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On the first head the utmost ingenuity of infidelity has fcarcely been able to discover any plausible objection. The proofs of fincerity in the lives and writings of the firft teachers of the gospel are obvious I had almoft faid irrefiftible. Men who voluntarily abandoned every worldly intereft, who deliberately encountered and steadily fuftained reproach, perfecution, and death, in fupport of the cause which they espoused-must have been fincere.-This point therefore, the advocates for infidelity have generally found it neceffary to admit, and to take refuge under the pretext, that however fincere and well-meaning the apostles and evangelists may have been, they were yet deluded by the violence of religious enthusiasm, which is fo frequently found to disturb reason, and to give to mere vifions of a heated brain the femblance of reality.-A pretext the more plaufible, because in fome leading features enthufiafm must bear a ftrong fimilarity to genuine inspiration as the latter pre-fupposes fincerity and piety, the former may arife from zeal fincere but ill-directed, from devotion heart-felt but overftrained-both affert their claim to attention as derived from God-both are ready to facrifice 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 inconfiftent with true philofophy, as it is fubverfive of Christianity;
Christianity; he will not confound the frenzy of fanaticism with the calm and facred voice of the Spirit of God, but, with me, endeavour to trace the plain marks which diftinguish Christianity from enthusiasm, and evince that the apostles and evangelifts spoke the words of truth and fobernefs.
What then is enthufiafm in its true and proper fense?-Briefly a strong but groundless perfuafion of being actuated by divine infpiration, including two effential characters, the first that this opinion has been adopted, by him who believes himself inspired, without fufficient evidence the fecond, that if he requires others should also admit the reality of his inspiration, he infifts on their doing fo, without demanding any proof, or at least on grounds as vain and delufive as thofe which have fatisfied himself.Thus blind credulity and dictatorial pofitiveness form the two leading and effential marks of an enthusiastic mind.
The fame delufion of understanding in which these originate, will also most generally display itself in a variety of fubordinate effects, and more or less influence the whole conduct of life-It will not lefs evidently display itself in the writings of the enthufiaft, by a peculiar turn of thought and stile, as
a This character is fhewn in this chapter not to belong to the apoftles and evangelifts. b. Chap. ii.
• Chap. iii.
d Chap. iv. and v.
well as in the morality he inculcates, and the specu lative doctrines he propounds.
Let us confider the subject in this natural order, and in the first place examine whether the apostles and evangelifts believed without fufficient proof, that their Lord at firft, and afterwards themselves, were commiffioned and empowered by God to reveal to mankind the gospel scheme.
The great proof on which enthufiafts rely, is the internal perception of "fome fupernatural light,
or fome divine impulfe, which they affert fhews "itfelf too clearly to be mistaken, and needs no "other proof but its felf-evidence."-Now, though it is almost certain that fuch a perception may accompany real inspiration, and therefore to affirm that it exists, cannot alone and of neceffity be pronounced enthufiaftic; yet when no other proof can be given of a fupernatural direction, than the afferted exiftence of fuch a perception, we must confefs it is very fufpicious and unfatisfactory.
Experience proves that men are frequently misled by the warmth of imagination and the ftrength of paffions; that they are prone to believe readily what they anxiously wifh, and that minds long abforbed in religious contemplation are apt to wish that they
• Chap. vi. f Locke's Effay on the Human Understanding, 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 fupernatural powers, as the inftruments 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 infpired, is fo flattering to fpiritual pride, fo grateful to spiritual indolence, and affords fo blifsful a refuge to minds addicted to religious melancholy, that it cannot be wonderful a warm imagination fhould readily fuggest such a belief, and a weak judgment as readily receive it. Since then a persuasion of our being actuated by divine infpiration may fo eafily originate in delufion, 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 demonftrably false, yet it ought not to be received as infallibly true, by any man who will calmly attend to the dictates of reafon.
Here then enthufiafm fails of evidence, fince it can produce no proof of infpiration but internal perception; thus, fays a great master of reason, whose principles I have adopted,-" He that will "not give himself up to all the extravagancies of "delufion and error, muft bring this guide of "his light within to the trial.-When GOD illuminates the mind with fupernatural light, he does
Vid. Locke, ibid. § 11.
♣ Vid. Locke, ibid. § 14.
"not extinguish that which is natural; if he would "have us affent to the truth of any propofition, " he either evidences that truth by the ufual methods "of natural reason, or else makes it known to be a "truth which he would have us affent to by his au thority, and convinces us it is from him, by fome "marks which reafon cannot be mistaken in."Thus, the holy men of old, who had revelations "from God, had fomething elfe befide the internal light of affurance to teftify to them that it was from "God; they had outward figns to convince them "of the author of thefe revelations."
It is not therefore difficult to diftinguish a just claim to divine authority from mere enthufiaftic delufion; the latter is founded on internal perfuafion alone, probably impreffed by the vifions of a heated ima gination or the prefumption of fpiritual pride; it is obfcure in its origin and utterly defective in its proof, fince it rarely appeals to any external evidence at all, and never to any clear and decifive facts; it claims the fubmiffion, but difdains to fatisfy the doubts of reafon. The former, on the contrary, establishes itself by adducing decifive proofs of a divine interpofition; it relies on miracles, on prophecy, on hiftorical facts, which are fupported by the teftimony of fenfe, and bear the ftricteft investigation, uniting to internal conviction external evidence; it convinces the understanding before it attempts to controul X Locke, ibid. § 15.