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mentary will satisfy only a believing mind: intem- chAP.
perate curiosity and zeal had torn the veil of the sanctuary; and each of the oriental sects was eager to confess that all, except themselves, deserved the reproach of idolatry and polytheism. The creed of Mahomet is free from suspicion or ambiguity; and the Koran is a glorious testimony to the unity of God. The prophet of Mecca rejected the worship of idols and men, of stars and planets, on the rational principle that whatever rises must set, that whatever is born must die, that whatever is corruptible must decay and perish." In the Author of the universe, his rational enthusiasm confessed and adored an infinite and eternal being, without form or place, without issue or similitude, present to our most secret thoughts, existing by the necessity of his own nature, and deriving from himself all moral and intellectual perfection. These sublime truths, thus announced in the language of the prophet,” are firmly held by his disciples, and defined with metaphysical precision by the interpreters of the Koran. A philosophic theist might subscribe the popular creed of the Mahometans;" a creed too sublime perhaps for our present faculties. What object remains for the fancy, or even the understanding, when we have abit is said, by some barbarians at the council of Nice (Eutych. Annal. tom. i. p. 440). But the existence of the Marianites is denied by the candid Beausobre (Hist. de Manicheisme, tom. i. p. 532); and he derives the mistake from the word Rouah, the Holy Ghost, which in some oriental tongues is of the feminine gender, and is figuratively styled the mother of Christ in the gospel of the NaZarenes.
y This train of thought is philosophically exemplified in the character of Abraham, who opposed in Chaldaea the first introduction of idolatry (Koran, c. 6. p. 106. D'Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 13).
* See the Koran, particularly the second (p. 30), the fifty-seventh (p. 437), the fifty-eighth (p. 441), chapters, which proclaim the omnipotence of the Creator.
* The most orthodox creeds are translated by Pocock (Specimen, p. 274. 284 —292), Ockley (Hist. of the Saracens, vol. ii. p. lxxxii—xcv), Reland (de Religion. Moham. l. i. p. 7–13), and Chardin (Voyages en Perse, tom. iv. p. 4– 28). The great truth, that God is without similitude, is foolishly criticised by Maracci (Alcoran, tom. i. part iii. p. 87–94), because he made man after his own image.
stracted from the unknown substance all ideas of time
of God, and his works, and his law in the heart of man. To re
the last of the prophets.
store the knowledge of the one, and the practice of the other, has been the real or pretended aim of the prophets of every age: the liberality of Mahomet allowed to his predecessors the same credit which he claimed for himself; and the chain of inspiration was prolonged from the fall of Adam to the promulgation of the Koran." During that period, some rays of prophetic light had been imparted to one hundred and twentyfour thousand of the elect, discriminated by their respective measure of virtue and grace; three hundred and thirteen apostles were sent with a special commission to recal their country from idolatry and vice; one hundred and four volumes have been dictated by the holy spirit; and six legislators of transcendent brightness have announced to mankind the six successive revelations of various rites, but of one immutable religion. The authority and station of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Christ, and Mahomet, rise in just gradation above each other; but whosoever CHAP. hates or rejects any one of the prophets is numbered “ with the infidels. The writings of the patriarchs were extant only in the apocryphal copies of the Greeks and Syrians: “the conduct of Adam had not entitled him to the gratitude or respect of his children; the seven precepts of Noah were observed by an inferior Moses. and imperfect class of the proselytes of the synagogue;" and the memory of Abraham was obscurely revered by the Sabians in his native land of Chaldea: of the myriads of prophets, Moses and Christ alone lived and reigned; and the remnant of the inspired writings was comprised in the books of the Old and the New Testament. The miraculous story of Moses is consecrated and embellished in the Koran;" and the captive Jews enjoy the secret revenge of imposing their own belief on the nations whose recent creeds they deride. For the author of Christianity, the Mahometans are taught by the prophet to entertain a high and mysterious reverence.’ “Verily, Christ Jesus. Jesus, the son of Mary, is the apostle of God, and his word, which he conveyed unto Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from him: honourable in this world, and in the world to come; and one of those who approach near to the presence of God.” The wonders of the genuine and apocryphal gospels" are profusely heaped
* Reland, de Relig. Moham. l. i. p. 17–47. Sale's Preliminary Discourse, p. 73–76. Voyage de Chardin, tom. iv. p. 28–37 and 37–47, for the Persian addition, “Ali is the vicar of God!” Yet the precise number of prophets is not an article of faith.
