Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

(No. 347). Everything was afterwards changed, with the discipline, when the church assumed a permanent form.

FOURTH QUESTION. When once a religion is established in a state, the tribunals are all employed in perverting the continuance or renewal of most of the things that were done in that religion before it was publicly received. The founders used to assemble in private, in spite of magistrates; but now no assemblies are permitted but public ones under the eyes of the law, and all concealed associations are forbidden. The máxim formerly was, that “ it is better to obey God than man;" the opposité maxim is now adopted, that “ to follow the laws of the state is to obey God.” Nothing was heard of but obsessions and possessions; the devil was then let loose upon the world, but now the devil stays at home. Prodigies and predictions were necessary; now they are no longer admitted : a man who in the places should foretel calamities, would be sent to a madhouse. The founders secretly received the money of the faithful; but now, a man who should gather money for his own disposal, without being authorised by the law, would be brought before a court of justice to answer for so doing. Thus the scaffoldings that have served to build the edifice, are no longer made use of.

FIFTH QUESTION. After our own holy religion, which indubitably is the only good one, what religion would be the least objectionable?

Would it not be that which should be the simplest? that which should teach much morality and very few dog. mas?—that which should tend to make men just, without making them absurd ?--that which should not ordain the belief of things impossible, contradictory, injurious to the Divinity, and pernicious to mankind; nor dare to threaten with eternal pains whosoever should possess common sense? Would it not be that which should not uphold its belief by the hand of the executioner, nor inundate the earth with blood to support unintelligible sophisms?—that in which an ambiguous expression, a play upon words, and two or three supposed charters, should not suffice to make a sovereign and a God, of a priest who is often incestuous, a murderer and a poisoner?----which should not make kings subject to this priest?--that which should teach only the adoration of one God, justice, tolerance, and humanity?

SIXTH QUESTION. It has been said, that the religion of the Gentiles was absurd in many points, contradictory, and pernicious : but have there not been imputed to it more harm than it ever did, and more absurdities than it ever preached?

Show me in all antiquity a temple dedicated to Leda lying with a swan, or Europa with a bull. Was there ever a sermon preached at Athens or at Rome, to persuade the young women to cohabit with their poultry? Are the fables collected and adorned by Ovid religious ? Are they not like our Golden Legend, our Flower of the Saints ? If some brahmin or dervish were to come and object to our story of St. Mary the Egyptian, who not having wherewith to pay the sailors who conveyed her to Egypt, gave to each of them instead of money what are called · favours,' we should say to the brahmin-Reverend father, you are mistaken; our religion is not the Golden Legend.

We reproach the ancients with their oracles, and prodigies; if they could return to this world, and the miracles of our Lady of Loretto and our Lady of Ephesus could be counted, in whose favour would be the balance ?

Human sacrifices were established among almost every people, but very rarely put in practice. Among the Jews, only Jeptha's daughter and king Agag were immolated; for Isaac and Jonathan were not. Among the Greeks, the story of Iphigenia is not well authenticated; and human sacrifices were very rare among the

ancient Romans. In short, the religion of the pagans caused very little blood to be shed, while ours has deluged the earth. Ours is doubtless the only good, the only true one; but we have done so much harm by its means, that when we speak of others we should be modest.

SEVENTH QUESTION. If a man would persuade foreigners, or his own countrymen, of the truth of his religion, should he not go about it with the most insinuating mildness and the most engaging moderation? If he begins with telling them that what he announces is demonstrated, he will find a multitude of persons incredulous; if he ventures to tell them that they reject his doctrine only inasmuch as it condemns their passions; that their hearts have corrupted their minds; that their reasoning is only false and proud, he disgusts them-he incenses them against himself—he himself ruins what he would fain establish.

If the religion he announces be true, will violence and insolence render it more so? Do you put yourself in a rage, when you say that it is necessary to be mild, patient, beneficent, just, and to fulfil all the duties of society? No; because every one is of your own opinion. Why then do you abuse your brother when preaching to him a mysterious system of metaphysics? Because his sense irritates your self-love. You are so proud as to require your brother to submit his intelligence to yours; humbled pride produces the wrath; it has no other source. A man who has received twenty wounds in a battle, does not fly into a passion; but a doctor wounded by the refusal of your assent, becomes furious and implacable.

EIGHTH QUESTION. Must we not carefully distinguish the religion of the state from theological religion? The religion of the state requires that the imans keep registers of the circumcised, the vicars or pastors registers of the baptized; that there be mosques, churches, temples, days consecrated to rest and worship, rites established by law; that the ministers of those rites enjoy consideration without power; that they teach good morals to the people, and that the ministers of the law watch over the morals of the ministers of the temples. This religion of the state cannot at any time cause any disturbance.

It is otherwise with theological religion: this is the source of all imaginable follies and disturbances; it is the parent of fanaticism and civil discord; it is the enemy of mankind. A bonze asserts that fo is a God, that he was foretold by fakirs, that he was born of a white elephant, and that every bonze can by certain grimaces make a Fo. A talepoin says, that Fo was a holy man, whose doctrine the bonzes have

corrupted, and that Sommona-Codom is the true God. After a thousand arguments and contradictions, the two factions agree to refer the question to the dalai-lama, who resides three hundred leagues off, and who is not only immortal, but also infallible. The two factions send to him a solemn deputation; and the dalai-lama begins, according to his divine custom, by distributing among them the contents of his close-stool.

The two rival sects at first receive them with equal reverence; have them dried in the sun, and enchase them in little chaplets which they kiss devoutly; but no sooner have the dalai-lama and his council pronounced in the name of Fo, than the condemned party throw their chaplets in the vice-god's face, and would fain give him a sound thrashing. The other party defend their lama, from whom they have received good lands; both fight a long time; and when at last they are tired of mutual extermination, assassination, and poisoning, they grossly abuse each other, while the dalai-lama laughs, and still distributes his excrement to whomsoever is desirous of receiving the good father lama's precious favours.

RHYME.

Ruyme was probably invented to assist the memory, and to regulate at the same time the song and the dance. The return of the same sounds served to bring easily and readily to the recollection the intermediate words between the two rhymes. Those rhymes were a guide at once to the singer and the dancer; they indicated the measure. Accordingly, in every country, verse was the language of the gods.

We may therefore class it among the list of probable, that is, of uncertain opinions, that rhyme was at first a religious appendage or ceremony; for, after all, it is possible that verses and songs might be addressed by a man to his mistress before they were addressed by him to his deities; and highly impassioned lovers indeed will say that the cases are precisely the same.

A rabbi who gave me a general view of the Hebrew language, which I never was able to learn, once recited to me a number of rhymed psalms, which he said we had most wretchedly translated. I remember two verses, which are as follows:

* Hibbitu clare vena haru

Ulph nchem al jeck pharu. “They looked upon him and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed.”

No rhyme can be richer than that of those two verses; and this being admitted, I reason in the following manner :

The Jews, who spoke a jargon half Phenician and half Syriac, rhymed; therefore the great and powerful nations, under whom they were in slavery, rhymed also. We cannot help believing, that the Jews who, as we have frequently observed, adopted almost everything from their neighbours, adopted from them also rhyme.

All the orientals rhyme; they are steady aud constant in their usages. They dress now as they have dressed for the long series of five or six thousand years.

We
may

therefore well believe that they have rhymed for a period of equal duration.

Some of the learned contend, that the Greeks began with rhyming, whether in honour of their gods, their heroes, or their mistresses; but, that afterwards becoming more sensible of the harmony of their language,

* Psalm xxxiv. 5.

« AnteriorContinua »