Ten Great Religions - An Essay in Comparative Theology
by James Freeman Clarke
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Certainly this is a mistake. The easiest and most natural solution of wonderful results is the supposition of genius, inspiration, heroism, as their cause. Great men explain history. Napoleon explains the history of Europe during a quarter of a century. Suppose a critic, a thousand years hence, should resolve Napoleon into half a dozen Napoleons; would they explain the history of Europe as well? Given a man like Napoleon, and we can understand the French campaigns in Italy and Germany, the overthrow of Austria, the annihilation of Prussia, the splendid host of field-marshals, the Bonaparte circle of kings, the Codex, the Simplon Road, and the many changes of states and governments on the map of Europe. One man of genius explains it all. But take away the man of genius, and substitute a group of small men in his place, and the thing is much more obscure and unintelligible. So, given Moses, the man of genius and inspiration, and we can understand the Exodus, understand the Jewish laws, understand the Pentateuch, and understand the strange phenomenon of Judaism. But, instead of Moses, given a mosaic, however skilfully put together, and the thing is more difficult. Therefore, Moses is to be preferred to the mosaic, as the more reasonable and probable of the two, just as Homer is preferable to the Homerids, and Shakespeare to the Shakespeare Club.[352]

We find in Moses the three elements of genius, inspiration, and knowledge. Perhaps it is not difficult to distinguish them. We see the natural genius and temperament of Moses breaking out again and again throughout his career, as the rocky strata underlying the soil crop out in the midst of gardens, orchards, and fields of corn. The basis of his nature was the hardest kind of rock, with a surging subterranean fire of passion beneath it. An awful soul, stem and terrible as Michael Angelo conceived him, the sublime genius carving the sublime lawgiver in congenial marble. The statue is as stern as law itself. It sits in one of the Roman churches, between two columns, the right hand grasping the tables of the law, the symbolic horns of power protruding from the brow, and the austere look of the judge bent upon those on the left hand. A fiery nature, an iron will, a rooted sense of justice, were strangely overflowed and softened by a tenderness toward his race, which was not so much the feeling of a brother for brethren as of a parent for children.

Educated in the house of Pharaoh, and adopted by his daughter as her child, taken by the powerful and learned priesthood of Egypt into their ranks, and sharing for many years their honors and privileges, his heart yearned toward his brethren in the land of Goshen, and he went out to see them in their sufferings and slavery. His impetuous nature broke out in sudden indignation at the sight of some act of cruelty, and he smote the overseer who was torturing the Jewish slave. That act made him an exile, and sent him to live in Arabia Petrea, as a shepherd. If he had thought only of his own prospects and position, he would not have gone near the Israelites at all, but lived quietly as an Egyptian priest in the palace of Pharaoh. But, as the writer to the Hebrews says, he "refused, to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season."[353] Another instance of his generous and tender feelings toward his nation is seen in his behavior when the people made the golden calf. First, his anger broke out against them, and all the sternness of the lawgiver appeared in his command to the people to cut down their idolatrous brethren; then the bitter tide of anger withdrew, and that of tenderness took its place, and he returned into the mountain to the Lord and said, "O, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written." Moses did not make much account of human life. He struck dead the Egyptian who was ill-treating a Jew; he slew the Jews who turned to idolatry; he slew the Midianites who tempted them; but then he was ready to give up his own life too for the sake of his people and for the sake of the cause. This spirit of Moses pervades his law, this same inconsistency went from his character into his legislation; his relentless severity and his tender sympathy both appear in it. He knows no mercy toward the transgressor, but toward the unfortunate he is full of compassion. His law says, "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, burning for burning, stripe for stripe." But it also says, "Ye shall neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Ye shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child." "If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer." "If thou at all take thy neighbor's raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down, for that is his covering." "If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again."

Such severities joined with such humanities we find in the character of Moses, and such we find to have passed from his character into his laws. But perhaps the deepest spring of character, and its most essential trait, was his sense of justice as embodied in law. The great idea of a just law, freely chosen, under its various aspects of Divine command, ceremonial regulations, political order, and moral duty, distinguished his policy and legislation from that of other founders of states. His laws rested on no basis of mere temporal expediency, but on the two pivots of an absolute Divine will and a deliberate national choice. It had the double sanction of religion and justice; it was at once a revelation and a contract. There was a third idea which it was the object of his whole system, and especially of his ceremonial system, to teach and to cultivate,—that of holiness. God is a holy God, his law is a holy law, the place of his worship is a holy place, and the Jewish nation as his worshippers are a holy people. This belief appears in the first revelation which he received at the burning bush in the land of Midian. It explains many things in the Levitical law, which without this would seem trivial and unmeaning. The ceremonial purifications, clean and unclean meats, the arrangements of the tabernacle, with its holy place, and its Holy of Holies, the Sabbath, the dresses of the priests, the ointment with which the altar was anointed, are all intended to develop in the minds of the people the idea of holiness.[354] And there never was a people on whose souls this notion was so fully impressed as it was upon the Jews. Examined, it means the eternal distinction between right and wrong, between good and evil, and the essential hostility which exists between them. Applied to God, it shows him to have a nature essentially moral, and a true moral character. He loves good and hates evil. He does not regard them with exactly the same feeling. He cannot treat the good man and the bad man in exactly the same way. More than monotheism, this perhaps is the characteristic of the theology of Moses.

The character of Moses had very marked deficiencies, it had its weakness as well as its strength. He was impetuous, impatient, wanting in self-possession and self-control. There is a verse in the Book of Numbers (believed by Eichhorn and Eosenmuller to be an interpolation) which calls him the meekest of men. Such a view of his character is not confirmed by such actions as his killing the Egyptian, his breaking the stone tables, and the like. He declares of himself that he had no power as a speaker, being deficient probably in the organ of language. His military skill seems small, since he appointed Joshua for the military commander, when the people were attacked by the Amalekites. Nor did he have, what seems more important in a legislator, the practical tact of organizing the administration of affairs. His father-in-law, Jethro, showed him how to delegate the details of government to subordinates, and to reserve for himself the general superintendence. Up to that time he had tried to do everything by himself. That great art, in administration, of selecting proper tools to work with, Moses did not seem to have.

Having thus briefly sketched some of the qualities of his natural genius and character, let us see what were the essential elements of his legislation; and first, of his theology, or teachings concerning God.

Monotheism, as we all know, lay at the foundation of the law of Moses. But there are different kinds of monotheism. In one sense we have seen almost all ancient religions to have been monotheisms. All taught the existence of a Supreme Being. But usually this Supreme Being was not the object of worship, but had receded into the background, while subordinate gods were those really reverenced. Moses taught that the Supreme Being who made heaven and earth, the Most High God, was also the only object of worship. It does not appear that Moses denied the existence of the gods who were adored by the other nations; but he maintained that they were all inferior and subordinate, and far beneath Jehovah, and also that Jehovah alone was to be worshipped by the Jews. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exod. xx. 3; Deut. v. 7). "Ye shall not go after other gods" (Deut. vi. 14). "Ye shall make no mention of the name of other gods" (Exod. xxiii. 13). "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords" (Deut. x. 17). The first great peculiarity of the theology of Moses was therefore this, that it taught that the Infinite and Supreme Being, who in most religions was the hidden God, was to the Jews the revealed and ever-present God, the object of worship, obedience, trust, and love. His name was Jahveh, the "I am," the Being of beings.[355]

In a certain sense Moses taught the strict unity of God. "Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord" (Deut. vi. 4), is a statement which Jesus calls the chief of the commandments (Mark xii. 29, 30). For when God is conceived of as the Supreme Being he becomes at once separated by an infinite distance from all other deities, and they cease to be gods in the sense in which he is God. Now as Moses gave to Jehovah infinite attributes, and taught that he was the maker and Lord of heaven and earth, eternal (Deut. xxxiii. 27), a living God, it followed that there was no God with him (Deut. xxxii. 39), which the prophets afterwards wrought out into a simple monotheism. "I am God, and there is no other God beside me" (Isaiah xliv. 8). Therefore, though Moses did not assert in terms a simple monotheism, he taught what contained the essential germ of that idea.

