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ish religion, is in fact directly averse to it; all our Rabbies agree, that the written and oral laws, in which our revealed religion consists, are only obligatory on our nation. Moses has given to us the law. It is an heritance of the tribe of Jacob. We believe that all other nations are directed by God to abide by the law of nature and the religion of the Patriarchs. They who live according to the laws of their religion, of nature, and of reason, are called the virtuous men of other nations, and these are children of eternal salvation.
Our Rabbies are so far from having the spirit of conversion, that they even command us to dissuade him, by serious remonstrances, from his intention, who of his own accord would embrace our faith.
We ought to inform him, that by this measure, he subjects himself, without necessity, to a heavy burthen ; that in his present situation he has only to fulfil the duties of a Nochide, in order to be blessed, but that, so soon as he adopts the religion of the Israelites, he obliges himself voluntarily to the severe laws of their faith, and he must then obey them, or expect the punishment which the legislator has annexed to the infraction of them.
We are also bound faithfully to represent to him the miseries and troubles and contempt in which the nation at present lives, in order to deter him from a step perhaps precipitate, and which in the event he may repent of.
The religion of my fathers, therefore, will not be extended. It is not our duty, therefore, to send missionaries to both Indies and to Greenland, to preach our faith to its remote inhabitants : The latter in particular, who, according to the description of travellers, observe the laws of nature, alas! better than we,
are, according to our religious creed, and enviable people.
Whoso is not born to our laws ought not to live according to our laws ; we consider ourselves alone as bound to observe them, and this cannot give offence to our fellow men.
Our opinions are thought absurd. It is unnecessary to raise a dispute about them.
about them. We act according to our conviction ; and others are at liberty to raise doubts against the validity of laws, which according to our own confession do not bind them.
Whether they act justly or benevolently who so deride our laws and customs, we leave to their own consciences : So long as we do not seek to convince others of our opinions, all contest is to no purpose. If a Confucius or Solon lived amongst my cotemporaries, I could, according to the principles of my religion, love and admire the great man, without having the ridiculous thought of conveting a Confucius or Solon.--Convert ? For what? As he does not belong to the tribe of Jacob, my religious laws do not bind him ; and on doctrinal points we should understand each other. Do I believe he could be saved ? Oh! I believe truly, that he who in this life has led men to virtue, cannot be condemned in the other; and I stand in fear of no reverend college, which like the Sorbonne towards the upright Marmontel, can censure me for this opinion.
I have the happiness to possess many excellent friends, men who are not of my faith ; we love each other heartily and honestly, though we suppose, and take for granted, that in matter of faith we are of different opinions. I enjoy the luxury of their society, which improves and delights me. My heart has never secretly cried out to me: wo to the excellent soul."
He who believes that out of his church there is no salvation, must bave this sigh often weighing upon his breast.
It is doubtless the duty of every man, to spread knowledge and virtue amongst his fellow men, and root out prejudices and errors according to his power-bence it might be believed to be the duty of every man openly to oppose religious opinions which he believes false. But all prejudices are not equally injurious, and therefore we are not to treat in the same way all the prejudices which we believe we see in our fellow men. Some are immediately hostile to the happiness of the human race ; their influence on morals is clearly ruinous, and we cannot expect from them even accidental benefit. Such must be directly attacked by every friend to man, and the more direct the assault the better : all delays by circuitous means are unjustifiable. Of this nature are all the errors and prejudices which destroy their own and their neighbours? contentment and peace, and root out the seed of truth and virtue in men before it can shoot.
On the one side, fanaticism, hatred, and the spirit of persecution ; on the other side, vanity, debauchery, and immoral libertinism.
But sometimes the opinions of my fellow men, which I hold to be errors, refer to the higher theoretical principles, and are too far removed from practice to be immediately injurious ; but they constitute, from their very generality, the foundation, out of which the people who adopt them has drawn its system of morals and social life : and hence to this portion of the human race are accidentally become of great importance.
Openly to contest such principles, because they appear to us prejudices, is, without supporting the structure, to dig a pit under it, in order to examine whether it be firm and secure.
He who cares more for the happiness of men than his own fame, will withhold his opinion concerning prejudices of this description, beware of attacking them directly, and without the greatest caution, that he may not destroy a doubtful principle of morals, before his fellows are fit to receive a true one. I can therefore, consistently with my principles, believe I perceive natural prejudices and false religious notions, and yet feel myself bound to be silent, when these errors do not immediately destroy natural religion, or the natural law, and much more when they are accidentally connected with the promotion of what is good. It is true the morality of our actions scarcely deserves that pame when it is grounded on error, and the good can always be more securely and better preserved by truth, when it recognised, than by prejudice. But as long as it is not recognised, so long as it is not become national, so that it cannot operate on the multitude so powerfully as deep rooted prejudice, so long must even prejudice to every friend of virtue be almost sacred.
