Page images

assassin. Ptolomy, son of Lagus, entered Jerusa lem on the Jewish sabbath, in a hostile manner without resistance. Nor did experience open the eyes of that foolish people. Xiphilin, relating the siege of Jerusalem by Pompey, says, that if the Jews had not rested on the sabbath, Pompey would not have been successful. Every Saturday he renewed his batteries; and having on that day made a breach, he marched into the town without opposition. One cannot help smiling at an Amsterdam Jew, who had no check of conscience for breaking open a house and carrying off money; and yet being stopped in his flight by the sabbath, he most piously rested, till he was apprehended, and led to the gallows. Nor are the Jews to this day cured of that frenzy. In some late accounts from Constantinople, a fire broke out in a Jew's house on Saturday: rather than profane the sabbath, he suffered the flames to spread, which occasioned the destruction of five hundred houses*. We laugh VOL. III.

[ocr errors]




"And there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together. And Jesus "laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, "and glorified God. And the ruler of the synagogue with in"dignation said unto the people, There are six days in which

[ocr errors]

men ought to work: in them, therefore, come and be healed, "and not on the sabbath-day. The Lord then said, Thou hy-▸ à, pocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox

or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? and


at the Jews, and we have reason; and yet there are many well-meaning Protestants, who lay the whole of religion upon punctual attendance at public worship. Are the Roman Catholics less superstitious with respect to the place of worship, than the Jews are with respect to the day of worship? In the year 1670, some Arabians, watching an opportunity, got into the town of Dieu, when the gates were opened in the morning. They might easily have been expelled by the cannon of the citadel; but the Portuguese governor was obliged to look on without firing a gun, being threatened with excommunication, if the least mischief should be done to any of the churches. The only doctrine inculcated from the Romish pulpit down to the Reformation, were the authority of holy mother-church; the merit of the saints, and their credit in the court of heaven; the dignity and glory of the blessed Virgin; the efficacy of relics; the intolerable fire of Purgatory; and the vast importance of indulgencies. Relying on such pious acts for obtaining remission of sin, all orders of men rushed headlong into vice*; nor was there a single attempt

ought not this woman, whom Satan hath bound, be loosed " from this bond on the sabbath-day!" Luke xiii. 11.

* An ingenious writer pleasantly observes, "That a croisade was the South-Sea project of former times: by the latter, men "hoped to gain riches without industry: by the former, they ❝ hoped

attempt to stem the current of immorality; for the traffic of indulgencies could not but flourish in proportion to the growth of sin. And thus was religion set in direct opposition to morality. St Eloy, bishop of Noyon in the seventh century, and canonized by the church of Rome, delivers the following doctrine. "He is a good Christian who goes "fréquently to church; who presents his obla"tions upon the altar; who tastes not the fruit of "his own industry till part be consecrated to "God; who, when the holy festivals approach, "lives chastely even with his own wife for several "days; and who can repeat the creed and the "Lord's prayer. Redeem then your souls from "destruction, while you have the means in your power: offer presents and tithes to churchmen:

[ocr errors]

come more frequently to church: humbly im"plore the patronage of saints. If you observe "these things, you may, in the day of judgment, 66 go with confidence to the tribunal of the eternal "Judge, and say, Give to us, O Lord, for we have "given unto thee." A modern author subjoins a proper observation. "We see here a very ample

[ocr errors]

description of a good Christian, in which there is "not the least mention of the love of God, resig"nation to his will, obedience to his laws, nor of "justice,

Cc 2

hoped to gain heaven without repentance, amendment of life, or sanctity of manners." Sir David Dalrymple, a Judge in the Court of Session.


justice, benevolence, or charity." Gross ignorance and wretched superstition prevailed so much even in the fourteenth century, that people reckoned themselves secure of salvation, if at the day of judgment they could shew any connection with monks, Many at the point of death, made it their last request, to be admitted into the mendicant order, or to be interred in their burial-place. Religion need not associate with morality, if such silly practices be sufficient for obtaining the favour of God, Is this less absurd than the Hindostan belief, That the water of the Ganges hath a sanctifying virtue; and that those who die on its banks, are not only exempted from future punishment, but are wafted straight to paradise?

Forms and ceremonies are visible acts, which make a deep impression on the vulgar. Hence their influence in reasoning and in morality, as we have seen in the two sketches immediately foregoing; and hence also their influence in religion. Forms and ceremonies are useful at public worship: but they ought not to take place of essentials. People, however, governed by what they see and hear, are more addicted to external acts of devotion, than to heart worship, which is not known but by reflection.

It will be no excuse for relying so much on forms and ceremonies, that they are innocent. In themselves they may be innocent; but not so in their consequences. For they have by such reli


ance a vigorous tendency to relax the obligations of morality. "La pure morale," says M. Rousseau, "est si chargée de devoirs séveres que "la surcharge encore de formes indifférentes, "c'est presque toujours aux dépends de l'essential. "On dit que c'est le cas de la plupart des moines, "qui, soumis à mille regles inutiles, ne savent ce

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

que c'est qu'honneur et vertu." Religious rites that contradict not any passion, are keenly embraced, and punctually performed; and men, flattering themselves that they have thus been punctual in their duty to God, give vent to their passions against men. They pay tithes of mint, and an"nise, and cummin; but omit the weightier mat*ters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith *.” Upon such a man religion sits extremely light. As he seldom exercises any act of genuine devotion, he thinks of the Deity with ease and familiarity how otherwise is it accountable, that the plays, termed Mysteries, could be relished, where mean and perhaps dissolute persons are brought on the stage, acting Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and even God himself? These objects of worship were certainly no more regarded than the Grecian gods, who frequently made part of the Dramatis persone in Greek plays. Many other facts might be urged, to prove the low ebb of religion in those days I select one or two, which probably will afford some amusement to the reader. Bartolus, Cc 3

*Matthew xxiii. 23.


« PreviousContinue »