History of the Conflict
Between
Religion and Science




 

Chapter III.

Conflict Respecting the Doctrine of the Unity of God. -- the First or Southern Reformation.

The Egyptians insist on the introduction of the worship of the Virgin Mary. -- They are resisted by Nestor, the Patriarch of Constantinople, but eventually, through their influence with the emperor, cause Nestor's exile and the dispersion of his followers.

Prelude to the Southern Reformation -- The Persian attack; its moral effects.

The Arabian Reformation. -- Mohammed is brought in contact with the Nestorians. -- He adopts and extends their principles, rejecting the worship of the Virgin, the doctrine of the Trinity, and every thing in opposition to the unity of God. -- He extinguishes idolatry in Arabia, by force, and prepares to make war on the Roman Empire. -- His successors conquer Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, North Africa, Spain, and invade France.

As the result of this conflict, the doctrine of the unity of God was established in the greater part of the Roman Empire. -- The cultivation of science was restored, and Christendom lost many of her most illustrious capitals, as Alexandria, Carthage, and, above all, Jerusalem.

The policy of the Byzantine court had given to primitive Christianity a paganized form, which it had spread over all the idolatrous populations constituting the empire. There had been an amalgamation of the two parties. Christianity had modified paganism, paganism had modified Christianity. The limits of this adulterated religion were the confines of the Roman Empire. With this great extension there had come to the Christian party political influence and wealth. No insignificant portion of the vast public revenues found their way into the treasuries of the Church. As under such circumstances must ever be the case, there were many competitors for the spoils -- men who, under the mask of zeal for the predominant faith, sought only the enjoyment of its emoluments.

Under the early emperors, conquest had reached its culmination; the empire was completed; there remained no adequate objects for military life; the days of war-peculation, and the plundering of provinces, were over. For the ambitious, however, another path was open; other objects presented. A successful career in the Church led to results not unworthy of comparison with those that in former days had been attained by a successful career in the army.

The ecclesiastical, and indeed, it may be said, much of the political history of that time, turns on the struggles of the bishops of the three great metropolitan cities -- Constantinople, Alexandria, Rome -- for supremacy: Constantinople based her claims on the fact that she was the existing imperial city; Alexandria pointed to her commercial and literary position; Rome, to her souvenirs. But the Patriarch of Constantinople labored under the disadvantage that he was too closely under the eye, and, as he found to his cost, too often under the hand, of the emperor. Distance gave security to the episcopates of Alexandria and Rome.

Religious disputations in the East have generally turned on diversities of opinion respecting the nature and attributes of God; in the West, on the relations and life of man. This peculiarity has been strikingly manifested in the transformations that Christianity has undergone in Asia and Europe respectively. Accordingly, at the time of which we are speaking, all the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire exhibited an intellectual anarchy. There were fierce quarrels respecting the Trinity, the essence of God, the position of the Son, the nature of the Holy Spirit, the influences of the Virgin Mary. The triumphant clamor first of one then of another sect was confirmed, sometimes by miracle-proof, sometimes by bloodshed. No attempt was ever made to submit the rival opinions to logical examination. All parties, however, agreed in this, that the imposture of the old classical pagan forms of faith was demonstrated by the facility with which they had been overthrown. The triumphant ecclesiastics proclaimed that the images of the gods had failed to defend themselves when the time of trial came.

Polytheistic ideas have always been held in repute by the southern European races, the Semitic have maintained the unity of God. Perhaps this is due to the fact, as a recent author has suggested, that a diversified landscape of mountains and valleys, islands, and rivers, and gulfs, predisposes man to a belief in a multitude of divinities. A vast sandy desert, the illimitable ocean, impresses him with an idea of the oneness of God.

Political reasons had led the emperors to look with favor on the admixture of Christianity and paganism, and doubtless by this means the bitterness of the rivalry between those antagonists was somewhat abated. The heaven of the popular, the fashionable Christianity was the old Olympus, from which the venerable Greek divinities had been removed. There, on a great white throne, sat God the Father, on his right the Son, and then the blessed Virgin, clad in a golden robe, and "covered with various female adornments;" on the left sat God the Holy Ghost. Surrounding these thrones were hosts of angels with their harps. The vast expanse beyond was filled with tables, seated at which the happy spirits of the just enjoyed a perpetual banquet.

If, satisfied with this picture of happiness, illiterate persons never inquired how the details of such a heaven were carried out, or how much pleasure there could be in the ennui of such an eternally unchanging, unmoving scene, it was not so with the intelligent. As we are soon to see, there were among the higher ecclesiastics those who rejected with sentiments of horror these carnal, these materialistic conceptions, and raised their protesting voices in vindication of the attributes of the Omnipresent, the Almighty God.

Ecclesiastical Disputes.

In the paganization of religion, now in all directions taking place, it became the interest of every bishop to procure an adoption of the ideas which, time out of mind, had been current in the community under his charge. The Egyptians had already thus forced on the Church their peculiar Trinitarian views; and now they were resolved that, under the form of the adoration of the Virgin Mary, the worship of Isis should be restored.

Egyptian Doctrines.

It so happened that Nestor, the Bishop of Antioch, who entertained the philosophical views of Theodore of Mopsuestia, had been called by the Emperor Theodosius the Younger to the Episcopate of Constantinople (A. D. 427). Nestor rejected the base popular anthropomorphism, looking upon it as little better than blasphemous, and pictured to himself an awful eternal Divinity, who pervaded the universe, and had none of the aspects or attributes of man. Nestor was deeply imbued with the doctrines of Aristotle, and attempted to coordinate them with what he considered to be orthodox Christian tenets. Between him and Cyril, the Bishop or Patriarch of Alexandria, a quarrel accordingly arose. Cyril represented the paganizing, Nestor the philosophizing party of the Church. This was that Cyril who had murdered Hypatia. Cyril was determined that the worship of the Virgin as the Mother of God should be recognized, Nestor was determined that it should not. In a sermon delivered in the metropolitan church at Constantinople, he vindicated the attributes of the Eternal, the Almighty God. "And can this God have a mother?" he exclaimed. In other sermons and writings, he set forth with more precision his ideas that the Virgin should be considered not as the Mother of God, but as the mother of the human portion of Christ, that portion being as essentially distinct from the divine as is a temple from its contained deity.

