תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

kingdom at once. In many towns on the continent they were rendered so desperate by the miseries that were heaped upon them, that many thousands threw themselves and their wealth into the rivers, or shut themselves up in their houses and then committed them to the flames: as it had been foretold-death in the depth of their misery was chosen rather than life. Nor was their state better in England than it was in the continental nations. At one time when the English barons were contending with their king, they committed an act in order to ingratiate themselves with the common people, which showed in what contempt and detestation the Israelites were held. They put seven hundred of them to death at once, without the shadow of a cause; and, on another occasion, fifteen hundred being shut up in the castle of York, and finding it impossible to purchase their lives even by the most enormous ransom, (and let me notice, in passing, the prophecy that their gold should not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord,) they were reduced in the depth of their despair to seek deliverance from their misery by a mutual slaughter-each master being the murderer of his own family and household. How truly did this, and other awful tragedies of the same kind, fulfil the language of Moses—that they should be mad for the sight of their eyes that they should see ? At length they were banished from England also, after being stripped of their wealth, and reduced to the lowest extremity of wretchedness, and were not permitted to return to its shores for nearly four hundred years. It would, indeed, be to write a long history to relate even all the public acts of cruelty and oppression with which this devoted race have been visited, during the ages of their dispersion among the gentile nations. But in the short summary I am now laying before you, and which, short as it must necessarily be, is yet

*

See Madox, History of the Exchequer passim for an account of the public acts of cruelty which they suffered in England. Also, Merlin, Repertoire de Jurisprudence, verb. Juifs, for an account of their condition in France.-[Am. Ed.]

so abundantly sufficient to establish the complete and literal fulfilment of the prophetic denunciations on the subject, I cannot omit to notice one signal event in this catalogue of suffering and persecution, which bore awful testimony to the hatred and suspicion with which they were universally regarded. About the middle of the fourteenth century, a dreadful pestilence was raging throughout many or most of the nations of Europe, and some vague rumour having been thrown out that the Jews had been the cause of it, by poisoning all the wells, immediately, without the least investigation, the popular fury was let loose upon the unfortunate Jews, and this bare suspicion cost the seed of Abraham, according to the general report of history, no fewer than one million lives. It is true, that since Christian light and Christian principle, coupled with the general civilization that has taken place since the period of the Reforma, tion, have extended their humanizing influence over many of the nations of Europe, such outrageous acts of cruelty and oppression as those to which I have referred, have in a great measure ceased. But nevertheless, as the Jews have not yet been restored to their native land, so their condition still continues to be in strict accordance with what the prophecy foretold it should remain, until the period of their conversion and restoration arrived. They are not now wantonly massacred as heretofore they were—and perhaps this diminution of their hardships may be regarded as an evidence that the measure of correction which the Lord had appointed for their nation is beginning to be filled up. Still they are to this day a despised and persecuted people-if not in respect of their lives, at least in respect of their civil liberties and personal rights. Even in Great Britain, a Jew is not permitted to hold any heritable property-and the same enactment exists in almost all other lands.*

[ocr errors]

*

Generally speaking, the Jews have not suffered any civil disabili, ties in the United States-yet, until recently, if not even now, there have been some exceptions Still, even in the United States, they have been a proverb and a by-word-[Am. Ed.]

