« AnteriorContinuar »
of the artifice and corruption of human nature? Any tenet, in its reference to God or man, unworthy of the divine wisdom? And which shall we prefer, the credulous incredulity of the sceptic, who believes that such a religion is a falsehood and a fable, the contrivance of imposture for the purposes of fraud; or the humble faith of the Christian, who, admitting its high and holy claim, embraces it as a rule of duty, and a declaration of pardon, announced to mankind by the spirit of the Almighty? Here, then, let us rest our confidence and our hopes; and, giving God thanks for the edification which has been conferred, let us endeavour so to employ it for our guidance in this world, that we render it the means, under the divine Grace, and through the merits of Christ, of our eternal felicity in the next.
NOTE A. p. 4.
FOR many ages the absolute and perfect integrity of the manuscript text, both of the Old and New Testament, was strenuously maintained. "Qua latissime patent Oriens et Occidens," says Buxtorf in his Tiberias, "uno ore, uno modo, verbum Dei legitur; et omnium librorum qui in Asia, Africa, vel Europa sunt, sine ulla discrepantia consonans harmonia cernitur." This doctrine, in its full extent, was every where embraced by the piety of the faithful, and every where the assertion of a various reading would have been rejected with horror and indignation. But persuasion was at length to be modified by fact. Ludovicus Capellus, the opponent of Buxtorf, prepared the way for Mills, Kennicot, and de Rossi. Various readings, amounting, perhaps, to not less than twenty thou sand, were now admitted by the most strenuous assertors of the inspiration of the Bible; but the more those readings were examined, the stronger became the conviction that they afford no ground whatever for impeaching the sacred authority of Scripture.
If the variations were few, the professor of the Gospel might be called on for the proof of the miracle by which the sacred text had been preserved from the unvarying effects of time, and of the incorrectness or negligence of copyists, on the text of every other writing. As it is, the Christian has no such argument to answer; and he is, moreover, well assured, that, whatever may be the variations, they do not furnish the slightest objection to the validity of his faith. Every manuscript copy of the Old and New Testament, the most imperfect as well as the most pure, announces the same laws, doctrines, miracles, prophecies, and facts. Of every copy the text shows, with equal clearness, that the law was followed, and acknowledged, by the Gospel, that Moses and the Prophets were the precursors of Christ, that a Redeemer, expected from the earliest times, at length came, taught, suffered, and died; that the divine authority of his mission, first attested by his miracles and his wisdom, was finally confirmed by his resur
rection; and that, having founded his church for the edification of all times and all nations, he ascended to heaven to send forth the Comforter for the consolation, support, and illumination of his people. Instead, then, of discussing the "Various readings" with the disputer who affirms that they impair the authority of the sacred text, we call on him to prove, that, in the whole system of Christian history, doctrines, and morals, there is a single article necessary to be known and believed, which the text does not, in every copy, explicitly and unequivocally announce; or to show, if he can, that the motives, and views, and hopes, which are opened and inculcated in any one copy, are not, with equal clearness and cogency, proclaimed in every other. Until he shall do this, the authenticity of the Christian Dispensation can be little affected by any inference which he may deduce from the various readings, in justification of his disbelief. He may discuss, as it may please him, the discrepancies of the manuscripts; but, with whatever malignity his criticism may be exercised, the professor of the Gospel may contemplate his work with indifference or contempt.
