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tianity for that reason in danger of becoming Mahometans or Hindoos? It does not appear that the Jews, who had a body of historical evidence to offer for their religion, and who at that time undoubtedly entertained and held forth the expectation of a future state, derived any great advantage, as to the extension of their system, from the discredit into which the popular religion had fallen with many of their heathen neighbours.

We have particularly directed our observations to the state and progress of Christianity amongst the inhabitants of India; but the history of the Christian mission in other countries, where the efficacy of the mission is left solely to the conviction wrought by the preaching of strangers, presents the same idea as the Indian mission does, of the feebleness and inadequacy of human means. About twentyfive years ago, was published in England a translation from the Dutch of a history of Greenland, and a relation of the mission, for above thirty years carried on in that country, by the Unitas Fratum or Moravians. Every part of that relation confirms the opinion we have stated. Nothing could surpass, or hardly equal, the zeal and patience of the missionaries. Yet their historian, in the conclusion of his narrative, could find place for no reflections more encouraging than the following:-" A person that had known the heathen, that had seen the little benefit from the great pains hitherto taken with them, and considered that one after another had abandoned all hopes of the conversion of those infidels: (and some thought they would never be converted, till they saw miracles wrought as in the apostles' days, and this the Greenlanders expected and demanded of their instructors) one that considered this, I say, would not wonder at the past unfruitfulness of these young beginners, as at their steadfast perseverance in the midst of nothing but distress, difficulties, and impediments, internally and externally; and that they never desponded of the conversion of those poor creatures amidst all seeming impossibilities."

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From the widely disproportionate effects, which attend the preaching of modern missionaries of Christianity, compared with what followed the ministry of Christ and his apostles, under circumstances either alike, or not so unlike as to account for the difference, a conclusion is fairly drawn, in support of what our histories deliver concerning them, that they possessed means of conviction, which we have not; that they had proofs to appeal to, which we want. Hist. Greenland, vol. II, p. 376.


Of the religion of Mahomet.

THE only event in the history of the human species, which admits of comparison with the propagation of Christianity, is the success of Mahometanism. The Mahometan institution was rapid in its progress, was recent in its history, and was founded upon a supernatural or prophetic character assumed by its author. In these articles the resemblance with Christianity is confessed. But there are points of difference, which separate, we apprehend, the two cases entirely.

I. Mahomet did not found his pretensions upon miracles, properly so called; that is, upon proofs of supernatural agency, capable of being known and attested by others. Christians are warranted in this assertion by the evidence of the Koran, in which Mahomet not only does not affect the power of working miracles, but expressly disclaims it. The following passages of that book furnish direct proofs of the truth of what we allege: "The infidels say, Unless a sign be sent down unto him from his lord, we will not believe; thou art a preacher only."* Again, "nothing hindered us from sending thee with miracles, except that the former nations have charged them with imposture." And lastly, "they say, Unless a sign be sent down unto him from his lord, we will not believe; answer, Signs are in the power of God alone, and I am no more than a public preacher. Is it not sufficient for them, that we have sent down unto them the book of the Koran to be read unto them?" Beside these acknowledgments, I have observed thirteen distinct places, in which Mahomet puts the objection (unless a sign, &c.) into the mouth of the unbeliever, in not one of which does he allege a miracle in reply. His answer is, "that God giveth the power of working miracles when and to whom he pleaseth ;"§" that if he should work miracles, they would not believe ;"" that they had before rejected Moses, and Jesus, and the prophets, who wrought miracles ;”** "that the Koran itself was a miracle."††

The only place in the Koran in which it can be pretended that a sensible miracle is referred to (for I do not allow the secret visitations of Gabriel, the night journey of Mahomet to heaven, or the presence in battle of invisible hosts of angels, to deserve the name of sensible miracles) is

le's Koran, c. xiii. p. 201. ed. c. v. x. xiii. twice.

c. vi.

tc. xvii. p. 232.
** c. iii. xxi. xxxviii.

Th. c. xxix. p. 328. tc. xvi.J

the beginning of the fifty-fourth chapter. The words are these: The hour of judgment approacheth, and the moon hath been split in sunder, but if the unbelievers see a sign, they turn aside, saying, This is a powerful charm.” The Mahometan expositors disagree in their interpretation of this passage; some explaining it to be a mention of the splitting of the moon, as one of the future signs of the approach of the day of judgment; others referring it to a miraculous appearance which had then taken place.* It seems to me not improbable, that Mahomet may have taken advantage of some extraordinary halo, or other unusual appearance of the moon, which had happened about that time; and which supplied a foundation both for this passage, and for the story which in after-times had been raised out of it. After this more than silence; after these authentic confessions of the Koran, we are not to be moved with miraculous stories related of Mahomet by Abulfeda, who wrote his life above six hundred years after his death, or which are found in the legend of Al Janabi, who came two hundred years later.j

On the contrary, from comparing what Mahomet himself wrote and said, with what was afterwards reported of him by his followers, the plain and fair conclusion is, that, when the religion was established by conquest, then, and not till then, came out the stories of his miricles.

