[* Blair’s Sermons, vol i Sermon I]
If this idea of the immortality of the soul should excite a smile, is it more extraordinary than the belief which obtains among some of us, that at the last day the various disjointed bones of men shall find out each its proper owner, and be re-united? The savage here treads close upon the footsteps of the Christian.
The natives who inhabit the harbour to the northward, called by us Port Stephens, believed that five white men who were cast away among them (as has been before shown) had formerly been their countrymen, and took one of them to the grave where, he told him, the body he at that time occupied had been interred. If this account, given us by men who may well be supposed to deal in the marvellous, can be depended upon, how much more ignorant are the natives of Port Stephens, who live only thirty leagues to the northward of us, than the natives of and about Port Jackson!
The young people who resided in our houses were very desirous of going to church on Sundays, but knew not for what purpose we attended. I have often seen them take a book, and with much success imitate the clergyman in his manner (for better and readier mimics can no where be found), laughing and enjoying the applause which they received.
I remember to have seen in a newspaper or pamphlet an account of a native throwing himself in the way of a man who was about to shoot a crow; and the person who wrote the account drew an inference, that the bird was an object of worship: but I can with confidence affirm, that so far from dreading to see a crow killed, they are very fond of eating it, and take the following particular method to ensnare that bird: a native will stretch himself on a rock as if asleep in the sun, holding a piece of fish in his open hand; the bird, be it hawk or crow, seeing the prey, and not observing any motion in the native, pounces on the fish, and, in the instant of seizing it, is caught by the native, who soon throws him on the fire and makes a meal of him.
That they have ideas of a distinction between good and bad is evident from their having terms in their language significant of these qualities. Thus, the sting-ray was (wee-re) bad; it was a fish of which they never ate. The patta-go-rang or kangaroo was (bood-yer-re) good, and they ate it whenever they were fortunate enough to kill one of these animals.
To exalt these people at all above the brute creation, it is necessary to show that they had the gift of reason, and that they knew the distinction between right and wrong, as well as between what food was good and what was bad. Of these latter qualities their senses informed them; but the knowledge of right and wrong could only proceed from reason. It is true, they had no distinction in terms for these qualities—wee-re and bood-yer-re alike implying what was good and bad, and right and wrong. Instances however were not wanting of their using them