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feast in the chambers of rejoicing, where a man cannot coulsider by reason of the noises of wine, and jest, and music: and if prudence takes it by the hand, and leads it on to duty, it is a state of grace, and a universal instrument to infant religion, and the only security of the less perfect persons; and, in all senses, is that homage we owe to God, who sends often to demand it, even then, when he speaks in thunder, or smites by a plague, or awakens us by threatenings, or discomposes our easiness by sad thoughts, and tender eyes, and fearful hearts, and trembling considerations.
But this so excellent grace is soon abused in the best and most tender spirits; in those who are softened by nature and by religion, by infelicities or cares, by sudden accidents or a sad soul; and the devil observing, that fear, like spare diet, starves the fevers of lust, and quenches the flames of hell, endeavours to heighten this abstinence so much as to starve the man, and break the spirit into timorousness and scruple, sadness and unreasonable tremblings, credulity and trifling observation, suspicion and false accusations of God; and then vice, being turned out at the gate, returns in at the postern, and does the work of hell and death by running too inconsiderately in the paths, which seem to lead to heaven. But so have I seen a harmless dove, made dark with an artificial night, and her eyes sealed and locked up with a little quill, soaring upward and flying with amazement, fear, and an undiscerning wing; she made towards heaven, but knew not, that she was made a train and an instrument, to teach her enemy to prevail upon her and all her defenceless kindred: so is a superstitious man, zealous and blind, forward and mistaken, he runs towards heaven as he thinks, but he chooses foolish paths; and out of fear takes any thing that he is told; or fancies and guesses concerning God by measures taken from his own diseases and imperfections. But fear, when it is inordinate, is never a good counsellor, nor makes a good friend; and he that fears God as his enemy, is the most completely miserable person in the world. For if he with reason believes God to be his enemy, then the man needs no other argument to prove that he is undone than this, that the fountain of blessing (in this state in which the man is) will never issue any thing upon him but cursings. But if he fears this without reason, he makes his fears true by the very
suspicion of God, doing him dishonour, and then doing those fond and trifling acts of jealousy, which will make God to be what the man feared he already was. We do not know God, if we can think any hard thing concerning him. · If God be merciful, let us only fear to offend him; but then let us never be fearful, that he will destroy us, when we are careful not to displease him. There are some persons so miserable and scrupulous, such perpetual tormentors of themselves with unnecessary fears, that their meat and drink is a snare to their consciences; if they eat, they fear they are gluttons; if they fast, they fear they are hypocrites; and if they would watch, they complain of sleep as of a deadly sin; and every temptation, though resisted, makes them cry for pardon ; and every return of such an accident makes them think God is angry; and every anger of God will break them in pieces.
These persons do not believe noble things concerning God; they do not think, that he is as ready to pardon them, as they are to pardon a sinning servant; they do not believe how much God delights in mercy, nor how wise he is to consider and to make abatement for our unavoidable infirmities; they make judgment of themselves by the measures of an angel, and take the account of God by the proportions of a tyrant. The best that can be said concerning such persons is, that they are hugely tempted, or hugely ignorant. For although ignorance' is by some persons named the mother of devotion ;' yet, if it falls in a hard ground, it is the mother of atheism ;' if in a soft ground, it is the parent of superstition ;' but if it proceeds from evil or mean opinions of God (as such scruples and unreasonable fears do many times), it is an evil of a great impiety, and, in some sense, if it were in equal degrees, is as bad as atheism : for so he that says, There was no such man as Julius Cæsar, does him less displeasure, than he that says, There was, but that he was a tyrant, and a bloody parricide. And the Cimmerians were not esteemed impious for saying, that there was no sun in the heavens; but Anaxagoras was esteemed irreligious for saying, the sun was a very stone: and though to deny there is a God is a high im. piety and intolerable, yet he says worse, who, believing there is a God, says, He delights in human sacrifices, in miseries, and death, in tormenting his servants, and punishing their very infelicities and unavoidable mischances. To be God, and
to be essentially and infinitely good, is the same thing; and therefore, to deny either is to be reckoned among the greatest crimes in the world.
Add to this, that he that is afraid of God, cannot in that disposition love him at all; for what delight is there in that religion, which draws me to the altar as if I were going to be sacrificed, or to the temple as to the dens of bears? “ Oderunt quos metuunt, sed colunt tamen:” “Whom men fear, they hate certainly, and flatter readily, and worship timorously;" and he that saw Hermolaus converse with Alexander, and Pausanias follow Philip the Macedonian, or Chæreas kissing the feet of Caius Caligula, would have observed how sordid men are made with fear, and how unhappy and how hated tyrants are in the midst of those acclamations, which are loud, and forced, and unnatural, and without love or fair opinion. And therefore, although the atheist says, “ There is no God,” the scrupulous, fearful, and superstitious man, does heartily wish what the other does believe.
