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Christian purpose, and our sincere wishes for its prosperity. and success.
To the honour of our age, that strong antipathy between Jews and Christians, the result of prejudice and ignorance, which has so long constituted the principal obstruction to any improvement in the condition of the persecuted Israelites, has given place to more generous sentiments in the professors of Christianity; and, as it is the ordinary effect of gratitude for benefits received to excite esteem and friend. ship for the benefactor, we have reason to expect that the desire of reconciliation will soon be mutual. To use the fanguage of some of the eloquent advocates of this good cause, the Jew is to be considered as the Christian's “ elder brother.” The inheritance of salvation was originally his, and though his want of faith induced him to reject the precious offer, and to surrender his birthright, we should not forget the claim he bas upon our affection and pity. If he do stand in that endearing relation to us, we should not forsake him in his need and his affliction. His transgression, it is true, was great-but he has greatly suffered for it.
The history of this people, extraordinary and interesting throughout, has, for a series of ages, given rise to opinions concerning them, which seem to us equally ungenerous and unjust. The necessarily strong language of their prophets and legislators, has caused their obstinacy, ingratitude, and incredulity, to be greatly exaggerated by the readers of the Bible; while their greatest offence of all, their conduct towards the Son of God, has frequently drawn upon them all the reproaches that the acrimonious eloquence of believers could supply. We pretend not to excuse, or to deny, the guilty transactions in which they were too frequently engaged: they were too criminal to be excused, and too clearly attested to be denied.
But we cannot permit thosc themselves not “ without sin,” to hurl vindictively, and without authority, the avenging stone at the head of an offending brother. If it can be shewn that the offences of the sons of Abraham may be accounted for from a view of the frailty of human nature in general, and that their guilt was perhaps no greater or more unnatural than that of many professing Christians now is, those offences will, it is true, remain humiliating instances of man's folly and wickedness, but they will cease to brand with peculiar infamy the descendants of those who committed them.
When we are considering the numerous transgressions of
the divine law from which they cannot be excused, and which at last drew down such signal punishment upon them, we should also consider the numerous difficulties and temptations of their situation. All the nations around them presented an example of the most dangerous and destructive kind, and were always industriously employed in endeavouring to seduce them from their duty and faith. Though painful to the pride of man, it is by no means matter of astonishment, to those who are conversant with his nature, that the attractions of the wives of their idolatrous neighbours should have, in many instances, so far prevailed, that the worship of the only true God should have occasionally ceased among them, or that the Sun of righteousness itself should have been unable to penetrate the cloud of prejudice, which even their religion had somewhat contributed to raise. None, surely, needs to be informed how prone we are to offend in spite of the strongest conviction of the destructive tendency of our sins, or how frequently the pleasures of the world have caused even Christians to apostatise, virtually at least, from the faith which the fullest evidence had before assured them to be true. We do not pretend to excuse the enormity of those offences against which the displeasure of Heaven has been so clearly expressed ; we wish only to represent the erroneous nature of those reasonings which are intended to prove that the guilt of that people, in their various rebel. fions against God, is of a character any way singular or unaccountable; or that their crimes were more unpardonable than those of which other nations were in their turn guilty. The same just God who accuses the Israelites of rebellion, obstinacy, and incredulity, employed them to punish the abominable wickedness of the idolatrous nations around them by“ destroying them utterly:" and when we are told that the Jews have been driven into captivity, and deprived of “the sceptre," and continue to this day scattered over the whole earth ; may we not, in return, be allowed to ask, what bas become of those mighty empires the plague and terror of mankind, which owned hardly any limits but those of the great globe itself. The result of such a comparison is in favour of the Jews; for they still subsist, in all their misfortunes, a peculiar people; while all those stately dynasties have successively perished, leaving not a wreck behind.”
It will hardly be disputed that a person, who, after using every means within his reach to inform his judgment aright, becomes fully and conscientiously convinced of the lawful.
ness of any action, can contract no guilt by performing it." Whatever be the consequences of the action to himself or to others, he is excusable before God and nian from all that: constitutes the criminality of the agent, namely, the obli. quity of the motive. No exception can well be taken against this method of estimating the quality of any action or agent. It affords no excuse whatever for wilful igno. rance, because it does not permit a man to act, in any doubt., ful case, till he has done all in his power to obtain a just idea of what he is about to do, and satisfied his conscience that it is quite consistent with that which he believes to be the will of God respecting it. It even requires of him, in case of extreme difficulty and importance, not to act at all-ratber: than run the risk of doing wrong. It is not sufficient that the motive of the agent was not bad, or that he acted to the best of his knowledge, if he might have known better, had be taken more pains to acquire information. It is not sufficient that he did not foresee the ill consequences of the act, if he might have foreseen them. In this manner, we apprehend, it may be clearly ascertained whether any action be criminal or not; and the degree of guilt incurred by the agent may be determined by the application of the same rule. He who deliberately acts against his judgment and his conscience, incurs, undoubtedly, the full and aggravated guilt of the transaction whatever it be, and cannot complain if he pay the unmitigated penalty annexed to it. He who neglects to inform his judgment and his conscience arigbt, is likewise criminal if his action be so, though not in the same degree; and his guilt is in proportion to his negli.. gence. If he wilfully sbut his eyes against the evidence that: might convince him, the act he may perform will differ very little (if at all) from a deliberate crime.
