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The Autobiography of Christopher Kirkland, Vol. 3. Linton, E. Lynn (Elizabeth Lynn), 1822–1898.
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page: 104

CHAPTER IV.

I HAD known for some time the ordinary Jews of London Society. I had begun with Mrs. Ben Israel, the little woman who bought her social steps by private gifts, graduated in value according to the condition of the person whom she wished to be seen in her drawing-room, and in whose, in her turn, she herself wished to be seen. This was only according to sound commercial principles. But the two queer things in the transaction were the accurate account which she kept of her gifts under the head of ‘Charities,’ and the way in which she raised the money for them. She borrowed it of young married page: 105 people on the faith of a will to be made in their favour, wherein she promised to leave sundry Cashmere shawls and rare old laces worth thrice the value of the loan; or to put down the name of their child for double the amount in money. I do not know how many of these wills she had not made, unknown to her husband. After her death, they turned up like stereotyped copies of a bad joke; and who got the initial bequest, or if anyone got anything at all, is also unknown to me.

The sum she borrowed was generally three hundred pounds. This lasted her for a year or two and went in the purchase of the presents—or, if we give things their right names and call spades spades—these bribes for social consideration. She showered them right and left. They were chiefly bits of embroidery very beautifully done, such as handkerchiefs, shirt-fronts, waist-coats, blotting-books and the like, which she said she herself worked in the solitude page: 106 of her own room on those off-days when she did not receive. Our then greatest living novelist came in for a fine flowered waistcoat, which she presented to him as her own work and a tribute of admiration. She had paid for it at a shop; and I saw the entry in her book, which one day she showed me. Again, a favourite gift was a bit of her old inherited lace, of which she had a goodly store on the back shelves of the bric-à-brac shops.

As her husband objected to this crazy application of their income, and would not give her an allowance to cover this quite unnecessary margin, she raised the necessary funds in the way I have said. And only when she died did her several victims find out the practical joke that had been played on them, and learn the true value of the legacy which was to have been rich enough to go twice round the original loan.

This lady was monstrously proud of her birth. She, Spanish—her husband Arabian page: 107 —both were of the tribe of Judah, she used to say, stiffening her small person. All the English and German Jews were her inferiors, being of the tribe of Benjamin; and she looked down on them with the traditional contempt of the elder branch for the cadet.

Her drawing-room was filled with the literary and artistic celebrities of the day. She might have been the model for Mrs. Leo Hunter, had the portrait not been taken before her time from that poor lady whose husband, not content with being well, wished to be better and came to ruin as the consequence. Had our small daughter of Judah been a social circumstance before Pickwick put on his gaiters, the cap would have fitted to a nicety; and her luxuriant shining black hair, of which she was not unreasonably proud, would have received its deserved aureole.

She forbade her step-daughters, whom she frankly disliked, to come down to her page: 108 parties. As she would not have allowed them to marry Gentiles, she said, she thought it her duty to keep them out of harm's way. Yet one of these step-daughters was a widow with children; and so far one would have thought able to judge for herself, as well as entitled to the run of the society assembled in her father's house, where also she lived. But my friend did not keep well with her family. Neither her husband nor his daughters, neither the grandchildren nor the governess pleased her; and her details concerning the various thorns which bestrewed her conjugal pillow were embarrassing to hear.

They were pleasant evenings which the little woman made; and she was both a generous and an attentive hostess. Her suppers, where was always cold fish cooked Jewish fashion, were models of good taste and liberality; and there was that evident desire to give pleasure which makes its mark and sets people at page: 109 their ease. Her company was certainly on the whole somewhat of a ‘scratch lot;’ not so odd as Mrs. Hulme's queer menagerie had been, but undoubtedly a little mixed. And people did wild things in her house, as they do in places where the rule is relaxed and they feel themselves delivered from social restraints. But we all felt it was going beyond the broadest line of the loosest social stepper when a certain editor—a man whom nothing daunted, and to whom notoriety was fame and singularity distinction—came late into her rooms, on one of her most brilliant evenings, in a frock coat, a crumpled shirt, a black neck-tie rather awry, and muddy boots.

