« PreviousContinue »
reward for the disobedience or faithfulness of the entire people.
The history of nations outside was one of kings, emperors, great generals, living and ruling of themselves. Successes came from their sagacity, defeats from their lack of foresight and proper skill in management. Accordingly, we find that defeat was the sign of the incompetency of men who were considered worthy of death, or, at the very least, worthy of banishment from the state; while a victory gave a great triumph to the general. God had nothing to do with the outside nations in their own eyes. It was all man's work and to be punished or rewarded accordingly by
6. This difference, too, may be instanced in one peculiarity which, perhaps, more than any other slight thing we could mention, shows the spirit of the whole. All nations have a "golden age" to which they appeal, and where they see all the happiest imaginations of human life realized. Now the Jews always looked forward for this golden age, forward, to the coming of the promised one of God. Every other nation looked always back, far back, and sang the glories of the past and lamented the age of gold as forever
Here, then, were the actual differences existing between the Jews and the Gentiles. They were intrinsic, practical. They elevated the Jews, in a religious point, above all contact with other nations. The highest aspirations of the loftiest Gentile soul never dared to tread the eminence to which they had attained, and where they habitually dwelt, as at home. Here, then, is seen why this race was "called,' "chosen," "set apart," for the great purpose of receiving the Son of God, and setting up his permanent religion in
Here the theme changes. Would not these differences, so marked, prevent the spread of the religion of Christ? How can we reconcile this state of things with the rapid extension over the Gentile world of the reign of Jesus? The Jewish state was necessary to insure the development of the religion itself; but must we not also see an antagonism between the Jewish and Gentile soul which could not be overcome by the Teacher even with the whole power of truth on his side?
Let us turn to the actual history of the events, and there see how these differences were overcome.
1. First in order here, is the dispersion of the Jews. They, scattered amid all nations, carried with them a portion at least of the Jewish spirit, and gave, in some slight degree, a knowledge of their moral and religious status to all people. We find members of the Jewish nation in good repute with kings and emperors, in various nations, still holding to their great religious idea of one God, and still obedient to the religious life in which they were educated. Of the humble members of this people there were doubtless very many diffusing their faith and principles of conduct. among the common classes in the Gentile world. This may by many be esteemed one of the providential means of breaking down the barrier which was existing.
2. Besides, the Jews were not of the same pusillanimous character as their neighbors, as heretofore shown, in their religion. This very feature was a powerful instrument for overcoming the resistance of these differences of nurture. They were everywhere a proselyting people. Their religion was not only practiced by themselves; it was thrust perseveringly and ostentatiously upon every one. They made the Gentiles acquainted with it whether they chose or not. They carried their sacred literature in salient passages with them; and were constantly referring in conversation, in trade, even in oaths, to their peculiar faith, and to the worthies who were representatives of it. Perhaps no people in the world were so well fitted by extraordinary energy and zeal to impress upon others the superlative value of their religious opinions. Thus other nations became somewhat accustomed to their peculiarities, and the sharp edges of difference were in a measure worn off.
3. By the time Christ came, the Jews had become first. subject to the Greeks and afterward to the Romans. And although this subjection may have created a hatred in the Jewish heart, the influence towards assimilation of mutual truths must have been great. Overrun by the world's conquerors and made subject, they became a provincial people. Thus their affairs became known passably well to a great portion of the Gentile world-first to the Greek, then to the Roman. The armies successively stationed in the provinces were well informed in all the customs and all the
phases of Jewish religion; and as they were changed occasionally, the information was spread very rapidly and surely amid numerous families, and throughout whole Gentile provinces. Then we might hint here, also, the permanent relations which always occur under such circumstances, more or less, in which the Gentile becomes the Jew or the Jew the Gentile, and marriages follow.
4. The Jews, too, latterly did not object so violently to the coming of the Gentiles to their homes. The language of Greece and Rome became a familiar thing to the Jews; and among the mass of people it was used much oftener than the Hebrew, which soon was considered a sacred tongue, and given up mostly to the priests. The patois of the common Jew-a jargon between Hebrew and Arabic—gave way to the more polished language of their conquerors. The Jewish literature was generally translated into Greek. The beautiful symbolism of their religion was clothed in the classic terms of the Greek literature. Intercourse became free in every respect, and the barriers to communication of thought and feeling rapidly dissolved. Palestine soon became a resort of some leading minds among the Gentiles, and few were considered fully educated who had not at least traversed the country.
