« ElőzőTovább »
in a proper and portable form to general use. We thank Dr. Porter for the present work, and if
, in pursuance of his plan, he publishes other works as edifying, we shall have occasion to thank him again and again.
[For the Christian Examiner.]
ART. III.- A Letter to the Jews of this country.
The following pages contain a plea for the religion of Jesus, addressed to your understandings, and soliciting from you a candid perusal. The thoughts which are here submitted have arisen from reflection on the causes which have had most influence in rendering that religion unacceptable to you. It has been thought that some of these causes might be removed by a calm, unprejudiced examination of the subject. We trace, not to Christianity itself, but to its corruptions, and to the conduct of Christians in direct contradiction to its precepts, many of those obstacles which have prevented you from receiving it. And while we regard others as proceeding from certain national prejudices on the part of your ancestors, we admit that those prejudices had their origin and their excuse in the peculiar circumstances of the age in which they arose. We believe that the reasons for which your fathers rejected Christianity, are the very reasons which now, in a more enlightened age, and with facilities for judging more impartially, should recommend the religion to your notice.
We trace to three distinct sources, your general reluctance to embrace Christianity.
1. The uncharitable spirit which Christians have too often exhibited towards you.
2. A regard for the decision of your ancestors upon the subject; a belief that the claims of Jesus were, during his life, submitted to the competent tribunal of his own countrymen, and by them fairly tried, and rejected.
3. The human additions which have been made to the
pure teachings of Jesus, and especially the doctrine of his supreme divinity.
On this last subject, I shall say little more than to refer you to the Christian Scriptures. They are accessible to all, and you can ascertain for yourselves what doctrines they teach. It is rather with the first and second of the causes assigned that the following remarks will be connected.
The first of these causes must of itself have possessed a powerful influence. It is not my task to be the accuser of my brethren, nor is it necessary to enumerate the persecutions to which for centuries you have been exposed. The same spirit, it is deeply to be regretted, is by no means extinct even at the present day. You are the objects of dislike, especially to those who are least able to give a consistent reason for their aversion.
It is by no means wonderful that while nominal Christians have been active in showing their hatred of you, they should have met with little success in acquiring your love, either to themselves or to their religion. It is not sufficient that I should disavow, on the part of Christianity, any share in this persecuting spirit; it is my business to prove that it is discountenanced by Christianity. And this becomes the more necessary, because many even at this time, consider themselves as justified by religion, as performing a duty, - when they reverse towards you the conduct of their Saviour.
There has been, from the earliest ages of Christianity, an effort among its followers, 10 cover over what appeared to them revolting in the idea that their Saviour died in consequence of a judicial process. Especially were they eager to attain this object, when the doctrine had been generally received, that Jesus was an incarnation of the Deity. Hence arose a tendency to describe in terms of exaggeration the guilt of those who were engaged in putting him to death. The idea has been, and is yet, commonly held, that the Sanhedrim, by whose agency Jesus was executed, actually believed him to be the Messiah. It seems also to be imagined that the whole nation participated in the crime. When with these impressions is connected that of the supreme divinity of the sufferer, you may conceive the extent of the popular ideas with regard to the guilt of your ancestors.
But these views, though held by Christians, are unauthorized by Christianity. The guilt, whatever it was, cannot
rest with the mass of the nation, for a very small portion comparatively could have been present to join in the cry for the crucifixion. Of these a very limited number were at all acquainted with the merits of the case. They only knew that a question was at issue with regard to the fate of a supposed criminal, between the Roman authorities and their own magistrates; and they naturally took the part of the latter. The responsibleness rests on the Sanhedrim alone; and with regard even to them, we have the testimony of two witnesses, whose word to every Christian must be sufficient. One of these is the sufferer himself. On the cross he prayed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The other is the Apostle Peter, who declared shortly after the event, in addressing an assembly of his countrymen, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. Why will Christians, instead of following the example of candor thus exhibited by their holy Master and his faithful disciple, reverse the prayer
of Jesus, and nourish towards the Jews of the nineteenth century, a hatred which never entered their Saviour's breast 10wards those who were the agents in his own death ? But that spirit of unchristian feeling is gradually yielding, as the gospel becomes better understood. Care not then, respected friends, for the contumely of those who but partially understand the teachings of their Saviour, but turn rather to that mild and patient sufferer himself;— hear him, on the cross of anguish, beseech his heavenly Father that they who had brought him there might be forgiven ; — and ask yourselves, “ Are these the words of a selfish, unprincipled impostor, or was the heathen centurion right in his exclamation, Truly, this was the Son of God” ?
