Page images

Chevalier justly observes: "The higher we ascend towards the origin of the Egyptian nation, the clearer we find in their primitive purity, the principles of the natural law at first revealed to man by God Himself; the adoration of the one, only God, Creator of the world and of man."

Well, then, may we borrow Cicero's1 eloquent language on a different though kindred subject, and exclaim: "Why should we entertain a doubt as to the certainty of the existence of a God-a truth which reason and history and all peoples, which the Greeks and the Barbarians, which all ages, which the greatest of philosophers and poets, which the wisest founders of commonwealths, have always admitted! What! shall we wait until the dumb beasts themselves join with men in proclaiming that truth, and not be content with the concurring testimony of mankind!"

Modern nations are not less unanimous than were the peoples of antiquity, in the confession of a Supreme Being. The human family, estimated now at nearly fourteen hundred millions, may be classified in a religious point of view, into the following generic bodies: Jews, Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists, Brahmins, Parsees, and worshippers of Fetichism.

The number of Christians of all denominations is computed at four hundred millions, and the number of Jews at nearly eight millions. That Christians. and Jews worship one God, there is no doubt. The 'De Divinatione, L. I., C. 39.

Mohammedan population amounts to about one hundred and twenty millions. What has been said of Christians and Jews, may also be affirmed of Mohammedans, as is evident from the Koran which contains their rule of faith and morals.


Buddhists, with the followers of Confucius, and Shintos, form the popular religious sects of the great Empires of China and Japan, and are estimated at four hundred and eighty millions. The lower classes generally belong to the first, and the upper and more intelligent classes, to the second of these sects. The alleged moral corruption and religious indifference of the Buddhists, have led some writers into the impression that they are atheists. But the closer investigation of the Abbé Huc, of Du Halde, Baron Hübner, in his Ramble Round the World, and other authors, has considerably modified this unfavorable judgment, and has shown that, underlying gross superstitions, there exists some belief in the Divinity, adulterated, however, by false systems degenerating into Polytheism and even Pantheism. In conversation, one day, with the Abbé Huc, a lama, or priest of Buddha, made the following remarks: "You must not confound," said he, "religious truths with the superstitions of the vulgar. The Tartars, poor simple people, prostrate themselves before whatever they see. But there is

1 It is difficult to estimate the relative number of these three sects. Sir Monier Williams, professor of Sanscrit in the University of Oxford, subscribes to the opinion that all the Buddhists of the world do not exceed one hundred millions.

only one sole Sovereign of the universe, the Creator of all things, alike without beginning and without end." The belief of this lama may be accepted as a fair standard of the faith of the Buddhist priests, and, to a great extent, of the Buddhist people of the Chinese empire; for we are justified in gauging the religion of a nation by that of its priests. At all events, the Buddhists' recognition of a Deity may be inferred from the numerous temples they have erected, and from the fact that they have priests, sacrifices, and religious ceremonies, and believe in a judgment to come and a future state of rewards and punishments-which cannot be reconciled with atheism. Mr. St. George Mivart in his Lessons from Nature, makes the following judicious reflection: "I know that Buddhism, though 'a religion,' is sometimes asserted to be atheistic: but the Buddhistic conception of a power, or principle apportioning after death rewards and punishments according to a standard of virtue, necessarily involves the existence of an entity, which as being most powerful, intelligent, and good, is virtually and logically, a personal God, whatever be the name habitually applied to it."3 So we may conclude with Dr. Cairn, President of the University of Glasgow: "Buddhism, though apparently, is not really an atheistic system."4

1Travels in Tartary, Vol. I., p. 126 et seq.

'Alzog's Univer. Church Hist., Vol. I., p. 76 et seq.; also Hübner's Ramble, pp. 492-93.

3 Lessons from Nature, p. 362.

*Buddhism, in the World's Cyclopedia of Science (John B. Alder, N. Y.), Vol. I., p. 575.

That the upper classes of Chinese are theists, there can hardly be a reasonable doubt. In the year 1600, the Emperor declared in an edict, that the Chinese adore not the material heavens, but the Master of heaven.' The Emperor Kang-hi, in the latter part of the 17th century, wrote the following inscription on the façade of a Christian church in Pekin: "To the true Principle of all things."

On the first column :— "He is infinitely good and infinitely just.

"He enlightens, He sustains. "He rules with supreme authority and with sovereign justice."

On the second column:

"He had no beginning, and will have no end.

"He has created all things from the beginning.

"It is He that governs them, and He is their true Lord."

A learned and experienced Chinese missionary, in a letter addressed, in 1730, to the Director of the Academy of Sciences, in France, says: "It has always appeared to me that those who have accused the lettered Chinese of atheism, have had no other motive than the interest of the cause they sustained. I never saw a Chinese who was a practical atheist. I add that the number of those who wish to pass for atheists, is very small."2


To-day, the number of sceptics, among educated Chinese, is more considerable. But their scepticism is not more practical now than it was in the last century. "I read in a book of an American Pro

1 De la Luzerne, Existence de Dieu, p. 137. 2 Lettres Edifiantes, Tome 21, p. 493.

testant missionary, that the literates of China ordinarily return, at the hour of death, to the belief and practices of Buddhism; and Catholic missionaries have confirmed this assertion." The traveller from whose book we quote these words, Baron von Hübner, mentions facts that fully bear out the above statements, and prove that belief in God underlies the practical conduct of the educated Chinese, or followers of Confucius.

As to the members of the third religious sect which makes up the remainder of the Chinese population, the Shintos-it is admitted, on all sides, that they are theists. The first commandment of their religion is expressed in these words: "Thou shalt honor the gods, and serve thy country."

Brahminism, whose votaries number about one hundred and twenty millions of souls, is the prevailing religion of Hindostan. The Brahmins recognize one Supreme Being, as appears from the Vedas, which is their Sacred Scripture. Towards the end of the last century, Sir William Jones published a digest of the doctrines found in the Vedas, from which I quote the following passages: "What the sun and light are to this visible world, the Supreme Good and Truth is to the intellectual and invisible universe; and, as our corporeal eyes have a distinct perception of objects enlightened by the sun, thus our souls acquire sure knowledge by meditating on the light of truth which emanates

[blocks in formation]
« EelmineJätka »