« ElőzőTovább »
worship, war, and poetry, — helps to which China has owed little. In government the Hindus have been weak, except in the local governments of villages, while the Chinese have been strong. In philosophy the Chinese have been respectable, the Hindus highly so. In language, a higher instrument of civilization, the Hindus have been very strong, the Chinese very weak. In morality, the four civilizations — Chinese, Hindu, Mohammedan, and European — seem to have been about equal till the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. If Europe was superior in some points of morality, Asia was as much superior in others. In fact, taking religion in its broad sense, as comprehending worship, morality, theology, and church, Europe could claim little superiority over Asia till the time of Luther. An absurd assertion this to strict Catholics, and a puzzling one to those Protestants whose aversion to heathenism is scarce equalled by their hatred of Romanism, but sufficiently accurate to those Protestants and Catholics who consider Luther a great blessing to our common Christianity, who look at Oriental religion through a clearer medium than Occidental prejudice, and who perceive that all religions and moralities, still more all theologies, are meandering streams, not the straight canals our dogmatisms decree. If it be said that Europe before Luther, however superstitious, had no Juggernath, it is sufficient to reply that Asia had no Inquisition,. — a more horrible thing, yet so deeply imbedded in Europeanism that its spirit still afflicts, in modified forms, some of the most enlightened regions of Europe and America. Bigotry and intolerance are little known among Chinese and Hindus, though nearly as common among Mohammedans as among Christians. 'It is humiliating to think, and a salutary lesson if we will but receive it, that so good a thing as religion may be proud and unbrotherly, dogmatic and insulting. Dwelling fondly on the whole history of our civilization and religion, even the darker passages, we are slow to perceive that we may in some things learn truth and a Christ-like spirit from other religions and races; that even Asiatics may sometimes, with reason, turn away from our too narrow and hard-hearted theology, our too complacent philanthropy, our too arrogant ecclesiasticism. The universality of our claims is in singular contrast with the partialism of our dogmas, and even of our practice. Some of us have proceeded so far in tolerance as to bear with other races and other complexions, without being able to enlarge our charity sufficiently to comprehend other religions also. It is a serious fault in our religious education, that we are taught to underrate all religions but our own. The poor Irishman we can often bear with as a Celt, but not as a Papist. The African or Hindu we can treat with tenderness and respect as a black man, but not as a heathen or Mohammedan. To some it is a justification of aggressive wars and the slave-trade, that black men thereby have Christianity imposed upon them; to a far larger number, this gain to Christianity is felt to be some apology for the wrong. We have yet to learn, and we can learn it from the Hindus and the Chinese, that religions are to be treated with tenderness and respect, as well as races and complexions. We have yet to learn, and we shall learn it, that the religious convictions and sincere worships of others are as sacred as our own. What we now pride ourselves in as Christian toleration is often nothing but ecclesiastical insolence,- a relic of barbarism to be civilized out of us. The Inquisition dies hard. It lingers on, in spiritual assumption, sectarian narrowness, theological unfairness and bigotry, sanctimonious slander,
We have remarked incidentally, that the Chinese and Hindus have known no retrograde movement in their civilization so marked as to make for them “ dark ages” like our own. There has been a physical ground for this, which we do not remember to have seen noticed, and which we will here briefly state, though our limits scarcely allow the consideration of physical agencies. China, having the sea on the east and south, and almost impassable deserts and mountains on the west, has been open to barbarians only on the north ; India was equally fortunate in its position; so that these two civilizations in their struggles with barbarous hordes were stimulated and reinforced, but never overwhelmed, by their Northern invaders. Very different was the position of Europe, which at one time had to contend with the energetic tribes of the north and northeast, and also with the still more dangerous Saracens on the south and southeast, and thus came near being overwhelmed with an excess of stimulation and reinforcement. Hence those strange chaotic centuries, wherein rose up four providential men, - Charlemagne, Alfred, Hildebrand, and Dante, — full of inspiration and strength, to conduct the chosen people, Moses and Joshua like, through and out of the desert and darkness. There were doubtless moral causes co-operating with physical position to enable the Chinese and Hindoos to maintain their civilization ; but these causes we have neither the space nor the materials to trace out.