The Nestorians.

Instigated by the monks of Alexandria, the monks of Constantinople took up arms in behalf of "the Mother of God." The quarrel rose to such a pitch that the emperor was constrained to summon a council to meet at Ephesus. In the mean time Cyril had given a bribe of many pounds of gold to the chief eunuch of the imperial court, and had thereby obtained the influence of the emperor's sister. "The holy virgin of the court of heaven thus found an ally of her own sex in the holy virgin of the emperor's court." Cyril hastened to the council, attended by a mob of men and women of the baser sort. He at once assumed the presidency, and in the midst of a tumult had the emperor's rescript read before the Syrian bishops could arrive. A single day served to complete his triumph. All offers of accommodation on the part of Nestor were refused, his explanations were not read, he was condemned unheard. On the arrival of the Syrian ecclesiastics, a meeting of protest was held by them. A riot, with much bloodshed, ensued in the cathedral of St. John. Nestor was abandoned by the court, and eventually exiled to an Egyptian oasis. His persecutors tormented him as long as he lived, by every means in their power, and at his death gave out that "his blasphemous tongue had been devoured by worms, and that from the heats of an Egyptian desert he had escaped only into the hotter torments of hell!"

The overthrow and punishment of Nestor, however, by no means destroyed his opinions. He and his followers, insisting on the plain inference of the last verse of the first chapter of St. Matthew, together with the fifty-fifth and fifty-sixth verses of the thirteenth of the same gospel, could never be brought to an acknowledgment of the perpetual virginity of the new queen of heaven. Their philosophical tendencies were soon indicated by their actions. While their leader was tormented in an African oasis, many of them emigrated to the Euphrates, and established the Chaldean Church. Under their auspices the college of Edessa was founded. From the college of Nisibis issued those doctors who spread Nestor's tenets through Syria, Arabia, India, Tartary, China, Egypt. The Nestorians, of course, adopted the philosophy of Aristotle, and translated the works of that great writer into Syriac and Persian. They also made similar translations of later works, such as those of Pliny. In connection with the Jews they founded the medical college of Djondesabour. Their missionaries disseminated the Nestorian form of Christianity to such an extent over Asia, that its worshipers eventually outnumbered all the European Christians of the Greek and Roman Churches combined. It may be particularly remarked that in Arabia they had a bishop.

The dissensions between Constantinople and Alexandria had thus filled all Western Asia with sectaries, ferocious in their contests with each other, and many of them burning with hatred against the imperial power, for the persecutions it had inflicted on them. A religious revolution, the consequences of which are felt in our own times, was the result. It affected the whole world.

We shall gain a clear view of this great event, if we consider separately the two acts into which it may be decomposed: 1. The temporary overthrow of Asiatic Christianity by the Persians; 2. The decisive and final reformation under the Arabians.

Persecution and Death of Nestor.

1. It happened (A. D. 590) that, by one of those revolutions so frequent in Oriental courts, Chosroes, the lawful heir to the Persian throne, was compelled to seek refuge in the Byzantine Empire, and implore the aid of the Emperor Maurice. That aid was cheerfully given. A brief and successful campaign restored Chosroes to the throne of his ancestors.

But the glories of this generous campaign could not preserve Maurice himself. A mutiny broke out in the Roman army, headed by Phocas, a centurion. The statues of the emperor were overthrown. The Patriarch of Constantinople, having declared that he had assured himself of the orthodoxy of Phocas, consecrated him emperor. The unfortunate Maurice was dragged from a sanctuary, in which he had sought refuge; his five sons were beheaded before his eyes, and then he was put to death. His empress was inveigled from the church of St. Sophia, tortured, and with her three young daughters beheaded. The adherents of the massacred family were pursued with ferocious vindictiveness; of some the eyes were blinded, of others the tongues were torn out, or the feet and hands cut off, some were whipped to death, others were burnt.

When the news reached Rome, Pope Gregory received it with exultation, praying that the hands of Phocas might be strengthened against all his enemies. As an equivalent for this subserviency, he was greeted with the title of "Universal Bishop." The cause of his action, as well as of that of the Patriarch of Constantinople, was doubtless the fact that Maurice was suspected of Magian tendencies, into which he had been lured by the Persians. The mob of Constantinople had hooted after him in the streets, branding him as a Marcionite, a sect which believed in the Magian doctrine of two conflicting principles.

With very different sentiments Chosroes heard of the murder of his friend. Phocas had sent him the heads of Maurice and his sons. The Persian king turned from the ghastly spectacle with horror, and at once made ready to avenge the wrongs of his benefactor by war.

The Persian Campaign.

The Exarch of Africa, Heraclius, one of the chief officers of the state, also received the shocking tidings with indignation. He was determined that the imperial purple should not be usurped by an obscure centurion of disgusting aspect. "The person of this Phocas was diminutive and deformed; the closeness of his shaggy eyebrows, his red hair, his beardless chin, were in keeping with his cheek, disfigured and discolored by a formidable scar. Ignorant of letters, of laws, and even of arms, he indulged in an ample privilege of lust and drunkenness." At first Heraclius refused tribute and obedience to him; then, admonished by age and infirmities, he committed the dangerous enterprise of resistance to his son of the same name. A prosperous voyage from Carthage soon brought the younger Heraclius in front of Constantinople. The inconstant clergy, senate, and people of the city joined him, the usurper was seized in his palace and beheaded. Invasion of Chosroes.

The Expedition of Heraclius.

But the revolution that had taken place in Constantinople did not arrest the movements of the Persian king. His Magian priests had warned him to act independently of the Greeks, whose superstition, they declared, was devoid of all truth and justice. Chosroes, therefore, crossed the Euphrates; his army was received with transport by the Syrian sectaries, insurrections in his favor everywhere breaking out. In succession, Antioch, Cæsarea, Damascus fell; Jerusalem itself was taken by storm; the sepulchre of Christ, the churches of Constantine and of Helena were given to the flames; the Savior's cross was sent as a trophy to Persia; the churches were rifled of their riches; the sacred relics, collected by superstition, were dispersed. Egypt was invaded, conquered, and annexed to the Persian Empire; the Patriarch of Alexandria escaped by flight to Cyprus; the African coast to Tripoli was seized. On the north, Asia Minor was subdued, and for ten years the Persian forces encamped on the shores of the Bosporus, in front of Constantinople.

