Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

sprung up, offering the same cakes to the Virgin Mary which they had formerly offered to Diana, and invoking both of them, by the same title of the Queen of Heaven. The Romanists have discontinued the offering of the cakes, but have retained the worst part of the heresy—the idolatrous appellation and worship. IX. Several heresies arose from the notion that Christianity admitted of amendments and additions. The Gnostics thought to improve it by the help of their philosophy, and Montanus by giving it a severer cast of morals; Manes, by explaining the origin of evil upon the system of Zoroaster; and Mahomet, by reducing revelation, as he conceived, to its original purity and simplicity. Understanding the predictions of the Paraclete, or Comforter, as distinct from the promise of the Holy Spirit, each flattered himself that he was the person designated as the future teacher of the believers. In the comparative rarity of the copies of Scripture, and amidst the daring assertions of the early heretics that these copies had been falsified, ample scope was given for the invention and production of many spurious gospels. On this ground Manes brought forward his new gospel or revelation, which he called Ertang, and Mahomet argued the necessity of the Koran, on account of the supposed interpolations in the earlier Scriptures, which had been previously given to mankind. It is thus that Christianity had to struggle, first with the open opposition of all the corrupt systems in the world, and then with new errors produced by the monstrous combination of these systems with the truth. It had first to contend with the idolatry of Paganism, and then with the disguised idolatry of Popery under a Christian name. Again, it had to contend with the systems of the Gentile philosophers, and a second time it had to oppose the same systems when they assumed the appearance of Christianity, in the works

of many early Christian writers. And in the same

way it had a double warfare to maintain against the avowed and concealed hostility of the dark and speculative theories of the east, till at last it encountered and was borne down by a new and victorious heresy, not maintained by verbal subtilties, but at the points of a hundred thousand lances. X. The race of Shem departed less widely from the memory and institutions of the patriarchal times, than the other descendants of Noah ; and the tribes that sprung from Abraham maintained a still more distinct recollection of the unity of God. Though the body of the Arabians were idolaters, their poets and more eminent men preserved the worship of One Supreme Being, and the traditions of ancient prophets, and of the true religion, were occasionally revived throughout Arabia by colonies of dispersed Jews, and by the escape of persecuted and sectarian Christians. There are many noble and just passages in the Arabian poems respecting the Deity, previous to the pretended revelation of Mahomet. What was new in the Koran to his contemporaries was not his assertion of the unity of the Godhead, but his vehement suppression of idolatry, and his earnestly contending that God had no companions, while the most enlightened of those who opposed him were desirous that the adoration of idols should be associated with the worship of the Deity, on account of the gain and political influence they derived from the rites of superstition. There is nothing characteristic in the fundamental tenets of Mahometanism to distinguish them, except their extreme simplicity, consisting only in the belief of the unity of God, and of a future state of retribution, coupled with the admission of a series of prophets, ending in Mahomet. So short a creed is generally united with great coolness and indifference on the part of the holders; but Mahomet has this peculiarity, that he has joined with it a fierce fanaticism, which still burns with slackened though not extinguished vehemence, after so long a lapse of time; and the paucity of his dogmas is amply atoned for by his plentiful allusion to fables, so that there is full scope for the credulity of his followers; and a commentary upon the Koran may nearly take in the whole round of Arabian fiction. Mahomet alone resembles the ancient legislators of Greece; instead of moulding his laws to men, he still moulds men to his laws. His followers, to the present day, retain much of the character of their prophet, and bear stamped upon their souls his image and superscription. They unite, like their martial prophet, the character of the priest and soldier, and want but a similar leader again fiercely to breathe the spirit of victory and Unitarianism. They are little advanced in civilisation beyond the warriors that first issued out beyond the Arabian deserts, neither have they sunk down to the luxurious and degenerate character of those corrupted Christians whom the first Moslem subdued. Though Mahometanism has some slight connection with Christianity, it has a nearer alliance to Judaism, and is derived less from the Bible than from the misrepresentations of tradition and the reveries of the Rabbins. It bearsthroughout its structure its marked opposition to the mixture of idolatry with Christianity then prevailing throughout the Roman empire; and in the two great scourges—Popery and Mahommedism, which God has appointed to chastise the apostasy of his professing people, we observe at once a striking contrast between the fanaticism of the one and the superstition of the other, and yet a singular coincidence in the time of their rise and of their duration, and in the gradual progress of their present decay, and the signs of their approaching termination.

PART THIRD.

POPERY.

I. PARTIAL AND GENERAL CORRUPTION OF CHRISTIANITY.-II. CHANGES OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH. -III. THE POWER OF THE BISHOP OF ROME.-IV. ASSIMILATION OF CHRISTIANITY TO JUDAISM AND PAGANISM.-W. FINAL IDENTITY OF PAGANISM AND POPERY.-VI. POPERY CONTAINS A PART OF MANY ANCIENT HERESIES.-VII. ABSURDITY OF POPERY IMPOSSIBLE TO BE CONCEALED.—VIII. POPERY A GROSS COUNTERFEIT OF TRUE RELIGION-IX, PERSECUTIONS OF PAGAN AND PAPAL ROME.X. POPES AND EMPERORS OF ROME.-XI. POPERY AS DESCRIBED BY REVELATION.-XII. DESTRUCTION OF POPERY.

I. THE source of all departure and distance from the truth is the opposition of the fallen mind of man to the character of God. The same principle which, in later ages, has induced men to give up one principle after another in Christianity, till they stripped it of every thing which gave distaste to a carnal mind, led them, in former times, when the Gospel was first proposed to them, to blend and

« AnteriorContinuar »