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The Episcopal Recorder and the Jews

 

It is almost laughable to see with what perfect composure Christian writers dispose of all questions at issue between them and us, as though we had nothing to advance in our behalf, and had to confess ourselves vanquished without the least power of resistance. And still it is always the same bold assertion, confident appeal, without the shadow of argument to oppose our well-established doctrines, founded as they are upon the evident meaning of Scriptures, as they would be understood by every unprejudiced person, if he knew nothing of either Jainism or Christianity. We are led to these remarks by having had our attention called to an article headed “The Jews,” which appeared in the Episcopal Recorder of this city, under date of August 2d, by an anonymous correspondent, who employs the signature of “Samuel,” and asks our opinion on the topic, we think, with an air of triumph, as though a prudent silence would be the best we could exhibit in the case. But we have not this fear of a discomfiture before our eyes; and as the writer unquestionably has an occasional opportunity of seeing the Occident, we will endeavour to controvert the only material parts of his comment on an article written by Dr. Wise, which appeared two years ago in our pages.

The Jews.

In a recent number of your Recorder, was an interesting extract in rela­tion to the indebtedness of Christians to the Jews for our own knowledge of the true God, and for the Old. Testament Scriptures, so faithfully and authentically preserved and transmitted to us by them.

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Occasionally I have the reading of “The Occident and American Jewish Advocate,” printed in your city.

In the number of that periodical for August, 1849, is a discourse upon the subject of “The Messiah:” by Rabbi Wise, of Albany, New York.

Of course its views are opposed to ours, but I was struck with a passage near its close on the 243d and 4th pages.

Rabbi Wise had quoted several passages of scriptures relative to the final restoration and happiness of the Jews, and fellows them with this remarkable passage. He says:—

“In the very same sense have all the prophets after Moses spoken to Israel. All and each of them brought them word that if they disobeyed the command of the Lord, He would surrender them into the hands of their opponents, and they should be cruelly maltreated, but God would not for­sake them, they should not be utterly destroyed: and at last their cause should be triumphant over all the world; all nations should acknowledge the truth, and should appreciate the doctrines which Israel brought unto them, which we [the Jews] have guarded and saved with our blood, with our life; he that will finally move mankind to acknowledge, accept and appreciate this eternal truth, he that will make an end to the bitter opposition which has been for thirty centuries the source of horrible events to the house of lsrael, will therefore be the redeemer of Israel, The True Messiah, the anointed of the Lord, not only for us [the Jews] but for all the world besides: inasmuch as he will bring unto them Truth, and peace, and happiness, and he will be called in truth the father of happiness and the prince of peace.”

In the Occident, the last eleven lines were not printed in italics but I hope you can thus distinguish them, for they ought to be printed in letters of gold, and be borne in mind by every Jew and every Christian. I say this, because who can fail to see in them an exact description of Jesus, our own Saviour and their Saviour,—of the Messiah that has come; of his character, his objects, and the effects of his coming, and of his teaching, as exemplified in past and present history, and in the lives and feelings of true Christians.

If the Jews should say “No” to this, on the ground that Christians have persecuted the Jews, truth would contradict the assertion. The Jews have indeed been persecuted by those calling themselves Christians; but true Christianity never persecuted them. It was the want of real Christianity that has permitted men, only nominally Christians, to persecute them. This they would see and be obliged to acknowledge if they would study the New Testament with a desire to know the truth. Every precept and every word of teaching therein forbids, in the most emphatic manner, every species of persecution; and it is an undeniable fact that all their persecution by those calling themselves Christians, have come from the corrupt and apostate church of Rome and kindred Greek Church, which is called in the New Testament “the man of Sin,” “the Mystery of Iniquity,” and against which Christians are warned by our Saviour and his apostles as a monster “drunk,” <<367>>not only with the blood of Jews, but “with the blood of saints,”—that is, with the blood of really Christian saints—such as inspiration itself was willing to call saints. And what is it but real Christianity that has stayed this persecution in a very great measure? And is gradually wearing out the prejudice which accompanied it, and still lingers in the minds of thousands and thousands who are only nominal Christians—men who are only called Christians, because they are not Jews, Pagans, Atheists or Deists?

From the mind of a true Christian, even that prejudice—the mere echo, as it were, of a hateful sound now passing away—is subdued by the very spirit of his calling; and if he is intelligent enough to have examined the subject, he beholds in the Jews the ancient chosen people of God, though now, for a season, “scattered and pealed;” and so beholding them he most firmly believes that they will yet acknowledge the Messiah of the cross.

Who can read the eighth chapter of Zechariah, and not believe that God in the person of our Saviour, will yet reign personally in Jerusalem?

“I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain,” v. 3.     

