By Henry Sumner Maine

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III. ANCESTOR-WORSHIP. I HAVE said that the rules of life contained in the most ancient of the sacred law-books of the Hindus are strongly affected by two systems of religious belief which were probably at one time independent of one another. Although welded together by the Hindu sacerdotal lawyers, the purgation of sin by posthumous punishment in a series of hells, and the purgation of sin by transmigration from body to body, are distinct solutions of the same problem. The breach of the rules set forth in the law-books afflicts the lawbreaker with a special taint, which, unless he be cleansed from it by proper penances in his lifetime, will cling to his spirit after death, and can only then be purged away by far severer expiations.

A Brahman, or a semi-divine sage, depends He goes out of the world what his own deeds have made him ; and the impossibility of dis- sociuting the past from the future is declared by these writers in language of much solemnity. If a man departs modified by voluntary sinfulness or involun- tary impurity, and if he has not expelled the taint by due penance, he will become one of the lowest 36 RELIGION creatures ; if he dies purer reach the highest tinguishable AND LAW. than he was born, stage of humanity from divinity.

The nearest control over the law- making power which they once possessed, must be sought in the indefinite but most real and effective authority which an English its virtual monopoly Cabinet enjoys through of the initiative in legislation. - 26 RELIGION AND LAW. CHAPTER RELIGION cHAr. n. II. AND LAW. THE most ancient of the books containing the sacred laws of the Hindus appear to me to throw little light on the absolute origin of law observance, some system Some system of actual of custom or usage, must lie behind them ; and it is a very plausible conjecture that it was not unlike the existing very imperfectly sacerdotalised customary law of the Hindus in the Punjab.

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Dissertations on Early Law and Custom by Henry Sumner Maine


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