In his extremity Heraclius begged for peace. "I will never give peace to the Emperor of Rome," replied the proud Persian, "till he has abjured his crucified God, and embraced the worship of the sun." After a long delay terms were, however, secured, and the Roman Empire was ransomed at the price of "a thousand talents of gold, a thousand talents of silver, a thousand silk robes, a thousand horses, and a thousand virgins."

But Heraclius submitted only for a moment. He found means not only to restore his affairs but to retaliate on the Persian Empire. The operations by which he achieved this result were worthy of the most brilliant days of Rome.

Invasion of Chosroes.

Though her military renown was thus recovered, though her territory was regained, there was something that the Roman Empire had irrecoverably lost. Religious faith could never be restored. In face of the world Magianism had insulted Christianity, by profaning her most sacred places -- Bethlehem, Gethsemane, Calvary -- by burning the sepulchre of Christ, by rifling and destroying the churches, by scattering to the winds priceless relics, by carrying off, with shouts of laughter, the cross.

Miracles had once abounded in Syria, in Egypt, in Asia Minor; there was not a church which had not its long catalogue of them. Very often they were displayed on unimportant occasions and in insignificant cases. In this supreme moment, when such aid was most urgently demanded, not a miracle was worked.

Amazement filled the Christian populations of the East when they witnessed these Persian sacrileges perpetrated with impunity. The heavens should have rolled asunder, the earth should have opened her abysses, the sword of the Almighty should have flashed in the sky, the fate of Sennacherib should have been repeated. But it was not so. In the land of miracles, amazement was followed by consternation -- consternation died out in disbelief.

2. But, dreadful as it was, the Persian conquest was but a prelude to the great event, the story of which we have now to relate -- the Southern revolt against Christianity. Its issue was the loss of nine-tenths of her geographical possessions -- Asia, Africa, and part of Europe.

In the summer of 581 of the Christian era, there came to Bozrah, a town on the confines of Syria, south of Damascus, a caravan of camels. It was from Mecca, and was laden with the costly products of South Arabia -- Arabia the Happy. The conductor of the caravan, one Abou Taleb, and his nephew, a lad of twelve years, were hospitably received and entertained at the Nestorian convent of the town.

The monks of this convent soon found that their young visitor, Halibi or Mohammed, was the nephew of the guardian of the Caaba, the sacred temple of the Arabs. One of them, by name Bahira, spared no pains to secure his conversion from the idolatry in which he had been brought up. He found the boy not only precociously intelligent, but eagerly desirous of information, especially on matters relating to religion.

In Mohammed's own country the chief object of Meccan worship was a black meteoric stone, kept in the Caaba, with three hundred and sixty subordinate idols, representing the days of the year, as the year was then counted.

At this time, as we have seen, the Christian Church, through the ambition and wickedness of its clergy, had been brought into a condition of anarchy. Councils had been held on various pretenses, while the real motives were concealed. Too often they were scenes of violence, bribery, corruption. In the West, such were the temptations of riches, luxury, and power, presented by the episcopates, that the election of a bishop was often disgraced by frightful murders. In the East, in consequence of the policy of the court of Constantinople, the Church had been torn in pieces by contentions and schisms. Among a countless host of disputants may be mentioned Arians, Basilidians, Carpocratians, Collyridians, Eutychians, Gnostics, Jacobites, Marcionites, Marionites, Nestorians, Sabellians, Valentinians. Of these, the Marionites regarded the Trinity as consisting of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Virgin Mary; the Collyridians worshiped the Virgin as a divinity, offering her sacrifices of cakes; the Nestorians, as we have seen, denied that God had "a mother." They prided themselves on being the inheritors, the possessors of the science of old Greece.

But, though they were irreconcilable in matters of faith, there was one point in which all these sects agreed -- ferocious hatred and persecution of each other. Arabia, an unconquered land of liberty, stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Desert of Syria, gave them all, as the tide of fortune successively turned, a refuge. It had been so from the old times. Thither, after the Roman conquest of Palestine, vast numbers of Jews escaped; thither, immediately after his conversion, St. Paul tells the Galatians that he retired. The deserts were now filled with Christian anchorites, and among the chief tribes of the Arabs many proselytes had been made. Here and there churches had been built. The Christian princes of Abyssinia, who were Nestorians, held the southern province of Arabia -- Yemen -- in possession.

By the monk Bahira, in the convent at Bozrah, Mohammed was taught the tenets of the Nestorians; from them the young Arab learned the story of their persecutions. It was these interviews which engendered in him a hatred of the idolatrous practices of the Eastern Church, and indeed of all idolatry; that taught him, in his wonderful career, never to speak of Jesus as the Son of God, but always as "Jesus, the son of Mary." His untutored but active mind could not fail to be profoundly impressed not only with the religious but also with the philosophical ideas of his instructors, who gloried in being the living representatives of Aristotelian science. His subsequent career shows how completely their religious thoughts had taken possession of him, and repeated acts manifest his affectionate regard for them. His own life was devoted to the expansion and extension of their theological doctrine, and, that once effectually established, his successors energetically adopted and diffused their scientific, their Aristotelian opinions.

As Mohammed grew to manhood, he made other expeditions to Syria. Perhaps, we may suppose, that on these occasions the convent and its hospitable inmates were not forgotten. He had a mysterious reverence for that country. A wealthy Meccan widow Chadizah, had intrusted him with the care of her Syrian trade. She was charmed with his capacity and fidelity, and (since he is said to have been characterized by the possession of singular manly beauty and a most courteous demeanor) charmed with his person. The female heart in all ages and countries is the same. She caused a slave to intimate to him what was passing in her mind, and, for the remaining twenty-four years of her life, Mohammed was her faithful husband. In a land of polygamy, he never insulted her by the presence of a rival. Many years subsequently, in the height of his power, Ayesha, who was one of the most beautiful women in Arabia, said to him: "Was she not old? Did not God give you in me a better wife in her place?" "No, by God!" exclaimed Mohammed, and with a burst of honest gratitude, "there never can be a better. She believed in me when men despised me, she relieved me when I was poor and persecuted by the world."

