Page images


external worship was only for lesser deities. And Tri- CHAP. gautius (or rather Riccius, who lived a long time in China) gives this account of the religion of that ancient Christian. and famous kingdom: That at first they owned the Exped, ap. supreme God, Lord of heaven, but afterwards they c. Jo. ed. came to worship inferior deities; and this, he saith, he took out of their most ancient annals and books of wisdom, which, he saith, did not, in respect to religion and morality, come short of the best philosophers of Greece. He affirms, that the sect of the learned, as he calls them, did still worship one God, because all inferior things are preserved and governed by him; but that they gave an inferior worship to spirits under him. They are silent about the beginning of things, as out of their knowledge; but there are some of no such reputation, that talk their own vain dreams, to which little regard is given. But Martinius hath given Martin.

Hist. Sinic. some account of these notions among them: Some init. would have all by chance, others held the eternity of the world. He saith, that their ancient books speak of the supreme Governor of heaven and earth; and although they have not a proper name for God, yet he confesses they have such as express his authority and government of the world. Bartoli saith they are ex- Bartoli

, Hist. Asiat. tremely mistaken, who charge this learned sect with part. iii. atheism, because they have no temples, nor public ce-' 1. P remonies of worship for him; because they apprehend that the supreme God is to be solemnly worshipped only by him that is supreme among them. And Ma- Magaillans

Novel. Rel. gaillans, who was well acquainted with the court of de la Chine, China, and died there about twenty years since, gives Lond. 1688. this account of Divine worship: That at Pekin there is a temple, called the Temple of Heaven, wherein there is a very large cupola supported by eighty-two pillars, wherein the emperor himself offers sacrifice, STILLINGFLEET, Vol. 11.




- Bartoli


ch. 1.




Le C


BOOK on the day of the winter solstice, with great solemnity

and humility; and another, wherein he doth the same at the summer solstice; before which, he saith, they observe a strict fast for three days. He inquired of one of their learned men, what they meant by this solemn worship of heaven ; whether it was directed to the material heaven? He answered, that they took heaven not only for the visible heaven, but for the Creator and Governor of all things; and that at the four seasons of the year their emperor did offer sa

crifice in temples on purpose, not to the creatures, but Couplet to the spiritual Heaven. F. Couplet saith, That by Decl. Proæm. ad the ancient custom of China the emperor only sacri

P. ficed to the King of heaven, as often as there was

te, great occasion for it; and that, if he were in a propart. ii." lett. ii. gress, he did it upon the hills and mountains. And 1697. by the last account we have from China, we find the

same custom is kept up at Pekin by the present emperors, since the conquest of China. Now it were very unreasonable to infer, that there is no religion or worship of the supreme Being in China, because it is not commonly practised; since, according to their notion of ceremonies, wherein they are the nicest people in the world, they think none ought to perform worship to the Supreme in heaven, but he who is their supreme upon earth.

Another thing we are to observe in passing our judgment whether nations have any religion among them, is to have a care of trusting too much to the sayings of known and professed enemies; but as much as may be we ought to take the opinion of the most free and disinterested persons, who have conversed among them on the account of religion. This I intend chiefly with respect to the Spaniards' accounts of the West Indies, when their design was to enslave the

Dec. i. c. I.

poor Indians; for then they made it their business to CHAP. blacken them as much as possible, by representing them as a people without any sense of God or religion, or any virtues belonging to human nature. But the contrary appears from the first, the most impartial and the latest accounts we have of them, from such as have been conversant among them upon the account of religion.

In the first account we have of the discoveries of the West Indies, we find that when Columbus came to the Columbi

Navigat. islands of Hispaniola and Cuba, he soon found that c. 5. Basil. they worshipped the sun and moon, and the heavens, 1537. but could not then discover what other deities, they worshipped; which Peter Martyr Anglerius under- Pet. Mart. stands both of the natives and of the Caribbians, who were savages, and very troublesome to them: and he tells a remarkable story of one of the natives coming to Columbus at Cuba, being a man of eighty years of age, and desired to discourse with him by an interpreter. The substance of it was, that he understood that he, with his ship, had given a great disturbance to the natives, and bade him to consider, that, after death, there were two passages for souls ; the one dark and dreadful, for those who were troublesome to mankind; the other pleasant and delightful, for those who promote the peace and welfare of people: and if he considered that every man was to receive according to his actions after death, he would give over being so uneasy to them. Columbus took the advice very well, and pretended that they only came to assist them against the savages and cannibals, and would hurt none of them ; which the old man was so pleased with, that, as old as he was, he said he was ready to go with him in so good a design. Was there any thing that savoured of barbarism or irreligion in this dis



BOOK course, or what would not become a good Christian to

say? Besides, the same author commends their way of living far beyond what the Spaniards brought among them, (as appeared by Columbus's own suffering for checking their enormities.) They enjoyed the profits of the earth in common, without any division or property, having enough for every family; and none suffered but such as injured others; and without laws and judges they did what was right. This was a great character from one who was particularly intrusted in the affairs and council of the Indies, and had all the accounts sent to him, out of which he framed his Decades. They thought, as he saith, that contentment lay in a little compass; and they had more than they knew what to do with. To the same purpose Lerius

gives an account of a conference he had with a BraLer. Hist. zilian old man, about trade. I pray, said he, why do Bon your countrymen take so much pains to come hither ed. Francof. for our wood ? Have they not enough for fuel ? Yes,

said Lerius; but your Brazil wood is of great advantage to them in trade; by which they grow very rich. Very well, saith he; and when they are so rich, do they not die as other men do? And whither then go all these riches? To their children or relations. Then, said the poor Brazilian, your countrymen are a company of great fools, (insigniter fatui:) for why should they undergo so much toil and danger by sea and land, to get that which they must part with when they die ; and for the sake of those children, who might live as contentedly without those riches? Do not you think that we love our children as well as you? But we are contented that the same earth which nourished us will do as much for them. These barbarous Brazilians, saith Lerius, will rise up in judgment against too many Christians. To the same purpose, he saith, one

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

ed. Francof.

of the natives of Peru discoursed the Spaniards, who CHAP. took so much pains to get their gold; and said, They. were the froth of the sea, restless and uneasy; who might with far less trouble get a subsistence at home. These things I mention to shew that these people were far enough from wanting sense and capacity, when the Spaniards came among them, and seemed to have a much truer notion of the happiness of human life than they had.

But to shew how far they were from being without religion at that time, we have an account by Benzo Benzo Hist. (who lived a great while in the West Indies upon their 1. i. c. 8.

in the West Indies non their NoviOrbis, first discovery) of an oracle among them, which foretold the Spaniards a considerable time before. For the Cachiqui and Bohitii (i.e. their great men and priests) told Columbus, That in the time of the father of their present king, he and another king had a great mind to understand what would happen after their time; and to that end resolved to apply themselves to their Zemes (the gods they worshipped) in an extraordinary manner, by fasting five days together in a most sad and mournful condition. And then they received that oracle: upon which they made a most doleful song, which they repeated at certain times; but now they found things happened to them just as they were foretold. The same Benzo informs us, that, after Colum- Cap. 17. bus discovered the continent, the islands were soon left by the Spaniards in hopes of greater gains; and finding they could not manage the nations as they desired, they sent persons on purpose to make the worst representation possible of them, that they might have an edict to condemn them to perpetual slavery. And therein they charge them with all manner of vices; but as to religion, they only accuse them of idolatry : but if they had found any such thing as atheism and

« PreviousContinue »