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The Persian attack.
sailed at midsummer, ad. 533, and in November he had completed the reconquest of the country. This was speedy work, but it was followed by fearful
calamities; for in this, and the Italian wars of
Justinian, likewise undertaken at the instance produced by of the orthodox clergy, the human race visibly
diminished. It is affirmed that in the African campaign five millions of the people of that country were consumed; that during the twenty years of the Gothic War Italy lost fifteen millions; and that the wars, famines, and pestilences of the reign of Justinian diminished the human species by the almost incredible number of one hundred millions.
It is therefore not at all surprising that in such a deplorable condition men longed for a deliverer, in their despair totally regardless who he might be or from what quarter he might come. Ecclesiastical partisanship had
done its work. When Chosroes II., the Persian
monarch, A.D. 611, commenced his attack, the persecuted sectaries of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt followed the example of the African Arians in the Vandal invasion, and betrayed the empire. The revenge of an oppressed heretic is never scrupulous about its means of gratification. . As might have been expected, the cities of
Asia fell before the Persians. They took Jerupillage of
salem by assault, and with it the cross of Christ;
ninety thousand Christians were massacred ; and in its very birthplace Christianity was displaced by Magianism. The shock which religious men received through this dreadful event can hardly now be realized. The imposture of Constantine bore a bitter fruit; the sacred wood which had filled the world with its miracles was detected to be a helpless counterfeit, borne off in triumph by deriding blasphemers. All confidence in the apostolic powers of the Asiatic bishops was lost; not one of them could work a wonder for his own salvation in the dire extremity. The invaders overran Egypt as far as Triumphs of Ethiopia; it seemed as if the days of Cambyses
had come back again. The Archbishop of Alexandria found it safer to flee to Cyprus than to defend himself by spiritual artifices or to rely on prayer.
Mediterranean shore to Tripoli was subdued. For ten years the Persian standards were displayed in view of Constantinople. At one time Heraclius had determined to abandon that city, and make Carthage the metropolis of the empire. His intention was defeated by the combination of the patriarch, who dreaded the loss of his position ; of the aristocracy, who foresaw their own ruin; and of the people, who would thus be deprived of their largesses and shows. Africa was more truly Roman than any other of the provinces; it was there that Latin was last used. But when the vengeance of the heretical sects was satisfied, they found that they had only changed the tyrant without escaping the tyranny. The magnitude of their treason was demonstrated by the facility with which Heraclius expelled the Persians as soon as they chose to assist him.
In vain, after these successes, what was passed off as the true cross was restored again to Jerusalem—the charm. was broken. The Magian fire had burnt the sepulchre of Christ, and the churches of Constantine and Helena; the costly gifts of the piety of three impression of centuries were gone into the possession of the Persian and the Jew. Never again was it possible that faith could be restored. They who had devoutly expected that the earth would open, the lightning descend, or sudden death arrest the sacrilegious invader of the holy places, and had seen that nothing of the kind ensued, dropped at once into dismal disbelief. Asia and Africa were already morally lost. The scimitar of the Arabian soon cut the remaining tie.
Four years after the death of Justinian, A.D. 569, was born at Mecca, in Arabia, the man who, of all Birth of Momen, has exercised the greatest influence upon the human race -Mohammed, by Europeans surnamed “the Impostor.” He raised his own nation from Fetichism, the adoration of a meteoric stone, and from the basest idolworship; he preached a monotheism which quickly scattered to the winds the empty disputes of the Arians and Catholics, and irrevocably wrenched from Christianity more than half, and that by far the best half of her possessions, since it included the Holy Land, the birthplace of our faith, and Africa, which had imparted to it
its Latin form, That continent, and a very large part of Asia, after the lapse of more than a thousand years, still remain permanently attached to the Arabian doctrine. With the utmost difficulty, and as if by miracle, Europe itself escaped.
Mohammed possessed that combination of qualities which more than once has decided the fate of empires. A His preach- preaching soldier, he was eloquent in the pulpit, ing, valiant in the field. His theology was simple : “ There is but one God.” The effeminate Syrian, lost in Monothelite and Monophysite mysteries; the Athanasian and Arian, destined to disappear before his breath, might readily anticipate what he meant. Asserting that everlasting truth, he did not engage in vain metaphysics, but applied himself to improving the social condition of his people by regulations respecting personal cleanliness, sobriety, fasting, prayer. Above all other works he esteemed almsgiving and charity. With a liberality to which the world had of late become a stranger, he admitted the salvation of men of any form of faith provided they were virtuous. To the declaration that there is but one God, he added, “and Mohammed is his Prophet.” Whoever desires to know whether the event of things answered to the boldness of such an announcement, will do well to and title to
examine a map of the world in our own times. apostleship. He will find the marks of something more than an imposture. To be the religious head of many empires, to guide the daily life of one-third of the human race, may perhaps justify the title of a messenger of God.