Of all the great civilizations of Asia and the world, Mo hammedanism has the narrowest basis, has been developed by the fewest instrumentalities. Religion, war, and poetry have been the great forces by which it has grown into such vast dimensions. Law, philosophy, commerce, agriculture, manufactures, have contributed their aid in less degree than in the other civilizations. It is a simple, grand, energetic development, but not manifold and comprehensive. In agriculture and manufactures the Mohammedans have always been behind the Chinese and Hindus, owing chiefly, we suppose, to inferiority of soil and other physical hinderances. We are accustomed to condemn the Mohammedans for despotism, polygamy, and the degradation of woman. But it is not they alone who are chargeable with these sins. Despotism has always prevailed in Asia, and always will till a higher civilization is developed. The Anglo-Indian government is as despotic as other Asiatic governments, and necessarily so. Polygamy also is an Asiatic rather than a Mohammedan evil. Europe owes its freedom from polygamy, and the higher position of its women, to a combination of favorable circumstances and influences. Monogamy prevailed in Greece, was still stronger in Rome; and respect for women was a marked peculiarity of the Germanic tribes. During the Middle Ages, the ideal of woman, and as a consequence her condition, was still further elevated by Mariolatry, chivalry, and the home influences of feudal castles ; so that at the close of the Middle Ages the woman of Europe was considerably higher than the woman of Asia, though the superiority of the European man
was only beginning to be discernible. The extent to which polygamy prevails in Asia has been somewhat exaggerated, and so also has the degradation of woman. In Arabia, Persia, India, and China the condition of woman on the whole corresponds with the stage of civilization. While polygamy is permitted throughout Asia, (as it Has been from time immemorial,) monogamy is the common practice. Nature enforces it in all countries and climates, under all religions. By fixing our attention on the harems of Utah and Constantinople, we may incline to a different opinion ; but a broader survey will bring us back to the conclusion, that polygamy is only the exception. That it is a great evil, wherever it prevails, is certain. It shows itself in its worst forms in the notorious harems of sultans, pachas, rajahs, and Mormons.
Mohammedan civilization is now in eclipse, or, as many think, in decline, owing to a combination of adverse causes. First, its military power is paralyzed by the military science of Christendom; and Islam is too proud and self-reliant to borrow of Christians. The example of Runjeet Sing and the Sikhs shows what can be accomplished by Asiatics, when willing to borrow the military discipline and science of Europe. Secondly, the Turks, the least civilized of the greater Mohammedan races, and the most recently arrived from barbarism, having risen to the first military and political position, have proved too ignorant to maintain it. Thirdly, the Mohammedans, unlike the Hindus and the Chinese, have had no broad agricultural basis to fall back upon,- the most conservative and stable of civilizing influences. Tyre, Athens, Carthage, in ancient times, Venice and Portugal in modern, wanting a numerous agricultural class, were also short-lived. Fourthly, Islamism, having a narrower basis than any other contemporary civilization, manifests its comparative weakness as soon as one only of its elements of strength fails. . · The distinctly religious element of Islam, contrary to common opinion, is probably, on the whole, as strong as ever; perhaps it has even gained in some directions more than it has 'lost in others. In heroism and intensity it has declined; but in power of habit and unyielding tenacity, it is as strong as any religion has ever been or can be ; in its ability to spread itself by spiritual influences and peaceful conquests, it has been for four centuries, and is still, the leading religion of the world. Christianity, since the fifteenth century, has greatly improved itself by internal reform and development, — has spread itself extensively by colonization, - has, in South America, Mexico, and the Philippine Islands, established itself by conquest; but as a proselyting power it has accomplished little. The Roman Catholics, from the fourteenth century, have exerted themselves with great zeal to make converts; their perseverance and self-denial continue to the present time; but the results are insignificant. Protestants began their missionary labors a hundred and fifty years ago, and during the last fifty years have rivalled the Catholics in zeal, and surpassed them in the expenditure of pecuniary resources, but with even less success. These statements, however contrary to popular impressions, are not made rashly, nor without careful attention to facts. Limited and temporary successes have encouraged earnest and hopeful men and women in their praiseworthy labors and sufferings ; but it may now be considered as established by the experiments of more than four centuries, made in all methods, upon all races, that Christianity, in its present stage of development, and in the present state of the world, has little to expect from propagandism, — though considerable good, of various sorts, may be hoped for from the efforts in that direction. Meanwhile, during the progress of these varied and widely extended Christian experiments, Islam, by spontaneous and not spasmodic movement, has been quietly spreading itself through the Asiatic islands, through large portions of Africa, and to some extent in the cities of India. Half the conquests of Islam have been made without the sword, and the greater part of its peaceful triumphs have been achieved since it has been working side by side with Christianity. All great prevailing religions have their periods of proselytism, — periods when external conditions and internal adaptations favor this method of extension. The Portuguese, who have exerted themselves in the cause of propagandism with as much zeal and success as any portion of Christendom, worked as rivals of the Mohammedans in the Indian Archipelago, but were immeasurably outstripped by