Billeder på siden
[ocr errors]

discourses ; that it appears the apostles were strongly prejudiced against it, and extremely flow to receive, and dull in understanding it, but that their gracious Lord gently combated and gradually dispelled their prejudices, and made way for that more full knowledge of the gospel scheme, which they received by the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; still, however, that part of it which offered most violence to their original prejudices, the admission of the Gentiles to the church of Christ, was not yet fully and universally admitted, but required yet more direct communication and proofs to secure its constant and cordial reception: Now, does not this process look very unlike the chimerical and unconnected delusions of fanaticism? does it not bear the strongest marks of nature and reality?

[merged small][ocr errors]

It should also be remembered, that as we find the most mysterious doctrines of the gospel are intermingled and connected with the facts of the history, and form part of our Lord's parables and discourses, so they are also perpetually interwoven in the epistles of St. Paul, and the other apostles, which, in their general style and structure, are so natural and rational, fo exactly adapted to the character and situation of the persons by whom they were composed, as well as of those to whom they were addressed, as to bear the plainest marks of truth and soberness; and can we believe this of the moral and historical parts of the New Testament, and yet fuppose that the doctrinal parts of the very fame histories and epistles are the effusions of wild fanaticism? surely this were utterly incredible.

parts & 1 Cor. ix. 16.

The language and the temper in which even the most mystrious doctrines of the gospel are conveyed, is also totally different from that which we universally find distinguishes the compositions of enthusiasts. In the instructions of the apostles we find all is moderate though earnest, and though dignified not proud; they betray no marks of their conceiving themselves exalted above all mankind, because they were the only human beings whom the Divinity vouchsafed to enlighten with these mysterious truths. The apostles rather seem to reflect on their situation with felf-abase, ment, and aweful apprehension, as entrusted with the ministry of the word, for the right discharge of which they would be called to answer before the tribunal of their Lord. This is the idea constantly predominant in their minds ;-“6 Though I preach the gospel (says “ St. Paul) I have nothing to glory of, for necessity “ is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach “ not the gospel; for if I do this thing willingly I “ have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensa6 tion of the gospel is committed unto me-what 5 is my reward then ? verily, that when I preach 5 the gospel I may make the gospel of Christ 56 without charge (i. e. without receiving any

pecuniary recompence from those to whom I preach)

[ocr errors]

66 that

[ocr errors]

" that I abuse not my power in the gospel.” Here we see the warmth and disinterestedness of sincerity ; but do we not also see à humility utterly remote from fanaticism : thus again speaking of the resurrection of Christ; “ h last of all he was seen of

me also, as of one born out of due time; for I am " the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to “ be called an apoftle, because I persecuted the “ church of God; but by the grace of God I am “ what I am, and his grace, which was bestowed

upon me, was not in vain; but I laboured more

abundantly than they all : yet not I, but the grace " of God which was with me."

[ocr errors]

St. Peter also, when addressing an exhortation to the ministers of the Christian church, and designing to apprise them of the full dignity of their office, as an incitement to greater activity, writes thus :“ i The elders which are among you I exhort, who “ also am an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of “ Christ, and also a partaker of the glory which shall “ be revealed : feed the flock of Christ which is

among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by “ constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, “ of a ready mind; neither as being lords over “ God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock; “ and when the chief shepherd shall

appear, ye shall " receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away.

[ocr errors]

di Cor. xv. 8.


1 Peter v. 1, &c.


Here is a due sense of the dignity of the minifteriał character, and the reward which will attend its faithful discharge ; but surely this is combined, not only with such disinterestedness as precludes all suspicion of deceit, but with such humility and calmness as is entirely free from the pride and the extravagance of fanaticism.

Finally, if we compare the writings of the apostles, even such parts of them as frequently and strongly inculcate the most mysterious doctrines of the gospel, with the compositions of those fanatics, who in after ages corrupted and disgraced Christianity, nothing is more striking than the wide difference in manner, even where the same doctrines form the subject of both. In the one, what calmness, what dignity, what humility, what charity, to those who differ from them--what earnest zeal to promote virtue and brotherly love; in the other, what heat and extravagance, what self-exaltation and bitterness, what direct condemnation of all who deny or even dispute their imperious dogmas. In a word, how plainly does the one prove itself the offspring of that wisdom which « descended from above, which is full of mercy and

good fruits ;” while the other betrays the influence of spiritual delusion working on spiritual pride, and displaying in its effects foul marks of the earthly and corrupted source from whence it springs.

[ocr errors]



We have now examined the various circumstances which would have detected the influence of enthusiasm in the first teachers of Christianity, if it had in any degree existed ; and it has, I trust, appeared that they were totally exempt from its dominion. The FACTS which determined them to follow their Lord during his life, and after his death to maintain his resurrection and divinity, were so plain and certain, fo contrary to their original expectations, and received with such flowners and caution, as fully exempt the apostles from all suspicion of being the dupes of delusion and credulity. We have also seen that the miracles which they wrought to convert men to the belief of the gospel were so great and unquestionable, the proofs they employed fo just and consistent, that no fanaticism could have gained credit to such facts or fuggested such reasonings.

And as they were thus evidently free from the two essential and leading characters of enthusiasm, credu. lity and dogmatism, so also they betray none of those minuter marks of weakness or extravagance which detect that want of discretion and foberness of mind ever attendant on fanaticism. Their CONDUCT discovers nothing of the melancholy, the austerity, or


« ForrigeFortsæt »