We did not meet many of her own nation at my friend's house, and only those of good birth, remarkable gifts, or exceptional position. Against the ordinary Jew of large wealth and small beginnings, superb diamonds and defective grammar, she was as exclusive as the most exclusive Christian page: 110 could have been. She would never allow those she liked to be called Jews in her presence; only ‘Israelites,’ or the ‘Nation.’ Those whom she did not like, she herself stigmatized as ‘low Jews.’ Notwithstanding her social infidelity, she was a strict conformist, and, when the Feast of Tabernacles was about, she and her family lived in green-covered huts built up in the back-garden. She would have thought it a sin to have eaten other than ‘cosher’ meat; but between the two she would not have preferred martyrdom to pork nor even shrimps.

This ‘cosher’ meat, by the way, beyond its undoubted merit of superior wholesomeness, still remains as a sign and symbol of true godliness among the Nation. Or perhaps it were better to say as a fact which in itself is godliness. I know of one worldly old fellow who, thinking how he could best make his peace with Jehovah, whom he imagined he had offended because page: 111 his health and strength had decayed, found nothing more pleasing as an act of submission and holiness than the vow never to eat ordinary meat again, but to be strict and faithful to the cosher butcher and the cosher beef. This little instance shows how deep-rooted in human nature is that mental state we call fetishism.

After our kind little hostess, this black-haired daughter of Judah, had gone to her rest, I got to know more members of the great Semitic family; some of whom I dropped because I did not care for them, while others I count still as among my dearest friends, and love with enthusiasm. There are people whose personality over-shadows their nationality. When with them you never ask whether they are Jews or Christians, English or German. You only know that they are clever, brilliant, trustworthy, high-minded, beautiful; that you would trust your fair fame and fortune in his hands—your happiness and self-respect page: 112 in hers; that their society is a lovely charm, their friendship a great gift; and that you have to live beyond your follies if you would be worthy of their virtues. Such as these I have known for some time now; also others who are not up to this height, but are just on a level with the current idea of ordinary Jews; but the quiet, home-staying, Gentile-renouncing Jew was a new experience which came to me at a time when the ferment was again beginning in my mind, and which helped on that ferment to a subsidence very different from what was intended.

In admitting me into their home these religious Jews did me signal honour. Unlike those whose great social aim is to be received by Christians of good standing and old family, these shrink from us still, as Gentiles to whom has been given truly the power of dominion, as was of old time given to the Egyptians, but who are ever outside the courts of Jehovah; while His page: 113 sons, whom He chasteneth, are His own, even while He punishes and afflicts. And His punishments are mercies in disguise—means of holding them to the truth and of confirming them in faithfulness and righteousness.

I have always done my best to put myself on the outside of things, and to judge of my own standpoint as it would appear to others. If this weakens tenacity it strengthens liberality; and the thinking world knows now that the latter is better than the former in all matters of unprovable speculation, inasmuch as it is the result of that wider knowledge of men and things which makes the whole difference between cosmopolitanism and parochialism. But I confess it startled me as much as if I had received a blow in my face when I first talked with one of these religious Jews—a man as learned as he was pious—and heard him say:

‘We are in truth a living miracle— pre- preserved page: 114 served by God as a perpetual protest against your idolatry.’

‘Idolatry!’

I cried out against the word with a strange sense of pain and desecration. I had long ceased to believe in the Divinity of Christ, but I had that kind of tender reverence for the faith of my childhood, that kind of theological patriotism, so to speak, which made me shrink as if touched with hot iron, when an alien, an outsider, laid a rude hand on its mysteries.

‘What is it but idolatry?’ asked my friend quietly. ‘What else can you call the religion of you Christians, which makes a human being of that Incommunicable God—that Supreme Deity—the Great Spirit of the universe, Jehovah our Lord, whom we Jews worship in spirit and in truth? You pray to a man who, you say, was God Incarnate. You worship one who lived and died a man like yourselves, and who is still a man to you now in Heaven—specially page: 115 moved to listen to human prayers because of His own human experiences on earth. But we hold that no one has seen God at any time, and that He to whom we pray is beyond all sense. God has been incarnate in man no more than in the Egyptian bull; and your worship of Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph and Mary, is as pure idolatry—that is, the worship of a created and finite being—as was ever the faith which made Apis a divine Incarnation and Dagon a God in whom were light and life and power.’

