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spect for what is “ decent and fit*," and the universal privilege of suicide, afford him grounds for those elaborate and extravagant arguments by which he essays to dry the tears of afflicted man. Meantime, the doctrines of genuine piety are rejected or unknown. Not an allusion is made to a benefi. cent Deity, or a presiding Providence. For the lights which might have been kindled at the altar of religion, are substituted the wandering and perishable ineteors of the schools. The rhetorician declaims, but does not convince; and, whatever there may be to gratify the taste of the refined, or the erudition of the learned, there is nothing to soften suffering to patience, and to disarm the uplifted hand of despair.
The theory was soon refuted by the infirmity and lamentations of the theorist. A single calamity? was sufficient to overthrow at once the pride and vanity which had so fluently and authoritatively declaimed The port, the asylum, the felicity, of death, were no longer contemplated, which had been before so complacently announced, as the sure and easy resource of the miserable. In every respect, the feelings of the father were to falsify the dogmas of the philosopher. He rejected the presence and counsels of his friends, secluded himself from the world in a distant solitude, brooded with exaggerating despondency over his misfortune, and exhibited a melancholy picture of prostrate, suffering, and hopeless destitution*. Such were the feebleness and dejection in which was to terminate the boast of academical fortitude! Such was the gulph of despair in which were to be plunged the pride, the dignity, and the wisdom of the philosopher !
* The “ decent and fit” are perpetually adverted to by the antient philosophers; but the phrase seems to have been of very ambiguous meaning. The definition varied according to the sys. tem vf the various schools, and Cicero has not condescended to explain himself on the subject.
+ The death of his daughter.
Consolation of the Hindu-His hope in his gods, in his priests, and
in futurity-His gods capricious and contradictory, his priests selfish or tyrannical, his futurity repulsive and alarming-Suicide substituted for patience and resignation - Voluntary or compulsory death, the remedy of the sufferings of the aged—The consolations of all, feeble, and inadequate.
THE worshipper of Brama is of a temper very different from that of the more sturdy Polytheist of Greece and Rome. Unless when stimulated by fanaticism, he is the most gentle and unresisting of beings. His modes of life, the temperature of his climate, the softer structure of his frame, and, in general, the less impassioned qualities of his mind, are all favourable to that indolent tranquillity to which he aspires. He is, therefore, peculiarly disposed to yield with listless resignation to the allotments of life; and the patience, whatever it be, which is inculcated by his religion, is easily embraced by the reposing feebleness of his nature.
From the imperfect doctrines of Providence which he has been taught, he may possibly derive some
Epist. ad Attic. 12, 18, 35, 36. He retired to the groves of the little island of Artura. In hac solitudine, says he, careo omnium colloquio ; cumque mane.in sylvam me abstrusi densam et asperam, nec exeo unde ante vesperam. Ep. ad Attic. xv.
alleviation of the sufferings of life. Among the various orders of his gods, if many be cruel, others may be invested with benignity and mercy. They who have visited him in wrath to-day, may be
ртоpitiated, perhaps, by his prayers and his vows, and become more favourable to-morrow. His piety may, therefore, mitigate misfortune by the cheering hope of better days; and this beam at least is given to brighten the gloom of destitution, and this consolation to rescue sorrow from despair.
Even for the relief of the sinner, under the terrors of guilt some provision has been made by the creed of Brama. With the pions and learned Bramin has been lodged the golden key of the temple of salvation; and the celestial powers of absolution are to be exercised by his wisdom or his discretion. A word, therefore, uttered by his lip, may still the compunctions of remorse; and that peace and hope are in his gift, and to be purchased by a bribe, which may lull the fears, or excite the confidence of the timid and offending votary.
The pious Hindu may also look forward with some consolatory trust to another world, and an eternal existence; and, though the doctrines in which he is instructed, on this subject, may be frequently fanciful and absurd, they may yet serve to mitigate sorrow by animating hope. That which has so often contributed to sustain the fortitude of the devotee, during long years of voluntary and savage penance, or has led his exulting zeal to the hideous sacrifice of Juggernaut*, cannot be without efficacy in the period of more ordinary trial, and may be instru
* Human victims, as I shall hereafter have occasion to state more minutely, were annually offered up to the idol of Juggernaut:
mental in forming those features of unresisting meekness and uncomplaining patience, which distinguish and beautify the character of the Hindu.
But, of the consolations which may be thus supposed to be provided for afflicted man, by the religion of India, most, or all, are inadequate and feeble.
I. The doctrine of the providential interposition of the gods, as it is announced to the Hindu, is mingled with absurdities and errors, which must diminish or counteract its consolatory influence. Happy, indeed, is the man, who has been instructed by a wise and holy religion, to look up with confidence, amid the revolutions of time, to the equity and goodness of the Father of the universe. On him shines a light from above, illuminating his ways, and comforting his heart. But it is not for the Hindu, whose deities are discordant in attribute and design, and frequently impelled by more than the malignity and jealousy of mortal passions, to repose with healing trust on the aid and mercy of such opposite and imperfect beings. Do his gods delight in infant blood ; or rejoice in the shrieks of the fanatic expiring beneath the ponderous wheels of the chariot of an idol; or complacently preside over the disgusting orgies of obscenity and stupration; or descend, in brute or human forms, upon the earth, to exercise their powers in extravagant feats, or indulge their waywardness in freakish and wanton folly? With what consolatory hope, when he contemplates divinities thus frail or impure, can he anticipate the support of celestial interposition? Can he assure himself that his offerings shall conciliate, or his petitions ascend to powers so fallible, so contradictory, and so corrupt? And, if he bend before their shrine, and load it with his oblations, shall it
not be rather to avert their wrath, than to conciliate their mercy, and to bring down their protection?
II. Even the comfort which the sinner might derive from the absolution of the priest, is weakened or restricted by the caprice with which it is conferred, or the despotism with which it is denied. The secret or detected crime of the true believer, may be redeemed and absolved. But they who have presumed, in the slightest degree, to wander from the orthodoxy of the Bramin, or have infringed the arbitrary and often whimsical privileges of a superior cast, or have lost their cast by any neglect of the rigorous observances which it enjoins, this multitude become outcasts of God and man, and are excluded for ever from the pale of Brama. The door of the Pagoda is closed against them, as against the worst and the vilest of criminals; and they are driven from the society of the faithful, as so many living pestilences, whose breath and touch are pollution and disease. If, in the fervour of devotion and zeal, they presume to enter the temples, or prostrate themselves before the images, of their gods, the discovery of the profanation excites the universal horror of priest and people. The act of impiety is deplored as the last of crimes; the most disgusting and ludicrous ceremonies are performed to restore the purity of the sacred but contaminated walls *; the offenders are publicly pronounced accursed and reprobate ; and they whom instruction and mercy might have saved, or whose penitence should have been regarded as an atonement for their guilt, are deprived for ever of the joys and hopes of their religion, and
- Appendix, Note S.