Grace Aguilar.

Spirit of Judaism; online

. (page 6 of 16)
Online LibraryGrace AguilarSpirit of Judaism; → online text (page 6 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

rights of our fellow-men; but to be a deep seated conviction of our
entire dependance on the Lord for all that we are and all that we
have, which emotion will then enable us to be at all times ready
to sacrifice every thing to our Maker's will, nay, even to surrender
our life rather than renounce his service ; as our wise men say on
the very passage of Scripture under consideration : " What is
meant by ' will all thy soul V even if He takes thy soul." And so
did the great Akiba, who, whilst expiring under the slow and al-
most unheard of tortures of the persecutor, dwelt with holy enthu-
siasm on the acknowledgment of the Unity of God, till his pure
spirit took its flight. In short, enthusiastic feelings of devotion,
if they proceed from humility, are holy feelings ; but certainly
care should be taken that they never take the shape of an inflamed
zeal, which is the parent of the hatred of others differing from us
in opinion, of uncharitable censoriousness and self-elevation. On
the other hand, an indifference or carelessness in prayer is unfor-
tunately much more frequent than the opposite extreme ; cares
and avocations of life dwell too strongly in the mind to be laid
aside even in our communing with God ; and were we only to
pray when our soul is altogether free from extraneous thoughts, it
would be but seldom indeed that the offering of prayer could be


moments we are conscious of, and deplore such
wanderings in devotion, if we still cling to Him,
and feel, " Yea, though He hide His face from
me, though He deprive me of all comfort in
prayer, yet still, still will I put my whole trust
in Him, still fold to my heart the blessed truth
that faith in Him is accounted righteousness:"
then indeed may we feel assured, that our im-
perfect petitions are as acceptable, perhaps more
so, as when from some outward or inward cause
our petitions flow readily and lightly from our
lips. But if, on the contrary, the disinclination
to pray is indulged in, and we cease to address,
because we find no comfort, no manifest reply,
because the sacred exercise is never perfectly

sacrificed upon the altar of the heart. It is, therefore, an admirable
institution, that we have set forms of prayer, or petitions for al-
most every thing we need, and fixed times to address these to our
God. For if we take up our prayer book for the sake of worship,
unless it be altogether from mere outward show, which is to be
hoped not to be often the case, we at once render homage to our
Maker ; and if but one idea is uttered in sincerity and dovoutness
of conviction, then is this one idea an acceptable sacrifice to Him
who hears all our cries. And who knows, but that, if even we com-
mence to pray without being properly prepared, we shall as we
proceed become fired with a becoming ardour, and pour forth our
spirit in real sincerity before the Lord ? And are not the words of
the Psalms and of our own prayers eminently calculated to im-
press the mind and to arouse and enchain the attention ! Much
more might be urged ; but the limits of a note forbid more enlarg-
ing, and enough has been said to arouse the thinking Israelite to
reflect yet more deeply on this important subject. I. L.


performed : we voluntarily deprive ourselves of
grace, and sinking deeper and deeper into error,
at length forget there is a God. The perfec-
tion* of prayer has never yet been attained on
earth ; but the soul which restrains the first wild-
ness of enthusiasm, and ceases not in its LOVE
for God to urge and rouse its affections, when
they flag and turn darkly and sorrowing from a
duty which in this life of trial is frequently made
distasteful, that soul is framing for herself a
calm, holy, and blissful temper, which the frowns
of the world cannot shake, nor sorrows from a
Father's hands for any length of time disturb.

