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Judaism and Christianity

 

Judaism commands the advance of civilization. The superiority of its principles, and the truthfulness of its precepts, are the cause of its controlling influence. The Jews are weak in a numerical point of view, but numbers prove nothing; a handful of civilized men subdue a nation of barbarians. Hence in contemplating their present situation, and the influence they exercise as a people, we must remember one prophecy has been fulfilled, and that they are scattered, and conquered, and subdued. In ancient time, when Christianity planted itself by the side of Judaism, it was but a feeble child, eclipsed by the more solid endowments of its parent. The genius of a great philanthropist soon induced a comparison between the old and the new faith since then the child has disputed with the parent from whose bosom it sprung for the mastery over the great family of man. The new faith supplied a popular want. True it bade men be blind, it bade men hush all inquiry in the depth of their heart; but it promised a future, a never-ending future of joy and gladness. The old faith, though beautiful in itself, was preserved by a people who announced it not to the world, because they felt it was given to them and for them. This faith, older than the memory of the oldest, had belonged to past generations, who like the present were content with it, and regarded it as their property. The hour of danger was nigh. The sabbath-breakers and the uninstructed multitude wanted another system of morality, <<395>>or another system of religion, for religion is the natural property of man. Something eclectic, advancing with the ideas of the age; something modern, but identified with the old was alone calculated to gratify the wants of the people. The hour of danger was come. From obscurity there suddenly burst one, whose great genius was to retard or develope the progress of the human family. Robed in sackcloth and adorned in humility, the greatest philosopher of ancient times, while he understood, prepared to minister to the wants of the people. He came not as Moses came, with thunder and lightning, and all the awful proofs of his power, but as the humble representative of Him from whose will flowed creation, who made man in his own likeness, and blessed him with an intelligent principle. Neither ignorance nor dishonesty influenced many of his contemporaries when they undertook to propagate the new faith; interest, the lever of Archimedes, moved the world to place Christianity on a level with Judaism. The Jews had created a host of enemies for themselves, because their Scriptures formed them thinking creatures, and thought elevated them. With their aid they had burst the barriers of ignorance, which had surrounded them equally with other races; with their aid they were the most reasonable of the then reasonable beings.

But people pass from jealousy to persecution most rapidly. It was therefore soon thought, despite the teachings of Christ, that the overthrow of Judaism was necessary to give legitimacy to Christianity. Superstition too, united for the destruction of the Jews. Under its dominion men were transported beyond themselves, as is most usually the case, and they hailed as sacred what was incomprehensible; whilst the Jew still defended valiantly the faith of his forefathers, and would sooner have abandoned his life than his religion. Thus a formidable opposition was offered to Christianity at the outset. Was this opposition reasonable? Is the worship of wooden gods less barbarous than the humiliating acknowledgment, that God had an only son, equal with himself, who on earth was no longer his equal though he retained his father’s nature, and that because he was fallen from his high estate, he could wipe away the sins of the world, by suffering himself most patiently to be put to death? The slave of the priest, the ambitious politician, or the jealous <<396>>and greedy fanatic, might consistently acknowledge the mysterious supremacy of the half heaven half earth-born prophet; but it is the privilege of the wise in all times to adopt only those truths which are evident to the senses, or the imagination, for neither the sanction of a multitude, nor the oaths of a few can consecrate a falsehood, or explain away the truth. Who can deny that if the New Testament contain the doctrine promulgated by Christ, when first his alleged miracles, as it is said, astounded the nations, he who doubted was entitled to more credit than the civilized believer? But the character of that day was mechanical: a man with common sense soon became a saint. Individuals framed the opinion of an epoch. The masses had but to hear, to see with the blind eye of faith, and believe, even with an outcry of dissension in the heart. Christ was eminently qualified to turn the inertness of the Jewish faith against itself, and open a new prospect for those without the Jewish church. But alas! he or his disciples attributed such an absurdity to Providence in order to prove the truthfulness of his mission, that no time nor reason has been able to excuse the extraordinary vision of a distempered imagination. Though he made no conquest except of human hearts, these alone were required to consolidate his system; surrounded by a credulous public, always eager for new manifestations of his power, he had ample opportunity to astonish their prejudices, and wean them to him by gentleness and eloquence. These are weapons in all countries most formidable; and when used by wise men are irresistible.

