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the infinite wisdom, power, and benevolence of his Creator, and of the ignorance, weakness, and depravity of human nature; sentiments which reason and experience strongly suggest, and which Revelation expressly teaches. Let it be remembered, that long before this prayer was written, Sir William Jones bad demonstrated* to his own satisfaction, that Jesus was the Messiah, predicted by the Prophets; that amongst his projected occupations in India, onet was to translate the Psalms into Persic, and the Gospel of Luke into Arabic,-a design which could only have originated in his conviction of the importance and inspiration of these divine books; that in the year after the date of the prayer, we have a direct and public avowal of his belief in the divinity of our Saviour; and again in the next, another prayer by him expressing his exclusive reliance on the merits of his Redeemer for his acceptance with Gods.
Amongst the publications of Sir William Jones, in which his religious sentiments are expressed, I shall first notice, A Dissertation on the Gods of Greece, Italy, and Rome, written in 1784, but revised and printed in 1786, in which the following passage
Disquisitions concerning the manners and conduct of “our species, in early times, or indeed at any time, are always “ curious at least, and amusing; but they are highly interesting to “ such as can say of themselves, with Chremes in the play,
. We “ ' are men, and take an interest in all that relates to mankind.' “ They may even be of solid importance in an age, when some in“ telligent and virtuous persons are inclined to doubt the authen“ ticity of accounts delivered by Moses, concerning the primitive « world; since no modes or sources of reasoning can be unimportant, " which have a tendency to remove such doubts. Either the first
* Memoirs, page 65,
# Ibid. p. 231.
Ibid. p. 249.
* eleven chapters of Genesis, (all due allowances being made for a 'figurative Eastern style,) are true, or the whole fabric of our “ national religion is false; a conclusion, which none of us I trust “ would wish to be drawn. I, who cannot help believing the divinity “ of the MESSIAH, from the undisputed antiquity, and manifest s completion of many prophecies, especially those of ISAIAH, " in the only person recorded by history, to whom they are ap
plicable, am obliged of course to believe the sanctity of the “ venerable books, to which that sacred person refers as genuine : “ but it is not the truth of our national religion, as such, that I “ have at heart; it is truth itself: and if any cool, unbiassed “ reader will clearly convince me, that Moses drew his narrative,
through Egyptian conduits, from the primeval fountains of Indian “ literature, I shall esteem him as a friend, for having weeded my “mind from a capital error, and promise to stand among the fore. “ most in assisting to circulate the truth which he has ascertained. “ After such a declaration, I cannot but persuade myself, that no “ candid man will be displeased, if, in the course of my work, I “ make as free with any arguments, that he may have advanced, as “ I should really desire him to do with any of mine, that he may “ be disposed to controvert.”
Let not the candour of the declaration, contained in the preceding quotation, alarm the serious Christian ; the fair inference to be drawp from it is this, that Sir William Jones was incapable of affirming what he did not fully believe; and the avowal of his faith in the divinity of our Saviour, is therefore to be received as decisive evidence of the sincerity of his belief: indeed his declaration may be considered as the proof of his faith; and his faith to be grounded in proportion to the openness of his declaration. That any reasoner could convince him, that Moses had borrowed his narrative from Indian sources, he never for a moment supposed,
and if a doubt could be entertained on this subject, another passage in the same dissertation must at once annihilate it. He had indeed no hesitation to acknowledge his persuasion, that a connection subsisted between the old idolatrous nations of Egypt, India, Greece, and Italy, long before they migrated to their several settlements, and consequently before the birth of Moses ; but he was equally persuaded, that the truth of the proposition could in no degree affect the veracity and sanctity of the Mosaic history, which, if any confirmation of it were necessary, it would rather tend to confirm.
