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signs of that spiritual animation, which is felt and enjoyed, when the times of refreshing come from his presence."
Mr. John Roscoe. "We very well know that evangelical preaching has a more powerful effect than anti-evangelical; and that those who admire it, are, generally speaking, more loquacious on the subject of religion, and more religiously disposed in their habits; but this is one of the objections which we urge against it. If we feel too little, they feel too much; and if we are not quite so religious in our habits as we ought to be, they go to the opposite extreme, and become enthusiasts. We keep within the boundary which reason marks out, but they cross it; and while we restrain our passions, and rarely discuss the awful subjects of religion in our social interviews, they yield to impulses and excitements, which they rashly ascribe to a mental intercourse with an invisible world; and often use terms of expression which are more nearly allied to rhapsody, than sober truth."
Mr. Roscoe. "But why should an enthusiastic ardour in religion, be marked with such strong reprobation; when it is admired in almost every other pursuit. You applaud it in a general, who hazards his own life, and the life of his army, to drive the foe from the heights of victory.-You applaud it in a pleader, or a senator, who throws the whole energy of his mind into his subject; returning after a momentary pause, or partial defeat, to the combat; kindling into rapture as the inspiration of his genius comes fresh upon him, or bursting forth in torrents of indignation, as he approaches the object of his abhorrence; keeping a whole audience hanging with quivering anxiety on his lips, as he moves forward to snatch the victim from the altar; or rouse up the slumbering honour of a na tion to secure her rights, or avenge her wrongs. And if a minister of mercy, who is appointed to watch for souls,
display the same degree of vigilance, breathe the same
degree of impassioned ardour in his adresses, rise through all the graduated scale of feeling, from the tenderest pity, to the loftiest tone of solemn awe, will you condemn in him, what you applaud in others? Is he who is entrusted with the most responsible commission, that was ever given to mortal man, and on whose fidelity the endless happiness or misery of his hearers, is made in some measure to depend, to be the only man, who must appear uninterested in the result of his labours, to gain public applause?"
"The censures which you have passed on the excitement of the passions, amongst the admirers of evangelical preaching, I consider no less opposed to the physical laws of our nature, than to the avowed tendency of scriptural truth. Can a man of a refined taste, whose passions are strong, and easily susceptible of excitement, avoid being deeply interested by the sublime, or beautiful, in the natural; or the pathetic, or tragical, in the history of the moral world? No. Impossible. He is affected, before he is conscious of feeling; and often, when he is incapable of assigning the specific cause of it. To argue that this liability to strong excitement, is a proof of the imperfection of our nature, is nothing less than a begging of the question; a species of artifice which cannot be tolerated. Our nature is liable to excitement; we cannot avoid it. It is upon the whole considered a favourable symptom of a fine taste, or a good disposition. We prefer it to stoicism; to apathy; to a mental dulness, which neither sounds harmonious, nor scenes enchanting, can move. Now by what law is it rendered criminal for a man to be deeply affected by the momentous truths of revelation. Does the law of our nature forbid it?-No. You yourself have confessed that the admirers of evangelical preaching are in general strongly, too strongly, affected by what they believe. To strip your charges of the measured language in which they are brought, you say, that they are too deeply af fected by the awful descriptions which the sacred writers have given us of the miseries of the lost soul; too strongly animated by the sublime enunciations which they have made of life and immortality; too
grateful to the Lord of glory, for bearing their sins in his own body, on the tree; too intense in their desires after a more perfect, conformity to the purity of the divine nature."
"Will the law of the Scriptures sanction the application of such charges? Do we not read of the peace of God which passeth all understanding? Does not the apostle Peter say, when alluding to Jesus Christ, (1 Pet. i. 8.) Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory? Does not Paul employ language equally strong, when he says, (Rom. xv. 13.) Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost? Is not the same elevated strain of high enraptured feeling, apparent in the following paragraph, of the first epistle of St. John. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure: chap. iii. 1-3.
