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HAVING given a brief view of the external evidences of Christianity, it is now proper to inquire, whether any system of religion, ancient or modern, is as well supported by evidence; and whether, other miracles have testimony in their favor, as satisfactory, as that by which the miracles of the Gospel are accompanied.

The usual declamation of infidel writers, on this subject, is calculated to make the impression on unsuspicious readers, that all religions are similar in their origin;—that they all lay claim to miracles and divine communications;—and that all stand upon an equal footing. But when we descend to particulars, and inquire, what religions that now exist, or ever did exist, profess to rest their claims on well attested miracles, and the exact accomplishment, of prophecy, none besides the Jewish and Christian can be produced. Among the multiform systems of Paganism, there is not one, which was founded on manifest miracles or prophecies. They had, indeed, their prodigies and their oracles, by which the credulous multitude were deceived; and their founders pretended to have received revelations, or to have held communion with the gods. But what well attested miraculous fact can be produced, from all 155the religions of the heathen world? What oracle ever gave responses so clear and free from ambiguity, as to furnish evidence, that the knowledge of futurity was possessed? It is easy to pretend to divine revelation: this is done by every fanatic.

It is not disputed, that many impostors have appeared in the world, as well as many deluded fanatics. But the reason why all their claims and pretensions may with propriety be rejected, is, that they were not able to exhibit any satisfactory evidence, that they were commissioned from heaven, to instruct mankind in religion.

In this we are all agreed. Of what use, therefore, can it be, to bring up these impostures and delusions, when the evidences of the Christian religion are under consideration? Can it be a reason for rejecting a religion which comes well attested, that there have been innumerable false pretensions to divine revelation? Must miracles, supported by abundant testimony, be discredited, because there have been reports of prodigies and miracles which have no evidence? And because heathen oracles have given answers to inquiries respecting future events, dark, indeterminate, and designedly ambiguous; shall we place no confidence in numerous authentic prophecies, long ago committed to writing, which have been most exactly and wonderfully accomplished?

It is alleged, that the early history of all ancient nations is fabulous, and abounds in stories of incredible prodigies; and hence it is inferred, that the miracles of the Old and New Testament, should be considered in the same light. To which it may be replied, that this general consent of nations, that miracles have existed, is favorable to the opinion that true miracles have at 156 some time occurred. It may again be observed, that the history of Moses, which is more than a thousand years older than any profane history, has every deuce of being a true relation of facts;—and, moreover, that the age in which the miracles of the New Testament were performed, so far from being a dark and fabulous age, was the most enlightened period of the heathen world. It was the age of the most celebrated historians, orators, and poets. There never was a time, when it would have been more difficult to gain a general belief in miracles, which had no sufficient testimony, than in the Augustan, and succeeding age. Not only did learning flourish; but there was at that period, a general tendency to skepticism and atheism. There can evidently, therefore, be no inference unfavorable to Christianity, derived from the belief of unfounded stories of miraculous events, in the dark ages of antiquity. The only effect of the prevalence of false accounts of miracles, should be, to produce caution and careful examination into the evidence of every report of this kind. Reason dictates, that truth and falsehood should never be confounded. Let every fact be subjected to the test of a rigid scrutiny, and let it stand or fall, according as it. is supported or unsupported by testimony. If the miracles of the Bible have no better evidence than the prodigies of the heathen, they ought to receive no more credit; but if they have solid evidence, they ought not to be confounded with reports which carry imposture on their very face; or, at least, have no credible testimony in their favor.

There is no other way of deciding on facts, which occurred long since, but by testimony. And the truth of Christianity is really a matter of fact. In support of it, we have adduced testimony which cannot be invalidated; 157and we challenge our opponents to show, that any other religion stands on the same firm basis. Instead of this, they would amuse us with vague declamations on the credulity of man, and the many fabulous stories which have been circulated and believed. But what has this to do with the question? We admit all this, and maintain that it does not furnish the semblance of an argument against the truth of the well attested facts, recorded by the evangelists. Because there is much falsehood in the world, is there no such thing as. truth? It would be just as reasonable to conclude, that, because many men have been convicted of false, hood, there were no persons of veracity in the world; or that because there were many knaves, all pretensions, to honesty were unfounded.

