Christianity and Islam: Preface

The Bible and the Koran [Qur'an]

Four lectures by W. R. W. Stephens, Prebendary of Chichester, England; New York: Scribner, Armstrong & Co. 1877.

W. R. W. Stephens: The following lectures were in substance delivered during Advent, last year [1876?], in the [Anglican] Cathedral Church of Chichester. They have been prepared, with some alterations and additions, for publication, in compliance with the wish of some who heard them, and in the hope that they may prove a contribution, however humble, to an intelligent appreciation of the great subject with which they deal. The annual delivery of a set of lectures in the Cathedral is one of the conditions on which my Prebendal Stall has been held since its foundation in the thirteenth century, and I selected Christianity and Islam for my subject last autumn, believing the consideration of such a subject to be especially salutary and opportune at the present time.

If the [Middle-]Eastern Question has its roots to a large extent in religious differences between Muslims and Christians, it behooves us all, and more particularly the theological student, to ascertain as exactly as possible what those differences really are; how far they are deep and vital, how far superficial and incidental, what practical difficulties they place in the way of Christian and Muslim living together on terms of amity; how far, and in what way, these difficulties may be surmounted.

To the great prophet of Arabia, and to the marvelous work which he accomplished, I have endeavored to do justice, in opposition to the false and calumnious estimate which in a past age condemned Muhammad himself as a kind of malicious fiend, and his religion as a diabolical invention. On the other hand, I have sought to show that Christianity and Islam are radically diverse in the nature of their origin, in the character of their sacred books, and in their practical effects upon mankind; that the difference between them is one not of degree, but of kind, according to the wise saying of Dr. Arnold, that while other religions showed us `man seeking after God,' Christianity showed us `God seeking after man;' a maxim which students of the crude science of comparative religion are too apt to forget.

I have endeavored, lastly, to point out that if there be these real and vital distinctions between the two religions, it is worse than folly to try and ignore them; that while there ought to be, and might be, peace and goodwill between the believers in rival creeds, it should not be placed on a rotten foundation; the rotten foundation which would be laid by those who see imaginary resemblances, and are blind to real distinctions; for if indiscriminate antagonism is mischievous, indiscriminate concession is mischievous also, and can only lead to confusion and disaster.

I subjoin a list of the principal authorities which I have consulted:

The Koran, translated by Sale, with introduction and notes.

Gibbon, `Decline and Fall,' ch. 1., 51., 53.; written in his most brilliant and masterly style, only too much colored by the sarcasms in which he indulges in the treatment of any religious subject.

Milman, `Latin Christianity,' Book IV. ch. i.

Dr. White, 'Bampton Lectures;' fairly represents the narrow estimate of Muhammad prevalent in the last [18th] century.

Sir W. Muir, `Life of Muhammad' (four vols.); learned and impartial, as well as reverent and Christian in tone.

Weil, 'Muhammad der Prophet;' full and learned, and more readable than

Sprenger, `Life of Muhammad;' which is equally, if not more learned, but less impartial and more theorizing `more Germanico.'

Bosworth Smith, `Muhammad and Islam;' able and ingenious, but the partiality of the author for Islam seriously detracts from the accuracy and value of the work.

J. H. Newman, Lectures on the Turks,,in 'Historical Sketches.'

E. A. Freeman, `Lectures on the History and Conquest of the Saracens.'

G. Finlay, `History of Greece under Foreign Domination,' vol. i. (2nd edition); a most invaluable work.

W. G. Palgrave, `Central and Eastern Arabia.'

Sedillot, ' Histoire Générale des Arabes' (2d edition); this did not come into my hands soon enough to be of much use to me, but it seems full of most interesting matter, put together in a very pleasant way.

Articles in the `Christian Remembrancer,' for June 1855; in the `North British Review,' for August 1855; in the `British Quarterly,' for January 1872; in the 'Quarterly,' for January 1877, but this last was too late to be of any service to me.


Lecture I. The origin of Christianity and of Islam. Sketch of the life and character of Muhammad

Lecture II. The theological teaching of the Bible and that of the Koran contrasted

Lecture III. Moral teaching of the Bible and the Koran contrasted

Lecture IV. The practical results of Christianity and Islam

From "Christianity and Islam" by W. R. W. Stephens, Chichester, England. New York: Scribner, Armstrong & Co. 1877

  1. Preface: Summary and sources.
  2. Lecture 1: The The Life of Muhammad.
  3. Lecture 2: The Bible and the Qur'an.
  4. Lecture 3: Moral Values of the Bible and the Qur'an.
  5. Lecture 4: Practical Effects of the Qur'an.

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