His marriage with Chadizah placed him in circumstances of ease, and gave him an opportunity of indulging his inclination to religious meditation. It so happened that her cousin Waraka, who was a Jew, had turned Christian. He was the first to translate the Bible into Arabic. By his conversation Mohammed's detestation of idolatry was confirmed.

After the example of the Christian anchorites in their hermitages in the desert, Mohammed retired to a grotto in Mount Hera, a few miles from Mecca, giving himself up to meditation and prayer. In this seclusion, contemplating the awful attributes of the Omnipotent and Eternal God, he addressed to his conscience the solemn inquiry, whether he could adopt the dogmas then held in Asiatic Christendom respecting the Trinity, the sonship of Jesus as begotten by the Almighty, the character of Mary as at once a virgin, a mother, and the queen of heaven, without incurring the guilt and the peril of blasphemy.

By his solitary meditations in the grotto Mohammed was drawn to the conclusion that, through the cloud of dogmas and disputations around him, one great truth might be discerned -- the unity of God. Leaning against the stem of a palm-tree, he unfolded his views on this subject to his neighbors and friends, and announced to them that he should dedicate his life to the preaching of that truth. Again and again, in his sermons and in the Koran, he declared: "I am nothing but a public preacher.... I preach the oneness of God." Such was his own conception of his so-called apostleship. Henceforth, to the day of his death, he wore on his finger a seal-ring on which was engraved, "Mohammed, the messenger of God."

Mohammed.

It is well known among physicians that prolonged fasting and mental anxiety inevitably give rise to hallucination. Perhaps there never has been any religious system introduced by self-denying, earnest men that did not offer examples of supernatural temptations and supernatural commands. Mysterious voices encouraged the Arabian preacher to persist in his determination; shadows of strange forms passed before him. He heard sounds in the air like those of a distant bell. In a nocturnal dream he was carried by Gabriel from Mecca to Jerusalem, and thence in succession through the six heavens. Into the seventh the angel feared to intrude, and Mohammed alone passed into the dread cloud that forever enshrouds the Almighty. "A shiver thrilled his heart as he felt upon his shoulder the touch of the cold hand of God."

His public ministrations met with much resistance, and little success at first. Expelled from Mecca by the upholders of the prevalent idolatry, he sought refuge in Medina, a town in which there were many Jews and Nestorians; the latter at once became proselytes to his faith. He had already been compelled to send his daughter and others of his disciples to Abyssinia, the king of which was a Nestorian Christian. At the end of six years he had made only fifteen hundred converts. But in three little skirmishes, magnified in subsequent times by the designation of the battles of Beder, of Ohud, and of the Nations, Mohammed discovered that his most convincing argument was his sword. Afterward, with Oriental eloquence, he said, "Paradise will be found in the shadow of the crossing of swords." By a series of well-conducted military operations, his enemies were completely overthrown. Arabian idolatry was absolutely exterminated; the doctrine he proclaimed, that "there is but one God," was universally adopted by his countrymen, and his own apostleship accepted.

Victories of Mohammed.

Let us pass over his stormy life, and hear what he says when, on the pinnacle of earthly power and glory, he was approaching its close.

Steadfast in his declaration of the unity of God, he departed from Medina on his last pilgrimage to Mecca, at the head of one hundred and fourteen thousand devotees, with camels decorated with garlands of flowers and fluttering streamers. When he approached the holy city, he uttered the solemn invocation: "Here am I in thy service, O God! Thou hast no companion. To thee alone belongeth worship. Thine alone is the kingdom. There is none to share it with thee."

With his own hand he offered up the camels in sacrifice. He considered that primeval institution to be equally sacred as prayer, and that no reason can be alleged in support of the one which is not equally strong in support of the other.

From the pulpit of the Caaba he reiterated, "O my hearers, I am only a man like yourselves." They remembered that he had once said to one who approached him with timid steps: "Of what dost thou stand in awe? I am no king. I am nothing but the son of an Arab woman, who ate flesh dried in the sun."

He returned to Medina to die. In his farewell to his congregation, he said: "Every thing happens according to the will of God, and has its appointed time, which can neither be hastened nor avoided. I return to him who sent me, and my last command to you is, that ye love, honor, and uphold each other, that ye exhort each other to faith and constancy in belief, and to the performance of pious deeds. My life has been for your good, and so will be my death."

In his dying agony, his head was reclined on the lap of Ayesha. From time to time he had dipped his hand in a vase of water, and moistened his face. At last he ceased, and, gazing steadfastly upward, said, in broken accents: "O God -- forgive my sins -- be it so. I come."

Shall we speak of this man with disrespect? His precepts are, at this day, the religious guide of one-third of the human race.

Death of Mohammed.

In Mohammed, who had already broken away from the ancient idolatrous worship of his native country, preparation had been made for the rejection of those tenets which his Nestorian teachers had communicated to him, inconsistent with reason and conscience. And, though, in the first pages of the Koran, he declares his belief in what was delivered to Moses and Jesus, and his reverence for them personally, his veneration for the Almighty is perpetually displayed. He is horror-stricken at the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus, the Worship of Mary as the mother of God, the adoration of images and paintings, in his eyes a base idolatry. He absolutely rejects the Trinity, of which he seems to have entertained the idea that it could not be interpreted otherwise than as presenting three distinct Gods.

His first and ruling idea was simply religious reform -- to overthrow Arabian idolatry, and put an end to the wild sectarianism of Christianity. That he proposed to set up a new religion was a calumny invented against him in Constantinople, where he was looked upon with detestation, like that with which in after ages Luther was regarded in Rome.

