Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

LECTURE VI.

James iii. 17.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and with

out hypocrisy. WHILE the present generation, in common with all that have preceded it, is too prolific of infidelity; while there are many who will not labour to study the principles of Christianity; while others treat it with open contempt, or cold indifference; a description of character abounds diametrically opposite. As some are disposed to believe nothing, these latter profess implicitly to receive every thing, and are believers by intuition. They ask for no evidence; they reject reason as useless, and even profane ; and trust only to certain inward and equivocal feelings. They pretend not to be as other men are, but to have received afsurance of justification. They act only from an internal, though imaginary impulse, while the Holy Spirit is supposed partially to descend with irresistible influence on their minds. Thus wrapt in visionary possession, they conceive themselves raised above ordinary men, and to require none of those aids which are indirpensable to common mortals. Such irresistible influence would indeed render not only evidence and argument superfluous, but even religious practice. Tor of what avail are ordinances, if men can be saved by instantaneous conversion? But should this be a mistake, is not their delusion dangerous to themselves ? To the rest of mankind such sentiments are pernicious; and it becomes the friends of rational religion to combat and expose such unfounded presumption. A wild spirit of enthusiasm is no where encouraged by the doctrines and the example of the meek and submissive Redeemer; neither by the conduct or the writings of his Evangelifts or Apostles ; nor fanctioned by the articles of our Church.

Having therefore endeavoured to thew the regular consistency of all the schemes of

providence, and the demonstrative probability of the truth of the Christian religion; we must now shew the unhappy tendency of pretenfions, which would destroy all consistence, and render religion contrary to what God has evi

dently designed it to be; making it, instead of a fyltem of practical piety and goodness, a vifionary illufion. It is highly probable that these opinions originate from the fame strong and restless passions of the mind which influence other men to deviate into the extreme of infidelity. These extremes of error spring from the same evil root. The same principle of ambition is observable in both. If the infidel is gratified by assuming the solemnity of doubt, of suspicion and scorn, and in tbus defying the armies of the living God; the pride of the enthusiast is equally flattered by the idea of his being the chosen favourite of Heaven.

The disputer prefumes to exalt reason on the ruins of religion, and to give laws to Omniscience. The enthusiast, while he also dictates to man, aspires to familiar intercourse with the Sovereign of the universe. The one, in the vain consciousness of his own strength, contemns a Saviour': the other, in the same fpirit of presumption, claims salvation as his right ; since he imagines it to have been his inheritance before the world began. In this parallel the claims of the infidel sink into comparative insignificance. He afferts preeminence only over the present world. But the imaginary favourite of Heaven claims a present and an anticipated distinction, and confiders himself to have been a chosen vefsel before worlds were created, or falvation proclaimed. Fanaticism is the offspring of mental gloom; but pride is the spark which kindles it into flame, and produces the peftilential dispersion of the noxious vapour. It is observable that the fanatic always describes his conversion as originating from dejection of spirit. He is oppressed by unaccountable horror, and overwhelmed with inexpressible fear. He finks under the weight of real or imaginary apprehension, till on a sudden he perceives or fancies illumination and elevation of mind.

His feelings are now of a contrary nature. Doubt is converted into arrogance, despair into certainty of salvation : and are not these evident extremes ? The first is natural. To feel diltress of mind from a sense of misconduct is the effect of an awakened conscience : but instantaneous exultation is not natural, but an extravagant transition from a state of the lowest dejection ; from the dread of reprobation to the certainty of forgiveness; from the bondage of Satan to the inheritance of heaven. In all this it is remarkable, that this sense of guilt,

while it is considered a call to election, is rather an encouragement to presumption than productive of humility, which is the genuine fruit of the Spirit. May we not then truly attribute this instantaneous confidence to that potent principle of vanity which keeps the temper of man perpetually buoyant, and to that ambition which is ever aiming at superiority, whether it be fpiritual or carnal ? But against this spiritual pride the Scriptures themselves constantly inveigh, and by severe condemnation reveal to us plainly, that the Omniscient knows the force by which it prevails, and the empire which it obtains over the mind. But if spiritual pride be odious to God, it is also disgusting to men.

However elated the fanatic may feel, however satisfied with himself in general, there is no character less ainiable. Where is the gentle spirit, the engaging charity, which characterizes the true Chriftian, and which was so eminently apparent in the whole deportment of our blessed Master? The whole character of spiritual pride is diametrically opposite; for a man of this temper looks on all the world as beneath him. The elevation of mind which he possesses is decidedly not that fpirit or wisdom which we are taught to expect from above, and which

« ПредишнаНапред »