The Mohammedan religion is frequently brought forward by the enemies of revelation, with an air of confidence, as though the pretensions and success of that impostor, would derogate from the evidences of Christianity. It is expedient, therefore, to bring this, subject under a particular examination. And here, let it be observed, that we do not reject any timing, respecting the origin and progress of this religion, which has been transmitted to us by competent and credible witnesses. We admit that Mohammed existed, and was the founder of a new sect; and, that from a small be, ginning, his religion spread with astonishing rapidity over the fairest portion of the globe. We admit, also, that he was the author of the Koran, which he composed, from time to time, probably with the aid of some one or two, other persons. Moreover, it is admitted;, that he was an extraordinary man, and prosecuted the. bold scheme which he had projected, with uncommon perseverance and address. Neither are we disposed to 158deny, that the Koran contains many sublime passages, relative to God and his perfections, and many sound and salutary precepts of morality. That the language is elegant, and a standard of purity in the Arabic tongue, has been asserted by all Mohammedan writers, and conceded by many learned Christians. But as to his pretended revelations, there is no external evidence, whatever, that they were real; and there is an overwhelming weight of internal evidence, that they are not from God.

To bring this subject fairly before us, let the following considerations be impartially weighed:

1. The pretensions of Mohammed were supported by no miracles, or prophecies. Ile was often called upon by his opposers to confirm his mission, by this decisive proof; but he always declined making the attempt; and resorted to various excuses and subterfuges. In the Koran, God is introduced, as saying, “Nothing hindered us from sending thee with miracles, except that the former nations have charged them with imposture:—thou art a preacher only.” Again, “That if he did perform miracles, the people would not believe, as they had before rejected Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, who performed them.”

Dr. Paley3131   Paley’s Evidences. has enumerated thirteen different places in the Koran, where this objection is considered, in not one of which, it is alleged, that miracles had been performed for its confirmation. It is true, that this artful man told of things, sufficiently miraculous; but for the truth of these assertions, we have no manner of proof, except his own word, which, in this case, is worth nothing.


Now, if it had been as easy a thing to obtain credit to stories of miracles, publicly performed, as some suppose, surely Mohammed would have had recourse to this measure, during the period, that he was so pressed and teased by his enemies, with a demand for this very evidence. But he had too much cunning to venture upon an expedient so dangerous: his opposers Would quickly have detected and exposed the cheat. At length, however, he so far yielded to the demand of his enemies, as to publish one of the most extravagant stories, which ever entered into the imagination of man; and solemnly swore that every word of it was true. I refer to his night journey to Jerusalem, and thence to heaven, under the guidance of the angel Gabriel. As this story may afford some amusement to the reader, I will subjoin, in a note, the substance of it, omitting those particulars which are most ridiculous and extravagant.3232   See Note A.

This marvellous story, however, had well nigh ruined his cause. His enemies treated it with deserved ridicule and scorn; and a number of his followers forsook him, from that time. In fact, it rendered his further continuance at Mecca, entirely inexpedient; and having before despatched some of his disciples to Medina, he betook himself, with his followers, to that city, where he met with a more cordial reception, than in his native place.

The followers of Mohammed, hundreds of years after his death, related many miracles, which they pretended that he performed: but their report is not only unsupported by testimony, but is in direct contradiction to the Koran, where he repeatedly disclaims all 160pretensions to miraculous powers. And the miracles which they ascribe to him, while they are marvellous enough, are of that trifling and ludicrous kind, commonly to be met with in all forgeries, in which miracles are represented as having been performed; such as, that the trees walked to meet him;—that the stones saluted him;—that a beam groaned to him;—that a camel made complaint to him;—and that a shoulder of mutton told him that it was poisoned.

It appears, then, that Mohammedanism has no evidence, whatever, but the declaration of the impostor. It is impossible, therefore, that. Christianity should be placed in a more favorable point of light, than in comparison with the religion of Mohammed. The one, as we have seen, rests on well attested miracles; the other does not exhibit the shadow of a proof, that it was derived from heaven.

