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punishment upon the subjects of their displeasure and the foretelling of future events. It will immediately be seen, that these are, in fact, the characteristics of the prophetic office; those, I mean, which are external, which produce, therefore, a lasting impression upon the senses of men, and from the force of ocular tradition, would naturally be pretended to, even after the power of God was withdrawn.
That true prophets had such power, is evident from the whole tenor of Sacred History. On their power of predicting future events, it is not necessary to dwell; but it will be seen, that there is a striking analogy between the pretensions of the Indian impostors, and the miracles wrought by the prophets. We have seen, that the former assume the power of curing or inflicting diseases by supernatural means. We find the prophets curing or inflicting the most inveterate diseases, by a word, by a touch, by washing, and other means naturally the most inadequate.* We have seen that the Indian impostors pretend to foretel drought or rain, So, Elijah the Tishbite said to Ahab, “ As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”+ And again, the same prophet, when there was no appearance of change in the heavens, said to the King, “ Get thee up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of abundance of rain."* We have seen, that among the Indians, the conjurers pretend to inflict punishment on their enemies by supernatural ineans. So we read of a true prophet, ibat he cominanded fire to descend from heaven and consume the soldiers who were sent by the King of Israel to take him.ş
But I wish to direct your attention more especially to a very early period of Sacred History, wbile the Gentiles had not yet entirely apostatized from the worship
* Thus Naaman was cured of his leprosy by Elisha, and the same disease inflicted by the prophet on his servant Gehazi. 2 Kings, v.
† 1 Kings, xvii. 1. I 1 Kings, xviii. 41. § 2 Kings, i, 10, 12.
of the true God, and therefore were not yet wholly cut off from the patriarchal church. In the history of Abra. ham and Abimelech, we have an instance of the power which prophets possessed of obtaining blessings for others. “ Now, therefore," said God to Abimelech, " restore the man bis wife: for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live.”* The same power is attributed to Job, who was probably a descendant of Esau; consequently, not one of the chosen family; and, therefore, a prophet among the Gentiles. “The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee and against thy two friends. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt-offering, and my servant Job shall pray for you, for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly.”+
Traces of the same power are to be found in the His tory of Balaam, the prophet of Midian. When the Israelites, on their passage from Egypt, were passing through the country of Moab, the King of the Moabites, alarmed for his personal safety, sent for the prophet to curse them. “Come now, therefore, I pray ihee, curse me this people, for they are too mighty for me; peradventure, I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot, that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed. And the elders of Moab, and the elders of Midian, departed with the rewards of divination in their hand, and they came unto Balaam and spake unto bim the words of Balak. And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as Jehovah shall speak unto me. And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people, for they are blessed."* Here is not only a proof of the power ascribed to the prophet by the nations among whom he
* Gen. ax.7.
Job, xlii. 7. 8.
Numb. xxii. 6, 7, 8, 12.
dwelt, but a recognition, by God himself, of the authority of Balaam to bless and curse in his name. And here, if I mistake not, we may observe the connecting link between the power of true prophets, and the arts practised by the false, after the divme influence was withdrawn, The elders of Moab and of Midian, it is said, "departed with the rewards of divination in their hand." The interence is inevitable, that Balaam, who undoubtedly bad intercourse with the true God, was at times deprived of the divine influence, and that under a sense of that deprivation, he bad recourse to the arts of divination. Of tbis there is farther evidence. “ Surely," be exclaims, in one of his sublime prophecies, "there is no enchantinent against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel." And it is subsequently stated, that “wheu Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments."'* When he could not obtain authority from God to curse Israel, he had recourse, in the depravity ot bis heart, to these unballowed incantations; but finding that it was in vain to contend with the determination of the Almighty, he resigned himself at length to the divine influence, and converted his intended curse into a blessing: “ How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! and thy tabernacles, O Israel !-Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he tbat curseth thee."
In proportion, then, as Idolatry increased, the prophetic spirit in the patriarchal church was gradually withdrawn. While the true God was worshipped, even though in absurd connexion with Idols, the divine influence was sometimes communicated,
But being gradually more and inore frequently denied, the prophets had recourse to the superstitious observances of divination and judicial astrology. And as Idolatry, in its downward course, at length lost sight of the Creator, and worshipped only the creatures, so the prophetic
office degenerated into the arts by which impostors preyed upon the superstition of the ignorant.
I have now, gentlemen, finished the view which I proposed to take of the Religion of the Indians. I am sensible that it is very imperfect, but enough has been said, I hope, to show the analogy which it bears to the religion of the patriarchal ages, and its wonderful uniformity, when covsidered as prevailing among nations so remote and unconnected.
It has already been observed, however, that their rea ligious system can afford no clue by which to trace them to any particular nation of the old world. On a subject so obscure as the origin of nations, there is great danger of expatiating in conjectures. In fact, the view here taken, in some measure cuts off these conjectures, by tracing the Aborigines of America, to a higher source than has usually been assigned to them. If the opiniun I have advanced be true, it will, I think, appear rational to believe, that the Indians are a primi. tive people ;--that, like the Chinese, they must have been anong the earliest emigrants of the descendants of Noah;—that, like that singular nation, they advanced so far beyond the circle of human society, as to become entirely separated from all other men ;-and that, in this way, they preserved a more distinct and bomo geneous character than is to be found in any other portion of the globe. Whether they came immediately to this western continent, or whether they arrived here by gradual progression, can never be ascertained, and is, in fact, an inquiry of little moment. It is probable, however, that, like the northern hordes who descended upon Europe, and who constituted the basis of its present population, their numbers were great ; and that from one vast reservoir, they flowed onward in successive
surges, wave impelling wave, till they bad covered the whole extent of this vast continent. At least, this hypothesis may account for the uniform character of their religion, and for the singular fact which has lately been illustrated by a learned member of the Ameri.
can Philosophical Society, that their languages form à separate class in human speech, and that, in their plans of thought, the same system extends from the coasts of Labrador to the extremity of Cape Horn.
But, turning from speculations which are rendered sublime by their shadowy form, and immeasurable magnitude, I shall conclude a discourse which, I fear, has become already tedious, by remarks of a more practical, and, I would hope, of a more useful nature.
We have seen that, like all other nations unblessed with the light of Christianity, the Indians are idolators; but their idolatry is of the mildest character, and bas departed less than among any other people froin the form of primevai truth. Their belief in a future state is clear and distinct, debased only by those corporeal associations which proceed from the constitutional operations of our nature, and from which even Christians, therefore, are not totally exemp. They retain amoug then the great principle of expiation for sin, without which all religion would be unavailing-And they acknowledge, in all the common occurrences of life, and even in their very superstitions, the overruling power of Divine Providence, to which they are accustomed to look up with an implicit confidence, which might often put to share the disciples of a purer faith.
Provided, then, that their suspicions respecting every gift bestowed by the hands' of white men, can be overcome, the coinparative purity of their religion renders it so much the easier to propagate among them the Gospel of Salvation. In this view, is it possible for the benevolent heart to restrain the rising wish, that the scanty reinnant of this unfortunate race may be brought within the verge of civilized life, and made to feel the influence, the cheering and benigo influence of Christianity? Is it not to be wished, that the God whom they ignorantly worship, may be declared to them, and that, together with the practices they have so long preserved, may be united ibat doctrine which alone can illumine what is obscure, and unravel what