תמונות בעמוד


the root of various branches of fanaticism. For what is fanaticism, but the visions, illuminations, impulses, and dreams of an over-heated fancy, converted into rules of faith, hope, worship, and practice? This fanaticism, as it springs up in a melancholy or a cheerful complexion, 'assumes a variety of aspects, and its morose and gloomy forms are certainly most congenial with superstition, in its proper sense. was probably this consideration that led the author of the article Fanaticism, in the famous Dictionnaire En+ cyclopedique, to define ito as “ a blind and passionate zeal, which arises from superstitious opinions, and leads its votaries to commit ridiculous, unjust, and cruel actions, not only without shame, but even with certain internal feelings of joy and comfort ;" from which the author concludes, that “ fanaticism is ” really nothing more than superstition set in mo« tion." This definition unites perhaps too closely these two kinds of false religion, whose enormities have furnished very ill-grounded pretexts for discrediting and misrepresenting the true. It is, however, a testimony from one of the pretended oracles of mo. dern philosophy, in favor of the compatibility of fanaticism with superstition. These two principles are evidently distinct; because superstition is, gene rally speaking, the effect of ignorance, or of a judgement perverted by a sour and splenetic temper ; whereas fanaticism is the offspring of an inflamed imagination, and may exist where there is no superstition, i. e. where no false or gloomy notions of the divinity are entertained. But, though distinct, they are not opposite principles ; on the contrary, they lend, on many occasions, some strength and assistance to each other.

• The words of the original are, « Le fanatisme est un zele aveugle et passionné, qui nait des opinions superstitieuses, et fait commettre des actions ridicules, injustes et cruelles, non seulement sans honte, mais avec une sorte de joye et de consge lation. Le fanatisme donc n'est que la superstition mise en mouvement.”

:: If persons: accustomed to philosophical precision will not relish the maxim of the celebrated writer which I have been now considering, so neither, in the second place, can those who are versed in ecclesiastical history look upon superstition as a more predominant characteristic of popery than fanaticism ; and yet this is a leading idea, which is not only visible in many parts of this author's excellent History, but appears to be the basis of all the reflexions he employs, and of all the epithets he uses, in his specula. tions upon the Romish religion.

And nevertheless it is manifest, that the multitudes of fanatics, which arose in the church of Rome before the Reformation, are truly innumerable ; and the operations of fanaticism in that church were, at least, as visible and frequent, as the restless workings of superstition; they went, in short, hand in hand, and united their visions and their terrors in the support of the papacy. It is, more especially, well known, that the greatest part of the monastic esta blishments (that alternately insulted the benignity of Providence by their austerities, and abused it by their licentious luxury), were originally founded in consequence of pretended illuminations, miraculous dreams, and other wild delusions of an over-heated fancy. Whenever a new doctrine was to be established, that could augment the authority of the pope, or fill the coffers of the clergy; whenever a new convent was to be erected, there was always a vision or a miracle ready to facilitate the business ; nor must it be imagined, that forgery and imposture were the only agents in this matter;-by no means; -imposture there was; and it was frequently employed : but impostors made use of fanatics; and in return fanatics found impostors, who spread abroad their fame, and turned their visions to profit. Were I to recount with the utmost simplicity, without the smallest addition of ludicrous embellishment, the écstasies, visions, seraphic amours, celestial apparilions, that are said to have shed such an odor of

sanctity upon the male and female saints of the Romish church; were I to pass in review the famous conformities of St. Francis, the illuminations of St. Ignatius, and the enormous cloud of fanatical witnesses that have dishonored humanity in bearing testimony to popery, this dissertation would become a voluminous history. Let the reader cast an eye upon Dr. Mosheim's account of those ages which more immediately preceded the Reformation, and he will see what a number of sects, purely fanatical, arose. in the bosom of the Romish church. : But this is not all—for it must be carefully observed, that even those extravagant fanatics, who produced such disorders in Germany about the commencement of the Reformation, were nursed in the bosom of popery, were professed papists before they adopted the cause of Luther; and that many of them even passed directly from popery to fanaticism, without even entering into the outward profession of Lutheranism. It is also to be observed, that beside the fanatics, who exposed themselves to the contempt of the wise upon the public theatre of popery, Seckendorf speaks of a sect that merits this denomination, which had spread in the Netherlands, before Luther raised his voice against popery, and whose members were engaged, by the terror of penal laws, to dissemble their sentiments, and even affected a devout compliance with the ceremonies of the established worship, until religious liberty, introduced by the reformation, encouraged them to pull off the mask, and propagate their opinions, several of which were licentious and profane.

