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These rites are prescribed and these ceremonies imposed with an explicitness of command, either traditionary or written, which leaves nothing to the will of voluntary performance. The slightest omission is sufficient to vitiate the great work of the pilgrimage; and the pilgrim is to rely on the saving efficacy of performances which, instead of being consistent with sober piety or sound reason, are, in their tendency and influence, a mockery of both.
Of such institutions the effects cannot but extend to all the social, and all the individual interests of mankind. Industry is to be relaxed, and the duties of life suspended, for barren, pernicious or whimsical observances. A considerable portion of the age of man is to be occupied in forms and ceremonies, which, however they may accord with the fanaticism of the sectary, have little to do with the virtues of the citizen; and, while he who should be habituated to salutary labour, is to waste his days in the journeyings and the austerities of pilgrimage, the true energy
of the human character is impaired or lost, and bigotry and fanaticism are substituted in the heart of the votary for piety and virtue.
III. Of a religion abounding with so many observances, and occupying in its rites so great a portion of the life of its disciples *, the priesthood contributes but little to the diffusion of piety or morals. The prophet himself not only communicated to his tribes the infallible doctrines which he had received from heaven, but attended in the mosques, united with the congregation in prayer, ascended the pulpit t, and delivered the exhortation, in which he mingled the promises of glory to the victorious Mussulman,
* Appendix, Note U. U.
† Appendix, Note V. V.
with the menaces of woe to the devoted infidel. On the practice, rather than on the precept *, of that chosen instrument of celestial wisdom, a priestly order has been founded by his successors, for the maintenance and advancement of public devotion. The duties of this body are to watch over the consecrated founts, to unite in acts of worship with the people, to remind the Mussulman, from the minarets of the mosques, of the returning periods of diurnal prayer, and, occasionally, to read, and perhaps ex-, pound, the awful tenets of the Koran. The priesthood, however, has never extended beyond the more important districts of the Mahomedan empire. Places of devotion are every where erected, and the people resort to them for prayer; but, in countless instances, there is no religious teacher to be found t; and, if the gesture and countenance of the generality of Mussulmen exhibit a high degree of religious solemnity, if every worshipper have his string of beads, and pious ejaculations be heard on every side 1, the devotion at least is ignorant or impure, and the zeal and fervour are the offspring, not of the wisdom communicated by the ministers of religion, but of a weak, implicit, and ignorant credulity.
Such are the most remarkable of the rites and institutions of the religion of the Koran. I pause not to expatiate on the principles which they involve, or on the effects which they produce. It will scarcely be
* Appendix, Note W. W. † “ The professors of the Mohammedan law neither preach nor catechise, nor confess; and the vulgar, therefore, receive no religious instruction, except in the common schools to which their parents can afford to send them.” Volney, Trav. ln Syria,
Appendix, Note X. X.'
affirmed, that they promote one wholesome persuasion, or inculcate or encourage a single duty. They were not designed, nor are they calculated, to instruct and purify the heart; and they tend only to found the hopes of acceptance with God on the minute observance of forms, not merely external, but often extravagant and absurd. They are, therefore, at variance with sound, sober, and salutary truth; they corrupt, while they exercise, human faith ; and the votary, who should have been disciplined in religious wisdom, admits and observes them only to become a more zealous and worthless devotee, and a more implicit and bigoted fanatic.
Religious rites, tests of the truth of a religion—The four great ordi
nances of the Gospel-Baptism-Its nature and object- A conditional covenant-An institution of grace and mercy—The Lord's supper-Under what circumstances ordained— The blessings which it confers—The preparation which it requires-Its moral and holy tendency-Ordinance of the Sabbath-Comparison of the Sabbath of the Jew with that of the Christian_Objects of the latterRest, devotion, charity, instruction - Consequences on the order, the decency, and the civilization of life— Tendency to unite mankind in closer bonds of affection and brotherhood - The Christiun priesthood - Established by Christ-Its nature and design–Different Orders—Their specific duties—The virtues of the Christian priest - The prescribed mode of his teaching — The testimony of Julian Beauty and excellence of the institution.
If the Deity were to condescend to become the legislator of man, we should expect to discover, in his ordinances, the character of perfect wisdom, and eternal utility. He, whose omniscience beholds all the relations and consequences of things, cannot err. He, whose goodness is equal to his glory and
power, can require the obedience of his creatures only to promote their happiness. The idle and vain parade of splendid ceremonies, and the burdensome imposition of unedifying rites, can have nothing to do with the operations or designs of such a Being. Whatever He ordains is the mingled annunciation of his wisdom to guide, his beneficence to bless, and his mercy to save; and the doctrine and the institution, perfectly accordant with each other, must involve the immediate improvement, or final felicity, of mankind.
By this test, in its utmost rigour, we consent that the Christain dispensation shall be tried. It is not merely the moral precept and religious doctrine which we submit to such a scrutiny, but the rites and institutions of the Gospel, in their reference to the nature and happiness of man. Are they in any wise inconsistent with the noblest of those doctrines which dignify and distinguish the Evangelical page? Let it, then, be admitted, that they are human in origin and in frailty, and that the religion which ordains them is human also. But should they be found to harmonize with the practical wisdom of the Gospel, and to be consonant, in tendency and effect, with that order and well being of mankind, which, we may humbly presume, it is the gracious will of the divine Being to confirm; we may, in this case, more confidently admit the high claims of the Christian dispen, sation, and here, also, perhaps, affirm the hand of God.
In a general view, the Christian religion appears to lay little stress on external rites. It prescribes to piety no idle forms. It demands no cruel or unavailing sacrifice. It requires no endurance of barbarous penance. It reserves not its mercies for
pilgrims, faquirs, and fanaticks. Designed, as is affirmed, to “ render men wise unto salvation,” it has cast aside every incumbrance of a severe yet useless ritual; and, claiming the universal obedience of its disciples, it rejects all institutions which are partial and local in their nature, and all doctrines which refer, not to the welfare and dignity of man, but to the prejudices or customs of districts and of sects.
The Gospel, however, has established four ordinances of great importance, the sacrament of Baptism, the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, the institution of the Sabbath, and the service of the ministry. Το these we mean to advert.
I. Prior to the time of John the Baptist, a form of baptism existed among the Jews, for the admission of the proselyte within the holy pale of their religion; and the baptism of John succeeded, on the condition of repentance, as a prelude to that more solemn and significant rite which was speedily to be instituted by the divine Teacher whom he proclaimed and described.
The baptism of John was announced only in his own name, and in direct reference to the coming of Messiah. . Whereas the baptism of Christ was the ordinance of the Messiah himself; was to be conferred in the name, and by the authority, of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; was to initiate the proselyted sinner into a new and more perfect covenant; and was to communicate, to the faithful and contrite disciple, the celestial privileges of the Gospel of peace.
Christ himself, indeed, did not baptize; but he enjoined and sanctioned the rite by frequent commands during the period of his ministry; and, after