Imatges de pÓgina
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as their religious principles were absurd and impious, their general conduct was also corrupt and abandoned. Besides the heavenly bodies, they worshipped brute beasts, and even the vilest reptiles, and they allowed of incest, a crime which we abhor more than murder, by law. Of their merciless cruelty we have a very memorable instance in the Israelites, who originally came to live among them by royal licence, but of whom, notwithstanding their obligations to an illustrious patriarch of that people, they afterwards became so jealous, that, by a public decree, all their male children were de stroyed, to prevent their increase. The Persians worshipped the sun and moon, offered sacrifices to fire, permitted polygamy, sons to marry their mothers, and fathers their daughters, and in their punishments they were severe even to barbarity. The Salii and Corybantes, priests of Mars and Cybele, performed the ceremonies of those deities with frantic dances, and outrageous fits of madness. The rites of Bacchus were obscene, ridiculous, and extravagant, in the highest degree ; and those of Baal were shocking and unnatural. The most solemn act of worship performed to the Syrian Baal, was to break wind, and to ease themselves at the foot of his image. The rites of Venus in Cyprus, and at Aphac, in mount Libanus, consisted in the grossest lewdness. The Babylonian women were obliged to prosti

tute themselves, once in their lives, at the temple of Venus or Mylitte, to the first man that asked them; and the money earned by this wretched act of devotion was reckoned sacred. Nor were the nocturnal cere. monies at Rome much more delicate.

" But besides these shocking instances of Heathen depravity, murder, of the most horrid sort, was often an act of devotion in almost every Pagan nation in the world. Parents burnt alive their own children to Baal, Moloch, and many other deities. In Bria tain and Gaul, it was a common practice to surround a man with a kind of wicker work, and thus to burn him alive in honour of

The Scythians sacrificed to Mars one from among every hundred prisoners they took in war. The Peruvians, in their sacrifices, had a custom of tying a man alive to a stake, and pulling the flesh off his bones by small pieces, which they broiled and eat in his sight, thinking they thus did him the greatest honour. The Carthaginians, a polished and commercial people, in times of public calamity not only burnt alive the children of their best families to Saturn, and that by hundreds, but they frequently sacrificed themselves in great numbers in the same manner. In Eastern nations, the favourite wife burnt herself on the same funeral pile with the body of 'her deceased husband,-a custom which still exists in some barbarous states. Oracles,

their gods.

astrology, soothsaying, superstition, magic, &c. overran the whole heathen world, and presided over the councils of the wisest states. The heathen gods were uniformly represented, even by their own worshipers, as envious of human happiness, as subject to the same passions, to the same infirmities and crimes, which were thus sanctioned in their followers by their supposed example. In the catalogue of their gods, are found the most barbarous oppressors, the vilest impostors, the lewdest prostitutes, the most infamous adulterers, murderers and parricides, which ever disgraced or afflicted mankind; and the rites of their worship, and the morals of their votaries, were exactly what such examples gave reason to hope for. A good religion may not always be successful in restraining the passions of men; because, when evil passions interfere with its duties, those duties will often be disregarded; but a bad one, such as every pagan system has uniformly been, cannot of itself produce virtue; because the generality of those systems, I may say the whole, have not only not prohibited, but have often sanctioned the most degrading consequences of human infirmity. Men may be, and often have been, the better of good principles of religion; but they will very seldom, perhaps never, be better than the religion they profess. It is not to be supposed that they will affect to be superior to the gods whom they worship; and, as human nature, in such circumstances,

rather degenerates than improves, they will generally be worse. The Pagans, accordingly, did not only indulge their lusts, and appetites out of principle, but they fell into general habits of the most abandoned nature; because there were no principles in their religious systems to restrain them. Fornication was never considered as a crime, and even sodomy was committed with little shame and no remorse. They often exposed such of their children as they did not like, to be devoured by wild beasts; a barbarity still exercised by the Hottentots, and some other African nations. Several races of people, inhabiting the banks of the Danube, used to throw their new-born infants into the stream, and such only as swam were preserved. The Caribes often castrated their children, that they might become fatter and more delicate food; and the politest nations of antiquity were entertained at their spectacles with men killing men, and with others engaged in dreadful combat with lions and tygers. Many of them eat human flesh; a barbarous custom which exists in several Pagan nations to this very day; and others, out of pretended tenderness, and to relieve them from the miseries of old age, killed their parents, and feasted on their flesh. That this custom still exists, Mr Goodwill has already informed you; and, as he seemed to consider it as an instance of freedom from the prejudices which

And yet,

* When we direct our attention to the Pagans of modern times,-to the Americans, Africans, Tartars, Chinese, and the East in general,

we find the greater part of them not only capable of the most enormous crimes, (for monsters of iniquity we find in all'nationsand periods) but we find them performing them by a kind of system, with impunity, and without remorse. if any such superiority really exists, the ira bred superiority of reason should, long ere this time of day, have led some, at least, if not all of those wretched savages, as the great proportion of them are, to something higher than the worshiph of stocks, stones and devils, and the wretched principles and practice which we know obtains among them. In Hindostan, and other parts of the East, the bramins and learned men profess principles of a very sublime morality, and elevated speculation ; but the principles of the people at large are wretched and grovelling : Scandalous, however as they are, they are sanctioned, in direct contradiction to their principles, by the conduct and practice of the most enlightened! Nor, in similar circumstances, can it ever be otherwise. Speculation, however elevated and beautiful, is unfit to direct the conduct, or correct the morals, of the most learned ; because it possesses no sanctions of sufficient authority to resist the violent impulses of passion or bad example.

Over the ignorant it can

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