The conduct of Christians made the sport of infidels: In a letter from a Turkish merchant at Amsterdam to the Grand Mufti at Constantinople: ...
THE Conduct of Chriſtians Made the Sport of Infidels. In a LETTER From a Turkiſh Merchant at Amſterdam To the Grand Mufti at Conſtantinople: On Occaſion of ſome of our National Follies, but eſpecially the late ſcandalous Quarrel among the CLERGY.
THE CONDUCT OF Chriſtians, &c.
KAra Selym Oglan, Merchant of Amſterdam, is by Birth an Armenian of the Leſſer Georgia, on the Confines of Perſia; he was born of Chriſtian Parents, of the Greek Church: But being taken away young by his Mother's Brother, and carry'd into Aleppo; he was then bred a Mahometan: And his ſaid Unkle being a very conſiderable Merchant, he remov'd him afterwards to Conſtantinople.
[Page 4] Here he liv'd ſome Years in a flouriſhing Condition; and his Wealth and Commerce encreaſing, and having contracted an Acquaintance with ſome of the Dutch and French Turkey Merchants, he reſolv'd to travel. He took his firſt Tour thro' France and Germany, going in the Habit of an Armenian Merchant, or as we vulgarly ſtile them, a Grecian; and at length, with two of his Brothers, he ſettled in Holland; where he grew in Wealth and general Correſpondence, to an exceeding Degree.
His Occaſions, or his Curioſity, led him at length to come over to England; where, it ſeems, by the Tenour of his Correſpondence, he reſided when ſome very late Affairs were tranſacting; and which is more remarkable, he was, it ſeems, an Eye-Witneſs of the late remarkable Church-Quarrel between two Chriſtian Mufti's, or Biſhops, as he calls them; from whence, whether he went over to Holland himſelf, or wrote to his Brothers to convey the following Letter to the Mufti at Conſtantinople, is not eſſential to the Story: But the Letter it ſelf, as it came to our Hands, is as follows:
KAra Selym, the meaneſt of the Slaves of the invincible Emperor of the Ottomans, Reſiding in the Land of Unbelievers: To thee, venerable Muli Ibrahim ESAD, the Wiſeſt of the Wiſe; moſt excellent among thoſe that excel; Great Sacrificer to God and his Prophet Mahomet; Interpreter of impenetrable Oracles; and Prieſt of the heavenly Law.
I bow my Head to the Duſt under thy venerable Feet, O thou divine Image of heavenly Wiſdom; beſeeching thee to inflame my Soul with an Ardour becoming a true Muſſul-Man, Inhabiting the Tents of Infidels and Idol-Worſhippers.
Mahomet our immortal Prophet, who from the Beginning curſed the whole Race of Unbelievers, among whom I dwell; gave them for a Guide the worſt of all the infernal Furies, I mean a Spirit of Diſcord and eternal Strife; and this Offspring of Hell ſo influences them to this Day, that they not only conſtantly encline to Factions and Diviſions among themſelves; but it is even as their Food to them to quarrel, and wrangle, to fight and caſt Stones at one another; nay, it is their Political Support, and they maintain the ſeveral Intereſts among them, and cauſe the ſtrength of their States to ſubſiſt by the Means of continual Strife and Diſorder.
Thou knoweſt, immortal ESAD, the innumerable Diviſions which reign here among [Page 6] theſe Deſpiſers of our Law, and how they maintain eternal Wars with one another; a Temper ever auſpicous to our invincible Empire, whoſe Foundations were laid in the firſt Diſſentions of the Princes of the Nazarenes. Their Diviſions were the firſt Encouragements to mighty OTTOMAN, the Founder of the Empire of the Muſſulmans. After him, the invincible Mahomet, juſtly ſtiled the Great, who fixt the happy Port, and ſeated the Enſigns of our Prophet in the Metropolis of the Grecian Empire; next to his undaunted Reſolution, and the daring Courage of his Baſſa's, which gave an Edge to the weighty Sabres of his Jannizaries, and envigorated the Soldier with an Ardour not to be reſiſted; I ſay, next to this he made the Diviſions of the Grecian Empire the Footſteps to his Glory, and the Avarice and Strife of the Votaries to the Croſs, open'd the Door to the innumerable Armies of the Eaſt.
Nothing can be more delightful, venerable and ſanctified Muli, than to read the Hiſtories of theſe Nazarenes, which they have written innumerable Volumes of, in their ſeveral Languages, and keep together in Repoſitories, which they call Libraries. I have taken unweary'd Pains to maſter their ſeveral Tongues, that I might know the Original of the reſpective Countries; but above the reſt, their Cuſtoms and Manners; and by this induſtrious Search, I ſuppoſe I [Page 7] have made ſome Obſervations which may be uſeful to thee, with whom are repoſed, as in a Treaſury, the Foundations of Wiſdom and Underſtanding.
Be it known then unto thee, venerable and ſage, the bright Oracle of Council and Knowledge; that theſe Nazarenes, among whom I dwell, are a People juſtly deteſtable by the faithful Believers, for thoſe Vices in Practiſe which are unknown to the Followers of our holy Prophet; and they particularly expoſe themſelves to our juſt Hatred in the following Things; in which thou mayſt credit me fully that I lye not unto thee.
I ſwear by thy ſacred Perſon and Office, by the hoary Head of my Father and Grandfather, by the grey Hairs now encreaſing on my Face, that I ſcarce believed there were ſuch People ſuffer'd to live on the Face of the Earth as I find theſe Chriſtians to be. Well has our holy Prophet in the divine Oracles of the ſacred Alchoran commanded us to have no intimate Ties either of Relation or Friendſhip with theſe People, who he has call'd faithleſs, treacherous, perjur'd; and has declar'd to be unqualify'd for the Converſation of innocent Perſons, who do no Evil, and are therefore expos'd to the Snares of thoſe that lie in wait to betray.
Verily, it is no new Thing in theſe Countries for Fathers to betray their Children; and for Children again to maltreat, deſpiſe, and curb their Parents; theſe are Crimes [Page 8] which our more juſt Laws puniſh with Death. The juſt Authority as well as Reverence of Parents, being kept ſacred by the Inſtinct of Affections proceeding from Nature's Oeconomy in Man's Soul, are likewiſe preſerv'd ſecure and uninvaded by the Muſſulmans Law; and the rebelling Son who inſults his Parents, receives his due Reward at the Hand of the Executioner. O much to be reverenc'd and admir'd Juſtice among the faithful Followers of our Great Prophet! How much do many of theſe profligate People who they call Chriſtians deviate from thy Rules, and diſhonour even that Nature, whoſe Dictates they know as well as feel in their own Breaſts equally with other Creatures!
Here, Variance and Strife reigns in Families, and Children hold their Parents in open Defiance, to the Scandal of humane Nature. Eternal †ALLA! In ſaying that tremendous Word, I bow'd my Head three Times; and turning my Face towards the Riſing of the Sun, I worſhipped, laying my Hands upon my Beard; alſo repeating the Words three Times with all Reverence and true Devotion, ALLA! ALLA! ALLA! ſaid I, how does my Soul deteſt theſe Nazarenes! who howbeit they loudly profeſs to ſerve and worſhip him whom they call [Page 9] GOD! and that crucify'd Prophet who they exalt equal to the one God that made them and the World; yet hold they his Name in ſo little Reverence, as to repeat it without any Regard to the Majeſty of his dreadful being, even on the moſt common and trivial Occaſions.
So little do they give Homage to the unutterable Divinity of the Creator, that with an impious Levity they will in the ſelf-ſame Hour worſhip and blaſpheme; uſing his tremendous Name this Moment with a ſeeming but hypocritical Devotion; and the next Moment without the leaſt Reverence, no not ſo much as ſeeming, or in Appearance, can repeat the ſame awful Words in Sport and Recreation! Can any Thing be more to be abhorr'd in the World! Bleſſed, by us, be the immortal Mahomet, who has commanded us to deteſt and abhor Men who by ſuch abominable Practices juſtly call upon us to have them in Deteſtation.
Nor is this all by far which is hateful to juſt Men in the Manners of theſe People; for being, as I ſhall tell thee further, on my particular Affairs in one of the Iſlands of the Northern Ocean, call'd Brit—, after I had ſpent ſome Time to learn the Speech uſed therein, I found the People of that Country, albeit they ſeem'd more devout and religious than other Nations, and had among them innumerable Temples for their Worſhip, yet were they in one of the vileſt [Page 10] and moſt unnatural Exceſſes of Crime ſo far gone beyond the Wickedneſs of all the Nations in the World, that I cannot but give thee an Idea of them, as of the worſt of all Chriſtians, appealing to thy un-erring Knowledge to diſcern if I do Injuſtice to theſe wretched People, yea or no.
Theſe People, as I ſaid, appear religious, and have built innumerable Temples to their God; in theſe they worſhip in great ſeeming Devotion, lifting up their Hands and Eyes to Heaven, and Praying with loud Repeatings and Reſponſes to their God to have Mercy upon them, to hear them; ſaying ſuch Words as theſe;‘I ALLA Zeidama! Zeidama reis muſa yeidaſi ALLA!’ Which in their Language is ſounded thus;
O Chriſt hear us!We beſeech thee to hear us, good Lord.Lord have Mercy upon us, &c.
And yet if we follow theſe Chriſtians out of their Moſques, or Temples of Worſhip, and come to converſe with them in their common Affairs, we ſhall hear the ſame Mouth that before call'd to their God to have Mercy upon them, call upon him with horrible Rage and blaſphemous Fury to damn them. Horrid Infidelity! or unſufferable Blaſphemy. Is it poſſible that theſe [Page 11] Men can believe, that this God they pray to, is able to damn them! No, that cannot be; they are too wiſe to call upon him to do it, if they believ'd him to be able. Nor is this any Teſtimony of the Exceſs of their ordinary Paſſions, when they thus imprecate the Wrath of their God; for it is the curſory Way of their Speech: It might admit Excuſe, were it done as in ſome fierce Provocations, and in extraordinary Motions of the Spirits, which urge the People of other Nations to ſwear or curſe: But as I ſaid that theſe go beyond all Nations in this Wickedneſs, viz. Of Praying to God to puniſh and damn themſelves; ſo they do it in Sport, in Jeſt, for their Diverſion, and even for no Occaſion at all; which teſtifies that they eſteem not their God as the Nature of a Divine Infinite Being directs Men to eſteem him, but look on him as a Being that merits to be mock'd and ridicul'd, not worſhipped and adored.
When firſt I heard this with my own Ears, having learn'd the Speech of the Country, as above, I ſtood amaz'd; and turning my Face towards the myſterious Tomb of our Great Prophet, I bleſs'd the Name of Mahomet thrice, lifting up my Hands to Heaven; giving Thanks to God that I was not a Chriſtian! And above all, that I was not a Britiſh Chriſtian! After which, looking round me, I ſtamp'd thrice on the Ground, ſaying [Page 12] ſurely the Great ONE GOD that reigns omnipotent is not in this Place: What do I here? and vow'd to Mahomet to be gone, and not to ſet the Foot of a believing Muſſulman again upon that unholy Place.
