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C. 3. sect. I.
BOOK have a confused knowledge of him; but they seem to
have little regard to another life, but sacrifice for rain and good seasons. By which it appears, that the ac
count given of them in Thevenot's Collections is not Thevenot, true, viz. That they have no knowledge of God; alRoe, p. 2.
though it were not much to be wondered at, since the same author saith, they are the most barbarous people in the world. But that was a hasty observation by
strangers, who could not understand one word they Purchas,
spake: for sir James Lancaster said, That in seven tom. i. 1. i. weeks' time the sharpest wit among them could not
learn one word of their language, their speech being
uttered only in the throat, like the Caiguæ in ParaquaPlin. N. H. ria. And so Pliny mentions a people of Africa, who 1. v. c. 8. made a noise without any articulate pronunciation ;
Stridorque non vox; adeo sermonis commercio carent; who were surely the ancestors of those Hottentots, concerning whom it is hard to affirm any thing, unless they have learnt lately to express themselves better.
As it seems they have done by Mons. de la Loubere's Du Roy. account of them ; for he saith, That they have some
kind of worship at new and full moons ; and he thinks ii. p. 112. they own a good God, to whom they need not to pray;
but that there is a bad one, to whom they pray not to
hurt them. And in the Journal of Mons. de Chaumont, Journal du we read, That they have no great regard to religion ; Siam, p. 78. but when they want rain, they pray to a certain Being,
whom they know not, but that lives above, and offer milk, the best thing they have ; and that the Dutch secretary had seen them at this sacrifice, with eyes lifted up to heaven, and in a profound silence.
Thus I have gone through all the nations I have met with, who have been said to be without any notion of God or religion. There remains only one objection to be taken off, which relates to a sect in the East
aume de Siam, tom.
. i. c. 10.
Indies, which is said to be atheistical in their principles, CHA P. having an external doctrine for the people, and an internal, which they keep from them.
To give the best account I can of this matter: All the late writers of China do agree, that, besides the original doctrine of the country, there was brought in long since (they generally say 65 years after Christ) a new sect from Indostan, which they call Xekiao. The author is supposed to be one Xekia, or Xaca, (as the Japonese call him,) who lived long before. Matt. Riccius (or Trigautius) saith, This sect was at first Trigaut. received with great applause, because it set forth the immortality of the soul, and the rewards and punishments of another life, but not eternal; because it introduced the doctrine of transmigration of souls. In order to the happiness after death, it required particular devotions to idols, which by that means spread over all China and Japan, as well as other parts of the Indies; and abstinence from flesh, as well as from murder, stealing, &c. and austerities, celibate, retirement from the world, and great liberalities to the Tapoins and Bonzes. Wherein Bertoli, Marini, and the rest agree. But there was a secret under all this, viz. That this was but an external doctrine for the people, but the internal doctrine was another thing; that the supreme felicity lay in eternal nothing; or, as they rather called it, an eternal quiet; and that souls are to pass from body to body, saith Martinius, till they are Martin. At
. fit for it. F. Couplet, who hath given the fullest ac-Couplet count of this matter, saith, That when Xaca came to die, he sent for some of his choicest disciples, and told Confuc. them, that the doctrine he had hitherto declared to p. 28. them was only a show, and not the truth ; and that all things came out of nothing, and would end in nothing, as the late author Le Compte expresses it; and that is
STILLINGFLEET, VOL. II.
lett. ii. p. 325.
Book the abyss where all our hopes must end.
But Couplet saith, That his disciples take great care that this Mémoires,' come not among the people ; and only those, he saith,
even among the Bonxes and others are admitted to it, who are thought capable of such a secret. The eternal doctrine they look on, as he saith, as the wooden account which is raised to support the other ; but they are by all means for keeping that up among the people.
But it is not clear what they understand by returning Loubere du to nothing; for Mons. de la Loubere saith, They do de Siam,t.i. not understand proper annihilation by it, but in a
mystical sense; and two things are implied by it. 1. That such souls as arrive to it are past all fears of returning to the body. 2. That they live in perfect ease and quiet, without any kind of action. And so Couplet explains it by acting, understanding, and de
siring nothing ; so that this is the highest degree of Hist. Nat. quietism; and so Mons. Gervaise, who was among Siam, part. those of Siam, and endeavoured to understand their iii. p. 161. doctrine, saith, That annihilation is to be mystically
understood, and not in a physical sense.
And suppose it to be so taken, what imaginable ground can it be for men of sense (as the Chinese would be thought above others) to take this for granted, because such an impostor said it; concerning whom so many incredible things are said by them, that some have questioned whether there ever were such a person or not: and Loubere seems to think this story a fiction of the Chinese, for he can find nothing of him among
the Talapoins of Siam, with whose traditions he was CHAP. very conversant. But what reason or demonstration did he offer? What ground could they have to believe one, who had been an impostor all his days, should speak truth at last ?
But all this signifies nothing to the consent of mankind. For this was to be kept up as a secret, and only to be communicated to such as were thought capable of it. If they thought this to be the truth, why was it not to be discovered ? Was it because the people were still to be kept up in the common persuasion about religion ? And was this for the sake of the Bonzes ? of whom the wise people of China had a very mean opinion, as they all agree. Therefore it could not be for their sakes. But the people might grow more unruly, if this were known. If the Bonzes were so bad as they make them, they might rather think the people would be better without them; and the best service they could do, was to lay open the fraud and imposture of these men, as those who preached Christianity in China and Japan, after they understood their languages, did very freely. And yet they did assert God and Providence, and the rewards and punishments of another life, against all the doctrines of Xaca, both as to the external and internal part. Matth. Riccius, having attained to good skill in the language of China, published an account of the Christian doctrine at Pekin A. D. 1603, wherein he asserted the being of God, not only from natural reason, but from their own most ancient books; of which Couplet gives Couplet a large account, and how the interpreters of latter times had perverted the sense of them. We have in Kircher a summary of the Christian faith, as it was Kircher published in China ; and therein we find on what China illusgrounds they asserted the being of God, against the ii. c. 1o.
BOOK atheistical sense of Xaca's doctrine, that all things
came out of nothing ; for, if nothing were first, how came things into being? Therefore to bring them into being, there must be a Creator before them; and this Creator is he whom we call God. This was plain and true reasoning, and impossible to be answered by the subtilest of those atheistical wits of China. For no. thing can produce nothing. So that if Xaca's interior doctrine were true, that all things came out of nothing, it must necessarily follow, that there must be nothing before any thing; and what possible imagination can any man of sense have, how any thing should by itself come out of nothing ? There is no repugnancy at all in conceiving that an infinite Power should give a being to that which had it not before; for although the difference between not being and being be so great, yet where we suppose a Power infinite in the cause, that may command the terms of that distance, by giving a being to that which had it not before. To say that nothing can be produced out of nothing, implies that nothing can of itself result out of nothing, where there is no superior Cause; but to say that by no cause whatsoever any thing can be put into being which had it not before, is to take away all possibility of an infinite Power without any reason, when the very being of things is an impregnable reason for it. For since we are certain things are, we must be certain that they came into being; and that must be either out of nothing by themselves, which is impossible, or it must be from such a Power which can give being where it was not, which must be infinite.
Thus far I have considered the general prejudices against religion, and the atheistical pretences of this age; and have shewed how very little they signify to any persons that will take the pains to examine them.