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the vicious and corrupt have been, and ever will be,“ upon instinct."*
This connexion of cause and effect triumphs even over the permanence of dogma: and a practical relaxation of morose and austere discipline has uniformly attended the improvement of the social condition, even under the prevalence of the most rigorous creeds. Christianity, emerging from the desarts of the Thebaid, to take its place on the thrones of emperors, was no more the same austere and forbidding rule, than it was the simple Spencean democracy of its first Essenian proselytes; and the sturdy Calvinist of the north, in our own times, is a “boon companion” and it “good fellow,” in comparison with his fanatical ancestors of the third generation.
* When this short interval of happiness closed before the tyranny of the succeeding Cæsars, the increase of the slave population, and the inroads of the northern barbarians, the human mind again relapsed into a gloomy superstition. The influx of Asiatics and Egyptians into Rome, conspiring with a strong sense of present misery, revived the taste for portents and prophecies : the fantasti. cal religions of the east were imported, with its other products; and thus the Western World was prepared to receive those manifold cor. ruptions of Christianity, which, under the name of church, have so long held mankind in slavery.
The susceptibility of individuals to these external causes is, however, exceedingly various. In the most relaxed, and even corrupt, periods of moral sentiment and religious indifference, there have always been found persons, whose organization of mind has alone been satisfied by an indulgence of the most gloomy views of Nature and Providence. Fanaticism is very frequently a constitutional disease. An unknown and undefined, but a very sensible impediment in the play of the more intimate functions of life, deprives the individual of that 66 pleased alacrity and cheer of mind” which renders the bare state of existence delightful. There is a general insusceptibility to the minor pleasures of sense ; and the imagination is less excited by the innocent and amiable enjoyments of life. A mind thus constituted, ill at ease within itself, looks out on the world for objects congenial with its own feelings. Fear and disgust are its predominating sentiments ; and while it fabricates its deity in its own image, it is pained by the aspect of enjoyments in which it cannot participate. The hopes of another world can alone compensate for the miseries such beings inflict on themselves in this : and while their speculative diabolism finds its account in self-tormenting, their misanthropy is indulged by imposing a similar austerity of manners, under the notion of strictness in religion, upon those who are more happily framed by nature for cheerfulness and enjoyment.
In England and Germany the prevalent disposition in religion is to gloom and mysticism ; while no effort can inoculate the French with a deep sentiment on the subject. The Irish differ, also, materially from the English in this respect. Notwithstanding the strong influence of political degradation, and the example of rigour exhibited by the prevailing methodism of the Saxon population, the Irish catholics are, for the most part, devoid of austerity of temper, though not always indisposed to needless self-denial; and this circumstance doubtless contributes to render the people more catholic, and to indispose them for the reception of the gloomy, abstract idealism of the “new reformation.”
Temperament operates widely and decidedly in preventing an uniform sentiment respecting the boundary between innocent and vicious indul
gence; and if that point were susceptible of a precise determination, the naturally morose would still continue to make inroads upon the liberty of their gayer compatriots, for no other reason than because it is their will and pleasure to do so.
The most rigorous sectarians, indeed, are not consistent on this point, but are prone to relaxation in behalf of their own favourite indulgences. Those among them who are for “ tenderness framed," have a patient indulgence for weaknesses, which are almost redeemed by the orthodoxy of their object; and all excesses in the pleasures of the table, short of shameless inebriety, are permitted to the elect : while the uncharitableness preached in the pulpit does not the less find its way to the teatable, and calumny and invective against all uncongenial offences, are doled out under the guise of zeal for uniformity of doctrine.
In England, the theoretical morality of the saints is so far above concert pitch, that humanity cannot sustain it in practice: and the result is, despair of acting up to duty, a consequent indifference to slight aberrations, and a proneness to take refuge in
the pre-eminence of faith and the worthlessness and nothingness of all works.
An undue severity of life is much encouraged by the doctrine, that the intellectual pleasures are alone conducive to happiness, and that reason and religion alike require the submission and mortification of the senses. The intellectual pleasures do not lie sufficiently within the reach of all mankind, to render them a common object of ambition and cultivation ; and it is not fair in the educated and refined to draw conclusions from their own conceptions, applicable to those of their fellow-creatures who are less fortunately situated. To the mere labouring classes, and to many who fill a higher part in the drama of society, the pleasures of sense are the great resources against ennui ; and even the most fanciful sentimentalists, in enhancing the value of intellectual delights, always understand (as the grammarians phrase it) an abundant table, warm clothing, and comfortable dwellings, which form no inconsiderable part of those pleasures of sense, which they who preach take care to enjoy.
However low mere sensations may rank in the scale of enjoyment, they are important from their