But that the evil may be proportionable to the folly, and the punishment to the crime, there is no man more miserable in the world than the man who fears God as his enemy, and religion as a snare, and duty intolerable, and the commandments as impossible, and his Judge as implacable, and his anger as certain, insufferable, and unavoidable : whither shall this man go? where shall he lay his burden? where shall he take sanctuary? for he fears the altars as the places where his soul bleeds and dies; and God, who is his saviour, he looks upon as his enemy; and, because he is Lord of all, the miserable man cannot change his service, unless it be apparently for a worse. And therefore, of all the evils of the mind, fear is certainly the worst and the most intolerable: levity and rashness have in them some spritefulness, and greatness of action; anger is valiant; desire is busy and apt to hope; credulity is oftentimes entertained and pleased with images and appearances: but fear is dull, and sluggish, and treacherous, and flattering, and dissembling, and miserable, and foolish. Every false opinion concerning God is pernicious and dangerous; but if it be joined with trouble of spirit, as fear, scruple and superstition are, it is like a wound with an inflammation, or a strain of a sinew with a contusion or contrition of the part, painful and unsafe ; it puts on two ac
tions when itself is driven ; it urges reason and circumscribes it, and makes it pitiable and ridiculous in its consequent follies; which, if we consider it, will sufficiently reprove the folly, and declare the danger.
Almost all ages of the world have observed many instances of fond persuasions and foolish practices proceeding from violent fears and scruples in matter of religion. Diomedon and many other captains were condemned to die, because after a great naval victory they pursued the flying enemies, and did not first bury their dead. But Chabrias, in the same case, first buried the dead, and by that time the enemy rallied, and returned, and his navy, and made his masters pay the price of their importune superstition: they feared where they should not, and where they did not, they should. From hence proceeds observation of signs and unlucky days; and the people did so, when the Gregorian account began, continuing to call those unlucky days which were so signified in their tradition or erra pater, although the day upon this account fell ten days sooner; and men were transported with many other trifling contingencies and little accidents ; which, when they are once entertained by weakness, prevail upon their own strength, and in sad natures and weak spirits have produced effects of great danger and sorrow. Aristodemus, king of the Messenians, in his war against the Spartans, prevented the sword of the enemy by a violence done upon himself, only because his dogs howled like wolves; and the soothsayers were afraid, because the briony grew up by the walls of his father's house : and Nicias, general of the Athenian forces, sat with his arms in his bosom, and suffered himself and forty thousand men tamely to fall by the insoJent enemy, only because he was afraid of the labouring and eclipsed moon. When the marble statues in Rome did sweat (as naturally they did against all rainy weather,) the augurs gave an alarm to the city; but if lightning struck the spire of the Capitol, they thought the sum of affairs, and the commonwealth itself, was endangered. And this heathen folly hath stuck so close to the Christians, that all the sermons of the church for sixteen hundred years have not cured them all: but the practices of weaker people, and the artifice of ruling priests, have superinduced many new ones. When Pope Eugenius sang mass at Rheims, and some few drops
from the chalice were spilt upon the pavement, it was thought to foretell mischief, wars and bloodshed to all Christendom, though it was nothing but carelessness and mischance of the priest : and because Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, sang the mass of requiem upon the day he was reconciled to his prince, it was thought to foretell his own death by that religious office: and if men can listen to such whispers, and have not reason and observation enough to confute such trifles, they shall still be affrighted with the noise of birds, and every night-raven shall foretell evil as Micaiah to the king of Israel, and every old women shall be a phophetess, and the events of human affairs, which should be managed by the conduct of counsel, of reason, and religion, shall succeed by chance, by the flight of birds, and the meeting with an evil eye, by the falling of the salt, or the decay of reason, of wisdom, and the just religion of a man.
To this may be reduced the observation of dreams, and fears commenced from the fancies of the night. For the superstitious man does not rest, even when he sleeps; neither is he safe, because dreams usually are false, but he is afflicted for fear they should tell true. Living and waking men have one world in common, they use the same air and fire, and discourse by the same principles of logic and reason ; but men that are asleep, have every one a world to bimself, and strange perceptions; and the superstitious hath none at all : his reason sleeps, and his fears are waking; and all his rest, and his very securities, to the fearful man turn into affrights and insecure expectation of evils that never shall happen ; they make their rest uneasy and chargeable, and they still vex their weary soul, not considering there is no other sleep, for sleep to rest in: and therefore, if the sleep be troublesome, the man's cares be without remedy, till they be quite destroyed. Dreams follow the temper of the body, and commonly proceed from trouble or disease, business or care, an active head and a restless mind, from fear or hope, from wine or passion,' from fulness or emptiness, from fantastic remembrances, or from some demon, good or bad : they are without rule and without reason, they are as contingent, as if a man should study to make a prophecy, and by saying ten thousand things may hit
upon one true, which was there fore not foreknown, though it was forespoken; and they have