5. It was in the interchange of thought which this mixture of Jew and Gentile produced, that the idiosyncrasies of each were so far blended that the differences inherent from long education and distinct purposes of existence were somewhat overlooked. Both classes were thus more lenient towards the young teacher, Jesus, who arose a Jew, with his more elevated spiritual religion. His own nation, long waiting and anxiously looking forward, were eager to grasp at any reality that promised the Messianic reign. The Gentile nations, tired of looking back and weary of the present, did not weigh very intently the origin of the man, when the promise was of unheard happiness and perpetual joys. They were alike prepared to accept such doctrines as were lying at the basis of the words and acts out of which Christianity grew.
We have thus traced, as briefly as possible, (for under each head there is room for a vast amount of particularizing and comment,) the peculiarities of the race from which Jesus has sprung. We have seen the elements of character which
distinguished it from all other races, and rendered it the proper medium of divine communication. We have also, with equal brevity, traced the events which tended, when the full time for the communication had arrived, to demolish these differences practically, that they might not prove an insuperable barrier to the spread of the truth. The intercourse of the Jews with the whole world, and the actual presence of Gentiles in every sphere of Jewish life, rather expedited the work Jesus had in hand. And although in the beginning it brought persecution and death upon its advocates, yet its principles, destined to free the world from sin, found a response in human nature, and the glad tidings were soon triumphant.
H. A. W.
Spiritualism Nothing New.
Ir was said of old, by one famed for his wisdom-" Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time which was before us." This is not as true now, probably, as in the days of Solomon. Since his time the world has made some forward movement, and there are many things of which Solomon himself, if he were to come among us, would say, "See, this is new." Our cotton factories and printing presses, gun-powder and electric telegraphs, Daguerreotypes and telescopes, locomotives and steamships, would probably surprise the wise man and his contemporaries, if they could look in upon our world for a day or two; and would possibly lead to an essential modification of the saying of Solomon. So far as history goes, it can not surely be said of any one of these, "It hath been already of old time which was before us." They are the products of modern thought and necessity, and no wise man of the East can claim them as inventions of older times.
It would be a humiliating thought, that the saying is as
applicable to the condition of the world now, as when it was uttered, twenty-eight hundred years ago. It would reflect somewhat seriously on the race of man, that it had found out no new thing, made no progress in truth, science, or civilization in all that time. But the facts show clearly enough that, however it might have been in Solomon's day, there are certainly some new things under the sun in our day-and that the ancient prophecy is hastening to its fulfilment, "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased."
And yet it is an interesting study, the comparison of the past with the present, and the bringing out the striking likenesses which exist in many things, and the nearness of contact between much knowledge and many facts of to-day and thousands of years ago.
The mysteries of the Egyptian priests reveal a knowledge of chemistry, and the pyramids and temples an acquaintance with mechanical laws and forces, which may well challenge the admiration of modern professors and builders. And the singular accuracy of the astronomical calculations of the ancient Bramins, the exactness of their tables in regard to the places of the sun and moon, and other heavenly bodies, more than four thousand years ago, make us feel that at least one science was carried in India to a high degree of perfection at a period when nearly all Europe was in a state of complete barbarism.
The Cape of Good Hope was sailed round ages before the Portuguese ships doubled it; and America was discovered long before the time of Columbus. So in painting, sculpture and architecture, the ancients lead us; and though we would not fully accept the words of the German, who exclaimed-" Out upon those ancients; they have said all our fine things before us"-yet if we turn to poetry, philosophy, geometry, mechanics, politics, we shall find Plato and Aristotle, Homer and Virgil, Euclid and Archimedes, and a host of others, standing between us and the sun, and throwing us in part at least into their shadow.
The same remarks are applicable, to some extent, in the domain of theology, for many of the errors and false dogmas of the creed and the church, are certainly not new under the sun. The doctrine of the trinity is as old as the Zend Avesta of the Hindoos, and may be found in Plato and the 17