Religious Enthusiasm, True and False
1 Samuel 19:24
And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night…

This passage brings before us three very remarkable men — Samuel, and Saul, and David. And this passage speaks to me of religious consolation and religious excitement. Now I ask you to observe that in the case of David there is no record of any agitation or excitement. It would have been little wonderful if he, fleeing for his life, had been overcome with emotion when he found himself with Samuel and with the servants of God, in safeguard. It was the servants of Saul that became excited, and then it was Saul himself showed religious frenzy. The son of Kish was one exceedingly sensitive to the influences of music and song. When his fit of mania came upon him the voice and harp of David wonderfully soothed and even melted him. We read at an earlier period, before he came into possession of the kingdom, that he met a company of prophets, and he too joined them. Years had passed, and now he was a worse man that he was at that day. His character had sorely deteriorated, but through that very disorder of his mind he was in some respects more susceptible than ever to a sort of religious excitement. When he came to Naioth he was quite beyond himself; the spiritual electricity of the place was too much for him, and he fell into a sort of paroxysm of enthusiasm. But he was no prophet. You may be among the prophets, and join your voices among them, and yet be no prophet.

1. There is a religious excitation or excitement which may not have any moral quality or influence whatever. It is not affected; it is real. It is not insincere; it is sincere. I despise the man who would play a part and pretend to be religiously excited when he is not. He is too base a creature. But I mean a person who really is lifted up and carried along with a rush of sacred enthusiasm. He cries for mercy, and he sings loudly of salvation. When he was alone he could not pray at all. He was carried along with the prophets. He had a wonderful fervour, his emotions were all aglow, and his brain was excited with a sort of sacred ecstasy. Now, this happens all the more easily if a man has a constitution accessible to such influences. I do not say that all excitement is useless, but I say that there is an excitement that only amounts to this. God forbid that we should for a moment deny that there are cases in which people get real permanent good. But the excitement is only the accompaniment; it is not the change. Excitement wears itself out. Paroxysms and ecstasies pass away.

2. The second thing is this: the degree in which religious emotion overpowers the body is generally proportioned to the ignorance of the mind, or to its alienation or estrangement from God. David joined the company of these prophets without any excitement or frenzy. I do not read a word about his lying naked upon the ground for a day and a night. Why was that? Because David had more of the matter in him than Saul. There was no resistance in David, therefore his body was not overpowered. But Saul was in an evil mood. He had come down to Naioth in a very evil mood. Envy and murder were in his heart, and when this pure sacred impulse came upon him, it met with the strongest resistance. If this is right, and surely this is right, this case should teach those persons who have at various times made a great ado over prostrations and trances and long lastings as signs of the work of grace, to be somewhat more cautious in their utterances. These things occur almost always in the case of a morbid hysterical temperament, in which case they are only a sign of disease, not of health; or in the case of a very ignorant person who is overwhelmed with things of which he has no intelligent conception; or in cases where there has been a very awful estrangement from God, and the Word of His grace finds an obstruction. There is a sympathy between the body and the spirit. They suffer together, they rejoice together. The body is not overpowered because the spirit of the man is open to the teachings of the Spirit of God. Mark you, it is Saul, not David, that cast off his garments in his excitement, and that threw himself in fanatical exhaustion upon the ground, if you reflect now and consider this, that this Bible is a collection of Eastern books, and remember that the East has always been the home of strange religious extravagance, do not you recognise a new proof of the Divine wisdom that pervades this Bible, that it is really inspired of the Holy Ghost in its well-balanced sobriety of mind? The Lord Jesus, Whom the Bible sets forth as the Holy One, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners — Jesus Whom the Bible calls us to admire and love and follow, is full of the grandest enthusiasm. God was with Him. If ever there was a man full of Spirit it was the Man Christ Jesus. He was filled with the Holy Ghost, and went everywhere led by the Spirit, and at the same time full of sweet self-possession, full of meekness and wisdom, and so answered all questions on the spur of the moment in the wisest possible manner, and set forth perfectly the cause of righteousness. The Bible teaches us, and especially to be calm and fervent, fervent and calm.

(Donald Fraser, D. D.).

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?

WEB: He also stripped off his clothes, and he also prophesied before Samuel, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?"

The Meeting of Three Remarkable Men
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