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and are capable of rising for ever in the scale of being. Such is its inherent worth, that it hath always been represented under the most pleasing images. In particular, it hath been compared to light, the most valuable and reviving part of nature's works, and to that glorious luminary which is the most beautiful and transporting object our eyes behold. If we entertain any doubts concerning the intrinsic value of religious knowledge, let us look around us, and we shall be convinced how desirable it is to be acquainted with God, with spiritual, with eternal things. Observe the difference between a cultivated and a barren country. While the former is a lovely, cheerful, and delightful sight, the other administers a spectacle of horror. There is an equal difference between the nations among whom the principles of piety prevail, and the nations that are overrun with idolatry, superstition, and error. Knowledge, also, is of great importance to our personal and private felicity : it furnishes a pleasure that cannot be met with in the possession of inferior enjoyments; a fine entertainment, which adds a relish to prosperity, and alleviates the hour of distress. It throws a lustre upon greatness, and reflects an honour upon pover ty. Knowledge will also instruct us how to apply our several talents for the benefit of mankind. It will make us capable of advising and regulating others. Hence we may become the lights of the world, and diffuse thosebenificent beams around us, which shall shine on benighted travellers, and discover the path of rectitude and bliss. This knowledge, also, tends to destroy bigotry and enthusiasm. To this we are indebted for the important change which hath been made since the beginning of the reformation. To this we are indebted for the general cultivation and refinement of the understandings of men. It is owing to this state that even arbitrary governments seem to have lost something of their original ferocity, and that there is a source ot improvement in Europe which will, we hope, in future times, shed the most delightful influences on society, and unite its members in harmony, peace, and love. But the advantages of knowledge are still greater, for it points out to us an eternal felicity. The several branches of human scier.ee are intended only to bless and adorn our present existence; but religious knowledge bids us provide for an immortal being, sets the path of salvation before us, and is our inseparable companion in the road to glory. As it instructs in the way
to endless bliss, so it will survive that mighty day when all worldly literature and accomplishments shall for ever cease. At that solemn period, in which the records and registers of men shall be destroyed, the systems of human policy be dissolved, and the grandest works of genius die, the wisdom which is spiritual and heavenly shall not only subsist, but be increased to an extent that human nature cannot in this life admit. Our views of things, at present, are obscure, imperfect, partial, and liable to error; but when we arrive to the realms of everlasting light, the clouds that shadowed our understanding will be removed; we shall behold with amazing clearness the attributes, ways, and works of God; shall perceive more distinctly the design of his dispensations; shall trace with rapture the wonders of nature and grace, and become acquainted with a thousand glorious objects, of which the imagination can as yet have no conception.
In order to increase in the knowledge of God, there must be dependence on Him from whom all light proceeds, James i. 6. attention to his revaaled will, John v. 39. a watchful spirit against corrupt affections, Luke xxi. 34. ahumble frame of mind, Ps. xxv. 9. frequent meditation, Ps. civ. 34. a persevering design for conformity to the divine image, Hos. vi. 3. Charnock's Works, vol. ii. p. 381; Saurin's Serm. vol. i. ser. 1; Gilt's Body of Div. vol. iii. p. 12. oct; Tillotson's Serm. scr. 113; IVatts's Works, vol. i. ser. 45; Hall's Sermon on the Advantages of Knowledge to the Lower Classes
KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. See Omniscience.
KORAN, or Alcoran, the Scripture or Bible of the Mahometans, containing the revelations and doctrines of their pretended prophet.
