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understandingasmand by which are centuries, despised
the gall of be he looks in
heard, which had a distinction in it; and by which the irra formation of the things of God were communicated to the understanding. The affectation of superior austerity is one mark of enthusiasm, and by which deceivers imposé upon mankind. The Montanists, in the first centuries, despised the Catholics as a carnal people, because they themselves ostentatiously practised greater mortification, and severity. As to convulsions, roarings, dancings, ravings, and falling senseless to the ground, &c. these were formerly the marks of a demoniac, not of the Spirit of Christ, which is first pure, then peaceable. Enthusiasm has no principle but imagina. tion, and nervous feeling, to which it commits itself: and when there is no rule but fancy, and impulse, every thing a man does is right, and he can think himself in the exaltation of charity, when he is in the gall of bitterness. He rises to a sphere above others, from whence he looks down upon them with disdain, which he calls piety. From a loose, idle, and disorderly life, he is converted without repentance, and commences teacher without knowledge. He despises the necessary labour of study. While forty years were requisite to form an Andrews; an ordinary person, if a gifted enthusiast, shall be far beyond him in a few days.
Enthusiasm has been the root of the greatest evils that have befallen the christain church. From this alone originated the Popish legends of the saints, which have been used as instruments in the hands of evil-minded persons, to in. duce others to reject the belief of the real miracles of Christ, and his apostles. Extraordinary inspirations, and immediate agencies of the Spirit are not to be credited, unless vouchsafed by miracles which God always sent to attest an extraordinary commission, and doctrine--and if they are pretended to come from him and do not, they must come from a spirit of error. Enthusiasts have no principles; they have no will but their own fancy; which is strongest in madmen; and this they mistake for inspiration, and then their madness is at the height:-it is as inconstant as the wind, for they can promise themselves nothing for an hour together. Enthusaism is an art by which we impose upon ourselves, and others. It is said that a man may tell a lie until he comes to believe it himself; a strong enthuiastic habit
may fix a man's thoughts upon a favourite, and beloved oba ject, till it dazzles his understanding, and glares so in his sight, that the worst absurdities will go down, and the highest blasphemy obtain the character of piety, and devotion. It is a fatal mistake of the soul, and generally irrevocable when it falls in love with its own disease. In a calenture* the unhappy patient mistakes an unfathomable ocean for a pleasant field; as an enthusiast mistakes presumption, and blasphemy for holy contemplation, and humility; which, in effect, is mistaking hell itself for heaven. So writes the great Bishop Horn. The causes of enthusiasm being known, the cure is made easy. If enthusiasm arises from ignorance of the scripture, and of its use, and design, let the scripture be studied, as it is in truth, and indeed the word of God; not with an expectation of an immediate physical act, but. with a view of learning divine truth, and, by its evidences, of believing it- of learning the character of God, and his purposes as manifested in, and by Jesus Christ; with a view of learning what has been, what is, and what will be the operations of the Spirit, and power of God; what are the covenant relations of man; what in the first, and what in the second Adam-what his future destiny, and how determined-thus using the word of God as the light by which mental vision is produced upon spiritual subjects, by which those things which are not seen by sense are looked at, and which things alone are eternal, and known only to be so by the will of God who governs them all, being revealed by his Spirit through his word. There is nothing necessarily existent but God. What he wills to be, exists on account of that will, and his power exerted in pursuance of it. What he wills, he does not by necessity, but by choice; and it is by the revelation of that choice to us that we know the future designs of God with respect to us, and our world. The most effectual way of preventing, and curing enthusiasm, is to believe no proposition true but by the evidence which supports it in religion, and never to yield a greater measure of assent than the proof will justify; he who does (as Locke observes) exceed this limit, it is plain receives not the truih
:* A calenture is a burning fever peculiar to sailors.