This one God, supreme and infinite, was also so spiritual that no idol, no statue, was to be made as his symbol. He was a God of truth and stern justice, visiting the sins of parents on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hated him, but showing mercy to thousands of those who loved and obeyed him. He was a God who was merciful, long-suffering, gracious, repenting him of the evil, and seeking still to pardon and to bless his people. No doubt there is anthropomorphism in Moses. But if man is made in God's image, then God is in man's image too, and we must, if we think of him as a living and real God, think of him as possessing emotions like our human emotions of love, pity, sorrow, anger, only purified from their grossness and narrowness.

Human actions and human passions are no doubt ascribed by Moses to God. A good deal of criticism has been expended upon the Jewish Scriptures by those who think that philosophy consists in making God as different and distant from man as possible, and so prefer to speak of him as Deity, Providence, and Nature. But it is only because man is made in the image of God that he can revere God at all. Jacobi says that, "God, in creating, theomorphizes man; man, therefore, necessarily anthropomorphizes God." And Swedenborg teaches that God is a man, since man was made in the image of God. Whenever we think of God as present and living, when we ascribe to him pleasure and displeasure, liking and disliking, thinking, feeling, and willing, we make him like a man. And not to do this may be speculative theism, but is practical atheism. Moses forbade the Jews to make any image or likeness of God, yet the Pentateuch speaks of his jealousy, wrath, repentance; he hardens Pharaoh's heart, changes his mind about Balaam, and comes down from heaven in order to see if the people of Sodom were as wicked as they were represented to be. These views are limitations to the perfections of the Deity, and so far the views of Moses were limited. But this is also the strong language of poetry, which expresses in a striking and practical way the personality, holiness, and constant providence of God.

But Moses was not merely a man of genius, he was also a man of knowledge and learning. During forty years he lived in Egypt, where all the learning of the world was collected; and, being brought up by the daughter of Pharaoh as her son, was in the closest relations with the priesthood. The Egyptian priests were those to whom Pythagoras, Herodotus, and Plato went for instruction. Their sacred books, as we have seen, taught the doctrine of the unity and spirituality of God, of the immortality of the soul, and its judgment in the future world, beside teaching the arts and sciences. Moses probably knew all that these books could teach, and there is no doubt that he made use of this knowledge afterward in writing his law. Like the Egyptian priests he believed in one God; but, unlike them, he taught that doctrine openly. Like them he established a priesthood, sacrifices, festivals, and a temple service; but, unlike them, he allowed no images or idols, no visible representations of the Unseen Being, and instead of mystery and a hidden deity gave them revelation and a present, open Deity. Concerning the future life, about which the Egyptians had so much to say, Moses taught nothing. His rewards and punishments were inflicted in this world. Retribution, individual and national, took place here. As this could not have been from ignorance or accident, it must have had a purpose, it must have been intentional. The silence of the Pentateuch respecting immortality is one of the most remarkable features in the Jewish religion. It has been often objected to. It has been asserted that a religion without the doctrine of immortality and future retribution is no religion. But in our time philosophy takes a different view, declaring that there is nothing necessarily religious in the belief of immortality, and that to do right from fear of future punishment or hope of future reward is selfish, and therefore irreligious and immoral. Moreover it asserts that belief in immortality is a matter of instinct, and something to be assumed, not to be proved; and that we believe in immortality just in proportion as the soul is full of life. Therefore, though Moses did not teach the doctrine of immortality, he yet made it necessary that the Jews should believe in it by the awakening influence of his law, which roused the soul into the fullest activity.

But beside genius, beside knowledge, did not Moses also possess that which he claimed, a special inspiration? And if so, what was his inspiration and what is its evidence? The evidence of his inspiration is in that which he said and did. His inspiration, like that of Abraham, consisted in his inward vision of God, in his sight of the divine unity and holiness, in his feeling of the personal presence and power of the Supreme Being, in his perception of his will and of his law. He was inwardly placed by the Divine Providence where he could see these truths, and become the medium of communicating them to a nation. His inspiration was deeper than that of the greatest of subsequent prophets. It was perhaps not so large, nor so full, nor so high, but it was more entire; and therefore the power that went forth from the word and life of Moses was not surpassed afterward. "There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face." No prophet afterward till the time of Jesus did such a work as he did. Purity, simplicity, and strength characterized his whole conduct. His theology, his liturgy, his moral code, and his civil code were admirable in their design and their execution.

We are, indeed, not able to say how much of the Pentateuch came from Moses. Many parts of it were probably the work of other writers and of subsequent times. But we cannot doubt that the essential ideas of the law proceeded from him.

We have regarded Moses and his laws on the side of religion and also on that of morals; it remains to consider them on that of politics. What was the form of government established by Moses? Was it despotism or freedom? Was it monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, or republicanism? Were the Jews a free people or an enslaved people?

Certainly the Jews were not enslaved. They had one great protection from despotism,—a constitution. The Mosaic law was their constitution. It was a written constitution, and could therefore be appealed to. It was a published constitution, and was therefore known by all the people. It was a sacred constitution; given on the authority of God, and therefore could not be modified, except by the same authority. This constitution therefore was a protection against despotism. A constitution like this excludes all arbitrary and despotic authority. We can therefore safely say that the law of Moses saved the nation from despotism. Thus he gave them an important element of political freedom. No matter how oppressive laws are, a government of fixed law involves in the long run much more real freedom than the government, however kind, which is arbitrary, and therefore uncertain and changeable.

But were these laws oppressive? Let us look at them in a few obvious points of view.

What did they exact in regard to taxation? We know that in Eastern governments the people have been ground to the earth by taxation, and that agriculture has been destroyed, the fruitful field become a wilderness, and populous countries depopulated, by this one form of oppression. It is because there has been no fixed rate of taxation. Each governor is allowed to take as much as he can from his subordinates, and each of the subordinates as much as he can get from his inferiors, and so on, till the people are finally reached, out of whom it must all come. But under the Mosaic constitution the taxes were fixed and certain. They consisted in a poll-tax, in the first-fruits, and the tithes. The poll-tax was a half-shekel paid every year at the Temple, by every adult Jew. The first-fruits were rather an expression of gratitude than a tax. The tithes were a tenth part of the annual produce of the soil, and went for the support of the Levites and the general expenses of the government.

Another important point relates to trials and punishments. What security has one of a fair trial, in case he is accused of crime, or what assurance of justice in a civil cause? Now we know that in Eastern countries everything depends on bribery. This Moses forbade in his law. "Thou shalt take no gift, for the gift blindeth the eyes; thou shalt not wrest the judgment of the poor, but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor."

Again, the accuser and accused were to appear together before the judge. The witnesses were sworn, and were examined separately. The people had cheap justice and near at hand. "Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, throughout thy tribes; and they shall judge the people with just judgment."

There were courts of appeal from these local judges.

There seems to have been no legislative body, since the laws of Moses were not only a constitution but also a code. No doubt a common law grew up under the decisions of the local courts and courts of appeal. But provision was made by Moses for any necessary amendment of his laws by the reference which he made to any prophet like himself who might afterward arise, whom the people were to obey.[356]

There was no provision in the Jewish constitution for a supreme executive. But the law foretold that the time would come in which they would desire a king, and it defined his authority. He should be a constitutional king. (Deut. xvii. 14-20.)

We have already said that one great object and purpose of the ceremonial law of Moses was to develop in the minds of the people the idea of holiness. This is expressed (Lev. xix. 2), "Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy."

Another object of the ceremonial law was to surround the whole nation with an impenetrable hedge of peculiarities, and so to keep them separate from surrounding nations. The ceremonial law was like a shell which protected the kernel within till it was ripe. The ritual was the thorny husk, the theology and morality were the sacred included fruit. In this point of view the strangest peculiarities of the ritual find an easy explanation. The more strange they are, the better they serve their purpose. These peculiarities produced bitter prejudice between the Jews and the surrounding nations. Despised by their neighbors, they despised them again in turn; and this mutual contempt has produced the result desired. The Jews, in the very heart of the world, surrounded by great nations far more powerful than themselves, conquered and overrun by Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Syrians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, have been more entirely separated from other nations than the Chinese or the people of Japan. Dispersed as they are, they are still a distinct people, a nation within other nations. Like drops of oil floating on the water but never mingling with it, so the Jews are found everywhere, floating drops of national life in the midst of other nationalities. In Leviticus (xviii. 3) we find the command, "After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do; and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their ordinances." They have not obeyed this command in its letter, but continue to obey its spirit in its unwritten continuation: "After the doings of the English and French and Americans shall ye not do, nor walk in their ordinances, but shall still continue a peculiar people."

