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merly led him to despise and renounce Christianity, was not Christianity itself, but the unauthorized additions that had been made to it by men ; while the religion of the Bible, apart from these human additions, was every way worthy of its author. Still desirous to know the truth, and fearful of being led astray, he made known some of his difficulties to the most learned dignitaries of his own church, and their replies were so manifestly contradictory to Scripture, that af. ter much internal conflict he felt constrained to leave them; and, notwithstanding the odium of such a step in traditionloving Damascus, took firm and decided ground in favor of the religion of the Bible. Accordingly, Dec. 14, 1818, we find him writing to his dear friend, the late Eli Smith, D. D., “ that his mental distress continually increased, and he studied the Bible day and night, yet could find no peace except in resolving openly to profess his attachment to the truth, which he soon did without the least reserve. His letters, at this time, to Dr. Smith, breathe the spirit of a little child, humble and self-distrustful, yet firm and decided in his adherence to what he felt was the cause of God and truth. Of course his enemies were not idle. Such a man could not be allowed to stand up for evangelical religion, if any effort could put him down; and no means were left untried. He was constantly harassed by the visits of ecclesiastics, singly and often by whole companies at once, of the members of his former church, to argue, or to beseech him to return to the fold. At one time he asked them why they did not devote some of the labor they bestowed upon him to recover those who had apostatized to Mohammedanism, and was told that, if he had become a Moslem, that would have been a lighter affair; for then he would not have injured their church so much as now. This, with the controversy into which he was drawn with his patriarch Maximus, brought on a brain fever, which for a time drove reason from her throne. But, to quote his own words in a letter to Dr. Smith, written on his sick-bed, “ by the prescriptions of one of my medical scholars, God saw fit to give me relief, and I became convalescent. Today there remains only weakness, which
prevents me from rising. May God, in answer to your prayers, restore me to health, that I may finish the work which I have begun, lest it should come to nought and the enemies of the gospel triumph.”
Jan. 27, 1849, Dr. Smith writes to America : “ Dr. M. has openly declared himself a Protestant; this has brought on a controversy between him and his former patriarch; and, as he is probably the most intelligent native layman in the country, and the patriarch the most learned ecclesiastic, intense attention is directed from all quarters to the discussion. In the mean time our correspondence is frequent and full; and, as my letters to him require investigation, not of the Bible only but of the Fathers also, are long and written in Arabic, they take up no little time; but I have never had more delightful work, nor any from which I hoped for more important results. He favors me with a copy of all the correspondence between him and his antagonist, and also of his journal. The whole is deeply interesting, both from the ability displayed and the deep Christian sincerity that animates him. Every word of the documents in my hand deserves to be translated and printed at home.”
Dr. Meshakah, as soon as possible, prepared a treatise, addressed to his countrymen, explaining the reasons of his secession from Rome, and setting forth the corruption of her doctrines and practices, which was published at the mission press in Beirût, 1819. pp. 324.
In this work, after an account of his own religious history and the correspondence already referred to quoted in full, he goes on to disprove the supremacy of the pope, the existence of any other priesthood or sacrifice but that of Christ; shows that the early church had only two officers, viz. presbyters and deacons; overturns the foundations of transubstantiation, the worship of images, prayers to saints and angels, the confessional, purgatory, the claim of the pope to be the only authorized interpreter of Scripture, prayers in an unknown tongue, and the doctrine of justification by works. He then expounds the doctrine of regeneration, sets forth the antiquity of the Protestant church as compared with the more recent origin of the papacy; exposes the interference of the popes with secular governments, vindicates the right of all men to read the Scriptures, and closes the whole with an earnest practical appeal to his brethren and friends.
Dr. Smith says of the book : “ It is well and thoroughly argued ; sometimes most impressively solemn; at others, keenly sarcastic; and throughout, both spirited and fearless. It is a remarkable production. I am strongly tempted to undertake its translation, had I only the time and strength.