Now this difference alone constitutes, in my opinion, a bar to all reasoning from one case to the other. The success of a religion founded upon a miraculous history, shows the credit which was given to the history; and this credit, under the circumstances in which it was given, i. e. by persons capable of knowing the truth, and interested to inquire after it, is evidence of the reality of the history, and, by consequence, of the truth of the religion. Where a

miraculous history is not alleged, no part of this argument can be applied. We admit that multitudes acknowledged the pretensions of Mahomet; but these pretensions being destitute of miraculous evidence, we know that the grounds upon which they were acknowledged, could not be secure grounds of persuasion to his followers, nor their example any authority to us. Admit the whole of Mahomet's authentic history, so far as it was of a nature capable of be

Vide Sale in loc.

It does not, I think, appear, that these historians had any, written accounts to appeal to more ancient than the Sonnah, which was a collection of traditions, made by order of the Caliphs, two hundred years after Mahomet's death. Mahomet died A. D. 632; Al Bochari, one of the six doctors who compiled the Sonnah, was born A. D. 869. Prideux's Life of Mahomet, p. 192. ed. 7th.

ing known or witnessed by others, to be true, (which is certainly to admit all the reception of the religion can be brought to prove) and Mahomet might still be an impostor or enthusiast, or an union of both. Admit to be true almost any part of Christ's history, of that, I mean, which was public, and within the cognizance of his followers, and he must have come from God. Where matter of fact is in question, where miracles are not alleged, I do not see that the progress of a religion is a better argument of its truth, than the prevalency of any system of opinion in natural religion, morality, or physics, is a proof of the truth of those opinions. And we know that this sort of argument is inadmissible in any branch of philosophy whatever.

But it will be said, If one religion could make its way without miracles, why might not another? To which I reply, first, That this is not the question: the proper question is not, whether a religious institution could be set up without miracles, but whether a religion, or a change of religion, founding itself in miracles, could succeed without any reality to rest upon. I apprehend these two cases to be very different; and I apprehend Mahomet's not taking this course to be one proof, amongst others, that the thing is difficult, if not impossible, to be accomplished: certainly it was not from an unconsciousness of the value and importance of miraculous evidence, for it is very observable, that in the same volume, and sometimes in the same chapters, in which Mahomet so repeatedly disclaims the power of working miracles himself, he is incessantly referring to the miracles of preceding prophets. One would imagine, to hear some men tak, or to read some books, that the setting up of a religion by dint of miraculous pretences was a thing of every day's experience; whereas I believe, that except the Jewish and Christian religion, there is no tolerably well authenticated account of any such thing having been accomplished.

II. Secondly, the establishment of Mahomet's religion was effected by causes, which, in no degree, appertained to the origin of Christianity.

During the first twelve years of his mission, Mahomet had recourse only to persuasion. This is allowed. And there is sufficient reason from the effect to believe, that if he had confined himself to this mode of propagating his religion, we of the present day should never have heard either of him, or it. "Three years were silently employed in the conversion of fourteen proselytes. For ten years

the religion advanced with a slow and painful progress within the walls of Mecca. The number of proselytes in the seventh year of his mission may be estimated by the absence of eighty-three men and eighteen women who retired to Ethiopia. Yet this progress, such as it was, appears to have been aided by some very important advantages which Mahomet found in his situation, in his mode of conducting his design, and his doctrine.

1. Mahomet was the grandson of the most powerful and honourable family in Mecca; and although the early death of his father had not left him a patrimony suitable to his birth, he had, long before the commencement of his mission repaired this deficiency by an opulent marriage. A person considerable by his wealth, of high descent, and nearly allied to the chiefs of his country, taking upon himself the character of a religious teacher, would not fail" of attracting attention and followers.

2. Mahomet conducted his design, in the outset especially, with great art and prudence. He conducted it as a politician would conduct a plot. His first application was to his own family. This gained him his wife's uncle, a considerable person in Mecca, together with his cousin Ali, afterwards the celebrated Caliph, then a youth of great expectation, and even already distinguished by his attachment, impetuosity, and courage. He next addressed himself to Abu Becr, a man amongst the first of the Koreish in wealth and influence. The interest and example of Abu Becr drew in five other principal persons in Mecca, whose solicitations prevailed upon five more of the same rank. This was the work of three years, during which time every thing was transacted in secret. Upon the strength of these allies, and under the powerful protection of his family, who, however some of them might disapprove his enterprize, or deride his pretensions, would not suffer the orphan of their house, the relict of their favourite brother to be insulted,-Mahomet now commenced his public preaching. And the advance which he made, during the nine or ten remaining years of his peaceable ministry, was by no means greater than what, with these advantages, and with the additional and singular circumstance

* Gibbon's Hist, vol. IX. p. 244. et seq. ed. Dub.

+ Of which Mr. Gibbon has preserved the following specimen :-"When Mahomet called out in an assembly of his family, who among you will be my companion and my vizir? Ali, then only in the fourteenth year of his age, suddenly replied, O prophet am the man; whoever rises against thee, I will dash out his teeth, tear out his eyes, break hi, legs, rip up his belly. O prophet, I will be thy vizir over them." Vol. IX,

P. 245.

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