Page images
PDF
EPUB

tensive and auspicious effects might it not be expected to produce, on the state of individual, domestic, social, and political manners and happiness, were it propagated planted and felt in any country, in its scriptural purity and genuine efficacy!

It is then of the last importance to mankind that Christianity be universally diffused.

This introduces the second and most elevated department of our Inquiry, viz.

PART II.

WHAT ARE THE BEST MEANS OF DIFFUSING THE LIGHT

OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION THROUGHOUT THE EAST

ERN WORLD?

And this part of the Disquisition, in consideration of the diversity of means which the Honourable the East India Company, or the British nation, have access to employ for the propagation of our holy religion, in each case, divides itself into two questions : First, What are the means which may be employed to diffuse Christianity throughout the British empire in Hindostan ? And, Secondly, What methods may be farther adopted to spread the light of the Gospel through the East ?

To form some idea of the necessity which exists for at- 1. tempting to introduce Christianity into Hindostan, and of the nature of the means which may be adopted for accomplishing this holy enterprise, it may be expedient to begin with taking a survey of the Religion of the country.

The present religion of Hindostan is a system of Pagan- Bramanism. isin, more venerable for its antiquity, and more interesting for its peculiarities, than almost any other in ancient or modern times.

If the opinions of persons of much research and reflection History. are to be received, this alone, however, of all the institutions of India, has undergone important alterations. First, the pure primeval religion degenerated into idolatry; and next, about the 12th century, the worship of Boodh, who is still adored in the eastern peninsula, was exchanged in the western for that of Brahma, the present superstition of the Gentoos *. ... Their theoretic system is founded upon the assumption of Theory. the existence of one invisible, immortal, omnipresent, almighty, and most excellent Being t. But, actuated by those fears of guilt which are natural to sinful man, and ig

* Maurice. Jones.

+ Jones's Works. Halhed's Pref. &c.

norant of the benevolent character of that supreme Intelligence, who presides over the affairs of our race and the destinies of the universe; they imagine that he is too pure and too high to be approached or addressed immediately by men on the earth. Accordingly, like all other pagan nations, they have introduced a class of inferior beings to mediate betwixt them and the Most High. Among the superior divinities, three, Brahma, Vishna, and Sheva *, are conceived to be pre-eminent. As superstition proceeds upon no fixed principles, and the vagaries of imagination are endless, so the Debtahs, or inferior deities of Hindostan, like the gods and goddesses of Greece and Rome, are innumerable. Emulating, or far surpassing the prolific polytheism of other Gentiles, it is reported that the demigods of India amount to thirty crore t. The history of these intelligences is similar throughout all nations: a motley tissue of what is mean and great, good and vicious, in human character and conduct . All their deities are worshipped under the form of idols. Some of their most learned Bramins

# Encyc. Brit. Art. Hindostan.

+ Edin. Review, No. VIII. A crore is 10,000,000. yol ii. Art. Numeration,

& Vide Note DD.

[ocr errors]

(like the sophists of other superstitious systems which admit similar practices) would persuade us, that these are intenda ed, not as objects of adoration, but as excitements to devotion; but it is unquestionable, that the common people, and even the majority of the Bramins, have no such refined views*. Of these images every house is a mint, every artisan a fabricator; and nothing can be either more rude, fantastic, and monstrous, than the forms under which deity is exhibited, or more unceremonious than the manner in which their idols are often treated. Worshipped with much ardour in the morning, and thrown into the pond or the river in the evening, is not unfrequently the short and eventful history of their deification. The Hindoos believe that God is the enlivening Spirit of the universe, in such a sense as that all beings derive from his immediate agency in them, not only the continuance of their existence, and their physical powers of action, but also all the principles and impulses of their conduct, evil as well as good. Hence they account every man an integral part of the Divinity; imagine that he does nothing but what God does; and hold that he is not responsible for his crimes. In the sanctify

* Bapt. Acc. vol. i. p. 138.

« PreviousContinue »