« PreviousContinue »
could not obtain a sufficiency of vegetable food. They, therefore, feel it their duty to take with thankfulness that which God in his infinite wisdom sees proper to give them. Were this practice necessary to be observed on the ground of a Scripture command, it might then be brought forward as an objection : but it is not so. The Bible, although it does not advocate, yet permits the practice. Christians, therefore, look upon this as a mere matter of custom : they see no sin in it; and having been accustomed to it in Europe, they generally continue the practice in this country. It is only the prejudice of education, combined with ignorance, which makes the Hindoos object to it. If any man, however, disapprove of it, he is not, on his becoming a Christian, obliged to conform to the Christian custom in this respect. Christianity is entirely devoid of all external ceremonies of this nature : all it requires is supreme love to God, purity of heart, and integrity of conduct: and if these are attended to, Christians are at liberty to follow the dictates of their own conscience, and to suit their convenience as to external distinctions and ceremonial observ
There is no end to the trivial and unreasonable objections of this nature, with which men of corrupt and reprobate minds are perpetually endeavouring to undermine the authority of the gospel, (2 Timn. iii. 8.) If, however, its claims be duly attended to, these futile sophistical reasonings will all speedily vanish before the superabundant proofs of its truth. Investigation is what the gospel invites and requires. The more it is investigated, its divine authority will become increasingly luminous, the purity of its precepts more highly admired, and the richness of its promises more extensively valued. Jesus Christ, the faithful and true Witness, (Rev. iii. 14,) will be found by the impartial and candid enquirer to be “all and in all :” (Col. viii. 11.) and if he be exalted as he deserves on the throne of his affections, he will then, whilst looking unto him, be ready, in the language of appropriating' faith, to say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon the earth that I desire besides thee.” (Psalm lxxiii. 25.)
Concluding Observations. 1. The Hindoos frequently enquire, what benefit they would derive from the gospel, were they to embrace it. To this question I answer, that eternal life in the upper and better world will be the portion of all who receive it, not as the word of man, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh in them that believe. (1 Thess. ii. 13.) We are told by the Apostle, (1 Tim. iv. 8.) that “ godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” The gospel, in its legitimate influence, is calculated universally to benefit the temporal interests of mankind. The promise relating to the present life, however, referred to in the former part of this passage, is only general in its application : it is not, therefore, to be expected, that it will be verified in the individual experience of every man who receives it. The followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, through the wickedness which every where abounds in the world, are occasionally exposed to such severe persecution through their profession of his religion, that they do not derive from it those temporal benefits which it is otherwise calculated to impart. Were the Hindoos, however, universally to receive and obey it, I hesitaté not to say, that they would as a nation derive the most important temporal benefits from it. We are sufficiently warranted from experience to assert, that every temporal, as well as every spiritual blessing is, in a national point of view, intimately connected with a general reception and belief of the Christian religion: they are inherent in its very nature, and it has communicated them in rich abundance to all the nations who have hitherto received it. Wherever it has extended its triumphs, polygamy and infanticide have been abo
lished. It has restored woman to her long lost rank in civil society. It is a stranger to despotism, tyranny, and cruelty. It has taught kings to rule with moderation and equity, and subjects to obey with reverence and love. It relieves the conquered*, and it tames the conqueror; and communicates peace, and truth, and righteousness, and a thousand other blessings, to all who are brought under its genuine and benign influence.
2. There is no book of mere human production which will be found, if critically examined, to be free from false principles and incorrect statements. This, however, is not the case with the Bible: it contains no false principles, nor any incorrect statements; but' is characterized by perfection and truth in all which it advances. Its decided superiority in this respect, therefore, to all books of mere human production, is a fact which demands our attention, and which can be accounted for on no other ground, than the supposition and acknowledgment that it has come from him, of whom it is testified, that“ He is a Rock, and his work is perfect;” (Deut. xxxii. 3.) that “ his word is right, and all his works are done in truth;” (Psalm xxxiii. 4.) and that “the works of his hands are verity and judgment: all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, done in truth and uprightness.” (Psalm cxi. 7, 8.)