Were it to happen for the good of Mankind, ſublime Patron of the true Believers, that thou wouldeſt be but one Month in this Place, thou wouldeſt aſſuredly cauſe the very Name of Chriſtian to be deteſted among all the true Worſhippers of our immortal ALLA, when thou ſhouldeſt relate to them, from that Mouth whence flow the everlaſting Oracles of Truth, what horrid Impieties, what Contempt of all Religion, what Diſhonour to the very Notion of a God reigning over the Univerſe, abounds in the common Practiſe of theſe People. As we the true Muſſulmen worſhip one God, ſo we pay our Fear and Homage ever to him; tremble and cover our Eyes at the Mention of his Name; and are not to be brought by any Exceſs of Paſſion or Wine, or any other Intemperance, to ſpeak irreverently of that Power we worſhip: But theſe People pray to him one Moment, and blaſpheme him the very next Moment in the moſt infamous Manner; and this with an infidelity and Contempt of his Omnipotence inexpreſſibly ſcandalous.
I could not ſoon deliver my Thoughts from the juſt Abhorrence which this Thing had given me of the Chriſtian Name: O Mabomet! ſaid I, belov'd of Heaven, ſurely [Page 13] theſe are the People of whom thou haſt ſaid, God ſhall deſtroy the wickedeſt of Men from the Face of the Earth! Why have not thy immortal Creſcents been here diſplay'd, and the innumerable Tefta's or Legions of thy Servant the invincible Emperor whom thou crowneſt with Victory, been extended to theſe Iſlands to remove ſuch a Race of Men from the Face of the Earth!
But as I was muſing upon theſe Things, I determin'd that while I ſtay'd in this (to me) amazing Country, and eſpecially becauſe I reſolv'd never to come ſo far within the Dominions of Lucifer the Prince of Blaſphemies any more; I ſay, I determin'd to know as much as I could receive of the Diſpoſition and Conduct of the People of this Country, that I might lay it before thee, and that thou mayeſt curſe them with the Curſes of Mahomet, and mighteſt continue to bleſs the undeſiled Land, where inhabit the true Children of Virtue.
Upon farther Search into the Wickedneſs of theſe Lands, I found them to be infamous in my Eyes beyond all the Nations of the Earth, on ſeveral other Occaſions; for know, Renowned among the Servants of our Prophet, that as we believe the Nazarenes are the moſt wicked People upon the Face of the Earth for the deteſtable Crimes of Fraud, Injuſtice, Rapine, Adultery, and Drunkenneſs; ſo when I am ſpeaking to thee of the Crimes of thoſe they call Brit—, whom I [Page 14] eſteem by far the wickedeſt of all other Chriſtians, I ſhall not ſpeak in thy ſacred Ears of the Crimes they commit in common with the reſt of the Race of Unbelievers, but of thoſe inimitable Exceſſes in which they are ſuppoſed to run, beyond the reſt of Mankind; and in which they make themſelves deteſtable even in the Eyes of other Chriſtians, who are not indeed able to match or come near them in Wickedneſs.
I have given thee one Example; I ſhall now give thee another, viz. That they are a Nation who have ſo little Dread upon them of the unutterable Name of God, that albeit they have divers good Laws forbidding the Sin of Swearing, by the Name of their God, that yet they are the moſt ſubject to the deteſtable Crime of Perjury of any Nation which I have convers'd with under the Sun; and this more eſpecially is cauſed by two Things, which we the true Worſhippers of God, and Believers of the Truth, wiſely and carefully ſhun and avoid: 1. The want of a due Reverence to the God which they worſhip; of whom, if they believ'd his Juſtice, they ought to be ſo afraid, as that they could by no means ſwear by his Name in ſuch trivial Things as they do; or as to give ſo little Regard to what they have ſworn after they have atteſted it in his ſacred Name. I advertiſe thee here, that by the Swearing here mention'd, I do not mean the common [Page 15] Swearing in Diſcourſe; of which indeed the whole Race of the Chriſtians of every Nation are moſt horribly guilty, ſo that even in the Streets nothing is heard more common than that the young Children take the Name of their Fathers God into their Mouths, horribly Swearing, Curſing, and Prophaning his Name whom at the ſame Time they pretend to acknowledge and to worſhip, and this not only without Puniſhment by the Magiſtrates, but even without ſo much as a Reproof from their Fathers.
But this, I ſay, is a Sin in common with other of the Nations of the Unbelievers; and therefore I am not now upon that, but upon their Swearing in Deciſion of controverted Things between one and another by the Authority of their Laws, in which Caſe this Nation, above all the Chriſtian Tribes, are execrably guilty; for as much as they make ſlight of that Thing call'd an Oath, invoking the Name of their God to the meaneſt Trifles, familiarizing the very taking an Oath, by the Frequency of it; ſo that the often calling their God to Witneſs in their little private Caſes, is made to depreciate not only the Solemnity of the Oath it ſelf, but even to deſtroy that Awe which all Nations ought to entertain of the Deity which they worſhip.