Sec. 4. David; or, Judaism as the personal Worship of a Father and friend.

Many disasters befell the Jews after their settlement in Palestine, which we should allude to were we writing the heads of their history rather than giving an account of their religion. Among these were their long conflict with the Philistines, and their subjection by that people during twenty years. The Philistines, it has been recently discovered, were not a Semitic nation, and were not in the land in the time of Moses. They are not mentioned as a powerful people in the Pentateuch or the Book of Joshua, but suddenly appear as invaders in the time of the Judges, completely defeating and subduing the Canaanites along the shore. In fact, the Philistines were probably an Indo-European or Aryan people, and their name is now believed to be the same as that of the Pelasgi. They were probably a body of Pelasgi from the island of Crete, who, by successive invasions, overran Palestine, and gave their name to it.[357] They were finally reduced by David; and as his reign is the culminating period of Judaism, we will devote some space to his character and influence.

The life of David makes an epoch in Jewish history and human history. Nations, like plants, have their period of flowers and of fruit. They have their springtime, their summer, autumn, and winter. The age of David among the Jews was like the age of Pericles among the Greeks, of Augustus among the Romans, of Louis XIV. in France, of Charles V. in Spain. Such periods separate themselves from those which went before and from those which follow. The period of David seems a thousand years removed from that of the Judges, and yet it follows it almost immediately. As a few weeks in spring turn the brown earth to a glad green, load the trees with foliage, and fill the air with the perfume of blossoms and the song of birds, so a few years in the life of a nation will change barbarism into civilization, and pour the light of literature and knowledge over a sleeping land. Arts flourish, external enemies are conquered, inward discontents are pacified, wealth pours in, luxury increases, genius accomplishes its triumphs. Summer, with its flowers and fruits, has arrived.

When a nation is ripe for such a change, the advent of a man of genius will accomplish it. Around him the particles crystallize and take form and beauty. Such a man was David,—a brave soldier, a great captain, a sagacious adventurer, an artist, musician, and poet, a man of profound religious experience; he was, more than all these, a statesman. By his great organizing ability he made a powerful nation out of that which, when he came to the throne, consisted of a few discordant and half-conquered tribes. In the time of Saul the Israelites were invaded by all the surrounding nations; by the Syrians on the north, the Ammonites and Moabites on the east, the Amalekites and Edomites on the south, and the Philistines on the west. In the time of David all these nations were completely subdued, their cities garrisoned, and the power of the Israelites submitted to from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean.

Most great men are contented to be distinguished in one thing, and to lead a single life; but David led three lives, each distinct from the other,—the life of a soldier and statesman, the life of a poet and artist, the life of deep religious experience. We will look at his character in each of these three directions.

We have already said that David found the Israelites divided and half conquered, and left them united and conquerors. By means of his personal qualities he had made himself popular among the tribes. He was known as a brave and cautious guerilla chief. His native generosity and open-heartedness won him the love of the people. His religious tendencies gained for him the friendship of the priests, and the great influence of Samuel was always exerted in his favor. He was thus enabled to unite the people, and gain their confidence till he could make use of them in larger enterprises. The Jews were not naturally a military nation, and were never meant to be such. Yet when their strength was united they were capable, by their determination and tenacity of purpose, of extraordinary military exploits. Everything depended on their morale. Demoralized and weakened by doubts and scruples, or when conscious that they were disobeying the laws of Moses, they were easily defeated by any invader. The first duty of their general was to bring them back from their idolatries and backslidings to the service of God. Under Joshua it only needed two great battles to conquer the whole land of Palestine. So, reunited under David, a few campaigns made them victorious over the surrounding nations.

The early part of David's life was a perpetual discipline in prudence. He was continually beset with dangers. He had to fly from the presence and ferocious jealousy of Saul again and again, and even to take refuge with the Philistines, who had reason enough to be his enemies. He fled from Saul to Samuel, and took shelter under his protection. Pursued to this retreat by the king, he had no resource but to throw himself on the mercy of the Philistines, and he went to Gath. When he saw himself in danger there, he pretended to be insane; insanity being throughout the East a protection from injury. His next step was to go to the cave Adullam, and to collect around him a body of partisans, with whom to protect himself. Saul watched his opportunity, and when David had left the fastnesses of the mountain, and came into the city Keilah to defend it from the Philistines, Saul went down with a detachment of troops to besiege him, so that he had to fly again to the mountains. Betrayed by the Ziphites, as he had been before betrayed by the men of Keilah, he went to another wilderness and escaped. The king continued to pursue him whenever he could get any tidings of his position, and again David was obliged to take refuge among the Philistines. But throughout this whole period he never permitted himself any hostile measures against Saul, his implacable enemy. In this he showed great wisdom, for the result of such a course would have been a civil war, in which part of the nation would have taken sides with one and part with the other, and David never could have ascended the throne with the consent of the whole people. But the consequence of his forbearance was, that when by the death of Saul the throne became vacant, David succeeded to it with scarcely any opposition. His subsequent course showed always the same prudence. He disarmed his enemies by kindness and clemency. He understood the policy of making a bridge of gold for a flying enemy. When Abner, the most influential man of his opponents, offered to submit to him, David received him with kindness and made him a friend. And when Abner was treacherously killed by Joab, David publicly mourned for him, following the bier, and weeping at the grave. The historian says concerning this: "And all the people took notice of it and it pleased them: as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people. For all the people understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner the son of Ner." His policy was to conciliate and unite. When Saul's son was slain by his own servants, who thought to please David by that act, he immediately put them to death. Equally cautious and judicious was his course in transferring the Ark and its worship to Jerusalem. He did this only gradually, and as he saw that the people were prepared for it.

We next will look at David in his character as man of genius, musician, artist, poet. It is not often that an eminent statesman and soldier is, at the same time, a distinguished poet and writer. Sometimes they can write history or annals, like Caesar and Frederick the Great; but the imaginative and poetic element is rarely found connected with the determined will and practical intellect of a great commander. Alexander the Great had a taste for good poetry, for he carried Homer with him through his campaigns; but the taste of Napoleon went no higher than a liking for Ossian.

But David was a poet, in whom the tender, lyrical, personal element rose to the highest point. The daring soldier, when he took his harp, became another man. He consoled himself and sought comfort in trial, and sang his thankfulness in his hours of joy. The Book of Psalms, so far as it is the work of David, is the record of his life. As Horace says of Lucilius and his book of Odes, that the whole of the old man's life hangs suspended therein in votive pictures; and as Goethe says that his Lyrics are a book of confessions, in which joy and sorrow turn to song; so the Book of Psalms can only be understood when we consider it as David's poetical autobiography. In this he anticipates the Koran, which was the private journal of Mohammed.

"The harp of David," says Herder, "was his comforter and friend. In his youth he sang to its music while tending his flocks as a shepherd on the mountains of Judaea. By its means he had access to Saul, and could sooth with it the dark mood of the king. In his days of exile he confided to it his sorrows. When he triumphed over his enemies the harp became in his royal hands a thank-offering to the deity. Afterward he organized on a magnificent scale music and poetry in the worship of God. Four thousand Levites, distinguished by a peculiar dress, were arranged in classes and choirs under master-singers, of whom the three most distinguished, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, are known to us by specimens of their art. In his Psalms his whole kingdom lives."

We speak of the inspiration of genius, and distinguish it from the inspiration of the religious teacher. But in ancient times the prophet and poet were often the same, and one word (as, in Latin, "vates") was used for both. In the case of David the two inspirations were perfectly at one. His religion was poetry, and his poetry was religion. The genius of his poetry is not grandeur, but beauty. Sometimes it expresses a single thought or sentiment, as that (Psalm cxxxiii.) describing the beauty of brotherly union, or as that (Psalm xxiii.) which paints trust in God like that of a sheep in his shepherd. Of the same sort is the fifteenth Psalm, "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle?" the twenty-ninth, a description of a thunderstorm; the sixty-seventh, "O God, be merciful to us and bless us"; the eighty-fourth, "How lovely are thy tabernacles"; and the last Psalm, calling on mankind to praise God in all ways.

