‘The prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad.’
I. Enthusiasm is a term employed in a good sense, and is used to describe the feeling with which men often devote themselves to national interests and secular professions. The politician, the poet, the painter, the man of science and of literature, or, what is more to the purpose at present, the physician and the surgeon, who give themselves to the science and philosophy of their profession—who enlarge its boundaries and unravel its mysteries and promote its advancement—these men are spoken of with rapture for the extravagance and eccentricity of zeal which they consume on the promotion of their favourite pursuits; they are thus spoken of by the very men who, when a tithe of such zeal appears in the professors of a science, in comparison with which every other sinks into insignificance, are ever ready to express their pity in the language of contempt—the prophet is a fool, or the preacher is mad.
II. Now, conduct like this is just anything but wisdom.—To use a familiar comparison, it is like the feeling of a man who, on seeing the successful application of medicine in suddenly raising an individual from the bed of sickness, and bringing him forth into society in vigour and in health, should fix his admiration, not upon the skill of the physician who had restored the patient, but upon the skill of the operatives who selected the fashion of his coat, or the figure of his shoe. Any extravagance, in fact, on the subject of religion is more rational and more dignified than indifference; and any folly is tolerable and innocent but that which admires the enthusiasm often absurdly devoted to present interests and temporary claims, and condemns that which belongs to the eternal, the infinite, and the future.