« ZurückWeiter »
longest in operation in Egypt. And to their effect doubtless, in part, is to be ascribed the tolerance of religious discussion under that government already alluded to. The extension of Egyptian rule over Syria, has undoubtedly given increased facilities there for missionary operations. In Constantinople, too, the capital of Mohammedanism, similar appearances are beginning to be observed. A feeling is commonly remarked among its inhabitants, that with their imitation of European dress and military tactics, it behoves them to put on something more of the European character. When the writer was last at the depository of the British and Foreign Bible Society at that city, a gentleman was sitting, as he entered, attentively examining the Scriptures. At length he arose, and purchased a copy in Turkish, and another in Arabic. It was not until then, so much of the aspect of a European had he in his dress and appearance, that he was discovered to be a Turk. He was no stranger there. He had already been accessary to the distribution of a considerable number of Bibles. And the keeper of the depository affirmed, that this was not the only Turk, that felt that while other things were borrowed from Europeans, it was important also to look at their religion.
The reader may ask, whether the reasoning we have pursued does not build too much upon mere political events. Such a question is answered by what we are now ready to say. For the conversion of Mohammedans, two distinct steps have been requisite. A door of entrance among them needed to be opened, and that door needed to be actually entered by missionary laborers. The former step lay beyond the reach of direct religious means, in the sovereign control of Providence. We have traced out the interesting arrangements by which, in giving to Mohammedanism an attitude towards the spread of the gospel among Moslems, less haughty and less repulsive, Providence has been taking this step. He has done wondrously; and we have thus far looked on. We must look on no longer. It is now our turn to work.
The time may not yet have come for missions directly to the Mohammedans; but we ought to have missionaries enough among the nominal Christians of Turkey, for some one to be ever at hand to throw the light of divine truth into the opening mind of every Mohammedan inquirer; and to increase, by all desirable means, the number of such inquirers.
If we take not some such measures, all this providential preparation will bring out no good result. Whatever of humbling and of liberalizing all the political causes in the world can effect in the character of Mohammedans, will never make them Christians, nor good men. In this singularly interesting attitude, this transition-state, into which the Moslem mind is now brought, the impulse of some positive Christian agency is needed, or it will not even remain where it is; it will grow worse. No faith can be had in reformations left in such hands as this now is in. The agents of Christ may stand aloof, but the agents of the devil will not. They are always at hand. It is now a study of many in Turkey, to accustom Moslems to balls, masquerades, and wine-bibbing, things formerly held in utter abomination. And in this they are succeeding. For, to imitate Europeans is now becoming common, and such specimens of Europe have heretofore been seen by Moslems, that to fall into practices like these, is in their estimation to be a European.-Can Christians fold their hands, and suffer such a golden harvest to be wholly reaped by the enemy? When shall the disciples of Christ come to have an activity in their Master's service, by which they shall anticipate the emissaries of Satan, and suffer them no longer to pre-occupy opening fields of usefulness!
Shall it never be, until Satan is bound his thousand years, and Christians can take their own sluggish course without competition ?
In reference to the spread of the gospel among the nominal Christians of Turkey, the opposition of Mohammedanism, it may be hoped, has entirely ceased. That those Christians themselves will call
power to suppress evangelical labors, (the only way in which opposition can assume a legal shape,) past experience gives us no reason to fear; except so far as Papists are concerned, and they in Turkey are comparatively few. The arbitrary oppression, in which Moslem opposition formerly chiefly consisted, may be considered as wholly passed by. A derangement of public authority amounting to anarchy alone, can bring it back. The Turkish government has lately received too many salutary lessons of civility, any longer wantonly to trample upon the rights of foreigners. European and American citizenship has now acquired sufficient respect, to secure even to the missionary his life and liberty, and the enjoyment of his civil rights; and he can go any where, that public law is respected, preaching the gospel to the numerous Christian sects of Turkey, with no Turkish ruler disposed to hinder or make him afraid in so doing.
In referring this change to other than religious causes, is the writer again accused of a propensity to dwell upon political events? If limited to the class of events actually alluded to, he pleads guilty to the charge. Had the six eventful years, that he has mingled with Mediterranean affairs, where such events have so rapidly succeeded each other, found him indulging no such propensity, he would accuse himself of possessing the susceptibilities, neither of a Christian, nor of a man. Around him was the theatre in which had occurred the great transactions, that, from the remotest ages, have decided the destinies of our world ; there were to be developed the wonderful scenes of yet unfulfilled prophecy; and the passing events of every day seemed to take a visible hold upon the fate of nations. What Christian, what man, could fail to open his eyes upon such a book of providence spread out before him? Is there a Christian that reads these pages, who did not stretch his eye across the Atlantic to watch the progress of the Russian arms, and whose very Christian feelings did not sharpen his vision? The writer, also, looked at the same events from a nearer point, to see what God would bring out of them for the advancement of his kingdom. That he has actually brought much out of them, and of the other events that have recently befallen Turkey, has been already shown.
