Imágenes de páginas

forget the parent who gave you being, the child who demands your care, and the wife who merits your love; and associate yourself with privation, and solitude, and misery, till, converted into a pure and perfect Yogee, the grave receive you into its bosom, and the gods prepare your reward.

III. In the system of moral precepts sanctioned by the religion of the Hindu, we may further trace the most extravagant inconsistency, and the most pernicious injustice. That which is deeply criminal in an inferior cast, may be considered as a light or venial trespass in a higher. The slightest offence to the least of the priestly order, is to outweigh the last of injuries inflicted on the inferior Hindu; and the worst and most unpardonable of crimes in the afflicted Chandala, becomes expiable in a Bramin by an insignificant mulct. Even mercy is to be meted out according to the most absurd and barbarous distinctions. The Paria, who but breathes upon his superior, is declared worthy of death, by the same code which proclaims compassion and tenderness to the worm; and, while the beast of the field is protected, by the just and gracious tenets of religion, from wrong, the ancient parent may be exposed without blame to the incursions of the tide, and left, unpitied, to struggle and perish in the retiring waters.

IV. It is obvious, too, that many of the causes by which the mythology of the Greek was impaired in its moral tendency, must operate, with equal effect, in the mythology of the Hindu. The Hindu professes a faith similar in its objects to that of the Greek. The gods of both exhibit examples of violence, of wrath, of malignity, and of wantonness, alike unfavourable and offensive to virtue. Each might equally justify his vices by celestial precedent; and

to each the authority of his creed might furnish a plea for the most contradictory qualities, the cruelty that delights in the human sacrifice, and the debauchery which seeks and finds indulgence in the recesses of the temple.

Of such a system the influence and effects are analogous to the corruption of its principles. The guiding precept is rarely to be found, and he who seeks it is entangled in inconsistency and contradiction. The man of charity is reminded of the superior sanctity of the fanatic, and the fanatic is taught to rely, with implicit faith, on the saving efficacy of useless penance. The mulct is paid to enrich the priest, and the crime is more readily perpetrated, because it is so easily to be redeemed. We behold the poor and unhappy outcast, driven without mercy, and often for an imaginary offence, from the society of his fellow creatures, and from the temples of his gods. Cruelty and obscenity are transformed into devotional virtues. The gravest votary is not ashamed to witness the wantonness which dances round his altars; and the Gentoo, while he treads cautiously on the earth lest he should crush a reptile, and diffuses his charities as his priest requires, and performs his task of oblation and prayer with pious scrupulosity, is found to delight in the wild sacrifice of the funeral pile, and to mingle in the mercenary impurities which are encouraged for priestly gain in the pagodas of his idols *.

From a religion thus feeble for good, and efficient

Orme, who was well acquainted with the Hindu character and institutions, adverts indignantly to both. Histor. Fragm. 432, 433, 434, &c. Indeed, to admit the institutions, is to admit the character. They are cause and effect.

for evil, we turn with mingled astonishment and sorrow. Admitting the beauty of its incidental precepts, we lament the insufficiency of its moral influence; and we behold another instance of the facility with which human reason abandons the lights of wisdom, to wander in the darkness of error and superstition.



Advantages enjoyed by Mahomet-Moral precepts-Frequent excel

lence-The doctrine adopted to the sensuality or policy of its author-Cruelty, and vengeance, and persecution, and wrath, sanctioned by divine authority-Effects on the popular mind, and on the world-Humility and meekness in theory, arrogance and sumption in practice

- The morality framed for a sect, and not for mankind. IN the views which I have hitherto taken of human legislation, I have discovered little more than evidences of human frailty. Of every code, much that is good, and all that is evil, in man, may plead the authority and the sanction ; and the mazed and erring disciple is submitted to a guide which exhibits for his imitation contradictory examples, or enjoins for his observance conflicting doctrines. Every system is a chaos in which the seeds of truth and falsehood, holiness and impiety, rectitude and crime, have been sown with a strange and wonderful inconsistency; and, while we contemplate those monstrous productions of mortal capacity, those temples of Babel which indicate at once the strength and weakness of man, the most opposite emotions may justly be excited in the mind, and we know not how to silence the discordant impressions of exultation and of pity, of admiration and of contempt.


The Apostle of Mecca might have avoided, without much difficulty, many of the vices which have been thus interwoven in the frame of other religions. He was admitted to the sources of Christian wisdom, and he drank largely and freely. In the Koran, accordingly, we discover precepts of unblemished excellence. The imagery of poetry is often employed to recommend the maxims of virtue. The lawgiver commands obedience with an authority frequently justified by the purity and utility of his laws; and the disciple, instead of being left to fluctuate in uncertainty and doubt, is edified by truths too explicit to be misinterpreted, and too clear to be misunder stood.

“ Whoso chooseth the present life and the pomps “ thereof, unto them will be given the recompence of “ their works, for that which they have done in this “ life shall perish, and that which they have wrought “ shall be vain. Slay not, except in a just cause. “ Meddle not with the subsistence of orphans. Per“ form your covenant. Give good measure, and

weigh with a just balance. Walk not proudly in « the land, for thou canst not cleave the earth, “ neither canst thou equal the mountains in stature. “ Know ye not that life is only a long and a vain

amusement, and that worldly pomp, and the affec“ tation of glory among you, and the multiplication “ of riches, shall at length wither, and become dry “ stubble? Shew kindness to the poor and to your “ neighbour who is of kin to you, and your neighbour

who is a stranger, and the captive whom your

right hand possesseth, for God loveth not the “ proud nor the covetous, who conceal that which “ God hath bountifully given them; and that which

they have covetously reserved shall be bound as

a collar about their neck at the day of judgment*.” These are among the truths which the aspiring Arab frequently and emphatically announced to his followers; and they shed, perhaps, a brighter and more useful light on the pages of the Koran, than that which illuminates the classic volumes of Plato or of Tully,

The Koran, however, has promised more than it has performed. Ambitious beyond all other religions in its aim, and proud and lofty in its pretensions, it aspires to the honour of a universal code for the moral and political regulation of man; and we cannot be astonished that it has been found necessary to add to the system which pretends to embrace so wide a circle of interests and of duties, not less than seventy thousand precepts piously deduced from the ambiguous sources of traditionary wisdom, or laboriously and doubtfully inferred from the letter or the spirit of the original doctrine f.

The prophet may be less censured, perhaps, for the falsehood or vanity of a boast so ill fulfilled, than for the contradictions and inconsistencies which he has permitted to impair the truth and the value of his precepts. According to the changeful temper of his will, or the progressive profligacy of his desires, or the accommodation required by his political interests, the divine communications of one moment, were to be modified or rescinded by the divine communications of another. He found no dif

* Koran, ch. ii. pp. 17, 18; chap. lvii. p. 420 ; chap. xvii. pp. 99, 100, 101; vol. ii. chap. ix. p. 351; chap. iv. p. 101. chap. iii. p. 88; chap. xxx. vol. ii. p. 258.

+ Hamilton. Translat. of the Hedaya or Guide.

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