To love the Lord with all our soul, we must
not pour on earthly idols the essence of our af-
fections ; and in the devoted love we bear hus-
band or wife, children or parents, or friends,
forget Him, whose gifts they are. God is love,
and from Him the intense delights, the change-
less blessings of earthly affections spring ; yet
our frail nature is but too often apt to forget the
Creator in the creature. The earthly beings
demand and receive the whole. We see them,
hear them, years of intimacy increase the depth

* This assertion appears somewhat too sweeping ; for surely
there must have been perfection in prayer when Abraham prayed
for sinful Sodom ; when Moses asked for pardon upon a rebellious
people, and when he prayed for a shepherd over the Lord's flock ;
when Elijah stood alone on Carmel the sole remaining 1 prophet of
truth, when all around was error. I. L.


of our feelings ; when they are absent there is a
blank alike in our hearts and our hearths ; and
when our Father said, " It is not good for man
to be alone," He knew that this would be so,
ay, intended and blessed it. He meant His
creatures to love one another ; but He meant
not, that He should be forgotten in that love,
that His service should be removed so far, His
holiness be deemed too great for domestic altars.
" I the Lord God am a jealous God," He saith
again and again, and unless our dearest and
purest earthly love is traced to, and enjoyed in
Him, we love Him not as He commandeth, and
our fond affections may prove " the whips to
scourge us." Oh none that has once felt the
blessing of purifying earthly affection by the
love we bear its beneficent Giver, tracing up to
Him the delights it engenders, worshipping
Him, hand in hand with a beloved one leading
his children to His footstool, and teaching them
to feel the same deep love, and trace their young
affections to the same immortal source : none
that has once experienced this, will say that
such willing sacrifice of the heart to God tends
to decrease the force of earthly affection ; he
will acknowledge it is inexpressibly heightened,
purified, exalted, rendered immortal ; for such
love ends not with death. Was it not this love
which Abraham bore to Isaac ? Hannah to



Samuel? enabling the one to offer up his be-
loved in death, the other to part with him that
he might " serve the Lord ?" Nay, was it not
this which bade Ruth cling to Naomi, and in-
cited her to follow, tend, and love, with a purity,
a devotedness, few instances have equalled?
And shall we say such spiritual love is a mere
illusion ? a beautiful fable impossible to be re-
alized ? Alas, it is not easy thus to devote heart
and soul to our God ; frequently will our hearts
rebel and our lips murmur ; often shall we de-
spair, and still more often despond, and feel it
vain to bid the breath of life, the heavenly
essence breathed into us by our merciful Crea-
tor, triumph over the corruption of the earthly
vessel which contains it, and soar in thought
rejoicing to its natural home ; constantly we
shall fall back ; but still oh let us persevere,
and pray, and trust; pray alike for ourselves,
and for each other for till we " love the Lord,"
oh how may we hope for the delivery of Israel,
the restoration of Jerusalem !





THE two preceding chapters having treated
the love we should bear to God at so much
length, it would seem as if little were left for
farther consideration. We shall find, however,
as we proceed, there is still something more in-
tended in this divine command, or Moses would
have framed it differently. As yet we have only
considered the love of God, as it concerns our
own heart, as a duty confined in its operations
to ourselves individually. The word "INQ might,
as it is here used, appears to extend farther, and
teaches us to serve the Lord in a somewhat
wider sphere.

Had Moses used this word "JNQ as an adverb
(very or greatly) as we find it in many parts of
the sacred writings: we might look upon it only
as very greatly increasing the force of the pre-
ceding words, and render it thus, " and thou
shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart


and with all thy soul, to an exceeding great de-
gree,"" "JXD as a particle signifying exceedingly,
intensely. Nor should we lose sight of these sig-
nifications, even while we regard it as the noun
expressing great strength, ability, power, in
which sense it is evident from the pronoun ?J
being attached to it, that Moses used ^"l^P thy
might. We only find it so used twice in the
whole Bible, indeed we may say only once, for
the second time, (2 Kings, xxiii. 25,) it is but a
repetition of the words of Moses, " And like
unto him (King Josiah) was there no king be-
fore him that turned to the Lord with all his
heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might,
according to the law of Moses." There can
therefore be no doubt as to the deep solemnity,
the forcible appeal contained in the brief com-
mand we are considering ; the fact that the He-
brew expression ^"lNp~7p? " with all thy might"
is never once used, but in the imperative man-
date to "love the Lord," is quite sufficient proof
of its holiness to authorize our ragarding it as
distinct from " heart" and "soul ;" and to endea-
vour to explain its meaning as will best assist
our efforts, not only to love but to " serve the

It is in this light I look upon it principally :
we cannot love the Lord without the exceeding
great desire to serve Him to the very best of OUT


ability, to use our utmost influence in His cause,
and make obedience to His will as light, and
dear, and precious to our fellow-creatures, as
we find it ourselves. We cannot truly love Him
if we do not feel this, if universal love and cha-
rity (the terms are synonymous) towards all
around us, be they of our own or of the stranger
creed, do not fill our hearts to the overflowing,
and we long to make manifest to those who
know Him not the blessedness of His restrain-
ing yoke.

