« PreviousContinue »
of the same people, from Herodotus. (Herod. Thal. 99. or Beloe's Transl. v. ii. 119.)“ If any man among them,” says he, “be diseased, his nearest connexions beat him to death; alledging in excuse, that sickness would waste and injure his flesh. They pay no regard to his assertions, that he is not really ill; but, without the smallest compunction, deprive him of life.” The two passages compared, serve to verify a remark of Dr. Robertson, that hundreds even thousands of years have done little towards changing the Indians, either in their customs or character.
It is not improper here to mention the custom, extensively prevalent in India, of the burning of widows with their deceased husbands. Dr. Buchanan acquiesces in the conclusion, that not less, than ten thousand widows, perish annually by self devotement, in the northern provinces of Hindostan alone.
Dr. Leyden has informed us, that the natives of the interior of Sumatra give this account of themselves, that they frequently eat their own relations, when aged and infirm : and that, not so much to gratify their appetite, as to perform a pious ceremony. Thus, when a man becomes infirm and weary of the world, he is said to invite his own children to eat him, at the season, when salt and limes are cheapest. He then ascends a tree, round which his friends and offspring assemble, and as they shake the tree, join in a funeral dirge, the import of which is," the season is come; the fruit is ripe ; and he must descend.” “The victim descends : and those, who are nearest and dearest to him, deprive him of life, and devour his remains in a solemn banquet.” (Chris. Research. 145, quoting Asiatic Res. X. 203.) This strikingly corresponds with the practice of the ancient Indians, as stated by Herodotus ;“ the more aged among whom, he asserts, were regularly killed and eaten.” Thalia 99, or vol. i. 213.
I had occasion to notice, in a former lecture, that, in the ancient system of heathen worship, there was a most disgusting mixture of lasciviousness and cruelty. This remark applies in full force to the religion of modern pagans.
In Orissa, a province of Hindostan, stands the temple of Juggernaut. This idol has been considered, as the Moloch of the present age. His temple is a stupendous fabric. As other temples are usually adorned with figures, emblematical of their religion ; so Juggernaut has representations, numerous and various, of that vice which constitutes the essence of his worship. The walls and gates are covered with indecent emblems, in massive and durable sculpture. In the worship of this god are chanted songs, the most indecent and licentious. These, say the infatuated devotees, are the delight of the god. To engage in this worship, incredible numbers assemble annually from the various parts, of Northern India. The assembly, it appears, consists of many hundred thousands. An image of enormous size is drawn on a car, sixty feet high. Under the wheels of this car, it is common for persons to throw themselves for the purpose of being crushed to death. This god is said to smile, whenever a libation of blood is thus made.
This account, let it be considered, is given by an eye witness, a man highly respected for piety and literature. Nor have eight years elapsed, since he was present at this scene of abomination and horror.
Another writer gives a corresponding account, in a spirit, equally indignant. “ These pagans,” says he, “ in forming their idols, cast out every vestige of beauty, every thing, that, by consent of mankind, is supposed to convey pleasing sensations, and, in their place, substitute the most extravagant and unnatural deformity, the most loathsome filth, and the most disgusting obscenity. It is not in language to convey an adequate idea of their temples, and idols; and, if it were, no purpose could be answered by it, but the excitement of painful and abominable emotions." Priest. Ins. of Mos. 227.
Every pagoda, we are told, have a certain number of prostitutes annexed to it, dedicated to its use, by pompous and solemn ceremonies. In the Decan, it is customary for parents to dedicate their children to this profession.
In the worship of modern pagans we find not only all that is impure and sanguinary, but the most degrading stupidity.
