« ForrigeFortsæt »
The gentiles also, among whom the most signal and illustrious triumphs of Christianity were obtained, constituted in many respects the most civilized and learned part of the world, as known at that time: and the gospel began its course, when learning had but little declined from its highest celebrity, immediately after the Augustan age. The Greeks and Romans, who called the rest of the world barbarians, were the very people among whom the gospel obtained a vast proportion of its success, both at first and in subsequent ages. In the Roman colonies, and in the Grecian cities, in Egypt and the northern coast of Africa, in Syria, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece, and even Rome itself; the first Christian churches, out of Judea, were planted. In the heart of those renowned countries, not only addicted in a most haughty manner to their own customs and superstitions, and despising others, especially the Jews; but also comprising almost all the learning which was then known in the world; Christianity, preached by converted Jews, acquired such a firm establishment, as to undermine both pagan idolatry and pagan philosophy, and erect her throne on their ruins : and the effects continue to this day. This was accomplished, amidst the persecuting rage and cruelty of the Roman emperors and other princes ; and amidst the scorn and vain reasoning of the philosophers, of every sect and name !
No doubt Christianity triumphed also, in uncivilized and illiterate regions; and at an early period it was established in Britain, then the abode of rude and almost naked savages. But a veil seems purposely to have been cast over the history
of Christianity in other parts of the world; and its triumphs in the seats of civilization, learning, philosophy, and authority, are almost exclusively recorded, at least in an authentic and satisfactory
Christianity scorned, so to speak, to shrink from the most acute and adequate investigation, or to take any advantage of men's ignorance and incapacity: it challenged the closest examination from all those who were most competent to detect the fallacy, if there were any, and to judge of its claims. It challenged, I say, this examination : it stood the test, and it triumphed over every opponent, through succeeding generations; and it has triumphed over all to this very day!
Mohammed, on the contrary, arose among the Arabs, who, (except in a kind of astronomy, not much better than astrology,) were extremely illiterate, as he himself also was. The time of his appearing coincided, not only with the deep corruption of Christianity, in various ways, and especially by the idolatrous worship of images, of saints, and angels; but also with a term in the annals of history, marked by the decay, and almost extinction, of literature ; and only to be exceeded in ignorance by the dreary ages which followed. The western empire had been subverted by the irruptions of the northern barbarians and others : and the eastern was so divided and enfeebled, that it was capable of making only a very slight resistance. Even the Persian empire was weakened almost to helplessness. The eastern church, also, was torn in pieces by fierce contests, as well as corrupted by pestilent heresies and superstitions.
* It is evident that Mohammed, by the teaching of some Jews, or, as others think, of a Nestorian monk, had acquired a confused knowledge of the Old Testament, and a superficial acquaintance with Christianity: and taking advantage of the divided and corrupt state of the church, which had widely deviated from the scriptures, he professed to be the apostle of God, to rectify and perfect both the religion of Jesus, and that of the Jews, and to establish the religion of Abraham ' the orthodox,' THE HALTER, so the Arabic word signifies. Abraham, says he, was not a Christian, not associating any with God in worship ; not a Jew, as not observing the Jewish ceremonies : but he halted between both, and so was orthodox. His plausible pretences in this respect, among those who just knew enough to see that the worship of images and of created beings was idolatrous; but were too ignorant to discriminate on other matters with any accuracy; concurring with various other circumstances, gave him at length, and after many delays, considerable success among those of his own nation, and in the countries which had formed the eastern empire and the Greek church; where the most deplorable ignorance prevailed, not only among the laity, but even among the clergy and bishops. In after times indeed his successors and followers cultivated learning; and (which was easily effected,) added superiority in science to the victorious power of their arms. Thus their triumphs were extended more and more widely ; in Asia, Africa, and many parts of Europe : and the Turks, or Othmans, succeeding to the Saracens, the establishment of Mohammedism continues to this day. But neither at first nor afterwards, were its professors required to exhibit their religion and its evidences amidst keen, sagacious, learned, and philosophical opponents, possessed of superior rank and authority, and able to excite the arm of persecution, in aid of their exertions and reasonings, against the detested innovators; as the case had been, with those by whom Christianity was propagated. The triumphs of Mohammedism were in dark and illiterate ages, and in the dark and illiterate regions, of the world: and, however it may have been in Africa and the east, the revival of learning, and the spirit of acute investigation, which accompanied the reformation of Luther and his coadjutors, stayed the progress of Mohammedism, in all countries to which the influence of that revolution in learning and public opinion extended, and terminated its triumphs; nay, reduced its dominion within more narrow limits.--This leads us to consider,
2. The nature of the religion which Jesus and Mohammed respectively propagated.
The religion of Mohammed, as far as doctrinal points are concerned, resembled in many respects that of modern Socinians or Unitarians, as they very improperly and unfairly call themselves. His great zeal was manifested against ASSOCIATORS; or those who joined idols, or creatures, or Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit, with God in religious worship ; whom he condemns and anathematizes, and threatens with hell-fire, almost in every chapter of the Koran, and often repeatedly in the same chapter. He argued almost exactly in the same manner against the idea of God's having a
Son, as Mr. C. does. He attempted to divest Christianity, not only of its corruptions, but also of its mysteries ; especially of the great mystery “ of godliness, God manifest in the flesh :” and how palatable this is to the pride of self-wise man we well know.
“ The offence of the cross," the doctrine of the atonement, and all ideas of redemption, are excluded from his system ; along with that of regeneration, and a new creation unto holiness. Consequently the doctrines of original sin, man's depravity as a fallen creature, his universal exposedness to the wrath of God, and his need of gratuitous mercy and salvation, do not at all occur to affront the self-righteous and selfconfident pride of the human heart.
In one particular indeed Mohammed wholly differed from modern Socinians ; namely, that a state of future and eternal judgment is a prominent part of his system: but this, as he managed it, exceedingly forwarded his success among rude and ignorant barbarians and half Christians : for none but infidels, and ' associators,' and apostates from his religion, were exposed to it. All who believed in God and in his prophet Mohammed, and paid a kind of quit rent of prayers, alms, and pilgrimages, without regard to the holiness or unholiness of their general conduct, were secured against this tremendous doom. A sort of purgatory was declared for such believers as were not wholly prepared for paradise, or deserving of it: and all zealous believers, especially such as fought for the faith, were secure of immediate admission into his sensual heaven. "The sword,' says Mohammed,