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peccatorum venia nisi nummatis impenditur *." Of all the immoral atonements for sin, human sacrifices are the most brutal; deviating no less from the purity of religion, than from the fundamental principles of morality. They wore out of use as kindly affections prevailed; and will never again be restored, unless we fall back to the savage manners of our forefathers. Composition for crimes, once universal, is now banished from every enlightened nation. Composition for sins, was once equally universal; and I wish it could be said that there are now no remains of that poisonous opinion among Christians: the practice of the church of Rome will not permit it to be said. Were men deeply convinced, as they ought to be, that sincere repentance and reformation of manners are the only means for obtaining pardon, they would never dream of making bargains with the Almighty, and of compounding with him for their sins.
In the practice of religion, the laying too great weight on forms, ceremonies, and other external arbitrary acts, tends to the corruption of morals. That error has infected every religion. The Sad
* "There is nothing to be obtained from the court of Rome "but by the force of money: even the ceremony of the con
secration, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, are sold; and the "remission of sins is bestowed only on those who can pay "for it."
der, the Bible of the Gaures, prohibits calumny and detraction, lying, stealing, adultery, and fornication. It, however, enervates morality and religion, by placing many trifling acts on a level with the most important duties. It enjoins the destruction of five kinds of reptiles, frogs, mice, ants, serpents, and flies that sting. It teaches, that to walk barefoot profanes the ground. Great regard for water is enjoined: it must not be used during night; and when set upon the fire, a third part of the pot must be empty, to prevent boiling over. The Brahmins have wofully degenerated from their original institutions, thinking that religion consists in forms and ceremonies. As soon as an infant is born, the word Oum must be pronounced over it; otherwise it will be eternally miserable; its tongue must be rubbed with consecrated meal: the third day of the moon, it must be carried into open air, with its head to the north. The inhabitants of Formosa believe in hell; but it is only for punishing those who fail to go naked in certain seasons, or who wear cotton instead of silk. In the time of Ghenhizcan, it was held in Tartary a mortal sin, to put a knife into the fire, to whip a horse with his bridle, or to break one bone with another; and yet these pious Tartars held treachery, robbery, murder, to be no sins, A faction in Egina, a Greek commonwealth, treacherously assassinated seven hundred of their fellowcitizens. They cut off the hands of a miserable fugitive,
fugitive, who had laid hold of the altar for protection, in order to murder him without the precincts of the temple. Their treacherous assassinations made no impression: but though they refrained from murder in the temple, yet by profaning it with blood, says Herodotus, they offended the gods, and contracted inexpiable guilt. Would one believe, that a tribunal was established by Charlemagne more horrible than the inquisition itself? It was established in Westphalia, to punish with death every Saxon who ate meat in lent. It was established in Flanders and in French-county, the beginning of the seventeenth century. Smollet in his travels into Italy observes, that it is held more infamous to transgress the slightest ceremonial institution of the church of Rome, than to trangress any moral duty; that a murderer or adulterer will be easily absolved by the church, and even maintain his character in society; but that a man who eats a pigeon on a Saturday, is abhorred as a monster of reprobation. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, long curled hair, of which men of fashion in England were extremely vain, suffered a violent persecution. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, pronounced the sentence of excommunication against those who indulged in that dress; and was celebrated by his brethren of the clergy, though at that time excommunication was a dreadful punishment. William of Malmsbury relates in lively colours an in
cident that shows the gross superstition of that age. "A certain knight, who was very proud of "his long luxuriant hair, dreamed that a person "suffocated him with its curls. As soon as he "awoke from his sleep, he cut his hair to a decent length. The report of this spread over all Eng"land; and almost all the knights reduced their "hair to the proper standard. But this reforma❝tion was not of long continuance. For in less than a year all who wished to appear fashion"able, returned to their former wickedness, and " contended with the ladies in length of hair. "Those to whom nature had denied that ornament, supplied the defect by art." What can be more grossly superstitious than the form used in Roman Catholic countries, of baptizing a church-bell? The priest, assisted by some of his brethren, mumbles over some prayers, and sprinkles the outside with holy water, while they wash the inside with the same precious liquor. The priest next draws seven crosses on the outside, and four on the inside, with consecrated oil. Then a censer, full of frankincense, is put under the bell to smoke it. And the whole concludes with
Listen to a celebrated writer upon this subject. "It is certain, that in every religion, however su"blime, many of the votaries, perhaps the greatest "number, will still seek the divine favour, not by "virtue and good morals, which alone can be aç
"ceptable to a perfect being, but either by frivo"lous observances, by intemperate zeal, by rap"turous ecstasies, or by the belief of mysterious "and absurd opinions. When the old Romans "were attacked with a pestilence, they never "ascribed their sufferings to their vices, or dream- ! "ed of repentance and amendment. They never thought that they were the general robbers of "the world, whose ambition and avarice made "desolate the earth, and reduced opulent nations "to want and beggary. They only created a "dictator in order to drive a nail into a door; "and by that means they thought that they had "sufficiently appeased their incensed deity*." Thus, gradually, the essentials of religion wear out of mind, by the attention given to forms and ceremonies: these intercept and exhaust the whole stock of devotion, which ought to be reserved for the higher exercises of religion. The neglect or transgression of mere punctilios, are punished as heinous sins; while sins really heinous are suffered to pass with impunity. The Jews exalted the keeping their Sabbath holy, above every other duty; and it was the general belief, that the strict observance of that day, was alone sufficient to atone for every sin. The command of resting that day, was taken so literally, that they would not on that day defend themselves even against an
Natural History of Religion, by David Hume, Esq.