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A scriptural system of devotion stands opposed to all those false sublimities of an enthusiastic pietism which affect to lift man into a middle region between heaven and earth, ere he may think himself admitted to hold communion with God. While the inflated devotee is soaring into he knows not what vagueness of upper space, He "whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain" has come down, and with benign condescension, has placed himself in the centre of the little circle of human ideas and affections. The man of imaginative, or of hyper-rational piety, is gone in contemplation where God is not; or where man shall never meet him: for "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy, and who dwelleth in the high and holy place," when he invites us to his friendship, holds the splendour of his natural perfections in abeyance, and proclaims that "He dwells with the man who is of a humble and contrite spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.' Thus does the piety taught in the Scriptures make provision against the vain exaggerations of enthusiasm; and thus does it give free play to the affections of the heart; while whatever might stimulate the imagination is enveloped in the thickest covering of obscurity.—Pp. 31, 32.
The mischief of this transcendental pietism is always manifest in the character of the deluded enthusiast, who riots in those feverish exercises which terminate in the immediate gratification of excitement, and are the vain prolusions of a proud mind, rather than the sober petitions of an understanding heart.
If the language of humiliation is at all admitted into the enthusiast's devotions, it must be so pointed with extravagance, and so blown out with exaggerations, that it serves much more to tickle the fancy than to affect the heart: it is a burlesque of penitence, very proper to amuse a mind that is destitute of real contrition. That such artificial humiliations do not spring from the sorrow of repentance, is proved by their bringing with them no lowliness of temper. Genuine humility would shake the whole towering structure of this enthusiastic pietism; and, therefore, in the place of Christian humbleness of mind, there are cherished certain ineffable notions of self-annihilation and self-renunciation, and we know not what other attempts at metaphysical suicide. If you receive the enthusiast's description of himself, he has become in his own esteem, by continued force of divine contemplation, infinitely less than an atom-a very negative quality-an incalculable fraction of positive entity: meanwhile the whole of his deportment betrays the sensitiveness of a self-importance ample enough for a god.-Pp. 34, 35.
To secure our devotional services from the apathy of formality on the one hand, and the extravagance of enthusiasm on the other, they should be bottomed on the great fact of Christianity, that God was " in Christ reconciling the world unto himself," and that all access to the Father is denied to us but by the Son. The mediation of our Redeemer is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the Christian scheme of salvation; so that the marvellous office of the one Mediator, and the petitions of the disciples, are correlatives; and no suppliant, who relies upon the vicarious sufferings of his divine Intercessor, can hope to pray acceptably, without an especial regard to the atonement of the Son of God, who "became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich."
But this unalterable condition of all devotional services contains a manifest and efficacious provision against enthusiastical excitements; for the emotions of
shame and penitence, and of joy in receiving the assurance of pardon, are not of the class with which the imagination has near affinity; and, in a well-ordered mind, they may rise to their highest pitch without either disturbing the powers of reason, or infringing the most perfect inward serenity or outward decorum. In a word, it may be confidently affirmed that no man becomes an enthusiast in religion, until he has forgotten that he is a transgressor-a transgressor reconciled to God by mediation."-Pp. 46, 47.