It is a striking fact that these Hebrew lyrics, written long before the foundation of Rome, and before the time of Homer, should be used to-day in Christian worship and for private devotion all over the world.

In speaking of the Vedas and the Avesta we said that in such hymns and liturgies the truest belief of a nation can be found. What men say to God in their prayers may be assumed to express their practical convictions. The Jewish religion is not to be found so surely in its Levitical code as in these national lyrics, which were the liturgy of the people.[358]

What then do they say concerning God? They teach his universal dominion. They declare that none in the heaven can be compared to him (Psalm lxxxix.); that he is to be feared above all gods (Psalm xcvi.). They teach his eternity; declaring that he is God from everlasting to everlasting; that a thousand years in his sight are as yesterday; that he laid the foundations of the earth and made the heavens, and that when these perish he will endure; that at some period they shall be changed like a garment, but that God will always be the same (Psalm xc., cii.). They teach in numerous places that God is the Creator of all things. They adore and bless his fatherly love and kindness, which heals all our diseases and redeems our life, crowning us with loving-kindness, pitying us, and forgiving our sins (Psalm ciii.). They teach that he is in all nature (Psalm civ.), that he searches and knows all our thoughts, and that we can go nowhere from his presence (Psalm cxxxix.). They declare that he protects all who trust in him (Psalm xci., cxxi.), and that he purifies the heart and life (Psalm cxix.), creating in us a clean heart, and not asking for sacrifice, but for a broken spirit (Psalm li.).

These Psalms express the highest and best moments of Jewish life, and rise in certain points to the level of Christianity. They do not contain the Christian spirit of forgiveness, nor that of love to one's enemy. They are still narrowed to the range of the Jewish land and nation, and do not embrace humanity. They are mountain summits of faith, rising into the pure air and light of day from hidden depths, and appearing as islands in the ocean. They reach, here and there, the level of the vast continent, though not broad enough themselves to become the home of all races and nations.

There is nothing in the Vedas, nothing in the Avesta, nothing in the sacred books of Egypt, or the philosophy of Greece and Rome, which so unites the grandeur of omnipotence with the tenderness of a father toward his child.

Sec. 5. Solomon; or, the Religious Relapse.

We have seen how the religion of Abraham, as the family worship of the Supreme Being, was developed into that of Moses, as the national worship of a just and holy King. We have seen it going onward from that, ascending in the inspirations of David into trust in an infinite God as a friend, and love to him as a father. We now come to a period of relapse. Under Solomon and his successors, this religion became corrupted and degraded. Its faith was changed into doubt, its lofty courage into the fear of kings and tyrants, its worship of the Most High into adoration of the idols of its neighbors. The great increase of power and wealth in the hands of Solomon corrupted his own heart and that of his people. Luxury came in; and, as in Rome the old puritanic virtues were dissolved by the desire for wealth and pleasure, so it happened among the Jews. Then came the retribution, in the long captivity in Babylon, and the beginning of a new and better life under this hard discipline. And then comes the age of the Prophets, who gradually became the teachers of a higher and broader faith. So, when the Jews returned to Jerusalem, they came back purified, and prepared to become once more loyal subjects of Jehovah.

The principle of hereditary succession, but not of primogeniture, had been established by an agreement between David and the people when he proposed erecting a Temple at Jerusalem. He had appointed his son Solomon as his successor before his own death. With the entrance of Solomon we have an entirely different personality from any whom we have thus far met. With him also is inaugurated a new period and a different age. The age of Moses was distinguished as that of law,—on the side of God absolute authority, commanding and forbidding; on the side of man the only question was between obedience and disobedience. Moses was the Law-giver, and his age was the age of law. In the time of the Judges the question concerned national existence and national independence. The age of the Judges was the heroic age of the Jewish nation. The Judges were men combining religious faith with patriotism; they were religious heroes. Then came the time of David, in which the nation, having become independent, became also powerful and wealthy. After his time the religion, instead of being a law to be obeyed or an impulse to action, became ceremony and pageant. Going one step further, it passed into reflection and meditation. In the age of Solomon the inspiration of the national religion had already gone. A great intellectual development had taken the place of inspiration. So that the Jewish nation seems to have passed through a fourfold religious experience. Religion was first law, then action, next inspiration and sentiment, afterward ceremony, and lastly opinion and intellectual culture.

It is the belief of Herder and other scholars that the age of Solomon gave birth to a copious literature, born of peace, tranquillity, and prosperity, which has all passed away except a few Psalms, the Book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.

Solomon is personally a much less interesting character than David; for policy is never so interesting as impulse, and the crimes of policy seem worse than those of passion. The first act of Solomon was of this sort. He put his brother Adonijah to death for his attempt to seize the throne. Joab, who supported Adonijah against Solomon, was also put to death, for which we do not grieve, when we remember his assassination of Abner and Amasa, shedding the blood of war in peace. But the cold, unscrupulous character of Solomon is seen in his ordering Joab to be slain in the tabernacle while holding the horns of the altar, and causing Adonijah to be taken by force from the same place of refuge. No religious consideration or superstitious fear could prevent Solomon from doing what he thought necessary for his own security. He had given Adonijah a conditional pardon, limited to good behavior on his part. But after his establishment on the throne Adonijah requested the mother of Solomon, Bathsheba, to ask her son to give him for a wife the beautiful Abishag, the last wife of David. Solomon understood this to mean, what his mother did not understand, that his brother was still intriguing to supplant him on the throne, and with cool policy he ordered him to immediate execution. Solomon could pardon a criminal, but not a dangerous rival. He deposed the high-priest for the same reason, considering him to be also dangerous. Shimei, who seems to have been wealthy and influential as well as a determined character, was ordered not to leave Jerusalem under penalty of death. He did so, and Solomon put him to death. David, before his death, had warned Solomon to keep an eye both on Joab and on Shimei, for David could forgive his own enemies, but not those of his cause; he was not afraid on his own account, but was afraid for the safety of his son.

By the death of Joab and Shimei, Solomon's kingdom was established, and the glory and power of David was carried to a still higher point of magnificence. Supported by the prophets on the one hand and by the priests on the other, his authority was almost unlimited. We are told that "Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and making merry. And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt; they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life. And Solomon's provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, beside harts, and roebucks, and fallow deer, and fatted fowl." The wars of David were ended. Solomon's was a reign of peace. "And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon. And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen." "And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea-shore. And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all nations round about." "And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom." The great power and wealth of the Jewish court at this period are historically verified by the traditions still extant among the Arabs of Solomon's superhuman splendor.

The story (1 Kings iii. 5) of Solomon's dream, in which he chose an understanding heart and wisdom, rather than riches and honor, reminds us of the choice of Hercules. It is not unlikely that he had such a dream, it is quite probable that he always preferred wisdom to anything else, and it is certain that his wisdom came from God. This is the only connection we can trace between the dream and its fulfilment.

Solomon inaugurated a new policy by entering into alliances and making treaties with his powerful neighbors. He formed an alliance with the king of Egypt, and married his daughter. He also made a treaty of commerce and friendship with the king of Tyre on the north, and procured from him cedar with which to build the Temple and his own palace. He received an embassy also from the queen of Sheba, who resided in the south of Arabia. By means of the Tyrian ships he traded to the west as far as the coasts of Spain and Africa, and his own vessels made a coasting voyage of three years' duration to Tarshish, from which they brought ivory, gold, silver, apes, and peacocks. This voyage seems to have been through the Red Sea to India.[359] He also traded in Asia, overland, with caravans. And for their accommodation and defence he built Tadmor in the desert (afterward called Palmyra), as a great stopping-place. This city in later days became famous as the capital of Zenobia, and the remains of the Temple of the Sun, standing by itself in the midst of the Great Desert, are among the most interesting ruins in the world.[360]

The great work of Solomon was building the Temple at Jerusalem in the year B.C. 1005. This Temple was destroyed, and rebuilt by Nehemiah B.C. 445. It was rebuilt by Herod B.C. 17. Little remains from the time of Solomon, except some stones in the walls of the substructions; and the mosque of Omar now stands on the old foundation. No building of antiquity so much resembles the Temple of Solomon as the palace of Darius at Persepolis. In both buildings the porch opened into the large hall, both had small chambers on the side, square masses on both sides of the porch, and the same form of pillars. The parts of Solomon's Temple were, first, a porch thirty feet wide and fifteen feet deep; second a large hall sixty by thirty; and then the holy of holies, which was thirty feet cube. The whole external dimensions of the building were only sixty feet by one hundred and twenty, or less than many an ordinary parish church. The explanation is that it was copied from the Tabernacle, which was a small building, and was necessarily somewhat related to it in size. The walls were of stone, on extensive stone foundations. Inside it was lined with cedar, with floors of cypress, highly ornamented with carvings and gold. The brass work consisted of two ornamented pillars called Jachin and Boaz, a brazen tank supported by twelve brass oxen, and ten baths of brass, ornamented with figures of lions, oxen, and cherubim.

