Imatges de pàgina

truth, will turn their thoughts, and give their time to it. The world will be tired of what any one person, or a few persons only, can do in any way; there will necessarily be so much of similarity in the views, and consequently in the writings, of the same persons.

Some of the same passages in the evangelists will be found to be quoted in difrent discourses in this volume, but it is with different views, and therefore it requires no apology. The events in the history of the Papal power quoted in the last of these discourses are such as are well known, and therefore do not require a reference to any original authorities. Many of them were copied from a French work, entitled Harmonie des Propheties, by Mr. C. de Loys, printed at Lausanne 1974, which I wish were more generally known.

A very valuable illustration of the divinity of the Mosaic institutions might be brought from a comparison of them with those of the Hindoos, which appear to have been of equal antiquity. This people was famed, in all ages, for their superior wif


dom and civilization, and the mythology of the Egyptians and the Greeks appears to have been borrowed from theirs, or to have been derived from the same source. That of the Hindoos is, however, the more fystematical and complex. But the institutions of Moses need not to shrink from a comparison with theirs.. What absurd notions concerning the origin and constitution of the Universe, and what a complicated polytheism are the foundation of it ; how horrid were some of the rites of the Hindoo religion ; and how abominable and disgusting were others of them. It is much more irrational, and no less unfavourable to morals, than the ancient religions of the western part of the world, of which some account was given in the former set of discourses.

When men of sense shall coolly reflect on these things, and consider how destitute the Hebrew nation was of every advantage for forming to themselves so excellent a system of religion, and of civil policy too, as we find in the books of Moses, the great difference between his system and his


A 3

writings and those of the Hindoos, which are now happily become known to us, cannot but be thought a most extraordinary phenomenon ; and the result of a comparison of them must be highly favourable to the supposition of Moses having been divinely inspired, and of the authors of the opposite system, whoever they were, having been left to the wanderings of a disordered imagination. They will appear to have been misled by the groffest ignorance into the most absurd superstitions. A detail of the particulars would strike the mind much more forcibly than this general account, and I intend, if I should have leisure, and opportunity, to enter into it as far as may be necessary for this purpose. At present I shall content myself with introducing an extract from the Voyages of Mr. Sonnerat, which throws great light on the phrase pashing through the fire, so often mentioned in the Old Testament, and noticed p. 100 of the former Discourses.

“ The only public festival in honour of Darma-Raja and Drobede, is that of NerpouTirounal, or the feast of fire, because they


walk upon that element. It continues eighteen days, during which they who make a vow to observe it must fast, abstain from women, lie on the ground without any mat, and walk over burning coals. On the eighteenth day they repair to the place to the sound of musical instruments, their heads crowned with flowers, their bodies daubed over with saffron, and follow in cadence the images of Darma-Raja and Drobede his wife, which are carried in procession. When they approach the hot coals they stir them, to make them burn more fiercely. They then rub their foreheads with some of the cinders, and when the deities have made the circuit of the fire three times, they walk faster or flower according to the ardour of their devotion on the burning coals, which cover a space of about forty feet in length. Some carry their children in their arms, and others lances, fabres, and standards. The most devout walk over the fire several times."

[ocr errors]

Vol. I. p. 247

From the present set of Discourses it will appear that the deviation from the system


of revelation by Mahomet, pofseffed as he was of many natural advantages, was far from being any improvement upon it. On the contrary, it leads the mind from its excellent moral maxims, and favours an acquiefcence in mere superstitious observances, though not so very absurd and debasing as those of the Heathens. The same is the effect of the corruptions of Christianity by the Catholics.

It will therefore appear, that the wiseft men cannot do better than revert to the original maxims and precepts of pure revelation, either with respect to good sense and true philosophy, or useful morality. Whatever men have done in this business has been ill done, and all that is fundamentally good has been immediately from God.

No unbeliever has yet entered into any discussion of this kind, though so evidently to the purpose. What the principal of them have done, may be seen in the third edition of my Observations on the Increase of Infidelity, which has just been published in this city. This work also contains some remarks on the writings of several of the


« AnteriorContinua »