2. It is fair to compare the moral characters of the respective founders of these two religions. And here we have as perfect a contrast as history can furnish. Jesus Christ was, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. His life was pure, without a stain. His most bitter enemies could find no fault in him. He exhibited, through life, the most perfect example of disinterested zeal, pure benevolence, and unaffected humility, which the world ever saw. Mohammed was an ambitious, licentious, cruel, and unjust man. His life was stained with the most atrocious crimes. Blasphemy, perjury, murder, adultery, lust, and robbery, were actions of daily occurrence. And to shield himself from censure, and open a door for unbridled indulgence, he pretended revelations from heaven, to justify all his vilest practices. He had the effrontery to pretend, that God had given him privilege to commit, at pleasure, 161the most abominable crimes. The facts which could be adduced in support of these general charges, are so numerous, and so shocking, that I will not defile my paper, nor wound the feelings of the reader, by a recital of them.

3. The Koran itself can never bear a comparison with the New Testament, in the view of any impartial person. It is a confused and incongruous heap of sublime sentiments, moral precepts, positive institutions, extravagant and ridiculous stories, and manifest lies and contradictions. Mohammed, himself, acknowledged, that it contained many contradictions; but he accounted for this fact by alleging, that what had been communicated to him in one chapter, was repealed in a subsequent one;—and so he charges this inconsistency on his Maker. The number of abrogated passages is so great, that a mussulman cannot be easily confuted by proving the falsehood of any declaration in the Koran; for, he will have recourse to this doctrine of abrogation. There is nothing in this book, which cannot easily be accounted for; nothing above the capacity of impostors to accomplish. It is artfully accommodated to the religions of Arabia, prevalent at the time. It gives encouragement to the strongest and most vicious passions of human nature; promotes ambition, despotism, revenge, and offensive war; opens wide the door of licentiousness; and holds out such rewards and punishments, as are calculated to make an impression on the minds of wicked men. It discourages, and indeed forbids, all free inquiry, and all discussion of the doctrines which it contains. Whatever is excellent in the Koran, is in imitation of the Bible; but wherever the author follows his own judgment, or indulges his own 162imagination, we find falsehood, impiety, or ridiculous absurdity.3333   See Ryan’s History of the Effects of Religion on Mankind.

4. The means by which the religion of Mohammed was propagated, were entirely different from those employed in the propagation of the Gospel. If there is any point of strong resemblance between these two systems, it consists merely in the circumstance of the rapid and extensive progress, and permanent continuance, of each. But when we come to consider the means by which this end was attained in the two cases, instead of resemblance we find again, a perfect contrast. Mohammed did, indeed, attempt, at first, to propagate his religion by persuasion and artifice; and these efforts he continued for twelve years, but with very small success. At the end of three years, he had gained no more than fourteen disciples; and at. the end of seven years, his followers amounted to little more than eighty; and at the end of twelve years, when he fled from Mecca, the number was very inconsiderable. As far, therefore, as there can be a fair comparison between the progress of Christianity and Mohammedanism; that is, during the time that Mohammed employed argument and persuasion alone, there is no resemblance. The progress of Christianity was like the lightning, which shineth from one part of heaven to the other; extending in a few years, not only without aid from learning and power, but in direct opposition to both, throughout the whole Roman empire, and far beyond its limits. But Mohammedanism, for twelve years, made scarcely any progress; yet it commenced among an ignorant and uncivilized people. During 163this period, the progress was scarcely equal to what might be expected from any artful impostor. This religion never spread in any other way than by the sword. As soon as the inhabitants of Medina declared in favor of Mohammed, he changed his whole plan, and gave out that he was directed to propagate his religion by force. From this time, he is found engaged in war. He began by attacking mercantile caravans, and, as his force increased, went on to conquer the petty kingdoms, into which Arabia was then divided.3434   See Prideaux’s Life of Mahomet. Sometimes, he put all the prisoners to death, and at other times, sold them into slavery. At first, the order was, to massacre. every creature that refused to embrace his religion; but he became more lenient afterwards, especially to Jews and Christians. The alternative was, “The Koran, death, or tribute.”

