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Progress Of His Opinions








13. Spent most of the day in conversation with Asaad on the subject of
religion. He had lately been much in company with the emir Sulman, and
observed, that his prejudices against christianity were evidently much
softened.

14. Conversed with Asaad on the books of the Apocrypha.[E] He seemed
satisfied with the proofs that they were not given by inspiration of
God. He is now searching the scriptures with such an intensity of
interest, as to leave him neither time nor relish for any thing else.

We have a copy of the Arabic bible, printed at Rome, at the end of which
is an appendix which he has discovered to contain a copious list of
popish doctrines, with their appropriate references to scripture proofs.
These proofs he has found so weak, that he expresses his astonishment
how such doctrines could be inferred from them; and nothing has occurred
of late, which has more strengthened his conviction that the church of
Rome is radically wrong. What seems to have affected him most sensibly,
is, the expression he has found, "We are under obligation to kill
heretics."--Proof,--'False prophets God commanded to be slain. Jehu and
Elijah killed the worshippers and prophets of Baal.' This passage he
shows to all who visit him, priests and people, and calls upon them to
judge whether such sweeping destruction is according to the spirit of
the gospel.

In this country, where the pope cannot do all he could wish, the right
of murdering every one who differs from him, has not been so publicly
asserted of late, and some, when they hear it, are a little startled.
But most of the good children of "the church" are soon quieted again, by
the recollection, that their kind and compassionate "mother" means
well, even in murder. The common mode of reasoning, is, in this case,
inverted. It is not said, "the action is right, therefore the church
does it;" but, "the church does it, therefore it is right."

Jan. 1, 1826. Twelve or fourteen individuals were present at the
Arabic service at Mr. Goodell's. After this service, we questioned Asaad
closely with regard to the state of his heart, and were rather
disappointed at the readiness, with which he replied, that he thought he
was born again. For ourselves, we chose rather to suspend our opinion.
He can hardly be supposed to have acquired yet, even speculatively,
very clear notions of what is regeneration; and it would seem quite as
consistent with christian humility, and with a true knowledge of his
sinfulness, if he should speak of himself with more doubt and caution.

In the evening, an acquaintance of his, one who has heretofore expressed
great friendship to him, and to us; who had said that there was no true
religion to be found in the whole country, and pretended to lament very
much that the patriarch and priests had so much sway; came to give Asaad
a last serious admonition.

"This," said he, "is the last time I intend ever to say a word to you on
the subject of religion. I wish, therefore, before you go any further,
that you would pause and think whether you can meet all the reproach of
the world, and all the opposition of the patriarch and priests."

Asaad replied, that he had made up his mind to meet all these things.
"And now," said he, "if, as you say, you intend never to hold any more
conversation with me on the subject of religion, I have one request to
make of you, and that is, that you will go, and make the subject of
religion a matter of serious prayer and inquiry, and see where the path
of life is; I then leave you with your conscience and with God."

After relating the substance of this conversation to us, Asaad remarked,
that these people reminded him of the late patriarch such an one, who
had a moderate share of understanding, but was ambitious to appear very
well. This patriarch had a bishop who was really an acute and learned
man, and whose opinions were always received with the greatest deference
on all matters relative to religion. The bishop being on a visit one day
at the patriarch's, the latter called him to his presence, and proposed
to him the interpretation of a passage of scripture. The bishop gave the
explanation according to the best of his judgment. "No," said his
holiness, "that is not the meaning of the passage;" and proposed to have
a second. When the bishop had again given his opinions and reasons, the
patriarch answered as before, "That is not the meaning of the passage."
In a third and fourth case, the bishop was equally unfortunate, all his
arguments being swept away by the single sage remark of his holiness,
"That is not the meaning of the passage." At last the bishop, in a fit
of discouragement, said, "Your holiness has put me upon the solution of
a number of questions, in all which, it seems, I have been wrong. I
would now thank your holiness to tell me what is right." The patriarch
being startled at the new ground he was on, changed the conversation.
"So," said Asaad, "these people can all tell me I am mistaken; but when
I ask them what is right, they are silent."

Asaad has often remarked, that he is full of anxiety, and finds no rest
for the sole of his foot. In many things he sees the Romish church to be
wrong, and in some things he thinks we are so. Our apparent
tranquility of mind, as to our religious views, is a matter of surprise
to him. This evening he conversed on the subject with more than usual
feeling. "I seem," said he, "to be alone among men. There is nobody like
me, and I please nobody. I am not quite in harmony with the English in
my views, and therefore do not please you. My own countrymen are in so
much error, I cannot please them. God I have no reason to think I
please; nor do I please myself. What shall I do?"

It was not altogether unpleasant to hear these professions of diffidence
in himself, and I endeavoured to turn off his attention from all other
sources of consolation than that of the "Comforter, which is the Holy
Ghost."

Asaad observed, that whatever might be said, and whatever might be true,
of our object, in coming to this country he saw that the doctrines
we taught were according to truth, and he was more than ever determined
to hold to them.

Asaad says, that wherever he goes, and to whomsoever he addresses
himself on the subject of religion, people say, "Ah, it is very well for
you to go about and talk in this manner: you have, no doubt, been well
paid for it all." These insinuations wear upon his spirit, and he
sometimes says, "O that I were in some distant land, where nobody had
ever known me, and I knew nobody, that I might be able to fasten men's
attention to the truth, without the possibility of their flying off to
these horrid suspicions."

He wishes also to have another interview with the patriarch, that he may
tell him his whole heart, and see what he will say. The patriarch is
not, he says, of a bad disposition by nature, and perhaps if he could be
persuaded that he was neither acting from revenge nor from love of
money, but simply from a conviction of the truth, he would be softened
in his feelings, and something might be done with him to the benefit of
religion. He desired, among other things, to propose, that an edition of
the New Testament should be printed under the patriarch's inspection at
Schooair, the expense of which, (if he chose) should be borne by the
English.[F]





Next: Visits The Patriarch

Previous: His Return To Mr Bird



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