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(both claims are alike groundless), and by consenting to andergo those trials of vigilance and of patience which God has appointed for them,-let them not fear that by this they will forfeit all cheerful hope of final salvation,-all joy and peace in believing.' The reverse of all this is the reality. While such Christians as have sought rather for peace,—for mental tranquillity and satisfaction, than for truth, will often fail both of truth and peace, those of the opposite disposition are more likely to attain both from their gracious Master. He has taught us to take heed that we be not deceived,' and to • beware of false prophets ;' and He has promised us his own peace and heavenly comfort. He has bid us watch and pray; He has taught us, through his blessed Apostle, to take heed to ourselves, and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling;' and He has declared, through the same Apostle, that · He worketh in us;' He has bid us rejoice in hope; He has promised that He will not suffer us to be tempted above what we are able to bear;' and He has taught us to look forward to the time when we shall no longer ‘see as by means of a mirror, darkly, but face to face ;'-—when we shall know, ‘not in part, but even as we are known ;'—when faith shall be succeeded by certainty, and hope be ripened into enjoyment. His precepts and His promises go together. His support and comfort are given to those who seek for them in the way He has Himself appointed.
ESSAY XVII. OF SUPERSTITION.
TT were better to have no opinion of God at all, than such an 1 opinion as is unworthy of Him; for the one is unbelief, the other is contumely : and certainly superstition is the reproach of the Deity. Plutarch saith well to that purpose: “Surely,' saith he, • I had rather a great deal, men should say there was no such a man at all as Plutarch, than that they should say there was one Plutarch, that would eat his children as soon as they were born;" as the poets speak of Saturn : and as the contumely is greater towards God, so the danger is greater towards men. Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation—all which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, though religion were not,but superstition dismounts all these, and erecteth an absolute monarchy in the minds of men; therefore atheism did never perturb? States; for it makes men weary of themselves, as looking no further; and we see the times inclined to atheism, as the time of Augustus Cæsar, were civil3 times; but superstition hath been the confusion of many States, and bringeth in a new primum mobile,* that ravisheth all the spheres of government.
The master of superstition is the people, and in all superstition wise men follow fools; and arguments are fitted to practice in a reversed order. It was gravely said, by some of the prelates in the Council of Trent, where the doctrine of the schoolmen bare great sway, that the schoolmen were like astronomers, which did feign eccentrics and epicycles, and such engines of orbs, to save the phenomena, though they knew there were no such things; and, in like manner, that the schoolmen had framed a number of subtle and intricate axioms and theorems, to save the practice of the Church.
1 Plut. De Superstit. x.
2 Perturb. To disturb. They are content to suffer the penalties annexed, rather than perturb the public peace.'-King Charles I. 3 Civil. Orderly; tranquil ; civilized.
* For rudest minds by harmony were caught,
And civil life was by the Muses taught.'- Roscommon. * Primum mobile. See page 153.
The causes of superstition are pleasing and sensual' rites and ceremonies; excess of outward and pharisaical holiness; overgreat reverence of traditions, which cannot but load the Church; the stratagems of prelates for their own ambition and lucre; the favouring too much of good intentions, which openeth the gate to conceits and novelties; the taking an aim at divine matters by human, which cannot but breed mixture of imaginations; and, lastly, barbarous times, especially joined with calamities and disasters. Superstition, without a veil, is a deformed thing; for, as it addeth deformity to an ape to be so like a man, so the similitude of superstition to religion makes it the more deformed; and as wholesome meat corrupteth to little worms, so good forms and orders corrupt into a number of petty observances.
There is a superstition in avoiding superstition, when men think to do best if they go farthest from the superstition formerly received; therefore care would be had that (as it fareth in ill purgings) the good be not taken away with the bad, which commonly is done when the people is the reformer.
ANTITHETA ON SUPERSTITION.
CONTRA. Qui zelo peccant, non probandi, sed Ut simiæ, similitudo cum homine, tamen amandi sunt.
deformitatem addit; ita superstitioni, Those who go wrong from excess of similitudo cum religione. zeal, cannot indeed be approved, but “As an ape is the more hideous for must nevertheless be loved.'
its resemblance to a man, so is super. stition from its resemblance to religion.'
