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" The pious among the nations," says the Talmud Sanhedrim, “have also a share in the world to come. ”
With the exception of the seven commandments ordained to the sons of Noah, all the laws contained in the Pentateuch,“ were instituted for the Israelites only, and are not obligatory on other nations.” Hence they infer, that instead of attempting to make proselytes to the Jewish religion, they ought to dissuade applicants for admission to the Mosaic covenant, from entering into it by circumcision. And because “ all religions, the foundations of which are constituted on moral principles, qualify man to guide himself in a proper path, and to render him happy both here and hereafter, what avails it which way he arrives at the desired end? It follows hence that a man is destined by the circum. stances of his birth and education, to adhere to the religion of his fathers.” Hence they infer, that it is highly improper for Christians to attempt to convert one from the Jewish religion.
“ It is therefore a strange thing in our eyes, that persons should be found who lay in wait for the members of the Jewish faith, (a faith so sacred, so ancient, and so pure in its moral code,) to entice them by flattery, lures, and tempting gifts, to abandon the religion wherein they were born and educated, in order to embrace Christianity! Such practice is not only contradictory to all moral correctness, as has before been stated, but it proves the cause of great mischief; it occasions divisions in families, the husband divorced from the wife of his bosom, the father cast off by the issue of his loins, and nature's best affections converted into hatred: the very children are made to deplore the corruption of heart of their parents, and who knows but that they in secret, curse those their souls once held most dear? Can such things be pleasing in the eyes of God? Will the gracious Father of mankind be gratified with such actions? Behold the light of truth is now illuminating all Europe; peace and brotherly love is prevailing among nations of various religious persuasions; the sword of persecution has been returned to its sheath, and those dark' ages, when nations strove with nations, and made human blood flow in streams, on account of the different modes of worship, have passed away; all nations now acknowledge one universal Father; and virtue, justice, and righteousness, Vol. I. 2D
are the only tests whereby men are estimated:-every reasonabie person therefore, will certainly deem it proper to leave the votaries of every religious persuasion, quietly to follow his native faith, and not endeavour by persuasion, or promises, to induce him to swerve from it. Nay, it is a question, whether it be not a greater crime to attempt the conversion of persons to a different faith, by promises and gifts, than to effect proselytism by fire and sword; for, at all events, in the latter case, the converted have this comfort in reflecting, that their apostacy was forced upon them; for which reason God may still pardon them: whereas in the first case, after the covetousness for pelf, and the lust for pleasure shall have ceased (according to the nature of man, when he shall have acquired and have become satiated with enjoyment) their minds will become agitated by restlessness, disturbance, and repentance, their souls will be disgusted with life, their hearts like a troubled sea will render them sad and desponding all the remainder of their lives, pouring forth imprecations against their seducers.” p. 8, 9.
Could we be persuaded that all religions in which men are sincere are equally good, and lead their vota. ries to future bliss, we should never wish to convert either Jew, Pagan, Socinian, or Deist; but “ as a man thinketh so is he;" and if his theological views are fun. damentally erroneous, his devotional feelings cannot be right; his duty to the only true God cannot be acceptably performed.
We are persuaded that those who wilfully reject or disown the true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, and persevere in their opposition, will never attain to happiness in the world to come: and if we have any benevolence, must we not wish, consistently with our own sentiments, to turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God? We receive the Old and New Testament together with as much veneration as any Jew feels for the former alone; and must we not wish to convince all men of the truih, concerning the whole word of Jehovah? It ought to be a strange thing in the eyes of Jews, that Christians have not exerted themselves more generally and perseveringly for the salvation of the rejected sons of Israel.
No doubt the foregoing extract was written in consequence of the efforts which have been made in Lon. don for the conversion of the Jews; but if any other means have been used for that purpose than those of argument and rational persuasion, we join with Rabbi Cohen in reprobating them. That the Christians in Lon. don have been imposed on in several instances, by Jews who pretended they were converted, for the purpose of obtaining charitable assistance from the Society for propagating the gospel among them, we have been credibly informed is a fact; but that any have attempted to entice Jews to Christianity by " Hattery, lures and tempting gifts,” has never been proved, nor shall we believe it without evidence.