But it is a great mistake, to suppose, that the conquests of Mohammed, himself, were very extensive. The fact is, that he, never, during his life, extended his dominion. beyond the limits of Arabia; except, that he overran one or two inconsiderable provinces of Syria. It was by the Caliphs, his successors, that so great a part of Asia, and Egypt, were brought into subjection. But what is there remarkable in these successes, more than those of other conquerors? Surely, the propagation of Mohammedanism by the sword, however rapid or extensive, can never bear any comparison with that of Christianity, by the mere force of truth, under the blessing of heaven.

5. The tendency and effects of Mohammedanism, when compared with the tendency and effects of Christianity, serve to exhibit the latter in a very favorable 164light. The Christian religion has been a rich blessing to every country which has embraced it; and its salutary effects have borne proportion to the care which has been taken to inculcate its genuine principles, and the cordiality with which its doctrines have been embraced. if we cast our eyes over the map of the world, and inquire what nations are truly civilized? Where does learning flourish? Where are the principles of morality and the dictates of humanity best understood? Where are the poor and afflicted most effectually relieved? Where do men enjoy the greatest security of life, property, and liberty? Where is the female sex treated with due respect, and exalted to their proper place in society? Where is the education of youth most assiduously pursued? Where are the brightest examples of benevolence; and where do men enjoy most rational happiness?—I say, if we were called upon to designate those countries, in which these advantages are, moat highly enjoyed, every one of them would be found in Christendom; and the superiority enjoyed by some over the others, would be found to bear an exact proportion to the practical influence of pure Christianity.

On the contrary, if we take a survey of the rich and salubrious regions, possessed by Mohammedans, we behold a wide spread desolation. The fairest portion of the globe, where arts, literature, and refinement, formerly most flourished, are now blighted. Every noble institution has sunk into oblivion. Despotism extends its iron sceptre over these ill-fated countries, and all the tranquillity ever enjoyed, is the dead calm of ignorance and slavery. Useful learning is discouraged; free inquiry proscribed, and servile submission required of all. Justice is perverted, or disregarded. No man has any security for life or property; and as 165to liberty, it is utterly lost, wherever the Mohammedan religion prevails. While the fanatic ardor of making proselytes continued, the fury of the propagators of this faith rendered them irresistible. Indeed, their whole system is adapted to a state of war. The best work that can be performed, according to the Koran, is to fight for the propagation of the faith; and the highest rewards are promised to those who die in battle. There is no doubt, but that the principles of the Koran greatly contributed to the conquests of the Saracens; by divesting them of all fear of death, and inspiring them with an assurance of being admitted into a sensual paradise, if it should be their fate to be slain in battle. “The sword,” said he, “is the key of heaven and hell: a drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent under arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting and prayer. Whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven. At the day of judgment, his wounds shall be resplendent as vermillion, and odoriferous as musk; and the loss of his limbs shall be replaced by the wings of angels and cherubim.” But when they had finished their conquests, and a state of peace succeeded their long and bloody wars, they sunk into torpid indolence and stupidity. While other nations have been making rapid improvements in all the arts, they have remained stationary; or rather have been continually going backward. They have derived no advantages from the revival of letters, the invention of printing, or the improvement in the arts and sciences. The people who have been subjected to their despotism, without adopting their religion, are kept in the most degrading subjection.

At present,3535   A. D. 1825 the Greeks are making noble exertions 166to break the cruel yoke, which has oppressed them, and though unsupported by Christian nations, have succeeded in expelling the Turks from a large portion of their country. God grant them success, and give them wisdom to make a good use of their liberty and independence, when acquired and established!3636   Since the above was written, several of the governments of Europe have interposed to rescue the Greeks from the persecution and oppression of the Ottoman power; but they are yet in a very unsettled state, and it cannot be foreseen what will be the result of all their struggles. A. D. 1832. Mohammedanism was permitted to prevail, as a just punishment to Christians, for their luxury and dissensions. It is to be hoped, however, that the prescribed time of these locusts of the abyss,3737   Rev. ix. 3. is nearly come to an end; and that a just God, who has so long used them as a scourge to Christians, as he formerly did the Canaanites to be thorns in the eyes and in the skies of the Israelites, will soon bring to an end this horrible despotism, which has been founded on a vile imposture. The signs of the times give strong indications, that the Mohammedan power will shortly be subverted. But it is not for us “to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.”