But, Secondly, this is not all; for if I am not miſinform'd of the Nature of the ſame of the Oaths, which theſe horrid Men call'd [Page 16] Nazarenes are oblig'd by their Laws to take, nay, which they are often obliged to repeat; they are of ſuch a Nature, as that it is almoſt impoſſible but that they ſhould be broken; and yet the Wretches tremble not when they take them: And to confirm the Truth of this to thee, for the Offence is of ſuch a Nature, that thou mayeſt even ſuſpect that by living ſo long among Infidels and Chriſtians, I ſhould have learned to lye as they do: I ſay, to confirm this to thee, I here ſignify to thee, that while I lived in that Country call'd Brit—, a Book, or Writing, was publiſhed among them, written by one whoſe Heart was touch'd with the Infamy of ſuch a Practiſe; in which the Author, who was a Man ſkill'd in their Law, and of the Degree whom they call there Sergeants at Law, undertook to charge the Schools of their Prieſts, which are kept at two Cities remote from their Capital City, I ſay undertook to charge them with this moſt deteſtable Crime of Perjury, and that not from a meer caſual Neglect, or Breach of their Law, but even by the Neceſſity of their Foundation, and the Laws of their ſaid Schools, which, as he made plain to the World, impoſed ſuch Oaths at the Entrance of the Scholars into their ſaid Schools, and afterwards at their taking Degrees on their farther Advancement in the Knowledge of Letters, as it was impoſſible for them to keep; and as it was by the Practice of the [Page 17] ſeveral Schools abſolutely neceſſary to break, ſo that, in a Word, moſt venerable Muli, the Youth of theſe Schools, if this Lawyer ſays true, are brought up to this miſerable Neceſſity of Provoking the Divine Juſtice to blaſt and deſtroy them; and yet theſe are the Race of their Prieſts, and the Inſtructors of their People! What then muſt be the People who they inſtruct? This thou wilt eaſily conclude muſt be according to that wicked Example; for our Prophet has told us, that evil Laws cannot produce good Government.
Theſe, venerable Father of Wiſdom, are ſome of the Crimes practiſed in that Part of the Country of the Nazarenes, which I have related; and for which I doubt not thou wilt declare them infamous in thy heavenly Zunè, or Book of Principles, which I know thou art Compiling for the Inſtruction of the Faithful.
But neither are theſe the Sum of their juſt Characters, for innumerable Follies attend them in the reſt of their Conduct; which no doubt thou wilt aſcribe to Heaven's juſt Vengeance on a Nation of Unbelievers, for Sins againſt the Knowledge they have had given to them; for over and above the horrible Sins of Forſwearing as above, and calling upon their Gods to damn them: They have one Thing which is their peculiar, and which I think is their Puniſhment for other Crimes, rather than that it is in it [Page 18] ſelf a Crime; and this that they are the moſt wrangling, contentious, ſelf-divided People in the Univerſe.
It would offend thy Ears, thou who art the Patron of Peace, if I ſhould enter into the tedious Recital of their eternaI Feuds; as well about the Affairs of State, as of Religion, the Hiſtory would require a Volume of ten times the Extent of the holy Alchoran, and take up the Life of a younger Man than I am to write the ſame.
It happen'd to be when I was there, a Time of more than ordinary Turns and Changes in their State; and tho'I reſided there but few Years, I ſaw no leſs than four Faces on the Courts, and Divans of their Princes.
It was my Lot to be firſt there in the Reign of their Queen, whoſe Ambaſſador at the thrice happy Port kiſs'd the Robe of our mighty Emperor, and whoſe Name was Anna; a Princeſs not able, by reaſon of her Sex, to influence the Turbulence of her Courtiers: But why do I ſay as a Woman, if I may believe the Relation they give of themſelves; no Maſculine Monarch they have had, has been able by the Authotity either of his Wiſdom, or of his Office, to guide the ambitious Deſigns of his Courtiers in that Country; but as they are ever hunting after Profits and Preferments, ſo they are ever forming Factions and Parties againſt one another, which they ſupport vigorouſly, by drawing [Page 19] over rhe Nobility to favour now one Side, now the other, 'till they grow formidable even to the Monarch himſelf, who finds himſelf under the Neceſſity of coming into the Feud; and to eſpouſe now this Side, then another, as his Intereſt guides him; and this eſpecial Character you may take from me of their Temper, viz. That however zealous they are, or rather ſeem to be for the publick Good while they are in Power and Employ, yet if the Prince happens to frown, and to diſplace at any Time one of theſe Men, they make no Scruple to joyn with the adverſe Party, and turn Enemies to that very Adminiſtration which they were Eſpouſing before.
If it was thus during the Reign of the politick Kings who went before, it may with much more Reaſon be ſuppoſed to be ſo in the late Queen's Reign; who being in her ſelf of a peaceable Diſpoſition, would very fain have contented all Sides; and was oblig'd to leave her Adminiſtration in the Hands of thoſe People who ſhe employ'd, who contending ſo furiouſly one with another, as not to be appeaſed, much leſs hinder'd by her Authority, ſhe ſeem'd to be little more than a Name among them; the Parties guiding her as this or that Side appear'd more numerous, to act now this way, now that, even in Contradiction, under the Influence of one Side to the Maxims of the other: Nor was it ſo in her Reign only, but even in the [Page 20] Reign of the King her immediate Predeceſfor; and it begins very much to be ſo even in the Reign of the Succeſſor; nor does his bearing the Character of the wiſeſt and moſt mighty Prince among the Nazarenes, or Chriſtians, alter the Caſe; the Influence of Parties being ſtill ſo great, that even that Wiſdom for which this Prince is ſo famous, directs him to act very much by the Agency of the Parties, as he thinks fit to let this or that Faction have the leading Influence in his Affairs; only with this Difference, that he does not ſuffer this blindly, and uninform'd, as has at other Times been the Caſe; But rather neceſſarily to ſupport his own Intereſts, which might otherwiſe be in Hazard to publick Diſaffections, if he did not permit one Party to flatter themſelves with the Notions of being in his Favour, that they might ballance the Inſolence of thoſe who really were the Object of his Averſion.
Whatever is the Caſe, moſt true it is, that the Court in this divided part of the World, is continually form'd into, and led by Parties and Factions of Politicians; who are heaving and thruſting at one another with that Violence, as that it is hard to ſay there is at any Time a calm Interval, in which they are not in-the utmoſt Confuſion on this Account.