I repeat these words because of the new view they may give to others who have not thought out the matter for themselves. It is always useful to see ourselves as others see us, and Christians never realize the anthropomorphism of their religion, nor remember that the universal Saviour was but a man, subject to all the limitations of humanity, and that even now He is but the Divine Man deified. Nor do they ever page: 116 reason out their belief in the Trinity—in those Three Persons and One God; nor ask: Was it always so?—was, as I asked Henry Grahame, that part of the Godhead which afterwards became Christ, always the Divine Man He is now?—or was the essence split and made tripartite when Mary conceived?

To say these things are mysteries is to give no answer at all. Things which come to us through human media, are, I repeat it, to be justly judged of by human reason; and when they are unreasonable they are as justly rejected.

My friend also predicted the persecution against his people which had not then begun, but of which he saw the certainty, as God's way of rebuking the pride, ostentation, laxity and luxury, which had crept in among them. These vices had to be scourged out of them, he said, if they were still to be the Chosen People. He did not speak from political foresight; but only on religious page: 117 grounds and in faith—believing that the Israelites were, and are, in very truth the Chosen People, and that all which happens to them comes directly from God. When the German Juden-Hetze began, followed as it has been by the still more shameful barbarities of Russia and the late disgraceful trial in Hungary, I remembered what my friend had said.

But I was none the more convinced of the Presidential Authority of God in these matters than in some others. Natural causes, arising from racial, ceremonial and religious separation—from anti-national tribalism, so that a man is first an Israelite and then a German or an Englishman—from those classes of business which gather in and do not produce, taking from the hoards of others but not adding to the general store—from a specialized financial faculty, so that they get the better of the slower European intellect—these natural causes are sufficient to account for all that page: 118 has been of late, without calling in the aid of the Divine Hand.

For their earlier persecutions we want only the reasons that (1) The Jews amassed portable wealth by the very same methods as those by which they amass it now, namely, that specialized financial faculty already spoken of, which takes advantage of the duller brains and profits by the more wasteful habits of Christians. (2) They had no country, with ambassadors to represent them and an army to retaliate when they were evilly entreated. They were the orphans of the world. And that brutal, blustering, ferocious world treated them as undefended orphans have ever been treated.

Between their own self-consecration, however, and the repudiation of Christendom, the poor Jews are in a state of very unstable equilibrium. Held by themselves as miraculously preserved to be the unflinching witnesses of the truth and worshippers of the one God—by Christians they are page: 119 looked on as a standing miracle evidencing the wrath of God, who has hardened their hearts so that they shall neither repent nor believe. Thus they shall be always (righteously) punished for the sins of those few who, nearly two thousand years ago, shouted ‘Release unto us Barabbas’—the sins of the fathers being visited on the children, according to the Mosaic word. What would have become of the world if this predestined Atonement had not been consummated never troubles those who believe and do not reason. Nor does it come into the order of Christian logic to prove that, far from persecuting, we ought to honour and reward, those by whom this salvation of the world came about.

If only all these theological fantasies could be abolished on both sides, and the whole question treated on its merits!—if only men would cease to be theosophists and learn to be brothers! Ah, then we should have the true millennium, wherein the spirits of Intolerance, Spiritual Pride and page: 120 Ignorance pranking itself as knowledge, would be effectually and for ever chained!

The first Friday night supper—which is the Judaic Sabbath first meal—to which I was invited by my new friend, also greatly interested me because of the initial ceremony, when the master of the house, in his quality of head of the family and consequently domestic priest, blessed the bread and wine, which then he distributed to those who ‘sat at meat’ about the table. The prayer of blessing was said in Hebrew—all sitting—the men covered, the women as they were. Here was the origin of the Lord's Supper in the Christian Church—the rite which had been practised by the Israelites long before the birth of Christ and for ever after—the homely and familiar ‘blessing of the elements’ which Christians have adopted, and in their adoption have forgotten the source and claimed the sole monopoly of usage.

