Page images

the great article of adoration, plainly thew that devotion or religious worship must be the effect of a tradition from some first founder of mankind, or that it is conformable to the natural light of reason, or that it proceeds from an inftinct implanted in the soul itself. For my part, I look upon all these to be the concurrent causes, 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 devotion may betray us, are Enthusialim and Superstition.

There is not a more melancholy object than a man who has his head turned with religious enthusiasm. A person that is crazed, tho' with pride or malice, is

a fight

a fight very mortifying to human nature; but when the distemper arises from any indiscreet fervors 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 conftitution.

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 with something Divine within her. If she indulges this thought too far, and humours the growing passion, she at last Alings herself into imaginary raptures and ecstasies ; and when once she fancies herself under the infuence of a Divine Impulse, it is no wonder if she Nights 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, Religentem ese oportet ; religiosum nefas; A man ñould be religious, not superstitious ; for, as the author tells us, Nigidius observed upon this passage, that the Latin words which terminate in ofus generally imply vicious characters, and the having of any quality to an excess.

An Enthusiast in religion is like an obftinate 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 over-grown 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 foon be found out and difcarded : On the contrary, a habit or ceremony, cho' never so ridiculous, which has taken fanctuary in the Church, sticks in it for ever. A Gotbic Bifhop, perhaps, thought it pro-. per to repeat such a form in such particular shoes or Nippers ; another fancied it would be very decent if such a part of public devotions were performed with a Mitre on his head, and a Crofier in his hand : To this.a brother Vandal, as wise as the others, adds an antick dress, which he conceived would allude very aptly to such and such mysteries, 'till by degrees the whole office was de generated into an empty show.

Their successors fee the vanity and inconvenience of these ceremonies; but instead of reforming, perhaps add others, which they think more significant, and which take poffeffion in the same inanner, 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, fetting 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 expofe 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.


Omnibus in terris, quæ funt à Gadibus usque
Auroram &* Gangem, pauci dignofcere poffunt
Vera bona, atque illis multùm diversa, remot å
Erroris nebula


N. my last Saturday's paper I laid down

some thoughts upon Devotion in general, and shall here shew what were the notions of the most refined Heathens on this subject, as they are represented in Plato's dialogue upon Prayer, intitled Alcibiades the Second, which doubtless gave occasion to Juvenals tenth Sa

« PreviousContinue »