In theſe Diſorders, it is no leſs ſtrange to ſee how both Sides conſtantly claim to themſelves the Title of Patriots, and tell the World [Page 21] they are acting for the publick Good; and yet if any one however violent in that Side, and which (at that Time) is in Favour, happens to be turn'd out, he never fails to go over to the other Extreme, as likewiſe the other if taken in, fails not to joyn with the Party in Place, ſtill continuing to pretend to an unalterable Zeal for the Publick Good. By this Means, it is not to be expreſs'd how natural it is to theſe Men to change their Party and Principles, and to call Evil good, and Good evil, juſt as their Intereſt guides: For be it known to thee, immortal Father of ſage Councils, there was ſcarce a great Courtier in that Country, or a Chief Miniſter in the Adminiſtration of their Affairs, who has not thought it convenient to his Intereſt to be on every Side, now on this Side, now on that, then again on this, turning as oft even as the Advancement of his Avarice or Ambition guided.
Even at this Juncture, that Court is agitated or diſturb'd with the Diſcontents of ſome of thoſe Men, who at the Acceffion of the Prince now Reigning, were the moſt zealous for his Inteeſt, and the warmeſt in the Proſecuting and puſhing on the Reſentments of the Publick againſt thoſe who oppoſed him; and yet no ſooner did this Prince find himſelf obliged to diſmiſs ſome of theſe from their Employments in his Court, but they immediately ſhook Hands, and contracted Friendſhip with thoſe who they had treated [Page 22] as Criminals before; and it is not much doubted, that were the like Meaſures taken with ſome, if not all that remain, they would do the ſame.
How much more advantageous to the publick Peace, and agreeable to the Nature of Government, is the Divine Authority of the Grand Seignior, our glorious Emperor! who when he finds it for the Good of his Government to diſplace from the great Employs of State, or remove from the Councils of his Imperial Divan, his Grand Viziers, or other Officers of State; gives them their Quietus by the more eaſy and indiſputed Authority of the Bow-ſtring; removing thereby all the Caballing and Intrieguing of Parties, in Order to re-place Favourites, and effectually prevent Faction and Diſorder. Had the Britiſh Princes exercis'd this Authority with their diſplac'd Courtiers, who perhaps as well deſerv'd that Treatment as any of our more faithful Baſſa's, the Spirit of Strife and Faction had long ſince been baniſhed from that Court: But it ſeems they have certain Laws and Conſtitutions among themſelves, which abridge their Princes of ſo wholeſome an Authority; and this perhaps may be a Reaſon why the Courtiers take ſuch Freedoms, which in our happy Port is never heard of; which Laws as they are one Way the Safety of the Miniſters, ſo they are the other Way the Reaſon of thoſe Inſults upon their Princes, and thoſe Factions [Page 23] and Diviſions among the Courtiers and People, of which I have been relating ſome part.
But to paſs from theſe Things; I muſt inform thee, that theſe are the leaſt of theſe publick Confuſions in this Country: Sure the Gods of theſe Chriſtians are going to caſt them off; and are reſolv'd to bring them to Deſtruction by the Agency of their own Follies: Seeing they ſuffer them to fall into ſuch Breaches and ſuch continual Quarrels as are not conſiſtent with their being as a Nation; and which expoſes them to the Scorn and Contempt even of all their Fellow-Creatures. While I was among them, ſuch a Feud began among ther Dervices or Prieſts, as has adminiſter'd Matter of Laughter to all the World, at the ſame Time that it has left them at Home in the utmoſt Wrath and Confuſion.
Did theſe Nazarenes but know how juſtly we laugh at their unaccountable and moſt ridiculons Contentions; and how it confirms the Followers of our Great Prophet in their moſt juſt Abhorrence of that Religion which is not able to preſerve the Peace and Harmony of its Profeſſors, ſurely they would be wiſer.
Doubtleſs, Divine Patron of the Faithful, Religion is a Foundation of Celeſtial Bleſſedneſs; to which it leads by the Paths of Peace, Love, Unity, and all manner of Beneficence: Thoſe who cloath themſelves with the chaſte Robes of Religion, and harbour within a [Page 24] Reſerve of Bitterneſs, are like the Snakes of Arabia and Libya, which under the moſt beauteous and admirable Skin, painted with all kinds of delightful Colours, and ſending forth a moſt odoriferous Smell, harbour an incurable Poiſon.
But to return to the Caſe in hand; it will be needful for thee to be faithfully inform'd of the infernal Spirit of Contention which rages among theſe Chriſtians, that thou mayeſt thereby make thoſe Nazarenes who come among us at the illuſtrious Port, aſham'd of their Country, and of their Religion, and mayeſt ſucceſsfully exhort them to believe in the pure Doctrines of Mahomet, and to embrace the Faith of the Muſſulmen, which teaches Juſtice and Peace, Love and Virtue, and implacably hates and deteſts thoſe pretended Religions, which permits ſuch Fountains of Strife and Contention to flow among thoſe who call themſelves Religious.
Certainly the Paths which lead to Paradiſe, muſt partake of that Haven of Peace: Strife, Rage, Contention, and Hatred, burning in the Breaſt of Men, is a Fire kindled from the eternal Lake where evil Spirits inhabit, and therefore partakes of the Nature of that Place. In vain therefore do theſe Chriſtian Prieſts ſtrive to perſwade Men that they are the Servants of the High God, with whom dwelleth Peace, while they are arm'd with Rage, Envy, Contention, and unnatural Malice [Page 25] againſt each other, Waging War with one another, even to the Murthering the good Name of their Neighbour by all poſſible Slander, which is worſe than killing his Body.