I MAKE no apology for classing the Religion of the Hindu with that of the learned and polished Greek. The last, probably, emanated from the first; and, when the Greek was a wild and predatory barbarian, the Hindu was a member of a happy and civilized community. Enough remains to testify the progression, in art and science, of antient India. The excavations in the island of Salsetta, are works of unparalleled labour and extent, and "could not have required less," says the artist employed by General Boon to inspect them, "than forty thousand men for forty years to complete them." Archæol. vol. vii. p. 36. Thevenot speaks of the pagodas of Ellore, as far surpassing those of Salsetta in number and magnificence. Voyage, vol. iii. p. 44. The seven pagodas of the mountain Mavilassuram, on the coast of Coromandel, are affirmed to be of equal grandeur and variety. Asiat. Research. vol. i. p. 145. And Colonel Call appeals to the elegance and richness of the religious architecture of India, as a decided proof of early and distinguished civilization. "It may safely be affirmed,” says he, “that no part of the world has more marks of antiquity for arts, science, and civilization, than the peninsula of India, from Cape Comorin to the Ganges. I think the carvings of some of
the pagodas and choultries, as well as the grandeur of the work, exceeds any thing executed now-a-days, not only for the delicacy of the chisel, but the expensive construction, considering, in many instances, from what distance the component parts were carried, and to what height raised." Philosoph. Trans. vol. lxii. p. 354. The Sanscrit language, which was once, it is probable, the universal language of the Hindus, affords a yet nobler evidence of the learning and acquirements of that singular people. "It is," says Mr. Halhead," of unfathomable antiquity, of great perfection, and the parent of almost every dialect from the Persian gulf to the Indian seas." Preface to the Grammar of the Bengal Language. That the Indians had made a considerable progress in chymistry is evident from their early knowledge of the art of dying and painting. Pliny, Nat. Hist. lib. xxxv. § 27. Salmasius, Exercit. Plinianæ In Solin. 180. The " Five Gems," published in the first number of the New Asiatic Miscellany, the Odes so beautifully translated by Sir William Jones, the heroic story of the wild and interminable Bhagvat Geeta, the drama of Sacontala, distinguished by so much delicacy and taste, often display a wide range of observation, and great diversity and felicity of fancy. The ingenuity of the Indians, in works of metal and ivory, and their skill in the art of engraving on gems, are mentioned with applause by antient and modern writers. Strabo, Lib. xv. 1044. Raspe's Introduction to Tassie's Descriptive Catalogue of engraved Gems, vol. i. p. 12, 47. vol. ii. plate xiii. The tragedies, comedies, farces, and musical pieces, of the Indian theatre, would fill as many volumes as those of antient or modern Europe. Sir William Jones, Pref. to Sacontala, p. 1. 9. Even the philosophy denominated the Ideal and Stoical by the Greeks, was cultivated, in early times, by the subtilty and learning of the Indian Bramins. Ayeen Akberry, p. 95, &c. Dow's Dissertat. p. 39. Bhagvat-Gheeta, p. 44. In arithmetic, and the sciences depending upon it, the Hindus had acquired a very superior degree of perfection, and Europe is indebted to that people for the happy mode of decimal notation. Montucl. Hist. des Mathemat. tom. i. p. 360. Of the high and early attainments of the same people in astronomical science, there is incontestable evidence. The four sides of every pagoda correspond exactly with the four cardinal points. Gentil, Voyage, vol. 1. p. 133. The signs of the zodiack are often found delineated with great accuracy on the cielings of the most antient choultries. Philosoph. Transac. vol. lxii. p. 353 Instruments of astronomical observation, constructed with singular skill and ingenuity, were discovered by Sir Robert Barker at Benares, in 1772. Philosoph. Transac. vol. vii.
p. 598. The astronomical tables which were brought to France by French missionaries, who had long resided in Hindostan, and those communicated by Mons. Gentil, who had been instructed by antient Bramins in the modes of antient calculation, were com⚫ pletely verified, after many years of laborious investigation, by the justly celebrated Bailly, and proved to be of great antiquity. Bailly, Astronom. Indienne, Disc. Prel. p. 77. And the Syria Syddhanta, an astronomical treatise of the antient Bramins, has been examined with minute and learned patience by Messrs. Davis and Bentley, and by both admitted to contain very accurate and impor tant details of astronomical discovery. Bentley on the Hindu System of Astronomy, Asiat. Regist. vol. viii. and vol. vi. This note might be easily and amply enlarged; but enough, perhaps, has been said, to show that the Braminical religion is not that of an unlearned and uncivilized people, but of a nation distinguished for its attainments in art and science.
NOTE A. p. 26.
THE character of Jupiter abounds with the most extravagant inconsistency. Omnipotent though he be, he contemplates with alarm the conspiracy of Juno, of Neptune, and of Pallas; and he is finally indebted for his deliverance to the seasonable interposi tion of Thetis, and the auxiliary strength of Briareus. I. lib. i. According to Ovid,
Ille pater, rectorque deum, cui dextra trisulcis
And Horace, having first extolled him as the god,
Imperio regit unus æquo,
proceeds to describe the terror with which this ruler of the earth, the sea, the infernal and supernal regions, is inspired by the insurrection of the Titans
Magnum terrorem intulerat Jovi.
But it is in the details of his celestial amours that we principally discover the real temper of this " Optimus et maximus deorum."