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apparently very devout, and strongly attached to their religious rites, are not less savage in their manner of worship, than those barbarians of the north, whom we last mentioned. Human victims are offered at the accession of every new sovereign, by the chiefs of the several districts, in acknowledgment of their subjection: and on many other occasions, which are distinguished or nothing so remarkably, as the repetition of this dreadful rite."†
The custom of offering human sacrifices is common to that group, called the Society Islands. It likewise prevails at the Friendly, and Sandwich Islands.
Nothing could be more extavagantly ferocious, than the religion of the Mexicans. Fasts, penances, voluntary wounds, and tortures, constituted the essence of their rites. Human sacrifices were deemed the most acceptable; and every captive taken in war, was cruelly tortured and sacrificed. The heart and head were the portion of the gods; while the body was resigned to the captor, who, with his friends, feasted upon it. The austerities and voluntary wounds of the priests, their poisonous gintments, and other abominable rites, evince, that the entire system was the most execrable, that ever appeared on the face of the earth, alike blasphemous to God, and pernicious to men." (Bigland, v. 501.) The number of human victims annually offered at Mexico, has been thought to be judiciously estimated at two thousand five hundred.*
Though it does not appear, so far as I know, that the Hindoos at present, offer human sacrifices, by immolation at an altar, it is nevertheless true, that until within a few years such victims were offered to the river Ganges. The
+Among the Paunees, Indians south of the Missouri, they worship the great star, Venus. They offer human sacrifices. Children they transfix on a pole, and
thus offer them.
Record. v. iii. 50.
*There is good evidence that human sacrifices, within a few years past, and within a few miles of Bombay, have been repeatedly made on various occasions, to local deities. Panop. Feb. 1818, p. 79.
natives of Hindostan, says Dr. Buchanan, particularly the inhabitants of Orissa,* and of the eastern parts of Bengal, sometimes make offerings of their children to the goddess Gunga, i. e. to the river Ganges. This sacrifice is made in fulfilment of a vow, offered by parents, apprehensive of not having issue. If, after this vow, they have children, the first born is preserved, till they have a convenient opportunity of returning to the river, at the period of assembling at the holy places. They then take the child with them; and, at the time of bathing, it is encouraged to walk into the deep water, until it is carried away by the stream. If unwilling to go forward, it is pushed off by the parents.
The following account is taken from the Asiatic Annual Register. "So lately as November 1801, some European seamen, belonging to the pilot service of Bengal, being on shore, on the island Sagor, witnessed a horrid ceremony. On going on shore, they saw the entrails of a human body, floating on the water, and, at the same time, a great number of the natives assembled on the beach, as near as they could conjecture, about three thousand. On asking why so many of the natives were put into the water, they were informed, that the head Fakeer had ordered them thither to be devoured by the sharks, for the prosperity of their respective families. They saw eleven men, women and boys thus destroyed; and it further appeared by other incontestable evidence, that the victims, destroyed in November, amounted to thirty nine."
"When a sick person is supposed not to be likely to recover, particularly if he be aged, he is conveyed to the river, in which the lower half of his body is immersed. Water is copiously poured into his mouth; and he seldom survives the operation many hours." There is a striking resemblance between this account, and that, which we receive
*I forbear to give you that particular account of the Moloch of Orissa, which has been published by Dr. Buchanan, an eye witness.
of the same people, from Herodotus. (Herod. Thal. 99. or Beloe's Transl. v. ii. 119.)" If any man among them," says he, "be diseased, his nearest connexions beat him to death; alledging in excuse, that sickness would waste and injure his flesh. They pay no regard to his assertions, that he is not really ill; but, without the smallest compunction, deprive him of life." The two passages compared, serve to verify a remark of Dr. Robertson, that hundreds even thousands of years have done little towards changing the Indians, either in their customs or character.
It is not improper here to mention the custom, extensively prevalent in India, of the burning of widows with their deceased husbands. Dr. Buchanan acquiesces in the conclusion, that not less, than ten thousand widows, perish annually by self devotement, in the northern provinces of Hindostan alone.
