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On the first head the utmost ingenuity of infidelity has scarcely been able to discover any plausible objection. The proofs of fincerity in the lives and writings of the first teachers of the gospel are obvious—I had almost said irresistible. Men who voluntarily abandoned every worldly interest, who deliberately encountered and steadily sustained reproach, persecution, and death, in support of the cause which they espoused-must have been sincere.—This point therefore, the advocates for infidelity have generally found it necessary to admit, and to take refuge under the pretext, that however sincere and well-meaning the apostles and evangelists may have been, they were yet deluded by the violence of religious enthufiafm, which is so frequently found to disturb reason, and to give to mere visions of a heated brain the semblance of reality.--A pretext the more plausible, because in some leading features enthusiasm must bear a strong similarity to genuine inspiration : as the latter pre-supposes sincerity and piety, the former may arise from zeal fincere but ill-directed, from devotion heart-felt but overftrained both assert their claim to attention as derived from God—both are ready to sacrifice every worldly object in the execution of their purposeand therefore by mere worldly minds, both will too often be pronounced equally irrational and extravagant. But the fincere and ingenuous enquirer after religious truth will not adopt an opinion, as in. consistent with true philosophy, as it is subversive of
Christianity; he will not confound the frenzy of fanaticism with the calm and sacred voice of the Spirit of God, but, with me, endeavour to trace the plain marks which distinguish Christianity from enthusiasm, and evince that the apostles and evangelists spoke the words of truth and soberness.
What then is enthusiasm in its true and proper sense ?-Briefly a strong but groundless persuasion of being actuated by divine inspiration, including two effential characters, the first that this opinion has been adopted, by him who believes himfelf inspired, without sufficient evidence b—the second, that if he requires others should also admit the reality of his inspiration, he insists on their doing so, without demanding any proof, or at least on grounds as vain and delusive as those which have satisfied himfelf. Thus blind credulity and dictatorial positiveness form the two leading and effential marks of an enthusiastic mind.
The fame delusion of understanding in which these originate, will also most generally display itself in a variety of subordinate effects, and more or less influ.
the whole conduct of life-It will not less evidently display itself in the writings d of the enthusiast, by a peculiar turn of thought and stile, as
a This character is shewn in this chapter not to belong to the apostles and evangelists. Chap, ii. . Chap. iii.
well as in the morality he inculcates, and the speculative doctrines he propounds.
Let us consider the subject in this natural order, and in the first place examine whether the apostles and evangelists believed without sufficient proof, that their Lord at first, and afterwards themselves, were commissioned and empowered by God to reveal to mankind the gospel scheme.
The great proof on which enthusiasts rely, is the internal perception of “ some supernatural light, “ or some divine impulse, which they affert fhews “ itself too clearly to be mistaken, and needs no “ other proof but its felf-evidence."--Now, though it is almost certain that such a perception may accompany real inspiration, and therefore to affirm that it exists, cannot alone and of necessity be pronounced enthusiastic ; yet when no other proof can be given of a fupernatural direction, than the asserted exiftence of such a perception, we must confess it is very suspicious and unsatisfactory:
Experience proves that men are frequently misled by the warmth of imagination and the strength of passions ; that they are prone to believe readily what they anxiously wish, and that minds long absorbed in religious contemplation are apt to wish that they
f Locke's Essay on the Human Understauding, book 4, chap. xix. on enthusiasm, 8, 9-11.
were fo favoured of God, as to have their opinions and actions under the immediate guidance of heaven, and to be endowed with supernatural powers, as the instruments of guiding others to heaven, that they may thus be distinguished from the human race as the oracles and lights of the world. The belief of our being thus inspired, is so flattering to spiritual pride, so grateful to fpiritual indolence, and affords so blissful a refuge to minds addicted to religious melancholy, that it cannot be wonderful a warm imagination should readily suggest such a belief, and a weak judgment as readily receive it. Since then a persuasion of our being actuated by divine inspiration may fo easily originate in delusion, we must admit that whenever it cannot be vindicated by clear proofs, from the fufpicion of having thus originated, even though it may not be demonstrably false, yet it ought not to be received as infallibly true, by any man who will calmly attend to the dictates of reason.
Here then enthusiasm fails of evidence, since it can produce no proof of inspiration but internal perception; thus, says a great master of reason, whose principles I have hadopted,—“ He that will “ not give himself up to all the extravagancies of “ delusion and error, must bring this guide of “ his light within to the trial.-When God illu“ minates the mind with supernatural light, he does
« not extinguish that which is natural; if he would “ have us afsent to the truth of any proposition, “ he either evidences that truth by the usual methods " of natural reason, or else makes it known to be a " truth which he would have us assent to by his au
thority, and convinces us it is from him, by some “ marks which reason cannot be mistaken in. “iThus, the holy men of old, who had revelations « from God, had something else beside the internal
light of assurance to testify to them that it was from “ God; they had outward signs to convince them 66 of the author of these revelations."
It is not therefore dificult to distinguish a just claim to divine authority from mere enthusiastic delusion; the latter is founded on internal persuasion alone, probably impressed by the visions of a heated ima: gination or the presumption of spiritual pride; it is obscure in its origin and utterly defective in its proof, since it rarely appeals to any external evidence at all, and never to any clear and decisive facts; it claims the submission, but disdains to fatisfy the doubts of reason. The former, on the contrary, establishes itself by adducing decisive proofs of a divine interposition; it relies on miracles, on prophecy, on historical facts, which are supported by the testimony of fense, and bear the strictest investigation, uniting to internal conviction external evidence; it convinces the understanding before it attempts to controul
Locke, ibid. 15.