Grace Aguilar.

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mandments needs more than the mere adherence
to truth! Truth will not bear upon them. It
must be the constant realization of His presence
within us, the constant thought of Him who
gave these laws and commanded their obedience
for ever, the constant watchfulness over, and
examination of the human heart. And therefore
was it that Moses said " and these words which
I command thee this day shall be in thy heart,"
and that Ezra selected that portion of his books
which would remind us of ALL the laws of God
in a few brief but emphatic words ; that in the
morning we should be reminded of our duties ;
in the evening their repetition should lead us to


look within our hearts, and examine impartially
the tale they tell. By doing this the sacred laws
become more indelibly fixed within us, and by
looking on them as guides and rules, not for
social communities alone but for individuals, the
remembrance of Him who gave them, will more
often occupy the mind and heart, and the union
of religion and morality be at length attained.
Love will incite to and welcome obedience as
the desired proof of its depth and truth.




THE seventh verse of the sixth chapter of
Deuteronomy, and the fourth of the yjj>0, con-
tains so much important matter in a few words
that each member of the sentence demands to be
considered separately. In the preceding verses
we have been desired to reflect on and lay up the
words of the Lord in our own hearts, in this to
teach them to our children. " And thou shalt
teach them diligently unto thy children," i. e. the
love of God and all that is therein comprised.

To instruct young children in the dull routine
of daily lessons, to force the wandering mind to
attention, the unwilling spirit to subjection, to
bear with natural disinclination to irksome tasks,
all this, as a modern writer very justly observes,
is far more attractive in theory than in practice.
It is a drudgery for which even some mothers
themselves have not sufficient patience ; but



very different is the instruction commanded in
the verse we are regarding. To speak of God,
to teach the child His will, to instil His love into
the infant heart, should never be looked on as a
daily task, nor associated with all the dreaded
paraphernalia of books and lessons. The Bible
alone should be the guide to, and assistance in,
this precious employment. There are moments
when children are peculiarly alive to emotions
of devotion. The Hebrew mother who desires
her offspring to say their prayers morning and
evening, to abstain from writing, working, or
cutting on the Sabbath, to adhere to particular
forms and observe particular days, as she does,
has yet not wholly fulfilled her solemn duty.
This will not be enough to make the Hebrew
child love his God or his religion ; not enough
to restrain him in manhood from becoming a
Christian* if it favour his interest or ambition so
to do.

Far more depends on Hebrew parents than on
Christian ; the latter have their places of public

* Or restrain him from neglecting, from motives of unbelief, the
dictates of his religion. This alternative is more to be dreaded
than the one in the text ; at all events if we take America and
France as a criterion. In fact, we may say without fear of contra-
diction, that conversions are rare indeed where the Jews possess
liberty of conscience. I. L.


worship wherever they may dwell, their minis-
ters whose whole lives are devoted to the service
of their God, to the moral and religious welfare
of their fellow-creatures. In their earliest years
Christian children attend once a-week the house
of God. They join in prayers which, if not
wholly understood, are yet sufficient to impress
some feelings different to the impressions of the
six days of labour. They hear the Bible ex-
plained, they see it regarded as indeed the book
of life ; and though they may not understand
why ? some portions attract their ear which, in
after years, are recalled with peculiar pleasure.
The intervening days may weaken the impres-
sion, perhaps it is entirely forgotten ; but their
next Sabbath they go again, and the feeling is
renewed and rendered stronger. They see a
large concourse around them engaged in the
same solemn service, praying in a language fa-
miliar to them, and this would be of itself enough
to chain a child's attention. They feel it as a
privilege thus to seek their God ; and this feel-
ing follows the child to youth, to manhood, and
almost involuntarily religion is imbibed. Even
those deprived of religious parents have yet ad-
vantages peculiar to themselves, in the fact that
the faith they profess is the faith of their coun-
try and of all around them.

The Hebrew child has not these advantages.