Who, in reading the account of the last Supper, ever realizes that Jesus was only page: 121 doing that which every master of a house was doing at the same time throughout Judea?—which every Jew has always done, from the time of the Babylonian captivity onward, and still does in every house all over the world where the master is a faithful believer and not a back-slider? Who, among ordinary Christians, does not imagine the whole thing to have been specially ordered and ordained—from the verbal blessing to the esoteric meaning and mystic grace still preserved in the observance? It was a strange bit of enlightenment to me. It had for me the same effect in a minor degree, as I imagine the bodily presence of Christ, just as He lived and thought and talked in those early days of pre-scientific ignorance, would have on the cultured Englishman of the present day. It was bringing the mystic ideal, the symbolic grace, down to the hard and fast lines of realism; and when imagination runs dry at the source, enthusiasm fails at page: 122 the outfall. It took from the celebration of the Lord's Supper all its eucharistic character, and replaced it among the simple everyday human events of which we know the whole genesis, and in which is neither mystery nor sanctity. It was seeing the future King as a new-born naked babe, for whom only a woman's care and a flannel blanket are needed, and before whom the obeisance of sages and philosophers is a farce.

Knowing my new friends ever more intimately, I saw ever more clearly the greater strictness of parental authority and the more dlignified tone of their domestic life, as compared with our own looser code. The sons had none of the familiar slang common to our boys. The father was ‘father’ or ‘sir,’ not ‘the governor,’ nor ‘the pater,’ nor ‘the old man,’ nor ‘the boss.’ The girls, in their turn, were more obedient to the mother, less fast, less emancipated, more domestic and more retiring than ours. The whole tone struck me as—unhappily—archaic, with a page: 123 little dash of Quaker quietism to intensify the disciplinary spirit. I liked it.

In my own person I had become more than tolerant of all failings which are temperamental rather than deliberate and intentional vices. I never reached the cynical indifference of my old friend Mrs. Hulme, who forgave all things base and bad, because human nature was such a corrupt concern from ground-plan to summit, she expected nothing better. Deceit, treachery, moral cowardice, cruelty, lying, dishonour in money-matters, I held in horror as I have always done. But faults of passion, the ebullition of a strong nature, the excesses of large vitality, seemed and seem to me to belong to another category; and the overpowering force of the physical conditions, of which they are the result, takes from them the evil of deliberate and conscious intention. All the same, I reverenced and admired the gentle and self-restraining virtues when I found them— page: 124 those sweet domestic graces which make all the value of home; and I bear willing testimony to the fact that I found these in more abounding perfection in the homes of the religious Jews than elsewhere.

‘A Jewish wife seldom troubles her husband's house,’ said one of my friends to me one day, unconsciously using a pure Orientalism of speech when discussing the comparative fidelity of wives—Jewish and Christian. And:—

‘Unchastity before marriage is a thing almost unknown among Jewish girls of good education,’ said another, discussing the strange phenomenon of those emancipated women who demand equal rights with men, and discard all the duties of women; who desire knowledge without its consequences, pleasure without its penalties, privileges without their obligations, love without the restraints of matrimony or the self-sacrifice of maternity; and who make no distinction between the sexes— page: 125 seeing no difference between that which is allowed by nature to the one and denied by the best arrangements of society to the other.

Most of us know something of the close solidarity of national feeling among the Jews, proved, inter alia, by the magnificence of their charities, their boundless kindness to their own poor, and the care with which the powerful watch over the interests of the humble. The zealous endeavour to secure a liberal secular education, as well as good religious instruction, for all their poor, and to redeem their young waifs and strays from perdition, is a marked feature of Jewish tribal life everywhere. We also know how learned are their learned men—how to the forefront everywhere is the Jew. In art, science, philosophy, literature, finance—of itself a science—we have to acknowledge the value of the bright Semitic intellect. No hewers of wood nor drawers of water are they; no helots nor serfs; but quick, bril- brilliant page: 126 liant, irrepressible, they overcome all hostile circumstances and rise to the top in spite of every effort to destroy them.

And we must always remember that these people dwell among us, and know us.