We partially coincide with our author in these remarks, having no suspicion that religious feelings can ever become enthusiastic in "a well-ordered mind:" but, unfortunately, a well-ordered mind is a phenomenon of rare occurrence; and we confess ourselves at a loss to understand how the appointed access to God through Christ, can be said to contain " an efficacious provision against enthusiastical excitements," when Christians of various sects, agreeing in that fundamental article of their faith, have unquestionably made themselves obnoxious to the charge of enthusiasm, in the sense which our author attaches to the term in the volume upon our table. What is there in the feeling of penitential "shame," or in the assured possession of "pardon" through the vicarious sacrifice of the Son of God, which will effectually check the sallies of the imagination? To say that "no man becomes an enthusiast until he has forgotten that he is a transgressor," is to contradict the ample testimony of history to the undoubted fact, that imaginative pietists are to be found in almost every subdivision of Christian sects, and in none in greater numbers than amongst such as talk most loudly of their lost condition as sinners in the sight of God! Can we forget the details of Wesley's Journal? Can we shut our eyes against the abominable blasphemies acted under the management of Mr. Irving at his Scotch Church? May we not see, in that theatre of pantomimes,-in that school of mummery, in that den of folly, of delusion, and of audacity,—the full developement of that "fictitious religion" which our author describes under the name of Enthusiasm, in conjunction, nevertheless, with the orthodox acknowledgment of the one access to the Father through the mediation of the Son? And what shall we say of the sanity of mind, or of the "inward serenity," or of the "outward decorum," of those “ gifted sisters," whose wicked gibberish we are taught to identify with the "gentle" illapses of the sanctifying Spirit of God? Be it that "enthusiasm is not a term of measurement, but of quality." Does it follow that a creed mainly right as to the "central facts of Christianity," is incompatible with much artificial excitement through the medium of the imagination? We think not; and have, therefore, felt ourselves bound to enter our protest against the opinion of our eloquent essayist upon this point. We are equally indisposed to adopt his views as to the limited intercourse which Christianity has opened between heaven and earth; and of which our author writes, that
It is almost confined to the momentous transactions of reconciliation and renewed friendship. When the hearer of prayer invites interlocution with man, it is not, as perhaps in Eden, for the purposes of free and discursive converse, but for conference on a special business.....The same speciality of purpose and limitation of subject is plainly implied in the appointment of a Mediator and Advocate, &c. &c.-Pp. 45, 46.
Now, upon this statement (though guarded, it must be acknowledged, with some qualifying phrases,) we beg leave to remark, in the first place, that it stands opposed to many injunctions of Holy Writ, which command us "in every thing" by prayer to let our requests be made known unto God; and especially to many examples of prayer for particular favours used by the apostles, or recommended by them to their disciples; and, above all, to that perfect model of devotion which our blessed Redeemer gave us for our daily communion with his Father. And we would add, in the second place, our conviction that the limited intercourse insisted upon by our author, would go far to realize that enthusiastic excess which he describes as possessed of power to overbear and exclude "all other motives and affections." (P. 2.)
We would invite our readers to study the admirable paragraphs of the section before us touching the construction of the Romish worship, whose sumptuous apparatus is contrived for poetic effect, and to preclude all genuine feelings by substituting the enthusiasm of the imagination.
Would to God that the enthusiasm, which confounds poetry with piety, were confined to the decorations of the Romish service! Alas! she plies her deceit even amongst ourselves; and the soberminded are perpetually disgusted by the mountebank attempts of popular preachers "to hold forth the subjects of evangelical teaching, in the gorgeous colours of an artificial oratory!" Impassioned harangues addressed to the imagination seldom reach the heart; and that theatric eloquence, which neglects the substantial bread of life for the exhibition of what may be magnific, pathetic, or sublime, however enforced by violence of gesticulation, or by power of lungs, is a wretched abuse of the preacher's office, which is to feed the flock of Christ with "food convenient" for them. With reference to this point, our author asks whether he is the enthusiast who concerns himself with the substance, or he who amuses his hearers with the shadow of religion? And he concludes his valuable essay by giving us an infallible criterion between truth and pretension.
This means of proof is nothing else than the standard of morals and of temper exhibited in the Scriptures. No other method of determining the most momentous of all questions is given to us; and none other is needed. We can neither ascend into the heavens, there to inspect the book of life, nor satisfactorily descend into the depths of the heart to analyze the complex and occult varieties of its emotions. But we may instantly and certainly know whether we do the things which He has commanded, whom we call Lord.-P. 60.
The third section treats of "Enthusiastic Perversions of the Doctrine of Divine Influence:" and it is our author's design to convince us that the efflux of the Divine nature, whence all virtue and happiness emanate, “must be intimately fitted to the movements of mind, and must harmonize perfectly with its mechanism.” (P. 64.) The whole of this masterly section is above all praise. Whether for the establishment of truth, or for the confutation of error, it may be consulted by every man who is desirous of seeing sound doctrine embellished with the graces of good writing; and perversions of the tenet of grace dissected with anatomical precision, and rectified with philosophical exactness.
