Abbildungen der Seite

tur, virilia sibi amputabant, et furore perciti caput rotabant, cultrisque faciem musculosque totius corporis dissecabant ; morsibus quoque se ipsos impetebant.” (August. de Civ. Dei

. pp. 140. 156. ed. 166 1.) And Seneca, as quoted by the same writer, (lib. vi. cap. 10.) confirms this report in the following passage, taken from his work on Superstition, now no longer extant: “ Ille viriles sibi partes amputat, ille lacertos secat. Ubi iratos deos timent, qui sic propitios merentur ?-Tantus est perturbatæ mentis et sedibus suis pulsæ furor, ut sic Dii placentur quemadmodum ne homines quidem teterrimi.--Se ipsi in templis contrucidant, vulneribus suis ac sanguine supplicant.” And it deserves to be remarked, that these unnatural rites, together with that most unnatural of all, human sacrifice, are pronounced by Plutarch, (Opera tom. ii. p. 417. ed. Franc. 1620.) to have been instituted for the purpose of averting the wrath of malignant demons.

Nor have these cruel modes of worship been confined to the Heathens of antiquity. By the same unworthy conceptions of the deity, the Pagans of later times have been led to the same unworthy expressions of their religious feelings. Thus, in the narrative of Cooke's voyages, we are informed, that it was usual with the inhabitants of the Friendly Islands, when afflicted with any dangerous disorder, to cut off their little finger as an offering to the deity, which they deem efficacious to procure their recovery: and in the Sandwich Islands, it was the custom to strike out the fore-teeth, as 'a propitiatory sacrifice, to avert the anger of the Eatooa, or divinity. If we look again to the religion of the Mexicans, we meet the same sort of savage superstition, but carried to a more unnatural excess. Clavigero (lib, 6. sect. 22.) says, “it makes one shudder, to read the austerities, which they exer

cised upon themselves, either in atonement of their transgressions, or in preparation for their festivals :": and then proceeds, in this and the following sections, to give a dreadful description indeed, of the barbarous self-lacerations, practised both by the Mexicans and Tlascalans, in the discharge of their religious duties : and yet, he afterwards asserts, (vol. ii. p. 446. 4to. ed. Lond.) that all these, horrid as they are, must be deemed inconsiderable, when compared with the inhumanities of the ancient Priests of Bellona and Cybele, of whom we have already spoken; and still more so, when contrasted with those of the penitents of the East Indies and Japan.

With good reason, indeed, has the author made this concluding remark: for, of the various austerities, which have been at different times practised as means of propitiating superior powers, there are none, that can be ranked with those of the devotees of Hindostan, at the present day. Dreadful as Mr. Maurice represents the rites of Mithra and Eleusis to have been, dreadful as we find the other rites that have been noticed, yet their accumulated horrors fall infinitely short of the penitentiary tortures endured by the Indian Yogee, the Gymnosophist of modern times~" to suspend themselves on high in cages, upon trees considered sacred, refusing all sustenance, but such as may keep the pulse of life just beating; to hang aloft upon tenter-hooks, and voluntarily bear inexpressible agonies ; to thrust themselves by hundreds, under the wheels of immense machines, that carry about their unconscious Gods, where they are instantly crushed to atoms; at other times, to hurl themselves from precipices of stupendous height; now to stand up to their necks in rivers, till rapacious alligators come to devour them; now to bury themselves in snow till frozen to death; to measure with their naked bodies, trained over burning sands, the ground lying between one pagoda and another, distant perhaps many leagues; or to brave, with fixed eyes, the ardor of a meridian sun between the tropics;" these, with other penances not less tremendous, which Mr. Maurice has fully detailed in the last volume of his Indian Antiquities, are the means, whereby the infatuated worshippers of Brahma hope to conciliate the deity, and to obtain the blessings of immortality; and by these, all hope to attain those blessings, except only the wretched race of the Chandalahs, whom, by the unalterable laws of Brahma, no repentance, no mortification can rescue from the doom of eternal misery; and against whom the gates of happiness are for ever closed.See Maur. Înd. Antiq. pp. 960, 961.

Now, from this enumeration of facts, it seems not difficult to decide, whether the dictate of untutored reason be, the conviction of the DIVINE BENEVOLENCE, and the persuasion that the Supreme Being is to be conciliated, by good and virtuous conduct alone : and from this also we shall be enabled to judge, what degree of credit is due to the assertions of those who pronounce, that “all men naturally apprehend the Deity to be propitious :" that “no nation whatever, either Jew or Heathen, ancient or modern, appears to have had the least knowledge, or to betray the least sense of their want, of any expedient of satisfaction for sin, besides repentance and a good life:” and, that “from a full review of the religions of all ancient and modern nations, they appear to be utterly destitute of any thing like a doctrine of proper atonement.

These assertions Doctor Priestley has not scrupled to make; (Theol. Rep. vol. i. pp. 401. 411. 416. and 421.) and boldly offers “the range of the whole Jewish and Heathen world” to supply a single fact in contradiction. He professes also to survey this wide-extended range himself; and for this purpose, begins with adducing a single passage from Virgil, whence he says, it appears, that “even the implacable hatred of Juno could be appeased;" and an instance from the Phædon of Plato, from which he concludes, that Socrates, although “ the farthest possible from the notion of appeasing the anger of the Gods by any external services, yet died without the least doubt of a happy immortality;" notwithstanding that in p. 31, when treating of another subject, he had found it convenient to represent this philosopher as utterly disbelieving a future state; and even here, he adds, what renders his whole argument a nullity, provided there were any such state for man. Having by the former of these, established his position, as to the religion of the vulgar, among the Greeks and Romans; and by the latter, as to the religion of the philosophers ; he yet farther endeavours to fortify his conclusion by the assertion, that no facts have been furnished either by Gale or Clarke, to justify the opinion, that the ancients were at a loss as to the terms of divine acceptance; notwithstanding that not only Clarke, (Evidences, vol. ii. pp. 662—670, fol. 1738.) but Leland, (Christ. Rev. vol. i. pp. 259. 270. 473. 4to. 1764.) and various other writers have collected numerous authorities on this head, and that the whole mass of heathen superstitions speaks no other language, insomuch that Bolingbroke himself (vol. v. pp. 214, 215, 4to.) admits the point in its fullest extent. He next proceeds to examine the religion of the ancient Persians and modern Parsis. To prove this people to have been free from any idea of atonement or sacrifice, he quotes a prayer from Dr. Hyde, and a description of their notion of future punishments from Mr. Grose: and, though these can at the utmost apply only to the present state of the people, (and whoever will consult Dr. Hyde's history, pp. 570. 574. on the account given by Tavernier, of their notion of absolution; and on that given by himself, of their ceremony of the ScapeDog; will see good reason to deny the justness even of this application,) yet Dr. Priestley has not scrupled to extend the conclusion derived from them to the ancient Persians, in defiance of the numerous authorities referred to in this number, and notwithstanding that, as Mr. Richardson asserts, (Dissert. pp. 25, 26, 8vo. 1788.) the Parsis acknowledge the original works of their ancient lawgiver to have been long lost; and that, consequently, the ceremonials of the modern Guebres, preserve little or no resemblance to the ancient worship of Persia. See also Hyde. Rel. Vet. Pers. p. 574. ed. Oxon. 1760. Our author, last of all, cites the testimonies of Mr. Dow and Mr. Grose, to establish the same point concerning the religion of the Hindoos; and particularly to shew, that it was “ a maxim with the Brahmans, never to defile their sacrifices with blood." The value to be attached to these testimonies, may be estimated, from what has been already advanced concerning these writers; from the terrific representations of the Gods of Hindostan; the cruel austerities with which they were worshipped; and the positive declarations of the most authentic and recent writers on the history of the Hindoos.

Thus, not a single authority of those adduced by Dr. Priestley, is found to justify his position. But, admitting their fullest application, to what do they amount ?—to an instance of relenting hatred in Juno, as described by Virgil ; an example of perfect freedom from all apprehension of divine displeasure,

« ZurückWeiter »