The only thing further, necessary to be considered, in this chapter, is, the miracles which have been brought forward as a counterpoise to the miracles of Christ and his apostles. This is an old stratagem—at. least as early as the second century, when one, Philostratus, at the request of Julia Augusta, wife of the emperor Severus, wrote a history, or rather romance, of Apollonius of Tyana, a town in Capadocia. This Apollonius, was nearly contemporary with Jesus Christ; but 167whether he was a philosopher, or a conjurer, cannot now be ascertained; for as to the story of Philostratus, which is still extant, it is totally unsupported by any reference to eye-witnesses of the facts, or any documents of credit, and has, throughout, as much the air of extravagant fiction, as any thing that was ever published. That the design of the writer was to set up this Apollonius as a rival to Jesus Christ, is not avowed, but is sufficiently evident from the similarity of many of the miracles ascribed to him, to facts recorded in the Gospels, and which are manifestly borrowed from the evangelical history. He is made to raise the dead, to cast out demons, and to rise from the dead, himself. In one instance, the very words of the demons expelled by Jesus Christ, as recorded by St. Luke, “Art thou come to torment us before the time,” are put into the mouth of a demon, said to be cast out by Apollonius. But in addition to these miracles, his biographer pretends, that he saw beasts with a human head and lion’s body;—women half white and half black;—together with phœnixes, griffins, dragons, and similar fabulous monsters.

In the fourth century, Hierocles, a bitter enemy of Christianity, instituted a comparison between Jesus and Apollonius, in which, after considering their miracles, he gives the preference to the latter. This book was answered by Eusebius, from whose work only, we can now learn how Hierocles treated the subject, as the book of the latter is not extant. The only conclusion which can be deduced from this history of Apollonius, is, that the miracles of Christ were so firmly believed, in the second century, and were attended by such testimony, that, the enemies of Christianity could not deny the facts, and therefore resorted 168to the expedient of circulating stories of equal miracles performed by another.

Modern infidels have not been ashamed to resort to the same stale device. Mr. Hume has taken much pains to bring forward a great array of evidence, in favor of certain miracles, in which he has no faith, with the view of discrediting the truth of Christianity. These have been so fully and satisfactorily considered by Dr. Douglass, Bishop of Salisbury, in his Criterion; and Dr. Campbell, in his Essay on Miracles, that I need only refer to these learned authors, for a complete confutation of Hume’s arguments, from this source.

For the sake, however, of those who may not have access to these works, I will lay down a few general principles, by which we may distinguish between true and false miracles; for which I am indebted, principally, to the author of the Criterion, above mentioned.

1. The nature of the facts should be well considered, whether they are miraculous. The testimony which supports a fact may be sufficient, and yet it may have been brought about by natural causes.

The miracles of Jesus Christ were such, that there was no room for doubt respecting their supernatural character; but a great part of those performed by others, which have received the best attestation, were of such a nature, that they may readily be accounted for, without supposing any divine interposition. The case of the man diseased in his eyes, said to have been cured by Vespasian’s rubbing his hand over them, and the lame man cured by a touch of the emperor’s foot, were, no doubt, impositions practised by the priests of the temple, where they were performed. The emperor 169did not pretend to possess any miraculous power, and was induced, only after much persuasion, to make the experiment. The facts, as related by Tacitus, though he was not an eye-witness—it may be admitted—are true. Such persons were probably brought forward, and a cure pretended to be made, but there is no evidence that there was a real miracle. There was no one present who felt interested, to examine into the truth of the miracle. The priests, who proposed the thing, had, no doubt, prepared their subjects; and the emperor was flattered by the honor of being selected by their god, to work a miracle. How often do beggars in the street impose upon many, by pretending to be blind and lame? The high encomiums which Mr. Flume bestows on the historian Tacitus, in order to set off the testimony to the best advantage, can have. no weight here; for he only related what he bad heard from others, and showed pretty evidently, that. he did not credit the story himself.

The same may be said, respecting the man spoken of by Cardinal de Retz, at Saragossa, who was represented as having been seen without a leg, but obtained one by rubbing the stump with holy oil. The cardinal had no other evidence of his having ever been maimed, than the suspicious report of the canons of the Church; and he took no pains to ascertain, whether the leg which he obtained, was really flesh and blood, or an artificial limb.

