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OBSERV. 1st, There is no species of wickedness so dangerous or so diabolical, which men, if left to themselves, will not be inclined to perpetrate. To palm a false system of religion what God had bidden them ; but he contended, that their doctrines soon came to be corrupted, and that the last of these teachers had an extraordinary commission to correct the mistakes which had crept into the system of his predecessors. Upon this principle he admitted, that Christianity as preached by Jesus Christ was pure ; but maintained, that since his day it was become so dreadfully corrupted, that it was no longer a safe guide to heaven, and that therefore God, out of compassion to men, had sent him as the last, but the most remarkable of all his prophets, to correct the errors of the Christian and Jewish faith, and to give what further revelations might be necessary to the children of men. He accordingly selected some things from Christianity, some from Judaism, and some from the Gentile faith and worship of his countrymen, and tried, by this strange medley, to recommend his religion to all. It pleased those Christians who knew little of Christianity but the name of its founder, because it made honourable mention of Jesus Christ. It was equally acceptable to the Jews, because it made mention of Abraham in terms that were equally respectful, and concurred with that people in reprobating and condemning image-worship, and all the outward forms of idolatry. It was no less acceptable to the Arabians, and to other Gentiles, because it embraced as many of the dogmas of their ancient belief and rites of worship as could be admitted without shocking the feelings and prejudices of Jews and Christians. Thus each party thought they saw the great lines of their own system in this new creed, and began to apprehend, that there might be some truth in his declarations of being an extraordinary Reformer, and that his system was worthy of being received. From each of these systems, he collected what seemed to be best adapted to his purpose, and digested the whole into that book which is called the Alcoran.
- Though this book forms a very considerable volume, the articles of the Mahometan creed are exceedingly few and simple. They are all comprehended in the following sentence :
• There is no God, but God, and Mahomet is his prophet.' In this system, the doctrine of the Trinity is discarded ; and by this fundamental error, all the grand peculiarities of Christianity are subverted. The morality of the system is no better than its doctrinal articles. It admits of a future state; but the heaven which it describes is a place of sensual gratification only, and the hell of this system is nothing more than a place of sensible torment. The principal duties which it prescribes are prayer, fasting, and alms. • Prayers,' says he, 'will carry one half way to God; fasting will bring to the door of his palace ; and alms will gain admittance.' But, above all, fighting for the propagation and defence of this religion, is recommended as the surest title to the enjoyment of heaven. The sword,' says he is the key of heaven and of hell. A drop of blood shed in the cause of God, or a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months spent in prayer.- Whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven; at the day of judgment his wounds will be resplendent as vermilion, and odoriferous as musk; and the loss of his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and of cherubim.'
Various causes contributed to the propagation of this spurious system. The criminal indulgences which it afforded strongly recommended it to the taste of every sensualist. The restraints which it imposed were very few; and these were abundantly compensated by the free and liberal use of substitutes, which were equally criminal, and equally fitted to gratify the ardent passions of the inhabitants of the East. At the time in which Mahomet appeared, image-worship was every where practised among the Christians of the East; this opened a wide field of declamation to the impostor against Christianity, as it was easy for him to show, that such
upon the world is the acme of human wickedness. It is nothing short of forgery upon the God of heaven,-a crime which one would think the boldest and most hardened sinner would not dare to attempt ;-but in every age, and in every country, there have been false prophets. The religion of every people lays claim to a divine origin; and while there can be only one true religion, this species of forgery must have been carried to a great extent. By far the greater part of the human family have been the dupes of the most criminal and dangerous imposition.
2d, The religion of Mahomet has an infernal origin. Whatever may be said in favour of detached parts, viewed as one whole or complex system of doctrine and worship, it has no higher origin than the pit. Accordingly, the author of this system is represented, in verse 1], as the angel of the bottomless pit, and his religion is described as having come from thence.
3d, Corrupt and superstitious minds will pervert to a bad purpose even those things which are most harmless and inoffensive. Whether the head be covered by a cowl or a turban, is of itself a matter of absolute indifference; but when the cowl or the turban becomes the badge of a false system of religion, it ceases to be harmless and indifferent. The Mahometan is equally well known by his turban, as the monk by his cowl, or any other member of the Roman Catholic church by his Agnus Dei, or his crucifix.