Like many of the Christian monks, Mohammed retired to the solitude of the desert, and, devoting himself to meditation, fasting, and prayer, became the victim of cerebral disorder. He was visited by supernatural appearHis delusions.
ances, mysterious voices accosting him as the
Prophet of God; even the stones and trees joined in the whispering. He himself suspected the true nature of his malady, and to his wife Chadizah he expressed a dread that he was becoming insane. It is related that as they sat alone, a shadow entered the room. “Dost thou see aught ?” said Chadizah, who, after the manner of Arabian matrons, wore her veil. “I do,” said the prophet.
Whereupon she uncovered her face and said, “Dost thou see it now?” “I do not." “Glad tidings to thee, O Mohammed !” exclaimed Chadizah: “it is an angel, for he has respected my unveiled face; an evil spirit would not.” As his disease advanced, these spectral illusions became more frequent; from one of them he received the divine commission. “I,” said his wife, “will be thy first believer;" and they knelt down in prayer together. Since that day nine thousand millions of human beings have acknowledged him to be a prophet of God.
Though, in the earlier part of his career, Mohammed exhibited a spirit of forbearance toward the Christians, it was not possible but that bitter animosity should arise, as the sphere of his influence extended. He appears to have been unable to form any other idea of the Trinity than that of three distinct gods; and the worship antagonism of the Virgin Mary, recently introduced, could to Christian
ity. not fail to come into irreconcilable conflict with his doctrine of the unity of God. To his condemnation of those Jews who taught that Ezra was the Son of God, he soon added bitter denunciations of the Oriental churches because of their idolatrous practices. The Koran is full of such rebukes : “ Verily, Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the apostle of God.” Believe, therefore, in God and his apostles, and say not that there are three gods. Forbear this; it will be better for you.
God is but one God. Far be it from Him that he should have a son.' “In the last day, God shall say unto Jesus, 0 Jesus, son of Mary! hast thou ever said to men, Take me and my mother for two gods beside God? He shall say, Praise be unto thee, it is not for me to say that which I ought not.” Mohammed disdained all metaphysical speculations respecting the nature of the Deity, or of the origin and existence of sin, topics which had hitherto exercised the ingenuity of the East. He cast aside the doctrine of the superlative value of chastity, asserting that marriage is the natural state of man. To asceticism he opposed poly- Institution of gamy, permitting the practice of it in this life polygamy. and promising the most voluptuous means for its enjoyment in Paradise hereafter, especially to those who had gained the crowns of martyrdom or of victory.
Causes of his success.
Too often, in this world, success is the criterion of right. The Mohammedan appeals to the splendour and rapidity Results of his of his career as a proof of the divine mission of
his apostle. It may, however, be permitted to a philosopher, who desires to speak of the faith of so large à portion of the human race with profound respect, to examine what were some of the secondary causes which led to so great a political result. From its most glorious seats Christianity was for ever expelled: from Palestine, the scene of its most sacred recollections; from Asia Minor, that of its first churches; from Egypt, whence issued the great doctrine of Trinitarian orthodoxy; from Carthage, who imposed her belief on Europe. It is altogether a misconception that the Arabian progress
was due to the sword alone. The sword may
change an acknowledged national creed, but it cannot affect the consciences of men. Profound though its argument is, something far more profound was demanded before Mohammedanism pervaded the domestic life of Asia and Africa, before Arabic became the language of so many different nations.
The explanation of this political phenomenon is to be found in the social condition of the conquered countries. The influences of religion in them had long ago ceased ; it had become supplanted by theology-a theology so incomprehensible that even the wonderful capabilities of the
reek language were scarcely enough to meet its subtle demands; the Latin and the barbarian dialects were out of the question. How was it possible that unlettered men, who with difficulty can be made to apprehend obvious things, should understand such mysteries? Yet they were taught that on those doctrines the salvation or damnation of the human race depended. They saw that the clergy had abandoned the guidance of the individual life of their flocks; that personal virtue or vice were no longer considered; that sin was not measured by evil works but by the degrees of heresy. They saw that the ecclesiastical chiefs of Rome, Constantinople, and Alexandria were engaged in a desperate struggle for supremacy, carrying out their purposes by weapons and in ways revolting to the conscience of
What an example when bishops were concerned in