And firſt thou mayſt underſtand, that there hath been a Diviſion firſt among them not meerly religious, but rather political; ſome of the Churchmen chooſing rather to ſuffer the Loſs of their Eccleſiaſtick Livings, than to take Oaths of Fidelity and Recognition to the preſent King, whom they eſteem an Uſurper; Ttheſe, to maintain their Separation, renounce certain Doctrines formerly held among them; to wit, of the King being ſupreme Head of the Church; from whence they infer, that the preſent Government of the Church is Schiſmatical, that they are not lawfully depos'd and turn'd out of their Benefices, but that the Civil Power has uſurped upon the Church, which they had nothing to do with; and that the Right of Succeſſion to Eccleſiaſtick Promotion is ſtill theirs.
The Civil Government anſwers this with Coertion, as indeed ſuch trifling deſerv'd; and being ſupported by the great Divan, which they call their Parliament, they regard not the Objections of the Prieſts. And this is a diviſion which [Page 26] in its ſelf has much embarraſs'd the Nation.
Aſſuredly I do not miſcall it, when I ſay it is a War, altho' it be not carry'd on with Sabre or Gun, or any other carnal Inſtrument of Offence: A War of the Tongue in theſe Countries is oftentimes more fatal than that of the Sword; and tho' theſe Men rather ſcold than fight, yet, to uſe their own Words, they caſt Firebrands, Arrows, and Death. They caſt Firebrand Words enflam'd from Hell; Words of Bitterneſs, to provoke and enrage the Perſons they are bent againſt, and raiſe the Paſſions to a Flame: Their Words are Arrows dipt in Poiſon, and are ſure to give mortal Wounds to the Reputation of the Perſons they are caſt at; and Death, becauſe to kill the Fame of our Neighbour is, according to the Rules of our exalted Prophet Mahomet, a wilful and moſt cruel Murther.
All theſe Circumſtances attend the Caſe which, as I have hinted, happen'd in this Place. The Hiſtory take briefly thus: There was a certain Rabbi, or Prieſt of the Chriſtians who had been lately exalted by the Favour of the Prince to the Degree of a Mufti or Patriarch, or as they call him here a Biſhop, of one of their Provinces: This Perſon being for Reputation eminent, and in Learning [Page 27] and popular Eſteem very advantageouſly repreſented to the Government, was called to make an Harangue or Oration before their King; he diſcharg'd the Work very much to the Satisfaction of the Prince, and of all the Aſſembly; ſo that he receiv'd the King's Command to make the ſame publick by Print.
But he had no ſooner done ſo, than ſome of the Prieſts of the ſame Temple envying him the Glory which his Preaching, ſo they call it here, had brought to him, on theſe Occaſions, raiſed a terrible Commotion againſt certain Doctrines and Poſitions which he bad there laid down, and aſſerted; objecting that they were not ſuitable to the Rules laid down in their Law or Alchoran, a Book which they univerſally believ'd to be the Rule of their Faith, concerning thoſe Doctrines, and which they call the BIBLE.
The Oppoſition made to this Diſcourſe was ſo great, that much Strife and Loſs of Charity was found between them; many oppoſing this Mufti, and that with ſuch Warmth, as to uſe him very ſcurvily upon this Occaſion; nay, at length the Great Divan, or Aſſembly of the Prieſts in that Temple took him to Task, reſolving to cenſure both this Mufti and his Book, ſuppoſing his Principles to be falſe, and Doctrines unſound.
This was carry'don with ſuch Warmth, that it was feared the Mufti would have been run down by that Aſſembly, when on a ſudden the King, by whoſe Licence they act here in ſuch [Page 28] Caſes, interpoſed his Authority, and for the preſent took away their Power of Acting at-all, ſending them away before they had Power to do what Miſchief they had intended.
The Truth is, that Aſſembly which they call here in their Language the Convocation, has not been eminent, as I could learn, for any conſiderable Actions of late Years, which is principally by ſome learned Men laid to the Door of theſe Cauſes.
- 1. The too abſolute Power of the Prince, without whoſe Licence they are not empower'd to act, no nor ſo much as to conveen.
- 2. A kind of natural Indiſpoſition in them to act with Unanimity, and Agreement in any Thing.
This Aſſembly being ſent away, the ſaid Mufti ſeem'd then to have the Victory more eminently, as to his ſaid Doctrines as well as to his Party; when behold the other Prieſts taking Fire at this, fell upon him with ſo much the greater Violence, till, in a Word, almoſt all the Churchmen in the Nation were embarraſs'd in the Quarrel, on one Side or another; and ſo far were they from Regarding him the more for the Reſpect which was ſhewn him by their King, that indeed he was the more furiouſly attack'd upon that Account; ſo that the Parties which divide the State here, began to embark in this religious Broil, and ſo call it, as they do almoſt in all ſuch Things, a Party Cauſe.
[Page 29] But as if by the Nature of the Thing, the ſaid Prieſts were fated to make themſelves contemptible among the People, and indeed infamous to all the World, another Incident occurr'd, which brought the Quarrel to be more abſtractly a meer Quarrel of the Prieſts, and the State Differences or Parties to have no Concern in it; and as the Occaſion of this, as well as the Manner of carrying it on, was moſt particularly ſcandalous to the Name of Chriſtians in general as ſuch, ſo it muſt be the more agreeable to thee to have a full Account of the ſame.