There are many who will take fright at these
words, as tending to destroy liberty of conscience,
and seeking to enslave the multitude, and yoke
them to the opinions of the weak-minded vision-
ary, who believes that only to himself is the
enlightening grace of God vouchsafed. A little
patience will convince them they have started
at shadows. That is not religion, that is not
love of God or of man, which confining itself
within its own narrow sanctuary, condemns the
whole human race to perdition, save the few,
the very few, who can be forced to think the
same. Alas ! for the children of Adam, if such
were the awful sentence of our God ! Where
too is His long suffering love, His tender ever
acting mercies, if such were the economy of His
heavenly kingdom, and all were deemed cul-
prits, and sentenced to everlasting misery, save


those who loved and worshipped Him alike f If
such were His judgment, should one of us be
saved? Should even one have a demand upon
His favour ? Where, even amongst those ear-
nestly and sincerely united in essentials, are
there two who think precisely the same on mi-
nutiffi ? And shall we, sinful and finite mortals
as we are, dare to say the aspirations of one
pious heart are more acceptable than those of
another, because they come nearer ourselves?
Was it not from this belief sprung the awful
miseries attendant on the times of persecution,
not only as endured by our own nation, but in-
flicted by Christian upon Christian, as the re-
peated massacres of the Vaudois and of the
Huguenots, on the fatal 24th of August, 1572,
would give only too terrific evidence ? This is
but the mockery of religion but profanation ;
for not thus would our merciful Father, that we
should evince the fervour of our love, the zealous
ardour we should show in His service. Even as
the beams of His sun shed heat, and light, and
joy on all alike, so may we believe His gracious
eye looks down on the truly pious of every creed :
demanding an extent of service according to the
measure of light He has vouchsafed, and ac-
cepting, ay, and answering, the lowly prayers
of all who seek Him in love and truth, in what-
ever faith they may be offered. And while we


shun the errors of belief, which is easily accom-
plished by a clear comprehension of our own,
instead of scorning, as too many do, and believ-
ing every act and appearance of piety counter-
feit, because their actual creed is mistaken, and
yet more, because we feel it not ; we might learn
many a lesson of lowly wisdom and simple piety,
and feel our hearts swell in increased love to our
universal Father and to His creatures.

It is not in compelling others to think as we
do, which is comprised in the duty to use our
utmost influence in the holy cause of God. It
is to make manifest the superior blessings of
religion over mere worldly pleasures, to prove
that those, who earnestly seek to fix their affec-
tions upon their God, are provided with a never
failing, never changing source of joy, in which
" a stranger intermeddleth not," that they need
fear neither the pangs of absence, nor the hour
of death ; for their God is with them, wherever
a harsh duty may lead ; He is ever present, ever
near them, and death is but a dark passage
which will end in eternal light, and lead them
to His throne. To use our influence in His ser-
vice, is to make manifest these things ; to prove
that be our lot trial or joy, these thoughts are
ever shedding their mild radiance on our hearts,
strengthening them in trial, tempering them in


joy, and guiding and inciting the simplest action
of domestic life.

