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relates to the mental tendencies, or laws, if you please, which direct people, at a certain period of civilization, when they are enriching their language with figurative words (i.e. borrowing signs of material objects to express things of thought or sentiment)—in the preference of certain external images. This knowledge cannot be obtained by any means except the attentive observation of that appropriation in various languages, whereby the mind acquires a quickness to perceive the associations, arising sometimes from nearer, sometimes from more remote analogies, which are unquestionably the sources of all figurative expressions. Trusting to some experience on this point, I will venture to criticise the etymology of Superstitio proposed by Cicero himself. My presumption will appear excusable when it is considered that there exists a complete dissension between two Romans. In such circumstances a foreigner may be allowed to interfere.
Cicero's words are put into the mouth of Lucilius Balbus, the Stoic. Nam (he says) qui totos dies precabantur et im. molabant ut sui sibi liberi superstites essent, SUPERSTITIOSI sunt appellati; quod nomen postea latius potuit. Lactantius takes up a wrong argument against this, certainly unsatisfactory, derivation. “Why (he contends) shall the man who prays for the preservation of his own children only once be called religious, and he that does it ten times be named superstitious ?"-If Lactantius had known better how to distinguish superstition from true religion, he would have perceived that excess in prayer for such purposes—that importunity of selfish demands on Providence, is one of the most evident proofs of the absence of true religion ; and where religious practices exist without the spirit of religion, their only appropriate name is Superstition.
But to come at once to my conjecture : I conceive that the word Astare must have signified, in what may be called, by analogy, the ecclesiastical language of ancient Rome, the attendance, in general, on sacred rites ; as Facere, in the same language, expressed the performance of any sacrifice in which a victim was slain. I cannot quote any direct authority in support of this view; but there are various things which create a strong sense of probability in my mind. First, the attitude of worship among Greeks and Romans was that of standing erect : it is not therefore out of the analogy of language that, as Kneeling might easily have been made a general expression for devotional practices among us, To Stand should mean the same among the Romans. The cognate word to Assist has preserved somewhat of that meaning among Christian nations.-But what almost decided me, when this notion first presented itself to me, was the early use of the word Stationes among the Western Christians, to express days fixed for the performance of religious worship in general. The word is still preserved in the Church of Rome for certain processions and prayers, and answers especially to what the Church of England calls Ember Weeks.—And here, by the way, I must tell you, that the derivation, quoted by Johnson, from ymbren, or embren (Saxon, I believe), which means a course or circumvolution, is confirmed by the practice of the Roman Catholic Clergy, who walk in procession round their Cathedrals, or visit some other Church in the same solemn manner, on the Ember days—the peculiar Dies Stationum. This very expression is frequent in Tertullian.*
[* This Letter was never finished; and the practice of writing these Sunday Letters, broken by illness, was not resumed. See vol. ii. p. 266.]
(See Vol. III. pp. 164 and 171.)
PLAIN DIALOGUES ON RELIGIOUS SUBJECTS. BY THE AUTHOR OF THE “ POOR MAN'S PRESERVATIVE AGAINST
Layman.—When I first read your Poor Man's Preservative against Popery, I thought I had settled all my doubts. But I do not know how it happened, that the more I wished to establish my convictions, the unsteadier I felt on the foundations in my religious principles.
Clergyman.— I am not at all surprised, for the same has happened to me.
L.-What do you mean? Are you dissatisfied with your little book ?
L.–Were, then, the Roman Catholics right in what they said against you?
C.-I am very far from granting that. My arguments, and, more than my arguments, my facts, against Popery, I still think unanswerable. I believe I combated the Popery of Rome most effectually, but I did it in the spirit of another Popery, i. e. in the spirit of the Episcopal Popery of Eng
L.-Well; you seem to express something like my own thoughts. You left Christianity entirely dependent upon a Clergy; but why that Clergy should be those ordained by the Bishops of the English Church, I cannot understand.
C.-No more can I.
L.–And yet you spoke in such a spirit of submission, that it seemed as if you were on your knees, promising obedience to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
C.—You say nothing but the truth : I felt as you express it. So difficult it is to strip oneself of habits early acquired. The religious feelings of my youth revived, the moment I resolved to seek for spiritual improvement in the Church of England. The zealous Catholic priest of fiveand-twenty re-appeared in the Protestant convert of forty. I gave way to the revived religious sentiments of early years, and found myself an adept in the Evangelism of the Church of England. One thing alone was wanting to make me a luminary of that party—the will to put an end to my religious inquiries. I could not do, what a celebrated convert to the same party declares of himself :-) could not “ lay my conclusions upon the shelf,”* never more to question them.
L.-So, like myself, you examined and increased your doubts ?
C.-I did so.
C.—Certainly. I never was perfectly satisfied in my life till I attained my present view.
L.-And what is that view ?
C.—A very clear one : that Christianity does not consist in such doctrines as those about which Divines dispute. Have you read my little work on Heresy and Orthodoxy ?
[* See the dishonest advice given to Dr. Arnold, and recorded in his Life, without any apparent perception of its immoral character.Vol. i. p. 22.]
L.-I have not, and fear I shall want time and opportunity to read it.
C.-Well, then: I will try to give you the substance of what I have published since my religious fever abated.
L.-I wish, in the first place, you would be kind enough to tell me your meaning of that expression, Religious Fever.
C.-I mean what is commonly called, by a word of Greek derivation, which is frequently in people's mouths,Enthusiasm.
L.-I am glad you will explain that word to me. It frequently perplexes me.
C.—Mark me, then : Whatever, in religious matters, is done or felt with more vehemence than a man can justify hy sound reasons, is religious fever, or enthusiasm. It is a disease of the mind. Take a plain example : The women of the priestly, or Brahmin caste, in India, throw themselves into the fire which consumes the dead bodies of their husbands. They are generally under a vehement conviction that, from the flames, they will rise instantly to heaven ; and would consider it a cruel insult to be prevented.
L.—But, that is a plain absurdity.
C.—So much the better for my explanation. The religious act I have mentioned is not an absurdity for those who have been brought up in the Brahminical religion. A Catholic, who would punish the denial of one of his Articles of faith with death, is not more convinced of the lawfulness and desirableness of that punishment than the Hindoo of the meritoriousness of the Widow-Burnings. Their respective enthusiasms consist in the disproportion between the vehemence of their belief and the grounds of the convictions.