The Book of Kings says of Solomon (1 Kings iv. 32) that "he spake three thousand proverbs, and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar-tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl and of creeping things, and of fishes." He was, according to this account, a voluminous writer on natural history, as well as an eminent poet and moralist. Of all his compositions there remains but one, the Book of Proverbs, which was probably in great part composed by him. It is true that three books in the Old Testament bear his name,—Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. But of these Ecclesiastes was probably written afterward, and though the Song of Songs may have been written by Solomon, it was probably the work of another, living at or near his time.

But of the Book of Proverbs there cannot be much doubt. It contains some of the three thousand of which Solomon was the reputed author. It shows his style of mind very clearly,—the cool understanding, the calculating prudence, the continual reference to results, knowledge of the world as distinguished from knowledge of human nature, or of individual character. The Book of Proverbs contains little heroism or poetry, few large ideas, not much enthusiasm or sentiment. It is emphatically a book of wisdom. It has good, hard, practical sense. It is the "Poor Richard's Almanac" of Hebrew literature. We can conceive of King Solomon and Benjamin Franklin consulting together, and comparing notes of their observations on human life, with much mutual satisfaction. It is curious to meet with such a thoroughly Western intellect, a thousand years before Christ, on the throne of the heroic David.

Among these proverbs there are many of a kindly character. Some are semi-Christian in their wise benevolence. Many show great shrewdness of observation, and have an epigrammatic wit. We will give examples of each kind:—


"If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread; If thirsty, give him water to drink, For thou wilt heap coals of fire on his head, And Jehovah will reward thee."

"To deliver those that are dragged to death, Those that totter to the slaughter, Spare thyself not. If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not, Doth not He that weighs the heart observe it? Yea, He that keeps thy soul knows it. And He will render to every man according to his works."

"Put not thyself forth in the presence of the king, Nor station thyself in the place of great men. Far better it is that one should say to thee, Come up hither! Than that he should put thee in a lower place, In the presence of the prince."

"The lip of truth shall be established forever, But the tongue of falsehood is but for a moment."


"As one that takes a dog by the ears, So is he that passing by becomes enraged on account of another's quarrel."

"Where there is no wood the fire goes out; So where there is no talebearer contention ceases."

"The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender."

"The slothful man says, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets."

"A reproof penetrates deeper into a wise man Than a hundred stripes into a fool."

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick."

"The way of transgressors is hard."

"There is that scatters, and yet increases."

"It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer, But when he goeth his way then he boasteth."


"The legs of a lame man are not equal, So is a proverb in the mouth of fools."[361]

"As a thorn runs into the hand of a drunkard, So is a proverb in the mouth of a fool."[362]

"As clouds and wind without rain, So is a man who boasts falsely of giving."

"A soft tongue breaks bones."

"As vinegar to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes, So is the sluggard to him that sends him."

"The destruction of the poor is their poverty."

"A merry heart is a good medicine."

But what are human wisdom and glory? It seems that Solomon was to illustrate its emptiness. See the king, in his old age, sinking into idolatry and empty luxury, falling away from his God, and pointing the moral of his own proverbs. He himself was the drunkard, into whose hand the thorn of the proverb penetrated, without his heeding it. This prudent and wise king, who understood so well all the snares of temptation and all the arts of virtue, fell like the puppet of any Asiatic court. What a contrast between the wise and great king as described in I Kings iv. 20-34 and the same king in his degenerate old age!

It was this last period in the life of Solomon which the writer of Ecclesiastes took as the scene and subject of his story. With marvellous penetration and consummate power he penetrates the mind of Solomon and paints the blackness of desolation, the misery of satiety, the dreadful darkness of a soul which has given itself to this world as its only sphere.

Never was such a picture painted of utter scepticism, of a mind wholly darkened, and without any remaining faith in God or truth.

These three books mark the three periods of the life of Solomon.

The Song of Songs shows us his abounding youth, full of poetry, fire, and charm.

The Proverbs give his ripened manhood, wise and full of all earthly knowledge,—Aristotle, Bacon, Socrates, and Franklin, all in one.

And Ecclesiastes represents the darkened and gloomy scepticism of his old age, when he sank as low down as he had before gone up. But though so sad and dark, yet it is not without gleams of a higher and nobler joy to come. Better than anything in Proverbs are some of the noble sentiments breaking out in Ecclesiastes, especially at the end of the book.

The Book of Ecclesiastes is a wonderful description of a doubt so deep, a despair so black, that nothing in all literature can be compared to it. It describes, in the person of Solomon, utter scepticism born of unlimited worldly enjoyment, knowledge, and power.

The book begins by declaring that all is vanity, that there is nothing new under the sun, no progress in any direction, but all things revolving in an endless circle, so that there is neither meaning nor use in the world.[363] It declares that work amounts to nothing, for one cannot do any really good thing; that knowledge is of no use, but only produces sorrow; that pleasure satiates.[364] Knowledge has only this advantage over ignorance, that it enables us to see things as they are, but it does not make them better, and the end of all is despair.[365] Sensual pleasure is the only good.[366] Fate and necessity rule all things. Good and evil both come at their appointed time. Men are cheated and do not see the nullity of things, because they have the world in their heart, and are absorbed in the present moment.[367]

Men are only a higher class of beasts. They die like beasts, and have no hereafter.[368]

In the fourth chapter the writer goes more deeply into this pessimism. He says that to die is better than to live, and better still never to have been born. A fool is better than a wise man, because he does nothing and cares for nothing.[369]

Success is bad, progress is an evil; for these take us away from others, and leave us lonely, because above them and hated by them.[370]

Worship is idle. Do not offer the sacrifice of fools, but stop when you are going to the Temple, and return. Do not pray. It is of no use. God does not hear you. Dreams do not come from God, but from what you were doing before you went to sleep. Eat and drink, that is the best.[371] All men go as they come.

So the dreary statement proceeds. Men are born for no end, and go no one can tell where. Live a thousand years, it all comes to the same thing. Who can tell what is good for a man in this shadowy, empty life?[372]

It is better to look on death than on life, wiser to be sad than to be cheerful. If you say, "There have been good times in the past," do not be too sure of that. If you say, "We can be good, at least, if we cannot be happy," there is such a thing as being too good, and cheating yourself out of pleasure.[373]

Women are worse than men. You may find one good man among a thousand, but not one good woman.[374]

It is best to be on the right side of the powers that be, for they can do what they please. Speedy and certain punishment alone can keep men from doing evil. The same thing happens to the good and to the wicked. All things come alike to all. This life is, in short, an inexplicable puzzle. The perpetual refrain is, eat, drink, and be merry.[375]

It is best to do what you can, and think nothing about it. Cast your bread on the waters, very likely you will get it again. Sow your seed either in the morning or at night; it makes no difference.[376]

Death is coming to all. All is vanity. I continue to preach, because I see the truth, and may as well say it, though there is no end to talking and writing. You may sum up all wisdom in six words: "Fear God and keep his commandments."[377]

The Book of Ecclesiastes teaches a great truth in an unexampled strain of pathetic eloquence. It teaches what a black scepticism descends on the wisest, most fortunate, most favored of mankind, when he looks only to this world and its joys. It could, however, only have been written by one who had gone through this dreadful experience. The intellect alone never sounded such depths as these. Moreover, it could hardly have been written unless in a time when such scepticism prevailed, nor by one who, having lived it all, had not also lived through it all, and found the cure for this misery in pure unselfish obedience to truth and right. It seems, therefore, like a Book of Confessions, or the Record of an Experience, and as such well deserves its place in the Bible and Jewish literature.

