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Whether it is of Service to indulge the People
UCH is the weakness and perversity of the
human race, that it is undoubtedly more eligible for them to be subject to every possible kind of superstition, provided it is not of a bloody nature, than to live without religion. Man has always stood in need of a curb; and though it was certainly very ridiculous to las crifice to fauns, fatyrs, and naïads, yet it was more reasonable and advantageous to adore even those fantafic images of the Deity, than to be given up to atheism. An atheist of any capacity and invested with power, would be as dreadful a scourge to the rest of mankind, as the most bloody enthufiaft.
When men have not true notions of the Deity, false ideas must supply their place, like as in troublesome and calamitous times, we are obliged to trade with base money when good is not to be procured. The heathens were afraid of committing crimes, left they should be punish
ed by their false gods. The Malabar dreads the anger of his pagods. Wherever there is a fixed community, religion is necessary; the laws are a curb upon open crimes, and religion upon: private ones.
But when once. men have embraced a pure and holy religion, fuperftition then becomes not only needless, but very hurtful. Those whom God has been pleased to nourish with: bread, ought not to be fed upon acorns,
Superstition is to religion what astrology is. to astronomy, the foolish danghter of a wise mother. These two daughters however have for a long time governed this world with uncontroulable sway..
In those dark and barbarous times amongst us, when there were hardly two feudal lords who had a New-Teftament in their houses, it might be pardonable to present the common : people with fables; I mean those feudal lords, their ignorant wives, and brutish vassals. They. were then made to believe, that St. Christopher carried the child Jesus on his shoulders from one side of the river to the other : they were · entertained with stories of witches and witchcraft; they readily believed that St. Genou
cured the gout, and St. Clara fore eyes. The children believed in hobgoblins, and their fathers in St. Francis' girdle; and relicks swarmed out of number,
The common people have continued to be infected with the rust of these superstitions, even after religion became more enlightened. It is well known that when Mr. de Noailles, bishop of Chalons, ordered the pretended relick of the holy navel to be taken away and thrown into the fire, the whole city of Chalons joined in a prosecution against him; but he, who had reso. Jution equal to his piety, soon brought the people of his diocese to believe, that one may adore Jesus Christ in spirit and in truth, without having his navel in a church.
Those whom we call Jansenists were not a little instrumental in rooting out by degrees, from the minds of the greatest part of the nation, the many abfurd notions which were the disgrace of our holy religion. And it no longer
continued to be thought sufficient to repeat the prayer of thirty days to the blessed Virgin, to obtain whatever one should ask, and fin with impunity.
At length, the lower kind of people began to imagine, that it was not St. Genevieve who gave rain or caused it to cease, but God himself, who disposed the elements according to his good will and pleasure. The monks have been astonished to find their saints no longer perform miracles; and if the writers of the life of St. Francis Xavier were to come again into the world, they would not venture to assert that their faint raised nine people from the dead; that he was at one and the same time, both on the sea and on fhore; or that a crab brought him his crucifix, which he had dropped out of his hand into the water,
It bas happened much the same with regard to excommunications. Our French historians tell us, that when king Robert was excommunicated by pope Gregory V. for having married the princess Bertha, who was his god-mother, his domeftics threw all the victuals that came, from his table out of the windows, and that his queen
Bertha was delivered of a goose, as a. punishment for this incestuous alliance. It is not likely that the pages of the presence to a. king of France now-a-days, would throw his dinner into the streets if he should be excoma municated, ; nor would it be very readily beL 6
228 TREATISE upon TOLERATION,
If there are some few Convulfionists yet to be met with in an obscure corner of the town, it is a kind of lousy disease that infects only the dregs of the people. Reason is every day making her way into the tradesman's countinghouse, as well as into the palaces of our nobility. It behoves us then to cultivate the fruits of this reason, more especially as it is impossible to prevent them from sprouting forth. France, after having been enlightened by a Pascal, a Nicole, an Arnaud, a Boffuet, a Descartes, a Gassendi, a Bayle, a Fontenelle, and other bright geniuffes, like them, is no longer to be governed as in the times of Garasle and Mênot,
If the masters of error, I mean the great malcers who were so long time prayed to and reverenced for brụtalizing the human species, were at present to enjoin us to believe that the feed muft rot in the earth before it can sprout, that this earth continues immoveable on its basis, without revolving about the sun; that the tides are not the natural effect of gravitation;