“ The divine legate (I now quote his words) educated by the daughter of a king, and in all respects highly accomplished, “ could not but know the mythological system of Egypt, but he “ must have condemned the superstitions of that people, and de
spised the speculative absurdities of their priests, though some “ of their traditions concerning the creation and the food, were " founded on truth. Who was better acquainted with the my
thology of Athens, than Socrates ? who more accurately rersed “ in the rabbinical doctrines, than Paul? Who possessed clearer “ ideas of all ancient astronomical systems, than Newton; or of “ scholastic metaphysicks, than Locke ? In whom could the “ Romish Church have had a more formidable opponent, than in
Chillingworth, whose deep knowledge of its tenets rendered bim
so competent to dispute them ? In a word, who more exactly “ knew the abominable rites and shocking idolatry of Canaan, than - Moses himself? Yet the learning of those great men only in“ cited them to seek other sources of truth, piety, and virtue, " than those in which they had long been immersed. There is no “ shadow then of a foundation for an opinion, that Moses bor" rowed the first nine or ten chapters of Genesis from the literature
“ of Egypt; still less can the adamantine pillars of our Christian ** faith be moved by the result of any debates on the comparative
antiquity of the Hindus and Egyptians, or of any enquiries into " the Indian theology.”
From the same dissertation I select another passage, which from its importance is entitled to particular notice, while it cvinces the solicitude of Sir William Jones to correct a misconception, which, in my opinion, has been idly and injudiciously brought forward to support a fundamental tenet of Evangelical Revelation.
" Very respectable natives have assured me, that one or two “ missionaries have been absurd enough, in their zeal for the “ conversion of the Gentiles, to urge, that the Hindus were even
now almost Christians, because their Bramha, Vishnu, and Ma“ hesa, were no other than the Christian Trinity; a sentence in " which we can only doubt whether folly, ignorance, or impiety, “ predominates."
The three Hindu deities, were perhaps originally personifications only of the creating, preserving, and destroying, or, as it may be understood, the re-producing power of the Supreme Being. By the bulk of the people they are considered as distinct personages, each invested with divine attributes ; and the mythological writings of the Hindus contain most ample and absurd histories of them ; but in the Vedanti philosophy, which is evidently Platonic, the Almighty, known by the mystical and incommunicable appellation of O'M, is the only being, and all others, including Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesa, are only the creatures of idea or perception, which will perish in the general annihilation, whilst O’M alone
survives through all eternity*. Thus, whether we consider the vulgar opinion respecting these three divinities, or that of the Vedanti sect, nothing (to use the words of Sir William Jones) can be more evident, than “ that the Indian triad, and that of Plato, which he “ calls the Supreme Good, the reason and the soul, are infinitely
removed from the holiness and sublimity of the Christian doc“ trine of the Trinity, and that the tenet of our Church cannot “ without profaneness, be compared with that of the Hindus, “ which has an apparent resemblance to it, but a very different. “ meaning."
* On this subject, I shall take the liberty to quote some curious passages from a translation of a Persic version of the Yoog Vashesti, a very ancient composition in Sanscrit. There are several Persian versions of this work; but many pages of that from which the present translation is given, were compared with the original Sanscrit, and found to be substantially accurate.
“ The instability of the world, and of every thing contained in it, is certain ; hence it “ will one day happen, that the evil deities who are now so powerful, shall fall into anni« hilation, and the Debtas distinguished by the title of Amrit, or immortal, shall perish. • The Bermhand, on which all nature depends for existence, shall be broken, and not a “ trace remain of Bramha, Vishnu, or Siva. Time, having annihilated all, shall him“ self perish.
Brainha, Vishnu, and Mahdeva, notwithstanding their exalted dignity, fall into “the jaws of inexistence.
" You are not to consider Vishnu, Bramha, or Mahdeva, and other incorporate beings " as the deity, although they have each the denomination of deva or divine; these are “ all created, whilst the Supreme Being is without beginning or end, unformed and un
created-worship and adore him.
“ The worship which is paid to the inferior deities and the representations of them, proceeds from this : mankind in general are more affected by appearances than “ realities; the former they comprehend, but the latter are difficult to be understood. “ Hence learned tutors first place figures before them, that their minds may be com“posed, and conducted by degrees to the essential Unity who survives the annihilation, « when the Debtas, and all created existence are dissolved and absorbed into his * essence.”