A great part of the cures said to have been performed at the tomb of the Abbé Paris, were proved, upon examination, to be mere pretences; and those, which were real, may easily be accounted for, from the influence of a heated imagination, and enthusiastic feelings; 170especially, since we have seen the wonderful effects of animal magnetism, and metallic tractors.3838   See Note B.

2. A second consideration of great weight, is, that in true miracles, we can trace the testimony to the very time time when the facts are said to have occurred, but in false miracles, the report of the facts originates a long time afterwards, as in the case of Apollonius. And in the case of the miracles ascribed to Mohammed by Abulfeda and Al-Janabbi; and, also, of the miracles ascribed by the Jesuits, to Ignatius Loyola, their founder; which were never heard of, until long after his death.

3. Another criterion of importance, is, that the report of miracles should originate, and first obtain credit, in the place, and among the people, where they are said to have been performed. This is too remarkably the fact, in regard to the miracles of the Bible, to require any proof. But many stories of miracles are rendered suspicious by the circumstance that they were first reported and believed, in some place, far from that in which they were alleged to have been wrought. The miracles ascribed by the Romanists to Francis Xavier, are condemned by both the rules last mentioned. In all his letters, while a missionary in the east, he never hints that miracles had been wrought; and a reputable writer, who gave some account of his labors, nearly forty years after his death, not only is silent about Xavier’s miracles, but confesses, that no miracles had been performed among the Indians. These miracles were said to be performed in the remote parts of India, and Japan, but the report of them was published first, in Europe. Almost all the miracles ascribed by 171the Romish Church, to her saints, fall into the same predicament. The history of them was written long after they are said to have been performed, and often in countries remote from the place where it is pretended they occurred.

4. Another thing necessary to be taken into view, in judging of the genuineness of miracles, is, whether the facts were .scrutinized at the time, or were suffered to pass without examination. When the miracles reported, coincide with the passions and prejudices of those before whom they are performed;—when they are exhibited by persons in power, who can prevent all examination, and put what face they please on facts, they may well be reckoned suspicious. Now, the cures at the tomb of the Abbé Paris, were not performed in these circumstances. The Jansenists were not in power, and their enemies not only had the opportunity to examine into the facts, but actually did so, with the utmost diligence. We have reason to believe, therefore, that we have now a true report of those occurrences. The defect of these miracles is, in their nature, not in their evidence.

But in most cases, the miracles which have been reported, took place, when there was no opportunity of examining into the facts—when the people were pleased to be confirmed in their favorite opinions—or, when the ruling powers had some particular end to answer.3939   On this whole subject, see Douglass’ Criterion.

But, supposing these miracles to be ever so well attested, I do not perceive how the evidence of divine revelation can be affected by them; for, if it could be made to appear, that these were supported by testimony, as strong as that which can be adduced in favor of the 172miracles of the New Testament, the only fair conclusion is, that, in consistency, they who believe in Christianity, should admit them to be true—but what then? Would it follow, because miracles had been wrought on some rare occasions, different from those recorded in the Bible, that, therefore, these were of no validity, as evidence of divine revelation? Would not the fact, that other miracles had been wrought, rather confirm our belief in those which were performed with so important a design? Mr. Hume does, indeed, artfully insinuate, that the various accounts of miracles which exist, cannot be true, because the religions which they were wrought to confirm, are opposite; yet not one of those which he brings forward, as being best attested, was performed in confirmation of any new religion, or to prove any particular doctrine, therefore they are not opposed to Christianity. If they had actually occurred, it would not in the least disparage the evidence for the facts recorded in the New Testament. And, especially, it is a strange conceit, that miracles performed within the bosom of the Christian Church, should furnish any proof against Christianity.

It is, however, no part of the object of those who bring forward such an array of testimony, in support of certain miracles, to prove that such facts ever occurred. This is diametrically opposite to their purpose. Their design is, to discredit all testimony in favor of miracles, by showing, that facts acknowledged to be false, have evidence as strong as those ou which revealed religion rests. But they have utterly failed in the attempt, as we have shown; and if they had succeeded in adducing as strong testimony for other miracles, then we would readily admit their truth, and that, in perfect consistency with our belief in Christianity.

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