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but we know that they have a common origin in the eternal snows that crown the distant mountains. So with the Church of God. For nineteen centuries the causes enumerated by the English historian have been a principle of perpetual strength and beauty to her. But whence is their peculiar power derived? Are they merely natural? Or is there not behind them the almighty arm of God? We can trace their power and efficacy to the mountain of God, to Jesus Christ Himself, the perennial fountain of everlasting life. It was He who inspired the first disciples with their burning zeal. He opened up to them the luminous perspective of a life to come, "eternal in the Heavens." He gave them miraculous powers. He was the source of their sanctity. He was the living soul that animated the teaching authority in the Church and guided its counsels.
Let us examine more closely the last of these causes assigned by Gibbon. It is the most cogent of them all, comprehending in some measure the others. It is, moreover, the one most frequently alleged by writers unfriendly to the Church, as the secret of her strength and singular continuity.
The Church, say these writers, owes her marvellous vigor and survival to her thorough and skilful organization, her strict discipline and the well-marshalled battalions of her clergy, and to the sagacity and foresight of her popes and prelates.
The reply to this is very plain. 1st. The organization of the Church, admirable as it is, is not an
adequate explanation of her strange vitality. Organization is the work of intelligence, but no one has ever imagined that churchmen have a monopoly of human wisdom. Civil rulers have assuredly as high faculties and as much facility to organize as ecclesiastics. 2d. The princes of this world certainly have better means at their disposal for maintaining discipline, than the Church has at her command. There are magistrates to enforce obedience to the laws; and standing armies to coerce refractory subjects. The Church draws no sword to enforce her authority. She relies upon spiritual penalties and moral sanctions alone. Again, civil empires are commonly comprised in one compact and undivided territory. The people speak the same tongue; they are ordinarily of one race, or of races fused into one homogeneous body. The Republic of the Church, on the contrary, is conterminous with the globe itself, embracing people of every race and speaking every language under the sun. Surely it is more difficult to establish and perpetuate among elements so diverse, the unity of faith and discipline, than to secure the political unity of a single nation. 3d. Pontiffs and prelates are not gifted by nature with more judgment and penetration in the art of governing than civil rulers and statesmen. The indestructibility of the Church then cannot logically be referred to the talents and learning of her teachers, or to the far-sighted policy of her rulers. Nay, if the statements of her adversaries are to be admitted, she endures not because of human wisdom, but in spite of human folly.
To the philosophic mind, as well as to the Christian, there remains but one rational conclusion, but one cause entirely adequate to the permanency of Christianity. If the Church has survived the storms of nineteen centuries, it is through Him who promised that "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against her." If she lives, and moves, and has her being to-day, it is to justify the declaration of Christ, who said: "I am with you all days, to the end of the world." Her presence in the world to-day is a palpable proof of the divine mission of Jesus Christ, and every unbiassed mind that calmly reviews her history must admit that "the finger of God is here."
Gamaliel gave the angry Pharisees a true test by which they could discern her true character: “If this work be of men, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it."1
Upwards of fourteen hundred years ago, St. Augustin proposed to the cavillers of his time an argument which has greater cogency now than it had even then. Either, he says, the Christian religion was propagated by miracles or without them. If the former is true, the Church is manifestly divine; if, however, the world was converted without miracles, this of itself would be a miracle so stupendous that no other could be compared with it.
It may be objected further, that if rapid growth and protracted existence are to be accepted as proofs of a divinely established religion, Mohammed may lay claim to a divine mission as well as Christ.
1 Acts, V.
Between Christianity and Mohammedanism, however, there is absolutely no parity to warrant any one in asserting for Islam the claims which have been set up in behalf of the Christian religion.
For 1st. Christ was the Founder of a new religion embodying a clearer revelation of God and a new and purer code of morals; Mohammed has enriched mankind with no good thing that was not well known before.
2ndly. Christ confirms his teaching by well authenticated miracles; Mohammed disclaims miraculous gifts, though his credulous followers ascribed miraculous powers to him.
3rdly. The pure and stainless life of Jesus stands out in strong contrast with the voluptuousness of Mohammed. The life of Jesus is in perfect harmony with His sublime precepts, whilst the lessons of moderation, abstinence and almsgiving inculcated by the false prophet, are neutralized by his gross sensuality, his cruelty and imposture.
4thly. Christ propagated His Gospel by an appeal to reason and conscience; Mohammed made proselytes by the sword.
5thly. Christ's system of morals inculcates a relentless war upon the passions; Mohammed's is an incentive to their gratification. Christ stems the torrent of lawless desires; Mohammed floats with their impetuous tide. Even his Paradise is one of sensual delights.
6thly. The Gospel proclaims the unity and indissolubility of marriage. The Koran sanctions polygamy, permitting a man to have four wives and as
many concubines as his wealth can maintain, while he may divorce his wives at will. "A special revelation dispensed Mohammed from the laws which he had imposed on his nation; the female sex, without reserve, was abandoned to his desires. . . . Eleven wives enjoyed the favor of his conjugal society." His amorous intrigues are notorious and revolting to Christian modesty.
7thly. Christianity is world-wide and universal, embracing people of every race and nation under heaven. Islamism is limited in territorial extent. In European Turkey, where it is confronted by Christianity, it forms but one-fourth of the population and is fast losing ground. It is racy of the soil from which it sprung. It is a reflex of the people, the country and the climate in which it had its origin.
8thly. Christianity is identified with the intellectual and moral progress of humanity. Mohammedanism is associated with a retrograde and moribund civilization.
9thly. Christianity has abolished slavery wherever its influence dominates. The Mussulman extends
and perpetuates it.
10thly. Every thoughtful and impartial mind has for eighteen centuries admired the sublime simplicity of the Gospel. "He will peruse with impatience in the Koran the endless incoherent rhapsody of fable and precept, and declamation which seldom excites
1 Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. VI, p. 358.