But, though he rejected with indignation whatever might seem to disparage the doctrine of the unity of God, he was not able to emancipate himself from anthropomorphic conceptions. The God of the Koran is altogether human, both corporeally and mentally, if such expressions may with propriety be used. Very soon, however, the followers of Mohammed divested themselves of these base ideas and rose to nobler ones.

The view here presented of the primitive character of Mohammedanism has long been adopted by many competent authorities. Sir William Jones, following Locke, regards the main point in the divergence of Mohammedanism from Christianity to consist "in denying vehemently the character of our Savior as the Son, and his equality as God with the Father, of whose unity and attributes the Mohammedans entertain and express the most awful ideas." This opinion has been largely entertained in Italy. Dante regarded Mohammed only as the author of a schism, and saw in Islamism only an Arian sect. In England, Whately views it as a corruption of Christianity. It was an offshoot of Nestorianism, and not until it had overthrown Greek Christianity in many great battles, was spreading rapidly over Asia and Africa, and had become intoxicated with its wonderful successes, did it repudiate its primitive limited intentions, and assert itself to be founded on a separate and distinct revelation.

Doctrines of Mohammed.

Mohammed's life had been almost entirely consumed in the conversion or conquest of his native country. Toward its close, however, he felt himself strong enough to threaten the invasion of Syria and Persia. He had made no provision for the perpetuation of his own dominion, and hence it was not without a struggle that a successor was appointed. At length Abubeker, the father of Ayesha, was selected. He was proclaimed the first khalif, or successor of the Prophet.

There is a very important difference between the spread of Mohammedanism and the spread of Christianity. The latter was never sufficiently strong to overthrow and extirpate idolatry in the Roman Empire. As it advanced, there was an amalgamation, a union. The old forms of the one were vivified by the new spirit of the other, and that paganization to which reference has already been made was the result.

The First Khalif.

But, in Arabia, Mohammed overthrew and absolutely annihilated the old idolatry. No trace of it is found in the doctrines preached by him and his successors. The black stone that had fallen from heaven -- the meteorite of the Caaba -- and its encircling idols, passed totally out of view. The essential dogma of the new faith -- "There is but one God" -- spread without any adulteration. Military successes had, in a worldly sense, made the religion of the Koran profitable; and, no matter what dogmas may be, when that is the case, there will be plenty of converts.

As to the popular doctrines of Mohammedanism, I shall here have nothing to say. The reader who is interested in that matter will find an account of them in a review of the Koran in the eleventh chapter of my "History of the Intellectual Development of Europe." It is enough now to remark that their heaven was arranged in seven stories, and was only a palace of Oriental carnal delight. It was filled with black-eyed concubines and servants. The form of God was, perhaps, more awful than that of paganized Christianity. Anthropomorphism will, however, never be obliterated from the ideas of the unintellectual. Their God, at the best, will never be any thing more than the gigantic shadow of a man -- a vast phantom of humanity -- like one of those Alpine spectres seen in the midst of the clouds by him who turns his back on the sun.

The Mohammedan Heaven.

Abubeker had scarcely seated himself in the khalifate, when he put forth the following proclamation:

In the name of the most merciful God! Abubeker to the rest of the true believers, health and happiness. The mercy and blessing of God be upon you. I praise the most high God. I pray for his prophet Mohammed.

"This is to inform you that I intend to send the true believers into Syria, to take it out of the hands of the infidels. And I would have you know that the fighting for religion is an act of obedience to God."

On the first encounter, Khaled, the Saracen general, hard pressed, lifted up his hands in the midst of his army and said: "O God! these vile wretches pray with idolatrous expressions and take to themselves another God besides thee, but we acknowledge thy unity and affirm that there is no other God but thee alone. Help us, we beseech thee, for the sake of thy prophet Mohammed, against these idolaters." On the part of the Saracens the conquest of Syria was conducted with ferocious piety. The belief of the Syrian Christians aroused in their antagonists sentiments of horror and indignation. "I will cleave the skull of any blaspheming idolater who says that the Most Holy God, the Almighty and Eternal, has begotten a son." The Khalif Omar, who took Jerusalem, commences a letter to Heraclius, the Roman emperor: "In the name of the most merciful God! Praise be to God, the Lord of this and of the other world, who has neither female consort nor son." The Saracens nicknamed the Christians "Associators," because they joined Mary and Jesus as partners with the Almighty and Most Holy God.

It was not the intention of the khalif to command his army; that duty was devolved on Abou Obeidah nominally, on Khaled in reality. In a parting review the khalif enjoined on his troops justice, mercy, and the observance of fidelity in their engagements he commanded them to abstain from all frivolous conversation and from wine, and rigorously to observe the hours of prayer; to be kind to the common people among whom they passed, but to show no mercy to their priests.

Invasion of Syria.

Eastward of the river Jordan is Bozrah, a strong town where Mohammed had first met his Nestorian Christian instructors. It was one of the Roman forts with which the country was dotted over. Before this place the Saracen army encamped. The garrison was strong, the ramparts were covered with holy crosses and consecrated banners. It might have made a long defense. But its governor, Romanus, betrayed his trust, and stealthily opened its gates to the besiegers. His conduct shows to what a deplorable condition the population of Syria had come. After the surrender, in a speech he made to the people he had betrayed, he said: "I renounce your society, both in this world and that to come. And I deny him that was crucified, and whosoever worships him. And I choose God for my Lord, Islam for my faith, Mecca for my temple, the Moslems for my brethren, Mohammed for my prophet, who was sent to lead us in the right way, and to exalt the true religion in spite of those who join partners with God." Since the Persian invasion, Asia Minor, Syria, and even Palestine, were full of traitors and apostates, ready to join the Saracens. Romanus was but one of many thousands who had fallen into disbelief through the victories of the Persians.

Fall of Bozrah.

From Bozrah it was only seventy miles northward to Damascus, the capital of Syria. Thither, without delay, the Saracen army marched. The city was at once summoned to take its option -- conversion, tribute, or the sword. In his palace at Antioch, barely one hundred and fifty miles still farther north, the Emperor Heraclius received tidings of the alarming advance of his assailants. He at once dispatched an army of seventy thousand men. The Saracens were compelled to raise the siege. A battle took place in the plains of Aiznadin, the Roman army was overthrown and dispersed. Khaled reappeared before Damascus with his standard of the black eagle, and after a renewed investment of seventy days Damascus surrendered.

