« PreviousContinue »
mit. The Turks, Tartars, Arabians, Africans, and the greater part of the Indian Mohammedans, are Sonnites. Among the Schiites or followers of Ali, are to be reckoned the Persians and the subjects of the grand Mogul; or rather the latter seem to observe a strict neutrality in this contest. For an account of the four subordinate subdivisions, I refer the reader to the eighth section of Sale's Preliminary Discourse.
That the servant of Cadigha, an opulent widow in an obscure Arabian tribe, after having for a considerable time transacted her mercan.. tile business in some distant regions, first, in a very subordinate station in the caravans, and afterwards in one of more confidence, and received her hand in marriage, should become the founder of a new religion, should spread it over the whole extent of Arabia, and behold that country united under his spiritual and temporal dominion ; that his immediate successors should carry, by their victorious arms, their religion and their dominion into such considerable portions of Asia, Africa, and even of Europe; that the professors of that faith should extend their conquests to the banks of the Ganges on the one hand, and towards China on the other ; that the dreadful Ottoman power, sprung from the most slender origin, should shake with alarm
a Mosheim's Eccl. Hist. vol. ii. pp. 10, 11.
the whole Christian world, and so lately as towards the end of the seventeenth century, lay siege to Vienna, and, in the event of success in that enterprise, might have advanced to the eastern shores of the German Ocean :-all this exhibits such a series of events as blazes with Vesuvian splendour in the page of history
I have already endeavoured to indicate the more immediate cause of Mohammed's successful imposture, in regard both to his religion and to its effect—his temporal power. I have also attempted to evince that imposture by internal evidence. After all, this series of astonishing events must, by every mind endued with religious principles, be ultimately referred to the over-ruling direction of Providence. On this subject the words of Dr. Prideaux seem to be peculiarly apposite. Speaking of the eastern churches, he says; “ At length having wearied the patience and long suffering of God, in turning their holy religion into a firebrand of hell, for contention, strife, and violence among them, which was given them out of his infinite mercy to the quite contrary end, for the salvation of their souls, by living holily, righteously, and justly in this world, he raised up the Saracens to be the instruments of his wrath to punish them. These, taking advantage of the weakness of power, and the distractions of councils which these divisions had caused among them, soon over-ran with a terrible devastation all the eastern provinces of the Roman empire, and having fixed that tyranny over them which has ever since afflicted those parts of the world, turned everywhere their churches into mosques, and their worship into a horrid superstition, and instead of that holy religion which they had thus abused, forced on them that abominable imposture of Mohammedism, which dictating war, bloodshed, and violence in matters of religion, as one of its chief virtues, was in truth the most proper for those who had afore by their schism and contentions resolved all the religion they had thereinto. And when the matter came to this trial, some of those who were the hottest contenders about Christianity became the first apostates from it; and they who would not afore part with a nicety, an abstruse notion, or an unreasonable scruple, for the peace of the church, were soon brought by the sword at their throats to give up the whole in compliance to the pleasure of a barbarous and savage conqueror. And no wonder that such who had afore wrangled away the substance of their religion in contention and strife against each other, and cut out the very heart of it by that malice and rancour which they showed in their controversy about it, became easily content, when under this force, to part with the name also. Thus, those once glorious and most flourishing
churches, for a punishment of their wickedness, being given up to the insult, ravage, and scorn of the worst of enemies, were on a sudden overwhelmed by them with so terrible a destruction as brought them to that low and miserable state, under the pressures of which they have ever since groaned ; wherein they, retaining some few and lamentable ruins of what they once were, seem thus to be continued even unto this day the all-wise providence of God, in the same miserable condition under the pride and persecution of Mahometan tyranny, for no other end but to be an example and warning unto others of that wickedness of separation and divi. sion by which they were brought thereto. A good memento to all Christian churches now remaining in the world,”a
The remark of this judicious author in a part of this quotation, that “those who had been most furiously zealous in support of their religious party were, when danger closely threatened them, the most ready to abjure Christianity,” is deeply founded on corrupt human nature. The observation is equally applicable to political and to religious bigots. Pride or self interest is with all such the predominant motive ; and they are therefore most disposed to join the side on which these passions can be most surely and
a Prideaux's Address to the Reader, prefixed to his Life of Mahomet.
completely gratified. When the Constantinopolitan court and the hierarchy were giving full swing to corruption, both civil and religious, they little thought of the small cloud gathering in Arabia, that was in time to spread over the heavens, and at last to burst in that tremendous storm which swept them and their corruptions from the face of the world. “ The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers took council together ; but he that sat in heaven laughed, and the Lord had them in derision. He broke them with a rod of iron, and dashed them in pieces like a potter's vessel."* Corruption is constantly employed in perpetuating and extending her influence; and the very means which she uses for these purposes are those which hasten her overthrow. By feeding and fostering the disease of the body, whether political or religious, she brings it nearer and nearer to dissolution. If that body possess sufficient strength to resist and finally to expel the morbid humour under which it labours, even although it should suffer severely from the malady itself, or from the powerful medicines applied to remove it, its existence will be preserved. But if it is destitute of this inherent vigour, it must sink under the increasing disease, and give place to other combinations of men endued with those energies
a Psalm ii. 2, 4, 9.