« ПредишнаНапред »
observance of mere forms was not in itself a service acceptable to God. They even beheld, in his teaching, indications of that principle, afterwards more prominently supported by his followers, that other nations were to be admitted to a participation in the same privileges with themselves.
Is it surprising that a teacher, so different from him they had expected, should have proved unacceptable to the people to whom he came? It may perhaps be said, that in the account just given, too much has been taken for granted ;that it is not yet proved that the transactions of the life of Jesus are faithfully recorded. Be it so. It is not essential that the details of the Gospel history should, at this stage of the argument, be admitted to be correct. From whatever source the religion came, the fact remains unaltered, that it was opposed to the conceptions of the age, to the favorite ideas of the Jewish nation; and this fact is sufficient to account for its rejection by them.
The reason is still more obvious why the majority of the nation did not subsequently receive the religion of Jesus. By the crucifixion, the act of rejection had been consummated in a manner which enlisted against the sufferer the sentiments of every Jew who felt for the honor of his nation. Not only this, but a principle was now developed, which, though it lay at the very foundation of the system, had not hitherto been conspicuously exhibited, because no instance had been presented for its application. This principle was, the admission of the Gentiles to an equality with the Jews, the abolition of all that was peculiar in the Jewish ritual, and in the connexion of the nation with the Supreme Being. Even at the present day, I am conscious that, on this subject, a pious Jew must find great difficulty in treating the claims of Christianity with impartial justice ; yet I hope to prove before concluding, that this very principle is one most honorable to the Jewish religion, and the only barrier which can defend that system against the atracks of Infidelity.
I have thus attempted to show that the prejudices of the Hebrew nation, connected with their best feelings, their patriotism and their reverence for the Mosaic Law, sufficiently explain their rejection of Christianity ; while the fact, that they believed in other supernatural agencies beside that of the Supreme Being, accounts for the little effect produced on their minds by the miracles of Jesus. I have now - N. S. VOL. X. NO. I.
to prove that the difference which existed between Jesus, as he actually appeared, and the Jewish anticipations of the Messiah, is the strongest proof of the justice of his claims.
Eighteen centuries have now passed, since the age which we are speaking. The laws of nature are now better understood, and we have clearer conceptions of the divine character and operations. We have less of national prejudice to cloud our perceptions. We are better able on every ground, to judge which, of two supposed courses of conduct, is most worthy of the Author of the Universe. In entering on the comparison now about to be instituted, I beseech you to lay aside, as far as possible, your personal connexion with the ancient Jews, and to judge of the divine operations with regard to them as impartially as if that connexion did not
I appeal to you then as men of the nineteenth century ; which was the more worthy office for a divine messenger ; to effect a political revolution by destroying one empire and establishing another, or to teach the whole human race their duty to each other and their God?
Forgetting for a moment that you are Jews, look at the map of the world, and point out there the land of Palestine. You find it scarcely discernible, at one corner of the Mediterranean Sea. Then trace on the same map the present boundaries of Christendom, coëxtensive as it is with civilization. Was it an object more worthy of divine agency for its accomplishment, that a tyrannical government should be subverted in that small country of Palestine, or that civilization, piety, and social order should prevail through Europe, through America, and eventually through the world ?
Compare in importance the religion of the lips and the religion of the heart ; the religion which consists in splendid edifices and splendid services, in altars and sacrifices and incense,
and that which consists in doing good among men, revering God, and preparing for eternity. Was it the more worthy object for a prophet to be sent on earth, to reëstablish a ritual worship in one small nation, in its pristine splendor, or to lead the whole world to the worship of the heart and life?
If the answers be given to these questions which reason seems to dictate, can the conclusion be avoided, that the object held in view by the Author of Christianity, the establishment of a spiritual religion, was more worthy of a divine interposition to effect it, than the object which the Jews of his age expected him to accomplish, - the restoration of Israel to its ancient splendor ?
We have thus far viewed those ideas only which seem to have been prevalent in the age of Jesus himself. But it would not be doing justice to either side of the question before us, were we to leave uninvestigated the opinions of your nation in later times.
The great distinction between your faith and ours, is at the present day what it was at the beginning ; those prophecies which are by us referred to spiritual blessings, are according to your system to be explained literally, and, except in a very few instances, with reference, not to the world at large, but to your own nation only. It is still the objection to Christianity, that it gives to the prophecies a different meaning from that which, on first reading them, suggests itself to the mind; that it spiritualizes them, and applies them to mankind in general; that in the blessings which it promises, and the influence it exercises upon the world, its operation is unseen and not exerted upon external, visible things. These objections are analogous to those first felt against Christianity by your predecessors; and the answer to them is the same now as then. We are convinced that one of the chief advantages of Christianity consists in that very spirituality, that absence of any direct influence upon external things, which is thus, to you, the ground of objection; and we believe that yourselves, sharing the light, the enlarged and refined ideas of this century, are now fitted to rise above the prejudices of education, and to reach the same conclusion which has been expressed as our own.