The Book of Job is a still more wonderful production, but in a wholly different tone. It is full of manly faith in truth and right. It has no jot of scepticism in it. It is a noble protest against all hypocrisies and all shams. Job does not know why he is afflicted, but he will never confess that he is a sinner till he sees it. The Pharisaic friends tell him his sufferings are judgments for his sins, and advise him to admit it to be so. But Job refuses, and declares he will utter no "words of wind" to the Almighty. The grandest thought is here expressed in the noblest language which the human tongue has ever uttered.

Sec. 6. The Prophets; or, Judaism as the Hope of a spiritual and universal Kingdom of God.

Before we proceed to examine the prophetic writings of the Old Testament, it is desirable to make some remarks upon prophecy in general, and on the character of the Hebrew prophets.

Prophecy in general is a modification of inspiration. Inspiration is sight, or rather it is insight. All our knowledge comes to us through the intellectual power which may be called sight, which is of two kinds,—the sight of external things, or outsight; and the sight of internal things, which is insight, or intuition. The senses constitute the organization by which we see external things; consciousness is the organization by which we perceive internal things. Now the organs of sense are the same in kind, but differ in degree in all men. All human beings, as such, have the power of perceiving an external world, by means of the five senses. But though all have these five senses, all do not perceive the same external phenomena by means of them. For, in the first place, their senses differ in degrees of power. Some men's eyes are telescopic, some microscopic, and some are blind. Some men can but partially distinguish colors, others not at all. Some have acute hearing, others are deaf. And secondly, what men perceive through the senses differs according to what is about them. A man living in China cannot see Mont Blanc or the city of New York; a man on the other side of the moon can never see the earth. A man living in the year 1871 cannot see Alexander the Great or the Apostle Paul. And thirdly, two persons may be looking at the same thing, and with senses of the same degree of power, and yet one may be able to see what the other is not able to see. Three men, one a geologist, one a botanist, and one a painter, may look at the same landscape, and one will see the stratification, the second will see the flora, and the third the picturesque qualities of the scene. As regards outsight then, though men in general have the same senses to see with, what they see depends (1) on their quality of sense, (2) on their position in space and time, (3) and on their state of mental culture.

That which is true of the perception of external phenomena is also true of the perception of internal things.

Insight, or intuition, has the same limitations as outsight. These are (1) the quality of the faculty of intuition; (2) the inward circumstances or position of the soul; (3) the soul's culture or development. Those who deny the existence of an intuitive faculty, teaching that all knowledge comes from without through the senses, sometimes say that if there were such a faculty as intuition, men would all possess intuitively the same knowledge of moral and spiritual truth. They might as well say that, as all men have eyes, all must see the same external objects.

All men have more or less of the intuitive faculty, but some have much more than others. Those who have the most are called, by way of eminence, inspired men. But among these there is a difference as regards the objects which are presented by God, in the order of his providence, to their intuitive faculty. Some he places inwardly among visions of beauty, and they are inspired poets and artists. Others he places inwardly amid visions of temporal and human life, and they become inspired discoverers and inventors. And others he places amid visions of religious truth, and they are inspired prophets, lawgivers, and evangelists. But these again differ in their own spiritual culture and growth. Moses and the Apostle Paul were both inspired men, but the Apostle Paul saw truths which Moses did not see, because the Apostle Paul had reached a higher degree of spiritual culture. Christ alone possessed the fulness of spiritual inspiration, because he alone had attained the fulness of spiritual life.

Now the inspired man may look inwardly either at the past, the present, or the future. If he look at the past he is an inspired historian; if at the present, an inspired lawgiver, or religious teacher; if at the future, an inspired prophet. The inspired faculty may be the same, and the difference may be in the object inwardly present to its contemplation. The seer may look from things past to things present, from things present to things to come, and his inspiration be the same. He fixes his mind on the past, and it grows clear before him, and he sees how events were and what they mean. He looks at the present, and sees how things ought to be. He looks at the future, and sees how things shall be.

The Prophets of the Old Testament were not, as is commonly supposed, men who only uttered predictions of the future. They were men of action more than of contemplation. Strange as it may seem to us, who are accustomed to consider their office as confined to religious prediction, their chief duty was that of active politicians. They mixed religion and politics. They interfered with public measures, rebuked the despotism of the kings and the political errors of the people. Moreover, they were the constitutional lawyers and publicists of the Hebrews, inspired to look backward and explain the meaning of the Mosaic law as well as to look forward to its spiritual development in the reign of the Messiah. Prediction, therefore, of future events, was a very small part of the work of the Prophets. Their main duty was to warn, rebuke, teach, exhort, and encourage.

The Hebrew prophets were under the law. They were loyal to Moses and to his institutions. But it was to the spirit rather than to the letter, the idea rather than the form. They differed from the priests in preferring the moral part of the law to the ceremonial. They were great reformers in bringing back the people from external formalism to vital obedience. They constantly made the ceremonial part of the law subservient to the moral part of the law. Thus Samuel said to Saul: "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." And so afterward Isaiah declared in the name of the Lord, that the sacrifices of a wicked people were vain, and their incense an abomination.

We read of the schools of the Prophets, where they studied the law of Moses, and were taught the duties of their office. In these schools music was made use of as a medium of inspiration.

But the office of a prophet was not limited by culture, sex, age, or condition. Women, like Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Huldah, and Noadiah; inexperienced youths, like Jeremiah; men of high standing in society, like Isaiah and Daniel; humble men, like the ploughman Elisha and the herdsman Amos; men married and unmarried, are numbered among the Prophets. Living poorly, wearing sackcloth, feeding on vegetables, imprisoned or assassinated by kings, stoned by the people, the most unpopular of men, sometimes so possessed by the spirit as to rave like madmen, obliged to denounce judgments and woes against kings and people, it is no wonder that they often shrank from their terrible office. Jonah ran to hide in a ship of Tarshish. They have called their message a burden, like Isaiah; they have cried out like Jeremiah, "Ah, Lord God, I cannot speak, for I am a child"; like Ezekiel, they have been obliged to make their faces harder than flints in order to deliver their message.

Dean Stanley, in speaking of the Prophets of the Old Testament, says that their theology consisted in proclaiming the unity of God against all polytheism, and the spirituality of God against all idolatry, in declaring the superiority of moral to ceremonial duties, and in announcing the supremacy of goodness above the letter, ceremony, or dogma. This makes the contrast between the Prophets and all other sacred persons who have existed in pagan and, he adds, even in Christian times. Dean Stanley says the Prophets were religious teachers, without the usual faults of religious teachers, and he proposes them as an example to the Christian clergy. He says: "O, if the spirit of our profession, of our order, of our body, were the spirit, or anything like the spirit, of the ancient Prophets! If with us truth, charity, justice, fairness to opponents, were a passion, a doctrine, a point of honor, to be upheld with the same energy as that with which we uphold our own position and our own opinions!"

The spirit of the world asks first, Is it safe? secondly, Is it true? The spirit of the Prophets asks first, Is it true? secondly, Is it safe? The spirit of the world asks first, Is it prudent? secondly, Is it right? The spirit of the Prophets asks first, Is it right? secondly, Is it prudent? Taken as a whole, the prophetic order of the Jewish Church remains alone. It stands like one of those vast monuments of ancient days, with ramparts broken, with inscriptions defaced, but stretching from hill to hill, conveying in its long line of arches the pure rill of living water over deep valley and thirsty plain, far above all the puny modern buildings which have grown up at its feet, and into the midst of which it strides with its massive substructions, its gigantic height, its majestic proportions, unrivalled by any erection of modern time.