From the Arabian historians of these events we may gather that thus far the Saracen armies were little better than a fanatic mob. Many of the men fought naked. It was not unusual for a warrior to stand forth in front and challenge an antagonist to mortal duel. Nay, more, even the women engaged in the combats. Picturesque narratives have been handed down to us relating the gallant manner in which they acquitted themselves.

Fall of Damascus.

From Damascus the Saracen army advanced northward, guided by the snow-clad peaks of Libanus and the beautiful river Orontes. It captured on its way Baalbec, the capital of the Syrian valley, and Emesa, the chief city of the eastern plain. To resist its further progress, Heraclius collected an army of one hundred and forty thousand men. A battle took place at Yermuck; the right wing of the Saracens was broken, but the soldiers were driven back to the field by the fanatic expostulations of their women. The conflict ended in the complete overthrow of the Roman army. Forty thousand were taken prisoners, and a vast number killed. The whole country now lay open to the victors. The advance of their army had been east of the Jordan. It was clear that, before Asia Minor could be touched, the strong and important cities of Palestine, which was now in their rear, must be secured. There was a difference of opinion among the generals in the field as to whether Cæsarea or Jerusalem should be assailed first. The matter was referred to the khalif, who, rightly preferring the moral advantages of the capture of Jerusalem to the military advantages of the capture of Cæsarea, ordered the Holy City to be taken, and that at any cost. Close siege was therefore laid to it. The inhabitants, remembering the atrocities inflicted by the Persians, and the indignities that had been offered to the Savior's sepulchre, prepared now for a vigorous defense. But, after an investment of four months, the Patriarch Sophronius appeared on the wall, asking terms of capitulation. There had been misunderstandings among the generals at the capture of Damascus, followed by a massacre of the fleeing inhabitants. Sophronius, therefore, stipulated that the surrender of Jerusalem should take place in presence of the khalif himself. Accordingly, Omar, the khalif, came from Medina for that purpose. He journeyed on a red camel, carrying a bag of corn and one of dates, a wooden dish, and a leathern water-bottle. The Arab conqueror entered the Holy City riding by the side of the Christian patriarch, and the transference of the capital of Christianity to the representative of Mohammedanism was effected without tumult or outrage. Having ordered that a mosque should be built on the site of the temple of Solomon, the khalif returned to the tomb of the Prophet at Medina.

Heraclius saw plainly that the disasters which were fast settling on Christianity were due to the dissensions of its conflicting sects; and hence, while he endeavored to defend the empire with his armies, he sedulously tried to compose those differences. With this view he pressed for acceptance the Monothelite doctrine of the nature of Christ. But it was now too late. Aleppo and Antioch were taken. Nothing could prevent the Saracens from overrunning Asia Minor. Heraclius himself had to seek safety in flight. Syria, which had been added by Pompey the Great, the rival of Cæsar, to the provinces of Rome, seven hundred years previously -- Syria, the birthplace of Christianity, the scene of its most sacred and precious souvenirs, the land from which Heraclius himself had once expelled the Persian intruder -- was irretrievably lost. Apostates and traitors had wrought this calamity. We are told that, as the ship which bore him to Constantinople parted from the shore, Heraclius gazed intently on the receding hills, and in the bitterness of anguish exclaimed, "Farewell, Syria, forever farewell!"

It is needless to dwell on the remaining details of the Saracen conquest: how Tripoli and Tyre were betrayed; how Cæsarea was captured; how with the trees of Libanus and the sailors of Phœnicia a Saracen fleet was equipped, which drove the Roman navy into the Hellespont; how Cyprus, Rhodes, and the Cyclades, were ravaged, and the Colossus, which was counted as one of the wonders of the world, sold to a Jew, who loaded nine hundred camels with its brass; how the armies of the khalif advanced to the Black Sea, and even lay in front of Constantinople -- all this was as nothing after the fall of Jerusalem.

The fall of Jerusalem! the loss of the metropolis of Christianity! In the ideas of that age the two antagonistic forms of faith had submitted themselves to the ordeal of the judgment of God. Victory had awarded the prize of battle, Jerusalem, to the Mohammedan; and, notwithstanding the temporary successes of the Crusaders, after much more than a thousand years in his hands it remains to this day. The Byzantine historians are not without excuse for the course they are condemned for taking: "They have wholly neglected the great topic of the ruin of the Eastern Church." And as for the Western Church, even the debased popes of the middle ages -- the ages of the Crusades -- could not see without indignation that they were compelled to rest the claims of Rome as the metropolis of Christendom on a false legendary story of a visit of St. Peter to that city; while the true metropolis, the grand, the sacred place of the birth, the life, the death of Christ himself, was in the hands of the infidels! It has not been the Byzantine historians alone who have tried to conceal this great catastrophe. The Christian writers of Europe on all manner of subjects, whether of history, religion, or science, have followed a similar course against their conquering antagonists. It has been their constant practice to hide what they could not depreciate, and depreciate what they could not hide.

Fall of Jerusalem.

I have not space, nor indeed does it comport with the intention of this work, to relate, in such detail as I have given to the fall of Jerusalem, other conquests of the Saracens -- conquests which eventually established a Mohammedan empire far exceeding in geographical extent that of Alexander, and even that of Rome. But, devoting a few words to this subject, it may be said that Magianism received a worse blow than that which had been inflicted on Christianity; The fate of Persia was settled at the battle of Cadesia. At the sack of Ctesiphon, the treasury, the royal arms, and an unlimited spoil, fell into the hands of the Saracens. Not without reason do they call the battle of Nehavend the "victory of victories." In one direction they advanced to the Caspian, in the other southward along the Tigris to Persepolis. The Persian king fled for his life over the great Salt Desert, from the columns and statues of that city which had lain in ruins since the night of the riotous banquet of Alexander. One division of the Arabian army forced the Persian monarch over the Oxus. He was assassinated by the Turks. His son was driven into China, and became a captain in the Chinese emperor's guards. The country beyond the Oxus was reduced. It paid a tribute of two million pieces of gold. While the emperor at Peking was demanding the friendship of the khalif at Medina, the standard of the Prophet was displayed on the banks of the Indus.

