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Who, and what are the Jews, and what shall they be? These are questions of lively interest to the Christian. The past history and present condition of the Jewish people, bear witness to the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, and to the immediate personal agency of Almighty God in the management of the affairs of this world, with a power and plainness which no gainsayer can refute. And the Holy Scriptures bear witness to the future pre-eminence of that degraded people, with a reiteration of prediction which no believer can resist. History is the providence of God. The Bible is the word of God. They mutually attest each other, on the subject of the Jewish nation, unto this day. Collusion is manifestly impossible; the inference, therefore, against the sceptic is irresistible.
Who are the Jews!--In answering such an inquiry concerning any people or nation, the practice of historians is to trace their origin, their national pedigree, so to speak; which, when they have done, they consider that the question, Who are these people, is fully answered. Thus did Tacitus concerning the ancient Germans; and thus Gibbon concerning the Suevi, the Allemanni, and other barbarian tribes, who contributed to the downfall of imperial Rome.
In adopting the same method respecting the Jews, we, in the first place, trace them back to a certain province of the Roman empire, which provoked the hostility of the Emperors Vespasian and Titus, and the capital city of which was destroyed by the latter emperor, with a dreadful slaughter of the inhabitants. The survivors were scattered abroad among the various nations of the earth; and the Jews in England, and other countries of Europe, at this moment, are the descendants of those refugees. For a series of years previous to this dispersion from Judea, they were tributary to the Romans. The eastern campaigns of Pompey, and the still earlier conquests of Scipio, supply us with abundance of the most authentic information upon this point. The history of the Macedonian
conqueror enables us to trace the origin of the Jews still farther back; and we find that in the reign of Cyrus, king of Persia, they were brought from Babylon into Judea, where they settled and built the city of Jerusalem.
Thus far there is no room for denial or doubt, by any inquirer who possesses even a superficial acquaintance with the history of the world. But beyond this, the scriptural account of them has been denied; and one of the daring falsehoods which infidelity has put forward with unblushing effrontery, is, that we know nothing of the Jewish nation antecedent to what is insidiously called their emigration from Babylon. In tracing their origin still farther, therefore, let us fortify our statement with legitimate proof.
Our assertion is, that the Scriptural history of the Hebrews, from the call of Abraham till the captivity of Zedekiah, king of Judah, including a variety of miraculous interpositions by the God of the whole earth, is true,-true in the obvious meaning of the language, without any evasion. Our proof of this rests its first firm step upon a matter of fact, undeniably before our eyes.
The Jews of the present day possess and revere a very remarkable collection of books, which they say were given to their forefathers by the immediate inspiration of Almighty God. These books record a variety of stupendous miracles; and the Jews, as a nation, at this moment, believe that a generation of their ancestors beheld the performance of those miracles, and therefore handed down these books to their posterity, as genuine and authentic.
That this is the present opinion of the nation, may be learned from any intelligent Jew in London or elsewhere. We know, say they, that God spake to Moses and the prophets. Now a most important question is, when did they first begin to believe these things concerning these books? And a manifest absurdity rests upon the supposition, that any generation of Jews, except that one which saw the miracles, could have been the first to acknowledge the divine authority of the books. For observe how the case stands. Suppose any impostor to have forged those books in later times; and suppose them coming for the first time into the hands of a Jew. He reads in them that his forefathers were miraculously delivered out of the land of Egypt, and led through the Red Sea, and that an ordinance of religious worship, called the Passover, had been instituted in remembrance of that deliverance, and continued from father to son, down to his own days. He pauses, and stares at the strange statement.
What! he says; my
father never taught me any thing about this Passover; I was never present at it myself; I have never even heard of it till now; and yet this book says it was instituted many years ago, and has been celebrated annually by all the Jews ever since. I know to a certainty this is not the case: therefore this book is not true. How could such a man have been persuaded to embrace the truth, and contend for the divine inspiration of such a book? To believe that, not an individual man only, but whole nation simultaneously adopted such a book under such circumstances, is a splendid triumph of the credulity of scepticism.
This argument holds good, at whatever period of the history of the nation it is pretended that the books were forged, and for the first time published. The contents of the books themselves, therefore, supply an insuperable hindrance to their being received as inspired by any generation except that one which saw the miracles, and thereupon commenced the celebration of the commemorative ordinances.
If any man or set of men in this country were now to write a book, and say in it that all the British people had been in France; that they had been miraculously brought through the sea into their own land; that a great national feast had been established in remembrance of their escape from their enemies; and that all the people of England went once a year to London to keep that feast: who among us would not laugh at the silly absurdity of imagining that such a book could be received by the nation, and cause us now, for the first time, to believe that miraculous escape, and now, for the first time, to celebrate that feast? This line of argument applies to any and every period of the history of England.
We conclude, therefore, that the Jewish books were written and made public at the time when the miracles recorded in those books are said to have been performed; or, at least, during the life-time of those persons who were eye-witnesses of the miracles; because no other persons could have received the books, and because we do actually see with our own eyes that the books are received.
This, then, establishes the important fact; that the miracles were indeed performed. For observe how the argument stands in this respect. If any minister were now to publish a book, and declare in it that on a certain day last year, or the year before, he had wrought a miracle in the presence of his whole congregation: that they were fainting with thirst, for example, and that he had struck a rock with a rod, and brought out for them all an abundant supply of water: and if he were now to come and announce a number of laws and regulations, some of them exceedingly inconvenient and disagreeable to his people,
and command the universal observance of those laws on pain of death, appealing for his authority to the miracle which he said he had wrought before their faces last year;—what would they say to him? Would not their indignation be roused against such intolerable effrontery? And might they not well say, Away with your laws and regulations; you have no authority over us: as for your pretended miracle, we were upon
it was performed, and we never saw it; yet you allege it was of such a nature, that had it been performed we must have seen it, and could not but recollect it?
If Moses had written a book, and made it public among the Israelites, saying, that on a certain day, when they were all pursued by Pharaoh, king of Egypt, he had stretched his rod over the sea; that the waters had divided, leaving a dry passage between; and that the whole congregation had passed safely through, which the Egyptians assaying to do, were drowned; that on another day, when they were murmuring for water in the wilderness, he had smitten a rock, and procured a rich supply for the whole multitude; that on another day, when some of them had rebelled against him and his brother Aaron, he summoned the rebels before all the people, and said, (Num. xvi. 29, 30,) “If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men, then the Lord hath not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord.” And if Moses had come afterwards to the Israelites with a number of laws and regulations, some of them exceedingly inconvenient and disagreeable to the people, and had commanded them to obey, on pain of death, appealing for his authority to the miracles which he said he performed before their eyes: and if these miracles had not taken place, what would the Israelites have said to Moses? Would they not very naturally have said-away with your laws and regulations; we reject your authority: as for those miracles which you allege you performed, we were upon the spot when you say they took place: you describe them as of such a nature that they could not possibly have escaped our notice or our memory; yet we never saw them. Your book wears falsehood upon the face of it. Would not this have been the result if Moses had been an impostor?
But, on the other hand, if the Israelites had acknowledged the justice of his appeal; if they had yielded to his authority, and entered upon a long course of self-denying obedience to his laws; would not this be a conclusive proof that they had