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schools, boys are taught to repeat from the Talmud, laws concerning betrothal, divorce, legal damages, priestly functions, and many other things ill adapted to juvenile com- • prehension.
As a people, the Jews have never risen to a very high degree of intellectual culture; not from deficiency of talent, but because circumstances have discouraged a general attention to literature or science. Their forefathers disapproved of it, and some of the stricter sort even now question its lawfulness. Moreover, theological prejudice, that most hateful fiend of all the catalogue of Evil Spirits, has kept them continually under depressing influences, in the countries called Christian. Able men have risen among them, in all ages; but, with few exceptions, their freedom has been fettered, and their mental energy impaired, by perpetually walking in the tread-mill of their own traditions. They have expended an immense amount of labour and ingenuity on local controversies. Rabbins who might have made valuable discoveries in science, or been conspicuous in literature, if their attention had been thus directed, contented themselves with disputing about such questions as whether the pot of manna, and Aaron's rod, were laid up in the Ark, or before it. In modern times, however, literature has been much enriched by Jewish authors, several of whom have attained a brilliant reputation. King David's royal taste for harmonious sounds seems to have descended alınost universally upon this people. They are everywhere distinguished as lovers of music, and several of the most eminent composers have risen among them.
While polytheistic worship prevailed in the world, Jews never suffered persecution merely for religion, except under the reign of Antiochus. But after the Star of Bethlehem, and the Crescent ascended, and Jupiter disappeared below the spiritual horizon, they suffered persecution, relentless, universal, and prolonged, beyond all precedent. Their constancy and fortitude equalled their unparalelled wrongs. They endured every form of deprivation, suffering, and
death, rather than abjure the faith consecrated to them by the teaching of ages. They were banished from realm to realm, though guilty of no offence. Their wealth was seized whenever it suited the convenience of rapacious monarchs or magistrates, and the laws which protected others afforded no redress to them. Even personal safety was purchased at a high price, and the pledge of security thus dearly bought, was often violated. Their most sacred feelings were outraged, and boys in the street were encouraged to hoot at men, whom a wiser education would have taught them, in many instances, to reverence. Even now, it cannot be said that enlightened Europe begins to do justice to the Jewish population; the best that can be said is, they are beginning to do less injustice.
Under circumstances more intolerable than ever depressed the energies of any nation, this remarkable people have contrived not only to exist, but to flourish. The concentrated earnestness and perseverance, which always characterized them, became only more observable when confined to few channels. Excluded from other kinds of greatness, they became princes in wealth, and all the nations have borrowed of them. If the fiery ordeal through which they have been passing for ages, has often driven them to artifice and cunning, let the shame rest on those who left their disinherited brethren no other defence against the rapacity and violence of the powerful. They are everywhere a peaceable, industrious, and enterprising class of citizens. They adjust differences among themselves, without troubling courts of justice, and are extremely charitable to the poor of their own communion. Their women have always been proverbial for a high sense of personal purity.
It is estimated that there are now about five millions of Jews in the world, scattered throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.
"What education is for individual man, revelation is for the whole human race. Why are we not willing to consider all religions merely as progressive steps, by which the human understanding has developed itself in every time and place, and will still develope itself in the future? Why are we not willing to regard them thus, rather than ridicule or hate any of them?”—LESSING.
The preceding chapters plainly show that theories concerning God and the Soul, the Creation of the World, its Destruction and Renovation, a Golden Age of innocence long past, and a Golden Age of holiness to come in the far-off Future, were common among all the nations of antiquity. A general resemblance in ideas on these subjects might be expected, because human nature is everywhere
and in all ages has had the same wants and the same aspirations, and been liable to the same infirmities. But there is not only a general likeness in these ancient traditions, there is also a close similarity in details, indicating that they were all transmitted from one common source, and adopted by different nations, with such variations as naturally grow out of climate, temperament, and the social condition of the people.
According to the light we at present have on the subject, Hindoos, Chaldeans, and Egyptians, seem to have been the most ancient nations. Which of them has the priority, and is the primeval source of theories we call Oriental, I leave for the learned to determine, if they can. All I aim to show is, that these Oriental theories, from some spring in distant mountains, have floated down to us on the tide of time, like the little boats laden with flowers, and illuminated by a lamp, which South Sea Islanders set adrift on the waters, to be wafted to Spirits in other regions. These flowers from the Past have scattered seed in our gardens, and scintillations from the little floating lamp have lighted the wax tapers on our altars, the chandeliers in our churches.
The Sacred Writings of Chaldea and Egypt are supposed to have perished utterly. Wherever the theories they contain may have originated, Hindostan is the place where the most ancient written record of them exists. Hindoos and Hebrews are the only nations of antiquity whose sacred literature has come down to our times in a tolerable state of preservation. In tracing the growth, extension, and intermixture of religious ideas, these two nations stand forth with peculiar prominence, as appa: rently the sources whence the world has derived most of its theological theories. The leading characteristics of the two religions are very different; but their history presents many striking points of resemblance. Both nations were remarkable for the reverential preservation of their Sacred Books, through all manner of dangers and difficulties. In both cases, the dates and authors of different portions are involved in obscurity. In both countries, these ancient and venerated fragments were collected and arranged by a compiler believed to be expressly inspired for the purpose; Vyasa among the Hindoos, and Ezra among the Hebrews. In both countries, these Sacred Books regulated the civil law, as well as the religious ceremonies. The growth and changes of society in both cases gave rise to innumerable commentaries, and the adoption of allegorical meanings, to enlarge the boundaries, when they were found to be too narrow. In both countries, the ancient Sacred Writings were practically superseded by newer ones, of degenerate character; the Pouranas among the Hindoos, the Talmud among the Jews. Both nations considered themselves exclusive depositories of divine truth, and therefore polluted by intermixture with other nations. In both countries, there arose, in process of time, a great religious teacher, who grievously offended the established priesthood, by encourag. ing men of low degree to become instructors of the people. Both of these teachers displeased their exclusive country. men by manifesting a disposition to raise foreigners to the same spiritual level with themselves. Both admitted women among their followers, and both were characterized by an unusual degree of gentleness and benevolence. Both con formed to religious institutions established in the countries where they were born. The disciples of both were persecuted and driven from their native land. Both made more proselytes everywhere among strangers, than they did at home. Both became the founders of a new religion, whose basis was the religion of their forefathers. The teachings of Bouddha spread very widely in the East; those of Christ spread nearly as widely in the West.
Both Hindoos and Hebrews were eminently conservative in their character, prone to rely upon authority, strongly chained to old usages. Greece and Rome had quite an opposite mission to perform, but not less important in aiding the world's spiritual growth. The missions were as different as the centrifugal force of planets is from the central attraction, which keeps them within their orbits. Hindoos, Egyptians, and Hebrews were in all respects bound by their Sacred Volumes; and they transmitted ideas to posterity solely on the authority of those holy traditions. Strictly speaking, the Greeks and Romans had no Sacred Books; for they had none, which they considered binding in any respect except the externals of worship. Philosophy, science, art, literature were all free from trammels; and the laws could change as fast as the changes of society required. There is a very observable difference in the growth of nations where the civil law is included in their Sacred Books, and where it is left free to adapt itself to the progressive development of man. Society must grow, and Sacred Books cannot grow. Therefore, the effort to keep society within such limits is like confining a child of ten years old in garments made for one of five. However elastic the clothing may be, there must eventually come a time when it is inconvenient to move in them, and impossible to grow.
Hindoos and Hebrews were thus