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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



R E L I G I O N   A N D   C H R I S T I A N I T Y.

      The Harbinger of 1835, page 154, et seq., contained:


      Preparatory to our new series on the reasons of our faith and hope in God, we present our readers a brief view of Mahometanism, Judaism, and Christianity, as at present existing in the world.

[A. C.]      


      Mahometanism, or Islamism, is the religion founded upon the Koran of Mahomet. It may be considered a mixture of Judaism and Christianity, with some fanciful embellishments. Mahometans are divided into two sects, those of Omar and Ali. The former prevails in Turkey and Arabia, the latter in Persia. There is a fixed hostility between these two divisions of Mahometan faith. Absurd, false, and sensual as is this religion, it yet exerts its influence over at least 100,000,000 of people, among whom are the inhabitants of Turkey, Arabia, Persia, Tartary, and the northern and eastern parts of Africa. There is reason to believe, however, that the Mahometan religion, at the present time, is rapidly declining with the decline of power in those nations who have hitherto sustained it.

      This vast company of religious professors take their name from Mahomet, who was born at Mecca, a city in Arabia Felix, in 571. The circumstances of Mahomet's early life were such as presented no flattering prospects of grandeur, and no probable views of ambition to his future life. He was illiterate, obscure, and very poor, till he married Cadigha, a widow of considerable property, for whom he had acted, for a number of years, as a mercantile agent, so much to her satisfaction, that she in return gave him the command of her property and person. This alliance, which took place in the 25th year of his age, raised him to an equality with the richest citizens in Mecca, and laid the foundation of his future fortune; and from this period, it is supposed, he began to meditate those schemes which raised him to eminence and power.

      Character of Mahomet.--This is differently represented by different writers. His followers of course consider him as the model of perfection, and as superior to all other men who ever lived upon the earth; as the chosen and favored instrument of God for the greatest good to mankind. Some describe him as a man of the most consummate [289] policy, and possessing the most fertile genius for fixing on auxiliaries for the accomplishment of his ambitious designs. Others represent him as a wild enthusiast, whose claims to celestial visions were like those of many hair-brained pretenders whose schemes have fallen into oblivion, for the want of those favorable conjunctures which led on the Arabian Prophet to authority and fame. Mahomet was undoubtedly a man of penetration and sagacity, and was thoroughly versed in all the arts of insinuation and intrigue. He made a fine personal appearance, and was fond of being thought to look like Abraham; was liberal to the poor, courteous to his equals, and condescending to his inferiors. He is said to have been a person of few words, of an equal, cheerful temper, and very pleasant and familiar to his friends. As to learning, he had none, but this he turned to a useful account, by insisting that the writings he produced as revelations from God, could not possibly be a forgery of his own. And his followers, also, instead of being ashamed of their master's ignorance of literature, gloried in it as an evident proof of his divine mission, and scrupled not to call him the illiterate Prophet.

      His fondness for women, by his own confession, was beyond all bounds of moderation, and his many salvos in his Koran for his concupiscence and concubinage, are disgusting to every virtuous mind. The multiplication of his wives, and his fond dalliance with female disciples, settled down, in his later years, into a sensual grossness; which, whatever may be said of the polygamy of the times, was altogether incompatible with that sainted eminence and celestial unction of which he made such perpetual and ridiculous boasts.

      Mahomet limited his followers to the number of four wives with the liberty of keeping as many concubines as they could maintain; while he himself married fifteen, or, as others say, twenty-one wives, besides having concubines. Of these, five died before him, six he repudiated, and ten were alive at his death. But his having this number of women was in consequence of a divine indulgence with which a God of infinite purity and justice, according to his account, had favored him.

      Origin and Character of the Koran.--It was not till Mahomet was forty years old, that he took upon him the title of the Apostle of God, and began to publish the revelations which, according to his account, were communicated to him from heaven by the angel Gabriel. These celestial communications Gabriel continued to make to him for the space of twenty-three years, directly from the archives of heaven, where the originals were deposited. They were placed in the chest of his Apostleship; and from this mass of revelations the Koran was compiled after Mahomet's death, by Abubeker, one of his earliest and most illustrious disciples. This is the Mahometan account of the [290] origin of the Koran; but others say, that instead of writing the chapters of this famous book by the dictation of Gabriel, he was assisted in their composition by a Persian Jew and a Christian Monk, by whose aid he acquired such an extensive knowledge of the Jewish and Christian religions.

      The Koran is a mixture of seriousness and levity; of moral precepts and ceremonial details; of sublime descriptions of the character of God, and of the most grovelling and frivolous illustrations of the duty of man: in one passage we read of the exalted attributes of Jehovah, and of the terrors of the day of judgment; and in the next we meet with some ridiculous and offensive directions for Mussulmans to adjust collisions among their concubines and wives. Well might Gibbon say of the Mahometan Oracles, that "they sometimes crawl in the dust, and at other times are lost in the clouds."