In times of peculiar excitement, a perverted notion of Divine influence is seen to ripen into the most fearful excesses..... Extravagance becomes gluttonous of marvels; religion is transmuted into pantomime: delirium and hypocrisy-often found to be good friends, take their turns of triumph; while humility, meekness, and sincerity, are trodden down in the rout of impious confusion.... A habit of grimace in religion, having established itself in an hour of fanatical agitation, and become associated, perhaps, with momentous truths, as well as with the distinguishing tenets of a sect, has long survived the warmth of feeling in which it originated, and whence it might derive some apology, and has passed down from father to son,-a hideous mask of formality-worshipped by the weak, and loathed, though not discarded, by the sincere. Meanwhile an hereditary or a studied agitation of the voice and muscles, most ludicrous, if it were not most horrible to be seen, is made to represent before the world the sacred and solemn truth-a truth essential to Christianity, that the Spirit of God dwells in the hearts of Christians.-Pp. 69, 70.
One error, with which the visionary enthusiast encumbers the doctrine of spiritual influence, is the notion that it operates immediately, irresistibly, and without the intervention of means. We are not sufficient of ourselves even to think a good deed, and need the preventing, as well as the concurrent, aid of divine grace, to give us the will, and to work with us when we possess the will, to "perfect righteousness in the fear of God." Undoubtedly, He, in whose guidance are the hearts of men, can work by instruments, seemingly insufficient; and He is wont, in the arrangements of his inscrutable wisdom, to choose "the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; that no flesh should glory in his presence." Nevertheless, the omnipotent spirit of grace delights not in the naked exercise of independent power, nor discards the use of external means of suasion. For, as God "feedeth the young ravens that call upon him," by the instinctive σropy of the parent bird; and as "the visible government, which He exercises over the world is by the instrumentality and mediation of others; " so, in
Butler's Analogy, p. xi. c. 5. §. 1.
the system of grace, it is agreeable to his wisdom, and, at the same time, in perfect harmony with the sovereignty of his influence, to give the increase of true religion upon that ground only which the husbandman has planted and watered.
We will briefly notice another grievous mistake connected with the enthusiastic perversion of the doctrine of divine influence.
And this is, the supposition that those heavenly communications to the soul, which form a permanent constituent of the Christian Dispensation, are not always confined to the matter or to the rule of Scripture, and that the favoured subject of this teaching, at least when he has made considerable advances in the divine life, is led on a high path of instruction, where the written revelation of the will of God may be neglected or scorned.-Pp. 75, 76.
Of this impious delusion there are two forms. The first is that of the vague contemplatist, who rejects whatever is fixed and definite, as rudely interfering with his misty state of fictitious happiness. The other form of this delusion would persuade its enthusiastic slaves that they are "favoured perpetually with special, particular, and ultrascriptural revelations from heaven." "NAVIGENT ANTICYRAM." Our readers will not fail to observe that all these egregious perversions of the doctrine of divine influence are maintained by the Society of Friends; a sad proof, that
General intelligence, and amiable manners, and Christian benevolence, are often linked with errors, which, when viewed abstractedly, seem as if they could belong only to minds in the last stage of folly and impiety.—P. 78.
“Enthusiasm” (our author teaches us in his fourth section) “is the source of heresy." The common doctrines of religion soberly expounded, and carefully deduced from the plain words of scripture, have no charms for the excursive heresiarch, with whom, in the insatiate love of novelty and of paradox, and hurried forward as he is, in his blazing eccentricities, by overweening vanity and self-sufficient confidence; "modesty, caution, and hesitation, are treasons against conscience and heaven!" This intellectual fever, rendering the mind impatient of simple truth, and spurning the authority of ancient creeds, delights only in such exorbitances of doctrine as may astonish the credulous fools, who mistake the pestiferous mirage of a heated imagination for the "celestial light" of that "sovran vital lamp," which can alone" disperse the mists" of error, and “ the mind through all her powers irradiate." The common doctrines of Christianity afford little scope to the restless ardour of the visionary enthusiast, who, in the unbounded fields of licentious speculation, forgets the homely duties of practical righteousness; and tickles the fancy when he ought rather to convince the judgment; and exalts the miserable shibboleth of a sect as the veritable impression of the seal of heaven, without which salvation is impossible. Ambition, obstinacy, and vanity, unite in mischievous alliance to defend the paradox, which