Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of God,' and another to say, of a particular thought, 'this thought is now dictated to me with such a design ;' this thought,' as distinguished from other thoughts ; ' to me,' as distinguished from other persons. — It cannot be wrong to say, 'may not this thought or feeling be excited for an encouragement or discouragement ? but to decide, is enthusiastic. We have no safe way of arriving at such conclusion, in the present state of our knowledge.

Objections may be made, not only on principles of natural, but of revealed religion : not only relating to mere thoughts, but to moral sentiments and resolutions. Are we not told, that our good thoughts and purposes are inspired ? yes, we are to be humble in all things, and give God the glory; and virtue seeming more in our power than any thing else, we are enjoined to ascribe even that to the Supreme Being in some way or other; in some indistinct way, merely with the practical view of making ourselves sober-minded, diligent, thankful, pious. Besides, what is told us only enables us to form a general proposition, that all our virtues ought thus to be ascribed to God; not to say of an action, merely as an action, that it is inspired. Till we know whether an action is good, we do not know whether God is to be thanked for it as inspired ; if we were desirous to form a judgment whether a particular action was inspired, we must first, from principles of morality, endeavour to determine whether it was a good action ; and even then we can only say, as far as it was good, so far we are told to thank God for it, (though in a very indistinct manner) lest we should be proud even of our Virtue. Though an action were called by a good name, it might not be really good:-what so likely to be good as zeal for religion? yet one may have a

zeal

error.

zeal“ not according to knowledgea.”-Nay, we cannot, even taking for granted the goodness of an action, determine how far the declarations of Christianity are to be applied to it ;-you find a treasure; you might conceal it, but you restore it to the owner; thank God that you do so! yet an heathen might have done the same: how far was your good action owing to heathen virtue? how far to Christian inspiration?

In every instance then of enthusiasm, there is an arbitrary conclusion, which we may reckon as an

But, as in the case of superstition, such conclusions seldom, if ever, terminate in speculation; they lead to some action, which is carried on by the enthusiastic feelings.

An Enthusiast is such, not only with respect to his intellects, but also with respect to his feelings, or affections. The ground-work of the enthusiastic passion is presumption : but zeal, and love, and hope enter into the composition: and the compound is powerful; runs into ecstacy and rapture. That this is so, is matter of observation ; why it should be so, deserves to be considered ; that is, why taking for granted that God suggests our sentiments, should generate such a compound affection.

We cannot well be persuaded, that God suggests a particular thought, without imagining, that we have “ known the mind of the Lord” after the manner of Counsellors or distinguished Friends ; this must immediately make us feel presumption ; and we must naturally be zealous to propagate what has been entrusted to us in so flattering a manner : we must love him, by whom we are so graciously distinguished ; and strongly hope for a continual increase of his favour. An affection or sentiment so compounded must easily mix with every species of self-esteem : with pride, vanity, selfapprobation : and, from the mixture, we may conceive its strength : sanguine persuasion of the approbation of God, must needs be a strong sentiment of itself; but, mixed with the others, its strength must be greatly increased. Then, it is chiefly men, whose temperament is naturally sanguine, that are apt to encourage enthusiastic conclusions: and they will be apt to ascribe to God those of their feelings, which are most bold and elevated : whoever reflects on all these things, and considers, that many enthusiasts may sympathize with each other, (though each regards himself as superior to the vulgar) will see, that enthusiastic passion may rise to any degree of fervor.-Not that God is really more likely to excite a strong sentiment than a mild one; but bold enthusiastic men will be apt to think so.

continual

a Rom, x. 2.

• Battle of Dunbar. Wbitfield's Journals. Bishop Gibson's 4th pastoral Letter.

As to the evils of enthusiasm ; that and superstition being only different modes of presuming, that we know the designs of God, are likely to produce some of the same effects, though in different ways.

1. Enthusiasm lessens the happiness of the enthusiast himself. He is tossed by violent passions ; sometimes elevated, sometimes dejected: a stranger to that chearful even serenity, which is the best sort of happiness this world affords".

2. Enthusiasm is unfavourable to Benevolence :not but the enthusiast sometimes loves man, as well as God, but his affection is not pleasing and attractive: he is either affectionate to excess, and so disgusts; or he is very morose. He is also too overbearing, too deficient in candour, for any durable connexion ; all such are maintained by deli

[ocr errors]

cate Bishop Butler,

a

cate respect, and mutual attentions. And, if even his Brother differ from him in Religion, he is ready to treat him as his enemy, because he is the enemy of God; and to consider him as a proper object of persecution.

3. Enthusiasm is an enemy to reason, arts, sciences, much in the same manner with superstition. But it seems still more an enemy to experience, which is really the source of almost all our practical knowledge; and even of morality itself.—I know not whether some things, which have the form of mathematical reasoning, do not owe the conviction they give, partly to being tried.

4. Enthusiasm is an enemy to authority and subordination, the benefits of which are very solid and extensive. The principle of doing things “ right in the sight of Godo,” against the authority of

man, may be very easily misapplied. 5. But it should be made a separate remark, that Enthusiasm prevents a just interpretation of Scripture, and, by occasioning, in different minds, arbitrary conclusions, which cannot coincide, makes dissensions unavoidable, at the same time that it renders men more unfit to engage in them.

Those remedies for enthusiasm are most easy to administer, which keep the understanding clear of error, and these may prevent the passions from taking any wrong turn. They appear from what has been said. We should never rashly assign causes, particularly for what happens in our minds, of which we know but little. We should be aware, that it is one thing to say, 'we cannot think or feel without the help of God, and another to say, 'God suggests this thought or sentiment, with such a particular design. We may allow, that such a thought or sentiment may be intended for such a

purpose,

[ocr errors][merged small]

purpose, but we must never affirm that it is. We must keep in mind, that vehemence is no real mark of the Divinity: above all, that an act, or resolution, is only to be called inspired, as far as it is right : that no man is to say, this action was inspired, therefore it is right; but only, I believe such an action right, and on that supposition I thank God for it.

Something may be done to the sentiments or affections. Humility should be encouraged, in order to obviate presumption; and make our love respectful. Our respect might be increased by dwelling rather on instances of the Power of God, than of his goodness.—And such measures should be taken, not only at the moment when we are most inclined to enthusiasm, but according to some constant regular plan of religious discipline : they would indeed affect, not only the heart, but the head also, and the heart through the medium of the understanding.

It would guard both head and heart, if we studied men and things. The works of the creation would make us admire the Divine Wisdom, and be sensible of our own ignorance, at the same time that it took us from the business of engendering fancies in our own brain. But we should not content ourselves with a mere inactive contemplation of the works of nature; we should study their powers and uses, and measure the quantities of those powers; which is done by mathematics.-It would have the same kind of effect, if we conversed much with men in active life ; men of no theory, guiding themselves wholly by practical maxims.

Lastly, after using these methods by way of preparation, we should read the Scriptures as they were intended to be read; as “the words of truth

and

« AnteriorContinuar »