Let us, however, proceed with the summary of Jewish doctrine. Happiness they say, is either temporary, arising from riches, honours and the good things of this world; or permanent, which consists in “that delight of the soul which is formed in worthy actions, in the comprehension of truth, and the acquirement of a good name.” p. 13. This permanent happiness is to be ob. tained by Gentiles, if they observe the seven laws given to the sons of Noah; and by the Jews, if they observe the more difficult institutions of the Old Testament, so far as the land in which they live will permit; for all the institutions of the Old Testament are divisible into such as could be complied with only in the land of Judea, and such as “are eternally obligatory, and do not de. pend on time or place.” p. 13 and 28. They teach that man is a compounded being, consisting of body and spirit: and that immediately after death the spirit of a meritorious man exists, associates “ with angels in the shadow of the Almighty,” and enjoys eternal delight in Paradise. They believe in the existence of one incorporeal God, who is, “ without a second in any manner or association;" who is eternal, and both generally and particularly superintends “ without the intermediation of any other power whatever,” all his creatures and all their actions. This God communicated his prophetic spirit to the prophets, and particularly to Moses, the prince of prophets, like whom none has appeared, or ever will appear, having "power to set aside his directions." p. 19 and 27.
The Christian world believes, that a prophet like to Moses has arisen, who instead of setting aside the di. rections of that great law-giver fulfilled them. Some of his institutions terminated by their own limitation when Shiloh came: and such as did not, the Son of God enforced by his precepts and example. Oh that the Jews would consider and understand their own Scriptures! Moses said, " The Lord thy God will raise up unto thec a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken:--and it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." Deut. xvii. 15, 19. Jesus Christ like Moses was meek, and endured the contradiction of the Israelites against himself; like Moses he was a prophet; and like Moses a mighty law.giver, that leads all the faithful fol. lowers of Abraham to the spiritual Canaan. The Jews, nevertheless, believe, that the law, whether ceremonial or moral, must remain for ever permanent and obligatory; and that the Lord will reward those Jews who fulfil it, and punish all the circumcised who transgress it.“ We believe,” say they, “ that the Redeemer will come at the time appointed, which is known to God alone; who will gather the dispersion of Israel, and re. store the government to the house of David.” We believe that the Messiah has already come once, in the flesh; and Christians in general expect a spiritual and powerful, but not bodily coming of the Redeemer, when the Jews shall actually return to Judea, enjoy their national institutions, and all the nations belong to that very visible Church which was set up by covenant with Abraham.
It is another article of the creed of the modern Jews, “ that at the end of the world, those who sleep in the dust will awake, and all those who have died will return to life.
Besides the written law of God, the Jews believe in an oral law, explanatory of the written, which they af.
firm has been handed down from God through Moses, by the tradition of one generation to another; just as the Roman Catholics believe, that Christ delivered an oral law to his apostles; even the traditions of their Church, which they deem explanatory of the New Testament, and of equal authority with it. The oral law of the Jews and Catholics must of course depend on the memory of their Rabbies and Priests, and we well know how apt men are both to exaggerate and forget.
The Jews are Arminians on the subject of human ability and the efficacy of repentance; for they maintain, that by continual contemplation and effort a man may root in himself the love of God and man; and that by repentance a “ sinner is able to preserve his soul from the punishment due to his transgressions:" and this surely is a necessary doctrine for those who admit that men are sinners, and yet do not admit, that a divine Saviour has purchased eternal redemption for his people.
Rabbi Cohen's Elements contain nothing else worthy of particular notice, unless it be an explanation of the sin of idolatry, with which we conclude.
“Q. What is idolatrous superstition?
“ A. The fallacious belief and vain fears attached to cer. tain supposed ominous appearances of the planets and other wonderful though natural phenomena; the prognosticating events from such appearances; the bestowing divine honour and love on such things as are not divine, notwithstanding that they are acknowledged not to be the Deity. The placing implicit' faith in man, or in circumstances depending on chance, by which means the heart becomes weakened in its proper trust on the true God. Under this head is comprehended the employment and dependence on witchcrafts, enchantments, or divinations. All which actions are equal to idolatry. In this estimation he is included, who places his dependence on his wealth, his power, or his wisdom; by which he lessens the trust due to that God, who alone gives strength to effect mighty deeds.” p. 34.