Изображения страниц

case that the Jewish mind, in every age distinguished for vivacity and clearness, has in no age, even the most barbarous, been wholly without cultivation, and as a necessary consequence of this, that their national literature embodies an immense mass of historical materials, out of which some of their ablest men in modern times have undertaken with success the history of their people. The best of these works, or at least the best known and the most esteemed by learned Christians, are the two by Jost, of which we have placed the titles at the head of this article. The earlier and more extensive work is a learned and minute account of the Jews since the period of the Maccabees, and seems to be now very commonly regarded as the standard authority after the time of Josephus. The smaller work, published several years after the completion of the first, is not a mere abridgment of the other, with which it does not coincide in plan, for it includes ancient as well as modern times, and even in relation to the latter, was re-written, as the author assures us, from the same original authorities, but in a condensed form.

These works of Jost, and more especially the second, which we have examined with attention, are, in our opinion, justly entitled to the praise of general ability and learning, soundness of judgment, strict impartiality, and freedom from antichristian virulence. For this last excellence we are indebted, it may well be feared, to the author's want of cordial faith in revelation. This of course vitiates his exhibition of the sacred history, whereas it seems to add to the authority of that part of the work in which he treats of later times, by placing him on ground which could not well be occupied by either a zealous Christian or a zealous Jew. Be this as it may, every reader must be struck with the entire absence of that extravagant self-admiration, whether personal or national, so often found in Jews of the most humble pretensions, and as strongly marked in real life, as in the poetry of D'Israeli's novels. The unhappy traits which mark the modern Jewish character, so far from being either palliated or disguised by Jost, are fully disclosed and traced to their true causes, with a mixture of severity and tenderness, which serves at once to show how well he loves his race, and yet how incapable he is of letting even that love vitiate his truth as a historian.

The first point to which we ask attention, is the perfectly anomalous position into which the Jews were thrown by the destruction of Jerusalem and their own expulsion from the country. Their condition at this juncture is without a parallel except in their own history, and even there the parallel is distant and imperfect. It is not the downfall of their government, nor the dispersion of their people, nor the hardships in

cident to such a revolution, that imparts to their condition this extraordinary character. Such changes have occurred and such sufferings been experienced in a hundred other cases, without any such effect upon the sufferers or the world at large. The extraordinary feature of the case is this, that they were left to keep up a peculiar national organization, when deprived of the very thing that seemed most indispensable to its existence. To other systems of religion and of polity, a particular local habitation might be highly important; but in this case it was recognised as absolutely necessary. Christians and Pagans could set up their altars any where; but Judaism was restricted, by the law of its existence, to one country. The place of its rites was, by divine appointment, as essential as the rites themselves. The Jews themselves will hardly deny, that if it had been the divine purpose to announce providentially the termination of the old theocracy, it could not have been done in a more significant and striking manner. Their condition was now worse than that of Israel in Egypt. To maintain a system eminently local, when expelled from the prescribed localities, was indeed to make brick without straw, or rather to make it with nothing but straw. All that was now left was the cohesive spirit of the race, while every thing substantial, upon which it had once acted, was now gone for


That the surviving Jews did not take this view of the matter, when they first recovered from the stunning blow, is easily explained by their national remembrance of the Babylonish exile, when the same state of things had existed during less than three-fourths of a century, so that some, who had worshipped in the first temple, wept at the dedication of the second. But in that case, the whole nation, as one organised body, had been carried and deposited together, so as to be ready for a simultaneous restoration; while in this case it had sprung into a multitude of fragments, scattered no one could tell where, like the breaking of a potter's vessel with a rod of iron, or, to use a modern illustration, like the sudden instantaneous havoc of some great explosion. Still the recollection of the old captivity and of its joyful termination could not fail to cheer the Jews with sanguine hopes, during the first halfcentury, and till the mystic term of threescore and ten years was passed. But then as the former generation passed away, the hopes of the survivors and successors must have lost their elasticity. This would have been the case, even if external circumstances had improved or remained unaltered. How much more when they were growing worse and worse; when the miserable remnant left in Palestine was again and again thinned by new proscriptions, and the land at last hermetically

sealed against the race to whom it had been promised; when the old Jerusalem was razed, Moriah turned into a grove, heathen temples, amphitheatres, and circuses erected all around it, and the ancient landmarks so confused, that it is still a question where the walls ran, and alleged by some, though no doubt incorrectly, that the present area is not that of the old town, but only marks the site of the one built by Hadrian, and called, after one of his own names, Ælia. Nor was it merely the hostility of emperors and senates that thus tended to destroy their hopes. When Julian the apostate, in the fourth century after the catastrophe, attempted to rebuild the temple, his design was thwarted, and Jews and Christians seem to join with Pagans in believing that it was by a miraculous interposition.