      The professed object of the Koran was to replant the true and ancient religion professed by Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and all the Prophets; to destroy the idolatry of the Pagan Arabs, and the superstitions of Jews and Christians. A mixture of all these religions are discoverable in this book. Much is said in it of the principal characters and events contained in the Scriptures; but both Jews and Christians are called idolators; the Patriarchs and Apostles, according to the Koran, were Mahometans; the angels worshipped Adam; and the fallen angels were driven from heaven for not doing so; Christ was neither God nor the Son of God, and assured Mahomet of this in a conference with the Almighty and himself; and it furthermore asserts that Christ was not crucified on Mount Calvary, when he appeared to suffer, but that another person was crucified in his stead, while God took him to himself.

      Doctrines of the Koran.--The two grand principles of the Mahometan religion are the unity of God, and the divine mission of Mahomet. There is no God but God, and Mahomet is his Prophet, are familiar sayings among his people; idolatry and image worship of every kind are offensive to them; they made awful havoc with the temples of the heathen gods, and till the trumpery of paganism wherever they carried their victorious arms. The Catholics have ever found them subtle and difficult opponents on account of the show of image worship in their religious rites. The doctrine of the Trinity the Mahometans reject in terms of the greatest disdain, being forbidden in a number of places in the Koran to believe it. The doctrine of predestination they carry to a downright fatalism, and the merit of good works, on the other hand, they magnify in the highest strains.

      According to the Koran, Paradise is adorned with everything costly and magnificent--there the faithful shall enjoy the most beautiful women who shall not cast an eye on any but themselves, with [291] whom they shall enjoy the continual pleasures of love to all eternity; they shall drink the most delicious liquors, and the most pleasant wines. There will not only be marriage, but servitude in the next world, and the very meanest in Paradise will have eighty thousand servants, and seventy-two wives of a celestial kind, besides the wives he had in this world: he will have a tent erected for him of pearls, hyacinths, and emeralds. And to crown the whole, if the faithful in Paradise are desirous of issue, it shall be conceived, born, and grow up in the space of an hour. These are a few of the descriptions of the joys of that Paradise to which the millions of Mahometans look forward with the utmost confidence and delight.

      Spread of the Mahometan Religion.--This at first was effected by argument and persuasion; but after the Prophet arrived at power, these gentle methods were exchanged for those of conquest and war. And the terror of his arms, together with the fascinating allurements of the fancied Paradise of the Koran, conspired to give the most unexampled rapidity to the spread of the new religion; so that in less than a century, Mahomet and his succeeding Generals had subdued a far greater extent of territory than the Romans conquered in eight hundred years.

      In addition to the agreeableness of his doctrines to the corrupt propensities of human nature, this warlike Prophet taught his followers that "a drop of blood shed in the cause of God, or a night spent in 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 as resplendent as vermillion, and odoriferous as musk; and the loss of his limbs shall be supplied by wings of angels and cherubim."

      The first disciples of Mahomet were called Saracens, and among them were some of the most famous warriors in the world.

      Mahometanism distributes itself into two general parts--faith and practice: the former contains six branches, viz.: belief in God; in his angels; in his Scriptures; in his Prophets; in the resurrection and final judgment, and the divine decrees. In the second part are included prayer with washing, alms, fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca, and circumcision. Among the negative precepts of this religion, are the prohibitions of wine, by which are meant all strong drinks, gaming, usury, the eating of blood and swine's flesh, and whatever dies of itself, etc., etc.

      Friday is observed by the Mahometans as their Sabbath, because they believe it was on that day that Mahomet fled from Mecca to Medina.

      They defer the circumcision of their children till they can distinctly pronounce the two leading articles of their faith--"There is no God [292] but God, and Mahomet is his Prophet;" or till any convenient time between the age of 6 and 16.

      The Mahometans have an established priesthood and a numerous body of clergymen; their spiritual head in Turkey, whose power is not inferior to the Roman Pontiff, is regarded as the oracle of sanctity and wisdom. Their houses of worship are denominated mosques, many of which are very magnificent, and very richly endowed.

      The Mahometan priests who perform the rites of their public worship are called Imams; and they have a set of ministers called Shekhs. who preach every Friday, much in the manner of Christian preachers.

      The Mahometans, like the Christians, are divided and subdivided into many sects and parties; but the two leading sects are the Sonnites and Schiites, who, notwithstanding they both believe in the Prophet and his religion, yet anathematize each other as abominable heretics, and as farther from the truth than either Christians or Jews. The Schiites are the followers of Ali, who reside chiefly in Persia; the Sonnites are the disciples of Abubeker, among whom are the Turks, Arabians, etc.

      This religion obliges its disciples to pray five times a day, and imposes upon them a burdensome ritual, which all devout Mussulmans scrupulously observe. They are obliged to fast the whole of the month Ramadan or Ramazan, from early in the morning until the evening twilight.



      Judaism is the religion of the Jews, and is divided into two sects, the Karaites, who acknowledge as divine only the books of the Old Testament; and the Rabbinists, who attribute an authority almost divine to the collection known under the name of the Talmud. The Jews are scattered throughout Europe, and many parts of Asia, Africa, and America. Their whole number is supposed to be about 3,000,000.

