« EdellinenJatka »
of manifestation, to the superintending providence of one Supreme Being. This knowledge they had from the ancient Greeks, who received their theology from the Cretans ; the Cretans from the Phoenicians ; the Phænicians from the Hebrews; the Hebrews from the Egyptians; and the Egyptians from the Antediluvians. For we cannot suppose that men of refined sentiments, who for learning, eloquence, and the polite arts, have been models for imitation to all Europe, and whose literary works are retained in our colleges, as masterpieces of composition, could be so far lost to a sense of right reason, as to worship oceans, rivers, trees, mountains, and the various passions and affections of the mind, as such only : but as symbolical representations of those passions and propensities, of which they were the fittest representatives in outward nature, according to the custom of the Hebrews, and the ancient people before them. Numa had such a rational view of the divine perfections, that he would not suffer the Romans to make graven images, to represent that Being, who is infinite and incomprehensible.
THE WORSHIP OF THE ANCIENT AND MODERN CHINESE.
The theology of the ancient Chinese, who lived be. fore the time of Moses, was, as to its juridical and moral institutes, much the same as is contained in the ancient part of the bible. But their successors, who lived soon after the time of Moses, followed the order of the Hebrews, by dividing the Shu-king, or sacred book, into five parts. They seem to have approved of the Pentateuch. The laws and precepts of their Shu-king are much the same as the sacred code of the Samaritans, and of their Persian neighbours. This book is held in the highest estimation among them for knowledge, concerning the origin of the world, the fall of man, and the worship of one God.
According to the best information we have received, this book was in the possession of the Chinese long before the dispersion of the Jews; in which is preserved the history of the serpent, and the fall of man. It is thus translated in Brudinot's Age of Revelation, p. 317. “ The rebellious and perverse dragon suffers by his pride; his ambition blinded him ; he would mount up to heaven, but he was thrown down upon earth, and lost eternal life.” The Chinese were evidently in existence as a nation, before the time of Moses, and appear to be descended from Joktan, the brother of Peleg, in whose time the earth was divided, which, as has been observed, was not a division of the earth, but a division of the people. Peleg and his descendants continued in the worship of the true God, and in the belief of the coming of the Messiah ; but Joktan and his descendants retained the worship of the patriarchs before Noah, yet did not believe in the coming of a Messiah. That these descendants of Joktan peopled China, and the regions of the east, appears sufficiently plain from the ancient part of the bible. Eber, the great-grandson of Shem, was the father of Joktan, and it is expressly said, that the descendants of Joktan peopled the eastern parts of the world after the flood, Gen. x. 29, 30. “ All these were the sons of Joktan, and their dwelling was from Mesha, as thou goest unto Sephar, a mount of the east.” Now as China lies directly east of that part of the world where the posterity of Eber settled, there can be no doubt that the descendants of Joktan, the brother of Peleg, who settled
to the east of his land, were the people from whom the Chinese are descended. So that we find there is some ground, for their supposing that the Chinese nation is one of the most ancient nations.
In one of these five books, which are the sacred books of the Chinese, a description is given of the Supreme Being, as follows: “He is independent, Almighty—a Being who knows all things—the secrets of the heart are not hidden from Him." These few words, comprehend all the perfections of Deity, his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.
The patriarchal form of government was the government of the ancient Chinese : the emperor was the priest, and officiated at various times in the year, at the great assembly of the empire, when the nobles, and those in authority, constituted this august audience. At this grand national assembly, the emperor offered sacrifices according to the Shu-king, or five sacred books, which had a wonderful effect in establishing the worship of God in that vast empire,
THE MODERN CHINESE
Are supposed to be gross idolaters, though this charge has never been substantiated. It is unjust to charge them with idolatry, because images of the human form are in their temples; with as much justice may we declare, that the ancient Hebrews were idolaters, because the figure of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle, or the compound form of the cherubim, were found in their temples, as I have before observed. It is unreasonable to suppose, that, entertaining such high and just sentiments as are contained in their Shu-king, or five holy books, concerning the unity and perfections of God, they can possibly worship images, stocks and stones, as the creators of the world, and the immediate superintendants of a divine providence, in which they believe.
Their five sacred books, or Shu-king, inculcate virtue and condemn vice; they declare that every good thought is given by Shang-ti, i. c. the God of heaven, who rewards the good, and punishes the evil; and that he is ever ready to afford his influence, to all who are willing to become virtuous. It is therefore impossible to suppose, that this ancient and enlightened race, whose vast population is almost incredible, and who have been acquiring information ever since the flood, should be so deficient concerning the knowledge of the Supreme Being, as has been represented by some writers.
The sovereign pontiff of this vast empire is called the Grand Lama, whose residence is at Thibet, in Tartary, at Patoli, and his palace on a mountain, near Lahassa. The exterior, or plain, near the mountain, is said to be inhabited by twenty thousand lamas, i. e. priests, who, according to their dignity, are placed near the palace of the Grand Lama. He is believed to be God's vicegerent on earth, and to have immediate communication with Fo, i. e. the Deity; who, dwelling in him, gives him all knowledge, and makes him perfectly holy. The emperor acknowledges the pontiff as supreme, and receives a nuncio from Thibet ; who resides in the imperial palace at Pekin. Such is the veneration for this high priest, that when he condescends to be seen, it is at the further end of a superb hall of his palace, by the light of numerous lamps. The people, who are fortunate enough to be admitted, prostrate themselves before him. The Grand Lama, or supreme spiritual monarch, being so far
elevated above all others, never condescends to speak to kings; but they are frequently permitted to prostrate themselves at his feet, to receive the benediction of his hand. All things of a temporal nature being left to the lamas, the communication of the Grand Lama is only with the high dignified lamas; and, through them, in the supreme conclave, his unalterable decrees are communicated to the inferior orders of lamas, who circulate them throughout this vast empire; and also, through a great part of India, Bucharia, Ava, Siam, Japan, Mongulia, Tartary, the kingdom of Cassimere, &c.
Whenever the Grand Lama is approached, it is with the most profound reverence, even by the greatest monarchs, who, if he deigns to lay his hand on their heads, believe that all their sins are forgiven. The Pope of Rome, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Zerif of Mecca, in the plenitude of all their spiritual grandeur, will bear no comparison with this imperial pontiff, who is held in boundless veneration, by one third part of the population of the whole world. This supreme high priest, who dwells in awful solitude in his temple at Patoli, almost inaccessible, surrounded by a display of the most refined external sanctity, unknown in any age or nation ; agreeably to the institutes of his profession, attempts to represent the divine state of tranquillity, of the Divine Being ; who, in his eternal habitation above the heavens, fills all things.
In a great variety of particulars, the worship of the lamas resembles that of the Roman Catholic. They sing the service,-use holy water-give alms, and offer prayers for the dead-make use of beads have confessors who ordain penance ; have a vast number of convents, where reside upwards of 30,000 priests, who have different monastic orders, and who take three vows;