If, in the face of these discouragements, the Jews had given up all hopes of restoration to their own land, they would thereby have abandoned their religion, and with it their national existence, scattered as they were among the nations. The choice presented was between this national annihilation and an obstinate persistency in waiting for what never was to come, at least in the way desired and expected by themselves. That they should have shrunk from the total loss of their historical and national existence, is entirely natural. The only wonder is that they should have been able to escape it, by maintaining their original attitude of expectation for a space of near two thousand years. This is the wonder, the unparalleled enigma, in the condition of the Jews, that they are waiting, just as their fathers waited so many hundred years ago. As a race, they may be said to keep perpetual passover, their loins girded, shoes on their feet, and staves in their hands, prepared for a journey, for which fifty generations have prepared before them, without ever taking it. If we could imagine a family, in which the inmates have, from time immemorial, been sitting in their travelling dress, surrounded by their luggage, as if in expectation of a vessel or a stage-coach, it would be a fantastic but not an unjust image of the posture of the Jews throughout the world for ages. The religious service which they now use is avowedly a temporary substitute for that which is to be restored in Palestine hereafter. Hence it abounds in allusions to the sacrificial system, which was essential to the Jew's religion, but of which they have practically known nothing since the fall of Jerusalem. The American edition of their Liturgy contains this note on p. 10 of the Daily Service:-" Whereas sacrifices and incense were an integral part in the temple-worship, we look upon the order of sacrifices as a part of our daily service in our prayers. To this same reason it is owing, that in many parts of the Prayer Book, the ordinance relating to

sacrifices is to be found, as appointed to be read on the respective holidays and festivals. For we should, according to the opinion of our teachers, keep alive the recollection of that holy service, of which our sins have deprived us, and which will, we trust, be ultimately again restored in the temple to be rebuilt at Jerusalem." That is to say, the non-performance of rites absolutely necessary to the system is made good by remembering them and talking of them, in a service altogether different, both in form and substance. This is the true position of the Jews, as defined by themselves and attested by their history. The temporary state of expectation, which at first seemed likely to last only for a few years, has continued until this day, like the fabled metamorphosis of men into stone, by which their momentary attitudes and gestures have been fixed for ever, or the real petrifaction of a drop arrested in the very article of distillation.

We have dwelt upon this circumstance, not only on account of its intrinsic singularity and interest, but also and especially because it furnishes a key to the whole subject. Out of this anomalous position of the Jews, occasioned by the downfall of their state, and perpetuated by their own choice, has arisen, more or less directly, all that is peculiar in their national relations or the figure which they make in history. This may be rendered clear by an enumeration of its consequences, some of which might have been foreseen, and all of which are easily demonstrable from history.

The first of these effects is the continued separate existence of the Jews among the nations where they have been scattered. This would never have arisen from a spirit of nationality alone, as we know from other cases where that spirit has been thoroughly subdued by coercive or persuasive measures. This result could have been secured by nothing short of a religious conviction of their own superiority to other nations, or at least of their separation from them by express divine appointment, with an accompanying hope of restoration to the external marks of their pre-eminence.

Out of this first effect has naturally sprung a second, the peculiar mode of life and method of subsistence which have prevailed among the Jews for ages. Had they merely considered themselves bound to live apart from others, they might have done so, like the Quakers, while engaged in the same occupations. But it was necessary also that they should sit loose to the community, and live in constant preparation for removal. Even where this motive has not been consciously present to the minds of individuals, its action on the whole community is still perceptible. To this cause we may confidently trace the early disposition of the Jews to deal in money

and portable goods, rather than gain a higher social standing, but at the same time hamper and commit themselves, by engaging in agricultural or mechanical employments on a large


A further consequence of all this was the frequent transmigration of the Jews, even where it was not necessary, and their extensive knowledge of each other, as well as of the nations among whom they were domesticated. There are certain periods of history, in which the Jews were substitutes at once for the modern bank and the modern post-office.

But one of the most singular and interesting facts connected with this subject, is the long-continued and extensive employment of the Jews in the European slave-trade. As the practice of enslaving prisoners of war was maintained during some of the most martial periods of mediæval history, we find the Jews still following the scent of war, and perhaps fomenting it. At any rate, wherever the carcass was, there were these eagles gathered together. It is curious to observe, in some of the oldest legislative records of the European States, the compromise between their interest which required them to employ the Jews, and their pride as Christians which forbade it. Hence we find in the same ordinance the most absolute prohibition of a Jew's enslaving Christians on his own account, and the most explicit recognition of his agency as a slave-trader. This extraordinary practice had its origin, no doubt, in the facilities of locomotion and commercial intercourse arising from the social relations of the Jews. In process of time it contributed, of course, to form that deep-seated aversion in the popular mind which showed itself in later times.

Another effect of the anomalous position of the Jews was the peculiar cultivation, or at least the sharpening of their faculties, a natural result of extensive and exclusive commercial occupations, but unless properly controlled, too apt to degenerate into a low cunning and to be accompanied by a general moral deterioration, far outweighing the mere intellectual advantage. It nevertheless deserves to be recorded as a fact attested by the history of ages, that the Jews, since their expulsion and dispersion, have maintained a high place, in the estimation both of friends and foes, for intellectual acuteness, and if not for actual cultivation, for a rare susceptibility of it.

Still another effect of these same causes is the wonderful success with which the Jews have maintained their doctrine, polity, and worship, almost perfectly uniform, for such a length of time, and over such an extent of surface. Independent as the Jewish congregations seem to be of one another, and dependent as their spiritual rulers are upon the people, it is nevertheless true, that Jews from one end of the world can join in

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »