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2d. A proud forestalling of misery, such as we have just spoken of, ordinarily combines itself with the consciousness of guilt and the dread of retribution; and both together lead to the same voluntary endurance of extreme pains; he who thinks himself both a Victim and a Culprit would fain take the engine of retributive torment into his own hand, lest it should be. laid hold of by the Vindictive Power he dreads. And the hope he entertains of acting always as proxy for the minister of Justice in his own case, bears proportion to the rigour with which he exercises the function of executioner.3
What spectacle in nature so monstrous, what, at first sight, so inexplicable, as that of an excruciated devotee who scorns even to writhe or to sigh under tortures which other men would not endure an hour, to save or to obtain a mountain of gold! Yet he sustains, year after year, his burden of woe in the mere strength of the obduracy of his soul!- Bound to the stake; --yes, but bound only by the cords of pride! Does then a spectacle like this afford no lesson! After we have scoffed at the folly, or wondered at the infatuation of the voluntary sufferer, let us return and ask, whether so strange a perversion of the power of the spirit over the body, does not furnish evidence of an overthrown greatness in the human mind, such as the atheist and sceptic quite leave out of their theory of man? If it be said that these witless personal inflictions take place in consequence only of an error of belief, and may properly be compared to the ill-directed fatigues of a traveller who, on wrong information, pursues a worse road when he might have found a better, let only the experiment be tried of leading, into a parallel error, any being to whom the body and its welfare is the supreme and only interest to be cared for.Not a step could ever be set by such a being towards a folly of this order. The liability of man to go so far astray springs from those ulterior principles that are involved in his nature, and which bespeak an immortal destiny. Every such practical absurdity is an implicit proof of the presence of a latent capacity for entertaining the highest truths; and if man be the only fool among the tribes of earth, and the only wretch, it is because he alone might be wise, virtuous and happy.
persecutions of the second century, so has it flourished most, and been carried to the greatest extremes, in times of public calamity and disorder. The miseries of the open world have been reflected upon the austerities of the cell— that camera obscura. It appears plainly that the excessive abstinences and the savage habits of the Egyptian eremites—so much admired by the Church writers of the fourth and fifth centuries, were little more than a fantastic form of the wretchedness of the people of the country. As much as this is confessed by some of the eulogists of these horrid saints.
Thus for example Palladius.-As to what relates to eating and drinking (speaking of a certain Macarius and his companions) I need say little, since nothing like gluttony is to be found there, even among the most indulgent of the monks, who live at large; or any thing to distinguish them from the people of the country; and this as well by reason of the scarcity of food, as from the impulse of a Divine zeal-kai dià Triv omavriv tõv χρειών, και δια τον κατά Θεόν ζήλον.-Lausaic Hist. c. 21.
3 Christian sentiments modify feelings of this sort, and give them a more humble guise. Ergo qui pænitentiam agit, offere se debet ad pænam, ut hîc puniatur à Domino, non ad supplicia æterna servetur: nec expectare tempus, sed occurrere divinæ indignationi. (Ambrose in Ps. xxxvii.) Do the apostles speak in any such style? The transition was easy from a doctrine like this to the extremest austerities.
On this ground the voluntary endurance of torment, from motives of religion, may be assumed, as demonstrative evidence of the intrinsic superiority of the mental over the animal principles of our nature ; - for when the body prevails, as too often it does, over the mind, it is by the means of seductions and flatteries; and we know that in this manner the noble may readily be made to succumb beneath the base. But when, as in the instance before us, the mental force triumphs over the physical will, it does so in the way of an open trial of relative strength;—and the stronger principle is found to prevail. We receive, moreover, from these extraordinary facts, a striking proof of the supremacy of the MORAL SENSE in the constitution of man; for it is this chiefly that gives impulse to the practices of self-torture. And again, the relation of man to Invisible and Retributive Power is by the same means established; the secret of every sort of selfinfliction is a tacit compromise with Future Justice; and when notions such as these take effect in a paramount manner, carrying all other reasons before them, we have evidence that, in the order of nature, Religion is the sovereign motive.
The fanatic is much in error; yet let it not be thought that he subverts the first principles of virtue.--He is wrong on certain points of morality, calling good evil and evil good; but still it is good and evil that are the elements he works upon. And so in religion.—Ilis correspondence is with a Power of retributive Government on high; but he thinks amiss of that Power. His error is to impute an intrinsic malignancy, or a sheer vindictive purpose to the Invisible Authority; and then he conceives of himself as having, by his transgressions, fallen into the hands of the irresistible avenger, who, as he thinks, can take advantage of mankind only so far as sin brings them within the circle of his wrath; or who, once and again starts forth and catches an opportunity against men, when he finds them uwary or at fault.
In a form so preposterous as this, fanatical belief is hardly perhaps to be met with, except on the banks of the Ganges or in the wilds of Africa. We describe the feeling in its extremes, and then, in turning to instances where a purer creed has softened whatever is harsh, and where an accredited theological style has disguised whatever is offensive, we trace the elements of the very same order of feeling under the concealments that recommend them. We must not expect to hear from the Christian ascetic a genuine expression of the emotions that torment his bosom : these are to be divined
by a fair interpretation of his behaviour. It is by the same rule that we shall presently have to estimate the dispositions of those who have signalized themselves in scenes of cruelty. To read the extant writings—the epistles, the meditations, the homilies, of some of these sanguinary personages, one would think them unconscious of every thing but meekness and charity.
Dread or dismay, when of long continuance, naturally settles down into some sort of calculation or of compromise with the apprehended danger. And it is thus that there arises, within the troubled spirit of the man whose consciousness of guilt was at first intolerable, a whispered controversy with the vengeful Power, or a dull wrangling debate concerning the precise amount of the mulct, and the mode of payment. The culprit, confessing that he has fallen under the power of his adversary, nevertheless does not, after a while, despair of making terms more advantageous than at first he had thought of. With this hope he looks about for the means of righting his cause, or even of quite turning the balance in his favour.-Yes, and he goes so far as to harbour the thought (natural to the mind when it is the prey of rancorous emotions) of justifying, to such an extent, the difference between himself and the Avenger, as that, if after all, punishment should be inflicted, it shall be, and shall seem to others—unrighteous and cruel, so that while writhing under it, the sufferer