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possible consequences of a change in the moral government of the world, as we are permitted to reason upon the effects of an alteration in the active laws of physics; suppose that the introduction of Christianity had been delayed for a season ; is it not, under all circumstances, highly probable that the religion of the Jews would have been very widely known ?* is it not very pro . bable that it would have been also appreciated and admired? We argue very much in the dark, indeed; for we know not how far Providence designed the books of the Old Testament to be dispersed, or whether it was his will to dispose the minds of the heathens to receive the truths contained in them. But in the main, it may well be assumed that truth, beauty, and piety would not be exhibited in vain. Yet, to the entire reception of the whole of the Jewish law by the heathens, insurmountable obstacles would exist; obstacles of a civil nature, as well as others proceeding from the distaste naturally felt towards so pure and perfect a law of morals and obedience. Perhaps, therefore, men might have settled down into a half-dreaming assent to the general truths which the Law revealed ;-an assent mingled and corrupted with the Jewish and Pagan traditions.
* See Hor. Sat. iv. lib. I.
Under such circumstances, might it not be possible that many “false prophets and false Christs” would have started up in the various sections and among the various nations of the world, who, modifying their doctrines by the varying shades of popular feeling and prejudice, yet not losing sight entirely of the Hebraic ideas of religion, would “deceive many?” The perversion of truth is often more convenient and acceptable than direct falsehood, supposing the antecedent influence of prejudice or interest to be equal. The population of British India may, before any great period shall elapse, be imbued with a general knowledge of the history and truths of Christianity, and a general conviction of the folly of their own superstitions. Called upon to decide, yet unwilling to yield, they will then be precisely in a state which will dispose them to listen favourably (unless the Great Disposer of events shall ordain another result) to the invitations of any plausible system which shall profess to reconcile the outline of nominal Christianity with the opposing prejudices of deep-rooted pride, and ancient, endeared principles of distinction and caste.
Muhammadanism, probably, would not have flourished so long but for certain renewed impulses. The dissensions between the Ommiades
and Abbassides rendered it the interest of the latter (as well as that of the Fátemite Khalífs of Egypt) to keep up the spirit of fanatical Islámism; and in the tenth and eleventh century, the fierce and hardy Turks conquered the degenerate sons of the prophet, and reunited his decaying stronghold of imposture, by embracing the faith of their prostrate foes. But for these circumstances, the Korán and its author might now have been almost forgotten amidst the gloom of the dark ages. Muhammadanism is now again breaking up and dissolving—it is to be hoped effectually and finally.
The present is not the proper opportunity for discussing the best means of winning the Moslems to Christianity. Perhaps any lengthened observations on the subject are not needed. Experience now begins to assure us that preliminary arguments upon these occasions are of no great importance. Men are individually nearly similar in passion and feeling, under all institutions; and the readiest way of influencing them will be found to place the sacred truths of the Gospel plainly before them, and so leave that manifestation of the truth to commend itself to the conscience. In these matters, therefore, a practical knowledge of the Moslem character will be the best guide in forming a judicious plan of proceeding. We
however, remark, that Muhammadanism is a Judaic heresy, slightly Christianized. It is analogous with the Law rather than with the Gospel; yet it differs from Judaism in the grand pointbelieving Christ and Muhammad to be both of them Messiahs ;-the latter the final one, who is never to be followed by any other. Perhaps, after all, however, the belief of the Messiah's future advent is rather the ostensible than the real tenet of modern Judaism. In arguing with Jews and Moslems, therefore, Bishop Kidder's rules may be judiciously observed.* The missionary also, becoming for the time a Moslem Moolla, may introduce discussion upon their own theology in their own way; and, amidst the perplexity of the doctors, dexterously sow the seed. He should remember that the peculiarities of Islam are not contained in the Korán alone : tradition, and the authoritative decisions of the most esteemed Imams and Moollas, complete the otherwise defective system. Acquainting himself with these, as well as with the opinions maintained by the various sects and schools, he may learn to argue not so much in the logical method of modern refinement, as in the authoritative style of ancient simplicity, when reason did not disdain
to borrow light and direction from imagination, nor failed in that way to arrive at truth. If, by exposing the absurdities of Islám, he may induce the acute Moslem to feel some doubts as to the soundness of his belief, he will have gained a point which may be of great service to the cause. But before we can do any thing, we must overcome that barrier of pride and bigotry which stands in the way of all argument or discussion whatever. Education partly, and the decay of fanaticism partly, will, we trust, effect this object; will afford us the means of entrance into the closed understanding and heart, and enable us silently to impart that knowledge which will burst forth into conviction at length, when " the people shall be made willing in the day of His power."