Man is possessed of external and internal senses. The
* For an account of modern Jewish opinions, see “The Jew," a periodical work, conducted in New York, by S. H. Jackson, in 1822 and following years ; — particularly an article entitled, “Examination and Answer to a Sermon delivered by the Rev. George Stanley Faber, in Vol. I. No. 8; and a reply by the Editor to the enquiries of a correspondent, signing himself Camden, in Vol. II. No. 3.
See also, “ Řoul Jacob,” (The Voice of Jacob) “ in defence of the Jewish Religion, containing the Arguments of the Rev. C. F. Frey, one of the Committee of the London Society for the Conversion of the Jews, and Answers thereto; by Jacob Nikelsburger.” Liverpool, 1814. Especially pages 69, 70.
external are sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch; the internal are reason, understanding, the will, the affections, &c. Every religion appeals more or less to both these portions of human nature; for religion always presents subjects for the exercise of thought, belief, and affection, and it communicates these subjects to the mind through the avenues of the external senses. The terms spiritual and external, as applied to religion, are therefore used not absolutely, but merely in a comparative manner. Thus, among Christian denominations, there are many grades in which these terms may be variously applied. It is possible to spiritualize religion too much; for, as our nature is compound, we need external as well as internal influences. Sacrifice is a more external, and less spiritual form of worship than prayer; and even prayer is an external service, when compared with silent meditation on the Divine Being. But the constitution of our natures will not permit us, without great difficulty, to worship God in this manner exclusively ; and therefore prayer and sacrifice have been instituted.
The founder of our religion did not carry the spiritual nature of his system to an extent beyond the capacity of the human mind to bear. Prayer he inculcated both by precept and example ; and he instituted two external, symbolical, though simple rites. His disciples too, having the spirit of their Master, instituted and continued the observance of the first day of the week, originally as a day for religious meetings, and subsequently also as a day for religious rest.
The Jewish system was in many respects external. It was indeed, incomparably more spiritual than any of those prevalent in the surrounding nations; yet it possessed its temple, its sacrifices, its annual fast and festivals, at which the whole nation were required to attend. ternal character was exhibited, too, in its intimate connexion with the national government and laws. And most wisely was that system arranged; for it cannot be supposed that, while all other nations lay in the grossest darkness, the Israelites, just delivered from a state of bondage in Egypt, were fitted for a purely spiritual religion. The necessity of a system in some degree external, was obviously shown by the conduct of the people during the absence of Moses, when they made an image to represent the being who had delivered them from Egypt, and consecrated it with a festival.
It is the belief of Christians, that the system then promulgated answered its purpose, by preserving in the memory of man the great principles of truth, until mankind were fitted to receive a spiritual religion; and that this spiritual religion is the one proclaimed by Jesus. We need say no more to illustrate the suitableness of the Mosaic system for the age, the nation, and the purpose, for which it was designed; but we have yet to show the fitness of Christianity for its higher, its universal, and never-ending purpose. And we may lay down, as the sentiments to be proved, that a religion, designed to be universal, must be spiritual in its character. It must possess few ceremonies, and those of a simple kind. Forms may indeed be associated with it from time to time, as there exists among Christians the greatest variety of ceremonies and modes of worship; but these must be merely incidental, not forming a part of the religion itself, but adopted by its adherents to facilitate its influence over them. It has been remarked that the Mahometan religion, adapted to the warm climate where it originated, could never become, without a change in the ordinances it prescribes, the religion of Lapland; for the continual ablutions it requires would be impracticable in those climates; and its prayers appointed for sunrise and sunset, would within the polar circle, be offered only twice in the year.
An external religion however could much more easily encounter the varieties of place, than those which take their origin from the mental constitution of man. None but a spiritual system can adapt itself to the advancement of the human race. Let us take, as an example, the influence of religion on government. It is generally admitted, in this country, that in every government the people should have a voice. You, it is well known, share in this sentiment with as much warmth as any of your fellow citizens. It will not be questioned, here at least, that republican institutions are those best adapted for a high state of national advancement, Christianity agrees with our customs and feelings on this subject, and flourishes in connexion with them; because Christianity lays down no express principle for preferring one form of government to another. Her kingdom is not of this world. Political institutions are external things, with wbich she has nothing to do, further than to elevate the minds and hearts of the people, so as to enable them to judge aright