And in reference to his being so returned, he further says,—

“Behold, I will love my people from the east country, and from the west country; and I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem,” v. 7, 8.

And the prophecy is concluded with the following striking prediction

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts: it shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities; and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord,…. yea, many people, and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem….In those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you,” v. 20-23.

What then should be our feelings now towards the Jews? Love, most certainly: love without prejudice—love, with respect and reverence towards them as the chosen people of God, who yet preserves them; who will restore them; and upon whose skirts Christians will yet be glad to take hold and say, “We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

Intelligent Christians know that this time is coming; a time when it will be thought enough for a Christian to be next to a Jew in honour with God; but they also know that it will never come until the Jews acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and Saviour; and both Jews and Gentiles are to be humbled in the dust by each other, and to each other, as well as to God: the Jew must give up his stubborn wilfulness, and search for and acknowledge the truth as it is in Jesus; and the Christian must give up his <<368>>prejudice, and pride, before he can be a Christian; and be content to honour the Jew as one chosen of God before himself. Those that will be first shall be last; and those only that abase themselves shall be exalted. A. L—s.

The writer had an undoubted right in quoting Dr. Wise’s forcible description of the character of the expected Messiah to print it in italics, and to say they ought to be printed in letters of gold, and be borne in mind by every Jew and Christian. So far we agree with him, as it is well to have a definite idea of any subject which we wish to contemplate. But his reasons are rather startling. “I say this, because who can fail to see in them an exact description of Jesus, our own Saviour, and their Saviour—of the Messiah that has come.” Hold a moment! Dr. W. says, “Inasmuch as he will bring unto them truth, and peace, and happiness; and he will be called in truth the father of happiness and the prince of peace.” And you say that Jesus of Nazareth has brought these things to the Israelites? The truth was theirs indeed from the beginning of their institution as a nation when they received the law the Messiah’s mission is only to be a restoring of the people to an obedience of its behests.—We ask, therefore, where is the proof that Jesus ever wrought this change, from the day of his coming to this very moment? The prophets speak of a time, when all the children of the faith “shall be taught of the Lord, and that then they shall have an “abundance of peace;” and you dare to say that this has been accomplished? It is neither literally nor typically fulfilled; for the children of Israel walk still each after the imaginings of his own will, whether for good and evil, and the universal acquiescence the truth of religion has not yet taken place.

“And Peace.” Where is our peace?—where is the universal freedom which covers Israel as with a shield of defence? Have we not, ever since the birth of Jesus, sighed under the most grinding oppression? Have we not cause “to say in the morning, Oh, that it were evening; and in the evening, Oh, that it were morning,” from the constantly changing images of horror and despair that continually assailed us? And was not the greater part of our sorrows owing to the very advent of this same pretended Messiah, in whose name our blood flowed as a stream in the ages of darkness, and in whose name we are looked upon as outcasts, aliens to the rights of man in nearly all the world at this very hour, is the age which calls itself the most enlightened in religious knowledge, the farthest advanced in science and civilisation?

“And happiness!” Oh, that indeed we might be <<369>> happy, even in a worldly sense of the word!—that we might be permitted to pursue the even tenor of our way, unawed by the force of power or example from without!—that mankind might leave us undisturbed in the humility which all who are true Israelites would gladly be content with, so they could but serve their Maker according to the  dictates of their conscience, which is at last nothing but the demands of their religion, which not they alone, but Christians too, call Divine.

More yet: you call your Messiah the prince of peace! When was his reign that of peace? when that of concord? when that of brotherly love? when that of meekness, of toleration? Speak, that we may know how to meet you, how to answer you, how to argue with you! Speak in explicit terms; show forth your cause, that you may be justified! Peace, you say! What, then, are those bitter wars for the sake of Christianity, which are yet waged on earth? Do we not constantly hear the booming of the dread artillery? do we not see the flashing of the bright sword, the edge of which has been made fine for the slaughter, and all for the sake of differences of opinion? And who are these artillerists, who are time swordsmen, whose hands reek with a brother’s blood; at whose approach virgins shriek, and fathers quake, and fields are gory, and cities blaze with lurid flames? Yes, who are they? Are they Jews? No! they have long since been powerless, homeless, nameless wanderers, over the broad earth; but followers of the man of Nazareth, ad they are led and instigated by him who calls himself the vicegerent of Christ on earth!

