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would be unreasonable to doubt. Who can question, that, when the king of Moab took his eldest son, that should have reigned after him, and offered him for a burnt offering, he really believed, that hy such a sacrifice, he should obtain divine aid against Israel? who can doubt, that when the Greeks were urgent with Agamemnon to immolate his daughter, they sincerely believed, that this sacrifice would procure for their fleet propitious winds? The same kind of sincerity might be possessed by the worshippers of Bacchus, of Venus, or Mercury. But, will it hence follow, that a sincere thief, a sincere prostitute, or a sincere drunkard, is quite as deserving a moral character, as he, who, with integrity of heart, worships the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?
IV. From the representation now given of the worship and gods of the ancient heathen, we perceive, that St. Paul had good reason for charging the gentiles with atheism. liaving no hope, and without God in the world.
" It may be justly said,” observes Dr. Campbell, “ that their sacrifices were not offered to God; for, however much they might use the name God, the intention is to be judged of, not by the name, but by the meaning affixed to it. Now, such a being as the Eternal, Unoriginated, Immutable Creator, and Ruler of the world, they had not in all their system. For this reason, they are not unjustly called vozov, i. e. without the knowledge, and consequently, the belief and worship of him, who alone is GOD.”
It appears, indeed, that, when Christianity made known such a Being, hostility to his character was openly avowed. Dr. Leland, in his Westminister Lectures, gives us the following very important information. “Whatever the Greeks could not accomplish by the sword, they endeavored to effect by the force of impious language. And such was the madness, with which they were inflamed, that they proposed rewards and honors to such of their poets and sophists, as should write most, wit and elegance, in opposition to the
Chris. Obs. Feb. 1811.
one, true, and incorruptible God, from whom descended to mankind the gift of eternal happiness by Jesus Christ.” . I close the present lecture with a single remark, relating not to the ancient gentiles, but directly to ourselves, while professing to know God, may we not in works deny him; being disobedient and to every good work reprobate ?
The Necessity of Revelation as it appears from the gods and worship of modern Pagans.
In the preceding lecture, were considered the character of the heathen gods, and the moral tendency of that worship, which they received.
As the facts, which were then stated, were chiefly such, as occured among the Greeks and Romans, the most learned and refined nations of antiquity, it is to be presumed, that should our investigations extend to modern pagans, far inferior to them in mental cultivation, appearances would not be more favorable. Inquiries of this kind will constitute the present lecture. They will relate,
1. To the gods;
II. To the worship and religious ceremonies of modern pagans.
1. We are to inquire concerning the gods, worshipped in those nations, where revealed religion is not enjoyed
As the Hindoo religion is not confined to the vast country of Hindostan, but spreads itself in some form or other, over several divisions of the eastern continent, (Tibet, Birman Empire, Siam,) it is peculiarly entitled to our attention. It appears, likewise, to be a religion of very great antiquity. Sir Wm. Jones, as quoted by Dr. Priestly, considers the institutions of Mence, one of their sacred books, as having been written about twelve hundred years before Christ. Their other sacred writings, called the Vedas, are said to have been written three centuries earlier.
Through the indefatigable labor of that illustrious scholar, whose name has been mentioned, and many learned coadjutors in India, the information, which we have on the subject of the Hindoo religion, is somewhat extensive, and much to be relied on.
“ They believe on a Supreme God, who created the world, though not all things pertaining to it.* This Supreme Being is said to have created a goddess, called Bawaney, who was the mother of three subaltern deities. Brimha, or Bramha, Vishnou, and Sheevah. Brimha was endued with the power of creating the things of this world; Vishnou, with the power of cherishing them; and Sheevah, with the power of restraining and correcting them. Thus Brimha became the creator of man; and, in this character, he formed four casts or classes, which are so distinctly preserved among the Hindoos. Besides these deities, they acknowledge a great number of gods and goddesses, whose characters and offices correspond considerably with the most noted deities of classic mythology. They have likewise numerous demigods, who are supposed to inhabit the air, the water, and the earth, and, in short, the whole world, so that every mountain, river, wood, town, village, &c. has one of these tutelary deities. By nature these demigods are subject to death; but are supposed to obtain immortality by the use of certain drink. Encycl. vol. viii. Art. Hindoos.
# Corries Ser. 26.
The number of their gods, saith Dr. Priestly, exceeds that of any other people, that we are acquainted with. “ I have often been told, says an American missionary, who left Bombay, on account of his health, there are three hundred and thirty millions of gods.
They apply to different deities, according to their different occasions. In sickness, they apply to one god; on a journey, to another; and, when engaged in war, to a third.
“ Notwithstanding the general opinion, that Brimha, Vishnou, and Sheedah, had the same origin, and bear the same relation to the Supreme Being, some of the Hindoos attach themselves to one of them; and others, to another; and the generality only worship one of the three.” What ideas they have of the moral character of these gods, may be conjectured from the following fact. “They say, that these divine personages quarrelled and fought; that, during the battle, the earth trembled, and the stars fell from the firmament." From other sources, and those the most authentic, it appears, that the moral character of Hindoo gods is absolutely abominable.
Worship, paid to the souls of the dead, is a great article in the Hindoo system; and is mentioned, we are told, in almost every page of the Institutes of Mence.
All the neighboring nations, whose religions bear some affinity to that of the Hindoos, are polytheists. The Siamese say, that the reign of a deity is limited to a certain number of years; after which, he sinks into eternal repose, and another succeeds him in the government of the universe.
It appears, that there was, before the christian era, a sect of philosophers in India, denominated Sammanes. These Dr. Priestly supposes to be the same with those, who are now called Schammans, in Siberia. In the tenets and practices of the Schammans, saith he, we may see a faint outline of the religion of the Hindoos. They believe in one God, the maker of all things; but they think, that he pays no attention to the affairs of men, leaving the government of the
world to inferior beings, to whom, therefore, all their devotions are addressed.
Perfectly accordant with this, is the representation of Mr. Nott, lately missionary from this country at Bombay. “ It is not to be understood,” says he,“ that those who worship the gods, by means of images, pay, at the same time, an indirect worship to the great Supreme. The worship of their gods is not a mode of worshipping the Supreme, but a substitute for it."
The Hindoos suppose, not only, that there are superior beings of very different dispositions, some friendly, and others unfriendly to men, but think, the best disposed of them are sometimes partial, obstinate, and vindictive: and, over the malevolent deities, they place one of much superior power, whom they call Schaitan. But though he is very wicked, they think it possible to appease him; and therefore to him they address much of their worship.
In Japan, the religion, as in India, appears to be polytheism in subordination to theism; i. e. they acknowledge numerous gods; but one is believed to be supreme over the rest. Many of them consider this supreme god, as far above all human adoration; and for this cause, address their devotions to deities of subordinate rank. They are gross idolators, as will appear from the following testimony of Dr. Thunberg, as quoted by Bigland.“ In the midst of their temple, saith he, sat Quanwon, (the name of one of their divinities,) furnished with thirty six hands. Near him were placed sixteen images about the size of men, but much less than the idol. These occupied a separate room, and partitioned off as it were to themselves. On both sides next to these, stood two rows of gilt idols, cach with twenty hands. Afterwards were placed in rows on each side, idols of the size of a man, quite close to each other, the number of which I could not reckon. The whole number of idols in this solemn recess of superstition, is said to be not less than thirty three thousand three hundred and thirty three." Bigland, iv. 395.