Dr. Leyden has informed us, that the natives of the interior of Sumatra give this account of themselves, that they frequently eat their own relations, when aged and infirm: and that, not so much to gratify their appetite, as to perform a pious ceremony. Thus, when a man becomes infirm and weary of the world, he is said to invite his own children to eat him, at the season, when salt and limes are cheapest. He then ascends a tree, round which his friends and offspring assemble, and as they shake the tree, join in a funeral dirge, the import of which is," the season is come; the fruit is ripe ; and he must descend." "The victim descends: and those, who are nearest and dearest to him, deprive him of life, and devour his remains in a solemn banquet." (Chris. Research. 145, quoting Asiatic Res. x. 203.) This strikingly corresponds with the practice of the ancient Indians, as stated by Herodotus; "the more aged among whom, he asserts, were regularly killed and eaten." Thalia 99, or vol. i. 213.
I had occasion to notice, in a former lecture, that, in the ancient system of heathen worship, there was a most disgusting mixture of lasciviousness and cruelty. This remark applies in full force to the religion of modern pagans.
In Orissa, a province of Hindostan, stands the temple of Juggernaut. This idol has been considered, as the Moloch of the present age. His temple is a stupendous fabric. As other temples are usually adorned with figures, emblematical of their religion; so Juggernaut has representations, numerous and various, of that vice which constitutes the essence of his worship. The walls and gates are covered with indecent emblems, in massive and durable sculpture. In the worship of this god are chanted songs, the most indecent and licentious. These, say the infatuated devotees, are the delight of the god. To engage in this worship, incredible numbers assemble annually from the various parts of Northern India. The assembly, it appears, consists of many hundred thousands. An image of enormous size is drawn on a car, sixty feet high. Under the wheels of this car, it is common for persons to throw themselves for the purpose of being crushed to death. This god is said to smile, whenever a libation of blood is thus made.
This account, let it be considered, is given by an eye witness, a man highly respected for piety and literature. Nor have eight years elapsed, since he was present at this scene of abomination and horror.
Another writer gives a corresponding account, in a spirit, equally indignant. "These pagans," says he, "in forming their idols, cast out every vestige of beauty, every thing, that, by consent of mankind, is supposed to convey pleasing sensations, and, in their place, substitute the most extravagant and unnatural deformity, the most loathsome filth, and the most disgusting obscenity. It is not in language to convey an adequate idea of their temples, and idols; and, if it were, no purpose could be answered by it, but the excitement of painful and abominable emotions." Priest. Ins. of Mos. 227.
Every pagoda, we are told, have a certain number of prostitutes annexed to it, dedicated to its use, by pompous and solemn ceremonies. In the Decan, it is customary for parents to dedicate their children to this profession.
In the worship of modern pagans we find not only all that is impure and sanguinary, but the most degrading stupidity.
By these institutions, the rational nature of man is debased and outraged. The Sovereign of the universe requires a rational service. The worship of the heathen is strikingly the reverse. "What the hindoos call prayer, and which they suppose to be so efficacious, bears little or no resemblance to what Jews and Christians signify by that term. It is no proper address to the Supreme Being, expressive of the sentiments of humility, veneration and submission; but the mere repetition of certain words, the pronunciation of which can be supposed to operate only as a charm. The worshippers of Vishnou, it is said, pretend that his name, though pronounced without any determinate motive, or even in contempt, cannot fail to produce a good effect. This alone, they say, has the power of effacing crimes."
The greatest part of the worship of the Hindoos, it is asserted on the testimony of Pietro della Valle, consists of nothing, but music, songs, dances, and in waiting on their gods, as if they were living persons, viz. in presenting them things to eat, washing them, perfuming them, giving them betel leaves, dying them with a particular kind of wood, carrying them abroad in processions, &c. Inst. of Mos. 161.
The Scharmans of Siberia, whose religion has been mentioned, pretend, like the ancient Babylonians, to nourish their idols with food. By way of offering them incense, they make a smoke with burning flesh, blood, or boughs of fir and wormwood, before them. But when misfortunes befal them, they load them with abuse; sometimes dash them against the ground, throw them into the water, or beat them with rods.
Belonging to the Hindoo religion are great numbers of devotees, who give themselves up to the most severe abstinence and torture. Some will keep their arms constantly stretched over their heads, till they become quite withered, and incapable of motion. Others keep them crossed over their breasts, during their lives, some chain themselves to