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OF THE RELIGIOUS
Rites, Ceremonies, and Customs
OR, A COMPLETE AND IMPARTIAL VIEW OF ALL
BOTH ANCIENT AND MODERN,
INCLUDING THE ANCIENT AND PRESENT STATE OF RELIGION
Various Parts, the Religious Rites and Ceremonies of whose Inhabitants
IT has been acknowledged by the wisest men in all ages and nations, that knowledge, properly improved, is the grand ornament of human life, as religion is of the rational faculties. Knowledge distinguishes us from the irrational creation, and Religion places us in a rank far superior to many of our own species. We are not able to comprehend all the secrets of our own nature-we are often lost in admiration, at the consideration of the actions of our fellow creatures ; -but nothing so much excites our attention as religious rites, ceremonies, and customs! That men in different ages, and throughout the universe, have paid adoration to almost every animal, and reptile, on the face of the earth, cannot be denied ; that their idolatrous practices have been ridiculous to the highest degree is equally true; nor is it less so, that many of them have been a disgrace to human nature, even in its corrupted state! God made man after his own image, but he has sought out many inventions; there is a strange propensity in the human mind to deviate from the truth, and to the divine simplicity of holy ordinances mankind are too apt to join something very pleasing to their own imperfect ideas; to captivate the mind, without tending either to improve the morals in this life, or make the soul wise for happiness hereafter. The more we know of all the religions of different nations, the more we are led to enquire, what could induce some men to act so inconsistent with the dignity of their nature?-but this cannot be done unless we attend to the following particulars
1. We must enquire into the causes which gave rise to those forms and ceremonies of human invention, and by comparing them with the state of mankind, and the attributes of the Divine Being, we shall be in some measure enabled to account for their existence.
II. We should attend to what were the sentiments of the people who embraced them, concerning that grand question in divinity, “ The terms of acceptance with the Deity,” which in some measure may be considered as the leading principle of religion in general.
III. We must describe such ceremonies as are absurd and inconsistent in themselves, to the reader, that he may see the difference between them, and the simplicity of the true gospel ceremonials, which, as a revelation from God, were calculated to make men virtuous in time, and blessed in eternity.
Lastly, We must draw such practical inferences from our accounts of every different religion, as will serve to lead the reader to the practice of morality and piety, as the greatest ornament of human life, the rule of manners, and the sure title to enternal felicity.