When we think of all this, we may understand a little better than some blind enthusiasts will or can, the mingled folly and impertinence of our costly ‘Missions to the Jews,’ our ‘Societies for the Conversion of Jews,’ and the like. The Jews live in the midst of Christian communities, and have ample means of judging the working results of Christian doctrines in the morality, the philanthropy, the self-respect and education of all classes. If they saw that the Universal Brotherhood, which Christ taught as the foundation of all faithful human action, gave more satisfactory working results than their own tribal solidarity—well and good. If they saw that we were more sober, more chaste, more humane, more generous than they, more liberal and more page: 127 intellectual, they might then think that we had got hold of a higher law than any they know; and that popes, cardinals, archbishops, and bishops, were indeed better priests and leaders than Moses and the Rabbis. But when they give us hospitals and we confine them in Ghettos—when the compatriots of Spinoza, Heine, Mendelssohn, institute the Juden-Hetze, and Rome, the chief seat of Christendom, persecutes them within our own times—when it is only within the limits of the present generation that they have been admitted to full citizenship here in free England—when you still hear, as I have done, Catholic Monsignori maintain that the Jews do sacrifice Christian children at the Passover, and that the story of Esther Solomossy was true—when they know that we have less devotion to our creed than they have to theirs—that they have a purer physical condition because they lead a purer moral life than we—when they watch us in our daily doings and our national page: 128 politics, and see the discrepancies between our preaching and our practice—our efforts to proselytize fall dead, and are as the ravings of the idle wind to those who hold themselves the chosen of God from the beginning, the inheritors of the immutable Truth, and the specially preserved for future testimony.

Once in about half a dozen years or so, the missionaries get hold of some circumcized scamp who has no religion to lose, and who offers himself for Christian baptism as a means of living like any other. He knows those old ladies with their fluffy brains and comfortable incomes, who are the mainstays of the converting societies; and he does not see why he may not profit by the gold and line his own nest with the fluff. So he does; and well. The same man comes up for different occasions—like one of those veteran stags turned out time after time for a day's run on Buckhurst Hill. It is all grist to his page: 129 worm-eaten mill; and Father Abraham has a broad bosom; and saints at the best are few! But if such converts are considered worth the making, it is evident that no better are to be had.

Nothing of all that I have said of those Jews who believe in their faith as firmly as ever did Solomon or Isaiah—and perhaps more firmly than did either Joshua or Samuel—applies to that loose-lying fringe of indifferentism which is neither Israelite nor Christian, composed as it is of men and women who despise their own race and do not believe the Christian creed. These people have nothing of their national characteristics save in feature and the soft speech which ever bewrayeth them. The women flirt, the men are dissipated, the children are out of hand. Scandal mildews their name and ridicule takes all the starch out of their pretensions. They found their claim to distinction solely on their riches, and think they have scored a point when, page: 130 with forced strawberries at half-a-guinea the basket, they refuse their helping in a house of modest expenditure, on the plea of being really surfeited and sated with strawberries—they have had them every day, to please the children, for weeks past! For people of this kind, Jew or Christian, no one can have respect; but for the other two sorts—the strictly religious and tenaciously national, and the sociably catholic and simply well-bred, whose wealth is never made aggressive and who are generous but not ostentatious—all who know them must feel the most profound respect and affection.

This was, and is, the state of my mind concerning the moral and social condition of the Jew; but my intercourse with them had graver mental results than this tabulation according to condition; and it was the nearer contemplation of their faith which finally modified and reconstructed my own. I will do my best to give these results in the order in which they came—making a rough page: 131 kind of chart of my thoughts, which may or may not have value for others. To myself, of course, it is important.

The unitarianism which a later intellectual development has read into the Old Testament is grand and majestic. But the supremacy of Jehovah over a crowd of other deities, which was the original theology of the Chosen People, was only a form of polytheism like any other. It was loyalty to the national God—theological patriotism, commendable because patriotic; but it was not the monotheism of the present day, nor was it the spiritualized and impersonal religion it is now. The Being who walks in the Garden in the cool of the day—who repents and grieves, and ‘goes down’ to scatter the builders of the Tower—who appears unto Abram in the flesh, and shows Himself standing at the top of a ladder to Jacob in a dream—who comes down upon Mount Sinai—speaks unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend— page: 132 —who covers him with His hand while His glory passeth by, and shows only His back parts, for no man can see His face and live—this Being is not the God Almighty of the present religious idea. And this development of idea gives the Jewish religion, which looks so stable, and as from the beginning even to now, the same tentative and experimental character as belongs to all things, all thoughts, all systems.