• For the apocryphal books of Adam, see Fabricius, Codex Pseudepigraphus V. T. p. 27—29; of Seth, p. 154—157; of Enoch, p. 160—219. But the book of Enoch is consecrated, in some measure, by the quotation of the apostle St. Jude; and a long legendary fragment is alleged by Syncellus and Scaliger. d The seven precepts of Noah are explained by Marsham (Canon. Chronicus, p. 154–180), who adopts, on this occasion, the learning and credulity of Selden. • The articles of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, &c. in the Bibliothéque of D'Herbelot, are gaily bedecked with the fanciful legends of the Mahomctans, who have built on the ground-work of Scripture and the Talmud. f Koran, c. 7, p. 128, &c. c. 10. p. 173, &c. D'Herbelot, p. 647, &c. g Koran, c. 3. p. 40. c. 4. p. 80. D'Herbelot, p. 399, &c. h See the gospel of St. Thomas, or of the Infancy, in the Codex Apocryphus N. T. of Fabricius, who collects the various testimonies concerning it (p. 128– 158). It was published in Greek by Cotelier, and in Arabic by Sike, who thinks
char, on his head; and the Latin church has not disdained
to borrow from the Koran the immaculate conception' of his virgin mother. Yet Jesus was a mere mortal; and, at the day of judgment, his testimony will serve to condemn both the Jews, who reject him as a prophet, and the Christians, who adore him as the Son of God. The malice of his enemies aspersed his reputation, and conspired against his life; but their intention only was guilty, a phantom or a criminal was substituted on the cross, and the innocent saint was translated to the seventh heaven." During six hundred years the gospel was the way of truth and salvation; but the Christians insensibly forgot both the laws and the example of their founder; and Mahomet was instructed by the Gnostics to accuse the church, as well as the synagogue, of corrupting the integrity of the sacred text." The piety of Moses and of Christ rejoiced in the assurance of a future prophet, more illustrious than themselves: the evangelic promise of the Paraclete, or Holy Ghost, was prefigured in the name, and accomplished in the person, of Mahomet," the greatest and last of the apostles CHAP. of God. – The communication of ideas requires a similitude The Koran
our present copy more recent than Mahomet. Yet his quotations agree with the original about the speech of Christ in his cradle, his living birds of clay, &c. (Sike, c. 1. p. 168, 169. c. 36. p. 198, 199. c. 46. p. 206. Cotelier, c. 2. p. 160, 161). * It is darkly hinted in the Koran (c. 3. p. 39), and more clearly explained by the tradition of the Sonnites (Sale's Note, and Maracci, tom. ii. p. 112). In the xiith century, the immaculate conception was condemned by St. Bernard as a presumptuous novelty (Fra Paolo, Istoria del Concilio di Trento, l. ii). J See the Koran, c. 3. v. 53. and c. 4. v. 156, of Maracci’s edition. Deus est praestantissimus dolose agentium (an odd praise) . . . . nec crucifixerunt eum, sed objecta est eis similitudo : an expression that may suit with the system of the Docetes; but the commentators believe (Maracci, tom. ii. p. 113–115. 173. Sale, p. 42, 43.79), that another man, a friend or an enemy, was crucified in the likeness of esus; a fable which they had read in the gospel of St. Barnabas, and which had been started as early as the time of Irenaeus, by some Ebionite heretics (Beausobre, Hist. du Manicheisme, tom. ii. p. 25. Mosheim de Reb. Christ. p. 353). * This charge is obscurely urged in the Koran (c. 3. p. 45): but neither Mahomet, nor his followers, are sufficiently versed in languages and criticism to give any weight or colour to their suspicions. Yet the Arians and Nestorians could relate some stories, and the illiterate prophet might listen to the bold assertions of the Manichaeans. See Beausobre, tom. i. p. 291–305.
of thought and language: the discourse of a philosopher would vibrate without effect on the ear of a peasant; yet how minute is the distance of their understandings, if it be compared with the contact of an infinite and a finite mind, with the word of God expressed by the tongue or the pen of a mortal? The inspiration of the Hebrew prophets, of the apostles and evangelists of Christ, might not be incompatible with the exercise of their reason and memory; and the diversity of their genius is strongly marked in the style and composition of the books of the Old and New Testament. But Mahomet was content with a character, more humble, yet more sublime, of a simple editor; the substance of the Koran," according to himself or his disciples, is uncreated and eternal; subsisting in the essence of the Deity, and inscribed with a pen of light on the table of his everlasting decrees. A paper copy, in a volume of silk and gems, was brought down to the lowest heaven by the angel Gabriel, who, under the Jewish economy, had indeed been despatched on the most important errands; and this trusty messenger successively revealed the chapters and verses to the Arabian prophet. Instead of a perpetual and perfect measure of the divine will, the fragments of the Koran were produced at the discretion of Mahomet; each revelation is suited to the emergencies of his policy or pas
* Among the prophecies of the Old and New Testament, which are perverted by the fraud or ignorance of the Musulmans, they apply to the prophet the promise of the Paraclete, or Comforter, which had been already usurped by the Montanists and Manichaeans (Beausobre, Hist. Critique du Manicheisme, tom. i. p.263, &c.); and the easy change of letters, originxvros for raezzan.ros, affords the etymology of the name of Mohammed (Maracci, tom. i. part i. p. 15–28).
* For the Koran, see D'Herbelot, p. 85–88. Maracci, tom. i. in Vit. Mohammed, p. 32–45. Sale, Preliminary Discourse, p. 56–70.