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.In many 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 singer 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 appears 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 must needs be that offences mme: but woe unto that man, by whom the offence cometh. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that hejhould 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 state 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 disminate the true Christian: and thus contributes in various ways to ensnare him into errors dangerous to his foul, and to encreafe the difficulties in the way of his return to the form of found doclrine, the words of truth and soberness. But its pernicious effects on otherSj the mischiefs scattered far and wide by this evil when called good, are incalculable. Enthusiasm disparages genuine piety, arid causes it tcK 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
(«)Matth,xviii. 7. Lute, xvil. 2.
Christianity to the scoffs and taunts of its enemies; and furnishes a specious plea to the children of ibis ivofld, who labour to re* present 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 sincere piety however be honoured, wherever it may be found* But let noE the chaff be valued because of its con* junction 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 sinners: and observe, secondly, that he attributes his sin to ignorance (b). I draw no parallel, no comparison, between enthusiasm and persecution.
(J>) 1 Tim. i. 1 a—16.
Vol. I. B b But But I would fervently exhort you to deducefrom 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 sin; and that there is no offence for which wilful ignorance 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 conduct, is by nature silent and supine. Hence enthusiasm, in proportion to the relative number of its adherents, raises a much louder stir, and attracts far 'more speedy and extensive notice, than lukewarmness. But let the torpid conviction 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,
and spirituality. Punctilious perhaps in the form of godliness, he denies the power thereof His lips draw nigh unto God: bis heart is far from him (c). Outward observances he substitutes for ardent piety; and moral decorum for the fruits of the spirit. To seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; to crucify the flesh "with its affections and lufls; to live not unto ourselves, but unto Christ who died for us; these are precepts which in the hands of the lukewarm religionist evaporate into. prohibitions of the grosser vices: and scarcely seem inconsistent with the toleration of some one of the grosser vices on condition of a decent abstinence from the rest. That we are justified by faith alone, implies in his creed no more than that in order to supply the deficiency of his own righteousness as the price of salvation, some accession must be borrowed from the righteousness of Christ. To be tranformed by the renewing of our minds, to be created anew in Christ Jesus, to be born again of the Spirit; these are phrases which in his estimation import that his heart, by nature substantially good, is yet to receive some improvement from divine grace: that, although the original foundation be in the main sufficiently, solid, some alterations are needful in the superstructure : that the apartments, neces
(c) 2 Tim. iii. 5. Matt. xv. 8.
B b 2 sarily