for truth's sake, but for some other bye-end. For the evidence that any proposition is true, lying only in the proofs a man has of it; whatsoever degree of assent he affords it beyond the degrees of that evidence, it is plain all that surplussage of assurance is owing to some other affection, and not to the love of truth; it being as impossible that the love of truth should make me assent to any proposition for the sake of that evidence which it has not that it is true, as that I would love it as truth because it is false. A further, and an essential mean of curing enthusiasm, and promoting re. ligion, is the study of one's own mind, by which the passions, and imaginations; the feelings, and affections, &c. will be distinguished from the immediate operations of the Spirit, and they will not be further regarded than as effects flowing from mental exercises upon religious subjects; and, when thus received, they never can be so conceived of, named, and fostered, as to issue in not only disorder, but frantic madness, and bitter persecution. If they are by mis.. apprehension, called the immediate operations of the Spirit, they are at once exalted into the divinity, and he who would correct the errors arising out of this misnomer by correcting this misuse of terms, is charged with the sin against the Holy Ghost, or some other dreadful impiety. It is very rare, that persons thus labouring under a delusion as to the proper nature, and character of their feelings, which they improperly attribute to the immediate operations of the Spirit, are not greatly defective in their views of the depravity of human nature, and the exceeding sinfulness of sin. They rarely ever manifest that tender concern, and christian solicitude for the salvation of their poor fellow creatures, unless towards those who enlist under their banner, or profess a devotedness to their singular ideas, and notions. They scarcely ever receive a brother weak in the faith, but to doubtful disputation; unless he has the virtue of passive obedience, and a blind acquiescence. In short, instead of manifesting the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, with the crucifixion of the fleshly lusts; they manifest too evidently the works of the flesh, such as hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strife, &c.; disputing about
their own peculiar explanations of scriptures, rather than gos ing on to perfection in the unity of the Spirit, and the bonds of peace, working out their salvation with fear, and trembling.
I cannot better conclude this Chapter than with an extract from the Spectator, vol. 3. pp. 121. 124.
“A state of temperance, sobriety, and justice, without devotion, is á cold, lifeless, insipid condition of virtue; and is rather to be styled philosophy than religion. Devotion opens the mind to great conceptions, and fills it with more sublime ideas, than any that are to be met with in the most exalted science; and at the same time warms, and agitates the soul more than sensual pleasure.
“There is not a more melancholy object, than a man who has his head turned with religious enthusiasm. A person that is crazed, though with pride or malice, is a sight very mortifying to human nature; but when the distemper arises from any indiscreet fervours of devotion, or too intense an application of the mind to its mistaken duties, it deserves our compassion in a more particular manner. We may however learn this lesson from it, that since devotion itself (which one would be apt to think could not be too warm) may disorder the mind, unless its heats are tempered with caution and prudence, we should be particularly careful to keep our reason as cool as possible, and to guard ourselves in all parts of life against the influence of passion, imagination, and constitution.. - "Devotion, when it does not lie under the check of reason, is very apt to degenerate into enthusiasm. When the mind finds herself very much inflamed with her devotions, she is too much inclined to think they are not of her own kindling, but blown up by something divine within her. If she indulges this thought too far, and humors the growing passion, she at last Alings herseslf into imaginary raptures, and ecstasies.
"Nothing is so glorious in the eyes of mankind, and ornamental to human nature, setting aside the infinite advantages which arise from it, as a strong, steady, masculine pie. ty; but enthusiasm and superstition are that weakness of human reason, that expose us to the scorn and derision of infidels, and sink us even below the beasts that perish,”
What I design in this Chapter, is more to shew the absurdity, and mischief of theorising upon the secret things of God, in respect to his decrees, than to exhibit a theory of my own. The first Chapter, and, indeed, I might say all the succeeding ones, prove an absolute necessity for a revelation, in order to know the existence of God. The human mind is under at least as strong a necessity for an explicit revelation of the will of God, in order to learn his future purposes, as it is to learn that he is.
In every instance of human investigation into infinite, and unsearchable subjects, in which we cannot have divine revelation to aid, and direct our researches, and to lead our minds by the plain, and positive declarations of God, all our speculations must be involved in a labyrinth of difficul. ties, and error. In contemplating the essential nature, and operations of beings infinitely removed from us, and in exploring the wonders of a state wisely concealed from the knowledge of mortals, we naturally run into the most outrageous violation of truth, and probability. We apply the measure of time, and the proportions of forn to that which is in its own nature eternal, and immaterial; and we allot the senses, and passions of men to beings who cannot possibly have occasion for them. It is, indeed, the inevitable mistake of the human mind, to carry the imperfections which cleave to humanity into the idea it forms of the divinity. We are overwhelmed amidst the immensity of our conceptions, and persisting to affix finite ideas to infinite objects, at the same time heedless that eternity cannot be partitioned out into intervals, we assign, for a day of the Almighty, a period of a thousand years, and we think that we