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Alvares, Manuel, 1526-1583, et al. / Ethiopia Minor and a geographical account of the Province of Sierra Leone : (c. 1615)

Chapter 5: The little attention these heathen give to the true faith and their limited understanding of it: the variety of their idols and their peculiar superstitions,   pp. 1-13

Page 2


one of them where God was taking them, he said it was to a lower place.
I replied that what he said was true, since the centre of the earth was
the abode of evil spirits and the destination of those who obeyed them,
for instance those who were not baptised and who did not carry out holy
works. In this way the enemy of the human race maintains the blindness
of savages who scoff and mock at all who teach them concerning the law
of salvation, for in their ignorance they care to know no more than the
law of their own appetites.' He puts such fear into some of them that
when we speak to them of Heaven, they say that they do not wish the
devil to torment them at death as he always does Christians, as we saw
when D. Pedro, our king, died, and suffered trials and agonies at his
passing. Hence they offer us their children, but flee (from baptism)
themselves as if it were an evil thing. When any are converted, they
are converted to our property and our temporal interests, and not to
the Lord and the yoke of His most holy religion. In this way the prince
of darkness has kept these savages for so long in a multitude of sins
and in great ignorance of their true salvation. The whole of Ethiopia
is so thoroughly fenced in and fortified (in its ignorance) that we might
call it the Castle of the Sleeping Beauty, within whose walls all
creatures rest and sleep.
These heathen are much inclined to follow the example of their
parents,(a) and they say : "I tread the way my father did, to complete
life's journey". From this belief arises their unwillingness to listen
to the details of our faith; and possibly they believe that we will
deceive them because we are foreigners. For this reason I have always
held that little /f.63v/ can be hoped for, as regards the spread of
our faith, from the adults. Yet their support is essential. Children
imitate the example of their parents in the practice of ceremonies and
superstitions. By these practices they hope to propitiate that merciless
spirit of evil, rather than the true God. Yet the Lord is such a fr-iend
to us that he never allows the devil to go so far that His creatures lack
enough light to distinguish the evil one's tricks. But it seems that
even in this respect these heathen have failed to deserve His divine
bounty, so widely has the enemy corrupted the customs and good nature of
all of them, so thoroughly has he disarmed them in the face of all kinds
of vice, so completely has he closed their eyes to matters of heaven and

(a) See Chapter 18.


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