Debarred from the public exercise* of devo-
tion on his Sabbath day ; never hearing public

* My friend draws, indeed, a melancholy picture of religious
debasement, and if this is universally the case in England, the men
and women of Israel inhabiting that land ought to arrest almost
every charity sooner than let such an ignominious state exist any
longer for want of pecuniary means to obtain labourers in the field
of regeneration. What 1 no religious instruction ] no books 1 no
expounding of the Text 7 no spiritual guides 1 no men of whom
people could inquire the way of life 1 All the defects Miss A.
enumerates can be legally remedied, and we have yet to learn that
there are not means and men at hand to effect this. The only
thing my friend complains of, which admits of no alteration, is the
public worship in the Hebrew language. (Miss Aguilar agrees
mainly with the view here expressed, in the sequel, which see.)
But why should that language of ancient Israel not be also the
language of modern Jews 7 why not establish schools in every
town and village where the children may learn to read the Bible,
not from a translation made by Christian prelates, and authorized
to be read in churches by a Christian king, and which is no doubt
erroneous in many passages on which our opponents rely for the
establishment of their doctrines, but in the original language in
which it was first announced ; so that they may be able to form a
correct, unbiassed judgment of the word of their God. If this course
were adopted to any extent, the child of eight years old would
know understandingly the major part of his prayers, and before he
arrives at the age when he could pray with devotion, all the words
of his lips in his address to the Lord of life, would flow from an un-
derstanding heart and a willing spirit. It is ignorance alone that
disfigures our worship; and, in the name of Heaven, let it be re-
moved ; at all events let the effort not be wanting to remove it.
As regards a public expounding of Scripture, it is no new thing
among us ; for in olden times the law was publicly taught, even
from the days of Moses downward. (See DeuL xxxi. 12, 13.) It is
no argument to say that sermons are a custom of gentiles ; for if these
have adopted our modes, it would be folly in the extreme to banish
them from among us. A jealousy of innovations is highly proper,


prayers in a language he can understand ;
having no public minister on whom he can call
for that instruction he may not have received at

for we too " might fear the Greeks (gentiles) even if they bear
presents" (Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes) ; but we must take
care that this jealousy is not carried too far. In America, how-
ever, children of all ages, say from three years and upwards, of
both sexes, are attendants in Synagogue ; occasionally, at least, the
law is expounded ; efforts have been made to publish books solely
for the education of the young, and there are also persons in every
town almost, of whom questions can be asked with regard to the
deeds we should do. Moreover, for the last three or four years
schools have been commenced in different towns where religious
instruction is dispensed gratis to all who may come on the first day
of the week ; and efforts are now making to extend the system by
forming day schools, where every Israelitish child may obtain a
general education, coupled with a knowledge of his religion. Let
us hope that this effort may not be fruitless, and that the results
may not disappoint the projectors. But to our friends in England
let us address the admonition not to be indifferent to the blessed
results of education witnessed in Germany and elsewhere ; they
are charitable to profusion ; strangers from all parts of the world
claim, not unheeded, their assistance ; the cry of anguish is not
heard unmoved by the princely merchants of Israel domiciled in
Britain ; and can they be blind to their own defects ? can they re-
fuse to aid themselves, their children, their friends, out of the pit
of religious ignorance which is said to exist among them? All that
is required is an effort, undertaken not in the spirit of fault finding
and hasty reform, but in an humble striving to magnify the Lord.
I will not mention any one by name ; but there are those whom
God has greatly blessed ; fugitives, some from the bondage of the
Czar, former residents of oppressed Germany, and others again in
whose veins flows the blood of many a martyr from the persecution
of the inquisition. Surely they all feel their duty ; let them feel
it more deeply and not rest till they have restored the law among
their brethren, and glorified the Lord by their faith and deeds. I. L.



home ; never hearing the law expounded, or
the Bible in any way explained : to his mother
alone the Hebrew child must look, on his mother
alone depend for the spirit of religion, the incul-
cation of that faith which must follow him
through life.