So that to this hour they have, strictly speaking, no home, no rest, in any of the kingdoms in which they dwell. Within the last few years the pope re-enacted several severe edicts against them, compelling them to wear a particular badge, confining them to a particular quarter of the papal cities, and otherwise imposing restraints upon their freedom, and marking them out as objects of public contempt. . In Russia, too, a few years ago, strict and peremptory orders were issued by the imperial government restraining them from all commercial traffic throughout the interior of the country, and prohibiting them, on pain of immediate banishment, from "offering any article for sale,” whether in public or in private, either by themselves or by others. They are not allowed to reside even for a limited period in any of the cities of Russia, without the express permission of government; and a refusal to depart subjects them to be treated as vagrants, none being allowed to protect or shelter them. In Africa and Asia their treatment is still worse, being universally held in great contempt, and subjected to innumerable hardships and restraints. And is it possible then, even with this brief and summary history of the Jewish dispersion before us, not to see in such a detail of banishments from kingdom to kingdom, wanton massacres and unceasing spoliations, universal oppression, hatred, and contempt-I say, is it possible not to see in all this a striking evidence that Moses and the other prophets spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, when they foretold, three thousand years ago, that Israel should be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse and an astonishment, a hissing and a reproach —that they should be smitten before their enemies, going out one way against them, and fleeing seven ways before them—that they should be a proverb and a taunt among all the nations of the earth? It is indeed impossible to describe the events, now that they have been actually fulfilled, in truer or more accurate terms than by using the very language of the prophecies in which the events were foretold: so completely and so minutely does the history correspond to the prediction.

4. But fourth and lastly-it still remains to notice, perhaps, the most singular feature of all in the history of the Jews, and that is, that notwithstanding all the influences, physical, political, and moral, to which, during the seventeen centuries of their dispersion they have been incessantly exposed, they continue to the present day, and continue unchanged. The Jewish territory, as it is well known, was inconsiderable in point of extent, and their numbers were never great. And when it is borne in mind, with what desolating fury the judgments of their offended God swept in successive surges over them—the first calculation founded on common probabilities concerning them, would undoubtedly have been, that the Jewish race, worn out by ceaseless persecutions, would have disappeared from the face of the earth. Or, if some infallible assurance had been given that extermination was not to be their fate, then the second, and only other result which human sagacity could have anticipated, would undoubtedly have been this—that to escape from remorseless and unrelenting persecution, like the birds hastening to the woods to hide themselves from the fury of the storm--they would have sought safety by withdrawing from public view, and mingling in the common mass of the surrounding world. But no-contrary to all such mere common probabilities, the Jews have continued to exist—to exist as a distinct and numerous people. War, persecution, climate, custom, time-have all exerted upon them their utmost power, and have failed either to destroy, or to change any one peculiarity of their remarkable race.

It was foretold, that the heart of this people should be made fat, and their ears should be heavy, and their eyes be closed—lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and convert, and be healed. That they should be smitten with blindness, so that they should grope at noon-day, as the blind gropeth in darkness. And what words could more clearly describe their infatuation in clinging to Judaism? 'The light of Messiah's Gospel, and the evidences of his advent, have, for centuries, been shining around them with the brightness of a noon-day sun-and yet they continue groping in darkness. When Moses is read, the veil is still upon their hearts; and yet, while Israel was thus to be sifted among the nations, as corn is sifted in a sieve, not the least grain of it was to fall to the earth. He that scattered Israel had vowed to gather and keep him. At this day, the Jews still exist to the number, at the most moderate estimate, of three millions of souls-a number amply sufficient to people at once their ancient land.

And is it likely, brethren, that He, who with such perfect and unerring wisdom adapts His means to His ends, should have so traversed the ordinary course and current of events, as to have préserved a people for seventeen hundred years, in the face of ten thousand influences all combining to have swept them into oblivion—is it likely that this would have been done, were there not some great work yet in the womb of providence, in which they are destined to be employed? God does not allow the withered foliage, after its use is served, to hang for ever upon the woods, nor the faded vegetation of autumn to encumber perpetually the face of the ground. And if Israel, like a withered and sapless vine, has been spread, fruitless and sear for so many centuries over the trellis-work of the nations, be assured it is not without a sufficient reason God has in this case so strikingly departed from the whole analogy of things. It is true that by their continued existence many important though subordinate ends have been and are now served. Scattered and peeled, and held up as they have been to the view of the world, they are living witnesses to two mighty and momentous truths—to the divinity of that religion they themselves have rejected and despised—and to the righteousness of that moral administration by which He who sitteth in the heavens directs unceasingly the

« הקודםהמשך »