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apostles' days, and this the Greenlanders expected and demanded of their instructors); one that considered this, I say, would not so much 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 9." .
. 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, viz. that they possessed means of conviction, which we have not; that they had proofs to appeal to, which we want..
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. 9 History of Greenland, vol. ii. p. 376.
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 1.” 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 3?" 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 5;" " that they had before rejected Moses, and Jesus, and the Prophets, who wrought miracles 6,” 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 the beginning of the fiftyfourth 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 might have taken advantage of some extraordinary halo, or other unusual appearance of the moon, which had happened about this 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 about six hundred years after his death; or which are found in the legend of Al-Jannabi, who came two hundred years later. On the contrary, from comparing what Mahomet himself
8 Vide Sale, in loc.
9 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. Mahumet died A. D. 632; Al-Bochari, one of the six doctors who 'compiled the Sonnah, was born A. D. 809; died 869. Prideaux's Life of Mahomet, p. 192, ed. 7th.
he credit whished upon a mit other. The
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 miracles.
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 desti- : tute 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 being known or witnessed by others, to be true (which is certainly to admit all that the reception of the religion can be brought to prove), and Mahomet might still be an impostor or enthusiast, or a 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 not 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 opinions 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 talk, 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. 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