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lofty exhortations of the legislator were falsified by the hypocrisy and sensuality of the man ; and we may reasonably suppose that the Koran, if it had not been supported by fraud and by the sword, would have fallen by the profligacy and excesses of its author. His vices were not the result of the common infirmity of our nature, but the progeny of the worst and most violent of the passions. Instead of endeavouring to palliate or conceal them, they were openly vindicated by the authority of heaven; and, while he daily accommodated his doctrines to his obscenity, and justified his obscenity by his doctrines ; while he violated a voluntary oath, by his cohabitation with Mary* ; or selected for his pleasures, in direct opposition to his own laws, the reluctant wife of his adopted son; or authorized the secret assassination of the hostile Hoadheilitet; or abrogated the restrictive precept in the hour of passion, which he had brought from heaven at a cooler and chaster moment; he still proclaimed himself the associate of angels, and the apostle of God; and still, in right of his celestial mission, called for the obedience, the reverence, and the devotion of his followers.
They who succeeded to the power of this bold and successful impostor, were, in no wise, inferior to their great master, in the energy with which they supported the standard of Islem. He had bequeathed to them the tribes of Arabia, consolidated into a community of fanatics, and distinguished by their implicit faith, their intrepid enthusiasm, their exclusive bigotry, and their sanguinary and desolating zeal.
* The accommodating Gabriel descended from heaven to absolve the oath. + Modern Universal History, vol. i. p. 124.
The legacy was employed with sufficient effect. The voice of Ali, and of the succeeding caliphs, was heard only to call the faithful to battle.“ Idolaters,
conversion, or death! Christians, and Jewish dogs, the Koran, the tribute, or the sword! Be" lievers, victory, and spoil, and the joys of Para“ dise!" Such was the perpetual war-cry of the fanatics. Disdaining the slow and less effectual arts of persuasion, they prosecuted their long career of violence with the most orthodox uniformity of vigour and courage; and the bloody harvest of the seeds which had been sown by the apostle, was reaped and gathered by a race breathing the spirit of exterminating war, and exhibiting to the world a frightful example of the most sanguinary, ungovernable, and destructive fanaticism.
The conclusion is obvious. The founder of the Koran was worthy of the religion he propagated, his followers of the founder, and the religion of both. The impostor was a hardy criminal in a robe of triumph. The faith was an artful falsehood, recommended by the imputed authority of heaven. The successors were enthusiasts, armed to establish their throne and their creed in the blood of mankiud. The whole tale impresses us with aversion and disgust. We discover, while we read, the effects produced by an unbridled fanaticism; and we deplore the miseries which that fanaticism has brought upon the world,
The founder of the Gospel-Ilis early circumstances-Disadvantages
under which he commenced his ministry-The history of his life unostentatious, simple, and credible-His conduct holy and disinterested - Sublimity of his motives - Perfection of his erampleThe attestations of evangelists, apostles, disciples, friends, and enemies, to the excellence of his life-His character as a public teacher – Mode and temper of his address—His humility, dignity, authority - His allegories and parables-His undeviating impartiality, and his uncompromising, though meek and lowly, spirit His prudential wisdom, His tempered zeal–His gentle, charita. ble, and patient teaching - Comparative inferiority of all the other legislators of man-The evidence afforded, by this view of u divine character and a divine mission-His disciples.
THE history of Christ, as it is recorded in the Gospel, has derived no embellishment from human eloquence. It is a narrative, throughout, of which the details are too artless to excite suspicion, or to imply contrivance. The virtues which it exhibits are neither blazoned with skill, nor amplified by exaggeration. There is nothing of the taste of Xenophon, or the pomp of Plato, to seduce or deceive. Every where the phrase is unaffected and simple. And writers have demonstrated, in all they have written, a guileless and unpretending piety, which might justly defend them from every imputation of artifice or of fraud.
When the philosopher of Geneva exercised the keenness of his scrutiny on this subject, the scepticism of the ambiguous Christian was repressed; and he who had ventured to reject the testimony of miracles and of prophecy, openly and earnestly embraced the evidence which is to be deduced from the style and
6 Shall we
manner of the evangelical narration. “ assert,” says he, “ that the history of the Gospel
was invented at pleasure? But it is not so that " men invent. It would be more inconceivable that
a number of men should forge this book in con“ cert, than that one man should furnish the subject “ of it. Jewish authors would never bave adopted “ such a manner, nor devised such a morality; and “ the Gospel has marks of truth so great, so striking, “ and so perfectly inimitable, that its inventors would “ be still more astonishing than the astonishing character which it records *."
I advert, then, dispassionately and humbly, to that august character, as it is delineated in the
pages of the Gospel; and I inquire how far the virtues which he practised, and the wisdom with which he taught, may be admitted to corroborate or to confirm the claims of Christ to the homage ånd acceptance of mankind !
I. Selfishness and fraud derive their motives from the world, and, as they are the last and worst defects in the founder of a religion, because they discredit the doctrines which he proclaims, and avert the faith which he requires ; sincerity and disinterestedness are among the most essential virtues, because they afford a primary evidence of the truth of his pretensions. We ask, then, what appear to have been the motives of Christ? Did he display any anxiety for worldly acquisitions? Do we behold him occupied with sordid schemes for sordid purposes? Has he, in any instance, descended to the vile competitions of temporal interests, or been governed by the fallacious views of temporal glory? Did he, during his whole ministry, sacrifice the slightest duty for the indulgence of any narrow or corrupt passion? Or compromise a truth to conciliate the regard, or avert the hostility, of the great? Or become a flatterer of the people for popular favour or support? Nothing of all this. On the contrary, he may be said to have lived, not for himself, but for mankind; not for the pleasures, the dignities, or the pomps, but for the welfare, of the world. He prosecuted the great object of his ministry, with more than mortal perseverance, in the midst of suffering and of sorrow. Instead of being animated in his labours by the hope of personal advantage, he proceeded with undeviating integrity in his course, under the avowed persuasion that he was, thereby, only to excite the malignity of the wicked, and the hostility of the great. How did he resist the bigoted prejudices, and corrupt passions of men! With what calm but commanding dignity did he rebuke the avarice of the rich, and the vainglory of the proud! With what authority did he drive the money-changers from the temple, and correct the idle traditions of the priesthood! Even when he saw before him, the hall of Pilate, the guard, the judgment seat, the scene of Calvary, and the agonies of the cross, he maintained the same unvarying and disinterested righteousness. He might still, it is probable, have averted the dangers which menaced him, by a skilful accommodation of his doctrines to the temper of the sanhedrim. But every thing seemed to him indifferent, save the office he had to sustain, and the good he had to accomplish; and, at length, with the same heroic constancy, and the same invincible devotion to truth and virtue, which he had hitherto displayed, he afforded, by a painful and lingering death. a final testimony of his superiority to all selfish and
* Rousseau, Emile, vol. iii. p. 179. Amst. 1762.