Few in number, scattered amongst the nations
without a land to claim as our own, a king to che-
rish and protect us, we are daily thrown amongst
those believing in and following another creed.
" And ye shall be left few in number, whereas
ye were even as the stars in heaven for multi-
tude, because ihou wouldst not obey the voice of
the Lord your God ; and the Lord shall scatter
you among all people from one end of the world
even unto another." (Deuteronomy xxviii. 62,
64.) Such was the awful doom pronounced by the
great prophet whose words we are considering.
We knew the word of the Lord was never known
to fail, and yet we disobeyed. Our own wicked-
ness called down on ourselves the vengeance so
long, through an infinity of love, deferred ; and
therefore these facts cannot be brought forward
to excuse negligence in the instruction of our
children. Our Father knows every difficulty
and every circumstance that combine to render
the Hebrew mother's task more arduous, more
responsible than the Christian. He expects not
more than weak humanity can perform ; but He


will not accept the plea of disadvantages, of dif-
ficulties, as acquitting us of a parent's duty.

Were love and gratitude to Him banished
from every other human heart, surely they would
swell in a young mother's breast, as she gazes
upon the little creature undeniably His gift, and
feels the full gushing tide of rapture ever atten-
dant on maternal love. Surely in such a mo-
ment there must be whisperings of devotion,
leading the soul in gratitude to the beneficent
Giver of her babe, or swelling it with prayer to
guide that precious charge aright. It may be
that doubts of her own capability of executing
a task, as solemnly important as inexpressibly
sweet, may naturally arise ; but these doubts,
instead of leading her to give up the task in de-
spair, should lead her to the footstool of her God
in prayer ; and her petition, even as that of Han-
nah was, will be granted.

That truly pious Jewess not only devoted her
child to God, but so devoted him, that but once
in the year she could behold him ; and at first
he was her only child the little being for whom
morning and evening she had implored the Lord,
implored Him in tears, in fasting, in bitterness
of soul. Her prayer was heard ; and how fer-
vent must have been her gratitude, how great
the love she bore her God, how implicit her re-
liance on His love for her, that she stilled the


yearnings of a mother's tenderness, and as soon
as the boy was weaned, brought him up to the
high priest and left him there. And was not
her pious faithfulness rewarded ? Three other
sons and two daughters did she bear, and her
eldest, the joy, the hope of her heart, became
the favoured prophet of the Lord.

To part thus from her child is not now de-
manded of the Hebrew mother ; nor can there
now be such a blessed consummation of such a
self-conquering struggle. Yet the example of
Hannah should be treasured up by all the daugh-
ters of her race, whom the same beneficent God
has blessed with children. It must be remem-
bered that in the present state of Israel the
word of God cannot and must not be taken lite-
rally as it regards the immediate answers to
prayers, or punishment of sin. The lapse of
years, the difference of position, must not be
forgotten. All the pious actions there described,
cannot now be performed, nor dare we expect
the same direct manifestation of our Father in
reward : yet this is no cause of, nor excuse for,
the neglect of the Bible. Vouchsafed in love
and mercy as an unfailing guide, it at least
teaches what is pleasing in the sight of our God,
by the blessings that directly follow or are pro-
mised. We learn too that " The Lord is mer-
ciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous


in mercy ;" that, " As the heaven is high above
the earth, so great is His mercy towards them
that fear Him ;" and therefore if the examples
set before us in His book are followed according
to our ability, aided, and strengthened, by con-
stant prayer : it is certain we too shall be
blessed, if not in this world, in that " where they
shall teach no more every man his neighbour,
and every man his brother, saying, Know the
Lord, for they shall all know me from the least
of them to the greatest of them, saith the Lord ;
for I will forgive their iniquities and I will re-
member their sins no more." (Jer. xxxi. 34.)

We cannot devote our sons to the service of
the Lord as Hannah, nor even if we could,
would we all be required to do so ; but we may
teach them to know and to fear Him, and to
guide their every action by their love for Him.
We may teach them, by their conduct to display
His glory, the honour of Jerusalem, the comfort
of the Hebrew faith. Even scattered as we are
amongst the stranger, we can do this ; and this
is devoting them unto their God. The same
reward may not be ours, as was bestowed on
Hannah ; yet we shall be blessed. The Lord
will forsake us not ; and as we behold our chil-
dren grow around us in true piety, and conse-
quently in the exercise of every virtue : will not


every Hebrew mother feel that the word of the
Lord is true and she is blessed indeed ?

