Where have I erred? What have I done amiss?But the fanciful superstitionist accounts every little distemper in his body or decay in his estate, the death of his children, and crosses and disappointments in matters relating to the public, as the immediate strokes of God and the incursions of some vindictive daemon. And therefore he dares not attempt to remove or relieve his disasters, or [p. 176] to use the least remedy or to oppose himself to them, for fear he should seem to struggle with God and to make resistance under correction. If he be sick, he thrusts away the physician; if he be in any grief, he shuts out the philosopher that would comfort and advise him. Let me alone, saith he, to pay for my sins: I am a cursed and vile offender, and detestable both to God and angels. Now suppose a man unpersuaded of a Divinity in never so great sorrow and trouble, you may yet possibly wipe away his tears, cut his hair, and force away his mourning; but how will you come at this superstitious penitentiary, either to speak to him or to bring him any relief? He sits him down without doors in sackcloth, or wrapped up in foul and nasty rags; yea, many times rolls himself naked in mire, repeating over I know not what sins and transgressions of his own; as, how he did eat this thing and drink the other thing, or went some way prohibited by his Genius. But suppose he be now at his best, and laboring under only a mild attack of superstition; you shall even then find him sitting down in the midst of his house all becharmed and bespelled, with a parcel of old women about him, tugging all they can light on, and hanging it upon him as (to use an expression of Bion's) upon some nail or peg.
What should be done by me that undone is?
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1 Pythagoras, Carmen Aur. 41.
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