In some respects the power of proving the
beauty and comfort of a religious life is to the
Hebrew painfully contracted. It is not now as
in those joyous times when " the field, the vine-
yard, and the altar" alone occupied the sons
and daughters of Israel, when their every thought
was connected with their universal Father ; for
it was His law they obeyed. The first fruits of
the vineyard and the field were laid aside, not
as tributes to an earthly king, but as an accepted
offering even to the King of kings. If we were
asked why we were so careful " to leave the
gleanings of the harvest, and the olive, and the
grass, for the poor and the stranger ;" or where-
fore " we rose up before the hoary head, and
honoured the face of the old man ;" or why " so
watchful to prevent unrighteousness in judg-
ment, weight, or measure ;" the Hebrews would
reply, because our Father in heaven so com-
manded ; and thus the simplest action of cour-
tesy was blessed and hallowed by its connexion
with the Lord, its obedience to His will. Such
intimate communion was forfeited by the sins of
our fathers ; nor is it now even as it was in the
dark ages of persecution, when the Hebrew
clung with yet greater firmness, more endearing


fondness, to the faith for which he suffered. The
determination, in secret to adhere unchange-
ably to the Law of Moses, incited many to live
a holier life, and ponder frequently on Him, in
whose service their very lives were risked.
When occupying posts of high trust and favour
in the Spanish court, their lineage unknown,
their race unsuspected, though they could
scarcely keep the forms, the SPIRIT glowed more
warmly within. In those times, when torture
and death were ever hovering round them, was
a son of Israel ever tempted to become a Chris-
tian ? Did we then hear of conversions, of aban-
donment of that belief which we received from
the Eternal ? Nay, was it not then, many turned
from abodes of luxury and ease, deserting the
cherished hoards of years, exposing themselves
to every imaginable misery by becoming wan-
derers on the face of the earth, rather than ac-
cede to the conditions of their persecutors, and
desert their faith ? Was it not then the sons of
Israel in deed and thought obeyed the command
of their Lord, and in very truth loved Him with
all their heart, and soul, and might? Would
we do this now ?

Through the infinite mercy of an infinitely
merciful God, the inexpressible horrors of per-
secution are over: not alone are we granted
toleration, and permitted to dwell in safety, and



undisturbed to continue the practice of our re-
ligion, but by the truly sincere and pious Chris-
tian the consistent Hebrew is ever esteemed,
honoured, even loved ; and how do we repay
our Father in heaven ? Has that faith so be-
loved in adversity become less beautiful, less
glorious, less loveable in prosperity, that we turn
from it to embrace another? "Is the hand of
our Father become shortened that it cannot
save ?" that we live as if we needed His blessing,
His saving mercies no more ? " Is His ear heavy
that it cannot hear," that we cease to call upon
Him, save with careless lips and wandering
hearts? Reposing in security, we hear not or
heed not the imperious call breathing in His
law ; or, engaged in the heartless repetition of
antiquated form, forget the antiquated spirit,
without which it is a void. We neglect to in-
struct our children in the religion of their fathers,
to enforce the necessity and the comfort of con-
stant communion with their God ; it is enough
if they fail not to do as we do ; and is it strange
then that those whose hearts thirst and hunger
after divine love, divine instruction, should at
length fly to that fold where they believe there
are shepherds to guide and to console ? Or that
some ambitious spirits, imagining the spiritless
forms, to which alone their attention has been
directed, are so many chains which confine them


to one spot, one employ, and permit no enlarging
of the mind, no ascendency in worldly honours,
that they, too, should turn from their fathers'
God, and become either forswearers of religion
altogether, or embrace the first creed which
promises distinction or increase of worldly gain ?
If the love and duty they owe their Father in
heaven has never been impressed upon their
infant minds ; if their childish reverence and
adoration have never been excited by the love
He bears to them : is it marvel worldly interest
and earthly ambition should fill their hearts to
the exclusion of those better and holier thoughts
which, as the chosen people, should be pecu-
liarly their own ?

