« PrécédentContinuer »
The CONDUCT of the apostles, fhewn to be inconfiftent with the fuppofition of their having been enthu fiafts.
The general conduct of the apostles in their private capacity, inconfiftent with enthusiasm.
IN the first chapter we examined the strength of that evidence, by which the apostles had been themfelves affured of their divine miffion; and in the second, the clearness of the proofs which they adduced to convince their profelytes; and it has, I truft, appeared, that these first teachers of our holy faith cannot justly be charged, either with that rash credulity, which is itself the easy dupe of delufion, or that prefumptuous dogmatifm, which impofes its delufions on others, both which seem to be primary and effential characters of genuine fanaticifm. Let us in the next place compare the conduct of the apostles
apostles with that which enthusiasm would naturally produce.
Now, we ever find that, so far as this prevails, reafon and judgment are proportionably laid afide; the mode in which this weakness displays itself, will neceffarily vary with the peculiar temper and character of him who labours under it; but in every temper and character extravagance and folly will appear. Is the enthusiast naturally gloomy and defpondent? we shall find him overpowered by religious melancholy and abstraction, devoted to exceffive mortifica. tion and fantastic penances. Is he fanguine and violent? we shall fee him rush forward in the hot purfuit, to which he conceives himself driven by a divine impulse, without any regard to reafon or difcretion, perpetually trampling on the restraints of order and decency-not only ready to sustain, but impatient to search out and court perfecution, danger and death. In both cafes he is alienated from and unfitted for the relations and offices of common life; fuch men will not labour, it is unworthy their fanctity; they will defpife all human diftinctions as beneath their notice: thus, though the end pursued may be religious and praise-worthy, the means employed to attain it will be found, in some respect or other, extravagant and abfurd. Now the conduct of the apostles, as it is incidentally disclosed to us by the artless historian, who has described the first establish
ment of Christianity, appears entirely free from thefe various weaknesses.
We discover in their mode of life no melancholy, no abstraction from fociety, no averfion to labour; in the interval between the refurrection of their Lord and the commencement of their own public ministry, we find they had returned to the calm and humble pursuit of that laborious industry which had originally formed their fole occupation. They were employed in fishing on the lake Tiberias, when our Lord appeared to them, and by the miraculous fuccefs, which at his word they obtained, convinced them he ftill retained the fame divine power which they had seen exercised on a fimilar occafion in the commencement of his miniftry. Such a fituation and employment were as remote from enthusiasm as can be imagined.
They were commanded by their Lord to wait at Jerufalem, before they published his "refurrection, "till they fhould receive power from on high," and they waited patiently for forty days; enthusiasm is violent and fudden-their faith was rational, and therefore their conduct deliberate. But even after they received this promised power, and in confequence of the facred commiffion dedicated their whole lives to preaching the gofpel of Chrift, they
t John xxi.
u Luke xxiv. 49.
yet were not * elevated above the common relations; they did not undervalue the common duties of life.The very reverse-they frequently recalled men to observe, but never encouraged them to neglect fuch duties, to abandon business or industry, and to retire to the cave or the defart, for the purpose of indulging indolence or fpiritual pride beneath the mask of devotion, and thus becoming a burthen to others. for their fupport, without contributing any thing to the general good.
We observe in their conduct no unneceffary aufterities, no self-inflicted sufferings, no habitual melancholy, not even in St. Paul, whofe conduct is more particularly detailed, and whose remorse for having perfecuted the church of Chrift, had made the deepest impreffion on his foul; even he did not attempt to atone for his offence by folitude and penance, but by indefatigable activity in the fervice of that Chrift whom he had perfecuted :-this was fincerity, not enthusiasm.
× The following paffages fhew that the apostles both in their practice and precepts attended to the natural relations of life."Have we not power, fays St. Paul, 1 Cor. ix. 5. to lead "about a fifter, a wife, as well as other apoftles, and as the "brethren of the Lord and Cephas ;"-and 1 Tim. iii. 2 and 4. "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, fober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to "teach-one that ruleth well his own house, having his chil"dren in fubjection with all gravity; for if a man know not "how to rule his own houfe, how fhall he take care of the "church of God."
Addreffing himself to the Theffalonians he has this remarkable appeal.-"For yourselves know "how ye ought to follow us; for we behaved not "ourselves disorderly among you, neither did we eat 66 any man's bread for nought, but wrought with "labour and travel, night and day, that we might "not be chargeable to any of you; not because <G we have not power, but to make ourselves an example to you to follow us. For even "when we were with you, this we commanded you, "that if any would not work, neither should he
eat; for we hear that there are fome which walk 66 among you disorderly, working not at all, but are "busy-bodies: now them that are fuch we com"mand, and exhort by our Lord Jefus Christ, "that with quietnefs they work, and eat their own "bread." How totally remote this from the selfintereft of impofture, or the wildnefs of enthufiafm.
What St. Paul afferts of himself and his immediate companions (Silvanus and Timotheus) he in another place declares of all the apoftles. Addreffing the Corinthians, he tells them-" I think God has fet "forth us the apostles laft, as it were appointed "unto death-even unto this prefent hour we "both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, having no certain dwelling-place, and