It is also equally remarkable, that there is nothing defective in the Bible: every thing that it is requisite for man to be acquainted with, in order that he may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory, (2 Tim. ii. 10.) is in it fully revealed. It is calculated to answer, in the most excellent manner, all the great and important ends for which God has graciously given it. Every duty which men are required to perform is clearly
* The Hindoos admit the truth of this remark, because they see it exemplifed in the lenity with which the English treat their prisoners of war. They know that the Mahomedans formerly acted in a very different way; and also that, in the present day, no nation which is not under the influence of Christian laws acts with such lenity towards its adversaries when it has obtained the victory over them.
defined. The rules necessary to performance are fully prescribed. Obedience is authoritatively enjoined, and adequate motives are abundantly presented. The various articles of faith which it inculcates are conspicuously exhibited, and the truth of its claims are fully substantiated, by its purity, the fulfilment of its prophetic declarations, the miracles which have been wrought to attest it, and the fulness and sufficiency of its own intrinsic evidence. How different then in these respects is the Bible from the Shasters of the Hindoos! They are full of false principles and contradictory statements. They dishonour God by the representation which they give of his character. They open the door to every kind of licentiousness, by the profane songs, obscene dances, and other indecencies connected with their prescribed festivals. They communicate no benefit to mankind, prescribe no clear rules of duty, nor present any adequate motive to persevering obedience. The great mass of mankind is, according to the religious system of those Shasters, represented as consisting of two principal divisions. The Brumhagyanees, or worshippers of the true God, (or rather of the spirit of the world,) and the Kormogyanees, or worshippers of the debtas and idols. The reward which the Shasters promise to the adherents of the first mentioned system is, that they shall after death be absorbed into the Deity. The idolaters who belong to the second class are told, that they will be received into heaven; but the period which they will be permitted to remain there in the enjoyment of its felicity will be limited, according to the merit which they have previously acquired. When their merit is expended, then their happiness will terminate : they will then be reunited to the body; return to earth, and be again immersed in all the miseries of the present life*. If the candid reader, therefore, will duly consider the nature of the felicity which is here specified, he must acknowledge that it is trivial and defective, and by no means meets the wants and circumstances of man, considering him as a rational and an immortal being. The felicity which it says shall be awarded to the worshippers of the spirit of the world, is in fact nothing more than annihilation. Absorption into the Deity, necessarily involves the destruction of personal identity, and of course for ever terminates the happiness which men, by their continued individual existence, are capable of eternally enjoying. And the reward which is promised to the worshippers of the debtas and idols, (were it true that any happiness would be awarded to them in a future state,) is likewise equally objectionable. Suppose the idolaters were received into heaven on the terms which are stated in the Shaster, they would be utterly unable to enjoy its felicity. The recollection that their happiness (however great for the time being) must speedily terminate, would, by the pain which it produced, in a considerable measure deprive them of all present enjoyment. Those rewards, therefore, which the Hindoo Shasters hold out to the faithful adherents of the religion which they inculcate, are totally defective as motives to uniform and persevering obedience. Man is an immortal being, and requires a happiness perfect in degree, and perpetual in duration; and it is the consider. ation of such a happiness alone that is sufficient to enable him to support with patience the trials of life, and by which he will be strengthened to resist with steadfastness the temptations to which he is perpetually exposed. The Bible, therefore, in its promises of future felicity, as well as in every other respect, is infinitely superior to the Hindoo Shasters, because eternal life be
* The Shasters say, that in the next birth, instead of appearing as human beings, they will, for the punishment of their sins, become cows or horses; or if they have previously been very wicked, they will then be doomed to appear in the bodies of the inferior animals, such as pigs, dogs, cats, &c. &c.* Consequently their misery will ultimately be much greater than it is now. What happiness, therefore, could these infatuated idolaters possibly enjoy, were they admitted into heaven, knowing, as they must, that such a fate awaited them ?