Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Of the epistles composed by the remaining apostles it is scarcely necessary to add, that they also are free from those. various extravagancies and weaknesses which detect and disgrace the rants of enthusiasm ; for the most cursory perusal will prove that they are much more obviously so than the epistles of St. Paul, bearing equally the marks of sincerity, piety, and benevolence; they are less bold, less complicated, and less obscure; employed almost wholly in detailing and impressing moral duties, as the only sure proofs of fincere faith, and the indispensible conditions of divine acceptance; and in cautioning their readers against false teachers, and perversions of of scripture: we perceive nothing in them which gives even a plausible colour to suspect their authors of fanaticism. But when we come to examine the nature of the duties they inculcate, and the motives which they urge, we find in them the most decisive proofs of a spirit directly contrary to that which fanaticism would inspire; we perceive the genuine dictates of that heaven-taught wisdom, which one of them so beautifully contrasts with the base counterfeit which human fraud and folly would substitute in place of the divine original. “Who is a wise man

(says St. James) and endued with knowledge among “ you ? let him shew out of a good conversation his " works with meekness of wisdom; but if

ye

have “ bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, “ and lie not against the truth. This wisdom de“ fcendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual,

l

devilish;

6c devilish ; for where envying and strife is, there is “ confusion and every evil work; but the wisdom " that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, « gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and “ good fruits, without partiality, and without hypo

crisy, and the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them which make peace.”

But the proof of the apostles' freedom from fanaticism, arising from the nature of their moral doctrines, is too important not to be fully examined; I reserve it therefore for the subject of the following chapter.

CHAP. CH A P T E R VI.

The doctrines of the gospel vindicated from the charge

of enthusiasm.

[ocr errors]

The morality of the gospel could not have been dictated

by the spirit of enthusiasm.

THE first leading pra&ical character of Christianity, which seems to distinguish it totally from the extravagancies of enthusiasm, appears to be this, that it teaches men to judge of the strength and sincerity of their religious principles, and the conformity of these principles to the Divine will, more by their practical tendency and effects, than by the force of internal confidence or devout extacy with which they may be attended.

be attended. That enthusiasts uni. formly, and I might almost say necessarily, judge of their religious improvement and acceptance in a manner the very reverse of this, cannot, I think, be disputed. Enthusiasm, or an ill-grounded belief of a divine inspiration, if it does not always originate in fpiritual pride, must however always contribute to produce it ; since a falfe opinion that the Divinity condescends to enlighten our minds by a peculiar re

velation,

velation, cannot fail to inspire the self-elating confidence, that we are the peculiar favourites of that Divinity; and the effect of such a false confidence can scarcely terminate in meer speculative error alone; it has an obvious, almost an irresistable tendency to fap the foundation of moral principle, by establishing a false criterion of acceptance with God. The enthusiast neglecting to compare his temper and conduct, soberly and humbly, with the divine will, as manifested by the internal admonitions of reason, or the clear and sacred voice of revelation, judges of his acceptance by what he conceives a clearer and surer way, even by the strength of his internal persuasions, and the lustre of that heavenly light which appears, in his disturbed imagination, to penetrate, warm,

and purify his inmost soul. Thus men are taught to seek, and hope, and pray for secret illuminations, and strong confidence ; in comparison of these, moral rectitude and practical piety are sometimes wholly rejected and despised, and frequently undervalued and overlooked, as supplying an uncertain, or at best, a tedious path to fpiritual pre-eminence; hence those vices in which fanatics have sometimes indulged themselves without remorse, or shame, or fear; as if crimes, which would irretrievably condemn the profane, could not fully the purity of the elect: hence their writings are full of encomiums on devout extacies, sudden internal religious raptures, while they seldom exhort to sober, vigilant self-government, and persevering, active virtue; and rarely describe or enforce those

various

various and important duties, which the deversified L änd minute relations of social life demand.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Now the spirit of Christianity is directly the reverse of this. Nothing can more clearly follow from the express declarations of our Lord and his apostles, as well as the general tenor of the New Testament, than the inseparable connection between faith and good works in the Christian scheme. Nothing is more undeniable “ h than that no degree of persua“ fion, desire, expectation, or dependence, will be " accepted of God, without a fixed and prevailing “ resolution of fincere and holy obedience.How express and awful are the declarations of our Redeemer and our Judge on this most important point ; “i not

every one that faith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall “ enter into the kingdom of heaven; but they that “ do the will of my Father, which is in heaven.

Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, “ have we not prophesied in thy name ? and in thy

name have cast out devils ? and in thy name have « done many wonderful works? And then will I

profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me ye that work iniquity.”—Thus also the apos

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

as the body without the spirit, says St. os James, is dead, fo faith without works, is dead also.” -And St. Paul " I follow peace with all men, and

tles"

Doddridge's Lectures, proposition cxxxvii. 4. i Mathew vii. 21. k James ii. 26. | Hebrews, xii. 14

holiness,

« PreviousContinue »