But how true is it that God's ways are not as our ways ! Were not Christians generally disappointed that the Russian army did not march at once upon the capital, and annihilate by force the dominion of the successors of Mohammed ? Had it done so, the extension of Russian laws over Turkey would have been to the nominal Christian sects there, like the congealing of lava upon Pompeii and Herculaneum ; casing them up in their present condition, immovable by their own exertions, and intangible to missionary efforts. Even missionaries to Mohammedans, would have found their hands tied, by the claims of an established church to their converts. God seems specially to have upheld the Mohammedan power, with just strength enough still to extend its levelling laws over Christian sects, to the prevention of any rising consciousness of their own power which would make them intolerant; and with just weakness enough quietly to allow the labors of missionaries among them, and expose its own pro
fessors to some evangelical influence. Indeed, who can say, that the destruction of Mohammedan power was not too high a prize to be awarded to Russian ambition, and that God has not reserved it for missionary enterprise to win, by converting Moslems to the faith of Jesus? By turning those churches, which now by their ungodly conduct only prejudice Moslems against Christianity, into truly pious communities, each set as a city upon a hill that cannot be hid ; and in the mean time availing ourselves of every suitable opportunity to speak to Moslems themselves of Jesus and him crucified, even this great work may be effected.
Among the native Christians, at any rate, in the present crisis of Mohammedanism, has Providence opened a wide field for missionary culture in Turkey. Among them especially are missionaries called for. How urgent is the call, might be shown by portraying their wretched spiritual condition. But how should the picture be drawn so exhibit faithfully the impression which extensive survey has stamped so indelibly upon the mind of the writer? How should he express the full urgency of the call he brings ?
During six years of missionary wanderings and labors, he has had chiefly to do with men bearing the name of Christians. In Egypt, he has found the Copts; in Palestine and Syria, Greek, papal Greek, and Maronite Arabs; in Greece and its islands, in European Turkey, and in Asia Minor, Greeks, mostly of the Greek church; in Armenia and elsewhere, Armenians; and in the adjacent regions of Georgia and Persia, Georgians of the Greek, and Syrians of the Nestorian church. Their whole number is probably not far from 6,000,000, a majority of whom are in the Turkish empire. They are relics of churches planted by apostles' hands; churches unto whom were first given the oracles of God; in which the candle of piety once burned brightly, and from which emanated the light that now shines upon
these ends of the earth. But in treading over again the tracks of apostles and martyrs, the writer has sought in vain for an individual that now breathes the spirit of Jesus, unless he had borrowed it from a foreign source.
The history of their degeneracy is briefly this. There having been among them from the first no means of easily multiplying copies of the Scriptures, the Bible became at length too dear and scarce for many private individuals to possess; and the people were dependent for their scriptural knowledge upon the instructions of their clergy, and the reading of the word at church. The former source was soon corrupted, and ere long dried up. For the clergy, becoming secularized at heart, substituted in their teaching the speculations and traditions of men for the word of God, and at length preaching, of whatever kind, was entirely banished to give place to rites and forms. Throughout the Greek nation now, a sermon is rarely heard except in Lent; in Armenia we heard only one, and a pulpit we did not find in a single church. The reading of the word, too, soon became of no avail, for new forms of speech springing up, the ancient dialects grew obsolete, and the Scriptures came to be sealed up in a dead language. Such was also the case with their prayers. For centuries, they have not only listened to God's instructions, but have also worshipped him, in an unknown tongue. The only exceptions to this remark now, among all of whom I am speaking, are the few who use the Arabic language.
They have become, in a word, a people without the Bible. And what is it to be without the Bible? In this country, we know not what it is. Would we know, we must go ourselves and see. We must leave the intelligent preaching and devout prayers of our holy Sabbaths, with the blessed hopes of heaven they inspire. We must leave this healthful atmosphere of principled public opinion we breathe; and the honor and honesty in the dealings of man with man around us; with our enterprising trade and prosperous agriculture, of which they are the soul. Our multiplied schools and seminaries of learning, too; with the boasted liberty of our republican institutions, we must leave, and go to those benighted people upon which the Bible has ceased to shed its influence. See how, their religion becoming defective at the heart, they have, to satisfy conscience and quiet their fears, thrown around it the drapery of ceremonies, until all are now bowed down under a grievous bondage to external rites. Superstitious observances being then set off to counterbalance their sins; see how conscience is perverted, and the foundations of moral principle and uprightness are all out of course. See, also, springing hence, the paralyzing influence of universal dishonesty upon every department of industry and enterprise ; and how the fountains of knowledge, too, being from the same influence no longer frequented, are choked up and