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superstitious form, by our 'honouring God with our lips, while our heart is far from Him,' this result is almost unavoidable when the prayers are recited in an unknown tongue, and with a prescribed number of 'vain repetitions,' crossings, and telling of beads. And men of a timorous mind, having once taken up a wrong notion of what religion consists in, seek a refuge from doubt and anxiety, a substitute for inward piety, and, too often, a compensation for an evil life, in an endless multiplication of superstitious observances;— of pilgrimages, sprinklings with holy water, veneration of relics, and the like. And hence the enormous accumulation of superstitions, which, in the course of many centuries, gradually arose in the Romish and Greek Churches.'
But were there no such thing in existence as a corrupt church, we are not to suppose that we are safe from superstition. There are many things which cannot be dispensed, that, though not superstitious in themselves, may be abused into occasions of superstition. Such are the Sacraments; Prayer, public and private; instructions from the Ministers of the word; buildings and days set apart, either wholly or partly, for these purposes. 'In a word—where anything, not in itself moral or religious, is connected with religion, superstition fastens upon that, because it is 'worldly,' and lets the rest go. Thus, when God's justice is described in Scripture as vengeance, to show us that it pursues the offender as sternly as a revengeful man would pursue his enemy, superstition fastens on the thought of God's thirsting for revenge, and regards sin only as an offence which provokes in God a desire of inflicting pain on somebody. Again, when water, or bread and wine, are made signs of the power of the Holy Spirit, or of Christ's body and blood sacrificed for us, superstition fastens on the water, or the bread and wine, as if they were the things themselves. When a place must be set apart for divine worship, superstition fancies that God dwells in that place, rather than in the hearts of the worshippers. When pictures or images of holy persons are set before us, superstition fastens on the image as if it were the reality. When rites and ceremonies are used to express our devotion, superstition makes them our devotion. When prayers have to be said, superstition makes the saying them, prayer. When good books are to be perused, superstition makes the perusal, edification. When works are to he done from a good motive, superstition makes the outward action, the good works. When sufferings for riglUeoumess' sake are commended, superstition takes the suffering for merit; and so in many other instances. It seizes ever on the outward—on that which is not moral; on that which strikes the senses or the imagination— and fastens there; while true religion, on the contrary, calls on us to 'lift up our heart' from the earthly to the heavenly, and use the outward as a help to the 'inward.'n
'Too great reverence of traditions, over-loading the Church.'
Wonderful is the readiness with which many persons acquiesce in tradition, and rest satisfied with an appeal to a standard in all respects so vague and uncertain. For, besides the uncertainty of traditions which are received in the Church of Rome, there is an additional uncertainty to each individual Roman Catholic, what are so received. If a man when told, 'Such is the tradition of the Church,' should ask, 'how did you learn that?' it will be found, by pushing such inquiries, that the priest learnt it from a book, which reports that something has been reported by one of the ancient fathers as having been reported to him as believed by those who had heard it reported that the Apostles taught it. So that, to found faith on an appeal to such tradition, is to base it on the report of a report of a report of a report. The discussions one sometimes meets with as to the 'credibility of traditions' generally, are as idle as Hume's, respecting the credit due to testimony. One might as well inquire, 'What degree of regard should be paid to books?' Common sense would dictate in reply, 'What book?' as also 'Whose testimony?—what tradition?" As each particular testimony, and each particular book, just so should each alleged tradition be examined on its own merits.
'Tradition is not the interpreter of Seripture, but Scripture is the interpreter of tradition. It is foolish to say that tradition is to be held to, rather than Scripture, because tradition was before Scripture; since the Scriptures (that is, written records) were used on purpose, after traditions had been tried, to
Oivtioiufor the Times, No. V. p. 81.
guard against the uncertainties of mere tradition. Scripture is the test; and yet many defend oral tradition on the ground that we have the Scriptures themselves by tradition. Would they think, that because they could trust most servants to deliver a letter, however long or important, therefore they could trust them to deliver its contents in a message by word of mouth? Take a familiar case. A footman brings you a letter from a friend,, upon whose word you can perfectly rely, giving an account of something that has happened to himself, and the exact account of which you are greatly concerned to know. While you are reading and answering the letter, the footman goes into the kitchen, and there gives your cook an account of the same thing; which, he says, he overheard the upper servants at home talking over, as related to them by the valet, who said he had it from your friend's son's own lips. The cook relates the story to your groom, and he, in turn, tells you. Would you judge of that story by the letter, or the letter by the story?'
