions and modes of worship which he dignifies with that name. This man, also, strongly imagines himself to be a believer in Jesus ; yea, that he is a champion for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. Accordingly, all his conduct is formed upon that vain imagination. And allowing his supposition to be just, he would have some tolerable plea for his behaviour; whereas now it is evidently the effect of a distempered brain, as well as of a distempered heart.
16. But the most common of all the enthusiasts of this kind, are those who imagine themselves Christians, and are not. These abound, not only in all parts of our land, but in most parts ofthe habitable earth. That they are not Christians is clear and undeniable, if we believe the Oracles of God. For Christians are holy; these are unholy: Christians love God; these love the world : Christians are humble; these are proud : Christians are gentle; these are passionate: Christians have the mind which was in Christ; these are at the utmost distance from it. Consequently, they are no more Christians, than they are archangels. Yet they imagine themselves so to be; and they can give several reasons for it. For they have been called so ever since they can remember, they were christened many years ago ; they embrace the Christian opinions, vulgarly termed the Christian or Catholic Faith. They use the Christian modes of worship, as their fathers did before them. They live, what is called, a good Christian life, as the rest of their neighbours do. And who shall presume to think or say that these men are not Christians ?-though without one grain of true faith in Christ, or of real, inward holiness ; without ever having tasted the love of God, or been “made partakers of the Holy Ghost!”
17. Ah poor self-deceivers ! Christians ye are not. But you are enthusiasts in a high degree. Physicians, heal yourselves ! But first know your disease : your whole life is enthusiasm as being all suitable to the imagination that you have received that grace of God which you have not. In consequence of this grand mistake, you blunder on, day by day, speaking and acting under a character which does in no wise belong to you. Hence arises that palpable, glaring inconsistency that runs through your whole behaviour ; which is an awkward mixture of real Heathenism and imaginary Christianity. Yet still, as you have so vast a majority on your side, you will always carry it by mere dint of numbers, ' That you are the only men in your
senses, and all are lunatics who are not as you are.' But this alters not the nature of things. In the sight of God, and his holy angels, yea, and all the children of God upon earth, you are mere madmen, mere enthusiasts all ! Are you not? Are you not "walking in a vain shadow," a shadow of religion, a shadow of happiness? Are you not still " disquieting yourselves in vain" with misfortunes as imaginary as your happiness or religion? Do you not fancy yourselves great or good? Very knowing and very wise? How long? Perhaps till death brings you back to your senses, to bewail your folly for ever and ever!
18. A Second sort of Enthusiasm, is that of those who imagine they have such Gifts from God as they have not. Thus some have imagined themselves to be endued with a power of working miracles, of healing the sick by a word or a touch, of restoring sight to the blind, yea, even of raising the dead; a notorious instance of which is still fresh in our own history, Others have undertaken to prophesy, to foretell things to come, and that with the utmost certainty and exactness. But a little time usually convinces these enthusiasts. When plain facts run counter to their predictions, experience performs what reason could not, and sinks them down into their senses.
19. To the same class belong those who, in preaching or prayer, imagine themselves to be so influenced by the Spirit of God, as, in fact, they are not. I am sensible, indeed, that without Him we can do nothing, more especially in our public ministry; that all our preaching is utterly vain, unless it be attended with his power; and all our prayer, unless his Spirit therein help our intirmities. I know, if we do not both preach and pray by the Spirit, it is all but lost labour; seeing the help that is done upon carth He doeth it bimself, who worketh all in all. But this does not affect the case before us. Though there is a rcal influence of the Spirit of God, there is also an imaginary onc: and many there are who mistake the one for the other. Many suppose themselves to be under that influence, when they are not, when it is far from them. And
otbers suppose they are more under that influence than they really
Of this number, I fear, are all they who imagine that God dictates the very words they speak; and that, consequently, it is impossible they should speak any thing amiss, cither as to the matter manner of it. It is well know how many enthusiasts of this sort also have apprared during the present century; some of whom speak in a
far more authoritative manner than either St. Paul or any of the Apostles,
20. The same sort of enthusiasm, though in a lower degree, is frequently found in men of a private character. They may likewise imagine themselves to be influenced or directed by the Spirit, when they are not. I allow, “ If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his ;” and that if ever we either think, speak, or act aright, it is through the assistance of that blessed Spirit. But how many impute things to him, or expect things from him, without any rational or scriptural ground ? Such are they who imagine, they either do or shall receive particular directions from God, not only in points of importance, but in things of no moment; in the most trifling circumstances of life. Whereas in these cases God has given us our own reason for a guide; though never excluding the secret assistance of his Spirit.
