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but was it the subversion of a Christianity which deserved the name ? Was it a Christianity which Christ himself would have acknowledged ? Was it not rather an apostasy from the primitive faith, and the primitive discipline, and the primitive practice ? Mr. Forster himself acknowledges, in another part of his work, that “ it was not Christianity, but a vile parody of this divine religion, that Mohammedism interposed to subvert.” He himself asserts, that, “ eastern Christendom, at once the parent and the prey of hydra-headed heresy, demanded and deserved precisely the infliction which the rod of a conquering heresiarch could bestow.” Is it then inexplicable, that over such a form of Christianity Islamism should have triumphed; or is it inexplicable, that the triumph being obtained, the subjection should have continued to the present time?“ Islamism,” says Mr. Mills, “ became the established religion of the Asiatic world. Jurisprudence, morals, and all the minute decencies of life, were regulated by the Koran, or by the received expositions of it. Every thing in Asia is a matter of regulation; and freedom of opinion being but little permitted or encouraged, in the despotic governments of the East, Mohammedism once received, became stationary.” Let it also be remembered that a system of religion, once established, may lose
the support of external power without losing its hold on the heart, or on the characteristic habits of life. The human mind is not willing to surrender any religion in which it has trusted, till it can receive, in its own estimation, a better.
In assigning probable causes, however, for the success of the unparalleled system under consideration, let us never forget to acknowledge the superintending and controling providence of God. It is the just complaint of Mr. Forster, that in reasoning on the subject before us, the agency of the great primary cause has been too often overlooked. He shows that, as at the time of our Saviour's advent a concurrence of circumstances, in the position of nations, was the result of the wise arrangements of an overruling Providence, so a remarkable convergence of events was permitted to facilitate the progress of Mohammed. “A union of the nations, under a compact and vigorous rule, must have opposed insuperable obstacles : but he found the once formidable empires of Rome and of Persia crumbling in the last stages of decay; and mutually exhausted, on the very eve of his approach, by external hostilities and internal convulsions.” The providence of God, for purposes perhaps inscrutable by us, removed out of the way the most formidable obstacles to his success.
In endeavouring to interpret the procedure of Divine Providence, in permitting the extended sway of Mohammedism, Mr. Forster brings forward a theory, to the support of which he bends the whole force of his talented mind.
“ The basis of the argument,” he informs us, “is laid in the existence of a prophetic promise to Abraham, in behalf of his sons Isaac and Ishmael. By the terms of this promise, a blessing is annexed to the posterity of each, as a special mark of the divine favour. They were severally to become the fathers of great nations. The promise to Isaac had first a temporal fulfilment; in the establishment of his race in Canaan; and secondly, a spiritual fulfilment, in the advent of the Messiah, and in the establishment of Christianity throughout the world. A full and exact parallel,” he affirms," is presented in the appearance of Mohammed, and in the establishment, through his instrumentality, by the descendants of Ishmael, first of a temporal, and, secondly, of a spiritual dominion over à vast portion of the world.” If this be a correct explanation, then it is at length discovered, that Mohammedism is the fulfilment of a divine promise; of a promise made to Abraham! It follows, that the mission of the Impostor of Mecca must be regarded as a blessing to the world. Such appears to be the deliberate opinion of the
author. Not satisfied with doing full justice to the Saracens, as at one period the patrons of learning and of science, he represents them as powerfully promoting the moral and spiritual interests of the world. He asserts that “in the joint operation of Christianity and Mohammedism there exists a two-fold instrumentality, acting on the civil and social relations of mankind, and on their moral and spiritual interests and affections; and apparently tending, in an eminent degree, to bring about that consummation spoken of in Scripture prophecy, when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth. Christianity," he affirms, “ operates directly in the fulfilment of this prophecy; Mohammedism shapes the course of things indirectly towards it.” He represents both religions as emanating from the sons of Abraham, in virtue of a two-fold promise. “ In its mental character and effects, the providential office of the Koran,” says Mr. Forster, “ however subordinate, seems to have been essential for the accomplishment of the ends to be attained by the divine dispensation of the gospel, The two systems, emanating from the one patriarchal source, appear continually to converge towards one great consummation-the glorious fulfilment of the two - fold covenant of God with Abraham, in its social and intellectual aspect, by the eventual re-union of his sons Isaac and Ishmael, as joint civilizers of the world.”
“ The counsel of God,” he asserts, “ as declared in the providential history of the two religions, unequivocally teaches us, that the rise and progress of the adulterated system was essential to the recovery and ultimate perfection of the pure belief. In comparison with the Christian revelation and its happy influences,” he affirms, “ that Mohammedism is indeed as the feet to the head, or as the footstool to the throne. But as the head cannot say to the feet, “I have no need of you,' neither can the legitimate creed reject or deny the providential aids and advantages derived to it from the spurious.” In contrasting Mohammedans with uncivilized and savage tribes, he is of opinion, that the former, “ by an easy transition, might pass to a full belief of the doctrines of Christianity," and that we find among them “ such favourable prepossessions and established doctrines, as will render easy the approach to their conversion." Has it, then, been ascertained in the nineteenth century, that Mohammedism was ordained and commissioned to be the pioneer of Christianity? Did the Prophet of Mecca emulate so successfully the character of the harbinger of our Lord? Can a parallel be now legitimately attempted between the son of