You will say we utter a taunting tirade, vehement words without coherency and argument! Indeed, we are carried away by the violence of our emotions, whenever we contemplate the sorrowful lot of our brothers, of our own among theirs, on earth. Your best feeling is at length nothing but pity; you pity our blindness, that we are Jews, adherents of the God of the Bible, and not worshippers like you of a mediator; and you expect that it is this we can accept as that which is our due? Is the firstborn of God, as the Bible calls us, to be dismissed from your door with a few crumbs which your excited pity may contribute to the relief of our wretchedness? Your bishops, your spiritual lords, your temporal hereditary legislators, even now deem it hazardous for the state to let a Jew sit in the Parliament of Great Britain; and you expect that we shall be calm when you speak of peace, when there is no peace, of happiness, when there is wretchedness and woe, of love, when there is hatred, of fellow-feeling, when at best you have but pity to bestow? We say, therefore, without the <<370>> least hesitation, that, so long as the defenders of the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth have nothing better in their arguments than assuming for him what he is not, and for his doctrines what they are not, we may freely employ invective as the only legitimate reply, especially when we can do so and utter the plain, uncontrovertible truth, history and experience so fully confirm, that no one can gainsay aught of what we advance.

“As exemplified in past and present history, and in the lives and feelings of “true Christians.” We will follow A. L——r’s example, and emphasise one word of his comment. So he admits true and false Christians,—the latter, of course, those who have had no benefit of Jesus’s coming and teaching. Assuming this; we ask, How then has he brought truth into the world, since not alone they who reject him, but many of those who believe in him, have not been benefitted by his coming or teaching? Again, where is the criterion to distinguish between the true and false Christians? You will say that they who persecute for opinion’s sake are the false ones. Admitted; but we will tell you, for our part, that those who act not as Isrealites are false Israelites; and thus our sinning is no more proof against the truth of our system, than the crimes of Christians are against the divinity of Christ. But we have another objection. If it is true that those who persecute are not true followers of the New Testament, how is it that the successors of St. Peter so often employed every species of torture, and mental no less than bodily torments, to coerce people to become Christians, or to punish them for non-conformity either in doctrine or practice? We will admit that the gospels should actually prohibit the employment of force to compel mankind to acquiesce in them. But independently of this being liable to some doubts, no one can deny that the practice has always been to the contrary, either in Protestant or Catholic countries, and it is equally undeniable that no sooner was Christianity triumphant than it at once resorted to violence for its propagation. You may be able to explain all this to satisfy your own scruples of conscience, and say your peculiar section of the great Christian family has not been guilty, or to an equal extent as the others.

But to a Jew, who has suffered so much, and who bears yet the stamp of your opprobrium, often even in free countries, does not, cannot, will not, stop to inquire from what division of the Nazarenes these wounds he bears actually proceed. He sees no difference between the Pope of Rome or the Archbishop of Canterbury; he regards as equal the wily Jesuit and the noisy Covenanter; he holds <<371>> in the same esteem the missionaries issuing from the Vatican and the various Jews’ societies of England and America; and he knows no more reason why the hierarch of Rome should be called “the man of sin,” and Catholicism “the mystery of iniquity,” than that Nicholas of Russia be the “man of righteousness,” and Episcopacy or Quakerism the ‘true church.’ It is not for us to settle these disputes; they exist; and the whole betokens the fact that Christianity has as yet produced neither Truth, nor peace, nor happiness, since there is confessedly false teaching in Christianity, wars among Christian nations, and wretchedness and ignorance among individual Christians.

We will admit that all are not Christians who call themselves so; but surely the writer will not so denounce all who entertain prejudices against the Jews; or else we fear his true followers of the meek Nazarene will melt down to a handful of people, “which a boy could number.” We will take him at his word, and make the love the gentiles bear towards the Jews the test of their true Christianity; and then we will have no difficulty in showing him a thousand times more Jews who are true Israelites; for even he qualifies his absence of prejudice by the words, “And to behold them, he most firmly believes that they will yet acknowledge the Messiah of the cross.”

So not as Jews does he regard us without ill will, but as future Christians; so that the extent of his love for us is at last limited to his own bosom, to his own sphere; since, if he could imagine that we would always reject the crucified, his feeling for us would be that of abhorrence, and not of love.

Our readers will readily see that we have not replied to as great a length as we could easily do; but we trust to their good intelligence that they will be able to frame suitable answers to what we have not touched upon. The article we have here prepared is as long as it ought to be for one time: if necessary, we may resume it hereafter, especially if a reply should be sent forth by the writer of the piece which we have reviewed, or his friends. This much only we will add, as an advice to all who wish to influence Israelites, that they must be prepared with something far more cogent than the hundred-times-repeated assertion that Jesus has brought truth and peace into the world, in order to obtain a patient hearing from those who have some little knowledge of history and the religion of the Bible. We beg our readers to reflect on this, and the subject will be very fruitful in its results, and confirm them the more strongly in the religion which they have inherited from their fathers, and of which to rob them the world <<372>>without has labored so hard and perseveringly as almost to excite our admiration, notwithstanding we must condemn the unholy efforts of the bootless rage of the nations who imagine vain things against the Lord and his anointed.