Images de page

briety of mind, utterly inconfiftent with folly and fanaticism.

I have dwelt more particularly on the character of St. Paul, not only because his history is recorded more fully than that of any of his fellow-labourers; but because the natural warmth of his temper, the unremitting activity of his exertions, the fervor of his piety, and the deep fenfe he expreffes of the infinite importance of the facred caufe in which he was engaged, and his own unworthinefs for fuch an office, are circumstances, all of which feem, to fuperficial and hafty reafoners, to render the charge of enthusiasm against him more plausible than against any or all of his affociates; therefore if it can plainly and briefly be repelled from him, much more is it void of every femblance of reason when urged against any of the remaining apostles.

In truth, I trust, I may confidently appeal to the candid judgment of every one of my readers, whether on reviewing the facts I have related of the apostles' conduct, (and I am not confcious of having omitted any fact of importance) we can poffibly believe they were in any degree enthufiafts, if that name implies weaknefs and folly, heat and violence, error and delufion. Have we not proved that they were free from the melancholy, the abstraction, the austerity, of enthusiafm? that they were ready to labour with their own


hands for their fupport; attentive to the common relations and duties of life; careful to preferve regularity, fubordination and peace, in the fociety over which they prefided; perpetually and fuccefsfully on their guard against every occurrence which might afford any reasonable ground for fufpecting the purity of their intentions, and thus impeding the fuccess of their miniftry; conceding to well-meaning prejudice, as far as conceffion was allowable; not inattentive to their fafety when their duty did not demand its facrifice; confiderate and cautious, temperate and decorous, meek and charitable; utterly remote from the blind precipitance, the outrageous fury, the unyielding obftinacy of enthusiastic minds. In the name of truth and reason, can we in plainness and fimplicity of mind affert-nay more-stake our immortal happiness on the truth of the affertion— that men who fo lived, and fo acted, were either interested, selfish impoftors on the one hand, or wild and vifionary fanatics on the other, or a mixture of both together at once artful enough to deceive mankind, and at the fame time mad enough to facrifice themselves, and this, to carry on a deceit, which, instead of being (as fome have wickedly and falfely termed it) a pious fraud, would have been the most impious and blafphemous imposture, which human imagination can conceive; exalting a crucified deceiver, a man rejected and abandoned of God, as the Son of God, and judge of the world.-No


furely-fuch cool art united with fuch wild fanati

cifm, is a contradiction in nature-fuch facrifices for e such a deception, are wholly unparalled and incredible.



The writings of the apostles and evangelifts were free from the characters of enthusiasm, proved in this chapter of the hiftorical works of the New Tefta



The ftile and temper in which the hiftorical works of the New Teftament are compofed, confidered.

IN the preceding chapters I have endeavoured to prove that the apostles and evangelifts were free from the two primary and effential characteristics of fanaticifm, weak credulity and imperious dogmatifm; I have alfo traced their conduct, and I trust this has appeared rational, temperate, and meek; the very reverse of that which the impetuofity of enthufiafm would naturally produce. I now proceed to confider their writings, the stile in which they are compofed, the temper of mind which they difplay, and the facts which they detail; in all, I trust, we fhall perceive "thofe things which become found "doctrine," and evince a divine original.


What then are the characters which reafon would lead us to expect, and which experience proves generally prevail in the compofitions of enthufiafts? In fuch men the imagination is violently heated, a confufion of ideas enfues, the ftile becomes forced and obfcure, full of myfterious and metaphorical, dark and diftorted allufions; with this obfcurity is moft frequently combined an exaggerated and extravagant strain of thought and expreffion; nothing is attributed to natural causes; every thing is fpiritualized and magnified; common events are described as secret providences, uncommon as decided miracles: but neither the obscurity nor the exaggeration of enthusiasm are fo confpicuous or fo offenfive, as the heat and violence, the arrogance and bitterness, which are too frequently found in fuch men as conceive themselves to be the only favourites of heaven, and pronounce the reft of mankind to be alienated from, and offenfive to God, and who naturally betray this felf-exaltation and uncharitableness by a strain of affected humility, and real oftentation, by overbearing dogmatifm and virulent invective.

Thus obfcurity and extravagance, felf-exaltation and uncharitablenefs, are the natural characters of enthusiastic compofitions. Now compare thefe with the ftile of the hiftorical works of the New Teftament, and the contraft is furely moft clear and decifive. In these compofitions fimplicity of stile and structure, and its attendant perfpicuity, form the


« PrécédentContinuer »