Superstition would seem to be a consequence of a state of being, in which so much is shadowed forth, while so little is accurately known. Our far-reaching thoughts range over the vast fields of created things, without penetrating to the secret cause of the existence of even a blade of grass. We can analyze all substances that are brought into our crucibles, tell their combinations and tendencies, give a scientific history of their formation, so far as it is connected with secondary facts, their properties, and their uses; but in each and all, there is a latent natural cause, that baffles all our inquiries, and tells us that we are merely men. This is just as true in morals, as in physics—no man living being equal to attaining the very faith that is necessary to his salvation, without the special aid of the spirit of the godhead; and even with that mighty support, trusting implicitly for all that is connected with a future that we are taught to believe is eternal, to “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen.” In a word, this earthly probation of ours, was intended for finite beings, in the sense of our present existence, leaving far more to be conjectured, than is understood.
Ignorance and superstition ever bear a close, and even a mathematical relation to each other. The degrees of the one, are regulated by the degrees of the other. He who knows the least believes the most; while he who has seen the most, without the intelligence to comprehend that which he has seen, feels, perhaps, the strongest inclination to refer those things which to him are mysteries, to the supernatural and marvellous. Sailors have been, from time immemorial, more disposed than men of their class on the land, to indulge in this weakness, which is probably heightened by the circumstance of their living constantly and vividly in the presence of powers that menace equally their lives and their means, without being in any manner subject to their control.
Spike, for a seaman of his degree of education, was not particularly addicted to the weakness to which we have just alluded. Nevertheless, he was not altogether free from it; and recent circumstances contributed to dispose him so much the more to admit a feeling which, like sin itself, is ever the most apt to insinuate itself at moments of extraordinary moral imbecility, and through the openings left by previous transgression. As his brig stood off from the light, the captain paced the deck, greatly disturbed by what had just passed, and unable to account for it. The boat of the Poughkeepsie was entirely concealed by the islet, and there existing no obvious motive for wishing to return, in order to come at the truth, not a thought to that effect, for one moment, crossed the mind of the smuggler. So far from this, indeed, were his wishes, that the Molly did not seem to him to go half as fast as usual, in his keen desire to get further and further from a spot where such strange incidents had occurred.