The firſt Quarrel, as I have told thee, being check'd by the Kingly Power, was taken up by the Prieſts, and carry'd on in Defence of what their Aſſembly or Convocation had begun, and ſome Writings paſs'd on both Sides full of Invectives and foul Language, ſuch as they frequently give to one another in this Country in ſuch Caſes, reproaching one another with Ignorance, Inſincerity, and Equivocation, in a moſt ſcandalous manner; inſomuch that ſome of their own People who were wiſer than the reſt, began to admoniſh them on both Sides to conſider how they expoſed themſelves to the Laughter and Ridicule of their Enemies; as indeed was moſt juſt, for as there is ſeveral Diviſions and Schiſms in this wretched Country in their Religion, ſome worſhipping after one way, and ſome after another; ſome entertaining Notions of their God after this way, and ſome after that; with infinite Animoſity and [Page 30] Confuſion; ſo all thoſe Sects or Sorts of Chriſtians who were not of the ſame with thoſe who had the Name of the Eſtabliſh'd Church, were well pleaſed to ſee the Confuſion which this Breach among the Prieſts of that Church had put them into, and inſulted them moſt openly upon that Occaſion; jeſting in particular with them, for that they on one and the ſame Side, preached up the Schiſmatick Doctrines, and yet poſſeſſed, as they ſaid, the Epiſcopal Authority, and the Profits of it, both which they preached down by their Words and Doctrines.
On the other hand, it was ſaid, that thoſe Prieſts who oppoſed theſe new Doctrines, did it becauſe they were loth to let their Power of Oppreſſing and Perſecuting thoſe who ſeparated from them in Opinion, go out of their Hands. Thus while they fooliſhly contended, they expos'd their own Nakedneſs even as Prieſts, not only to the ſaid Sects or Sorts of Nazarenes, who differ'd from them, but indeed made their whole Profeſſion it ſelf appear ridiculous to thoſe who were the Enemies of the whole Syſtem.
Hadſt thou ſeen, venerable Apoſtle of Mahomet, how furiouſly theſe People call'd Chriſtians oppoſed one another, how ſcandalouſly they treated the perſonal Characters of their Oppoſers; how they embraced all Occaſions to expoſe one another as Hypocrites and Deceivers; one Side calling the other Uſurpers of Authority, which their Great Prophet the Meſſiah had reſerv'd to himſelf, and Oppreſſors of the Conſciences [Page 31] of Men by Eccleſiaſtick Scare-crows; and Engines of human Invention not appointed from Heaven: The other Side in the mean Time recriminating, and charging the firſt with deſtroying the Regal Authority of the Prince in Eccleſiaſtick Cauſes, and Deflowring the Church, Plundering her of all Power of Government and Diſcipline, and rendering her as a Virgin expos'd to be raviſh'd by every Intruder; I ſay, hadſt thou been here, it muſt neceſſarily have cauſed in thee a holy Deteſtation of that Religion which was thus macerated and mangled by its own Profeſſors, thou would have been fired the more with Zeal for the pure and undivided Principles of the Muſſulmen, and confirm'd them in the Faith and Doctrines of Mahomet, among whoſe innumerable Worſhippers no ſuch Diviſions are heard of, much leſs any ſuch ſcandalous Contenders are found.
But if theſe Diſputes were ſcandalous to the Nazarene Religion it ſelf, and injur'd the Reputation of the Derviſes, who were inexcuſably guilty of the moſt ſhameful Conduct to one another: I ſay, if this was ſcandalous to their Religion, and expos'd the Prieſts thereof to the Cenſures of the People, thou wilt be ſurpriz'd when thou ſhalt hear, that what follows made them perfectly deſpicable and contemptible [Page 32] even to the whole World; the Caſe was thus:
One of the Prieſts of the Convocation-Party, and who moſt vigorouſly had oppos'd the Mufti or Biſhop in the Principles which as I ſaid, he had advanc'd, in his Sermon before the King; charg'd him with Hypocriſy and Prevarication, and with affirming a ſolemn Falſhood, viz. In ſaying that he preach'd his Sermon without the Knowledge of any Man living, whereas he had (as this Prieſt alledg'd) ſhewn it to a certain Perſon, and ſubmitted it to his Correction before it was preached; and not only ſo, but that the ſaid Perſon had advis'd with him, and prevail'd to put certain ſaving Words or Clauſes into his ſaid Sermon, which ſhould ſerve to bring, him off from the critical Reflections which might be made upon him by his Enemies.
This was a home Stroke upon the Biſhop; and could he not have clear'd himſelf, muſt have render'd him infamous among all that pretended to Honeſty or Reputation, for it loaded him with the Scandal of being a premeditated Lyar; and as his Enemies would have improv'd it, he muſt have been ruin'd by it: But he, as on the one Side he avow'd himſelf innocent [Page 33] of the Charge, ſo being reſolute to caſt the Scandal back upon his Enemies with all the Advantage poſſible, and fully to expoſe them, he call'd upon his Oppoſite to make good the Charge, declar'd it to be falſe, atteſted the contrary in the moſt poſitive Terms, defy'd him to produce the Man, and if not, demanded of him to recant and acknowledge the Scandal. In a Word, he told him, if he did not, he muſt be content to have the World believe him to be ſomething, which he thought too bad to name: Indeed I could have told him what to name, viz. a Br-ſh Chriſtian; which if it were not contemptible above all Chriſtians to us before, muſt needs be ſo now, as theſe Men have managed their Scheme: Any one would believe, that upon this Publication, the Friends of this Man were in pain for him; for tho' he was not a Mufti or Biſhop, yet he was one of thoſe who the Jews at Conſtantinople call Rabbi's, and are here ſtiled Doctors; and was a Man of Learning, who had been honour'd formerly with Repreſenting the Church, (ſo they call their Body of Religious People here) at the General Meetings of the Learned Men of their Profeſſions in Germany, which Commiſſion he diſcharg'd with great Reputation. But he ſoon deliver'd his Friends from the Pain they were in about him, and that not only on his own Account, but on the [Page 34] Account of all the Party; I mean the Politicians who had eſpouſed that part of the Quarrel; and caſt off the whole Charge from himſelf upon another Mufti, who, as it happen'd, was of the ſame Party with the firſt; ſo that from this Time, the Quarrel was among thoſe who were Friends before in Politicks, and it could be made a Party Cauſe no longer, as is mentioned before.
