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which the book is full, and which they piously father upon God himself ; alleging that, in the course of so long a time, he repealed and altered several doctrines and precepts which the prophet had before received of him.
The Alcoran, while Mahomet lived, was kept only in loose sheets. His successor, Abubeker, first collected them into a volume, and committed the keeping of it to Haphsa, the widow of Mahomet, in order to be consulted as an original ; and there being a good deal of diversity between the several copies already dispersed throughout the provinces, Ottoman, successor of Abubeker, procured a great number of copies to be taken from that of Haphsa, at the same time suppressing all the others not conformable to the original.
The Mahometans have a positive theology built on the Alcoran and tradition, as well as a scholastical one built on reason. They have likewise their casuists, and a kind of canon law, wherein they distinguish between what is of divine and what of positive right. They have their beneficiaries, too; chaplains, almoners, and canons, who read a chapter every day, out of the Alcoran, in their mosques, and have prebends annexed to their office. The hatif of the mosque is what we call the parson of the parish ; and the scheiks are the preachers, who take their texts out of the Alcoran.
It is of general belief among the Mahometans, that the Koran is of divine origin; nay, that it is eternal and uncreated ; remaining, as some express it, in the very essence of God; and the first transcript has been from everlasting, near God's throne, written on a table of vast bigness, called the preserved table, in which are also recorded the divine decrees, past and future ; that a copy from this table, in one volume upon paper, was, by the ministry of the angel Gabriel, sent down to the lowest heaven, in the month of Ramadan, on the night of power, from whence Gabriel revealed it to Mahomet in parcels, some at Mecca, and some at Medina, at dif ferent times, during the spade of twenty-three years, as the oxigency of affairs required ; giving him, however,
the consolation to show him the whole (which they tell us was bound in silk, and adorned with gold and precious stones of paradise) once a year; but in the last year of his life he had the favour to see it twice. They say, that only ten chapters were delivered entire, the rest being revealed piecemeal, and written down from time to time by the prophet's amanuensis, in such a part of such and such a chapter, till they were completed, according to the directions of the angel. The first parcel that was revealed is generally agreed to have been the first five verses of the ninety-sixth chapter. In fine, the book of the 'Alcoran is held in the highest esteem and reverence among the Mussulmans. They dare not so much as touch the Alcoran without being first washed, or legally purified; to insure which, an inscription is put on the cover or label-Let none touch but they who are clean. It is read with great care and respect, being never held below the girdle. They swear by it; take omens from it on all weighty occasions ; carry it with them to war; write sentences of it on their banners; adorn it with precious stones; and will not knowingly suffer it to be in the possession of any of a different religion.
The following is the Mahometans' belief respecting the destination of the righteous and wicked after death. They hold that both these characters must first pass the bridge called in Arabic A! Sirat, which, they say, is laid over the midst of hell, and described to be finer than a hair, and sharper than the edge of a sword; so that it seems very difficult to conceive how any one shall be able to stand upon it. For this reason, most of the sect of the Motazalites reject it as a fable; though the orthodox think it a sufficient proof of the truth of this article, that it was seriously affirmed by him who never asserted a falsehood, meaning their prophet; who, to add to the difficulty of the passage, has likewise declared, that this bridge is beset on each side with briers and hooked thorns, which will, however, be no impediment to the good; for they shall pass with wonderfu ease and swiftness, like lightning, or the wind, Mahomet and his
Moslems leading the way; whereas the wicked, in consequence of the slipperiness and extreme narrowness of the path, the entangling of the thorns, and the extinction of the light which directed the former to paradise, will soon miss their footing, and fall down headlong into hell, which is gaping beneath them. Extracted from Buck's Dict.
31. VENERABLE BEDE, THE ENGLISH PRESBYTER.
Bede was born in England about the year 672, and was so distinguished for his piety and humility, that he acquired the surname of “ Venerable.”. Losing both his parents at the age of seven years, he was, by the care of relations, placed in the monastery of Wiremouth, was there educated with much strictness, and appears to have been devoted to the service of God from his youth. He was afterwards removed to the neighbouring monastery of Jerrow, where he ended his days. He was looked on as the most learned man of his time. Prayer, writing, and teaching were his familiar employments during his whole life. He was ordained deacon in the nineteenth, and presbyter in the thirtieth year of his age.
gave himself wholly to the study of the Scriptures, the instruction of disciples, the offices of public worship, and the composition of religious and literary works.
His character was celebrated through the western world; the bishop of Rome invited him warmly to the metropolis of the church ; but in the eyes of Bede the great world had no charms. It does not appear that he ever left England; and, however infected with the fashionable devotion to the Roman see, he was evidently sincere and disinterested.
The catalogue of Bede's works exhibits the proofs of his amazing industry. Genuine godliness, rather than taste and genius, appear on the face of his writings. His labours in the sciences show a love of learning, however inconsiderable his acquisitions must appear, in comparison with the attainments of the present age.