1. Koran, division of the. The Koran isdivided into one hundred and fourteen larger portions of very unequal length, which we call cha/iters, but the Arabians Sowar, in the singular Sura; a word rarely used on any other occasion, and properly signifying a row, or a regular series; as a course of bricks in building, or a rank of soldiers in an army, and is the same in use and import with the Sura, or Tora, of the Jews; who also call the fifty-three sections of the Pentateuch Sedarim, a word of the same signification. These chapters are not, in the manuscript copies, distinguished by their numerical order, but by particular titles, which are taken sometimes from a peculiar subject
thereof by several prophets, of whom Moses and Jesus were the most distinguished, till the appearance of Mahomet, who is their seal, and no other to be expected after him. The more effectually to engage people to hearken to him, great part of the Koran is employed in relating examples of dreadful punishments formerly inflicted by God on those who rejected and abused his messengers; several of which stories, or some circumstances of them, are taken from the Old and New Testaments, but many more from the apocryphal books and traditions of the Jews and Christians of those ages, set up in the Koran as truths, in opposition to the Scriptures, which the Jews and Christians are charged with having altered; and, indeed, few or none of the relations of circumstances in the Koran were invented by Mahomet, as is generally supposed; it being easy to trace the greatest part of them much higher, as the rest might be, were more of these books extant, and were it worth while to make the inquiry. The rest of the • Alcoran is taken up in prescribing necessary laws and directions, frequent admonitions to moral and divine virtues, the worship and reverence of the Supreme Being, and resignation to his •will. One of their most learned commentators distinguishes the contents of the Alcoran into allegorical and literal: under the former are comprehendad all the obscure, parabolical, and enigmatical passages, with such laws as are repealed or abrogated; the latter, such as are clear, and in full force. The most excellent moral in the whole Alcoran, interpreters say, is that in the chapter Matraf, viz. "Show mercy, do good to all, and dispute not with the ignorant;" or, as Mr. Sale renders it. Use indulgence, command that which is just, and withdraw far from the ignorant. Mahomet, according to the authors of the Keschaf, having begged of the angel Gabriel a more ample explication of this passage, received it in the following terms: "Seek him who turns thee out, give to him who takes from thee, pardon him who injures thee; for God will have you plant in your souls the roots of his chief perfections." It is easy to see that this commentary is borrowed from the Gospel. In reality, the necessity of forgiving enemies, though frequently inculcated in the Alcoran, is of a later date among the Mahometans, than among the Christians -, among those later than among the heathens; and to be traced originally among the Jews, (See Exodus, xxxiii.
4, 5.) But it matters not so much who had it first as who observes it best. The caliph Hassan, son of Hali, being at table, a slave let fall a dish of meat reeking hot, which scalded him severely. The slave fell on his knees rehearsing these words of the Alcoran : "Paradise is for those who restrain their anger." "I am not angry with thee," answered the caliph. "And for those who forgive offences against them," continues the slave, "I forgive thee thine," replies the caliph. "But, above all. for those who return good for evil," adds the slave. "I set thee at liberty," rejoined the caliph; "and I give thee ten dinars." There are also a great number of occasional passages in the Alcoran relating only to particular emergencies. For this advantage Mahomet had, by his piecemeal method of receiving and delivering his revelations, that, whenever he happened to be perplexed with any thing, he had a certain resource in some new morsel of revelation. It was an admirable contrivance to bring down the whole Alcoran only to the lowest heaven, not to earth: since, had the whole been published at once, innumerable objections would have been made, which it would have been impossible for him to have solved but as he received it by pHrcels, as God saw fit they should be published for the conversion and instruction of the people, he had a sure way to answer all emergencies, and to extricate himself with honour from any difficulty which might occur.
3. Koran, history cf the. It is the common opinion, that Mahomet, assisted by one Sergius, a monk, composed this book; but the Mussulmans Believe it as an article of their faith, that the prophet, who, they say, was an illiterate man, had no concern in inditing it; but that it was given him by God, who, to that end, made use of the ministry of the angel Gabriel; that, however, it was communicated to him by little and little, a verse at a time, and in different places, during the course of 23 years.—"And hence, say they, "proceed that disorder and confusion visible in the work;" which, in truth, are so great, that all their doctors have never been able to adjust them; for Mahomet, or rather his copyist, having put all the loose verses promiscuously in a book together, it was impossible ever to retrieve the order wherein they were delivered. These 23 years which the angel employed in conveying the Alcoran to Mahomet, are of wonderful service to his followers; inasmuch as