decrees proclaim "that Greeks, Catholics, and Jews are, in common with Turks, all equal before the law;" by which, it has been observed, the Ottomans have actually abjured their religion.

"The state of things in the East is such," observes a Rabbinical commentator on late events, "that the Divan could not altogether overlook the great mass of Turkish Jews, and by a Hatti Scherif, intended to delineate the basis of the intended transformation and renovation of oriental policy, and embracing in general terms all relations, the Jewish congregations were not only openly recognized, but the life, property, and honour of the Jews were placed under public jurisdiction; their military services accepted, and an equal share of taxation imposed upon them. Although the component elements of the East may be more or less able to follow out, and realize these principles, yet by this general equalization a prodigy was accomplished, and a path opened for true civil existence, without being accompanied by those pains and fears which were caused by hoping for the same in Europe."*

The Mahometan system may be fitly compared to the crater of a barren volcano: religious fanaticism, the fire which animated it, and spread with lava-like desolation over Europe, is extinct. Indeed, British and foreign travellers have been, with one or two exceptions, so united in giving their testimony in favour of the hopeless state of the Ottoman empire, that they have been accused of desiring (the opportunity being so favourable) to excite a general crusade to extinguish the Moslem by the application of political force. However much this fanatic spirit (if such really exists) may be reprobated, the Christian and the Israelite may well be pardoned for anticipating the time when the waves of Moslem devastation will no longer ebb and flow over the birth-place of their religious faith. And it cannot be concealed that there is no stability in the supports which active and scheming politicians are applying to the falling edifice. Indeed, the Turks seem to be aware of the wretched state of the empire, and are anxiously anticipating, in evident depression, the speedy fulfillment of the Mahometan prophecies about the Adrianople gate. "The very haughtiest of the Mussulmans believe that the gate is already in existence through which the red Giaours (the Russi) shall pass to the conquest of Stamboul and that everywhere, in Europe at least, the hat of Frangistan is destined to surmount the turban-the Crescent must go down before the Cross." And when they consider that their fleets have already been destroyed by their allies, and

* Jewish Intelligence.

† Blackwood, April, 1840, “ On Modern Superstition."

their territories occupied by their friends, it is no wonder that they have become very suspicious that the present mystified diplomatists of Western Europe will wind-up by opening the gates of Constantinople to the far-seeing Cabinet of St. Petersburg, although they are professing to maintain the integrity of the empire. At present the hereditary sovereignty of Syria and Palestine is the subject of contention about which foreign diplomatists are so actively at work; whilst the Turk wishes to reclaim, and the Egyptian to legalise the conquest, the Cabinets of Europe are increasing the embarrassments of the case by endless protocols and consultations; and, in the meantime, the ancient claimants are not indifferent spectators of events. At every revolution affecting Palestine they have been long accustomed to look with increased anxiety towards the arena of their past and future greatness. In many places they are at present forming associations in expectation of the necessity of the desired pilgrimage; there are no impediments to their departure, and the Egyptian government have lately proclaimed decisively that they should be allowed to rent and purchase land, so as to become cultivators and proprietors of the soil. The belief in the final restoration of the Jews is so very general among modern Christians, admitted also by the ancient Greek and Latin Fathers, that it would be tedious to bring forward evidence on the subject. The difficulties consist in the adjustment of details and circumstances, and in the order of events, which can only be cleared away with the advance of time; but there is a prediction in Ezekiel xxxvi. 1-15, which, without being dogmatically applied to events of such late date, it may be pardonable to mention from the accurate representation it gives of the present position of the Egyptian despot, the impotent loquacity of modern Idumean diplomatists, and the present state of the children of the captivity. An exulting conqueror is there represented as boasting, "Aha, even the ancient highways are ours in possession;" the desolated country and mountains of Israel as being "taken up in the lips of talkers," and as having "become a prey and derision;" and (v. 8) the people of Israel are said to be ready "at hand to come" to the mountains of Israel, which are described as being destined to be never more oppressed with "the shame of the heathen."

In passing on to the proofs of the improved circumstances of the Jews in different kingdoms, Russia may be secondly referred to; for, according to the German census, it contained five years ago, within its Southern and Western boundaries, 658,000 Jews. The late Emperor Alexander was much interested in the welfare of his Jewish subjects; and in a well-meant,

