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"To do something to instruct, but more to undeceive, the timid and admiring student;-
Fragment on Government.
JANUARY TO DECEMBER, INCLUSIVE,
Printed for the Editor, by George Smallfield ;
PUBLISHED BY SHERWOOD, JONES, AND CO.
THE NONCONFORMIST. No. XXVI.
Mahometan Influence on Christian Literature and Opinions.
have of late occasioned me to devote considerable attention to the literature, customs and opinions of the inhabitants of the South of France, among whom arose the first blossoms of the modern European, as opposed to the classic school of poetry, and on whom the Arabian spirit of literary enterprise is generally considered to have exerted so much influence. In these inquiries it has often struck me as, at any rate, rather a curious coincidence, that the same people who took the earliest strides in the progress of literary and political civilization, should also be the most prominently fixed with the stigma of heresy for opinions little understood, but certainly in many respects bearing the marks of a very peculiar origin. The result has been an endeavour to draw up a few remarks on the influence which the various connexions of Europe with the Arabian schools of manners and science can at this distance of time be discovered to have exercised; and though the following observations are only put together hastily to meet the present occasion, they may, perhaps, at least, suggest some points of inquiry, and supply a sort of sequel to the remarks which I submitted on a former occasion.
I then briefly noticed the brilliant progress, particularly in Spain, of the Arabian poets, philosophers and metaphysicians, at a period when all Christian Europe was sunk in the lowest depths of ignorant sloth; and it remains for me to call your attention to the influence which they exercised during the early ages on the theological opinions and divisions of their contemporaries and immediate successors, and to the circumstances which seemed to mark that influence with the character of toleration, as well as of freedom in speculative inquiry. These, I think it will be plain, facilitated a much more cordial feeling, on the part of the professors of Christian
was subsequently the result of the Crusading wars, would, at first sight, induce us to suppose capable of having ever existed between the rival followers of such widely different faiths.
In the earliest period of Mahometan proselytism we may, I think, very safely conceive it possible and probable, that even among many who refused to acknowledge the miraculous mission of the Prophet, the corruptions of the church, and the corrective tendency of the new opinions, would neutralize opposition if they did not conciliate inclination in favour of the Reformer, a character on which it appears that he long rested his claims on public consideration. On the other hand, policy, as well as a congenial feeling of opposition to the vices of the Christian establishment, would dispose the triumphant Mahometan to protect and encourage those sects which it found most widely opposed to the prevailing corruptions. Certain it is, that they tolerated, encouraged, and even zealously fought for sectarians who were in open rebellion to the Greek Church, and particularly those who were stigmatized as favourers of Gnostic and Manichæan heresies, and who, under the later epithet of Paulicians, every where signalized themselves by the purity of their practice, if not by the simplicity of their creed.
The orientalism of the peculiar dogmas of these sectarians would doubtless tend greatly to soften the distinction between them and their protectors, and it would be very easy to point out several obvious coincidences in the results which each deduced from the topics of their most favourite speculations.
With the Jews the same feelings seem to have early operated to produce among the learned professors of the Mahometan faith, during the days of its literary greatness, a courteous reception, a zealous union in the cultivation of common pursuits, and an