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On the first head the utmost ingenuity of infidelity has fcarcely been able to discover any plaufible objection. The proofs of fincerity in the lives and writings of the first 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 efpoufed-muft 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 evangelifts 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 plausible, because in some leading features enthufiafm must bear a ftrong fimilarity to genuine inspiration as the latter pre-fuppofes fincerity and piety, the former may arise 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 Chriftianity from enthusiasm, and evince that the apostles and evangelifts spoke the words of truth and fobernefs.

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What then is enthufiafm in its true and proper fense?-Briefly a ftrong but groundless perfuafion of being actuated by divine inspiration, 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 fhould also admit the reality of his infpiration, 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 lefs influ ence the whole conduct of life-It will not lefs evidently display itself in the writings of the enthusiast, by a peculiar turn of thought and stile, as


a This character is fhewn in this chapter not to belong to the apostles and evangelists.

b. Chap. ii.

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• Chap. iii.

B 2

d Chap. iv. and v. well

well as in the morality he inculcates, and the speculative doctrines he propounds.

Let us confider the fubject in this natural order, and in the first place examine whether the apostles and evangelists believed without fufficient proof, that their Lord at first, 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 existence of fuch a perception, we must confefs it is very suspicious 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 Understauding, 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 inspired, is fo flattering to fpiritual pride, fo grateful to fpiritual 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 perfuafion of our being actuated by divine inspiration 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 mafter 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 else beside 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 these revelations."


It is not therefore difficult to distinguish a just claim to divine authority from mere enthusiastic delufion; the latter is founded on internal perfuafion alone, probably impreffed by the vifions of a heated imagination 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 decisive 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 historical facts, which are supported by the testimony of fenfe, and bear the stricteft investigation, uniting to internal conviction external evidence; it convinces the understanding before it attempts to controul

Locke, ibid. 15.


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