Again, what is the base-line of this faith?—Partiality and consequent injustice; Egotism and consequent vanity. The more I reflected on this base-line, the more I was repelled by its egotism. How intensely selfish is that Litany of Thanksgiving, which else sounds so grand in its confession of trust—so noble in its gratitude! Analyze it from the human standpoint and come to its real meaning. God is thanked all the way through in that He has made them, the Jews, better and more blessed than the other sons of man:—Jews and not Gentiles page: 133 —freemen and not slaves—men and not women—with acknowledgment of other special mercies bestowed on them, His Beloved Elder Sons. But those other sons, those younger disinherited, condemned by reason of their unconsenting disinheritance—their arbitrary exclusion from Israel—what of them? What justice to them is there in this favouritism shown to these others? Why should the Jews thank God that He has made them freemen and not slaves, so long as slavery exists for their fellow-men? If freedom be His gift and slavery His scourge, why should those innocent black babies born yesterday on the Gaboon be destined to undergo a curse they have done nothing to deserve? And yet, is not this belief in special care and blessing the core of every religion extant? The Jews exclude from equal heavenly rights the Gentiles; the Mohammedans the Giaours; the Roman Catholics all Christian dissenters from their Church, together with those page: 134 outside the Covenant, in one crowd of the unredeemed because unbaptized; and every petty Protestant sect denies, relative to its own special enlightenment, the pretensions to divine illumination of every other sect. Do not we, of the Church of England, in the plenitude of our self-conferred infallibility, pray for all ‘Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics’? And, indeed, are we not all in turn prayed for by one another in this milder age, after we have burned and been burned in a fiercer?

In truth and fairness, however, I must say that my views, which are entirely my own, gathered from reading and fashioned by reflection, were emphatically denied by my Jewish friend spoken of above, who, after all, by his learning and his position, has the best right to pronounce on his own religion. I will give his own words, which came in answer to a letter of mine, setting forth these ideas.

‘You speak,’ he said, ‘of the Gentiles page: 135 who are ever outside the Courts of Jehovah. This sentiment is utterly un-Jewish, and is absolutely incompatible with the belief of the best class of Jews. Also, “His sons,” as applied to Jewish in antithesis to the Gentiles, is as wrong as the other.

‘With your assertion concerning “the Unitarianism which a later intellectual development has read into the Old Testament,” I cannot agree. No Jew, when Hebrew was a living language, ever supposed that God walked, repented or grieved, or appeared in the flesh, or spoke to Moses as a friend, etc. Language of some kind must be used to intimate that Adam's disobedience was known to God; that sin is not pleasing to Him; that He inspired Moses, etc. But the expressions used in the text are the mere exigencies of an Eastern language, which clothes every act of the most commonplace nature in the most luxuriant imagery. Even in our prosaic English we say, for instance, “the sun page: 136 rises,” because it appears to rise. Shall the coming New Zealander, when he sits in the recess of London Bridge, perusing the disinterred remains of an almanac, be justified in declaring that the English nation of the time of Queen Victoria were ignorant of the elements of astronomy?

‘Your arguments against the “baselines” of our faith are even more unjust. Analyze the prayers, as you say, and what then? Think of the dreadful idolatry of an incarnate God, and shall not the Jew thank God for the faith that is in him? Think of the life of a slave, and shall not the Jew thank God that “stone walls do not a prison make,” and that, happen what may to his body, he is ever intellectually free; think of the pains of maternity, and say, shall not the Jew be thankful that he is not a Jewess? This last sentiment must convince you that when the Jew thanks God for what he is, he has not the non-Jew in mind by way of antithesis. Moreover, your ex- expression page: 137 pression, “His beloved Elder Sons,” or any similar or cognate expression, does not occur in any Jewish Prayer-book. We thank God that we are not idolators, but with no Pharisaic sense of superiority. Nor are there “other disinherited younger sons.” These words entirely misinterpret us. The Jewish religion proclaims—and it is the only one that does proclaim—that “the upright of all nations have their share in the world to come”—no elder and no younger, no primogeniture, and no disinherited; and above all, no eternal punishment. We do not “exclude from equal Heavenly rights the Gentiles.” We were chosen, not for the enjoyment of privileges, but for the performance of duties. I am inexpressibly pained and grieved by your words. Moreover, the parable of Dives and Lazarus does not apply to us. We do care, and care very much, about other people's sufferings. For example, we are about to celebrate the Passover, the anni- anniversary page: 138 versary of our deliverance from Egyptian bondage. The Feast lasts eight days, during which, in Synagogue, every day certain psalms of thanksgiving are recited. But on six days of the Festival only a curtailed form of thanksgiving is used, because our release involved the destruction of thousands of our enemies, and we may not, therefore, rejoice so fully as if no life had been taken; and this custom exists yet, though thirty-three centuries have elapsed. So, on the Feast of Esther, in whose lifetime the Jews were nearly massacred, no thanksgiving psalms are recited, for the reason that the Jewish deliverance involved the taking of life. We are not really open to the reproach your words convey.’

