« EdellinenJatka »
and the discipline of society prevents them from deteriorating into a savage state ; yet the vital principle of expansion and improvement has been wanting, and therefore there has been no growth.Their ideas, Mr. Medhurst has justly observed, are as stereotyped as their books. They have bound and crippled their minds as wel! as their feet.
The sixth chapter treats on the government and laws of China, and the seventh on its literature. Both are extremely interesting; but, as being already, perhaps, condensed as far as possible, they scarcely admit of either abridgment or extract. They appear to us well calculated to afford the general reader a sufficiently clear and comprehensive notion of the subjects to which they refer. We must content ourselves, however, with thus directing atiention to them.
The eighth chapter is devoted to the subject on which our readers, we incline to think, will be most disposed to make inquiries; that is to say, to the religion, or rather religions, of China.
“ The religions of China are three, namely, the systems of Confucius, Laou-tsze, and Buddha. Of these, the first is the most honored, both by the government and the learned: the works of Confucius constitute the classbooks of the schools, and the ground-work of the public examinations; hence, all who make any pretensions to literature pride themselves in being considered the followers of that philosopher. The religion of Lapu-tzse is equally ancient with the favored sect, and has a great hold upon the minds of the people. It has now and then been honored with imperial patronage; and during these golden opportunities has exerted a wider influence over the population ; but during the present dynasty, it has been left mainly to its own resources. The religion of Buddha was introduced from India into China about the beginning of the Christian era; its priests and its temples are now spread over the whole land; and the majority of the common people are decidedly in favor of this latter system. But as both the Taouists and Buddhists consent to accord the precedence to Confucius, and aim to combine the moral code of that philosopher with their own superstitious dogmas, they are commonly tolerated by the ruling sect. Now and then the Confucians exclaim against the celibacy of the Buddhist priests, and indulge themselves in a few jeering observations on the demonolatry of Taou; but, generally speaking, the skeptics do not trouble themselves about the superstitious; and systems directly opposed, being both in the extreme of error, consent to let each other pretty much alone." (Page 182.)
Confucius was born B. C. 549, and died B. C. 477. a brief sketch of his life, Mr. Medhurst proceeds to describe his religion
“ Thus it appears that Confucius, during the greatest part of his life, was engaged in political affairs; and only in his declining years devoted himself to the establishment of a school of philosophy; his system will therefore be more likely to refer to politics than religion, and the pursuit of temporal, rather than eternal good. In fact, it is a misnomer to call his system a religion, as it has little or nothing to do with theology, and is merely a scheme of ethics and politics, from which things spiritual and divine are uniformly excluded. In treating of the government of a country, Confucius compares it to the management of a family, and grounds the whole on the due control of one's self, and the right management of the heart. He expressly lays down the golden rule, of doing to others as we would they should do unto us, and lays the foundation of moral conduct in the principle of excusing and feeling for others as we would for ourselves. The five cardinal virtues, according to his school, are benevolence, righteousness, politeness, wisdom, and truth; and the duties of the human relations, those which should subsist between parents and
After giving children, elder and younger brethren, princes and ministers, husbands and wives, friends and companions. Of all these, filial piety stands first and foremost ; reverence to parents is required, not only in youth, when children are dependant on, and necessarily subject to, their natural protectors; but even to the latest period, parents are to be treated with honor, and after death to be raised to the rank of gods. Without filial piety, they say, it is useless to expect fidelity to one's prince, affection to one's brethren, kindness to one's domestics, or sincerity among friends. Filial piety is the foundation of benev. olence, rectitude, propriety, wisdom, and truth. This feeling, if conceived in the heart, and embodied in the life, will lead to the performance of every duty, the subjugation of every passion, and the entire renovation of the whole man. It is not to be confined to time and place, but it is to be maintained, whether the objects of our respect be present or absent, alive or dead; and thousands of years after their departure, ancestors are still to be exalted in the liveliest apprehensions and undiminished affections of their descendants.” (Page 185.)