though mistaken, zeal for ameliorating their condition, he appointed settlements in various parts of the empire as refuges and asylums for those who had embraced or should embrace Christianity, where they were to be placed under the especial care and patronage of the Government, admitted to various civil rights, and granted certain privileges. Those who were by this means induced to embrace Christianity for advancement's sake, could not be expected to be sincere converts, and the mass of the Jews continued to adhere to Rabbinical tenets; and until they are conscientiously convinced that their system of religion is wrong, we honour their resolute adherence to a communion endeared to them by a venerable antiquity, and which has moreover been a powerful preservative of national unity, in which character alone so many blessings and so much glory are in store. Although the Jews of Russia are still exposed to much obloquy, the present Emperor has lately improved their general condition: "the more wealthy class can be elected to official situations in their respective townships; Jewish peasants are put in possession of the rights of other settlers, and medical men admitted into the public service."* The present Emperor has also been the first leading genius who has endeavoured to infuse into the minds of his Jewish subjects the principles of military obligation. Small proportions of Jews have fought in the French, and even in our Indian army; and some are also said, in patriotic zeal for the welfare of a government where they were so kindly treated, to have enrolled themselves in the Prussian army previous to the battle of Waterloo. But according to Gonorowski, Hebrew conscription in Russia has been carried on to a great extent, and in "the Russian marine they annually average one in three." Warrior Jews have certainly been novelties in the world; eighteen centuries having rolled over the prostrate Hebrews, during which the enquiry of Deborah in the days of the subjection under Jabin, King of Canaan, has been almost negatively answerable: “When war was in the gates, was there a shield or a spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?" And now, although this sudden transformation of a portion of this domestic people into disciplined bands of kindred brethren may probably be looked upon as an era of calamity in the race, yet, as they maintain, under every change, such substantial national unity, a practical knowledge of the art of war may be considered as an impulse towards the repossession of political power. The Hebrew soldiers are in this case attached to disciplined hosts, which during the last

* Jewish Intelligence.

fifty years have been advanced 500 miles in the direction of Palestine; and if the Levantine nations are ever destined to become subject for a time to Russian sway, no government would be more likely, by an artful stroke of policy, to endeavour to disencumber Europe and Asia of their richest inhabitants, by holding out inducements to the Jews to return to the land of their fathers.

Holland and France, Denmark and Prussia, have lately evinced a ripening desire to ameliorate the condition of their Hebrew subjects. The present King of Denmark, on his accession to the throne, gave assurance that he would effect essential improvements in their state. The King of Holland has lately been evincing his exuberant regard for them, in bestowing gifts on the occasion of the building of a synagogue at Maestricht.* France having extended to them the privileges of citizenship, has lately been remonstrating against their unkind treatment in a neighbouring Swiss canton; and not knowing better how to console an Israelite (now that it is not fashionable to persecute him), has been endeavouring to induce them to forget the past and give up hope for the future, in divesting themselves of all national distinctions, sinking the appellation of "Israelite," and considering themselves at home in France-as having already arrived at the promised land. We need scarcely allude to the late benevolent ruler of Prussia, to whom the banished of Israel were objects of Christian solicitude; out by late accounts from Vienna, it appears that "the proposition of the Comitate of Pesth, having for its object to grant to the Jews the rights of naturalization, together with the priviliges enjoyed by citizens who did not belong to the order of nobility, had been unanimously acceded to by the Hungarian Diet." Even the Storthing, or Diet of Norway, has actually given up all caution, and meditated during the past year the erasure of the clause in the constitution which prohibits the Jew from entering the limits of the land; a step which may be taken with great safety to the commonwealth, from the paucity of attractions which Scandinavia presents to foreign emigration. In England the children of the captivity meet with no unkind treatment; they are objects of interest both with regard to their temporal and eternal welfare. The public attention is directed to their claims, and consequent political importance in the struggle which has commenced in the East. In the appointment of a British Consul to Jerusalem, the general focus of Hebrew pilgrimage, the good-will of this mysterious and vastly influential people has been secured; and by the capture of

• Jewish Intelligence.

+ The Times.

Aden a small section of them has been delivered from oppression. The hesitating Rabbinist, who has been accustomed abroad to associate Christianity with idolatry, may now witness our Apostolical worship in its purity, performed in the language of their ancient prophets; and it has been stated that more Hebrew converts have been made to Christianity during the last twenty years, than in any similar period since the first ages of the Church. The income of the Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews is increasing, at the same time the society is becoming more strictly Episcopal; it is therefore confidently anticipated that it will speedily receive the more full and entire support of the Church.

Although so many different Governments have thus been separately exerting themselves on behalf of the Jews, no combined political measures have yet been taken by the great powers of Europe to facilitate their restoration; nor have any united efforts been made to ameliorate their condition, in pursuance of the pledges that were given to that effect at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle. But the time may not be far distant when events will justify some interposition; for perplexities seem to increase with every additional attempt to arrange matters in the East. And in the belief of an approaching restoration of the Jewish polity, and that no lasting solution of the Eastern crisis can be expected till this takes place, a community of English gentlemen have lately memorialised all the Protestant monarchs of Europe, in a document setting forth the lasting nature of the Jewish claims, and the scriptural evidences of an appointed home-gathering previous to their national conversion, their present preparations for returning, and intense interest in the issue. The petitioners disclaim every requirement of political force, desiring to abide events; and in having brought the subject to the notice of the Protestant princes, conclude, from their favourable reception of it, that if the " set time" is really at hand, instruments will not be wanting who will be willing and ready to help forward the prosperity of Jerusalem.

Many more instances might be brought forward in proof of the altered condition of the Jews, and of the progressive disruption of Gentile prejudices. The fractions which have been given are sufficiently striking pledges of an approaching crisis, and afford ample scope for meditation. For if these wonderful sufferers have been, in accordance with prophecy, held forth to the observation of men for so many ages as objects of scorn, and we now see them casting off the distinguishing badges of an outcast people, and meeting with goodwill for hatred, and kind

« VorigeDoorgaan »