I give this letter in its entirety, though it condemns what I have already said, and in the minds of many will destroy my whole further chain of reasoning. As a man of honour, no other course is open to me; and, more- moreover page: 139 over, I have too great a respect for my friend—for his profound scholarship, his sincerity and faithful piety—not to give him this opportunity for refuting me if he has the truth and I am in error.

My friend's arguments did not convince me of more than certain mistakes in fact, which did not touch my main point. No one's arguments do convince me unless based on undeniable proof. By the law under which I live and suffer I have to work out my difficulties for myself; and no personal admiration for the moral results in an individual can carry me over to the faith from which these results have sprung. I am like one standing in a barren centre whence radiate countless pathways—each professing to lead to the Unseen Home. By the very multiplicity I am bewildered, and for fear of taking the wrong way and take none.

The doctrine of a centralized truth, and page: 140 therefore of God's special favour to those who hold it, revolts me by its assumption of partiality and consequent injustice.

But the foundation of all religions alike lies in this belief—direct Divine illumination and consequent possession of special spiritual grace—else have they no original standpoint at all. The correlative of this special favouritism and enlightenment is darkness, estrangement, and eternal exile for those who are not included. This state of mind is more emphasized in all other religions than it is in our own laxer and more liberal Protestantism. And the reason why is easy to see. Wronged and ill-treated by man, orphaned among the nations as he is, the Jew clings to his belief in this special favour of God, as his solatium in eternity for his misfortunes in time; just as the long-sustained political supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church, and the tangential divergence of Mohammedanism and the other Eastern religions from Western curves page: 141 of thought and knowledge explains the exclusiveness of these last.

Going back to Judaism:—When we, who have been taught from our childhood to hold the Jewish race as still under the sentence of Divine ostracism, are brought face to face with its own inherent belief in Divine favour—favour traversing chastisement—we are startled into strange thoughts of comparison and inquiry. And we ask first: What of others? and then: What of ourselves?

Contrast this self-complacent trust in God's special favour to ourselves, to the exclusion of our less fortunate brothers, with the generous humanity of those who think that their own best happiness is to be found in the happiness of others. Our poor discredited prophets, the Communists, with their altruistic dreams of a universal Utopia, where shall be no lack and no injustice, have at least a nobler working ideal, if so fatally bad a modus page: 142 operandi, than any which speculative theology has yet formulated. For them is no exclusiveness of favour—no heights where the beloved stand joyously in the sunshine—no hollows where the disgraced cry out to the empty night in vain—no Heaven for the lambs—no Hell for the goats—no broad lands and goodly heritage for the first-born, with banishment and dispossession for the rest; but a sweet and fruitful elysium for all alike. Poor dreamers, and yet how human! and how far more generous than the covenanted!

The parable of Dives and Lazarus synthesizes the whole matter. ‘Leaning on Abraham's bosom—safe in the arms of the Saviour—I and my beloved are happy, no matter who else is in torment. I have made my own calling and election sure; and for the rest, it is not my affair whom God in His infinite mercy and justice may think fit to torture for all eternity. The great gulf fixed between us cannot be page: 143 passed, and Dives must call out for water in vain. He had his good things when I had my evil days. The balance is now redressed, and the torment of the one who was formerly the pampered favourite of fortune does not lessen my own beatification.’

Why! little children, for all their greed and inconsiderateness, will beg their parents for restoration to favour of their disgraced playmates, even though good gifts are heaped up for their own share. They cannot enjoy their holiday unless John and Jane are there to enjoy it too; and their sweets have lost their savour if these others are doomed to bread and water. But in the creed of the most pious Christian, the angels and the archangels; the blessed saints who still busy themselves with the welfare of the race of which they were once living members: the Madonna whose function it is to intercede; the Christ who came to save; the Holy Ghost who inspires the human soul to good; and God, as Father and page: 144 Creator who can do all He will—together with the saved who once loved the lost—they can all rejoice in their blessedness and exult in their glory, while sinful souls weep in unavailing sorrow because grace has been bestowed on the one side and withheld on the other.

