« PreviousContinue »
The frigid temper of scholastic theology would deny - the reality of every thing which, from its own defect of sensibility, it never yet experienced.
That the divine Spirit, operating on the mind, should cause in it a SERENITY, a tranquility, a comfort, which no words can express, is highly credible; when a thousand inferior agents, or causes, are able to produce emotions of various kinds; gentle or violent, painful or pleasing. But well-meaning divines, endeavouring to explode those extravagant pretensions to feeling, which - have deluded the vulgar, disturbed society, and driven many to madness, have denied the possibility of such SENTIMENTS, and attributed them entirely to the force of fancy, to folly, and to hypocrisy. They deserved praise for their endeavour to prevent evil; but by exceeding the bounds of truth in their censure, they prevented good at the same time. For their doctrines unintentionally taught men to neglect the benign seasons of grace, and to confound the holy assistance of heaven with the mere operations of the human mind. They allow that the scripture plainly speaks of heavenly influence; but they boldly assert, that it can never be distinguished from the ordinary actings of natural sentiment, intellect, passion, and imagination.
The word feelings, in religion, has been treated with such contempt and ridicule, that the truth is in danger of suffering, without a fair examination. Such is the force of words and prepossession. But let the word be changed to the synonymous term, SENTIMENT, and then let any one object, with solid argument, to giving the name of religious sentiment to that pious, virtuous, pure state of mind, which is caused by the influence of the Holy Ghost, in the happy hour when God, in his mercy, showers it down, more abundantly than usual, on the human bosom.
But, on this topic, great caution is required; for men, especially the ignorant and passionate, are prone to attribute their own dreams and emotions to demoniacal or celestial impressions. Such a persuasion leads to spiritual pride*, to a perseverance in error and vice, to cruelty, and to persecution. He who is acquainted with ecclesiastical history, will recollect many dreadful examples of false feelings, and pretended inspiration. The deluded and deluding persons have represented themselves as prophets, new Messiahs, and even as God; and what is more extraordinary, they have persuaded many to believe them, and have conducted a willing multitude to whatever mischief their zealous hearts erroneously conceived.
While, therefore, a conviction that there is indeed a religious SENTIMENT, or a divine and holy feeling, which impresses the heart more forcibly than any argument, induces me to maintain so important a truth; I must, in the most anxious and importunate terms, express my desire that none may teach, and none submit to be taught, a belief, at this period, in EXTRAORDINARY inspiration.
All spiritual pride, all cruelty, all persecution, are, in their natyre, repugnant to the spirit of grace: and though they probably proceed from strong feelings, they are feelings arising from passion, fancy, and actual insanity. Whoever is under their influence, must have recourse to the SPIRIT OF GRACE, that his feelings or sentiments may become all gentle, benevolent, peaceable, and humble. If his extravagancies still continue to carry him to injurious actions and disorderly, behaviour, application
* False religion is always ostentatious. Its object is to be noticed, admired, revered. When men talk of their FEELINGS, there is reason to suspect vanity, hypocrisy, or knavery. It is justly said, NON EST RELIGIO, UBI OMNIA PATENT,
must be made to the physician, or, in cases of extremity, the civil magistrate. .
There can be nothing in the genuine SENTIMENT, or feeling's, occasioned by the spirit of God, which is
not friendly to man, improving to his nature, and co• operating with all that sound philosophy and benignant
laws have ever done to advance the happiness of the human race.
ENTHUSIASM is commonly used and understood in a bad sense; but if its real meaning* be attend, ed to, it may certainly admit of a very fine one. It means a consciousness or persuasion that the Deity is actually present, by an immediate emanation or impulse on the mind of the enthusiast; the reality of which, in certain cases, is the doctrine of the church and of the gospel; a doctrine sufficiently consonant to reason, and not necessarily connected with self-delusion, folly, madness, or fanaticism.
But because many have made pretensions to the privilege of God's immediate presence in their hearts, whose lives and conduct gave reason to suspect that they were not thus favoured, the word enthusiasm, which, in common language, expressed their false pretensions, has fallen into disgrace, and now often implies no more than the idea of a bigot, or a devotee, weakly deluded by the fond visions of a disordered imagination.