By these institutions, the rational nature of man is debas. ed and outraged. The Sovereign of the universe requires a rational service. The worship of the heathen is strikingly the reverse. “ What the hindoos call prayer, and which they suppose to be so efficacious, bears little or no resemblance to what Jews and Christians signify by that term. It is no proper address to the Supreme Being, expressive of the sentiments of humility, veneration and submission ; but the mere repetition of certain words, the pronunciation of which can be supposed to operate only as a charm. The worshippers of Vishnou, it is said, pretend that his name, though pronounced without any determinate motive, or even in contempt, cannot fail to produce a good effect. This alone, they say, has the power of effacing crimes.”
The greatest part of the worship of the Hindoos, it is asserted on the testimony of Pietro della Valle, consists of nothing, but music, songs, dances, and in waiting on their gods, as if they were living persons, viz. in presenting them things to eat, washing them, perfuming them, giving them betel leaves, dying them with a particular kind of wood, carrying them abroad in processions, &c. Inst. of Mos. 161.
The Scharmans of Siberia, whose religion has been mentioned, pretend, like the ancient Babylonians, to nourish their idols with food. By way of offering them incense, they make a smoke with burning flesh, blood, or boughs of fir and wormwood, before them. But when misfortunes befal them, they load them with abuse; sometimes dash them against the ground, throw them into the water, or beat them with rods.
Belonging to the Hindoo religion are great numbers of devotees, who give themselves up to the most severe abstinence and torture. Some will keep their arms constantly stretched over their heads, till they become quite withered, and incapable of motion. Others keep them crossed over their breasts, during their lives, some chain themselves to
trees and particular spots of ground, which they never quit. Dr. Buchanan mentions an enthusiast, whom he saw, going on a pilgrimage to Juggernaut, who had, to merit the favor of the god, measured the whole way by the length of his body.
It is related of the ancient inhabitants of the Canary Islands, who worshipped the sun and the stars, that, on solemn festivals, kept in honor of the deity, whom they adored, in a temple seated on the brink of a mountain, they threw themselves down into a vast depth, out of a religious principle, dancing and singing, their priests assuring them, that they should enjoy all sorts of pleasures after a death so meritorious. Miler, as quoted by Leland, ii. 220.
I shall close the lecture with a few remarks on what has preceded.
I. In view of those facts, which have been stated in the preceding lectures, can the necessity of revelation be reasonably denied, or even doubted? The doctrine of the divine existence, which lies at the root of all religion, has been either unknown, or, so corrupted and perverted, as to be no better, than unqualified atheism; and this too in countries, where human mind, far from being permitted to lie inactive, has erected many beautiful and stupendous monuments to its own praise. So that there is no reason to believe, that the true God would, under any circumstances, have been generally known and worshipped without revelation. Most strikingly true, therefore, is the assertion, made by St. Paul, that the world by wisdom knew not God. It is considered indecd, that the works of creation, if examined with a fair and impartial mind, are sufficient to indicate the being and perfections of their author. The invisible things of God may be discovered by the things, that are made. But if these invisible things were not, in fact, discovered; but the whole world was overspread with gross darkness; and men had such notions concerning religion, as tended to degrade both the heart and the intellects, and to prostrate, rather than to
establish moral principle; it follows, that a revelation from heaven was inexpressibly important and desirable.
II. The subject corroborates a remark of Dr. Paley, that the effects of revealed religion are not confined either to those, who cordially, or even to those, who nominally embrace it. There are those, in every christian country, who do neither the one, nor the other. They are believers neither in heart, nor profession. But though they reject revealed religion, they do not question the existence of God; their notions of him are vastly more correct, than those, either of ancient or modern pagans. Why do they not worship the
the stars, the rivers, brute animals, or even vegetables, that are planted and cultivated by their own industry? Why do they not acknowledge, as the rulers of Heaven, those, whose passions and vices once disturbed and polluted the earth? Is it because their intellects are more penetrating and profound, than were those of the Greeks, Egyptians, Phenicians, and Chaldeans? No: but because they have been better instructed by that very religion, which they deny, and would gladly subvert. It is because some rays of celestial truth have fallen upon their understandings, notwithstanding the caution, which has been used to prevent a thor, ough illumination.