Page images
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"and to guard against every vice. God is pleased "with no sacrifice but a sincere heart; and dif"fers widely from mortals, whose delight is splen"did ceremonies and rich offerings. Let justice "therefore be studied; for by that only can a "man be acceptable to the Deity. Let those who <i are tempted to do ill, have always before their eyes the severe judgments of the gods against "wicked men. Let them always keep in view "the hour of death, that fatal hour which is at"tended with bitter remorse for transgressing the "rules of justice. If a bad disposition incline you "to vice, pray to Heaven, at the foot of the altar, "to mend your heart.'



Morality is thus included in religion. Some nations, however, leave not this proposition to reasoning or conviction, but engross many moral duties in their religious creed. In the 67th chapter of the Sadder, a lie is declared to be a great sin, and is forbid even where it tends to bring about good. So much purer is the morality of the ancient Persians than of the present Jesuits. The religion of the people of Pegu, inculcates charity, forbids to kill, to steal or to injure others. Attend to the consequence: that people, fierce originally, have become humane and compassionate. In a sacred book of the ancient Persians, it is written, "If you incline to be a saint, give good education "to your children; for their virtuous actions will "be imputed to you." The people of Japan pay



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

great respect to their parents; it being an article in their creed, That those who fail in duty to their parents will be punished by the gods. In these two instances, religion tends greatly to connect parents and children in the most intimate tie of cordial affection. The reverence the Chinese have for their ancestors and the ceremonies performed annually at their tombs, tend to keep them at home, and prevent their wandering into foreign countries.

Ancient Persia was fertile and populous at present it is barren and thin of inhabitants. Sir John Chardin accounts for the difference. The climate of Persia is so dry, that scarce a shower falls during summer even grass will not grow without being watered. This defect of climate was remedied by the ancient inhabitants, termed Gaures; among whom it was a religious act, to cultivate waste land and to plant trees for fruit. It was a maxim in the sacred book of that religion, That he who cultivates the ground with care and diligence, acquires a greater stock of religious merit, than can be acquired by ten thousand prayers. The religion, on the contrary, of the present Mahometan inhabitants, leads them to take no care for tomorrow they grasp at present enjoyment, and leave all the rest to fate.

Superstitious rites in some religions, are successfully employed to enforce certain moral duties. The Romans commonly made their solemn covenants in the Capitol, before the statue of Jupiter;


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

by which solemnity he was understood to guaran-
tee the covenant, ready to pour out vengeance up-
on the transgressor. When an oath enters into
any engagement, the Burates, a people in Grand
Tartary, require it to be given upon a mountain,
held to be sacred: they are firmly persuaded, that
the person who swears a falsehood, will not come
down alive. The Essenes, a Jewish sect, bound
themselves by a solemn oath, to shun unlawful
gain, to be faithful to their promises, not to lie,
and never to harm any one.
In Cochin-China,
the souls of those who have been eminent for arts
or arms, are worshipped. Their statues are placed
in the temples; and the size of a statue is propor-
tioned to the merit of the person represented. If
that be impartially executed, there cannot be a
nobler incitement to public spirit. The Egyp-
tians did not reach the thought of honouring vir-
tue after death; but they dishonoured vice, by ex-
cluding it from the Elysian fields.

The salutary influence of religion on morality, is not confined to pure religion, whether by its connection with morality in general, or by inculcating particular moral duties. There are many religious doctrines, doubtful or perhaps erroneous, that contribute also to enforce morality. Some followers of Confucius ascribe immortality to the souls of the just only; and believe that the souls of the wicked perish with their bodies. The native Hindoos are gentle and humane: the metempsy-.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

chosis or transmigration of souls, is an article in their creed; and hence the prohibition to destroy any living creature, because it might disturb the soul of an ancestor. In the second chapter of the Sadder, it is written, that a man whose good works are more numerous than his sins, will go to paradise; otherwise that he will be thrust into hell, there to remain for ever. It adds, that a bridge erected over the great abyss where hell is situated, leads from this earth to paradise; that upon the bridge there stands an angel, who weighs in a balance the merits of the passengers; that the pas-, senger whose good works are found light in the balance, is thrown over the bridge into hell; but that the passenger whose good works preponderate proceeds in his journey to paradise, where there is a glorious city, gardens, rivers, and beautiful virgins, whose looks are a perpetual feast, but who must not be enjoyed. In the fourth chapter of the Sadder, good works are zealously recommended in the following parable. Zeradusht, or Zoroaster, being in company with God, saw a man in hell who wanted his right foot. "Oh my Creator," said Zoroaster," who is that man who wants the right "foot? God answered, He was the king of thirty"three cities, reigned many years, but never did "any good, except once, when, seeing a sheep "tied where it could not reach its food, he with "his right foot pushed the food, to it; upon which:


⚫ account that foot was saved from hell." In Ja


[ocr errors]

pan, those of the Sinto religion believe, that the souls of good men are translated to a place of happiness, next to the habitation of their gods. But they admit no place of torment; nor have they any notion of a devil, but what animates the fox, a very mischievous animal in that country. What then becomes of the souls of ill men? Being denied entrance into heaven, they wander about to expiate their sins. Those of the Bubsdo religion believe, that in the other world, there is a place of misery as well as of happiness. Of the latter there are different degrees, for different degrees of virtue; and yet, far from envying the happier lot of others, every inhabitant is perfectly satisfied with his own. There are also different degrees of misery; for justice requires, that every man be punished according to the nature and number of his sins. Jemma O is the severe judge of the wicked: their vices appear to him in all their horror, by means of a mirror, named the mirror of knowledge. When souls have expiated their sins, after suffering long in the prison of darkness, they are sent back into the world, to animate serpents, toads, and such vile animals as resembled them in their former existence. From these they pass into the bodies of more innocent animals ; and at last are again suffered to enter human bodies; after the dissolution of which, they run the same course of happiness or misery as at first. The people of Benin, in Africa, believe a man's shadow Bb



« PreviousContinue »