Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ving good order, and for preventing bad example.

The religion of Confucius, professed by the literati and persons of rank in China and Tonquin, consists in a deep inward veneration for the God or King of heaven, and in the practice of every moral virtue. They have neither temples, nor priests, nor any

settled form of external worship: every one adores the supreme Being in the manner he himself thinks best. This is indeed the most refined system of religion that ever took place among men; but it is not fitted for the human race: an excellent religion it would be for angels; but is far too refined even for fages and philosophers.

Proceeding to deviations from the genuine worship required by our Maker, and gross deviations there have been, I begin with that sort of worship which is influenced by fear, and which for that reason is universal among favages. The American favages believe, that there are inferior deities without end, most of them prone to mischief: they neglect the supreme Deity because he is good; and direct their worship to soothe the malevolent

inferior

[ocr errors][merged small]

inferior deities from doing harm. The inhabitants of the Molucca islands, who believe the existence of malevolent beings subordinate to the supreme benevolent Being, confine their worship to the former, in order to avert their wrath; and one branch of their worship is, to set meat before them, hoping that when the belly is full, there will be less inclination to mifchief. The worship of the inhabitants of Java is much the same. The negroes of Benin worship the devil, as Dapper expresses it, and sacrifice to him both men and beasts. They acknowledge indeed a supreme Being, who created the universe, and governs it by his Providence : but they regard him not; “for,” say they, “ it is needless, if not impertinent, to “ invoke a being, who, good and gra“ cious, is incapable of injuring or mo“ lesting us.” Gratitude, it would appear, is not a ruling principle among sa

favages.

The austerities and penances that are practised in almost all religions, fpring from the same root. One way to please invisible malignant powers, is to make ourselves as miserable as possible. Hence

the

[ocr errors]

the horrid penances of the Faquirs in Hindostan, who outdo in mortification whatever is reported of the ancient Christian anchorites. Some of these Faquirs continue for life in one posture: fome never lie down: some have always their arms raised above their head : and some mangle their bodies with knives and scourges. The town of Jagrenate in Hindoftan is frequented by pilgrims, some of them from places 300 leagues distant; and they travel, not by walking or riding, but by measuring the road with the length of their bodies; in which mode of loco-motion, some of them consume years before they complete their pilgrimage. A religious sect made its way fome centuries ago into Japan, termed Bubsdoists, from Bubs, the founder. This fect has prevailed over the ancient sect of the Sintos, chiefly by its austerity and mortifications." The spirit of this sect inspires nothing but excessive fear of the gods, who are painted prone to vengeance and always offended. These sectaries pass most of their time in tormenting themselves, in order to expiate imaginary faults; and they are treated by their priests with a degree of Vol.IV.

оо despotisın

[ocr errors]

despotism and cruelty, that is not parallelled but by the inquisitors of Spain. Their manners are fierce, cruel, and unrelenting, derived from the nature of their superstition. : The notion of invisible malevolent powers, formerly univerfal, is not to this hour eradicated, even among Christians; for which I appeal to the fastings and flagellations among Roman-Catholics, held by them to be an efsential part of religion. People infected with religious horrors, are never seriously convinced that an upright heart and found morality make the essence of religion. The doctrine of the Jansenists concerning repentance and mortification, shows evidently, however they may deceive themselves, that they have an impression of the Deity as a malevolent being. They hold the guilt contracted by Adam's fall to be a heinous fin, which ought to be expiated by acts of mortification, such as the torturing and macerating the body with painful labour, excessive abstinence, continual prayer and contemplation. Their

penances, whether for original or voluntary fin, are carried to extravagance; and those who put an end to their lives by such se

verities, verities, are termed the facred victims of repentance, consumed by the fire of divine love. Such suicides are esteemed peculiarly meritorious in the eye of Heaven; and it is thought, that their sufferings cannot fail to appease the anger of thọ Deity. That celibacy is a state of purity and perfection, is a prevailing notion in many countries : among the Pagans, a married man was forbidden to approach the altar, for some days after knowing his wife ; and this ridiculous notion of pollution, contributed to introduce celibacy among the Roman-Catholic priests * The Emperor Otho, anno 1218, became a fignal penitent: but instead of atoning for his fins by repentance and restitution, he laid himself down to be trodden under foot by the boys of his kitchen ; and fre

; quently submitted to the discipline of the whip, inflicted by monks. The Emperor Charles V. toward the end of his days, was sorely depressed in fpirit with fear of hell. Monks were his only companions,

* Fasting and celibacy were by Zoroaster condemned with abhorrence, as á criminal rejection of the best gifts of Providence.

0 0 2

with

« AnteriorContinuar »