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in our remote times, the like gifts of longues, and of prophesying, (or the perfect and clear understanding of all mysteries, and the power of communicating TlIE INWARD Light by immediate and miraculous inspiration from beaven,) are no longer vouchsafed to any METHOD of preaching. The gifts now pretended to, the momentary conversions, and various other religious experiences and inward feelings, which are become so extremely common of late, must only be admitted with a considerable degree of caution and prudential scepticism; unless the same undeniable credentials which the genuine and original apostles* exhibited, can again be produced as vouchers.
The catholics are not the only enthusiasts liable to be deceived by “ strong delusions," as appears from the religious extravagancies of the anabaptists at Munster, the fifth monarchy men in England, and other notorious instances of false lights in these last times. f
* Rev. ii. 2.
If it was needful, even in the first
of christianity, to “ try the spirits, whether they be of God,”—or from the bottomless pit of fanatical delusion or hypocritical imposture, surely our modern prophets have at least equal need to be exposed to the same test.* The actions of Christ himself, and the language which was employed by him and his apostles, were in the gospel age imitated by impostors, and usurped without authority by enthusiasts. A superabundance of spiritual pride has in all times prompted indiscreet men to a similar abuse and perversion of the scripture phraseology. Yet as this licentiousness was branded with the strongest marks of disapprobation, in the very days of miracles and real prophetical inspiration, it deserves a much more severe censure in ours;
* I Cor. iv. 19; 1 John iv. 1.
† Acts xix 15. “ And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know but who are ge ?” (Rev. ii. 2.) “ Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them LIARS.” (2 Cor. xi. 13, and 1 Cor xii. 29.) “Such are FALSE APOSTLES, deceitful workers, transforme ing themselves into the apostles of Christ."
many instances of the most profligate delusion of the credulous by unfounded pretences to miraculous gifts.
When Jeroboam fell away from the established church of Israel, in order to make his schism as popular as he could, he admitted the people indiscrimately to the public discharge of the sacred functions of his newfangled METHOD of religion,
" and took of the very lowest of the people, (from their shopboards and stalls,) and whosoever would, be consecrated him to be a priest of the high places.” He wished, from motives of policy, to degrade the regular priesthood, which was by divine appointment, and to corrupt and debase the religious instruction of the people, by giving them contemptible and ignorant teachers.*
* None but teachers of this description would have pushed forward into the sacred offices, at the instigation of self conceit after the severe punishment which God had inflicted
that presumptuous and profane violation of his appointed ordinances, in the person of the schismatic Korah. Jeroboam, it seems, did however so far respect the divine ordinances, as not to admit of TEACHERS without any ordination or consecration at all. (1. Kings xiii. 33.) See Gregory's History of the Church, vol. ij. p. 523,--Essays, Hist, and Mor,
After this so marked a disapprobation put upon this METHODISM of Jeroboam, under a less complete system of religion and faith, can we approve of the very same methods of degrading divine truth, when that which is
perfect is come?
Such self-constituted instructors, running up
and down to “ draw away disciples after them,” enlightening and converting the weak and the ignorant, (too frequently as the ancient pharisees did, to a sanctity of profession which is destitute of candour and charity, yet with the highest pretensions to both :) affecting to be sent “ to turn the world from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God," as if all christian professors (except these elect only) were absolutely sitting in the grossest darkness of heathenish idolatry! in the nineteenth century! is, in fact, to turn the gosz pel into burlesque, and make zeal nauseous.
“ Qui semel verecundiæ fines transierint, eos oportet gnaviter esse impudentes.”
CICERO. “When men have once over-stepped the boundary line that modesty and propriety prescribes to every one, let them not stick at any thing in the shape of impudence after that.”
Enthusiasm is a dangerous guide to follow all lengths, without the co-operation of a little common sense, and a portion of modesty. * Religion which appeals little to the understanding, and much to inward feelings, musť necessarily be judged of from signs accompanying it, as in the primitive times, and like those then exhibited) such as cannot be doubted of, or misunderstood. Phineas by a divine impulse, did an irregular act, and received just commendation and reward; but Jack of Leyden and Knipperdoling, James Naylor, and George Fox, &c. by following the inward light of a spiritual ignis fatuus, or diabolical delusion, have met with a very different acceptation of their respective services to religion, from the impartial judgment of posterity.t
* Rom. xii. 3;1. Cor. viii, 2.
+ See in Sleidan's History of the reformation, B. X. p. 202. folio --The dreadful effects of the enthusiasm of the Anabaptists at Munster. And the blasphemous fanaticism of these GREAT LIGHTs, in the time of Oliver Cromwell, the age
of Sectarian licentiousness and more powerful persecution of the church of England, --- Biograph. Dic,