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TRADITION has in no Instance so clearly evinced her Faithfulness, as in the transmitting of vulgar Rites and popular Opinions.
Of these, when we are desirous of tracing them backwards to their Origin, many lose themselves in Antiquity.
They have indeed travelled down to us through a long Succession of Years, and the greatest part of them, it is not improbable, will be of perpetual Observation : for the generality of Men look back with superstitious Veneration on the Ages of their Fore-fathers : And Authorities, that are grey with Time, seldom fail of commanding those filial Honours, claimed even by the Appearance of hoary old Age.
Many of these it must be confessed are mutilated, and, as in the Remains of ancient Statuary, the Parts of not a few of them have been awkwardly transposed: they preserve, however, the principal Traits, that distinguished them in their origin. Things, composed of such flimsy Materials as the Fan
cies of a Multitude, do not seem calculated for a long Duration ; yet have these survived Shocks, by which even Empires have been overthrown, and preserved at least some Form and Colour of Identity, during a Repetition of Changes, both in Religious Opinions, and in the Polity of States.
But the strongest Proof of their remote Antiquity, is, that they have out-lived the general Knowledge of the very Causes that gave rise to them.
The Reader will find in the subsequent pages an union of Endeavours to rescue many of these Causes from Oblivion. If, on the investigation, they appear to any so frivolous as not to have deserved the Pains of the Search, the humble Labourers will ayoid Censure, by incurring Contempt.
How trivial soever such an Enquiry may seem to some, yet all must be informed that it is attended with no small share of Difficulty and Toil.
A Passage is to be forced through a Wilderness intricate and entangled ; few Vestiges of former Labours can be found to direct us; we must oftentimes trace a tedious retrospective Course, perhaps to return at last weary and unsatisfied, from the making of Researches, fruitless as those of some ancient enthusiastic Traveller, who ranging the barren African Sands, had in vain attempted to investigate the hidden Sources of the Nile.
Rugged and narrow as this Walk of Study may seem to many, yet Fancy (who shares with Hope the pleasing Office of brightening a passage through every Route of human Endeavour) opens from hence 10 Prospects, en, riched with the choicest Beauties of her magic Creation.
The prime Origin of the superstitious Notions and Ceremonies of the People is absolutely unattainable; we despair of ever being able to reach the Fountain Head of Streams which have been running and increasing from the Beginning of Time. All that we aspire to do, is only to trace backwards, as far as possible, the Courses of them on those Charts, that remain, of the distant Countries from whence they were first perceived to flow.
Few, who are desirous of investigating the popular Notions and vulgar Ceremonies in our Nation, can fail of deducing them in their first Direction from the Times when Popery was our established Religion.
We shall not wonder that these were able to survive the Reformation, when we consider, that though our sensible and spirited Forefathers were, upon Conviction, easily induced to forego religious Tenets, which had been weighed in the Balance, and found wanting; yet were the People by no means inclined to annihilate the seemingly innocent Ceremonies of their former superstitious Faith.
These, consecrated to the Fancies of Men, by a Usage from Time immemorial, though erazed by public Authority from the written Word, were committed as a venerable Deposit to the keeping of oral Tradition ; like the Penates of another Troy, recently destroyed, they were religiously brought off, after having been snatched out of the smoking Ruins of Popery.
It is not improbable that, in the Infancy of Protestantism, the continuance of many of these was connived at by the State. For Men, “ who ale but Children of a “ larger Growth,' are not weaned all at once, and the Reformation of Manners, and of Religion, is always most surely established, when effected by slow Degrees, and as it were imperceptible Godations.
Thus also at the first Promulgation of Christianity to the Gentile Nations, through the Force of Conviction
they they yielded indeed to Truth; yet ther could not be persuaded to relinquish many of their superstitions, which rather than forego thein altogether, they chose to blend and incorporate with their new Faith.
Christian, or rather Papal Rome, borrowed her Rites, Notions, and Ceremonies, in the most luxurious Abundance from ancient and Heathen Rome; and much the greater Number of these flaunting Externals, a hich Infallibility has adopted, and used as Feathers to adorn her Triple Cap, have been stolen out of the Wings of the dying Eagle.
With regard to the Rites, Sports, &c. of the Common People, I am aware that the morose and bigoted Part of Mankind * without distinguishing between the right use and the abuse of such Entertainments, cavil at and malign thein. Yet must such be told that Shows and Sports have been countenanced by the best and wisest of States; and though it cannot be denied that they have been sometimes prostituted to the Purposes of Riot and Detauchery, val Tere we to reprobate every thing that has been thus abused, Religion itself could not be retained; perhaps we should be able to keep nothing.
The Conmoa People, confined by daily Labour, seen
* I* quote here the subsequent curicus T'Jugáis on this Subject. Le Feries are i.u-laten.
Ti si traa tiet Cokinis 3 Jezabell,
Rico's Peers lati