We have already said the jealousy of other nations was kindled into hatred as well as an undue enthusiasm. The spectacle of a people swayed by virtue, even when surrounded by corruption and corrupt masters; a people linked together by one hope, and fighting around one standard; who made no proselytes, but were content to pursue the even tenor of their way, warmed the indignation of those natures which never could equal them. What a beautiful picture the Jewish people presented before the time of Christ, whether regarded in a moral, political, or religious view! But his wisdom and cunning, one mutually supporting the other, prostrated in the dust and swallowed up its harmony. Not that those great truths received by the Jews from their Scriptures, and written in the depths of their souls, <<397>>were so fragile as to be broken by the new apostle or his followers; but because that fanaticism was born and contaminated the moral atmosphere. The Jews had to fear their enemies; they were powerful, so powerful that they broke the sinews of an ancient race. But even in this day of tribulation, when the Israelite was abhorred, his faith, contrasted with the Christian’s, shone forth like the moon beside the evening star; and the time will come when the star shall shine no more, and the moon will still shed her silvery light.

The progress of Christianity is evident. We recognise the most enlightened nations of the world within the bosom of the Christian church. Its march has been progressive, civilizing and conquering; redeeming from barbarism thousands and hundred thousands, of the human family. Yet when we look from an elevated point of view on the present state of humanity, we must readily discern the central and invincible position of the Jews; nor can we avoid determining their influence and their destiny. The difference existing between the Christian sects is enormous, notwithstanding their close affinity. This dissimilarity necessarily forces the Christian church to describe a circle. At one time we see the Catholic church dictating terms to the world, and then we see the world at war with Catholicism. And what a war! Anathemas become practical, and denunciation is the language of courts. Then Episcopacy unfurls its banner; ministers conspire and walk in the same path with warriors, and seek the battle-field to display their weakness or their valour. One sect swallows up the other, and hunts with savage fury its co-religionists, to convert or to massacre them. Here we read of two hundred thousand Christians brought together to drive out Mahommedanism from Europe, “armed and accoutred according to law;” again we read of one hundred and forty thousand cavalry raised by Conrad III. and Louis VII., wasting away in the passage of Natolia. True it is that Christian tribes do not now attempt to overrun the countries occupied by those nations who never heard of Christ, but are content with Bible and Missionary Societies to promulgate their doctrines. It is no less true that anathemas have lost something of their original force. Yet let us cast our gaze abroad, and contemplate with a clear vision the spectacle of the Christian world as it now is.

<<398>>The various Christian sects, and their name is legion, comprise about two hundred and thirty millions of men. The Christians have colonies all over the world, and their school embraces particularly Europe and America. Now notwithstanding it is maintained by the present fathers of the Christian church, that though there exist different sects of Christians, their differences are merely nominal and confined to forms: it is all-important that we notice that they do not gravitate towards a common form of civilization. Hence the same diversity is noticeable between their various sects as between Mahommedans and Brahmins. The mass of Christians are most undoubtedly better advised on the great questions that influence society, than the Asiatics. But Christianity alone must not be mistaken for the specific means which civilizes men; since it is nothing more than a form of religion. Nor will it answer to argue that when Christianity comes in contact with Brahminism or Mahommedanism, an amalgamation ensues to the disadvantage of the latter; civilization is an active principle, barbarism an inert element, and herein lies the true solution of the problem. It is not the peculiar truths of the Catholic or the Protestant doctrines which give to either so much influence amongst barbarians; but it is the superiority of those individuals who represent their denomination, that subjugates the heathen. Rome was overrun by barbarians, who in turn adopted the manners and habits of the subjected party. But what was the political state of these hordes before the conquest? Germany afforded little arable land, and that little was indifferently cultivated. When these tribes poured down like an avalanche on the mighty empire founded on the seen hills of Rome, they began to make permanent settlements, and combined to make the conquered territory a secure asylum for themselves. Here then was first awakened in the rude heart of the barbarians the instinct of civilization; and here it is we discover their first advance from darkness to light. This was their first school; here they learned their first lesson, under the most beautiful sky in the world, and on the most productive plains in Europe.

The Christian, who carefully maintains the doctrine of Christ, is a good preceptor. He is a social being. Hence when he journeys amongst a people whom despotism has degraded, or who, never having been in contact with civilized man, know nothing of civilized society, he plants in the bosom of this people a seed <<399>>that gains strength daily, gradually bursts from its narrow bed, unfolds its branches around, and covers in time a country with its beneficent shade. He is the agent of civilization, and though he be employed by Protestant or Catholic, it is not his faith, but his example which bursts the chains of barbarism. If Christianity alone and unaided was sufficient to civilize man, then surely the adoption of the same means would bring about the same results. But when we notice that Christian nations have not arrived at the same degree of civilization, and are still subject to all the revolutions and changes of the remainder of the human family: we must conclude that their superiority rests on other grounds that the acknowledging that a God of mercy “ordered a dearly beloved son, whom he had engendered without a mother, and who was as old as himself, to go and be put to death on the earth,” for the salvation of mankind. It is by virtue of a determinate system of legislation, that one nation is always in advance of the other. This has been the case in the earliest times, and ever will continue to be the same.

(To be continued.)