« AnteriorContinuar »
ism. The ultimate effect upon our lives and conduct is no doubt the principal test of the reality of religion. And there are many reasons, independently of anything that has been mentioned above, for believing that the influence of religious motive upon our conduct is not great, and but weak in comparison of worldly obligations, when Englishmen are separated in foreign countries from the control of opinion, and the rules and requirements of English society. At present we are engaged with the question of the existence and depth of religious impression; and there are some branches of conduct and practices, which are so immediately connected with this subject, as to afford indications in themselves of the force and operativeness of our religious belief and feelings.
It is a very remarkable fact, that there is no country which provides so inadequately for its clergy, and for the offices of religious instruction and worship. In the midst of our enormous and rapidly increasing wealth, we find a less facility and willingness in devoting a fair and adequate proportion of our national revenue, and other funds of a public character, to the building and support of churches, the endowment of them, and the maintenance of a sufficient body of clergy to perform the offices of religious worship, and to instruct the people. We have no occasion to go into particulars, and a detailed comparison on this subject, for we have the result furnished to our hand from the very highest authority. The Duke of Wellington, who had taken a view of all nations, and had an extensive experience himself of very many, expresses himself thus, in his
speech to the House of Lords upon the Ecclesiastical Duties and Revenues Bill :-.“ The measures must be found for preaching the word of God to the people of this country.
In so doing they would not only be doing a duty which was incumbent upon them, but following the example of every nation in the world. It had been his lot to have lived amongst many idolatrous nations, and people of all sorts of creed, but he never knew an instance of sufficient public means not being found to teach the religion of the country. There might be false religions-indeed he knew but one true one—there might be idolatrous religions, but still the means in all cases are found to teach that religion, whatever it was; and he hoped that their lordships would not have done with this subject until they had found the means of teaching the people of this country their duty to their Maker and to one another.”*
It is related of the Hindoos, that “the bulk of the people, rich and poor, expend by far the greater part of their earnings or income on offerings to idols, and the countless rites and exhibitions connected with idol worship. At the celebration of one festival, a wealthy native has been known to offer after this manner :eighty thousand pounds weight of sweetmeats, eighty thousand pounds weight of sugar, a thousand suits of cloth garments, a thousand suits of silk, a thousand offerings of rice, plantains and other fruits. On another occasion, a wealthy native has been known to have expended upwards of thirty thousand pounds sterling on the offerings, the observances, and the exhibition of a
Speech, July 30, 1840.
single festival, and upwards of ten thousand pounds annually ever afterwards to the termination of his life. Indeed such is the blindfold zeal of these benighted people, that instances are not unfrequent of natives of rank and wealth reducing themselves and families to poverty by their lavish expenditure in the service of the gods, and in upholding the pomp and dignity of their worship. In the city of Calcutta alone, at the lowest and most moderate estimate, it has been calculated that half a million at least is annually expended on the celebration of the Durga Poojah festival. How vasthow inconceivably vast, then, must be the whole sum expended by rich and poor on all the daily, weekly, monthly and annual rites, ceremonies and festivals, held in honour of a countless host of gods.”*
But a great degree of religious devotion and reverence, such as is quite opposite to our notions and customs, has extended not only to all places, but to all times.t The Egyptians were a most religious people. The Greeks and Romans were most religious. Not
* Dr. Duff. Missionary Gleaner, No. 24, pp. 60, 61. The offerings are given to the priests and the poor. No part of them is returned to the worshipper.
† The Spinetans (of Spina, at the mouth of the Po) raised such considerable revenues by commerce, that they sent very liberal tenths to the temple of Apollo, at Delphos. (Strabo, lib. 5 ; Dion. Halic. de Orig. Rom. lib. i.) Quoted, Sea Laws, p. 22.
“ Les Egyptiens et plusieurs autres Orientaux gardoient encore leur abstinences superstitieuses. L'abstinence des Pythagoriciens étoit fort estimée, comme il paroit par l'exemple d'Appollonius de Tyane, et par les écrits de Porphyre."-- Fleury, Mæurs des Chrétiens, pt. i. s. 9.
only was Athens, according to the testimony of an apostle, " in all things most religious,"* but the Greeks generally, as well as the Romans, were strongly addicted to religious observances and ceremonies; and their habits of life were formed upon this principle. Every battle was preceded by a sacrifice, every victory was followed by a thanksgiving. Their feasts and festivals, and almost every public transaction and meeting, had a religious object and character. At Rome, most of the year was taken up with sacrifices and holy days, till Claudius abridged their number.t Niebuhr particularly mentions the practice amongst the Romans of offering up sacrifices in the time of calamity. I Both in Greece and Rome, the games and the dramatic representations originally constituted a part of the religious worship. And Potter, in his Antiquities of Greece, thus describes this point particularly in the Grecian character.—“ The piety of the ancient Grecians, and the honourable opinion they had conceived of their deities, doth in nothing more manifestly appear than in the continual prayers and supplications they made to them; for no man amongst them that was endued with the smallest prudence, saith Plato,ll would undertake any thing of greater or less moment without having first asked the advice and assistance of the Gods." ** “ It seems to have been the universal practice of all na
* AELoodaljeovegtépes, Religiosiores. Schrev. Scap. † Dio. 60, 17, ap. Adams's Rom. Ant. i. 311
Hist. of Rome, ii. 508–510. § Adams's Rom. Ant. i. 311; Potter's Grec. Ant. i. 415, 495. || In Timæo.
tions, whether civil or barbarous, to recommend themselves to their several deities morning and evening. Whence we are informed by Plato,* that at the rising both of the sun and moon, one might everywhere behold the Greeks and barbarians, those in prosperity as well as those under calamities and afflictions, prostrating themselves, and hear their supplications.”+
Doubtless the religious festivals and holidays became more numerous, and were made the occasion of idleness and ill-habits, both in Greece and Rome, as religion became debased.
Originally their religious ceremonies and solemnities consisted in little else besides offering a sacrifice to the gods, and after that making merry with their poorer friends, with temperance and propriety. I Afterwards they tended to riot and idleness and expense, whilst they increased in frequency, as religion degenerated into superstition and idolatry. And it seems as if it might almost be said with truth, that devotedness to religious services has at all times increased and extended itself in proportion to the degree of corruption and error in religion which has existed in each place and people.
Doubtless this is still a great problem to solve; though it is necessary that religion should become more acceptable to the natural and cor
* De Legibus, lib. 10.
† Pott. Grec. Ant. i. 278, 279. Hooker, in his Eccles. Polity, bk. i. s. 8, refers to the same passage in the Timæus.
I Pot. Grec. Ant. i. 415.
s According to Numa's institutions, and for nearly 200 years, the Romans used no images of their gods.- Vurro. August. de Civit. Dei, lib. 4, c. 11, 31; Gray's Connect. vol. i. p. 108, 136.