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The present volume has for its basis a work published some time since, commonly known by the title of “ Picart's Religious Ceremonies and Customs;" and so denominated from the circumstance, that this distinguished artist prepared embellishments for the work, consisting of more than five hundred copper-plate engravings, which, for elegance of design, and for felicity of execution, have rarely, if ever, been excelled.
The work was originally composed in French, and was comprised in six volumes folio. Its celebrity obtained for it an English translation, in the same number of volumes. This work is an abridgment of the folio Edition. The embellishments have been taken from the English folio translation.
Although the principal part of the volume has been derived from the foregoing work; yet important additions and alterations have been made. These have resulted from a desire to conform the work to the present state of Nations and Tribes, in respect to several of which our knowledge has been greatly enlarged and corrected, since the work of Picart was compiled. It will be seen, that besides that portion of the volume, which is occupied by the Introduction and the History of the Jews, new articles have been
prepared in respect to the Hindoos, and most of the Protestant Communities; while important corrections and additions have been made illustrating the ceremonies and customs of the Mahometans—Indian and African Tribes, &c. The article on the South Sea Islands is chiefly derived from the popular work, “ Polynesian Researches," by Ellis, and from Williams's Narrative of Missionary Enterprises, and the article The Malagasy from Ellis's History of Madagascar.
It was the original plan of the Editor to embrace within the volume proposed, an account of the religion of some nations and tribes, which he has felt himself obliged, in the sequel, to omit, that he might avoid a common and just objection to abridgments, viz. that in the multiplicity of subjects treated of, the interest of circumstance and detail is lost. To the student of anatomy, a skeleton may be an object of pleasant contemplation; but to secure the interests of the casual observer, it must have the usual accompaniments of the living man. The “ Dictionary of Minor Sects," which it was intended should embrace a large number, has been necessarily confined to a “ Brief View” of such only as may be deemed most important,
The belief is entertained that the volume will be found to be replete with interest and instruction, growing out of the subjects upon which it treats. The reader will have presented to him a picture of the religious world. He will perceive upon that picture many dark and distressing shades ;-he will see in what varied and unhallowed forms mankind have worshipped the common Parent of all; he will be led to contemplate the delusions practised upon millions, by the cunning and craft of imposture; the unholy devotion demanded of other millions, by an intolerant hierarchy; and the
debasing superstitions and cruel abominations inculcated upon still more millions of the human family, by an earth-born system of idolatry. From the pain of dwelling upon these darker shades, he will find relief, by turning his eye to some bright spots in the picture. There are, blessed be God, some such spots, illumined by the shedding down of light from on high; and, although that heavenly light is in a degree obscured by the variety and contrariety of opinions, which still prevail among Christian communities ; yet the reader will find it pleasant to reflect that the differences, which now divide the Christian world, are gradually diminishing. A day is coming, when, in respect to essential truths, and perhaps in respect to those which are less important, there will prevail a delightful harmony among the professed followers of a oncè crucified Redeemer. Nay, more than this, the voice of prophecy has predicted a still more glorious triumph of the Son of God. Into the dark corners of the earth, the light of the Gospel will ultimately penetrate, and the habitations of cruelty will become the dwelling places of righteousness. Even at this present time, the Christian Church is gathering in the first fruits of this golden age. The anti-christian systems and the idolatrous superstitions of the world are rapidly approaching their fall. What, if the Jew still clings to the dreams of a Messiah Ben David—what, if the Mussulman still pays his devotions at the tomb of the prophet—what, if the Hindoo yet points to a future avatar of Vishnoo the preserver, the tidings of a crucified Redeemer are spreading through every portion of the globe. “ Idolatry has been overthrown in the islands of the Pacific; and in India, that massive, gorgeous, venerable superstition, which has withstood not only the decay of time, but the sword of Mahomet, zealously protected, patronised, and endowed by a Christian government, has been undermined, and a breach has been made in the outworks. The Bramin has been converted, and the still
CEREMONIES AND CUSTOMS ;
The Forms of Worship
PRACTISED BY THE SEVERAL NATIONS OF THE KNOWN WORLD,
FROM THE EARLIEST RECORDS TO THE PRESENT TIME:
ON THE BASIS OF THE CELEBRATED AND SPLENDID WORK OF
TO WHICH IS ADDED,
A BRIEF VIEW OF MINOR SECTS,
WHICH EXIST AT THE PRESENT DAY.
THE WORK, DESIGNED ESPECIALLY FOR THE USE OF FAMILIES, WILL NOT ONLY BE FOUND
INTERESTING AND INSTRUCTIVE AS A VOLUME FOR GENERAL READING, BUT
OF GREAT IMPORTANCE AS
A BOOK OF REFERENCE.
EMBELLISHED WITH NUMEROUS ELEGANT ENGRAVINGS.
BY WILLIAM BURDER, B.A.
SYDNEY AND HOBART TOWN.