This modesty is still more incumbent on me, when the nation which one believes to be in such errors, has, in other points, made itself venerable by wisdom and virtue, and counts amongst it a number of great men, who deserve to be considered as benefactors of the species. So noble a portion of the human race must, when met by any one, himself human, be indulged. Who should be so rash as to lose sight of the excellencies of such a nation, to attack it where he believes he has found a weakness? These are the motives which my religion and my philanthropy furnish, and induce me carefully to avoid religious disputes : add the domestic situation in which I live amongst my fellow men, and you will think me fully justified. I am the nember of an oppressed people, who must implore shelter and protection from the ruling nation; and even this it obtains not every where, and no where without limitation. My brethren in faith are willing to renounce liberties which are granted to all other classes of men, and are contented if they are tolerated and protected. They esteem it no small act of beneficence in the nation which receives them only on tolerable conditions, since, in many states, even residence is refused them. Is your circumcised friend allowed, by the laws, to pay you a visit at Zurich? What obligations, then, do we not owe to the nation which receives us with general philanthropy, and allows us, unhindered, to worship the Almighty according to the manner of our forefathers ? We enjoy in the state in which I live, the most becoming liberty, and ought we not to avoid contesting the religion of the governing party, that is attacking our protectors on the side of which men of virtue are the most sensible.
According to these principles it was my resolution always to act; and, consequently, to shun all religioas disputes, if not compelled by some extraordinary incident to alter my resolution.
Private challenges from men of respectibility I have dared to pass over in silence. The intrusion of little minds, who thought themselves authorized publicity to attack me for my religion, I have thought myself authorized to despise. But the solemn appeal of a Lavater compels me, at least, openly to declare my mode of thinking—that no one may interpret a silence, too long preserved, into confession or contempt. Yours, &c.
Lavater instantly published a letter to Mendlesohn, vindicating the purity of his intentions, but confessing that his conduct had been censured by his friends, particularly by Bonnet. “I therefore,” says he, "retract my unconditional challenge, as a thing I am not entitled to make, and before the public honestly beg pardon for what was faulty and intrusive in my dedications.”
He also states the qualification with which Mendlesohn had prais ed the character of Jesus .... “ The expression of your esteem for the founder of my religion, was asserted with the following great qualification : 'If he had not arrogated to himself the worship that is due to Jehovah alone."
This letter is full of strong expressions of veneration for Mendlesohn, of astonishment that he should be a Jew, of bis zeal for
......ianity, and of his wish that his friend would re-examine the historical facts only on which ......ianity is founded.
Mendlesohn answered this letter, asserting the same sentiments, and breathing the same mild spirit: he corrects the contemptuous opinion he had expressed of Bonnet; and, without entering into the argument at large, contents himself with urging one point,
On the subject of miracles he says, that those of Jesus . may be allowed, and yet he may in the eyes of Jews be a false Messiah: according to the Jewish faith, a partial evidence or miracle, nothing short of a “public legislation," a manifestation of the Deity before the whole assembled nation, is adequate evidence of the true Messiah.
To the Rev. TRUMAN Marsh, Vice President of the “Auxiliary Society at Litchfield for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews.”
(Continued from page 165.) If it is rellay your intention, and the purpose of your associates, to make proselytes to your faith from among our people,* it is to be presumed you only expect to do this by convincing them that its founder was the True Messiah, foretold by the prophets.f In order to do this successfully, you must show that Jesus of Nazareth, whom you assert to have been that great personage, was a lineal descendant of the House of David, and possessed all the characteristics and qualifications which our sacred books inform us he was to possess, and without which we are solemnly enjoined by Jehovah to reject every pretender as an impostor,
As to the descent of that person whom you call the Messiah, in a direct line from David, the account given of his conception in your gospels, I proves to a demonstration that the writers of these books believed him to have been produced, not by a descendant of the royal line, but by supernatural agency. The power of the Highest, it is said, overshadowed Mary, and that which was begot
* Israel's Advocate, No. IV. p. 54. + Israel's Advocate, No. IV. p. 63. I St. Matthew, c. i. Luke, c. iii. v. 23.