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the possession of power, and the cause of God was the veil that covered the pursuits of ambition, avarice, or revenge. The worship of saints and images had arrived to such a scandalous pitch, that Christian churches seemed to be converted into heathen temples, only with the change of objects of adoration. Pagan deities had been expelled, to make room for canonized and wonder-working saints and martyrs. This abominable exhibition could not fail to impress those who knew Christianity only by the external worship then practised, with the idea that, whatever its professors might assert, it was only a system of idolatry under a new designation; an opinion still entertained by the Mohammedans, who observe the service of the Romish and Greek churches.
Mohammed had occasion, in his frequent travels, to observe all the corruptions above stated, and he drew this natural conclusion. It has been already mentioned, that his knowledge of Christianity was confined to its corrupt and prostituted forms. The vehemence and unceasing agitations which religious controversies, even with respect to the most insignificant subjects, had excited, convinced him of the vast influence of religion in some form or other over the human mind; and being endued, as he certainly was, with great natural talents, and uncommon penetration, he conceived that a new form of it,
which seemed to reconcile contending sects and parties of every religious denomination, would, if clothed with divine authority, and presented to the minds of men with that decision, and pressed and enforced with that undaunted perseverance, of which he was conscious he was capable, ultimately meet with a favourable reception, and, if once admitted and propagated, transmit his fame to the most remote posterity. His success confirms, in a most striking manner, the power of religious principle above stated, and evinces the egregious folly of pretended philosophy in attempting to eradicate it. It may as well attempt to extinguish natural affection, as the Stoics actually proposed, or any of those inherent principles which characterize human
Drive Nature out of doors; she will return.
If man has not a rational and salutary, he will adopt a superstitious, a fanatical, or an atrocious religion. Of this truth all impostors are well aware, and Mohammed justly regarded it as the most effectual means of advancing his schemes of ambition; and his successors applied it with still greater advantage. He pretended to replant the ancient and only true faith professed by Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus,
a Naturam expelles furcâ; tamen usque recurret.
Hor. Epist. lib. i. x. 24.
and all the prophets; to overturn the gross idolatry of the generality of his countrymen; to eradicate the corruptions and superstitions which the later Jews and Christians had introduced into their respective religions; and to reduce all systems of faith to their original purity, consisting in the worship of one only God. For this purpose, as has been already seen, he exhibited a motley compound of Paganism, Magism, Judaism, and Christianity, referred exclusively to the supreme Deity. This reference, however, necessarily rejected the heterogeneous and inconsistent parts of which his religion was composed. For, "what communion hath light with darkness? or what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what agreement hath the temple of God with idols ?" Or can freedom be "again entangled with the yoke of bondage ?" Mankind, however, having at that period been generally impressed with the existence of one only God, and the Christian world harassed by theological controversies of an insignificant nature, were more easily disposed to acquiesce in the doctrine of Mohammed, enforced by victorious arms, especially when all religious denominations found in it some portion of their own peculiar tenets and ceremonies.
The western Roman empire had already be
come the prey of the northern barbarians, and the eastern and Greek part of it was enfeebled by luxury, overrun with every species of moral corruption, and tottering under all the decrepitude which these causes superinduce on states verging to ruin.
Persia had long been on the decline. It was convulsed by intestine divisions, both political and religious; and some of the doctrines generally embraced in that country were of the most immoral and corrupting complexion. The Persians had become incapable of any vigorous resistance."
As the empires above mentioned were feeble and declining, so Arabia, in the time of Mohammed, was vigorous, and possessed of those energies which characterize nations untainted by luxurious habits. It was also a free country, inhabited by various independent tribes, inured to hardships, and accustomed to the most parsimonious life. Their political condition was also favourable to the designs of Mohammed." The division and independence of their tribes more easily admitted the introduction of his doctrine, which, in its successive progress among these, had not to resist the concentrated civil power of one extensive state, but only that of one small canton; and its reception by one fa
a Sale's Preliminary Discourse, sect. ii. pp. 48, 49.
cilitated its introduction among the others. But, when the Arabs had embraced Mohammedism, their union under one government, both civil and religious, was equally conducive to their future conquests.*
It is more than probable that Mohammed was no less acquainted with the political feebleness of the great eastern states, than with the religious degradation of their Christian inhabitants, and perceived that the times were ripe for a great revolution.
I have already observed that, before his death, all Arabia had submitted to his dominion, in his double capacity of prophet and sovereign. His successor, Abubeker, dispatched four generals at the head of armies, into Syria and Palestine. The Caliph Omar, who succeeded Abubeker, took Damascus, conquered the provinces of Phoenicia, imposed tribute on Egypt, and, after a siege of two years, took Jerusalem, where he erected a Mohammedan temple. He subdued Palestine and Syria, all Mesopotamia, and obtained possession of Alexandria in Egypt. He nearly overturned the kingdom of Persia, and made himself master of the king's treasures. He was murdered by his followers in the year 643 of the Christian era.
Othmann, who succeeded him, subjected Af
a Sale's Preliminary Discourse, sect. ii. p. 49.