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served to accomplish the complete re-establishment of the kingdom of Antichrist.
The revival of most of the Pagan superstitions, and the universal darkness and ignorance that prevailed at the commencement of the seventh century, favoured the attempt of one, who was either the most daring impostor, or the most extraordinary enthusiast that had yet appeared upon earth; this was Mahomet, the founder of the religion which bears his name, and of the Saracen empire, which in the short space of 150 years, extended itself over the greater part of Asia, and no inconsiderable portion of Europe and Africa.
A plausible pretext for the necessity of his pretended new revelation was furnished, by the universal corruption of religion that prevailed, the renewal of idolatry, and the profligacy of the clergy; while the state of blindness and ignorance in which they purposely kept the minds of the people, greatly served to facilitate the success of his imposture. After spending three years in gaining over a few proselytes, Mahomet at length openly declared himself as the prophet of God; sent for the purpose of abolishing idolatry, and restoring true religion. Miraculous powers he did not lay claim to, alleging that they had already proved ineffectual in the hands of his predecessors, Moses and Christ; sent into the world for the same purpose as himself, or to establish the worship of one God. But the obstinacy of mankind, in disregarding their precepts, had determined the Almighty, he said, to
punish their wickedness by sending himself, the last and greatest of the three, to propagate religion with the sword. Nor were there wanting texts in scripture, which he artfully applied to himself, as prophetic of his coming; but the proof of his divine mission, to which he chiefly appealed, was the success of his arms; while the joys of paradise were promised to those who fell in his cause. • The sword,' said he, 'is the key of heaven and hell. A drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting and prayer. Whoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven.' A doctrine so congenial to a warlike people, could not fail to convince; and in a short time united under his standard the scattered tribes of the Arabs, who acknowledged him for their leader and their prophet, and soon furnished the proofs he appealed to.
While he artfully strove to conciliate both Jews and Christians, by acknowledging Moses and Christ, he further shewed them indulgence, by tolerating their religion, on condition, however, of their submitting to his arms, and paying tribute; but so little regard was often shewn by the victors to this stipulation, and so great were the advantages that accrued from joining his standard, that multitudes of both were tempted to embrace this alternative, more it may be supposed from policy, than from conviction.
The progress of his newly established empire, did not end with the life of its founder, but conti
nued after his death, with unparalleled success till the middle of the eighth century, or from the year 612, the date of the Mahommedan era, to the year 762, a space of 150 years; at which period the Saracen conquests extended from India to the Atlantic ocean, comprising Persia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, and Spain. In the year 762, the Caliph Almansor founded the city of Bagdad, on the Tigris, and called it the city of peace: from this time, as stated by Gibbon, the character of the Saracens began to change; war was no longer their passion, and they henceforward cultivated the arts of peace.
EIGHTH TO THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.
A. D. 762 to 1453.-When the Mahommedans had firmly established both their religion and their empire, a temporising policy ceased to be necessary; and in their subsequent irruptions, they no longer shewed the same indulgence as formerly to the Christians, but compelled them to renounce their religion, or treated them with the most merciless barbarity. The extent to which Christianity once prevailed in regions, where it is now almost unknown, may be conceived from the statement of Sir I. Newton, (Obs. on Dan. P. 298) that there were, as early as the 5th century, no less than 700 bishoprics in Africa alone. And before the 7th century, as we learn from Mosheim, it was not only estab
lished in Syria, Arabia, and Persia, but had gained a footing in Tartary, Hindostan, and China. Over all this vast tract of country, scarce a vestige of it now remains, so effectually has it been eradicated by Mahommedism.
The change of character in the Mahommedan invaders, and their different treatment of the Christians, is first mentioned by Mosheim, in the middle of the 8th century; where he describes the Turks, as more fierce and inhuman than the Saracens ; and the same difference is again noticed in the 11th century. During the intervening period, the struggles between the Turks and Saracens appear to have afforded a respite to the Christians from their incursions; but by this time the Saracen empire in the East having fallen before the victorious arms of the Turks, these latter seized upon the richest provinces of the Greek empire, and treated the Christians with the utmost cruelty. In the mean time, the Saracens in Spain are stated to have persevered in the means they formerly employed, of seduction and allurement, in tempting them to apostatise; a difference in the conduct of these invaders, not overlooked in the prophecy. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the progress of the Turks was checked, partly perhaps by the crusades; while the affairs of the Christians in the East appear under a somewhat more favorable aspect, for the Tartars and Moguls, who at this time overran the continent of Asia, shewed no great aversion to Christianity, which was embraced by some of their
princes. Even Gengis Khan, though he did not favor the Christians, did not extinguish the light of the gospel in the countries he invaded. But in the 14th century, the Tartars renounced the peaceful religion of Jesus, and embraced that of the Koran, which was more congenial to their warlike habits; and towards the close of this century, the victorious arms of Tamerlane were effectually employed in eradicating all remains of it, and substituting Mahommedism over the greatest part of Asia. At length, in the middle of the 15th century, the Greek empire was finally overthrown by Mahomet the 2d. and from the year 1453, when Constantinople was taken by the Turks, is to be dated, the utter extinction of the light of the gospel in this quarter of the globe.
Thus between the 8th and the 15th century, among the different periods of Mahommedan invasion, we find four, which appear to have been particularly fatal to Christianity; and on this account, as well as from their occurring under four different dynasties, they are aptly symbolised by the loosing of four angels, or messengers sent by Heaven, as expressly declared in the prophecy, for a judgment upon the world.
We may at the same time observe, how little importance is attached in the spiritual history, to events of whatever magnitude, which have only a political influence; when so cursory a view is taken of these irruptions of the Turks and Tartars between the 8th and 15th century, although they swept