Images de page
[merged small][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 defcent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecoft; ftill, however, that part of it which offered most violence to their original prejudices, the admiffion of the Gentiles to the church of Christ, was not yet fully and universally admitted, but required yet more direct communication and proofs to fecure its conftant and cordial reception: Now, does not this process look very unlike the chimerical and unconnected delufions of fanaticifm? does it not bear the strongest marks of nature and reality?

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 difcourfes, fo 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 fituation of the perfons by whom they were compofed, as well as of those to whom they were addreffed, as to bear the plaineft marks of truth and fobernefs; and can we believe this of the moral and historical parts of the New Testament, and yet fuppofe that the doctrinal parts

parts of the very fame hiftories and epiftles are the effufions of wild fanaticism ? furely this were utterly incredible.

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 diftinguishes the compofitions of enthufiafts. In the inftructions of the apoftles we find all is moderate though earnest, and though dignified not proud; they betray no marks of their conceiving themfelves exalted above all mankind, because they were the only human beings whom the Divinity vouchfafed to enlighten with these mysterious truths. The apoftles rather seem to reflect on their situation with felf-abafement, and aweful apprehenfion, 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 conftantly predominant in their minds ;—" Though I preach the gospel (fays "St. Paul) I have nothing to glory of, for neceffity " is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach "not the gofpel; for if I do this thing willingly I "have a reward; but if against my will, a difpenfa"tion of the gospel is committed unto me-what

is my reward then? verily, that when I preach "the gofpel I may make the gospel of Christ "without charge (i. e. without receiving any " pecuniary recompence from those to whom I preach)

I Cor. ix. 16.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

"that I abuse not my power in the gospel." Here we see the warmth and difinterestedness of fincerity; but do we not alfo fee a humility utterly remote from fanaticism: thus again fpeaking of the refurrection of Chrift; "hlaft of all he was feen of "me alfo, 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 perfecuted 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 alfo, when addreffing an exhortation to the ministers of the Chriftian church, and defigning to apprise them of the full dignity of their office, as an incitement to greater activity, writes thus :"The elders which are among you I exhort, who "alfo am an elder, and a witness of the fufferings of "Christ, and also a partaker of the glory which shall "be revealed: feed the flock of Chrift which is


among you, taking the overfight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but "of a ready mind; neither as being lords over "God's heritage, but being enfamples to the flock; "and when the chief fhepherd fhall appear, ye fhall "receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away."

[ocr errors]

h I Cor. xv. 8.

i 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 furely this is combined, not only with fuch difinterestedness as precludes all fufpicion of deceit, but with fuch humility and calmness as is entirely free from the pride and the extravagance of fanaticifm.

Finally, if we compare the writings of the apostles, even fuch parts of them as frequently and strongly inculcate the most mysterious doctrines of the gospel, with the compofitions of those fanatics, who in after ages corrupted and difgraced Chriftianity, nothing is more ftriking than the wide difference in manner, even where the fame doctrines form the subject of both. In the one, what calmnefs, 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 felf-exaltation and bitterness, what direct condemnation of all who deny or even difpute their imperious dogmas. In a word, how plainly does the one prove itself the offspring of that wifdom which "defcended from above, which is full of mercy and "good fruits;" while the other betrays the influence of spiritual delufion working on spiritual pride, and displaying in its effects foul marks of the earthly and corrupted fource from whence it springs.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]


WE have now examined the various circumstances

which would have detected the influence of enthufiafm in the first teachers of Christianity, if it had in any degree existed; and it has, I truft, 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 refurrection and divinity, were fo plain and certain, fo contrary to their original expectations, and received with fuch flownefs and caution, as fully exempt the apostles from all fufpicion of being the dupes of delufion and credulity. We have also seen that the miracles which they wrought to convert men to the belief of the gofpel were fo great and unquestionable, the proofs they employed so just and confiftent, that no fanaticism could have gained credit to fuch facts or suggested such reasonings.



And as they were thus evidently free from the two effential and leading characters of enthufiafm, credulity and dogmatism, fo alfo they betray none of those minuter marks of weakness or extravagance which detect that want of discretion and foberness of mind ever attendant on fanaticifm. Their cONDUCT difcovers nothing of the melancholy, the aufterity, or


« PrécédentContinuer »