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THE

AUTHOR'S INTRODUCTION

TO VOLUME THE SECOND.

I

KNOW not, whether among the mul

titude of interesting objects which history offers to our reflection, there are any more worthy to engage our thoughts, than te different Religions which have appeared with splendour in the world.

It is on this stage, if I may be allowed the expression, that men are represented, as they really are; that their characters are distinctly marked and truly exhibited. Here they display all the foibles, the passions and wants of the heart; the resources, the powers and the imperfections of the mind.

It is only by studying the different Religions that we become sensible how far our natures are capable of being debafed by prejudices, or elevated, even above themselves, by sound and solid principles. If VOL. II.

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the human heart is a profound abyss, the
Religions that have prevailed in the world
have brought to light its most hidden se-
crets: They alone have imprinted on the
heart all the forms it is capable of receiv-
ing. They triumph over every thing that
has been deemed most essential to our na-
ture. In short' it has been owing to them
that man has been either a Brute or an
Angel.

This is not all the advantage of this
study: Without it our knowledge of man-
kind must be extremely fuperficial. Who
knows not the influence which Religion has
on manners and laws ? Intimately blended,
as it were, with the original formation of
different nations, it directs and governs all
their thoughts and actions. In one place
we see it enforcing and supporting despo-
tism; in another refraining it: It has con-
stituted the very foul and spirit of more
than one republic. Conquerors have fre-
quently been unable to depress it, “even'
by force; and it is generally either the soul
to animate or the arm to execute the ope-
rations of politics.

Religion acts by such pressing motives, and speaks so strongly to mens most important and dearest interests, that where it happens not to be analagous to the national character of the people who have adopted 6

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it; it will soon give them a character analogous to its own : One of these two forces must unavoidably triumph over the other, and become both of them blended and combined together; as two rivers when united, form a common stream, which rapidly bears down all opposition.

But in this multitude of Religions, all are not equally worthy of our research. There are, among some barbarous nations, Creeds without ideas, and practices without any object; these have at first been dictated by fear, and afterward continued by mere mechanical habit. A single glance of the eye thrown upon such Religions as these, is fufficient to show us all their relations and dependencies.

The thinking part of mankind, must have objects more relative to themselves; they will never put themselves in the place of a Samoiede or an Algonquin: Nor bestow much attention upon the wild and unmeaning superstitions of barbarians, so little known and unconnected with themselves. But as for these parts of the world, which we ourselves inhabit, or have under our own immediate view; to know something of the Religions which once prevailed here and influenced the fate of these countries, cannot furely be decmed uninteresting or unimportant.

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