      As this persecuted race, who were formerly continually wasted and destroyed, have lived in a state of tranquility for a century past, some writers suppose their present number at six or seven millions.

      This people constitute one of the most singular and interesting portions of mankind; for about three thousand years they have existed as a distinct nation, and what is remarkable, by far the greatest part of this time they have been in bondage and captivity.

      The calling of Abraham, the father and founder of this nation; the legislation of Moses; the priesthood of Aaron; the Egyptian bondage; the conquest of Canaan; the history of the Jews to the coming of the Messiah; and their cruel and injurious treatment of this august and innocent personage, are facts which the Scriptures disclose, and with which it is presumed every reader is well acquainted. [293]

      The siege and destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, the Roman General, was one of the most awful and distressing scenes that mortals ever witnessed, and the details, as given by Josephus, are enough to make humanity shudder. During the siege, which lasted nearly five months, upwards of eleven hundred thousand Jews perished; John and Simon, the two Generals of the Hebrews, who were accounted the ringleaders of the rebellious nation, with seven hundred of the most beautiful and vigorous of the Jewish youth, were reserved to attend the victors' triumphal chariot. The number taken captive during this fatal contest, amounted to ninety-seven thousand; many of whom were sent into Syria and the other provinces to be exposed in public theatres to fight like gladiators, or to be devoured by wild beasts. The number of those destroyed in the whole war, of which the taking of the holy city was the bloody and tremendous consummation, is computed to have been one million four hundred and sixty thousand.

      For about eighteen hundred years, this wonderful people have maintained their peculiarities of religion, language, and domestic habits, among Pagans, Mahometans, and Christians; and have suffered a continued series of reproaches, privations, and miseries, which have excited the admiration and astonishment of all who have reflected on their condition.

      False Messiahs.--The constant and fond expectations of the Jews of a coming Messiah, who shall deliver them from bondage and captivity, and lead them in triumph to the land of Canaan, their ancient favorite abode, has involved them in a succession of the grossest impositions, and most calamitous disappointments. An account of all the false Messiahs since the true one was cruelly and wickedly rejected, would fill a volume. The strange infatuation of this nation has led them in many cases to rally round the standards of the most impious and hair-brained pretenders to the high office of the Messiahship.

      The history of this people certainly forms a striking evidence of the truth of divine revelation. They are a living and perpetual miracle continuing to subsist as a distinct and peculiar race for upwards of three thousand years, intermixed among almost all the nations of the world--flowing forward in a full and continued stream, like the waters of the Rhone, without mixing with the waves of the expansive lake through which the passage lies to the ocean of eternity.



      Christianity is the religion of Jesus Christ, who appeared in the world more than 1,800 years ago, and by the most astonishing miracles gave evidence that his mission was divine.

      Strictly speaking, none are Christians but those who are imbued with the spirit of Christ, agreeably to the declaration of Scripture, [294] "If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. viii. 9). But there is another sense in which whole nations are denominated Christians, viz.: where Christianity is the received religion, in opposition to all other religions. In this sense we shall use the term in treating of the various religions of the earth in this department of our work.

      Christianity is divided into three portions--the Greek church, which is established by law in Russia, prevails in Greece, Hungary, and part of Turkey, and embraces 70,000,000 people. The Roman Catholic, Latin, or Western church, maintains the supremacy of the Pope, prevails in many parts of Europe, and has a considerable number of followers in North America. In some of the West India islands, in Mexico, Guatemala, and South America, it is the established religion. The whole number of Catholics may be estimated at 116,000,000. The Protestants are those who protest against the Roman Catholic Church, and take the Bible as their guide. They may be comprised under eleven general heads, as follows:--Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Moravians, Baptists, Methodists, Friends or Quakers, Universalists, Swedenborgians, and Shakers. These general divisions are subdivided into forty or fifty smaller divisions. The Protestant religion in its various forms prevails in the United States, England, Scotland, Wales, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Prussia, etc.

      The following table shows the estimates of Hassel and Malte-Brun of the various religions:

Pagans 561,829,300
Christians 252,565,700
Mahometans 120,105,000
Jews     3,930,000
  Total, 938,421,000

Roman Catholics 134,732,000
Greek Church 56,011,000
Protestants 55,791,000
Monophysites 3,865,000
Armenians 1,799,000
Nestorians, etc.         367,000
  Total, 252,565,700


      1. Alexander Campbell. Extract from "Religious Magazine." The Millennial Harbinger 6 (April 1835): 154.
      2. Origen Bachelor. "Mahometanism" (from Religious Magazine). The Millennial Harbinger 6 (April
1835): 154-158.
      3. ----------. "Judaism" (from Religious Magazine). The Millennial Harbinger 6 (April 1835): 158-159.
      4. ----------. "Christianity" (from Religious Magazine). The Millennial Harbinger 6 (April 1835): 160.


[MHA1 289-295]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)