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of an ardent temper, and a glowing imagination; nor did our Saviour himself express his sentiments in the cold language of the Aristotelian school, but with emphasis and pathos.
They who rail at enthusiasm, in general terms, and without making a due distinction between the scriptural and the false kind, consist either of those who laudably endeavour to discredit the pretensions of the hypocrite, and the weak brother; or of those who, from their speculative habits, their cold tempers, or irreligious lives, labour to discountenance all pretensions to an excellence and purity, which they never felt, and to which they could not rise.
Whoever believes what the scriptures indisputably affirm, that the body is the TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, and that he actually resides in it, when it is purified sufficiently for his reception, is so far an ENTHUSIAST: but let him glory in the appellation, for he is such an one as every Christian, who thinks and feels in conformity to the gospel he professes, must be of necessity. If he denies the agency of the Spirit of God on the soul of man, he denies the most important doctrine of revelation, and must be a stranger to its finest effects on the human bosom.
But since such is the case, let those who very laudably write against enthusiasm of the false kind, take care not to confound truth with falsehood; and not to
There is an old saying, "Give a dog an ill name, and they'll hang him." Thus also, give the doctrine of grace, though plainly EVANGELICAL, the name of ENTHUSIASM OF METHOD ISM, and a very great part of mankind will immediately explode it, without the slightest examination.
The name of methodists has been given to all the clergy, who preach or profess the doctrines of the reformation, as expressed in the articles, homilies, and the liturgy of the church, to which they have solemnly assented, in the presence of God and man.
proceed to such an extreme in refuting the pretensions of hypocrites, fools or knaves, as to infringe on the genuine and sublime doctrine of grace, the glory of the everlasting gospel.
Cautions concerning Enthusiasm.
So many and so melancholy are the effects of
mistaken and excessive enthusiasm, recorded in the annals of mankind, that wise men are justly alarmed at every appearance of it, and little inclined to give it indulgence.
Whatever there has been of savage cruelty, whatever of public violence, and tumult, and confusion, the utmost extremes of all these evils, in all their consequences, have been equalled by the frantic extravagance of false enthusiasm. It has exhibited, in some tempers, all the symptoms of a malignant disease, and terminated, at last, in real and most deplorable insanity.
If then it be wisdom to obviate the approaches of distemper, those men have evinced themselves wise, who have laboured to discourage, by all the arts of ridicule and argument, the earliest tendencies among the people to religious phrenzy. There are innocent follies, and there is a madness, which is only the object of compassion; but the folly and madness of the bigot are detestable, because they are destructive as a pestilence. Against such an enemy to human happiness, philosophy has urged her best reason, justice has unsheathed her sword, and the stage, to complete the triumph, has played all the batteries of derision.
But argumentation, coercive force, and even ridicule, have been found ineffectual. All these are classed, by the bigot, under the term persecution, and persecution, like a current of air, adds violence to fire. The gentler, the kinder, the more Christian mode of expostulation and rational concession, wherever concession can be made, may, like a balsamic vulnerary, heal the sore which opposition would cause to rankle.
I therefore do not deny the justice of the enthusiast's pretensions, who professes himself actuated by a belief that the Holy Spirit condescends to assist him in virtuous endeavours, by a sacred influence from Heaven. But I caution him against entertaining, for a moment, the presumptuous idea, that the same Spirit which assists him, does not, with equal readiness and efficacy, assist his pious neighbour also, and all sincere believers, throughout Christendom, however distinguished by sect, church, or persuasion.
I urge him to try his Spirit by the infallible touchstone of scripture. Is it pure, is it peaceable, is it gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy*? If it should be deficient in any of these amiable qualities, let him be cautious of indulging it, lest the Spirit should be of a diabolical, and not of a heavenly nature.
And in what manner is he to form a judgment of himself, since the heart is deceitful; and to know oneself is the most difficult of sciences? If his high pretensions are accompanied with a bad life; if he be disposed to contend with rancour and violence in support of his pretensions; if he be disposed to involve all who think differently from him in perdition; if he decry good works; and if, with every appearance of sanctity, and many external acts of piety and benevolence, he reserves to him
James, iii. 17.
self some secret and favourite vice, he may rest assured, that the Spirit which actuates him is not from above.
If he be inclined to neglect, despise, and revile decent and useful ordinances, such as are countenanced by scripture, and have a direct tendency to preserve peace, benevolence, and piety; if he prefers himself to all regular and learned ministers, whether in the establishment or out of it, and preaches to ignorant and deluded multitudes in the fields, with the air and voice of phrenzy, he may have just reason to fear, though he should have ten thousand in his train, that he has carried his pretensions to the Spirit beyond that wisdom, moderation, and love of order, which the author of our religion taught, both by precept and example.
If, in his writings, he applies the scriptural language to himself, and assumes the authority of a primitive apostle; if, at the same time, he expresses his ideas in such a manner as to excite the laughter and contempt of men of sense and approved goodness, he may infer that his spiritual pride has hurried him to the verge of insanity; and, as he values his health and happiness, should exert himself to remove the febrile symptoms, which are at once contagious and fatal.
When mechanics, of confined education, and not remarkable for natural discernment, or peculiar virtue and goodness, think themselves better able to instruct the people, than a numerous class of their fellow-citizens, who have been separated, from their youth, for sacred offices, instructed in learning of various kinds, versed in the original languages of scripture; the very idea implies so great a degree of pride and self-conceit that it cannot come from the gentle, unassuming spirit of Him who was himself meek and lowly, and who where every taught his disciples the lesson of humility.
If such persons urge, in defence of their extravagant behaviour, their dereliction of their trades and daily
labours, and their assumption of the priest's office, a particular CALL, from Heaven itself, louder than reaches the ears of others, let them before they believe themselves, or persuade others, produce, as a credential of their commission, a miracle. If they find themselves utterly unable to do this, let them return to the workshop and warehouse, renounce the deceitful spirit, and evince their attainment of the true, by humilitý, charity, modesty, and obedience to lawful superiors; by a study to be quiet, and an attention to their own business.
From such practices, and such persons as I have alluded to, has arisen much of the disgrace which has fallen on true and laudable enthusiasm, or that wisdom which is infused into the pure, gentle, and charitable heart from above. False enthusiasm should be discouraged, that true religion may grow and flourish; as the weed should be plucked up, to give room for the wholesome plant to strike root, and expand itself in foliage and blossoms, and produce good fruit in abundance.
Of being RIGHTEOUS overmuch.
It seems to be very doubtful, whether the scrip
tural phrase of being righteous overmuch, signifies that sort of excess which methodists and fanatics are apt to indulge. I am rather induced to believe, that it means an extreme rigour in exacting from others an unerring rectitude. "Be not righteous overmuch; why shouldst "thou destroy thyself?"* That is, "Establish not, by "thy severity, a rule so strict as must, if put in force
* Eccles. vii. 16.