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no where told. From the immortality of their name we have no reason to infer the purity of their virtues. They were, in most instances, perhaps, itinerant bards, who were to depend on the favour of their delighted auditors; and, certainly, neither to the excellence of their example, nor to the grandeur and disinterestedness of their views, nor to the fervour of their zeal for public good and popular edification, was any appeal made by their cotemporaries or their successors, for the confirmation of their authority, or the sanction of their creed.

The religion itself which they borrowed or adorned for the guidance of their countrymen, may afford sufficient proof that they were not preeminently distinguished by the moral dignity of their character. They who, wilfully or ignorantly, infused into their creed so many and such pernicious absurdities, by their creed may be judged ; and, if the faith which they prescribed, continued to be maintained and cherished after their decease, it was not because it derived authority from the wisdom or the virtues of those who taught it, but because popular credulity seldom thinks or inquires, and is generally lavish of belief, in proportion to the vileness and vitiousness of the dogmas which it is required to embrace.

SECT. II.

The founders of religion in India-Vyasa, Crishnu, Brahma, the fourteen Menus The character of all lost in the darkness, or degraded by the absurdity, of fable-No useful eremplification of the precepts, and no sufficient authority for the ordinances of the religion.

THE authority of the law depends on the authority of the lawgiver; and, if he who announces the rule be impotent to sanction and to enforce it, the rule will be proportionally despised or disobeyed. The legislators, therefore, who fabricated the religions of the Pagan world, have uniformly attributed their doctrines to the inspiration of the gods, and endeavoured to clothe their ignorance in the mantle, and to confirm their creeds by the command, of heaven. Some auspicious genius, some faithful Egeria, some descending deity, some messenger from the skies, communicated to them the dogmas of celestial wisdom, and sent them forth to teach and to reform mankind. The multitude were instructed, that, in observing the precept, they obeyed, not so much the mortal who announced, as the God who inspired, it; and the foundations of the altar and of the temple were thus laid in the inventions of fable, or the impositions of fraud.

The Vedas constitute the principal of the sacred books of the Hindus. They are generally classed under three heads, including the doctrine of works, of faith, and of worship. But they contain, in their innumerable pages, the principles of all human knowledge, and are therefore denominated in the Gita, the leaves of that holy tree to which the AlBy the

mighty himself is piously compared * philosopher Vyasa, they were collected from the traditionary tales of his country, and arranged in their present form; but we know nothing of the character of the sage who devoted his days to this labour of compilation, save only that he appealed, like other legislators, to the authority of heaven, and prudently traced to the omniscience of Brahma, the doctrines which flowed from the exhaustless source of his own fancy, or which he borrowed from predecessors as little inspired as himself t.

But the celestial Brahma was not to monopolize the glory of bringing down the wisdom of heaven for the instruction of men. Crishnu, himself, aspired to the honour of a teacher of the world. The history of his deeds on earth, of his rural sports, his adventures of love I, and his triumphs over demons and monsters who had plagued mankind, was closed by the final destruction of his enemies, in the war which the poet of the Mahabarat has described with such holy zeal, and such patient minuteness. He was not yet, however, to return to his native skies. It was necessary he should leave behind him a body of laws for the edification of his people ; he, therefore, composed the instructions on the nature of God and of the soul, and on the principles and obligations of virtue, which are comprized in the Gita; and, having communicated them to the pious and favoured Arjoon, the worthy depositary of his wisdom, he at length resumed his primeval seat in the blissful regions of Vaicontha *

* “ The wise have called the incorruptible One an Aswatt'ha, with its roots above and its branches below, the leaves of which are the sacred measures. He who knows this tree, knows the Vedas.” Selection of Dissertations from the Asiatic Researches.

† Appendix, Note I. I. I. # They constitute a perfect romance. Sir William Jones has adverted to them in his Essay on the Gods of Greece and Italy.

Like. Arjoon, Satyavrata, the child of the sun, and the monarch of the whole earth, was to be illuminated by celestial wisdom, that he, in his turn, might illluminate mankind.

After a lapse of ages, Brahma, it seems, desired repose. During his slumber the demon Ayagriva approached, and stole the four Vedas which had flowed from the four mouths of the god. Heri, the preserver of the universe, observed and punished the deed. The monster was slain; and the recovered Vedas were deposited with the child of the sun, after he had been instructed by the triumphant god, in the nature and character of the Supreme Being, in the essence and qualities of the soul, and in the principles of piety, of policy, and of morals .

The teacher of the Shasta itself, that “ sublime and immortal code," on which so much praise has been so wantonly lavished, is the being of a fable equally incredible and wild. The angels of heaven had rebelled, and the prisons of Andero, the region of darkness and of sorrow, were crowded with the offenders, by the omnipotent wrath which they had merited and provoked. The unhappy band were subsequently subjected to a long series of purifying migrations I, and, having been, at length, transferred to human forms, were about to be restored to the dignity of their first creation, when they again fell, and were again menaced with the retributions of Andero * But celestial compassion knows no bounds. The Almighty consented that a regular body of written laws should be framed for the admonition and direction of the delinquents; and Brahma, being selected to execute the decree of mercy, descended upon earth, translated the precepts which he was to communicate into Sancrit; delivered the code in a written form to the lapsed intelligences; enforced, by holy and affectionate remonstrance, the conditions and doctrines which it contained ; and returned, after a long and laborious mission, to the eternal dwellings of the blessed.

* Sir William Jones. Ib. + Sir William Jones. Ib. # The period of probation was divided into four jogues or uges, the first extending to 100,000 years, the second to 10,000, the third to 1,000, and the fourth to 100. Holwel, Feasts and Fasts of the Hindus, p. 56.

Exclusive of these celestial legislators, there were fourteen Menus who had received from heaven an authoritative commission to instruct mankind, but whose story is involved or lost in the obscurity of fable. All of them are said to have added abundantly, each in his turn, to the great mass of national superstition, and to have embellished, or deformed, the whimsical structure of Hindu worship. The fame which has immortalized them as public teachers inspired by the gods, has not preserved the knowledge of their individual virtues ; but from one of them, we know, are derived the “ Institutes of Menu,” a work which seems to be little more than a compilation of the most trifling, and the most sanguinary, ordinances of the Hindu religion; and which, however it may occasionally be occupied with lessons of piety and virtue, is devoted, almost in every page, to the most extravagant and minute

* Holwel, Feasts and Fasts of the Hindus.

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