From the widely disproportionate effects which attend the preaching of modern missionaries of Christianity, compared with what followed the ministry of Christ and his apostles under circumstances either alike, or not so unlike as to account for the difference, a conclusion is fairly drawn in support of what our histories deliver concerning them, viz. that they possessed means of conviction which we have not; that they had proofs to appeal to which we want.
Of the religion of Mahomet.
The only event in the history of the human species which admits of comparison with the propagation of Christianity is the success of Mahometanism. The Mahometan institution was rapid in its progress, was recent in its history, and was founded upon a supernatural or prophetic character assumed by its author. In these articles, the resemblance with Christianity is confessed. But there are points of difference which separate, we apprehend, the two cases entirely.
I. Mahomet did not found his pretensions upon miracles, properly so called; that is, upon proofs of supernatural agency capable of being known and attested by others. Christians are warranted in this. assertion by the evidence of the Koran, in which Mahomet not only does not affect the power of working miracles, but expressly disclaims it. The following passages of that book furnish direct proofs of the truth of what we allege:—“The infidels say, Unless a sign be sent down unto him from his lord, we will not believe; thou art a preacher only.” (Sale’s Koran, c. xiii. p. 201, ed. quarto.) Again; “Nothing hindered us from sending thee with miracles, except that the former nations have charged them with imposture.” (C. xvii. p. 232.) And lastly; “They say, Unless a sign be sent down unto him from his lord, we will not believe: Answer; Signs are in the power of God alone, and I am no more than a public preacher. Is it not sufficient for them, that we have sent down unto them the book of the Koran to be read unto them?” (C. xxix. p. 328.) Beside these acknowledgments, I have observed thirteen distinct places in which Mahomet puts the objection (unless a sign, &c.) into the mouth of the unbeliever, in not one of which does he allege a miracle in reply. His answer is, “that God giveth the power of working miracles when and to whom he pleaseth;” (C. v. x. xiii. twice.) “that if he should work miracles, they would not believe;” (C. vi.) “that they had before rejected Moses, and Jesus and the Prophets, who wrought miracles;” (C. iii. xxi. xxviii.) “that the Koran itself was a miracle.” (C. xvi.)