To do this, to obtain this desirable end, reli-
gion must not be learnt from a book, nor be re-
garded as a severe restraint. A mother, whose
heart is in her work will find many opportunities,
which properly improved, will lead her little
charge to God. Our prayers are long, and not
applicable to childish wants and feelings ; but a
mother may find a sweet employment, in throw-
ing together some well selected passages, either
from our ritual or the Book of Life, to form short
but impressive prayers for both morning and
evening. A mother's lips should teach them to
her child, and not leave the first impressions of
religion to be received from a Christian nurse.
Were the associations of a mother connected
with the act of praying, associations of such long
continuance that the child knew not when they
were implanted: the piety of maturer years
would not be so likely to waver.

There is a peculiar sweetness in the remem-
brance of a mother. When a young man has
raised himself by his own virtues and talents in
the world, when he feels himself esteemed and
beloved by his fellow-men : he will still think of
his mother, if it have been from her lips, the
first lessons of virtue were imbibed ; and if reli-


gion were as zealously and carefully implanted,
would not her memory have equal influence in
guarding him from temptation, strengthening
him to walk on in the paths she loved ? It may
be that continued occupation, perhaps arduous
labour, or severe thought and study have with-
drawn his attention awhile from his God ; or
that the paths of pleasure, encircling him with
their delusive rays, conceal from his eyes the
light of eternity. Some sudden association re-
calls his mother to his mind ; the days of his
early infancy, his happy boyhood, rise before
him, and with it the remembrance of duties he
has neglected, the hours of prayers that have
passed by unheeded. He hears again the sweet
and gentle voice which first spoke to him of God ;
he sees again those happy hours when, seated
at her feet, he rested his little hands upon her
lap, and repeated with her the words of prayer,
or listened with tearful eyes, and swelling heart,
to the tales of sacred love, her gentle accents
told. Few hearts could remain cold and un-
moved in the midst of such recollections ; he is
more likely to prostrate himself before the God
that mother worshipped, and pray again even as
in childhood. And will the Hebrew mother ne-
glect this solemn yet blessed duty ? Will she
refrain from thus associating herself in the heart
of her child, when, far more than the Nazarene,


the sons of Israel require it ? Will she not teach
the religion of the heart unto her children, in-
stead of merely inculcating peculiar forms, and
desiring them to observe peculiar rites ? Will
she not teach them to fly to the footstool of
their God for guidance, instruction, strength,
and grace, to resist temptation blessing on all
they undertake comfort in affliction modera-
tion in prosperity : will she not teach them
this, instead of so banishing religion from the
early education that her sons in manhood stand
and act as if all depended on themselves, on
good and evil fortune acknowledging indeed
a God, yet living as if of Him they had no need ?
her daughters, either wholly occupied with the
affairs of this world, living as if there were no
eternity, and consequently trembling at the very
name of death ? or needing comfort, strength,
hope, and finding them not in the religion of
their fathers : are tempted to seek it, where they
fancy, no spiritless form restrains the soul, and
consolation is more easily attained ?

It is not merely hearing of God in the stated
hours of devotion, which will remedy this evil.
When a child is more than usually happy, ren-
dered so perhaps by some indulgence or reward :
the kindness of earthly friends should be made a
secondary cause, the blessing and love of his
Father in heaven, the fast. The mind of a child


