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feeling; and that it implies the operation of Divine Grace.
Even where this grace is accorded, there is still room for mistake. Christians may not clearly distinguish their own impressions; they may not discriminate between what is innate and what is implanted; - between a constitutional bias and an infused principle; -- between natural sensibility and religious feeling. And they may thus be betrayed into a thousand
Female romance finds ample room for indulgence in the religious visions of the present day. The mystic trance, the unknown tongue, the pretended miracle, as they are the creation, so are they the aliment of enthusiasm. There is something so exciting in being transported beyond common-place incidents, — in being no longer fettered by physical possibilities, — in being ourselves the expectants, if not the actual recipients, of extraordinary powers, that one can scarcely wonder at a credulity at once so flattering and so delightful. We almost scruple to disturb so delicious a reverie, and to bring
down the Quietist from her ambrosial cloud,but that we cannot but apprehend some danger from her flight. Perhaps, indeed, it might be better to let her rhapsodise undisturbed; for time must break the enchanted glass and if, with the destruction of her visions, reason and religion resume their sway, she will be glad to return to the practice of known duty, and to substitute simple truth for subtle fantasies.
Enthusiasm is not unfrequently a mere animal fever, which is perpetually nursed by stimulants, when it ought to be allayed by sedatives. It is a wandering of mind, bordering on delirium, which exaggerates realities, and embodies shadows, and yet has a painful consciousness of its own aberrations. For the enthusiast has often her misgivings, which are, indeed, the best symptoms of her state. They are as lucid intervals which indicate returning reason. And happy will she be when her malady subsides; and when, instead of seeing visions, and hearing voices, and mistaking phantoms for celestial forms, she submits once more to the simplicity of Scripture, and walks once more quietly and humbly with her God.
There are female visionaries in whose case one cannot but anticipate such a result. They are so good and so sincere: their feelings are to tender, their hearts so affectionate, and their piety so warm; they have so sweet, and kind, and heavenly a spirit, that though we must fear that they have erred very far from the truth, we cherish the persuasion that they will soon return. They deserve our esteem, our love, and, as far as may be, our sympathy; and if, in spite of their gentleness, their creed is exclusive, and they scruple not to question the safety of those who in any degree differ from them; let it, on the other hand, be our care so to act, that, in whatever else they may think us deficient, they may learn from us a lesson of charity.
But let not their zeal or their amiability prevail with us to entertain their errors. It may, indeed, require some firmness to resist them: we may admire their piety, and prize their good opinion; we may even feel that their appeal is not without power; but let us bring their doctrines to the test of Scripture, and if they will not stand this scrutiny, let nothing prevail on us to entertain them.
We are safe only when truth is the object of our affections, and when we find in it satisfaction and delight. And surely it affords enough for the most ardent mind. Is there not in the Gospel every thing that is sublime? Is there not in God, as he is there revealed, every thing to engage our hearts?
Why then should we look for Him where He is not? He has walked in the form of man: He has spoken in the language of earth, and He now appeals to our human feelings, and asks our reasonable service.
Religion is, indeed, not a mere system. It is full of sentiment and love; a sentiment that calms, and a love that occupies the soul. And happy, only, is the woman who experiences these; who finds in the assurance of the Divine sympathy, and in her love to God, a cordial to her spirit, an anodyne to her griefs, and a stimulus to her hopes. Duty then loses all its irksomeness, for it is the tribute of love; and the Christian rejoices in a sense of that union which binds her, in grateful dependence, to the Giver of all good.
And, as though not insensible to present
blessing, nor ungrateful for present refreshment, she feels the lurking thorn in every thing connected with earth, she therefore dwells with greater delight on the prospect of a happier world. She tastes whatever there is of God here, and looks for the full and perfect manifestation of him in his immediate presence.