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sume, that he is distinguished by Heaven, or that any thing is imparted to him, which is withheld from the rest of mankind : his reverence must generally approach near to dread; and obscurity must heighten it. As superstition attends to external phænomena, it must be most affected by those phænomena, which are most striking ; now the more sublime phænomena of nature must make, on the mind of every man, a depeer impression than the more tame and gentle; and sublimity is allied to fear:—what pleasing or favourable appearance can be so striking as an earthquake, deluge, lightning, hurricane, conflagration, volcano? the dread, which will be excited by these in the superstitious mind, will easily overpower and banish any more pleasing sensations ; or any hopes. But moreover, it is to be considered, that the tendency to superstitious conclusions is greatest in a mind previously timid: such conclusions heighten the timidity, and the timidity produces more conclusions. Then there is nothing, which makes us so ready to interpret unfavourable events into designed reproofs, or punishments, as remorse, or an uneasy conscience"; and the more timid any one is by nature, the more forcibly does remorse act upon his mind: put these things together, and you will own, not only that fear must be the predominant feeling of the superstitious mind, but that, when scruple and religious melancholy join themselves to an infirm bodily constitution, and a timid mind, and sym
pathy o Isaiah xlv. 15.
c I have been told of a Boy of the name of Yorke, who, when at School, went out of bounds; he began to feel some remorse; presently a crow, or raven, began to make its usual noise, Caw, Caw; the guilty conscience made this sound into Yorke, Yorke ; and the alarmed wanderer returned within his prescribed limits. -Experiments on Youth are generally perhaps the fairest and most satisfactory of any. Vol. II.
pathy lends its aid, there is no degree of panic, to which superstitious feelings may not rise.
From superstitious dread, the mind is easily drawn into abhorrence; even from dread of superior beings to abhorrence of men like ourselves, when they are once conceived to be offensive to those superior Beings: passions once raised find themselves objects, very different in many respects from those, by which they were first excited •.
Such is superstition; as to opinion, and passion.
That superstition is hurtful, must already appear; but it will be proper to mark out some of its evil consequences more particularly.
1. The superstitious man is unhappy in himself, diffident, scrupulous, full of disquietude ; fearing that he has offended God, and construing every thing, that he sees or hears, into an intimation of the divine vengeance.
2. Superstition is an enemy to Benevolence : the superstitious are morose ; cowards are cruel : arbitrary conclusions, drawn by different men, must be different. Each superstitious person presumes he has the will of God; one is opposed to another with a zeal, which no natural affection or kindness can withstand. Friendships, family connexions,' associations, all fall before it: even nations lose useful intercourse, hate one another, naỹ proceed to actual injuries, because they have adopted different sorts of superstition.
3. Superstition is an enemy to reason, and to arts and sciences. Reason is dull and tedious, in comparison of the Imagination; and their dictates will thwart and contradict each other. Reason thus becomes despised and abhorred, and, if it pretends
a Venger Dieu. Esprit des Loix, Livre xii. Chap. 4. 6 Esprit des Loix, Liv. xxiv. Chap. 22. fin.
to make much resistance, gets persecuted'. If the fine arts are only neglected by the superstitious, they are fortunate; they may easily come to be reckoned supporters of impiety: and then they will suffer persecution.
4. Lastly, Superstition is unfavourable to Virtue in general. This must be the case with every thing that is unfavourable to Benevolence: virtues are species of benevolence; " Love is the fulfilling of the Law :”—but moreover, it diverts men from founding their religious hopes on the performance of their
duty. It makes them indeed think much of the divine vengeance, but it leads them to appease it by externals, which do not mend the heart. The King of Moab offers to bow himself “ before the high God” with the most costly superstitions, or even with the sacrifice of his Son": the Prophet disclaims them all, and enjoins only the fundamental principles of moral duty.
By these remarks we are naturally led to the remedies for superstition.— They may be applied to the Understanding, or to the Heart. It is most practicable to clear the understanding of this fault ;and that will tend also to keep the heart clear of it. These distinctions must be made familiar: between expecting a sort of event, and knowing the use of a particular event, as a reward or punishment : -between saying, 'there is a judge of all men, and 'this is a judgment on a particular man:-or between this is a judgment,' and, this may be a judgment. And we might sometimes check our presumption, by making it a rule, to allow our
selves • The instance of Galileo was mentioned in the last Chapter of the second Book.
d Micah vi.
e Mr. Hume has something to this purpose; Natural History of Religion, latter end.
selves no conclusion, from any event, or appearance, which we would not allow Barbarians to make from Thunder or an Eclipse.—The happiness of man shews us best the will of God.
If the Heart is already infected, some remedies may be applied to that. It is in our power to hinderoursentimentofrespect from becoming excessive; we need not indulge it. It is in our power to make that degree of self-esteem and confidence habitual, which reason recommends in an hour of calmness and serenity. “ If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.”—“ We trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly b.”—It is in our power to dwell on texts like these, till they strengthen our minds; as also to dwell on instances of God's goodness, paying for a while less attention to instances of his power® : if means were used to strengthen the nervous system of the body, that would strengthen the mind; as would the exercise of our reason.— Ridicule might, in some cases, dissipate superstition ; but perhaps it may be too dangerous a remedy to be recommended to all indiscriminately.
To conclude this subject of superstition ; I would not be thought to say, that every degree of awe, on seeing evils and calamities, or great instances of divine power, is wrong; a serious question, whether God may not intend any evils as warnings or punishments, is right and reasonable ; and its effect upon our conduct may be as great as a positive decision that he does ; -without seeing God in the clouds, and hearing him in the wind, we may “ believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" :" nay, we may set God always before us : we want not panics to make
a 1 John üi. 21.
b Heb. xiii. 18.
us admire and adore him ; much less to make us pay him a pleasing and reasonable service.
Enthusiasm in somethings is allied to superstition : for a man may be called an enthusiast, either with respect to his intellects or his passions ; there is an enthusiastic conclusion, and an enthusiastic affection. A man makes an enthusiastic conclusion, when, upon any sentiment arising in his mind, he so presumes God to be the cause of it, as to take for granted he sees the design of God in exciting it: not merely so as to acknowledge God to be the author of Nature; not as if the sentiment arose according to any Law, by which his mind or body was formed ; but as if the divine will was imparted to him by it, as a man's will by his words.- The conclusion is also enthusiastic, if the sentiment be only presumed, in the same particular manner, to have been excited by inferior spirits :-some believe only in what may be called Dæmons.
From this account, Superstition and Enthusiasm may seem at first more alike than they really are. They are both wrong ways of fixing upon God as a cause; but superstition attends to external effects, enthusiasm to internal. And this difference causes many others. Indeed they may jointly influence the mind, and then perhaps, or when either is supposed to influence, without determining which, would be the proper use of the term Fanaticism.--The immense army of Crusaders seem to have been Fanatics in this sense; superstitious and enthusiastic at the same time.
It may be objected to our account of enthusiasm, Can it be wrong to dwell on the notion, that God is the cause of our thoughts? is he not so? in some sense he is: but yet it is one thing to say, in general, we have no power of thinking independent
• Near the end of the 12th Century; in 1190, &c.