Overthrow of The Persians.

Among the generals who had greatly distinguished themselves in the Syrian wars was Amrou, destined to be the conqueror of Egypt; for the khalifs, not content with their victories on the North and East, now turned their eyes to the West, and prepared for the annexation of Africa. As in the former cases, so in this, sectarian treason assisted them. The Saracen army was hailed as the deliverer of the Jacobite Church; the Monophysite Christians of Egypt, that is, they who, in the language of the Athanasian Creed, confounded the substance of the Son, proclaimed, through their leader, Mokaukas, that they desired no communion with the Greeks, either in this world or the next, that they abjured forever the Byzantine tyrant and his synod of Chalcedon. They hastened to pay tribute to the khalif, to repair the roads and bridges, and to supply provisions and intelligence to the invading army.

Invasion of Egypt.

Memphis, one of the old Pharaonic capitals, soon fell, and Alexandria was invested. The open sea behind gave opportunity to Heraclius to reenforce the garrison continually. On his part, Omar, who was now khalif, sent to the succor of the besieging army the veteran troops of Syria. There were many assaults and many sallies. In one Amrou himself was taken prisoner by the besieged, but, through the dexterity of a slave, made his escape. After a siege of fourteen months, and a loss of twenty-three thousand men, the Saracens captured the city. In his dispatch to the Khalif, Amrou enumerated the splendors of the great city of the West, "its four thousand palaces, four thousand baths, four hundred theatres, twelve thousand shops for the sale of vegetable food, and forty thousand tributary Jews."

So fell the second great city of Christendom -- the fate of Jerusalem had fallen on Alexandria, the city of Athanasius, and Arius, and Cyril; the city that had imposed Trinitarian ideas and Mariolatry on the Church. In his palace at Constantinople Heraclius received the fatal tidings. He was overwhelmed with grief. It seemed as if his reign was to be disgraced by the downfall of Christianity. He lived scarcely a month after the loss of the town.

But if Alexandria had been essential to Constantinople in the supply of orthodox faith, she was also essential in the supply of daily food. Egypt was the granary of the Byzantines. For this reason two attempts were made by powerful fleets and armies for the recovery of the place, and twice had Amrou to renew his conquest. He saw with what facility these attacks could be made, the place being open to the sea; he saw that there was but one and that a fatal remedy. "By the living God, if this thing be repeated a third time, I will make Alexandria as open to anybody as is the house of a prostitute!" He was better than his word, for he forthwith dismantled its fortifications, and made it an untenable place.

Fall of Alexandria.

It was not the intention of the khalifs to limit their conquest to Egypt. Othman contemplated the annexation of the entire North-African coast. His general, Abdallah, set out from Memphis with forty thousand men, passed through the desert of Barca, and besieged Tripoli. But, the plague breaking out in his army, he was compelled to retreat to Egypt.

All attempts were now suspended for more than twenty years. Then Akbah forced his way from the Nile to the Atlantic Ocean. In front of the Canary Islands he rode his horse into the sea, exclaiming: "Great God! if my course were not stopped by this sea, I would still go on to the unknown kingdoms of the West, preaching the unity of thy holy name, and putting to the sword the rebellious nations who worship any other gods than thee."

These Saracen expeditions had been through the interior of the country, for the Byzantine emperors, controlling for the time the Mediterranean, had retained possession of the cities on the coast. The Khalif Abdalmalek at length resolved on the reduction of Carthage, the most important of those cities, and indeed the capital of North Africa. His general, Hassan, carried it by escalade; but reenforcements from Constantinople, aided by some Sicilian and Gothic troops, compelled him to retreat. The relief was, however, only temporary. Hassan, in the course of a few months, renewed his attack. It proved successful, and he delivered Carthage to the flames.

Jerusalem, Alexandria, Carthage, three out of the five great Christian capitals, were lost. The fall of Constantinople was only a question of time. After its fall, Rome alone remained.

In the development of Christianity, Carthage had played no insignificant part. It had given to Europe its Latin form of faith, and some of its greatest theologians. It was the home of St. Augustine.

Never in the history of the world had there been so rapid and extensive a propagation of any religion as Mohammedanism. It was now dominating from the Altai Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, from the centre of Asia to the western verge of Africa.

Fall of Carthage.

The Khalif Alwalid next authorized the invasion of Europe, the conquest of Andalusia, or the Region of the Evening. Musa, his general, found, as had so often been the case elsewhere, two effective allies, sectarianism and treason -- the Archbishop of Toledo and Count Julian the Gothic general. Under their lead, in the very crisis of the battle of Xeres, a large portion of the army went over to the invaders; the Spanish king was compelled to flee from the field, and in the pursuit he was drowned in the waters of the Guadalquivir.

With great rapidity Tarik, the lieutenant of Musa, pushed forward from the battle-field to Toledo, and thence northward. On the arrival of Musa the reduction of the Spanish peninsula was completed, and the wreck of the Gothic army driven beyond the Pyrenees into France. Considering the conquest of Spain as only the first step in his victories, he announced his intention of forcing his way into Italy, and preaching the unity of God in the Vatican. Thence he would march to Constantinople, and, having put all end to the Roman Empire and Christianity, would pass into Asia and lay his victorious sword on the footstool of the khalif at Damascus.

But this was not to be. Musa, envious of his lieutenant, Tarik, had treated him with great indignity. The friends of Tarik at the court of the khalif found means of retaliation. An envoy from Damascus arrested Musa in his camp; he was carried before his sovereign, disgraced by a public whipping, and died of a broken heart.

Conquest of Spain.

Under other leaders, however, the Saracen conquest of France was attempted. In a preliminary campaign the country from the mouth of the Garonne to that of the Loire was secured. Then Abderahman, the Saracen commander, dividing his forces into two columns, with one on the east passed the Rhone, and laid siege to Arles. A Christian army, attempting the relief of the place, was defeated with heavy loss. His western column, equally successful, passed the Dordogne, defeated another Christian army, inflicting on it such dreadful loss that, according to its own fugitives, "God alone could number the slain." All Central France was now overrun; the banks of the Loire were reached; the churches and monasteries were despoiled of their treasures; and the tutelar saints, who had worked so many miracles when there was no necessity, were found to want the requisite power when it was so greatly needed.

