Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

details of the modes of sacrifice, the forms of ablution, the rites of purification, and the various privileges and distinctions of Castes. If we advert to it for a moment, we may be enabled to estimate the claim of its author to the character and the honour of a religious legislator.

“ Let the names of women be agreeable, soft, “ clear, captivating the fancy, auspiciously ending in long vowels, resembling words of benediction“ If the tonsure, and investiture of a child with the " mark of his class, be not performed according to rule, the child becomes an outcast with whom no “ Brahmin can form connexion, nor maintain inter

course—The staff of the priest must be of such

a length as to reach his hair, of the soldier to reach “ his forehead, of the merchant his nose; and the staff “ must be straight, without fracture, and uninjured

by fire—The beggar, if he seek long life, must eat “ what he receives, in charity, with his face to the “ East; if he seek fame, with his face to the South; “ if prosperity, to the West; if truth and its rewards, “ to the North ; and, if he eat with respect, his food “ shall produce power; if irreverently, destructive

consequences-A Brahmin is purified by water “ that reaches his bosom, a Cshatriya by water as“ cending to his throat, a Vaisya by water taken

at his mouth, a Sudra by water touched with the “ extremity of his lips-A twice-born man who shall

repeat to himself a thousand times the holy text “ Om, shall be released in a month from a great " offence; but he must not marry a girl with reddish

hair, nor with deformed limbs, nor with inflamed

eyes, nor of much speech, nor of the name of a “ river, a tree, a monster, or a snake. No expiation “ remains for the crime of him who illegally drinks “ the moisture of a Sudra's lips—Physicians, sellers “ of meal, such as live by low traffic, men with “ whitlows on their fingers, feeders of cattle, he “ who hath lost an eye, a navigator of the ocean,

an oil-man, a maker of bows and arrows, must be “ shunned-Food given to a seller of moon-plant, “ becomes ordure in another world ; to a physician,

purulent blood ; and the giver will be a reptile “ bred within them—A Brahmin, who keeps house, “ must not step over a string by which a calf is “ tied ; nor look at his own image in the water; “ neither eat with his wife; nor look at her eating, “ or sneezing, or yawning, or sitting carelessly at “ her ease, or setting off her eyes with black “ powder, or scenting herself with essences-The “ Vedas must not be read on prohibited days, nor “ in the presence of a Sudra, nor in lightning, rain, “ thunder, storm, nor in the presence of an aguish

person, nor near a cemetery, nor while jackalls “ yell, or asses, or camels, bray-A wise man must say

what is true, but let him say what is pleasing; “ he must utter no disagreeable truth, and no agree“ able falsehood ; this is a primæval rule*.”

Of the legislator who lent the authority of his name to such doctrines as these, and thus directed the attention of his followers from what was just and right, to what was insignificant or absurd, we may easily reject the pretensions and the claims. Among the other founders, to whom we have adverted, of the religion of Hindu, may we discover a higher character ? Did that religion derive any just authority, or legitimate sanction, from the wisdom and the virtues of personages, most of whom were the

Laws of Menu. Works of Sir William Jones, vols. vii, viii.

monstrous progeny of fable, and worthy only of a place in Oriental romance? Do we discover in Brahma, in Crishnu, or in Heri, the wisdom or the example which might contribute to confirm the doctrines which they preached? Or may we not be permitted to conclude, that the legislators to whom the Hindu creed has been ascribed by Hindu superstition, were, if considered as gods, falsified and burlesqued by the fancied modes of their intervention, and, if as men, unqualified, except by assumption, by fanaticism, or by folly, for the high office of moral and religious instructors of the world?

SECT. III.

The founder of the Koran His character - Early timidity, and

reserve-Progressive boldness and authority-No consistency-Subtle and temporizing conciliation of the Arab tribes-Adaptation of doctrine and precept to occasion and circumstance-Consequent fanaticism Results.

THE Prophet of Mecca was admirably qualified to propagate a religion by artifice and force, and to render it the instrument of policy and of ambition. He possessed, in the highest degree, all the vices of a conqueror, and all the energy and artifice required by an impostor. Bold and decisive, or wily and circumspect, as occasion required, he embraced opportunity with the promptitude which might turn it to the best account; or waited for it with the prudence, which wisely preferred delay that was safe, to precipitation that might be dangerous. Though he deliberated, he never wavered ; and, whether he advanced, or retrograded, or paused, he equally promoted the accomplishment of his schemes. His

success.

very fears were instrumental to his purpose; but, if they looked forward to results with a prophetic vision, they only taught him to be more wary and more vigilant, without being less determined or less bold. Every thing was converted by his courage or his sagacity, into the means of immediate or ultimate

He wielded the powers of heaven and earth with equal address. The ministry of Gabriel, the hope of celestial favour, the terror of divine wrath, the contingencies of time and chance, the fanaticism, the madness, and the credulity of the people, were rendered alike subservient to his will. With the most unbounded pretensions to universal charity, and to holiness and truth, he could slay without remorse, and utter the most pernicious falsehoods without hesitation. As a conqueror he was what, perhaps, all conquerors have been, cruel, unjust, reckless of human blood, and careless of the cost which produced the advantages of victory. As a legislator, he was sagacious, artful, and subtle; skilful to adapt his code to times and circumstances, to tempers and wills ; local, partial, and circumscribed in his laws; a flatterer, for his own interests, of the vices and prejudices of his countrymen; and a promoter of public order and welfare, in subserviency only to that dominant selfishness which constituted the sole motive and rule of his life.

Like the founders of the Greek and Hindu mythology, this singular man also pretended to celestial inspiration. Feeble would have been his own strength, if he had not clothed himself with divine authority; and ineffectual would have been his precepts, if he had not deduced them from the infallibility of heaven. He was too wise in his generation not to secure that obedience by the assumption of superhuman wisdom, which would have been denied to the weakness of human command. He, therefore, at once, proclaimed himself the missionary of the Almighty, who was to communicate to man the last and most perfect of the Revelations of God; and the ignorance, and fraud, and corruption, of the impostor, were veiled by a garb borrowed from heaven.

During the infancy of his design, he proceeded with cautious and deliberate prudence, and was able, in the course of twelve years, to gather around him only a few wavering and doubtful disciples. But nothing could subdue or repress his perseverance. As his influence and power advanced, he became proportionally confident and decisive. His mission was announced with a bolder tone, and to more distant tribes. The visitation of Gabriel, the divine intercourse with which he was honoured, the miraculous transmission of the Koran, the immaculate and celestial perfection of the revelation which he was to announce, were more openly, more pompously, and more presumptuously detailed; till, at length, the audacity and skill of the impostor accomplished the design, which had been planned by his selfishness and his ambition ; and the altar was raised and perfected by his hand, in the deserts of Arabia, before which, even in his lifetime, so many people were to bow down in faith, and to tender their oblations.

When he shook off his early timidity and reserve, he gradually, but with equal policy, assumed the most opposite character. Diffidence and humility would have been unwise, when the increasing faith of the multitude had surrounded him with obedient and ardent followers. For the language of exhortation, was substituted that of command or menace.

« AnteriorContinuar »