when thus excited would not easily forget the
impressions then engrafted ; his very affections,
judiciously directed, would draw him nearer God,
for it is His love which hath given him the
friends, it gives him so much joy to love. Joy-
ous emotions are natural to childhood, and then
is the time to instill both gratitude and love.
In times of disappointment or in sorrow why
should not the little heart be soothed and ca-
ressed into submission by associating even this
trial with a God of love ? Petty as the sorrows
of childhood may seem to those of riper years :
yet we do wrong to smile them to scorn, they
are as severe to the little sufferer as the graver
sorrows are to maturer years. If discontent
darken the brow or create ill temper : instead
of an angry reproof, the attention of the child
might be gently drawn to the multitude of poor
helpless children, who know not the very name
of many blessings lavished around him ; and he
might be asked how he can pray to his Father
in heaven for a continuance of His love and
kindness, when he thus indulges in fretfulness
and discontent ? If superior talent, superior
beauty, be the portion of a child : the young
heart may be taught they are the gifts of his
God, and demand yet more thanksgiving, humi-
lity, and prayer to Him, than is required of those
less gifted ; for if more hath been mercifully



granted him, more will be required ; and that
pride and self-conceit, will turn those rich gifts
into a curse instead of blessing,

Were such the education of early childhood,
increase of piety might be hoped and looked for
in manhood. But these lessons must come from
a mother, and can only be impressed in the ear-
liest years ; it will be too late to wait till the
character is formed. On a mother depends
greatly the formation of character ; and there-
fore she would be wrong to fancy she has time
enough before her. Religion should grow with
our growth, increase with our years, and thus
become so completely part of our being, that
the child would find it difficult to recall when
he first heard of God, when he first was taught
that the love of God must be the mainspring of
his life. If in childhood his joys and sorrows
have been made sources of communion between
him and his heavenly Father : instinctively he
will in manhood bless his God in prosperity, and
fly to Him for comfort in affliction. If in child-
hood he has been taught to pray for aid, in the
tasks and temptations of the day, so too in the
weightier affairs of manhood will he seek the
guidance of the Lord. If he have been corrected
when a child, because he had offended his hea-
venly, yet more than his earthly Father, and led
to pray for grace in the removal of his faults :


in after years he will guard against error and
sin, not for fear of the judgment of the world,
but of that of a higher Judge. He will walk
on feeling his own lowliness, his own depend-
ance on his God ; yet in the sight of his fellows,
virtue and honour will encircle him with their
robes of light ; for inward, yet ever-working
piety, will be the shield, against which the ar-
rows of guilt and temptation will be blunted
the mainspring from which his every action will
revolve with heightened and unfailing lustre.

To the mothers of every faith and every class
these hints may be equally applicable ; but to
Jewish mothers more particularly. We have
but to study the Book of Life, and every history
of our nation : and we shall not fail to perceive
that the religion Moses taught was intended to
unite the thought of God with our every action.
If a Christian writer finds sufficient foundation
for the assertion that " there can be no half
measures in devotion, religion must be all or
nothing :" how much more powerfully should we
feel it, we who are a peculiar people, the first-
born of the Lord, thus called by the Eternal
Himself, and therefore absolutely set apart, to
exalt by our conduct His glory amidst the na-
tions. It is urged perhaps, our situation is not
now what it was, that it does not depend on us
alone, " to magnify the Lord," that we are but


as a handful amidst the nations that now wor-
ship Him ; yet this fact in no way decreases our
responsibility. It is rather increased ; for it was
easy to divide the worship of the one true God
from idolatry, many civil as well as religious
customs did this ; but now mingling intimately
with the nations that worship God, though not
as we do, living under the same civil jurisdic-
tion, acknowledging the same sovereign: unless
the adherance to the laws of Moses be even
more exact, it is more than likely our nation-
ality would be entirely lost, as well as all pride,
all glory in the Hebrew faith.

To prevent this great evil should be the He-
brew mother's aim. The youngest child may
be taught that he is a member of a distinct and
peculiar nation. The great mercies and un-
changing love of the Lord will, if well related,
find very early an answering chord in the youth-
ful heart. The wonderful providence, the stu-
pendous miracles, the innumerable instances of
our Father's long suffering and loving kindness,
which our eventful history records, might be
related as interesting tales in those many leisure

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Online LibraryGrace AguilarSpirit of Judaism; → online text (page 10 of 16)