21. To this kind of enthusiasm they are peculiarly exposed, who expect to be directed of God, either in spiritual things or in common life, in what is justly called an extraordinary manner: I mean, by visions or dreams, by strong impressions, or sudden impulses on the mind. I do not deny, that God has, of old times, manifested his will in this manner; or, that he can do so now: nay, I believe he does, in some very rare instances. But how frequently do men mistake herein! How are they misled by pride, and a warm imagination, to ascribe such impulses or impressions, dreams or visions, to God, as are utterly unworthy of him! Now this is all pure enthusiasm, all as wide of religion, as it is of truth and soberness.
22. Perhaps some may ask, Oughat we not then to inquire, What is the will of God, in all things ? And ought not His will to be the rule of our practice?' Unquestionably it ought. But how is a sober Christian to make this inquiry? To know what is the will of God ? Not by waiting for supernatural dreams; not by expecting God to reveal it in visions; not by looking for any particular impressions, or sudden impulses on his mind : no; but by consulting the Oracles of God. “To the law and to the testimony!” This is the general method of knowing what is “the holy and acceptable will of God.”
23. But how shall I know what is the will of God, in such and such a particular case? The thing proposed is, in itself, of an indifferent nature, and so left undetermined in Scripture.' I answer, the Scripture itself gives you a general rule, applicable to all particular cases, “The will of God is our sancti
fication.” It is His will that we should be inwardly and outwardly holy; that we should be good, and do good, in every kind, and in the highest degree whereof we are capable. Thus far we tread upon firm ground. This is as clcar as the shining of the sun. In order therefore to know what is the will of God in a particular case, we have only to apply this general rule.
24. Supposc, for instance, it were proposed to a reasonable man, to marry, or to enter into a new business : in order to know whether this is the will of God, being assured, “It is the will of God concerning me, that I should be as boly and do as much good as I can,' he has only to inquire, “In which of these states can I be most holy, and do the most good ?' And this is to be determined, partly by reason), and partly by experience. Experience tells him what advantages he has in his present state, either for being or doing good; and reason is to show, what he certainly or probably will have in the state proposed. By comparing these he is to judge, wbich of the two may most conduce to his being and doing good; and as far as he knows this, so far he is certain what is the will of God.
25. Meantime, the assistance of his Spirit is supposed, during the whole process of the inquiry. Indeed it is not easy to say, in how many ways that assistance is conveyed. He may bring many circumstances to our remembrance ; may place others in a stronger and clearer light; may insensibly open our mind to receive conviction, and fix that conviction upon our heart.
And to a concurrence of many circumstances of this kind, in favour of what is acceptable in his sight, he may superadd such an unutterable peace of mind, and so uncommon a measure of his love, as will leave us no possibility of doubting, that this, even this, is His will concerning us.
26. This is the plain, scriptural, rational way to know what is the will of God in a particular case. But considering how seldom this way is taken, and what a flood of enthusiasm must needs break in on those who endeavour to know the will of God by unscriptural, irrational ways; it were to be wished that the expression itself were far more sparingly used. The using it, as some do, on the most trivial occasions, is a plain breach of the third commandment. It is a gross way of taking the name of God in vain, and betrays great irreverence toward him. Would it not be far better, then, to use other expressions, which are not liable to such objections ? For example: Instead of saying, on any particular occasion,'I
want to know what is the will of God;' would it not be better to say, 'I want to know what will be most for my improvement; and what will make me most useful.' This way of speaking is clear and unexceptionable: It is putting the matter on a plain, scriptural issue, and that without any danger of enthusiasm.
27. A Third very common sort of Enthusiasm,(if it does not coincide with the former,) is that of those who think to attain the End without using the Means, by the immediate power of God. If indeed those means were providentally withheld, they would not fall under this charge. God can, and sometimes does, in cases of this nature, exert his own immediate power. But they who expect this when they have those means, and will not use them, are proper enthusiasts. Such are they who expect to understand the Holy Scriptures, without reading them, and meditating thereon; yea, without using all such helps as are in their power, and may probably conduce to that end. Such are they who designedly speak in the public assembly, without any premeditation. I say designedly; because there may be such circumstances, as, at some times, make it unavoidable. But whoever despises that great means of speaking profitably, is so far an enthusiast.
28. It may be expected that I should mention what some have accounted a Fourth sort of Enthusiasm, namely, the imagining those things to be owing to the Providence of God, which are not owing thereto. But I doubt: I know not what things they are, which are not owing to the Providence of God; in ordering, or, at least, in governing of which, this is not either directly or remotely concerned. I except nothing but sin: and even in the sins of others, I see the Providence of God to me.
I do not say, his general Providence; for this I take to be a sounding word, which means just nothing. And if there be a particular Providence, it must extend to all persons and all things. So our Lord understood it, or he could never have said, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered;" and, “Not a sparrow falleth to the ground, without [the will of] your Father (which is in heaven.”] But if it be so, if God preside universis tanquam singulis, et singulis tanquam universis; over the whole universe as over every single person, and over every single person as over the whole universe; what is it (except only our own sins) which we are not to ascribe to the Providence of God? So that I cannot apprehend there is any room here for the charge of enthusiasm.