It is of no use for advanced philosophers to say: ‘All this is elemental. No thinking man believes now in eternal punishment any more than in a personal devil.’

The great mass of people do not think; and where the men and women who have renounced these superstitions may be counted by units, those to whom they are active influences over life and thought are to be reckoned by millions.

Go a step farther, from generals to particulars, from collective creed to individual prayer. Dismiss as untenable, by reason of its injustice, the theory of inherited blessings because of the faith into which you chance to have been born— page: 145 belief in the efficacy and the need, the righteousness of, and the response to, prayer remains. But when I thought of the Jews and their Litany of Thanksgiving—of our own Te Deums for victories gained perhaps in unjust and cruel wars—of all other assumptions of special favour—when I thought of all this as the circumference, and then came back to my own supplications as the centre, I felt a certain shock and conviction of selfishness that was as painful as physical anguish.

If what we call grace is an extraneous gift, bestowed or withheld at pleasure, the bestowal is an act of partiality, the withholding one of injustice. Why should a father need to be entreated before granting that without which his children are less well equipped, morally and spiritually, for the great Armageddon ever going on? That prayer should of itself, by reflex action and by the logical consequences of endeavour, strengthen resolve page: 146 and calm distress—that is intelligible enough. But that it should be necessary before obtaining a father's favour—of that I began to be sceptical. Benevolence gives unsolicited those things which are needed by the unendowed. A parent feeds his children, who yet do not beg him for their daily bread; a man of average humanity provides for the life and well-being of his dog without being fawned upon. But according to our creed, God alone demands abasement before He will save—entreaty before He will endow. Can this be true of All Mercy, All Goodness, All Justice? Is it not rather a survival of the old craven times, when the one strong man was the lord and king before whom the people had no rights save such as he granted for favour?—when royal clemency allowed and plebeian humility besought?—when there was no justice, no law, and only his arbitrary will? We see the same thing still in savage countries like Da- Dahomey page: 147 homey, where a man may be gradually slain by successive mutilations—mutilations which make him a mere ghastly simulacrum of a man, no more human than a New Zealander's idol—yet where to the last this wretched abject being crawls humbly after his kingly destroyer, kissing the ground and eulogizing his mercy, his goodness and his power.

Again, God does not give His grace even to all who pray. In the continuance of ignorance that might be enlightened, and consequent continuance of the tyranny and cruelty which spring from that ignorance—in the sorrow of pain needlessly inflicted—in the degradation of passions which override resolve—in the fruitless torment of desires which, like scorpions, sting themselves within the circle of fire that surrounds them—in the anguish of untimely death and the bitterness of preventible loss, we see the futility of prayer, whether for spiritual grace or material blessing.

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And what a volume of supplication goes up day by day and hour by hour from man to that dread Deity behind the clouds, who Can and Does Not! Surely, were there an Intelligent God cognizant of our affairs, a Personal Providence to be entreated and moved, He must before now have answered so that all men should hear Him! He must before now have made the crooked things straight and the rough places smooth! We pray—we pray—with tears and faith, with ardour and despair, with longing and humbleness of soul;—and who answers? Who? When our dearest lie dead and our passions are still our masters—when the Hand is not stretched forth to save nor the grace bestowed to help—where hides the God who has promised to give to those who ask? And even if I, in my own person, think that I am answered, what about my brother still in spiritual bondage, unenlightened and unredeemed? There ought to be no peace for me while page: 149 one human soul is left without divine guidance. Yet I am but a man; and God is the Father of all!

All these thoughts haunted and overpowered me. The sins and sorrows of humanity seemed to grow larger as I contrasted them with the Power which could redeem and would not. Those sins, those sorrows, claimed the Divine as their author by reason of their very existence. ‘I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I, the Lord, do all these things.’ And the mystery of spiritual darkness seeking light and not finding it, grew till it swallowed up all the rest. I cried aloud for illumination. I prayed with the anguish which no man need blush to feel nor be ashamed to confess, for the Divine Light which should make these dark things clear. No answer came. No voice spoke to my soul, penetrating the thick cloud and showing the living way of truth. None! none! But one night as I prayed, I prayed page: 150 into the visible dark, the felt void; and my words came back like a hot blast into my face as I realized that I petitioned an immutable and impersonal LAW which neither heard nor heeded—which wrought no conscious evil and gave no designed favour.

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