« 上一頁繼續 »
the ocean, so that the people were all saved and brought into the lowlands of Great Britain; nay, though they were to be reimbursed the ralue of their estates by the body of the people, yet both the sovereign and the subjects in general would be enriched by the very loss.
If the people only make the riches, the father of ten children is a greater benefactor to his country, than he who has added to it 10,000 acres of land and no people. It is certain Lewis has joined vast tracts of land to his dominions: but if Philarithmus says true, that he is not now master of so many subjects as before, we may then account for his not being able to bring such mighty armies into the field, and for their being neither so well fed, nor clothed, nor paid as formerly. The reason is plain, Lewis must needs have been impoverished not only by his loss of subjects, but by his acquisition of lands.
No. CCI. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20.
Religentem esse oportet, religiosum nefas.
AULUS GELLIUS. A man should be religious, not superstitious.
IT is of the last importance to season the passions of a child with devotion, which seldom dies in a mind that has received an early tincture of it. Though it may seem extinguished for a while by the cares of the world, the heats of youth, or the allurements of vice, it generally breaks out and discovers itself again as soon as discretion, consideration, age, or misfortunes have brought the man to himself. The fire may be covered andover-laid, but cannot be entirely quenched and smothered.
A state of temperance, sobriety, and justice, without devotion, is a cold, lifeless, insipid condition of virtue, and is rather to be stiled philosophy than religion. Devotion opens the mind to great conceptions, and fills it with more sublime ideas than any that are to be met with in the most exalted science; and at the same time warms and agitates the soul more than sensual pleasure.
It has been observed by some writers, that man is more distinguished from the animal world by devotion than by reason, as several brute creatures discover in their actions something like a faint glimmer. ing of reason, though they betray in no single circumstance of their behaviour any thing that bears the least affinity to clevction. It is certain the propensity of the mind to religious worship, the natural tendency of the soul to fly to some superior being for succour in dan gers and distresses, the gratitude to an invisible superintendant which arises in us upon receiving any extraordinary and unexpected good fortune, the acts of love and admiration with which the thoughts of men are so wonderfully transported in meditating upon the divine perfections, and the universal concurrence of all the nations under heaven in the great article of adoration, plainly shew, that devotion or religious worship must be the effect of tradition from some first founder of mankind, or that it is conformable to the natural light of reason, or that it proceeds from instinct implanted in the soul itself. For my part, I look upon all these to be the concurrent cau ses; but which ever of them shall be assigned as the principle of divine worship, it manifestly points to a Supreme Being as the first author of it.
I may take some other opportunity of considering those particular forms and methods of devotion which are taught us by Christianity ; but shall here observe into what errors even this divine principle may sometimes lead us, when it is not moderated by that right
reason which was given us as the guide of all our actions.
The two great errors into which a mistaken devoțion may betray us, are enthusiasm and superstition.
There is not a more melancholy objecł than a man who has his head turned with religious enthusiasm. A person that is craz
razed, though with pride or malice, is a sight very mortifying to human nature; but when the distemper arises from any indiscreet fervours of devotion, or too intense an application of the mind to its mistaken duties, it deserves our compassion in a more particular manner. We may however learn this lesson from it, that since devotion itself (which one would be apt to think could not be too warm) may disorder the mind, unless its heats are tempered with caution and prudence, we should be particularly careful to keep our reason as cool as possible, and to guard ourselves in all parts of life against the influence of passion, imagination, and constitution.
Devotion, when it does not lie under the check of reason, is very apt to degenerate into enthusiasm. When the mind finds herself very much inflamed with her devotions, she is too much inclined to think they are not of her own kindling, but blown up by something divine within her. If she indulges this thought too far, and humours the growing passion, she at last Hings herself into imaginary raptures and ecstacies; and when once she fancies herself under the influence of a divine impulse, it is no wonder if she slights human ordinances, and refuses to comply with any established form of religion, as thinking herself directed by a much superior guide.
As enthusiasm is a kind of excess in devotion, superstition is the excess not only of devotion, but of religion in general, according to an old heathen saying, quoted by Aulus Gellius, Religentein esse oportet, religiosum nefas; a man should be religious, not su
perstitious: for, as the author tells us, Nigidius observed upon this passage, that the Latin words which terminate in osus generally imply vicious characters, and the having of any quality to an excess. • An enthusiast in religion is like an obstinate clown, a superstitious man like an insipid courtier. Enthusiasm has something in it of madness, superstition of folly. Most of the sects that fall short of the church of England have in them strong tinctures of enthusiasm, as the Roman Catholic religion is one huge overgrown body of childish and idle superstitions.
The Roman Catholic church seems indeed irrecoverably lost in this particular. If an absurd dress or behaviour be introduced in the world, it will soon be found out and discarded : on the contrary, a habit or ceremony, though never so ridiculous, which has ta. ken sanctuary in the church, sticks in it for ever. A Gothic bishop, perhaps, thought it proper to repeat such a form in such particular shoes or slippers; another fancied it would be very decent if such a part of public devotions were performed with a mitre on his head, and a crosier in his hand. To this a brother Vandal, as wise as the others, adds an antic dress, which he conceived would allude very aptly to such and such mysteries, until by degrees the whole office has degenerated into an empty show.
Their successors see the vanity and inconvenience of these ceremonies; but instead of reforming, perhaps add others, which they think more significant, and which take possession in the same manner, and are never to be driven out after they have been once admitted. I have seen the pope officiate at St. Peter's, where, for two hours together, he was busied in putting on or off his different accoutrements, according to the different parts he was to act in them.
Nothing is so glorious in the eyes of mankind, and ornamental to human nature, setting aside the infinite advantages which arise from it, as a strong, steady,
masculine piety ; but enthusiasm and superstition are the weaknesses of human reason, that expose us to the scorn and derision of infidels, and sink us even below the beasts that perish.
Idolatry may be looked upon as another error arising from mistaken devotion ; but because reflections on that subject would be of no use to an English reader, I shall not enlarge upon it.
Many, though faultier much themselves, pretend
THE other day, as I passed along the street, I say a sturdy apprentice boy disputing with an hackneycoachman; and in an instant, upon some word of provocation, throw off his hat and periwig, clench his fist, and strike the fellow a slap on the face ; at the same time calling him rascal, and telling him he was a gentleman's son.
The young gentleman was, it seems, bound to a blacksmith ; and the debate arose about payment for some work done about a coach, near which they fought. His master, during the combat, was full of his boy's praises ; and as he called to him to play with his hand and foot, and throw in his head, he made all us who stood round him of his party, by declaring the boy had very good friends, and he could trust him with untold gold. As I am generally in the theory of mankind, I could not but make my reflections upon the sudden popularity which was raised about the lad; and perhaps, with my friend Tacitus