If, therefore, we would inquire whether the vulgar opinion respecting the Jewish nation be correct or not, we should begin with an inquiry into the means with which Divine Providence had furnished them of learning the true nature of the transactions in which they were engaged, and how far they acted in deliberate opposition to the light they had, or might have bad. When we look into their history for satisfaction on this point, it must be granted on all hands, that their real purity and holiness was not such as their numerous advantages would have led us to expect; yet, if we compare them, at most periods of their history, with the most polished and enlightened cotemporary nations, we shall find that the
effects of their separation were evidenced by a superior purity of faith and morals. That the Jews were generally convinced of tbe obligation and divine origin of their religion, especially in the latter ages of their existence as a nation, can hardly, we should think, be questioned. That they were sincere in their attachment to it, and scrupulous to excess in their observance of wbat they considered its most essential injunctions, seems also manifest. They often, it is true, neglected the weightier matters of the laws but they do not appear to have ever entirely forgotten, for any length of time, their reverence for the law itself or its Divine ąuthor. * There were, undoubtedly, periods of great and almost universal depravity; but, through the worst of times, the word of God has been, by their means, transmitted to us unaltered and uncorrupted, with religious care and veneration. Persecution could not shake their faith and constancy, although the most sanguinary tyrants employed the most dreadful tortures to awe them into submission; neither the scorn nor the malice of their enemies could make them cease to be Jews, or resign their national distinctions.
It cannot be expected that we should comprehend, within the limits to which we are necessarily confined, all the arguments that a careful examination of their history would afford in support of the opinion we bave ventured to offer. It will be sufficient if we briefly state some of our reasons for thinking that the rebellious disposition occasionally mani. fested by that people in their journey through the wilderness, their subsequent transgression of God's command. ments which led to their captivity, and their rejection of the long promised and anxiously expected Messiah wbich brought about their final dispersion, may all be traced to those internal springs of action by which man is usually driven into errors and crimes, without the supposition of any extraordinary depravity in them. Human nature is the same in all times and countries; equally disposed to yield in the hour of temptation, and equally liable to become better, or more corrupt, according to the circumstances in which it may happen to be placed. There bave been, it is true, both pations and individuals distinguished by uncommon profi gacy, and by the wantonness with wbich they have abused
* The stricter, the sublimer morality of the Christian seems not to bave been required by the law; at all events, it was not thought to be required, the various advantages of their situation; but, except in a few particular instances, we cannot consent that the Jews be ranked among them. What they are at present, and have been since their dispersion, cannot be brought as an argument by those who would oppose us; for if ever there were circumstances utterly unfavourable to the growth of every thing good and virtuous, those in which the unfortunate Jews have all that time been placed, are such without a doubt. It is, indeed, a bard struggle with the bad passions of one's nature, when the oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,” universal desertion and distrust, the most abject poverty in many cases, and the grossest ignorance in almost all, conspire to augment their strength and violence.
It has been considered a most extraordinary example of incredulity and disobedience, that, during their forty years' journey through the wilderness, while under the conduct of a leader whom they could not doubt to be divinely inspired and endowed with powers greater than those which are commonly conferred on man; while they could not but believe themselves protected from danger and conducted to victory by supernatural means; and while a miracle was daily wrought for their comfort and support ; they should still bave been so apt to rebel against their heavenly leader and benefactor. But the reader should remark, that there were few important acts of rebellion committed during that time, and that the people were always speedily brought to a just sense of the crime they had committed. They often, it is true, murmured against Moses and against Aaron ; but tbis was in times of difficulty and distress, when the strong sense of present inconvenience, and alarm for the future, triumphed, as it is very apt with every man to do, over those better feelings which, in happier hours, we may believe tbem to have cherished. We know that the too common effect of calamity, even upon the best of men, is to exeite distrust, if not of God's ability to deliver them, at least of his inclination. Many, no doubt, of those who knew that miracles had been wrought for their relief, questioned the probability of tbeir being wrought again; while many, in Their confusion and dismay, forgot, for the moment, all the favours they had received. When bigh-raised hopes are disappointed, men reason hastily, and often conclude wrongly; and hopelessness of future blessings frequently produces ingratitude for the past. Besides, we should consider that the maltitude among the Israelites probably bore a considerable