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set apart as a mark for the contempt, the hatred, and the persecution of mankind*.
III. Under the religion of the Hindu, little consolation has been provided for the feebleness and the sufferings of declining age. Suicide is sanctioned as the remedy of evils which should have been miti gated by the piety of hope and trust; and they who have seen many days, are to substitute for the resignation which might have enabled them to sustain their infirmities, the impious resolution to escape from them by death.
Or, does the ancient Hindu, struggling with the instinctive fears of humanity, refuse to terminate his life in the manner permitted or required by the ritual of his faith? He is proscribed by his religion as a burden to society, and to himself; and the final determination of his relatives and of the priest compel the sacrifice from which his terrors avert him. He hears nothing of trust in the gods, of divine aid, or of the duty of patience. The pity, the gratitude, or the tenderness, of his family, which ought to smoothe his passage to the to the grave, utterly desert him. He is brutally hurried to the bank of the consecrated stream, and the shout of an unfeeling multitude testifies the moment when he is surrounded and carried off by the advancing tide. If he be seen no more, his death is accounted righteous and blessed. Or if, from the efforts of remaining strength, he be fortunate enough to reach the opposite shore, the gods, it is said, reject him as accursed; his whole property is taken from him; he becomes an outcast from his
* See for further details of the sufferings and degradation of the excommunicated tribes of Parias and Chandalos, chapter iv.
own household; and he is contemptuously and irrecoverably expelled from the society of all good and pious Hindus.
It is not the old alone who are encouraged by their religion to terminate their miseries by death. Every man, under the pressure of infirmity and sorrow, may have legitimate recourse to the final remedy of despair. The allotment is not to be softened by a reference to the gods who decreed it, but to be evaded by a legal and meritorious suicide; and the sufferer is informed of various modes of voluntary death, to any of which he may apply, with the soothing hope that the act may procure the pardon, and propitiate the favour, of the deity*.
IV. The consolation to be derived from the tenet of a future state, is diminished, at least, by the terrifying dogmas of purification, which constitute, perhaps, the fundamental principles of the Hindu religion. According to the decree of Brama, all human souls are to efface the stains of guilt, by a fearful diversity of punishment and migration. Sometimes they are to linger out years of discipline in the inferior forms of brutes and reptiles; and sometimes they are to be confined within the dull and narrow circuit of vegetable or mineral prisons. The period of their chastisement, in this degraded state, is indefinite and unknown; but, it is specifically announced, that, if, during the progress of their probation, they lapse into new sin, another series of similar purification is to commence, and no remission of punishment to be derived from the miseries that are past. Thus the ages of purgation may be prolonged and renewed, and thus the Hindu is consoled.
Appendix, Note T.
He is to look forward to a state of future rest through a long, and frightful, and indefinite vista of intervening trial. He is to mingle and chill the anticipations of the ultimate felicity of his being with the afflicting ideas of his preparatory trials; and, whatever may be the hopes excited in his mind, by the distant and unsteady glimmerings of immortality, they are sickened and scared by the terror of transmigrations, to be productive he knows not of what misery, and to be continued he knows not how long*,
The Hindu, then, has little reason to boast of the ambiguous or feeble consolation provided by his religion for the mitigation of calamity. If he be urged to terminate his life and sorrows together, he is but told there is no remedy for his sufferings but death. If he refer to his gods, he finds little reason to rely on the wisdom and goodness of such whimsical and discordant powers. If he look to the absolution of his priest, he knows not how speedily it may be withdrawn from him by tyranny or caprice, and how soon he may be numbered with the excommunicated multitude. If he be reminded of his future residence with Brama in the regions of Suttul, he is not to forget how many ages of purgation he may have to endure in the form of a reptile, a mineral, or a plant. The promises in which he trusts, are blended with decrees at which he shudders. He is the most gentle of beings. His religion is the most unpitying and the most comfortless of creeds.
• Voyage de Sonnerat, tom. ii. pp. 192, 200. Bagvhat Geeta, PP. 39, 115. Bernier, tom. ii. p. 193. Dow's Dissertat. p. 43. Sir William Jones on the Gods of India, Italy, and Greece. Cheval. Ramsay. Princip. Nat. and Revealed Religion, vol. i. p. 110.
The Mussulman more happy in the consolatory doctrines of his religion-Celestial favour the sure reward of his prowess or his fanaticism-The smiling pleasures of his paradise-His predestinated security-Moral influence of the consolations thus tendered-Presumption of the faithful, persecution of the infidel, endurance without effort, acquiescence without piety—The whole doctrine insulting to God, and injurious to man.
IT was, in every respect, consistent with the ambitious views of the prophet of Mecca, to attach men to his creed by the imposing artifices of promise and of hope. His followers were to be tempted to fight and bleed for the establishment of his power, to raise and defend the standard of the Koran amidst infidel and hostile nations, and to go forth, with exterminating zeal and exclusive piety, to subvert the religions and the empires of the earth. To kindle this rage of conquest and this fury of crusade, motives proportionally powerful were to be announced; and Mahomet, it must be allowed, has not failed, in this respect, to demonstrate his usual skill in adapting his creed to the circumstances in which he was placed, and the people whom he was to govern.
To the wavering believer, and to the sturdy infidel, he dealt forth all the terrors with which religious fiction supplied him. They were to be especially visited in this world with the wrath of God, and in the grave with the judgment of Israfil, and the punishment of the iron mace*. A grim and terrific hell was to display, at the bidding of the prophet, its auxiliary
⚫ I have already alluded to the trial of the sepulchre. Chap. ii. sect. 3.
terrors, and the retribution which commenced here, was to be carried on, hereafter, through endless ages, and with unsparing vengeance.
But there is scarcely a chapter in the Koran which does not open views of the interpositions of Providence, favourable, in the highest degree, to the holy Mussulman, and admirably calculated to inflame his courage, and to sustain his perseverance. Every thing is ascribed to the will and wisdom of Deity; but the true believer alone is to enjoy his especial protection. Go forth, says the Koran to its disciples, go forth without fear of the calamities of life, or the perils of battle. Nothing shall be endured in the cause of truth, without abundant recompense. On the believer descends the peculiar favour of the Almighty. Whatever be the darkness of his lot, it shall in due time be enlightened by beams from heaven. He may be tried, but the mercy which is above watches over him. He may suffer, but his sufferings shall terminate in glory.
While the children of Islem are instructed, in this manner, to look up to protecting deity, they are further supported by consolations brought from another world. Faith opens to them the scenes of future remuneration and joy. For them is prepared a sensual and smiling paradise, with its unfailing flowers, its cooling streams, and its black-eyed virgins. Immortal treasures are to be strewed at their feet, ineffable harmonies are to soothe their ears, and their' appetites are to be perpetually solicited and renewed by the tempting pleasures of unsatiating banquets. These promises issue from no frail and fallible source. They are sanctioned by the express authority of God, and are announced by the lips of the angelic Gabriel, to kindle the zeal, and to confirm the confidence, of the disciples of the prophet.