Page images
PDF
EPUB

truth, will turn their thoughts, and give their time to it. The world will be tired of what any one person, or a few perfons only, can do in any way; there will neceffarily be fo much of fimilarity in the views, and confequently in the writings, of the fame persons.

Some of the fame paffages in the evangelifts will be found to be quoted in difrent difcourfes 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 difcourfes are fuch 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 Laufanne 1774, which I wish were more generally known.

A very valuable illuftration of the divinity of the Mofaic inftitutions might be brought from a comparifon of them with those of the Hindoos, which appear to have been of equal antiquity. This people was famed, in all ages, for their fuperior wif

dom

1

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 fame fource. That of the Hindoos is, however, the more fyftematical and complex. But the institutions of Mofes need not to fhrink from a comparison with theirs. What abfurd notions concerning the origin and conftitution of the Universe, and what a complicated polytheism are the foundation of it; how horrid were fome of the rites of the Hindoo religion; and how abominable and difgufting were others of them. It is much more irrational, and no lefs unfavourable to morals, than the ancient religions of the western part of the world, of which fome account was given in the former fet of discourses.

When men of fenfe fhall coolly reflect on these things, and confider how deftitute the Hebrew nation was of every advantage for forming to themselves fo excellent a fyftem of religion, and of civil policy too, as we find in the books of Mofes, the great difference between his fyftem and his A 3 writings

writings and thofe of the Hindoos, which are now happily become known to us, cannot but be thought a most extraordinary phenomenon; and the refult of a comparison of them must be highly favourable to the fuppofition of Mofes having been divinely inspired, and of the authors of the oppofite fyftem, whoever they were, having been left to the wanderings of a difordered imagination. They will appear to have been misled by the groffeft ignorance into the most abfurd fuperftitions. A detail of the particulars would ftrike the mind much more forcibly than this general account, and I intend, if I fhould have leisure, and opportunity, to enter into it as far as may be neceffary for this purpose. At prefent I fhall content myfelf with introducing an extract from the Voyages of Mr. Sonnerat, which throws great light on the phrafe paffing through the fire, fo often mentioned in the Old Teftament, and noticed p. 100 of the former Difcourfes.

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

walk

walk upon that element. It continues eighteen days, during which they who make a vow to obferve 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 found of mufical inftruments, their heads crowned with flowers, their bodies daubed over with faffron, and follow in cadence the images of Darma-Raja and Drobede his wife, which are carried in proceffion. When they approach the hot coals they ftir them, to make them burn more fiercely. They then rub their foreheads with fome of the cinders, and when the deities have made the circuit of the fire three times, they walk fafter or flower according to the ardour of their devotion on the burning coals, which cover a fpace 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 feveral times." Vol. I. p. 247.

From the present set of Difcourfes it will appear that the deviation from the fyftem

of

of revelation by Mahomet, poffeffed 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 fuperftitious obfervances, though not fo very abfurd and debafing as thofe of the Heathens. The fame is the effect of the corruptions of Chriftianity by the Catholics. It will therefore appear, that the wifeft men cannot do better than revert to the original maxims and precepts of pure revelation, either with respect to good fenfe 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 difcuffion of this kind, though fo evidently to the purpose. What the principal of them have done, may be seen in the third edition of my Obfervations on the Increase of Infidelity, which has just been published in this city. This work alfo contains fome remarks on the writings of feveral of the

more

« PreviousContinue »