The Algerine captive; or, The life and adventures of Doctor Updike Underhill: six years a prisoner among the Algerines. [Three lines from Shakespeare] : Vol. I[-II]. : Published according to act of Congress.
Tyler, Royall, 1757-1826., Humphreys, David, 1752-1818, dedicatee.
Page  53

CHAP. VII.

But pardon, gentles all,
The flat, unvaried spirit, that hath dared,
On this unworthy scaffold, to bring forth
So great an object.

SHAKESPEARE.
ARGUMENT.

The Author confereth with a Mollah or Mahometan Priest: Defendeth the Verity of the Christian Creed, and resigns his Body to Slavery, to preserve the Freedom of his Mind.

UPON the margin of a refresh|ing fountain, shadowed by the fragrant branches of the orange, date, and pome|granate, for five successive days I main|tained the sacred truths of our holy relig|ion, against the insidious attack of the mussulman priest. To be more perspic|uous, I have condensed our conversation, Page  54 and, to avoid useless repetition, have as|sumed the manner of a dialogue.

Mollah.

Born in New England, my friend, you are a christian purified by Calvin. Born in the Campania of Rome, you had been a papist. Nursed by the Hindoos, you would have entered the pagoda with reverence, and worshipped the soul of your ancestor in a duck. Educated on the bank of the Wolga the Delai Lama had been your god. In Chi|na, you would have worshipped Tien, and perfumed Confucius, as you bowed in adoration before the tablets of your an|cestors. Cradled with the Parsees of In|dostan, you had adored fire, and trembled with pious awe, as you presented your rice and your ghee to the adorable cock and dog.

A wise man adheres not to his religion, because it was that of his ancestors. He will examine the creeds of other nations, compare them with his own, and hold fast that, which is right.

Page  55
Author.

You speak well. I will bring my religion to the test. Compare it with the—the—

Mollah.

Speak out boldly. No ad|vantage shall be taken. You would say, with the Mahometan imposture. To de|termine which of two revealed religions is best, two inquiries are alone necessary. First, which of them has the highest proof of its divine origin, and which inculcates the purest morals: that is, of which have we the greatest certainty that it came from God, and which is calculated to do most good to mankind.

Author.

True. As to the first point, our bible was written by men divinely in|spired.

Mollah.

Our alcoran was written by the finger of the Deity himself. But who told you, your bible was written by men divinely inspired.

Author.

We have received it from our ancestors, and we have as good evidence Page  56 for the truths it contains, as we have in profane history for any historical fact.

Mollah.

And so have we for the alco|ran. Our sacred and profane writers all prove the existence of such a prophet as Mahomet, that he received the sacred vol|ume from the hand of Gabriel, and the traditions of our ancestors confirm our faith.

Author.

We know, the christian reli|gion is true, from its small beginnings and wonderful increase. None but Deity himself could have enabled a few illiterate fishermen to spread a religion over the world, and perpetuate it to posterity.

Mollah.

Your argument I ••ow to be forcible, but grant us also the use of it. Mahomet was an illiterate camel driver. Could he, who could not read nor write, have published a book, which for its ex|cellence has astonished the world? Would the learned of Medina and Mecca have become his disciples? Could Omar and Page  57 Abubeker, his successours, equally illiterate, have become the admiration of the world? If you argue from the astonishing spread of your faith, view our prophet, born five hundred and sixty nine years, and dating the promulgation of his doctrine six hun|dred and twenty years after the birth of your prophet. See the extensive coun|tries of Persia, Arabia, Syria, Egypt, all rejoicing in its benign influence. See our holy faith pouring its divine rays of light into Russia, and Tartary. See it received by enlightened Greece, raising its crescent through the vast Turkish em|pire, and the African states. See Pales|tine, and Jerusalem the birth place of your prophet, filled with the disciples of ours. See Asia and Africa, and a great part of Europe acknowledging the unity of God, and the mission of his prophet. In a word, view the world. See two ma|hometans of a religion, which arose six hundred and twenty years after yours, to one Page  58 christian, computing those of all denomi|nations, and then give your argument of the miraculous spread of religion its due weight.

My blood boiled to hear this infidel vaunt himself thus triumphantly against my faith; and, if it had not been for a prudence, which in hours of zeal I have since had cause to lament, I should have taken vengeance of him upon the spot. I restrained my anger, and observed, our religion is supported by miracles.

Mollah.

So is ours; which is the more remarkable, as our great prophet de|clared, he was not sent into the world to work miracles, but to preach the unity of the first cause, the resurrection of the dead, the bliss of paradise, and the tor|ments of the damned. Yet his whole life was a miracle. He was no sooner born than, with a voice, like the thundering of Heronon, he pronounced the adorable creed to his mother and nurses: I profess Page  59 that there is only one God, and that I am his apostle. He was circumcised from all eternity; and, at the same hour, a voice of four mighty angels was heard proclaiming from the four corners of the holy house. The first saying, proclaim the truth is risen, and all lies shall return into hell. The second uttering, now is born an apostle of your own nation, and the Omnipotent is with him. The words of the third were, a book full of illustrious light is sent to you from God; and the fourth voice was heard to say, O Maho|met, we have sent thee to be a prophet, apostle, and guide to the world.

