« AnteriorContinuar »
122 ) briety of mind, utterly inconsistent 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 sense he expresses of the infinite importance of the sacred cause in which he was engaged, and his own unworthiness for such an office, are circumstances, all of which seem, to superficial and hasty reasoners, to render the charge of enthusiasm against him more plausible than against any or all of his associates; therefore if it can plainly and briefly be repelled from him, much more is it void of every semblance 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 fa&s I have related of the apostles' conduct, (and I am not conscious of having omitted any fact of importance) we can possibly believe they were in any degree enthusiasts, if that name implies weak. ness and folly, heat and violence, error and delusion. Have we not proved that they were free from the melancholy, the abstraction, the austerity, of enthusiasm? that they were ready to labour with their own
hands for their support ; attentive to the common relations and duties of life; careful to preserve regu. larity, subordination and peace, in the society over which they presided; perpetually and successfully on their guard against every occurrence which might afford any reasonable ground for suspecting the purity of their intentions, and thus impeding the fuccess of their ministry ; conceding to well-meaning prejudice, as far as concession was allowable ; not inattentive to their safety when their duty did not demand its sacrifice; considerate and cautious, temperate and decorous, meek and charitable ; utterly remote from the blind precipitance, the outrageous fury, the unyielding obstinacy of enthusiastic minds. In the name of truth and reason, can we in plainness and simplicity of mind affert-nay more-stake our immortal happiness on the truth of the assertion that men who fo lived, and so acted, were either interested, selfish impostors on the one hand, or wild and visionary fanatics on the other, or a mixture of both together-at once artful enough to deceive mankind, and at the same time mad enough to sacrifice themselves, and this, to carry on a deceit, which, instead of being (as some have wickedly and falsely termed it) a pious fraud, would have been the most impious and blasphemous 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
surely—such cool art united with such wild fanaticism, is a contradi&tion in nature—such facrifices for such a deception, are wholly unparalled and incredible.
The writings of the apostles and evangelists were free
from the characters of enthusiasm, proved in this chapter of the historical works of the New Testa
The stile and temper in which the historical works of the
New Testament are composed, considered.
In the preceding chapters I have endeavoured to prove that the apostles and evangelists were free from the two primary and effential characteristics of fanaticism, weak credulity and imperious dogmatism ; I have also traced their conduct, and I trust this has appeared rational, temperate, and meek; the very reverse of that which the impetuosity of enthufiasm would naturally produce. I now proceed to consider their writings, the stile in which they are composed, the temper of mind which they display, and the facts which they detail ; in all, I trust, we shall perceiver “ those things which become found “ doctrine,” and evince a divine original.
What What then are the characters which reason would lead us to expect, and which experience proves generally prevail in the compofitions of enthusiasts ? In such men the imagination is violently heated, a confufion of ideas enfues, the stile becomes forced and obfcure,full of mysterious and metaphorical, dark and diftorted allusions'; with this obscurity is most frequently combined an exaggerated and extravagant strain of thought and expression; 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 conspicuous or so offensive, as the heat and violence, the arrogance and bitterness, which are too frequently found in such men as conceive themselves to be the only favourites of heaven, and pronounce the rest 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 ostentation, by overbearing dogmatism and virulent invective.
Thus obscurity and extravagance, self-exaltation and uncharitableness, are the natural characters of enthusiastic compositions. Now compare these with the stile of the historical works of the New Testament, and the contrast is surely most clear and decifive. In these compositions fimplicity of style and structure, and its' attendant perspicuity, form the