But, in the third place, the friends of the Reforma. tion must naturally be both surprised and displeased to find enthusiasm, or fanaticism, laid down by Mr. Hume, as the character and spirit of its founders and abettors, without any exception or distinction in favor of any one of the reformers. That fanaticism was visible in the conduct and spirit of many who embraced the Reformation, is a fact which I do not

prétend to deny; and it may be wothy of the reader's curiosity to consider, for a moment, How this came to pass. That religious liberty, which the Reformation introduced and granted (in consequence of its essential principles) indiscriminately to all, to the learned and unlearned, rendered this eruption of enthusiasm inevitable. It is one of the imperfections annexed to all human things, that our best blessings have their inconveniences, or, at least, are susceptible of abuse. As liberty is a natural right, but not a discerning principle, it could not open the door to truth without letting error and delusion come with it. If reason came forth with dignity, when delivered from the despotism of authority, and the blind servitude of implicit faith; imagination, also set free, and less able to bear the prosperous change, came forth likewise, but with a different aspect, and exposed to view the reveries which it had been long obliged to conceal.

Thús many fanatical phantoms were exhibited, which neither arose from the spirit of the Reformation, nor from the principles of the reformers, but which had been engendered in the bosom of popery, and which the fostering rays of liberty had disclased; similar in this, to the enlivening beams of the sun, which fructify indiscriminately the salutary plant in the well-cultivated ground, and the noxious weed in a rank and neglected soil. And as the Reformation had no such miraculous influence (not to speak of the imperfection that attended its infancy, and that has not entirely been removed from its more advanced stages) as to cure human nature of its infirmities and follies, to convert irregular passions into regular principles, or to turn men into angels before the time, it has still left the field open, both for fanaticism and superstition to sow their tares among the good seed; and this will probably be the case until the end of the world. It is here, that we must seek for the true cause of all that condemnable enthusiasm which has dishonored the Christian name,

and often troubled the order of civil society, at dif ferent periods since the Reformation ; and for which the reformation is no more responsible, than a free government is for the weakness or corruption of those who abuse its lenity and indulgence. The Reformation established the sacred and inalienable right of private judgement; but it could not hinder the private judgement of many from being wild and extravagant.

The Reformation, then, which the multiplied enormities of popery rendered so necessary, must be always distinguished from the abuses that might be, and were often made, of the liberty it introduced. If you ask, indeed, what was the temper or spirit of the first heralds of this happy Reformation, Mr. Hume will tell you, that they were universally inflamed with the highest enthusiasm. This assertion, if taken singly, and not compared with other pássages relating to the reformers, might be understood in a sense consistent with truth, and even honorable to the character of these eminent men. For, if by enthusiasm we understand that spirit of ardor, intrepidity, and generous zeal, which leads men to brave the most formidable obstacles and dangers in defence of a cause, whose excellence and importance have made a deep impression upon their minds, the first reformers will be allowed by their warmest friends to have been enthusiasts. This species of enthusiasm is a noble affection, when fitly placed and wisely exerted. It is this generous sensibility, this ardent feeling of the great and excellent, that forms heroes and patriots; and, without it, nothing difficult and arduous, that is attended with danger, or prejudice to our temporal interests, can either be attempted with vigor, or executed with success.

If this in genious writer had even observed, that the ardor of the first reformers was more or less violent, that it was more or less blended with the warmth and vivacity of human passions, candor would be obliged to avow the charge.

But it is not in any of these points of view, that

« הקודםהמשך »