When the sent of God was about three years old, the blessed child retired into a cave, at the basis of mount Uriel; when the archangel Gabriel, covering his face with his wings, in awful respect approach|ed him saying, Bismillahi Rrahmani Rrha|himi; in the name of the one Almighty, Compassionate, and Merciful, I am sent to Page  60 pluck from thy heart the root of evil; for thy prayers have shaken the pillars of e|ternal decree. The infant prophet said, the will of thy Lord and mine be done. The archangel, then opened his bosom with a lancet of adamant, and, taking out his heart, squeezed from it the black drop of original sin; and, having restored the heart, sunk gently into the bosom of the Houri.

Do you wish for more miracles? Hear how the prophet, in the dark night, pass|sed the seven heavens upon the sacred mule; of the mighty angel he saw, of such astonishing magnitude, that it was twelve thousand days journey in the space be|tween his eye brows; of the years he pent in perusing the book of destiny; and how he returned, so speedily that, the mattress was not cold, and he recovered the pitcher at his bed side, which he had overset at his departure, so that not one drop of water was lost. Contrast these Page  61 with those of your prophet. He then vented a volume of reproach horrible to hear, and too blasphemous to defile my paper.

Author.

Our religion was disseminated in peace; yours was promulgated by the sword.

Mollah.

My friend, you surely have not read the writings of your own histo|rians. The history of the christian church is a detail of bloody massacre: from the institution of the christian thundering le|gion, under Constantine the great, to the expulsion of the Moors out of Spain by the ferocious inquisition, or the dragoon|ing of the Hugonots from France, under Louis the great. The mussulmen never yet forced a man to adopt their faith. When Abubeker, the caliph, took a chris|tian city, he forbore to enter a principal church, as he should pray in the temple of God; and, where he prayed, the build|ing would be established as a mosque by Page  62 the piety of the faithful. The compan|ions and successours of the apostle conquer|ed cities and kingdoms, like other nations. They gave civil laws to the conquered, according to the laws of nations; but they never forced the conscience of any man. It is true, they then and we now, when a slave pronounces the infallible creed, immediately knock off his fet|ters and receive him as a brother; be|cause we read in the book of Zuni that the souls of true believers are bound up in one fragrant bundle of eternal love. We leave it to the christians of the West In|dies, and christians of your southern plan|tations, to baptize the unfortunate Af|rican into your faith, and then use your brother christians as brutes of the des|ert.

Here I was so abashed for my country, I could not answer him.

Author.

But you hold a sensual par|adise.

Page  63
Mollah.

So the doctors of your church tell you; but a sensual heaven is no more imputable to us than to you. When the Most Holy condescends to reveal him|self to man in human language, it must be in terms commensurate with our con|ception. The enjoyment of the Houri, those immortal virgins, who will attend the beatified believer; the splendid pa|vilions of the heavens, are all but types and significations of holy joys too sub|lime for man in flesh to conceive of. In your bible, I read, your prophet refers to the time, when he should drink new wine in his father's kingdom. Now would it be candid in me to hastily brand the heav|en of your prophet as sensual, and to rep|resent your faithful in bliss as a club of wine bibbers?

Author.

But you will allow the pre|eminence of the morality of the sacred scriptures.

Mollah.

Your scriptures contain many Page  64 excellent rules of life. You are there taught to be kindly affectionate one to|wards another; but they recommend the use of wine, and do not forbid gaming. The alcoran, by forbidding in express terms the use of either, cuts from its fol|lower the two principal sources of disqui|et and misery. Read then this spotless book. There you will learn to love those of our faith, and not hate those of any other. You will learn the necessity of being vir|tuous here, that you may be happy and not miserable hereafter. You will learn re|signation to the will of the Holy One; because you will know, that all the events of your life were, in the embryo of time, forged on the anvils of Divine Wisdom. In a word, you will learn the unity of God, which, notwithstanding the cavil of your divines, your prophet, like ours, came into the world to establish, and every man of reason must believe. You need not renounce your prophet. Him we re|spect Page  65 as a great apostle of God; but Ma|homet is the seal of the prophet. Turn then, my friend, from slavery to the de|lights of life. Throw off the shackles of education from your soul, and be wel|come to the joys of the true believer. Lift your finger to the immensity of space, and confess that there is one God, and that Mahomet is his apostle.

I have thus given a few sketches of the manner of this artful priest. After five days conversation, disgusted with his fa|bles, abashed by his assurance, and almost confounded by his sophistry, I resumed my slave's attire, and sought safety in my former servitude.