Page images

himself to their service, as the unflinching champion of their interests on earth.

And besides, as we have already said, the imagination, when brought into play by selflove, must draw its excitements from a circle which it can embrace. It will then be a tribe, a sect, a faction, that affords a sphere to fanaticism; and the infuriate religionist, how unsocial soever in temper, is compelled to love a few, so that he may be able, in the strength of that partial feeling, to hate the many with full intensity.—The supposition of special favour towards ourselves, on the part of heaven, will corrupt and debilitate, or will purify and invigorate the heart, precisely according to the quality of the notions we entertain of the Divine character. The idea of personal regard and affection from Him who loves only what is good and pure like Himself, can never operate to impair the principles of the moral sense: nay, this very idea, when freed from illusions, imparts elevation to virtue, and makes the temper and conduct of man, on earth, to reflect the brightness of heaven. But on the contrary, theological notions, when sullied or distorted, vitiate in an extreme degree every sentiment of the deluded being who deems himself the darling of the skies. Let but such a pestilent doctrine be admitted as that the Divine favour is bestowed, not merely in disregard of virtue, but in contempt of it, and then religion, with all its power, goes over to swell the torrent of impurity, cupidity, and malice. Under patronage of a belief like this, virtue and vice change sides in the court of conscience, and the latter claims sacred honours.

We recapitulate our three elements of Fanaticism, which (as we assume) will be discoverable, in different modes or proportions, under all forms of religious extravagancenamely—The supposition of malignity on the part of the object of religious worship ;-a consequent detestation of mankind at large, as the subjects of Malignant Power;- and then a credulous conceit of the favour of Heaven, shewn to a few, in contempt of the rules of virtue.

Now we might follow the track of history, and exhibit the modifications these elements have undergone in the religious systems that have successively ruled in the world. But any method which observes the order of Time, though obvious and simple, is laden with the inconvenience of involving frequent repetitions of general principles. It will be better to seize upon certain leading varieties of our subject, as marked by broad distinctions, easily traced in every age, and such as may be recognized, whenever they may recur, without hazard of mistake. These conspicuous varieties may be brought under four designations, of which the first will comprehend all instances wherein malignant religious sentiments turn inward upon the unhappy subject of them : to the second class will belong that more virulent sort of fanaticism which looks abroad for its victims: the third embraces the combination of intemperate religious zeal with military sentiments, or with national pride, and the love of power : to the fourth class must be reserved all instances of the more intellectual kind, and which stand connected with opinion and dogma. Our first sort then is Austere; the second Cruel; the third Ambitious; and the fourth Factious.

Or, for the purpose of fixing a characteristic mark upon each of our classes, as above named, let it be permitted us to entitle them as followsnamely, the first, The Fanaticism of the SCOURGE; or of personal infliction : the second, the Fanaticism of the BRAND; or of immolation and cruelty: the third, the Fanaticism of the Banner; or of ambition and conquest: and the fourth, the Fanaticism of the SYMBOL; or of creeds, dogmatism, and ecclesiastical virulence.



The broadest distinctions in the exterior character of men, and the most marked dissimilarities in their modes of conduct, do not infallibly bespeak a difference equally great in the elements of their temper.

On the contrary, it is sometimes easy to trace in the minds of those between whose visible course of life there has been little or no resemblance, a close analogy. Yet even when such an analogy may be discerned, it is not always practicable to discover the causes of the external diversity which distinguishes them. An obscure peculiarity of the bodily temperament, or a forgotten incident of early life, may have been enough to determine whether certain impetuous passions should take their course abroad, or should boil as a vortex within the bosom. So is it that when a stream gushes from its cleft, the mere bend of a tree, or the angle of a rock, may be all the reason either of its taking its course westward--to measure the width of a continent; or toward the east, soon to find a home in some pent-up gully, or sullen cavern of the mountains.

Causes so inconsiderable or so latent we must not hope always to detect. It will be enough if we can shew reason for bringing together into the same general class, men who would both perhaps have recoiled with horror or with disdain to find themselves in each other's company. Yes, we should all learn much of the secrets of our personal dispositions, and see our peculiar tempers as if under a sudden blaze of light, could it happen that some superior Intelligence, descending upon earth, were to do nothing more as Discriminator of character, and Censor of minds, than silently to classify the crowd of men by the rule of their original propensities, or their essential merits. — We should then read our hearts in the companions with whom we found ourselves assorted.

Why has the fanaticism of one man devastated the world ; while that of another has spent itself within the walls of a cloister ? we may not be able to say. Nevertheless there are instances of this sort which are easily explained. As for example :-violent or malign passions sometimes turn inward, and vex the heart that generates them, in consequence of the mere sluggishness or lassitude of the animal system which, while it insulates a man from others, as if he were enveloped in an indolent fog, yet does not much affect the interior of the character.

« PreviousContinue »