Mr. John Roscoe. "I grant that such language might be used with propriety, by the holy apostles; but, I presume, you will not venture to institute a comparison between them and us ?"
Mr. Roscoe. "They were, unquestionably, superior to all other men, in the qualifications which they possessed for their apostolic office; and attained to higher degrees of personal religion, than any of their successors; but, as they were sinners, in common with the rest of mankind, and were saved in the same way as the most guilty and impure, they were not endowed with any spiritual attainments which were exclusively confined to their order. And of this you must be conscious, if you examine the passages which I have quoted; for they do not speak of their own exclusive attainments, but of those high privileges which belonged to all, who had embraced the truths which
they preached. And as these truths are handed down. to us, for the same moral purposes, as they were originally proclaimed to the inhabitants of Judea, of Greece, and of Rome: it is obvious, that if they do not awaken within our breasts, an ardour of feeling, equally fervid, and intense, and devotional, it is be. cause we have not given to them that cordial reception, which they demand. But if they do awaken a similar ardour of feeling; if they do allow us to utter a similar phraseology of expression, as the only descriptive vehicle of our moral sensations, and anticipations; if they do gain that high ascendancy over our senses, and taste, and judgment, which they maintained over theirs; to reproach us as enthusiasts, is nothing less than a covert attack on the sanctity of our faith."
Mr. John Roscoe. "But will you go so far as to maintain, that a person has not received the truth, who has not felt this peace, which passeth all understanding; this joy which is unspeakable, and full of glory; and who is not animated with a full and certain hope of future felicity?"
Mr. Roscoe. "No. There are intermediate stages between the first impressions of truth on the heart, and the attainment of these high privileges of the Christian. The peace, which ariseth from a dependance on the efficacy of the atonement, may be only as the serenity of the mind, which feels no guilt pressing on its sensibilities; and the hope, which lingers over the felicities of a future world, may be as the feeble rays of light, breaking in upon the spirit, amidst the gloom of uncertainty; but still, in this early stage of the application of the truth to the mind, you will discover a similarity of impression, to that more powerful, and rapturous excitement, which marks its progressive, and more perfect operations."
Mr. John Roscoe. There are some leading truths in the scheme of revelation, on which we agree; but I candidly confess, that they have not produced the same effect on my mind, which they appear to have produced on yours. I have been, and still am, satisfied by the simple belief of them; but you speak, as though they had produced some extraordinary
moral effect on your mind. I am not disposed to im peach the validity of your testimony. I will admit it. And I will admit that this moral effect is novel, is permanent, and a source of high satisfaction; but may it not rather be resolved into the singular construction of your mind, than considered as an indispensible evidence of an actual reception of the truth?"
Mr. Roscoe. "But how can it be resolved into the singular construction of my mind, when it is but recently that this effect has been produced? and when it is an effect which others feel who embrace het evangelical principles. I often listened with a mixture of astonishment and displeasure, to my dear Sophia, when she was endeavouring to convince me, that all personal religion, had its origin in the supernatural illumination, and renovation of the mind; and though she would sometimes overpower my arguments, by her apt quotations from the Scriptures: yet my reason, and my prejudices, revolted against the doctrine, because I could not perceive its necessity, nor comprehend how it could take place,* But now I trust, I have felt that moral change, which I once despised; and which too many still despise. The Scriptures, which I have studied for years, disclose new beauties; the scheme of redemption, consummated by the death of the Lord Jesus, is my most sacred theme of meditation; and if I have any regret, it is not because I have imbibed evangelical truth, at my advanced age, but because I did not receive it at an earlier period. Those may doubt the existence of this moral change, in which personal religion origi nates, who have never felt it; and ridicule it as fanatical, because they cannot comprehend it; but they who have felt it, ascribe its production to the grace of God; regard it as the noblest distinction which could be created in their favour; and can attest it by the evidence of experience, which is conclusive at least to themselves; and ought to be to others.
See No. 21 of this Series, p. 4.
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