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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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To obtain just definitions of words which are promiscuously used , it must be confessed, is no small difficulty. This word, it seems, is used both in a good and a bad sense. In its best sense it signifies a divine afflatus or inspiration. It is also taken for that noble ardour of mind which leads us to imagine any thing sublime, grand, or surprising. In its worst sense it signifies any impression on the fancy, or agitation of the passions, of which a man can give no rational account. It is generally applied to religious characters, and is said to be derived from the wild gestures and speeches of ancient religionists, pretending to more than ordinary and more than true communications with the gods, and particularly in the act or at the time of sacrificing. In this sense, then, it signifies that impulse of the mind which leads a man to suppose he has some remarkable intercourse with the Deity, while at the same time it is nothing more than the effects of a heated imagination, or a sanguine constitution. That the Divine Being permits his people to enjoy fellowship with him, and that he can work upon the minds of his creatures when and how he pleases, cannot be denied.

But, then, what is the criterion by which we are to judge, in order to distinguish it from enthusiasm? It is necessary there should be some rule, for without it the greatest extra-vagancies would be committed, the most notorious impostors countenanced, and the most enormous evils ensue. Now this criterion is the word of God; from which we learn, that we are to expect no new revelations, no extraordinary gifts, as in the apostles' time; that whatever opinions, feelings, views, or impressions we may have, if they do not tend to humble us, if they do not influence our temper, regulate our lives, and make us just, pious, honest, and uniform, they cannot come from God, but are evidently the effusions of an enthusiastic brain. On the other hand, if the mind be enlightened, if the will which was perverse be renovated, detached from evil, and inclined to good; if the powers be roused to exertion for the promotion of the divine glory, and the good of men; if the natural corruptions of the heart be suppressed; if peace and joy arise from a view of the goodness of God, attended with a spiritual frame of mind, a heart devoted to God, and a holy, useful life: however this may be branded with the name of enthusiasm, it certainly is from God, because bare human efforts, unassisted by him, could never produce such effects as these. Theol. Misc. vol. 2: p. 43.; Locke on Underst. vol. 2: ch. 19.; Spect. No. 201. vol. 3:; Wesley's Ser. on Enthusiasm; Mrs. H. More's Hints towards forming the Character of a young Princess, vol. 2: p. 246.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Enthusiasm'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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