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Indians are nearly exterminated. The nation of Israel will hereafter be restored to the land of their forefathers; but this event must speedily arrive, or the unhappy tribes of America can have no part in it. A few years more, and they will be beyond the capability of migration!
The question, then, with regard to the immediate origin of the American Indians, must remain in the uncertainty which hangs over it. Nothing but a more extensive knowledge of the languages of this continent, of those of Northern Asia, and of the Islands in the Southern Pacific, can throw any additional light upon a problem, which has so long exercised, and so completely exhausted, the ingenuity of conjecture. Their religion furnishes no
assistance in the solution, for it cannot be identified with that of any particular nation, in any other portion of the globe; and though resemblances, and those very strong and striking, can be traced, yet they are such as are common to the great family of man, and prove nothing but that all have one common origin.
It will be readily seen, however, that this proof is of vast importance. If the religion of the Indians exhibits traces of that primeval religion which was of divine appointment; if the debasement of it was owing, as among all other nations, to the concurrent operation of human ignorance, weakness, and corruption; and if its rites, and even its superstitious
observances, bear that analogy to those of the old world, which must exist where all have flowed from one source: then all that is really useful in the question respecting the origin of the inhabitants of this continent will be fully obtained.
There will be no anomaly in the history of human nature; and the assertion of Voltaire will be found to be as false as it is flippant, that the Americans are a race entirely different from other men, and that they have sprung into existence like plants and insects.*
* "Il n'est permis qu'à un aveugle de douter que les Blancs, les Négres, Jes Albinos, les Hottentots, les Lapons, les Chinois, les Américains soient des races entièrement différentes." Voltaire Œuvres, vol. 16. p. 8.
"Au reste si l'on demande d'où sont venus les Américains, il faut aussi demander d'où sont venus les habitants des terres Australes; et l'on a déjà répondu que la providence qui a mis des hommes dans le Norvège, en a planté aussi en Amérique et sous le cercle polaire meridional, comme elle y a planté des arbres et fait croître de l'herbe." Ibid, p. 10.
"Se peut-il qu'on demande encore d'où sont venus les hommes qui ont peuplé l'Amérique ? On doit assurément faire la même question sur les nations des Terres Australes. Elles sont beaucoup plus éloignées du port dont partit Christophe Colomb, que ne le sont les iles Antilles. On a trouvé des hommes et des animaux partout où la terre est habitable; qui les y a mis? On a déjà dit; C'est celui qui fait croître l'herbe des champs: et on ne devait pas être plus surpris de trouver en Amérique des hommes que des mouches." Ib. p. 37.
How much pains did this extraordinary man take to degrade that nature of which he was at once the ornament and the shame! No one can read the writings of Voltaire, without a feeling of admiration at the wonderful versatility of his talents. No one can help being amused, and having his mind drawn along, by the powers of his excursive fancy. But with all this, there is, to every serious and sensitive mind, a feeling of disgust and shrinking abhorrence. By associating ludicrous images with subjects which have been hallowed by the veneration of ages, he has the address to impart to them that ridicule which properly belongs only to the company in which he has
Previous to the dispersion of the descendants of Noah, the knowledge of the true God, of the worship which he required from his creatures, and of the sanctions with which he enforced his commands, must have been common to all. It is impossible to conceive of any distinction where all were equally related to him, and possessed equal means of instruction and knowledge. In a word, the whole of mankind formed one universal church, having the same faith and the same worship.
How long this purity continued we know not, nor when, nor where, idolatry was first introduced. That it began, however, at a very early period, we have the strongest evidence; for Terah, the father of Abraham, was an idolater, notwithstanding the precepts and example of Noah, both of which, for more than a hundred years, he personally enjoyed. We may account for it from that tendency in our nature which seeks to contract every thing within the compass of our understanding, and to subject it, if possible, to the scrutiny of our senses. A Being purely spiritual, omniscient and omnipotent, is above our comprehension, and we seek, by the multiplication of subordinate deities, to account for the opera
placed them. Hence, his writings have done more injury to truth, and to human happiness, than those of any other modern—perhaps I may add, of any other being. The thoughtless and the timid have been frightened out of their good principles by his caustic sarcasm, while to the rashly bold and ignorantly daring, the eyes of the judgment have been blinded by the coruscations of his wit.
tions of his power. When this is done, the imagination feels itself at liberty to clothe them with corporeal forms; and from this idea, the transition is not difficult, to the formation of idols, and the introduction of idolatry.
But notwithstanding this departure from primeval purity, the religion of mankind did not at once lose all its original brightness. It was still the form of the archangel ruined. It did not reject the worship of the true God, but seems only to have absurdly combined with it the worship of inferior divinities.
When Abraham sojourned at Gerar, the king of that country had evidently communications with the Almighty; and the testimony which God gave of the integrity of his character, and his submission to the divine admonition, clearly prove that he was a true believer.*
At a subsequent period, when Isaac lived in the same country, the king, a descendant of the former monarch, requested that a covenant of friendship should be made between them, because, as he observed, Isaac was the blessed of Jehovah.†
This," as Bishop Horsley remarks, "is the language of one who feared Jehovah, and acknowledged his providence."‡
When Joseph was brought before the King of
+ Gen. xxvi. 28, 29.
* Gen. xx. 3, 4, 5, 6. See also xxi. 22, 23. + Horsley's Dissertation on the Prophecies of the Messiah, dispersed among the Heathen, prefixed to Nine Serm. p. 41. New-York, 1816. 8vo.
Egypt, both speak of God as if they had the same faith, and the same trust in his overruling provi-. dence.*
Even at so late a period as when the Israelites entered Canaan, the spies of Joshua found a woman of Jericho, who confessed that "Jehovah, the God of Israel, he is God in Heaven above, and in the earth beneath."+
The book of Job presents an interesting view of the patriarchal religion as it existed in Arabia; and, it will be remembered that, in Mesopotamia, Balaam was a prophet of the Most High.
These instances are sufficient to show how extensively the worship of the true God prevailed, and that it had not become extinct even when the children of Israel took possession of the land of promise, and became the peculiar people of Jehovah. That it was blended, however, with the worship of inferior divinities, represented in idolatrous forms, is equally apparent from the sacred history.
When the servant of Abraham had disclosed to the family of Nahor the purpose of his mission, both Laban and Bethuel replied: "The thing proceedeth from Jehovah; we cannot speak unto thee bad or good." This reply was an evidence of their faith in the true God; yet it afterwards appears that the same Laban had images which he called his Gods, and which were regarded with veneration, and
Gen. xli. 25. 32. 38, 39.
† Josh. ii. v. 11.
Gen. xxiv. 50.