The lamented Whiting, in writing an account of several members of the mission church, June 10, 1852, says : “ The next is Dr. M. of Damascus, whose conversion was certainly one of the most important that has occurred here since the mission was established; for general intelligence and weight of character, he has no superior among the native population; he is by far the best native physician and the ablest writer in Syria. His work on the errors of the Roman and Greek churches, for force and attractiveness of style, will compare with the Letters of Kirwan; and his writings will be read in spite of the anathemas of all the hierarchies in the land.”
In 1852 he published a reply to animadversions on his former work, under the title of “the Answer of the Gospelers to the Vanities of the Traditionists." pp. 115.
The work here translated is a tract of fifty-eight pages, originally written as a letter to his brother at Deir el komr, but subsequently rewritten and enlarged at the suggestion of Dr. Smith. It might very properly be called “ Meshakah on Scepticism;" and though more time has been spent on the translation than the translator would like to own, yet let no one think that it does justice to the original work. The author still lives to do good in his native city, and long may he remain a light kindled by the Spirit of God to enlighten the darkness round about him.
Preface.. In the name of the living God, who is from everlasting. Praise be to God, the self-existent, the exalted above all his creatures. He, the essence of whose great majesty no powers of imagination can comprehend, and whose absolute nature no one knows save himself, the wise and to be praised for his excellent greatness.
After this ascription of praise, the feeble, failing servant, Michael son of Joorjis Meshakah of Lebanon proceeds to say: Not long since I met with the volume called “ The correct guide to the verity of the Book," 1 from the perusal of which the excellence of the author, Dr. Alexander of America, is very manifest. May God give him a large reward; and, as it is the best work on the truth of prophecy and its fulfilment that has been translated into Arabic, setting forth also solid proofs of the soundness of the Christian religion, and I knew that some of my brothers and friends were very much in doubt on this last point, and questioned whether it was really revealed from God, I wrote to one of them, who is very dear to me, requesting him to read the book with patient attention and note the cogency of its arguments, hoping that thus his doubts might be removed. His reply to me was as follows :
“I understood what you wrote about the book, and so read it for myself, and have found that all you said in commendation of the author is true. Indeed before perusing it, I had no doubt that religion was better for man than infidelity; but now I see also that Voltaire and those who, like him, wrote against religion, were not true philosophers, as I cannot doubt that religion is necessary to man, inasmuch as it gives him peace of mind, sets his heart at rest, frees him from vice, makes him companionable, a lover of what is good, and beloved of others, and adorns him with every amiable quality. But with all this I beseech the most high God to grant me grace and make me to know certainly which is the true religion ; for each one praises itself and condemns all the rest; and I see the leading religions of the world resemble each other in substance and differ only in points which I cannot think God will take any notice of.”
1 Evidences of the Christian Religion,” by A. Alexander, D. D. most Arabic titles, is in rhyme, and reads thus:
Illa sooduk el ketab.”
“ Errealet el mousoomet bilboorhan,
After considering the drift of this reply, though this dear brother was clearly not yet satisfied, yet I could not despair of his coming to the truth since he sought the gracious guidance of the Lord.
It was on the strength of that hope that I began to write this little book as a friendly advice to him and to others in danger of being led away as he was; and I pray God that he would guide me, so that everything I advance may be correct, and then make it influential on the minds of those who read; for no plant which our heavenly Father has not planted, shall either stand or bring forth fruit. I have named it “ An argument on the weakness of man," and I pray the Most High to guide me in an even way by his grace and favor. Amen.
It becomes a man to examine a statement contrary to his previous opinions
with attentive consideration, Many men, when they meet with a proposition opposed to their own settled belief, treat it with contempt before they have mastered its meaning. Perhaps they toss the book aside which contains it, or even tear it in pieces, trusting to the correctness of the views already deeply rooted in their minds. And yet for all that, it is possible that the statement treated with such scorn may turn out to be the truth, and therefore they do not judge a righteous judgment in not giving it a most careful perusal, and diligently considering its nature and design.