Quoted from the author's "Introduction."
"Emotion, then, and not morality, plays the more prominent part in all cults. In the history of
Christianity one of the principal sources of emotional devotion to the cult has been the worship of images and relics — the said relics being various material
objects connected, or said to be connected, with the lives of the protagonists, mythical, legendary, and historical, of the religion. "Seeing is believing," and if a simple-minded person is shown a skeleton said to be that of the whale that swallowed Jonah he thenceforth regards himself as an eye-witness to the truth of that story, becomes a fervent advocate of a belief in it, and is ever after inclined to look upon Jonah, and perhaps even the whale, as a personal friend devoted to his interests and as a bringer of good fortune. To some of us a belief so ill
founded seems absurd, but we all know men and women who are convinced that various objects bring them luck, and that various trivial and indifferent actions are unlucky though there is no causal connection between the object or the action and the hoped-for or the dreaded result.
From the point of view of the clergy relic worship was most useful, as it aroused the devotion of the worshippers; and it ceased to be useful only when, and in those places where, relics aroused such derision among the well-informed that it could not be concealed from the ill-informed. The history of the rise and decline of this particular aspect of superstition furnishes us with an early example of popular enthusiasm being engendered by a "stunt" started under the auspices of socially distinguished persons, and subsequently supported by an organization which derived financial benefits from its continuance. It is a history so curious that it will perhaps bear repetition."