To what immediately follows, the reader should pay particular attention. It shows the Confucian philosophy to be essentially atheistic, and lessens the surprise that might otherwise be felt, that it should agree so well with Buddhism :
“ It is strange, however, that while Confucius recommends such an excessive veneration for parents, he should have overlooked the reverence due to the Father of our spirits; and while he traced up the series from parents to ancestors, requiring the highest degree of honor io be paid to our first progenitors, that he should not have considered Him from whom all beings spring, and who is entitled to our first and chief regard. But it is a lamentable proof of the depravity of the human heart, that so acute, intelligent, vigorous, and independent a mind should not have traced the generations of men up to the great Former of all, and thus left his followers in the dark as to the being, attributes, and perfections of the one living and true God. There are, in the works of this philosopher, some allusions to heaven, as the presiding power of nature; and to fate, as the determiner of all things; but he does not appear to attribute originality to one, or rationality to the other; and thus his system remains destitute of the main truth, which lies at the basis of all truth, namely,
the being of a self-existent, eternal, all-wise God.' On one occasion, Confucius exclaimed, “Unless it be heaven's design that my cause should fail, what can the people of Kwang do to me?' Again, when one asked him whether it were best to worship this or that deity, he said, “You are mistaken; he that offends against heaven has no one to whom he can pray.' Another passage runs thus : 'Imperial heaven has no kindred to serve, and will only assist virtue.' The glorious heavens are said to be 'bright, accompanying us wherever we go.' When heaven sent down the inferior people, it constituted princes and instructors, directing them to assist the Supreme Ruler in manifesting kindness through all regions.' 'Lise and death are decreed by fate; riches and poverty rest with heaven.' There are, besides these occasional allusions to heaven, various references to a Supreme Ruler, which would seem to imply that in the infancy of their empire, ere they were spoiled by philosophy and vain conceit, they had derived by tradition from the patriarchal age, some notion of a universal Sovereign, who exercises unlimited control, and to whom all honor is due. The Book of Odes, part of which was written B. C. 1120, speaks of the Imperial Supreme as 'majestic in his descending, surveying the inhabitants of the world, and promoting their tranquillity,' who is to be worshiped and served with abstinence and lustrations, while he takes cognizance of the affairs of men, and rewards or punishes them according to their deeds.
“Chinese philosophers have also spoken much of a 'principle of order,' by which the universe is regulated, and which is accounted by them the soul of the world. The heavens and earth, together with all animate and inanimate things, are, according to them, but one principle, which is as uni
Persally diffused through nature as water through the ocean. To this principle they attribute the power of retribution, and say of the wicked, that though they may escape the meshes of terrestrial law, the celestial principle will not endure them.'
"From these expressions about 'heaven,' the Supreme Ruler,' and the principle of order,' we might infer that the Chinese had some knowledge of the Ruler of the universe, and honored him as such, were we not baffled by the very incoherent manner in which they express themselves, and shocked at the propensity to materialism which they constantly exhibit.
"When describing the origin of the world, they talk in the following strain : *Before heaven and earth were divided, there existed one universal chaos; when the two energies of nature were gradually distinguished, the yin and yang, or the male and female principles, were established: then the purer influences ascended and became the expansive heavens; while the grosser particles descended, and became the subjacent earth. From the combination of these two all things were produced, and thus heaven is the father, and earth the mother, of nature." (Page 188.)
“But it may be asked, 'Have the Confucians no idea of a spirit, and do they not pay divine honors to invisible beings?" To this we may reply, that the learned in China talk largely of spirits and demons, but assign them a very inferior place in the scale of existence. Instead of teaching that the Great Spirit was the Former of all things, they hold that spirits are far inferior to the visible and material heavens, and even rank below ancient sages, and modern rulers. Confucius confessed he did not know much about them, and therefore preferred speaking on other subjects. His universal maxim was, “ Respect the gods, but keep them at a distance ;' that is, 'Show them all due honor, but have as little to do with them as possible.'
“With regard to a future state of being, the Chinese are as much in the dark as in what relates to the Deity. They speak of the intellectual principle as distinct from the animal soul, but do not say any thing definitely about its existence after death. In fact, the Confucians do not connect the idea of retribution with the soul, or the invisible world, at all. They imagine that all the rewards of virtue and vice are confined to the present state ; and, if not dealt out during the lifetime of the individual, will be visited on his children and grandchildren to the latest generation.
“Thus, then, we find the far-famed school of Confucius deficient in two important points, the existence of a God, and the interests of the world to come; teaching a lifeless, cold-hearted, uninfluential system, which is powerless in the present, and hopeless for the future, world.” (Page 195.)
If Confucianism be thus essentially and fatally defective, Taouism, though different in many respects, is better in none. We subjoin a few notices of it:-
“The next of the three sects into which the Chinese are divided, is called •Taou.' This word means, originally, 'a way or path, a principle, and the principle from which heaven, earth, man, and nature emanate.' Le is the latent principle, and Taou is the principle in action. It also means, 'a word, to speak, and to say;' and is very like the Logos of the Greeks. The founder of this sect was Laou-tan, commonly
called Laou-tsze, who was cotemporary with Confucius ; but the Taou, or Reason itself, they say, is uncreated and underived." (Page 197.)
“ The votaries of this sect talk a great deal about virtue, and profess to promote it by abstraction from the world, and the repression of desire : this latter they imagine is to be effected by eating their spirits, or stilling their breath, for a length of time. They say that all depends on the subjection of the heart, and therefore mortify every feeling in order to attain perfect virtue, which is insensibility. Hence some of them wander away to the tops of mountains to cultivate reason, and renounce all intercourse with men, that their studies may not be interrupted. They affect to despise wealth, fame, and posterity; urging that at death all these distinctions and advantages terminate, and the labor bestowed upon them is thrown away." (Page 199.)
