« AnteriorContinuar »
must be admitted, that this, so far, is not very philosophical. It is merely saying they are separate, because they are separate. The question is, how came they to adhere, so strictly, and so long, to their peculiar religious opinions and practices, under the varied circumstances of their outward condition ? The Romans adopted the opinions and practices of the Greeks; the Goths those of the Romans: and when Christianity was promulgated, Greeks, and Romans, and Goths, adopted the opinions and practices of certain poor Galileans. How is it, then, that the Jews, scattered among all these nations, have kept aloof from them all, retaining their own peculiar opinions and practices ? Surely it is not too much to expect that a philosopher, in assigning any reason whatever for their so doing, would, if he could, give a better reason, than that they did so because they did so. And, therefore, surely it is not too much to conclude, that since he does not give a better, he has none better to give. And thus we perceive, how a well-informed, acute, and useful mana great man, so long as he confines himself to his legitimate sphere—unwittingly brings glory to God by his own discomfiture, when he presumes to assail that holy ground, which Jehovah hath consecrated to place his name there.
continue a separate people. To what purpose, then, is their separation spoken of at all? Still more; why is any reason assigned for it? The trath is, the separate state of the Jewish people, in opinion and practice, is too closely connected with the evidences for the inspiration of the Scriptures, to be a matter of real, however it may be of affected, indifference to any of our modern Sadducees. That I am fully warranted in reckoning Mr. Laurence among this class, requires no proof, to any person acquainted with his writings. Let his criticism on the popular notion of life be taken as a specimen. (Page 52.) I forbear to transcribe it, for obvious reasons. The following passage, bowever, from page 72, may, I think, be transcribed with advantage. It is characteristic of the school to which Mr. Laurence belongs, and it contains its own antidote. " Some hold, that an immaterial principle, and others, that a natural, but invisible and very subtle agent, is superadded to the obvious structure of the body, and enables it to exhibit vital phenomena. The former explanation will be of use to those who are conversant with immaterial beings, and who understand how they are connected with, and act upon matter ; but I know no description of persons likely to benefit by the latter. For subtle matter is still matter; and if this fine stuff can possess vital properties, surely they may reside in a fabric which differs only in being a little coarser." With such passages in the body of his work, it is vain, or something worse, for Mr. Laurence, in his Introductory Reply to the Charges of Mr. Abernethy, to disclaim all intention of interfering with the theological doctrine of the soul.
Mr. Gibbon ascribes the continued separation of the Jews to “the sullen obstinacy with which they maintained their peculiar rites and unsocial manners ;” and which, he says, “seemed to mark them out a distinct species of men, who boldly professed, or who faintly disguised, their implacable hatred to the rest of human kind." Here the question recurs—how came they thus sullenly, and obstinately, to maintain their peculiar rites; while other na
& Decline and Fall, &c. ch. xv.
tions, larger, and mightier, and more polished in every human acquirement, gave up their peculiar rites ? The same writer, in another place, ascribes this to what he calls the selfish policy of the nation, Now, admitting that the circumstances of their separation secured to them some national advantage, (the very reverse of which is the case, still, to ascribe the continuance of that separation to a national policy, is to suppose a unity of purpose, and a persevering conformity to that purpose, among large bodies of men, who for ages have been free to think and act for themselves, and have had no communication one with another. If such a supposition had been made in favour of Christianity, our accomplished historian would have been one of the first to fasten upon it the fang of some wellturned sarcasm ; seeing how difficult, nay how impossible it is, to get any set of men, (who may differ without fear of an inquisition,) to agree either in purpose or practice, for any length of time, even with the advantage of uninterrupted communication.
What shall we say then ? Is the separation of the Jewish people up to this day, to be ascribed to accident, or to the special purpose and agency of Almighty God? To allege the former, when we contemplate the variety of their circumstances, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, their numbers, their ever-varying temptations to give up their offensive peculiarities, the extent and duration of their dispersion, and the diverse characters of the nations among whom they are dispersed : in the face of all these considerations, we repeat, to say that they are kept separate by accident, is to ascribe rather more to a happy combination of second causes, arriving by various means at the same end, than is altogether consistent with our boasted rational scepticism, which takes nothing for granted. Except, indeed, that as a love of self-indulgence, in despite of the remonstrances of conscience, lies at the root of infidelity, our sceptics have no objection to ascribe omniscience and omnipotence to accident; because, however skilful accident may have shown itself hitherto, they do not give it credit for the exercise of a final retributive justice ; and have therefore, no fear of being cast into hell by it. I am aware, that a celebrated modern penitent, himself once a sceptic, says, that a love of sin does not always lie at the root of infidelity;" but I am compelled to differ from him ; because He who knew infallibly the windings of the human heart, and their influence on the will and judgment, has declared distinctly, that “this is the condemnation ; that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light;" not because the evidence for the light is insufficient, not because the rays of the light are contradictory, but “because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”! To allege, on the contrary, that the separation of the Jewish people, is by the special purpose and agency of Almighty God, is to say no more than is legitimately proved by the undeniable facts, that prophecies, accurately describing such a state of things, were written in Hebrew, translated into Greek, circulated among the most enlightened nations of the world, and so multiplied in copies, as to render subsequent adaptation absolutely impossible; and all this previous to the dispersion of the people from their own land.
If then it be proved, that the separation of the Jews hitherto, is according to the divine purpose ; the argument, which supports
supposition that their peculiarities as a people, recognized in the word of God, ceased at the time of Christ, falls to the ground. And if their peculiarities did not cease at the time of Christ, then when did they cease ? And if not yet, then when will they cease?
We conceive, that the onus probandi is thus fairly thrown upon those who deny the perpetual separation of the kingdom of Judah to be a theme of divine prophecy.
IV. But our case can be made stronger still ; and we now proceed to state some of our direct reasons for believing, that as the Jewish nation have been kept separate from all people until now,
i St. John iii. 19, 20.