Imágenes de páginas

acter of all other natious. As far as we know to the contrary, they were a just and moral people, and not addicted, like the Jews, to cruelty and revenge, but of whose profession of faith we are unacquainted. It appears to have been their custom to personify both virtue and vice by statues and images, as is done now-a-days by statuary and painting: but it does not follow from this that they worshipped them any more than we do."*

Unless heathens, before the time of the Jews, were totally dif ferent from what they were in all after ages, there can be no reasonable doubt of their worshipping a plurality of deities, of which images were supposed to be the representations. Mr. Paine himself allows, and that in the same performance, that prior to the Christian era they were "Idolaters, and had twenty or thirty thousand gods." Yet, by his manner of speaking in this place, he manifestly wishes to insinuate, in behalf of all the heathen nations, that they might worship idols no more than we do. It might be worth while for this writer, methinks, to bestow a little more attention to the improvement of his memory.

With respect to their being "just and moral people," unless they were extremely different before the time of the Jews from what they were in all after ages, there can be no reasonable doubt of their being what the sacred writers have represented them. If those writers have said nothing worse of them than has been said by the most early and authentic historians from among themselves, it will be easy for an impartial reader to decide whether heathens have been "calumniated and blackened" by the Jewish writers, or the Jewish writers by Mr. Paine.

But it is not by the state of the ancient heathens only that we discover the importance of Christianity. A large part of the world is still in the same condition; and the same immoralities abound among them, which are reported to have abounded among the Greeks and Romans.

I am aware that deistical writers have laboured to hold up the modern, as well as the ancient heathens, in a very favourable light. In various anonymous publications, much is said of their

+Ibid. p. 5.


Age of Reason, Part II. pp. 39, 40.

simplicity and virtue. One of them suggests, that the Chinese are so "superior to Christians in relation to moral virtues, that it may seem necessary that they should send missionaries to teach us the use and practice of Natural Theology, as we send missionaries to them to teach them Revealed Religion."* Yea, and some who wish to rank as Christians, have, on this ground, objected to all missionary undertakings among the heathen. Let us examine this matter a little closely.

Almost all the accounts which are favourable to heathen virtue, are either written by the adversaries of Christianity, and with a design to disparage it; or by navigators, and travellers, who have touched at particular places, and made their reports according to the treatment they have met with, rather than from a regard to universal righteousness. An authentic report of the morals of a people, requires to be given, not from a transient visit, but from a continued residence among them; not from their occasional treatment of a stranger, but from their general character; and not from having an end to answer, but with a rigid regard to truth.

It is worthy of notice, that the far greater part of these representations respect people with whom we have little or no acquaintance; and therefore, whatever the truth may be, are less liable to contradiction. As to China, Hindostan, and some other parts of the world, with whose moral state we have had the means of acquiring some considerable degree of knowledge, the praises bestowed on them by our adversaries have proved to be unfounded. From the accounts of those who have resided in China, there does not seeem to be much reason to boast of their virtue. On the contrary, their morals appear to be full as bad as those of the ancient heathens. It is allowed, they take great care of their outward behaviour, more perhaps than is taken in any other part of the world besides; that whatever they do or say is so contrived that it may have a good appearance, please all, and offend none; and that they excel in outward modesty, gravity, good words, courtesy, and civility. But, notwithstanding this, it is said that the sin against nature is extremely common-that drunkenness is

* Christianity as old as the Creation, pp. 366, 367.

considered as no crime-that every one takes as many concubines as he can keep that many of the common people pawn their wives in time of need; and some lend them for a month, or more, or less, according as they agree-that marriage is dissolved on the most trifling occasions-that sons and daughters are sold whenever their parents please, and that is frequently-that many of the rich, as well as the poor, when they are delivered of daughters, stifle and kill them—that those who are more tender-hearted will leave them under a vessel, where they expire in great misery-and finally, that notwithstanding this, they all, except the learned, plead humanity and compassion against killing other living creatures, thinking it a cruel thing to take that life which they cannot give. Montesquieu says, "The Chinese, whose whole life is gov. erned by the established rites, are the most void of common honesty of any people upon earth; and the laws, though they do not allow them to rob or to spoil by violence, yet permit them to cheat and defraud." With this agrees the account given of them in Lord Anson's Voyages, and by other navigators-that lying, creating, stealing, and all the little arts of chicanery abound among them; and that, if you detect them in a fraud, they calmly plead the custom of the country.* Such are the people by whom we are to be taught the use and practice of natural theology!

If credit could be given to what some writers have advanced, we might suppose the moral philosophy and virtuous conduct of the Hindoos to be worthy of being a pattern to the world. The rules by which they govern their conduct are, as we have been told, "Not to tell false tales, nor to utter any thing that is untrue; not to steal any thing from others, be it ever so little; not to defraud any by their cunning, in bargains, or contracts; not to oppress any when they have power to do it."

Very opposite accounts, however, are given by numerous and respectable witnesses, and who do not appear to have written under the influence of prejudice. I shall select but two or three.

* See Leland's Advantages and Necessity of Revelation, Vol. II Part II. Chap. IV.

+ Harris's Voyages and Travels, Vol. I. Chap. II. 11, 12.

Francis Bernier, an intelligent French traveller, speaking of the Hindoos, says, "I know not whether there be in the world a more covetous and sordid nation.-The Brahmins keep these people in their errors and superstitions, and scruple not to commit tricks and villainies so infamous, that I could never have believed them, if I had not made an ample inquiry into them."*

over measure.

Governor Holwell thus characterizes them: "A race of people, who, from their infancy, are utter strangers to the idea of common faith and honesty."—"This is the situation of the bulk of the people of Indostan, as well as of the modern Brahmins : amongst the latter, if we except one in a thousand, we give them The Gentoos in general are as degenerate, superstitious, litigious, and wicked a people, as any race of people in the known world, if not eminently more so; especially the common run of Brahmins; and we can truly aver, that, during almost five years that we presided in the Judicial Cutchery Court of Calcutta, never any murder, or other atrocious crime, came before us, but it was proved in the end a Brahmin was at the bottom of it." t

Mr. afterwards Sir John Shore, and Governor General of Bengal, speaking of the same people, says, “A man must be long acquainted with them before he can believe them capable of that barefaced falsehood, servile adulation, and deliberate deception, which they daily practice.-It is the business of all, from the Ryott to the Dewan, to conceal and deceive; the simplest matters of fact are designedly covered with a veil, through which no human understanding can penetrate."‡

In perfect agreement with these accounts are others which are constantly received from persons of observation and probity, now residing in India. Of these the following are extracts: "Lying, theft, whoredom, and deceit, are sins for which the Hindoos are notorious. There is not one man in a thousand, who does not Voyages de Francois Bernier, Tome I. pp. 150. 162. et Tome II. p. 105. Holwell's Historical events, Vol. I. p. 228. Vol. II. p. 151.

Parliamentary Proceedings against Mr. Hastings, Appendix to Vol. II. p.

[blocks in formation]

make lying his constant practice. Their thoughts of God are so very light, that they only consider him as a sort of plaything. Avarice and servility are so united in almost every individual, that cheating, juggling, and lying, are esteemed no sins with them; and the best among them, though they speak ever so great a falsehood, yet it is not considered as an evil, unless you first charge them to speak the truth. When they defraud you ever so much, and you charge them with it, they coolly answer, It is the custom of the country--In England, the poor receive the benefit of the gospel, in being fed and clothed by those who know not by what principles they are moved. For whes the gospel is generally acknowledged in a land, it puts some to fear, and others to shame ; so that to relieve their own smart they provide for the poor: but here, O miserable state! I have found the pathway stopped up by sick and wounded people, perishing with hunger; and that in a populous neighbourhood, where numbers pass by, some singing, others talking, but none showing mercy; as though they were dying weeds, and not dying men."*

Comparing these accounts, a reader might be apt to suppose that the people must have greatly degenerated since their laws were framed; but the truth is, the laws are nearly as corrupt as the people. Those who examine the Hindoo Code, will find them so; and will perceive that there is scarcely a species of wickedness which they do not tolerate, especially in favour of the Brahmuns, of which order of men, it may be presumed, were the first framers of the constitution.

Let the reader judge, from this example of the Hindoos, what degree of credit is due to antichristian historians, when they undertake to describe the virtues of heathens.

From this brief statement of facts, it is not very difficult to perceive somewhat of that which Christianity has accomplished with regard to the general state of society. It is by no means denied

*Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Mission, No. II. p. 129. No. III. pp. 191. 230. No. IV. p. 291.

t. Translated from the Shanscrit, and published in 1773.

« AnteriorContinuar »