This gave ſome Cauſe of Triumph to the Party and Friends of the Doctor, and made them ſecretly rejoyce, that it fell among their Enemies, not caring how much they were expos'd. Nor did the firſt Mufti abate them an Inch for their being of his own Party; but pretending the Calumny ſhould lie where it ought to lie, he proceeded by daily publick Notices in Print, to puſh at the Diſcovery of the Fraud, as he call'd it; and the Doctor having nam'd the Perſon, and fix'd it upon that Perſon beyond all Poſſibility of Denial, ſtood effectually clear.
This Perſon being a Man of equal Dignity in the Church with the firſt, all the Eyes of the Nation were turn'd upon him: The firſt Mufti or Biſhop ſpar'd him not; neither his Equality of Office, his Seniority of Age, or his being of the ſame Politick Party, weigh'd with him. He challeng'd [Page 35] him in the ſame earneſt Manner as he had done the Doctor before.
It would have pleas'd you, illuſtrious Father of the true Believers, to have ſeen what wretched work theſe Men made of this new Conteſt: The new Defendant acquited himſelf moſt ſcandalouſly ill; he prevaricated; contradicted himſelf; ſhuffled; equivocated; in a Word, he left no Stone unturn'd to diſengage himſelf from the Nooſe in which he was taken, but ſtill had the Misfortune to make his Caſe worſe, by every Step he took to make it better.
Firſt, He would have doubled with the Doctor, and deny'd part of the Words; alledging, That he had ſaid, the Additions to the Sermon were made, not before it was preached, but before it was publiſhed: But the Doctor affirm'd poſitively, That it was otherwiſe; and brought ſuch Circumſtances to prove it, as put an End to that Diſpute. Then the Biſhop nam'd another Doctor of the ſame Church; but he deny'd it under his Hand, and expos'd the Biſhop as a doting old Man, who had heard ſomebody ſay the Words, but did not know who; and had nam'd him to them, having told the Story ſo often, 'till he believ'd it to be true. The Battle now was transferr'd [Page 36] from the Biſhop and the Biſhop, to the Biſhop and this other Doctor, who is called a Dean; and here began a Conteſt ſo ſcandalous, as, bleſſed be our Great Prophet, was never heard of, among the Profeſſors of the Faith of Mahomet; nothing but the Nazarenes could ever be guilty of ſuch a ſcandalous Contention.
Were it not, that nothing can be ſo vile, but we may find Examples of it among the Pretenders to Religion in theſe Parts of the World, it would be Matter of Aſtoniſhment to ſee two Men dreſs'd up in Robes of Religion, dignify'd with Titles among the Teachers of the People, and eſteem'd as Reverend Fathers in their Church; oppoſing each other with an equally Obſtinacy, and Fury; affirming, with the greateſt Imprecations, two Contraries, one of which only can be true: The one Pledging his Eternal Salvation on the Truth of his Part; the other Imprecating his God to help him here, and judge him hereafter according to the Truth of his Part; and yet one of theſe, we all know, muſt ſpeak falſly.
Bleſſed Ibrahim, King of the Prieſts of Mahomet, what wicked People are theſe Nazarenes! Doubtleſs their Great Prophet JESUS, who we believe to have been an holy Perſon, will not approve of this their [Page 37] Behaviour, and if he is to judge them at laſt, as they affirm to believe, he will certainly condemn them to ſome terrible Puniſhment for ſuch abominable Things as theſe.
In the mean Time, had not Heaven deny'd the People of theſe Nations the Knowledge of the juſt Oracles of our Law, or were they in the Neighbourhood of righteous People, who are honour'd with the Truth; when they behold the upright Dealings of the faithful Muſſulmen, the Abhorrence we entertain of all ſuch wicked doings as theſe; they would, no doubt, embrace the Ways of Light and Truth.
For it is moſt evident, that the common People of theſe Lands do ſincerely deteſt the faithleſs Dealings of theſe Men; and it brings them into the utmoſt Contempt with thoſe who are to be guided to Happineſs by their Direction. How much more muſt it ſerve to make the Name of a Chriſtian odious to us, who are guided by Principles and Rules which teach us to do Juſtice, and to ſpeak Truth with our Lips.
Surely theſe Men had much better embrace the Law of Mahomet, which guides to immortal Pleaſures, and leads us by the Path of Virtue and Juſtice; ſeeing no ſuch Strife, no [Page 38] ſuch Contention, no ſuch Feuds, and, above all, no ſuch abominable Prevarications, are to be found among us the righteous Muſſulmen, Believers in God, and Followers of his Great Prophet.
I wonder the Imperial Port of our invincible Emperor, crown'd with the Moon, and ſhin'd on with the radiant Light of Heaven, ſuffers theſe Inſidels to traffick in and reſide there; and to carry on their Negociations, without demanding the like Liberty for the Followers of Mahomet; who, were they planted here, would by their juſt and righteous Dealings, in Contradiction to the inimitable Fraud and Knavery, their perfect Uniformity of Religion, and Unity in Affection, in Contradiction to the continual Fraud, Diſſention, and Diviſion here practis'd, ſoon ſhame theſe Nazarenes out of their Religion, and bring Thouſands to acknowledge, that ſo far as the Word Chriſtian is pretended to ſignify a Man of Honeſty and Religion, the Turks are better Chriſtians than many of theſe.