The predictions of the future by the Prophets of Judaea were far higher in their character than those which come occasionally to mankind through dreams and presentiments. Yet no doubt they proceeded from the same essentially Iranian faculty. This also is asserted by the Dean of Westminster, who says that there is a power of divination granted in some inexplicable manner to ordinary men, and he refers to such instances as the prediction of the discovery of America by Seneca, that of the Reformation by Dante, and the prediction of the twelve centuries of Roman dominion by the apparition of twelve vultures to Romulus, which was so understood four hundred years before its actual accomplishment. If such presentiments are not always verified, neither were the predictions of the Prophets always fulfilled. Jonah announced, in the most distinct and absolute terms, that in forty days Nineveh should be destroyed. But the people repented, and it was not destroyed. Their predictions of the Messiah are remarkable, especially because in speaking of him and his time they went out of the law and the spirit of the law, and became partakers of the spirit of the Gospel. The Prophets of the Jews, whatever else we deny to their predictions, certainly foresaw Christianity. They describe the coming of a time in which the law should be written in the heart, of a king who should reign in righteousness, of a prince of peace, of one who should rule by the power of truth, not by force, whose kingdom should be universal and everlasting, and into which all nations of the earth should flow. What the Prophets foresaw was not times nor seasons, not dates nor names, not any minute particulars. But they saw a future age, they lived out of their own time in another time, which had not yet arrived. They left behind them Jewish ceremonialism, and entered into a moral and spiritual religion. They dropped Jewish narrowness and called all mankind brethren. In this they reach the highest form of foresight, which is not simply to predict a coming event, but to live in the spirit of a future time.

Thus the Prophets developed the Jewish religion to its highest point. The simple, childlike faith of Abraham became, in their higher vision, the sight of a universal Father, and of an age in which all men and nations should be united into one great moral kingdom. Further than this, it was not possible to go in vision. The difference between the Prophets and Jesus was, that he accomplished what they foresaw. His life, full of faith in God and man, became the new seed of a higher kingdom than that of David. He was the son of David, as inheriting the loving trust of David in a heavenly Father; he was also the Lord of David, by fulfilling David's love to God with his own love to man; making piety and charity one, faith and freedom one, reason and religion one, this life and the life to come one. He died to accomplish this union and to make this atoning sacrifice.

Sec. 7. Judaism as a Preparation for Christianity.

After the return from the captivity the Jewish nation remained loyal to Jehovah. The dangers of polytheism and idolatry had passed. We no more hear of either of these tendencies, but, on the contrary, a rigid and almost bigoted monotheism was firmly established. Their sufferings, the teaching of their Prophets, perhaps the influence of the Persian worship, had confirmed them in the belief that Jehovah was one and alone, and that the gods of the nations were idols. They had lost forever the sacred ark of the covenant and the mysterious ornaments of the high-priest. Their kings had disappeared, and a new form of theocracy took the place of a royal government. The high-priest, with the great council, became the supreme authority. The government was hierarchal.

Hellenic influences began to act on the Jewish mind, and a peculiar dialect of Hebrew-Greek, called the Hellenistic, was formed. The Septuagint, or Greek version of the Old Testament, was made in Alexandria about B.C. 260. In Egypt, Greek philosophy began to affect the Jewish mind, the final result of which was the system of Philo. Greek influences spread to such an extent that a great religious revolution took place in Palestine (B.C. 170), and the Temple at Jerusalem was turned into a temple of Olympic Jupiter. Many of the priests and leading citizens accepted this change, though the heart of the people rejected it with horror. Under Antiochus the Temple was profaned, the sacrifices ceased, the keeping of the Sabbath and use of the Scriptures were forbidden by a royal edict. Then arose the Maccabees, and after a long and bitter struggle re-established the worship of Jehovah, B.C. 141.

After this the mass of the people, in their zeal for the law and their old institutions, fell in to the narrow bigotry of the Pharisees. The Sadducees were Jewish Epicureans, but though wealthy were few, and had little influence. The Essenes were Jewish monks, living in communities, and as little influential as are the Shakers in Massachusetts to-day. They were not only few, but their whole system was contrary to the tone of Jewish thought, and was probably derived from Orphic Pythagoreanism.[378]

The Talmud, that mighty maze of Jewish thought, commencing after the return from the captivity, contains the history of the gradual progress and development of the national mind. The study of the Talmud is necessary to the full understanding of the rise of Christianity. Many of the parables and precepts of Jesus may have had their origin in these traditions and teachings. For the Talmud contains much that is excellent, and the originality of Jesus was not in saying what never had been thought before, but in vitalizing all old truth out of a central spiritual life. His originality was not novelty, but vitality. We have room here but for a single extract.[379]

"'Six hundred and thirteen injunctions,' says the Talmud, 'was Moses instructed to give to the people. David reduced them all to eleven, in the fifteenth Psalm: Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle who shall dwell on thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly,' &c.

"'The Prophet Isaiah reduced them to six (xxxiii. 15): He that walketh righteously,' &c.

"'The Prophet Micah reduced them to three (vi. 8): What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

"'Isaiah once more reduced them to two (lvi. 1): Keep ye judgment and do justice.

"'Amos (v. 4) reduced them all to one: Seek ye me and ye shall live.

"'But lest it might be supposed from this that God could be found in the fulfilment of his whole law only, Habakkuk said (ii. 4): The just shall live by his faith.'"

Thus we have seen the Jewish religion gradually developed out of the family worship of Abraham, through the national worship of the law to the personal and filial trust of David, and the spiritual monotheism of Job and the Prophets. Through all these changes there ran the one golden thread of faith in a Supreme Being who was not hidden and apart from the world, but who came to man as to his child.

At first this belief was narrow and like that of a child[380] We read that when Noah went into the ark, "the Lord shut him in"; that when Babel was built, "the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men had built"; that when Noah offered burnt-sacrifices, "the Lord smelled a sweet savor"; that he told Moses to make him a sanctuary, that he might dwell among the Israelites. We have seen, in our chapter on Greece, that Homer makes Jupiter send a pernicious dream to Agamemnon, to deceive him; in other words, makes Jupiter tell a lie to Agamemnon. But how is the account in I Kings xxii. 20-23, any better?[381]

But how all this ignorance was enlightened, and this narrowness enlarged, let the magnificent theism of the Psalms, of Job, and of Isaiah testify. Solomon declares "The heaven of heavens cannot contain him, how much less this house that I have builded." Job and the Psalms and Isaiah describe the omniscience, omnipresence, and inscrutable perfections of the Deity in language to which twenty centuries have been able to add nothing.[382]

Thus Judaism was monotheism, first as a seed, then as a blade, and then as the ear which the sun of Christianity was to ripen into the full corn. The highest truth was present, implicitly, in Judaism, and became explicit in Christianity. The law was the schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. It taught, however imperfectly, a supreme and living God; a Providence ruling all things; a Judge rewarding good and punishing evil; a holy Being, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. It announced a moral law to be obeyed, the substance of which was to love God with all the heart, and one's neighbor as one's self.

Wherever the Apostles of Christ went they found that Judaism had prepared the way. Usually, in every place, they first preached to the Jews, and made converts of them. For Judaism, though so narrow and so alien to the Greek and Latin thought, had nevertheless pervaded all parts of the Roman Empire. Despised and satirized by philosophers and poets, it had yet won its way by its strength of conviction. It offered to men, not a philosophy, but a religion; not thought, but life. Too intolerant of differences to convert the world to monotheism, it yet made a preparation for its conversion. This was its power, and thus it went before the face of the Master, to prepare his way.

Chapter XI.

Mohammed and Islam.

Sec. 1. Recent Works on the Life of Mohammed. Sec. 2. The Arabs and Arabia. Sec. 3. Early Life of Mohammed, to the Hegira. Sec. 4. Change in the Character of Mohammed after the Hegira. Sec. 5. Religious Doctrines and Practices among the Mohammedans. Sec. 6. The Criticism of Mr. Palgrave on Mohammedan Theology. Sec. 7. Mohammedanism a Relapse; the worst Form of Monotheism, and a retarding Element in Civilization.


Sec. 1. Recent Works on the Life of Mohammed.