“ The followers of Taou, like the Athenians of old, are in all things too superstitious. While the Confucians have scarcely determined whether spirits exist or not, the advocates of eternal reason profess to have constant intercourse with, and control over, the demons of the invisible world. Chang Teen-sze, the principal of the Taou sect in China, who like the lama of Thibet is supposed to be immortal, (or rather, whose place is supplied by a successor as soon as the old one dies,) assumes an authority over Hades. He appoints and removes the deities of various districts, just as the emperor does his officers; and no titulary divinity can be worshiped, or is supposed capable of protecting his votaries, until the warrant goes forth under the hand and seal of this demon ruler, authorizing him to exercise his functions in a given region." (Page 201.)
“The Taou sect worship a variety of idols, some of which are imaginary incarnations of eternal reason; and others, rulers of the invisible world, or presiding divinities of various districts." (Page 204.)
The third religion of China is Buddhism. Buddha himself is said to have been born B. C. 1027, and to have died--or rather, to have become absorbed into nothing, annihilated-B. C. 948. The religion of Buddha was first introduced into China A. D. 66; and now the empire is full of Buddhist temples, and the priests of this sect actually swarm. One of the most favorite doctrines of the sect is, that all things originated in nothing, and that to nothing all things will again return. Their prayers seem to be little more than the continued iteration of certain cabalistical, meaningless sounds, and are impressive but most melancholy specimens of the "vain repetitions," and "much speaking,”-the battologizing and polylogizing, which our Lord so emphatically condemns.
As in India, so in China, Buddhism seems to be, in the priests themselves, a system of philosophical atheism, and of indolent sensuality; and to comprise, in the intercourse of the priests and people, a mass of childish and degrading imposture.
Here, then, are three hundred and sixty millions of human beings, united in one political and social system, speaking, or at all events writing, the same language, and dwelling under the same head; the vast crowd replaced three times every century, and the whole swelling the amount of the living inhabitants of the invisible world; and one description applying to them all,—"HAVING NO HỌPE, AND WITHOUT GOD IN THE WORLD !” Let the advocates of natural religion, as they term it, look to China. For our own part, we scruple not to say, that we rose from the perusal of Mr. Medhurst's volume, feeling as though impressed anew, and more forcibly than ever, with the truth of the New Testament description of the natural condition of man, the value of the New Testament provision for his deliverance, and the necessity of the promulgation of the New Testament message in simplicity and power. Mr. Medhurst devotes a chapter to the consideration of the Catholic missions in China. To some of the missionaries there he awards the praise of genuine, though far from enlightened, Christian zeal; but his account, evidently not overcharged, proves, that, as a whole, popery is everywhere and always the same. It is, however, a remarkable fact that there are, (according to a table which is
given at p. 245) upward of 200,000 Chinese Christians, scattered up and down the empire, in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Christianity, therefore, is not excluded from China; and the imperial edicts, according to Mr. Medhurst, have been, in point of fact, rather directed against European, than against Christian, influence.
Mr. Medhurst's account of the operations of the London Missionary Society at Canton, and in the Indian Archipelago, is both interesting and encouraging. So likewise is the description of his own voyage along the coast of China, and of various interviews with the natives, among whom he distributed a considerable number of copies of the word of life, as well as of religious tracts.We have extracted, however, more largely than we at first intended, and can now do no more than repeat our general recommendation of the volume, thanking Mr. Medhurst for the information which he has communicated in it
, and expressing our earnest hope that its publication may be the precursor of a happier day than China has ever yet witnessed,-a day when the systems of Confucius, Taou, and Buddha shall disappear, and even to the long-incarcerated millions of China, Christ be all in all.
REVIEW OF THE DEFENSE OF THE EXISTENCE OF SATAN AND
HIS ANGELS. [We have not deemed it in accordance with the design of this periodical, to carry on controversies between brethren who may chance to differ in matters of barely private opinion. It is not to be expected that any writer will so express his views as perfectly to satisfy all; and to open our pages to discussions pro and con, in all cases where such differences of opinion may occur, would be to devote the work to a purpose for which it was evidently never intended. But as the theory of the “Existence and Fall of Satan and his Angels” was novel, and somewhat peculiar, we admitted the “Calm Review," and then again the “ Defense,” giving our correspondents each a chance to express his views on the subject. For the same reason we now admit the “Review of the Defense." Here we think the discussion should close, as both parties have probably said all they wish to say in support of their theories severally.]
1. THERE is a sense in which discussion and controversy are not only essentially different in their natures, but evidently should be equally so in their objects and results. The former implies the agitation of a question with a view of eliciting truth; the latter involves the idea of opposition, contradiction, debate, dispute, including an attempt by argument to disprove and confute. The object of discussion is truth; which, for important reasons, should always be equally the object of controversy, especially on moral and religious subjects. But in practice how often is this object completely lost sight of on both sides, and in its place mere conquest is substituted. VOL. X. Jan., 1839.