But let not enthusiasm of the better kthd, a modest, confidence of being assisted, as the gospel promises, by
the agency of the Holy Spirit, be involved in undeserved disgrace.* We are taught that the Divinity resides in the pure heart. The belief of it is indeed enthusiasm, but it is enthusiasm of the noble, the virtuous, the necessary kind. The ardour which it inspires is laudable. Like that of all other good things, the corruption and abuse of it is productive of great evil; but still it is not itself to be exploded.
There is, indeed, a cold philosophy, which seems to discourage all the warm sentiments of affection, and will hardly allow them in any thing which concerns religion. It aims at reducing theology to a scholastic science, and would willingly descant on the love of God, and the sublimest discoveries of the gospel, in the same frigidity of temper as it would explain the metaphysics of Ari. stotle. But there is a natural and laudable ardour in the mind of man, whenever it contemplates magnifi
*GRATIA IMMEDIATA qualis ab orthodoxis docetur, nibil “ habet commune cum enthusiasnio, sed diversimo:lè ab eo differt.
“ 1. Enthusiasmus novas quærit Revelationes extra verbum ; sed “ GRATIA IMMEDIATA nullas, quia verbum semper comitatur, “ nec aliud agit, quam ut illud menti imprimat.
“ 2. In enthusiasmo, objecta quæ menti imprimuntur non extrin. “ secus adveniunt, sed intus a Spiritu per arcanas inspirationes sugo “ geruntur. Sed bic objectum supponitur semper extrinsecus advenire « et ex verbo peti.
“ 3. Enthusiasmus fit per subitos motus, qui ipsum discursum et a ratiocinationem antevertunt, et sæpe excludunt. Sed Spiritûs ofe. " ratio non excludit, sed secum trahit ratiocinationem et gratum “ voluntatis consensum.
" Deniquè, ne plura discrimina jam persequamur, enthusiasmus " non infert cordis mutationem; et mentem aficit, IMMUTATA u sæpe manente VOLUNTATE; unde in impios etiam cadit, ut in “ Balaamo et aliis visum ; sed OPERATIO GRATIæ necessario in. “ fert cordis mutationem et sanctitatis studium.” TURRETIN.
This author here speaks of enthustasm in its vulgar sensewhich is certainly a DisEASE ; a mental FEVER, attended with delirium.
cent objects; and which is certainly to be expected, when that object is the Lord God omnipotent, and the human soul, the particle of Deity, aspiring at re-union with the Supreme Being, and meditating on immortality.
Is there not an ardour of enthusiasm which admires and produces excellence in the arts of music, painting, and poetry? And shall it be allowed in the humble province of imitative skill, and exploded in contemplating the GREAT ARCHETYPE of all; the source of life, beauty, order, grandeur, and sublimity? Shall I hear a symphony, or behold a picture, a statue, or a fine prospect, with rapture, and at the same time consider God, who made both the object and the sense that perceives it, with the frigid indifference of abstracted philosophy? Shall I meditate on heaven, hell, death, and judgment, with all the coolness with which a lawyer draws a formal instrument, an arithmetician computes a sum, or a logician forms a syllogism in mood and figure? .
Such coolness, on such subjects, arises not from superiority of wisdom, but from pride and vain philosophy, from acquired calosity or natural insensibility of temper. God has bestowed on man a liveliness of fancy, and a warmth of affection, as well as an accuracy and acuteness of reason and intellect; he has be- . stowed a HEART vibrating with the tender chords of love and pity, as well as a brain furnished with fibres adapted to subtle disquisition.
The scriptures afford many examples of a laudable and natural enthusiasm. My heart was hot within me, says David; and the warm poetry of the psalms, the rapturous style of prophecy,, are proofs that those who have been singularly favoured by God, were of tempers which the modern philosophers would call enthusiastical. Their fire was kindled at the altar. St. John was a burning and a shining light. St. Paul was avowedly