a mode of worship could never have the sanction of a divine appointment. To these causes of the progress of his religion, we may add the divided state of Chris. tians, by the numerous heresies which had sprung up among them: and their violent, and often bloody contentions, on account of their divided sentiments in matters of religion. This want of union, together with their gross ignorance, rendered them an easy prey to any seducer. But Mahomet was much more victorious by the force of his arms, than by the power of his eloquence. The glittering of the spear, and the terror of his cruelties, induced multitudes, who had nothing of Christianity but the name, to renounce that sacred name by which they had been called. But for the fear of punishment or the hope of reward, Mahomet had not gained a single convert beyond the limits of his native country. The Alcoran is not a book like the Bible, which enlightens the mind and purifies the heart; in every respect it is a dead letter. Though it has been translated into many different languages, it has never been received as the rule of faith in any country, where it was not carried by the force of a military despotism. How dif. ferent this from the Bible, which, by the power of the same Spirit by whom it was indited, hath made millions of converts, where no secular violence could be employed or even suspected! This blessed book requires only to be read, that the inquirer may sce whether its pretensions to a divine original be well or ill founded.
4th, To all the designs of Satan and his emissaries God hath set bounds. Mahomet aspired at universal empire ; and all his successors attempted to follow in his steps. To this day there is to be seen, among the devices in the arms of the Grand Seignior, a turban with three black plumes of heron's quills, with the following motto, Until it shall fill the whole world ;* as if he were still inclined to make the attempt, or were living in the hope that the badges of the Mahometan religion would yet be universally received. But the power of the scorpions to torment was limited both with respect to its objects and its duration. They could not do an injury to the men that were sealed; neither could they extend their depredations beyond a period of five months.
5th, By comparing the history of the fulfilment of this prophecy with what is mentioned in chapters second and third, respecting the churches of the Lesser Asia, we cannot but perceive the extreme danger of renouncing any part of the faith of Christ. In the time of this prophet, doctrinal errors had sprung up in some of them, and great practical abuses prevailed in others. Unless they repented, it was threatened that God would spue them out of his mouth, and remove the candlestick out of its place. But they lent a deaf ear to the voice of warning and reproof. They persisted in their backsliding courses, till God, in righteous judgment, permitted the delusions of Mahomet to be propagated among them, whereby they have believed the most dangerous lies, and renounced the faith of Christ altogether.-We would gladly hope, that Satan's Mahometan kingdom will not now receive any accession of territory; but as there are many other delusions and doctrines which are dishonouring to God, and injurious to souls, we cannot be too much upon our guard. All approximations towards apostacy are dangerous. This evil is like the breaking forth of waters, which widen the breach as they continue to flow, till every thing that is valuable may be swept away. Let us therefore hold fast that which we have received, that no man take our crown.
* Donec totum impleat orbem.
Rev. ix. 13-19. And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a
voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before
God, Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four
angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an
hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the
third part of men. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred
thousand thousand : and I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on
them, having breast-plates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone : and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions ;
and out of their mouths issued fire, and smoke, and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed by the fire,
and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of
their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails : for their
tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.
This prophecy has generally been interpreted of the calamities that were brought upon the world by the Ottoman or Turkish empire; and it only requires to be compared with the history of that state, to see the propriety of this application.The introduction of the prophecy contains a general intima. tion respecting the sounding of the sixth trumpet. All the seven angels were furnished with trumpets, and stood prepared and ready to sound them, as the orders might be given. The fifth angel having sounded, as stated in the preceding verses of this chapter, the sixth, who was the next in order, likewise put the trumpet to his mouth, and by a distinct and powerful blast, gave the signal of alarm.
This was no sooner done than the attention of the prophet was arrested by a voice, which proceeded from the four horns of the golden altar, which is before God. The altar of incense was overlaid with the finest gold, and was therefore called the golden altar. It had four protuberances that rose up from the corners, which were called the four horns of the altar; and as this part of the furniture of the sanctuary was placed contiguous to the vail, beside the mercy seat or throne, it was therefore said to be before God.—This altar was a figure of Christ; and as the voice which John beard proceeded from the horns, we are thereby reminded of the energy with which our Lord speaks, whether it be in behalf of his friends, or against their adversaries.
It was in the way of charge, or peremptory order, that this voice was uttered, saying to the angel of the sixth trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. The text appears to be a topographical description of the scene or place of action; and therefore the term Euphrates must be understood literally of that river in the East which is usually called by this name. The banks of the Euphrates were the theatre of the great achievements and revolutions of the ancient world. There the fate of mighty empires was decided, and those revolutions were accomplished which affected the state of society for more than two thousand years after the flood. This river is much larger than the Jordan, or the Nile, or any other with which the Jews were acquainted. It rises in the high mountains of Armenia ; and, after winding through many fertile and extensive countries, and receiving, in its course, a vast multitude of tributary streams, some of which are very considerable bodies of water, it discharges its mighty flood into the Persian gulf. It is therefore here, and in other parts of Scripture, called a great river.-Angels are the ministers of Providence, whether they be sent for good