But it is often said, that the dispersion of your race, and the injuries to which you have been subjected in every nation, are the punishment appointed by God for the rejection of Christ by your ancestors ; and a punishment which had been long foretold. It seems to be taken for granted, that, if God has thus declared his will concerning you, it is lawful and almost commendable for Christians to further the divine views, by, coöperating in the work of your oppression. Miserably do those, who thus reason, forget the spirit of the religion they profess. Allowing for a moment that their idea of the cause of your national sufferings is correct, the
N. S. VOL. X. NO. I.
consideration would afford no excuse for ill-treatment or hard thoughts concerning you. In every age, God has overruled the bad passions of men, for the accomplishment of his own wise purposes ; but those passions were none the less bad, no less the objects of his displeasure. Conquerors, led on by personal ambition, have inflicted salutary chastisements on human pride, and deserved the name of “the Scourge of God”; but their fiend-like destruction of human life was none the less criminal in his holy sight. In the very action of your ancestors, for which, according to the opinion of so many, you are still suffering, an object was attained, as Christians believe, the most important since the creation of the world. The Sanhedrim and Pilate were, by condemning Jesus, acting in furtherance of the divine views, and bearing an indispensable part in that great event by which the redemption of the world was consummated. But does any one imagine that they were therefore less guilty ? And, had they fully understood the divine plan, had they known that Jesus was innocent, but that, although innocent, it was a part of his mission to die upon the cross, would they have acted a laudable part in procuring his death ? No. The only excuse for them is, that they knew not what they did; and the only cxcuse for your Christian persecutors is that they know not what they do. Carried away by vulgar prejudice, and never having examined the teachings of Scripture on the subject, they are not aware of the unjustifiable, unchristian nature of their conduct.
Shall I be told of the exclamation of the multitude, “ His blood be on us, and on our children”? I simply oppose to that outcry of an excited mob, the command which Jew and Christian alike acknowledge to have come from God, “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
We have reason to believe, indeed, that the national rejection of Christianity by the Israelites was the act by which they surrendered their peculiar privileges as the chosen people of God, and was, in this sense, the cause of the destruc
* Ezek. xviii. 20.
tion of their temple and government, and of their dispersion. But we have no reason to believe that the crucifixion of Jesus, perpetrated in ignorance by the rulers of the Jews, eighteen hundred years since, attaches any guilt to individuals of the nation at the present day, or authorizes Christians to violate, with regard to them, the common rules of charity.
When we reflect on the spirit in which you have generally been treated, we find no cause of wonder in the fact, that you have generally refused to embrace Christianity. According to the popular ideas, an acceptance of our religion would have involved an acknowledgment that your nation, centuries since, committed the unheard-of crime of “Deicide," and that you, their descendants, had been for centuries justly suffering every species of ill treatment, yet never equal to the punishment due for that atrocious action. The argument of the following pages requires of you no such admission. It does however require a candid and rational view of your ancestors' conduct. If you would weigh reasoning impartially, you must be ready to admit that the Sanbedrim at Jerusalem, in the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, were men with the same passions as other men, as capable of being blinded by prejudice, or by the arts of designing leaders, - in two words, that they were not infallible.
Premising this, we proceed to examine an objection, the strongest perhaps which can arise against Christianity in the mind of a patriotic Jew. The following is the form in which such an individual might express himself.
- This religion claims to have been established in Judea ; its author is said to have performed miracles there; he laid claim to be that Messiah whom the Jewish nation have constantly expected. His claims were rejected by his own countrymen, my ancestors, who had the best means of judging whether they were well or ill founded. He is even said to have been put to death by them as a criminal. After his death, they who took up the promulgation of his religion, and maintained that he had risen, found few to credit them among their own countrymen, by whom the circumstances of the case must have been best understood; but going among the heathen, who knew nothing about the truth of the subject, they found adherents, and gradually became the ruling party. Is there, in this statement, any thing which should lead me to believe in this supposed Messiah ? What reason have I to imagine