Well might Bacon speak of the 'over-loading' by tradition; for it does over-load, whether—according to the pretended distinction—it be made co-ordinate with, or »woordinate to, Scripture. To make these countless traditions the substitute for Seripture by offering them to the people as proofs of doctrine, is something like offering to pay a large bill of exchange in farthings, which, you know, it would be intolerably troublesome to count or carry. And tradition, when made subordinate to, and dependent on, Scripture, is made so much in the same way that some parasite plants are dependent on the trees that support them. The parasite at first clings to, and rests on, the tree, which it gradually overspreads with its own foliage, till by little and little, it weakens and completely smothers it.
* Miraturque novas frondes, et non sua poma.'
But, with regard to this distinction attempted to be set up between co-ordinate and subordinate tradition, it is to be observed, that, 'if any human comment or interpretation is to be received implicitly and without appeal, it is placed practically, as far as relates to everything except a mere question of dignity, on a level with Scripture. Among the Parliamentarians at the time of the Civil War, there were many—at first a great majority—who professed to obey the King's commands, as notified to them by Parliament, and levied forces in the King's name, against his person. If any one admitted Parliament to be the sole and authoritative interpreter and expounder of the regal commands, and this without any check from any other Power, it is plain that he virtually admitted the sovereignty of that Parliament, just as much as if he had recognized their formal deposition of the King.' \
1 Cautirms for the Times, ist edition, No. XI. pp. 20, it.
'The taking aim at diiine matters by human,'
The desire of prying into mysteries relative to the invisible world, but which have no connexion with practice, is a characteristic of human nature; and to it may be traced the immense mass of presumptuous speculations about things unrevealed, respecting God and his designs, and his decrees, 'secret to us,'! as well as all the idle legends of various kinds respecting wonderworking saints, &c. The sanction afforded to these by persons who did not themselves believe them, sprang from a dishonest pursuit of the expedient rather than the true; but it is probable that the far greater part of such idle tales had not their origin in any deep and politic contrivance, but in men's natural passion for what is marvellous, and readiness to cater for that passion in each other ;—in the universal fondness of the human mind for speculative knowledge respecting things curious and things hidden, rather than (what alone the Scriptures supply) practical knowledge respecting things which have a reference to our wants. It was thus the simplicity of the Gospel was corrupted by ' mixture of imaginations.' When the illumination from Heaven— the rays of revelation—failed to shed the full light men desired, they brought to the dial-plate the lamp of human philosophy.
Those who presume to maintain, as some have done,3 that the Most High dooms his creatures to misery 'for no came whatever,' except that such is His will, and for the assertion of His sovereignty, and the setting forth of His glory, (as if He could literally covet glory!) are seeking to explain one great difficulty, by raising up another, much greater. And they run counter to
Kiiujdim of ChrM, 4th edition, Easay II. § 26, p. 216. :Sec 17th Articla 3 See Calvin's Institutes.
Seripture as well as to Beason. For, though Scripture does not teach us what is the cause of evil, it plainly shows what is not the cause. That it cannot be from ill-will or indifference, or caprice, in the Deity, is proved by the sufferings of the Beloved Son: since no Being,—not even a capricious tyrant—would ever wantonly inflict suffering on the object of his own strong love.
'Men think to do best if they go furthest from the superstition formerly received; therefore care would be had that tlte good be not taken away with the bad.'
There is a natural tendency to 'mistake reverse of right for wong.' It is not enough, therefore, to act upon the trite familiar rule of guarding especially against the error which on each occasion, or in each place, you find men especially liable to; but you must remember, at the same time, this other caution, not less important and far more likely to be overlooked— to guard against a tendency to a reaction—against the proneness to rush from one extreme into the opposite.
One cause of this is, that a painful and odious association is sometimes formed in men's minds with anything at all connected with that from which they have suffered much; and thus they are led to reject the good and the evil together. This is figured in the Tale of a Tub, by Jack's eagerness to be 'as unlike that rogue Peter as possible;' and he accordingly tears off the tail of his coat, and flings it away, because it had been overlaid with lace.
'Since almost every erroneous system contains truth blended with falsehood, hence its tendency usually is, first, to recommend the falsehood on account of the truth combined with it, and afterwards, to bring the truth into contempt or odium, on account of the intermixture of falsehood.
'In no point is the record of past times more instructive to those capable of learning from other experience than their own, than in what relates to the history of reactions.
'It has been often remarked by geographers that a river flowing through a level country of soft alluvial soil, never keeps a straight course, but winds regularly to and fro, in the form of the letter S many times repeated. And a geographer, on looking at the course of any stream as marked on a map, can at