* Præstat nullam habere de diis opinionem, quam contumeliosam.
• It is better to have no opinion at all of the gods, than a degrading one.'
Some use the word superstition to denote any belief which they hold to be absurd, if those who hold it can give no explanation of it. For example, some fancy that the hair will not grow well if it be cut in the wane of the moon; and that bees will not prosper unless the owner goes to the hives whenever a marriage or death occurs in his family, and announces it. But such a notion, though it may be a groundless fancy, is not to be called, in the strict sense, a superstition, unless it be connected with some sort of religious reverence for some supposed superhuman agent. Neither is superstition (as it has been defined by a popular though superficial writer) an excess of religion' (at least in the ordinary sense of the word excess), as if any one could have too much of true religion : but any misdirection of religious feeling ; manifested either in showing religious veneration or regard to objects which deserve none ; that is, properly speaking, the worship of false gods; or, in the assignment of such a degree, or such a kind of religious veneration to any object, as that object, though worthy of some reverence, does not deserve; or in the worship of the true God through the medium of improper rites and ceremonies.
i Sensual. Affecting the senses.
* Would. Should.
It was the unsparing suppression of both those kinds of superstition which constituted the distinguished and peculiar merit of that upright and zealous prince, Hezekiah. He was not satisfied, like many other kings, with putting down that branch of superstition which involves the breach of the first Commandment—the setting up of false gods ; but was equally decisive in his reprobation of the other branch also—the worship of the true God by the medium of prohibited emblems, and with unauthorized and superstitious rites. Of these two kinds of superstition, the latter is continually liable, in practice, to slide into the former by such insensible degrees, that it is often hard to decide, in particular cases, where the breach of the second Commandment ends, and that of the first begins. The distinction is not, however, for that reason useless ; perhaps it is even the more useful on that very account, and was for that reason preserved, in those two Commandments, of which the second serves as a kind of outwork to the first, to guard against all gradual approaches to a violation of it—to keep men at a distance from infringing the majesty of the jealous God.' Minds strongly predisposed to superstition, may be compared to heavy bodies just balanced on the verge of a precipice. The slightest touch will send them over, and then, the greatest exertion that can be made may be insufficient to arrest their fall.
• The one is unbelief, the other is contumely; and certainly
superstition is the reproach of the Deity.' Bacon might have said that both are unbelief; for, he who rashly gives heed to superstitious delusions, errs not from excess of faith, but from want of faith; since what is true in his belief, he receives not because it is true,-but because it agrees with some prejudice or fancy of his own; and he is right when he is right, only by chance. Having violated the spirit of the first Commandment, by regarding what is human with the veneration due to that only which is divine, his worship, even of the true God, becomes an abomination. He has set up idols in his heart, and the Lord, the jealous God, will set his face against that man.
And in reference to the contumely of God, it is a circumstance very remarkable, that, in many instances at least, superstition not only does not promote true religion, but even tends to generate profaneness. In proof of the strange mixture of superstition and profaneness that leads to the jokes and sallies of wit that are frequently heard among the Spanish peasantry, even in respect of the very objects of superstitious reverence, I can cite the testimony of an eminently competent witness. The like strange mixture is found in other Roman-catholic, and also in Pagan countries, particularly among the Hindus, who are described as habitually reviling their gods in the grossest terms, on the occasion of any untoward event. And in our own country nothing is so common a theme of profane jests among the vulgar of all ranks as the Devil; a large proportion of the superstition that exists being connected more or less with the agency of Evil Spirits.
This curious anomaly may perhaps be, in a great measure at least, accounted for, from the consideration, that, as superstition imposes a yoke rather of fear than of love, her votaries are glad to take revenge, as it were, when galled by this yoke, and to indemnify themselves in some degree both for the irksomeness of their restraints and tasks, and also for the degradation (some sense of which is always excited by a consciousness of slavish dread), by taking liberties whenever they dare, either in the way of insult or of playfulness, with the objects of their dread.