The progress of the invaders was at length stopped by Charles Martel (A. D. 732). Between Tours and Poictiers, a great battle, which lasted seven days, was fought. Abderahman was killed, the Saracens retreated, and soon afterward were compelled to recross the Pyrenees.

The banks of the Loire, therefore, mark the boundary of the Mohammedan advance in Western Europe. Gibbon, in his narrative of these great events, makes this remark: "A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire -- a repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland."

Invasion of France.

It is not necessary for me to add to this sketch of the military diffusion of Mohammedanism, the operations of the Saracens on the Mediterranean Sea, their conquest of Crete and Sicily, their insult to Rome. It will be found, however, that their presence in Sicily and the south of Italy exerted a marked influence on the intellectual development of Europe.

Their insult to Rome! What could be more humiliating than the circumstances under which it took place (A. D. 846)? An insignificant Saracen expedition entered the Tiber and appeared before the walls of the city. Too weak to force an entrance, it insulted and plundered the precincts, sacrilegiously violating the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul. Had the city itself been sacked, the moral effect could not have been greater. From the church of St. Peter its altar of silver was torn away and sent to Africa -- St. Peter's altar, the very emblem of Roman Christianity!

Constantinople had already been besieged by the Saracens more than once; its fall was predestined, and only postponed. Rome had received the direst insult, the greatest loss that could be inflicted upon it; the venerable churches of Asia Minor had passed out of existence; no Christian could set his foot in Jerusalem without permission; the Mosque of Omar stood on the site of the Temple of Solomon. Among the ruins of Alexandria the Mosque of Mercy marked the spot where a Saracen general, satiated with massacre, had, in contemptuous compassion, spared the fugitive relics of the enemies of Mohammed; nothing remained of Carthage but her blackened ruins. The most powerful religious empire that the world had ever seen had suddenly come into existence. It stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Chinese Wall, from the shores of the Caspian to those of the Indian Ocean, and yet, in one sense, it had not reached its culmination. The day was to come when it was to expel the successors of the Cæsars from their capital, and hold the peninsula of Greece in subjection, to dispute with Christianity the empire of Europe in the very centre of that continent, and in Africa to extend its dogmas and faith across burning deserts and through pestilential forests from the Mediterranean to regions southward far beyond the equinoctial line.

Insult to Rome.

But, though Mohammedanism had not reached its culmination, the dominion of the khalifs had. Not the sword of Charles Martel, but the internal dissension of the vast Arabian Empire, was the salvation of Europe. Though the Ommiade Khalifs were popular in Syria, elsewhere they were looked upon as intruders or usurpers; the kindred of the apostle was considered to be the rightful representative of his faith. Three parties, distinguished by their colors, tore the khalifate asunder with their disputes, and disgraced it by their atrocities. The color of the Ommiades was white, that of the Fatimites green, that of the Abassides black; the last represented the party of Abbas, the uncle of Mohammed. The result of these discords was a tripartite division of the Mohammedan Empire in the tenth century into the khalifates of Bagdad, of Cairo, and of Cordova. Unity in Mohammedan political action was at an end, and Christendom found its safeguard, not in supernatural help, but in the quarrels of the rival potentates. To internal animosities foreign pressures were eventually added and Arabism, which had done so much for the intellectual advancement of the world, came to an end when the Turks and the Berbers attained to power.

The Saracens had become totally regardless of European opposition -- they were wholly taken up with their domestic quarrels. Ockley says with truth, in his history: "The Saracens had scarce a deputy lieutenant or general that would not have thought it the greatest affront, and such as ought to stigmatize him with indelible disgrace, if he should have suffered himself to have been insulted by the united forces of all Europe. And if any one asks why the Greeks did not exert themselves more, in order to the extirpation of these insolent invaders, it is a sufficient answer to any person that is acquainted with the characters of those men to say that Amrou kept his residence at Alexandria, and Moawyah at Damascus."

As to their contempt, this instance may suffice: Nicephorus, the Roman emperor, had sent to the Khalif Haroun-al-Raschid a threatening letter, and this was the reply: "In the name of the most merciful God, Haroun-al-Raschid, commander of the faithful, to Nicephorus, the Roman dog! I have read thy letter, O thou son of an unbelieving mother. Thou shalt not hear, thou shalt behold my reply!" It was written in letters of blood and fire on the plains of Phrygia.

Dissensions of the Arabs.

A nation may recover the confiscation of its provinces, the confiscation of its wealth; it may survive the imposition of enormous war-fines; but it never can recover from that most frightful of all war-acts, the confiscation of its women. When Abou Obeidah sent to Omar news of his capture of Antioch, Omar gently upbraided him that he had not let the troops have the women. "If they want to marry in Syria, let them; and let them have as many female slaves as they have occasion for." It was the institution of polygamy, based upon the confiscation of the women in the vanquished countries, that secured forever the Mohammedan rule. The children of these unions gloried in their descent from their conquering fathers. No better proof can be given of the efficacy of this policy than that which is furnished by North Africa. The irresistible effect of polygamy in consolidating the new order of things was very striking. In little more than a single generation, the Khalif was informed by his officers that the tribute must cease, for all the children born in that region were Mohammedans, and all spoke Arabic.

Political Effect of Polygamy.

Mohammedanism, as left by its founder, was an anthropomorphic religion. Its God was only a gigantic man, its heaven a mansion of carnal pleasures. From these imperfect ideas its more intelligent classes very soon freed themselves, substituting for them others more philosophical, more correct. Eventually they attained to an accordance with those that have been pronounced in our own times by the Vatican Council as orthodox. Thus Al-Gazzali says: "A knowledge of God cannot be obtained by means of the knowledge a man has of himself, or of his own soul. The attributes of God cannot be determined from the attributes of man. His sovereignty and government can neither be compared nor measured."

Mohammedanism.