Dr. Samuel Johnson once declared, "There are two objects of curiosity, the Christian world and the Mohammedan world; all the rest may be considered as barbarous." Since Dr. Johnson's time we have learned to be curious about other forms of human thought, and regard the famous line of Terence as expressing more accurately the proper frame of mind for a Christian philosopher. Nevertheless, Mohammedanism still claims a special interest and excites a peculiar curiosity. It is the only religion which has threatened Christianity with a dangerous rivalry. It is the only other religion, whose origin is in the broad daylight of history. Its author is the only one among the great men of the world who has at the same time founded a religion, formed a people, and established an empire. The marvellous spread of this religion is a mystery which never ceases to stimulate the mind to new inquiry. How was it that in the short space of a century the Arab tribes, before always at war among themselves, should have been united into an irresistible power, and have conquered Syria, Persia, the whole of Northern Africa and Spain? And with this religious outbreak, this great revival of monotheism in Asia, there came also as remarkable a renaissance of learning, which made the Arabs the teachers of philosophy and art to Europe during a long period. Arab Spain was a focus of light while Christian Europe lay in mediaeval darkness. And still more interesting and perplexing is the character of Mohammed himself. What was he,—an impostor or a prophet? Did his work advance or retard human progress? What is his position in history? Such are some of the questions on which we shall endeavor to throw light in the present chapter.

Within a few years new materials for this study have been made accessible by the labors of Weil, Caussin de Perceval, Muir, Sprenger, Doellinger, and Arnold. Dr. Gustav Weil published his work[383] in 1843. It was drawn from Arabic manuscripts and the Koran. When Weil began his studies on Mohammed in 1837, he found no book except that of Gagnier, published in 1732, from which he could derive substantial aid. But Gagnier had only collected, without any attempt at criticism, the traditions and statements concerning Mohammed believed by orthodox Moslems. Satisfied that a literary want existed at this point, Dr. Weil devoted himself to such studies as should enable him to supply it; and the result was a work concerning which Milman says that "nothing has escaped" the diligence of its author. But four years after appeared the book of M. Caussin de Perceval,[384] a work of which M. Saint-Hilaire says that it marks a new era in these studies, on account of the abundance and novelty of its details, and the light thrown on the period which in Arabia preceded the coming of Mohammed. Dr. A. Sprenger, an eminent German scholar, early determined to devote himself to the study of Oriental literature in the East. He spent a long time in India, and was for twelve years principal of a Mohammedan school in Delhi, where he established, in 1845, an illustrated penny magazine in the Hindoo language. After returning to Europe with a vast number of Oriental manuscripts, he composed his Life of Mohammed,[385] the result of extensive studies. Among the preparations for this work we will cite only one. Dr. Sprenger edited in Calcutta the first volume of the Icaba, which contains the names and biographies of eight thousand persons who were personally acquainted with Mohammed.[386] But, as if to embarrass us with riches, comes also Mr. Muir[387] and presents us with another life of the prophet, likewise drawn from original sources, and written with learning and candor. This work, in four volumes, goes over the whole ground of the history of Arabia before the coming of the prophet, and then, from Arabic sources, narrates the life of Mohammed himself, up to the era of the Hegira. The result of these researches is that we know accurately what Mr. Hallam in his time despaired of knowing,—all the main points of the history of Mohammed. There is no legend, no myth, to trouble us. M. Saint-Hilaire says that the French are far less acquainted with Charlemagne than the Moslems are with their prophet, who came two centuries earlier.

A Mohammedan writer, Syed Ahmed Khan Bahador, has lately published, in English, a series of Essays on the life of Mohammed, Arabia, the Arabs, Mohammedan traditions, and kindred topics, written from the stand-point of a believer in Islam.[388] He is dissatisfied with all the recent works on Mohammed, including those of Dr. Sprenger and Mr. Muir. He believes that the Arabic sources from which these biographies are derived are not the most authentic. The special objections, however, which this able Mohammedan urges against these European biographies by Sprenger and Muir do not affect any of the important points in the history, but only details of small moment. Notwithstanding his criticisms, therefore, we may safely assume that we are in a condition to understand the actual life and character of Mohammed. All that the Syed says concerning the duty of an impartial and friendly judgment of Islam and its author is, of course, true. We shall endeavor in our treatment of Mohammed to follow this exhortation.

Something, however, is always gained by hearing what the believers in a system have to say in its behalf, and these essays of the Mohammedan scholar may help us in this way. One of the most curious parts of the volume is that in which he treats of the prophecies concerning Mohammed in the Old and New Testament. Most of our readers will be surprised at learning that any such prophecies exist; and yet some of them are quite as striking as many of those commonly adduced by writers on prophecy as referring to Jesus Christ. For example (Deut. xviii. 15, 18), when Moses predicts that the Lord will raise up a prophet for the Jews, from among their brethren; by emphasizing this latter clause, and arguing that the Jews had no brethren except the Ishmaelites, from whom Mohammed was born, an argument is derived that the latter was referred to. This is strengthened by the declaration of Moses, that this prophet should be "like unto me," since Deuteronomy xxxiv. 10 declares that "there arose no prophet in Israel like unto Moses."

Habakkuk iii. 3 says: "The Holy One came from Mount Paran." But Mount Paran, argues our friend, is the mountain of Mecca.

The Hebrew word translated "desire" in Haggai ii. 7, "The desire of all nations shall come," is said by Bahador to be the same word as the name Mohammed. He is therefore predicted by his name in this passage.

When Isaiah says (xxi. 7), according to the Septuagint translation, that he "saw two riders, one on an ass and one on a camel," Bahador argues that the rider on the ass is Jesus, who so entered Jerusalem, and that the rider on the camel is Mohammed.

When John the Baptist was asked if he were the Christ, or Elijah, or "that prophet," Mohammedans say that "that prophet," so anticipated, was their own.

Sec. 2. The Arabs and Arabia.

The Arabs are a Semitic people, belonging to the same great ethnologic family with the Babylonians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Ethiopians, and Carthaginians. It is a race which has given to civilized man his literature and his religion; for the alphabet came from the Phoenicians, and the Bible from the Jews. In Hannibal, it produced perhaps the greatest military genius the world has seen; and the Tyrian merchants, circumnavigating Africa, discovering Great Britain, and trading with India, ten centuries before Christ, had no equals on the ocean until the time of the Portuguese discoveries, twenty-five centuries after. The Arabs alone, of the seven Semitic families, remained undistinguished and unknown till the days of Mohammed. Their claim of being descended from Abraham is confirmed by the unerring evidence of language. The Arabic roots are, nine tenths of them, identical with the Hebrew; and a similarity of grammatical forms shows a plain glossological relation. But while the Jews have a history from the days of Abraham, the Arabs had none till Mohammed. During twenty centuries these nomads wandered to and fro, engaged in mutual wars, verifying the prediction (Gen. xvi. 12) concerning Ishmael: "He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him." Wherever such wandering races exist, whether in Arabia, Turkistan, or Equatorial Africa, "darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people." The earth has no geography, and the people no history. During all this long period, from the time of Abraham to that of Mohammed, the Arabs were not a nation, but only a multitude of tribes, either stationary or wandering. But of these two the nomad or Bedouin is the true type of the race as it exists in Northern Arabia. The Arab of the South is in many respects different,—in language, in manners, and in character,—confirming the old opinion of a double origin. But the Northern Arab in his tent has remained unchanged since the days of the Bible. Proud of his pure blood, of his freedom, of his tribe, and of his ancient customs, he desires no change. He is, in Asia, what the North American Indian is upon the western continent. As the Indian's, his chief virtues are courage in war, cunning, wild justice, hospitality, and fortitude. He is, however, of a better race,—more reflective, more religious, and with a thirst for knowledge. The pure air and the simple food of the Arabian plains keep him in perfect health; and the necessity of constant watchfulness against his foes, from whom he has no defence of rock, forest, or fortification, quickens his perceptive faculties. But the Arab has also a sense of spiritual things, which appears to have a root in his organization. The Arabs say: "The children of Shem are prophets, the children of Japhet are kings, and the children of Ham are slaves." Having no temples, no priesthood, no religious forms, their religion is less formal and more instinctive, like that of children. The Koran says: "Every child is born into the religion of nature; its parents make it a Jew, a Christian, or a Magian." But when Mohammed came, the religion of the Arabs was a jumble of monotheism and polytheism,—Judaism, Christianity, idolatry, and fetichism. At one time there had been a powerful and intolerant Jewish kingdom in one region. In Yemen, at another period, the king of Abyssinia had established Christianity. But neither Judaism nor Christianity had ever been able to conquer the peninsula; and at the end of the sixth century idolatry was the most prevailing form of worship.

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