It is this melancholy state of things which
renders the Hebrew's powers of exalting his re-
ligion, in the minds of men, so painfully con-
tracted. Yet his influence should be exercised
not only to exalt his faith in the views of his
more worldly-minded brethren alone, but in the
sight of the whole Christian world. He is pe-
culiarly situated ; comparatively speaking, he
stands alone amidst a vast multitude ; on his
conduct, his constancy, depends whether scorn
or admiration shall be excited towards the reli-
gion which stands forth embodied in himself.
According as his life is actuated by its principles,
BO will it be deemed divine or otherwise ; and at


the present time, when to prove the superiority
of the Christian religion is the avowed or secret
determination of all its earnest members, en-
deavouring thus to obtain converts : has not the
Hebrew a double incentive to make manifest
the spiritual beauty, the unfailing comfort of his
own ? This would be a far weightier proof of
the divinity and sacred nature of our faith than
the most convincing argument with regard to
actual points of doctrine. This would be evin-
cing our love to our universal Father, and our
desire to exalt His glory, much more to the im-
proving of our own hearts, and to the enlarging
of charity towards our fellows, than the endea-
vour, too often made in scorn and hate, to found
the truth of our own belief on the falsity and de-
gradation of the Christian.* Religious argument

* Miss Aguilar has in the above failed to convey her thoughts
as clearly as they might have been. She surely does not mean
that all the Jews do not enforce a holiness of life, and that they
base the truth of their belief upon the falsity of the Christian. I
should regret, greatly regret, if this were the prevailing error
among our English friends. But in America and Germany, where
I am somewhat acquainted, we neither are so careless of spiritual
religion, nor intolerant towards those holding adverse opinions. I
will not say, that sufficient attention is paid to the truths of faith
and charity ; because the scattered state of our people presents ob-
stacles to the accession of a sufficient number of spiritual guides
among us ; but I have still to learn that we are as a mass less
awake to the love and goodness of God than are our gentile neigh-
bours. And as regards toleration in spirit, it needs no argument
from me to prove that gentiles have a greater disrelish, to use no


never fails to breed dissension and abuse. Though
our faith be not shaken, there are the remains
of a raging storm within which it is long ere we
can calm. If we have loved the person with
whom we have argued, the painful emotions are
yet stronger, and the confidence even of affec-
tion is awhile disturbed. If he have been indif-
ferent to us, that indifference is too often turned
to contempt and dislike, and we quit the field,
conscious of having done no good to ourselves or
to our adversary, and we turn with a ruffled and
angry heart from all who dare to differ from us.
And is this the way to serve the Lord, to prove
the beauty of the faith we adore? "Have we
not all one Father? Hath not one God created
us ? Why do we deal treacherously, every man
against his brother, by profaning the covenant
of our fathers?"

To love the Lord, to serve Him, the Hebrew
should prove by his whole life that he is indeed
one of a peculiar people whose faith is " holy

harsher word, toward us than we have to them. We may pardon
the ignorant for their over zealous contempt of Israel ; but the
learned can have no excuse for their wilful disregard of the fact
that our religion is based upon a morality as pure as theirs can
possibly be. Again, I say, that I would deeply deplore if a similar
state prevails among our own people in England ; and it is to be
hoped that Miss Aguilar and others engaged in similar pious
labours may with Heaven's blessing succeed in bringing about an
improved state of feelings and conduct I. L.



unto the Lord." Is he accused of having no
faith, let him prove he has more need of faith,
and feels it yet more deeply than the Nazarene ;
that as he looks upon the present condition of
his brethren, he has faith, or he must disbelieve
the past and doubt the future. Is he told his is
a stern, cold, spiritless religion, that can only
look to a rigid and exacting Judge, in whom
mercy is lost in justice: let him bring forward
his Bible to prove that a God of love was re-
vealed to the Israelites, many centuries before
the birth of him the Christians call their messiah.
Is he referred to the beautiful morality of the
New Testament to prove the divinity of its au-
thor : let him again turn to his Bible to prove
from what fountain that morality originally came.
And this influence can be used without one word
of reference to points of doctrine. Let the He-
brew's every action be guided by the love he
bears his God ; let him adhere to every form as
bringing him closer to his God, by manifesting
the obedience of a loving child, not of a terrified
slave ; let him find so much delight and comfort
in his religion that retirement and poverty are
preferable to riches and distinction, if these are
only to be purchased by its relinquishment ; let
him respect his religion himself, and he will never
fail to find it respected by others. Let the He-
brew attend more closely to these things, make


more evident his love to his God, his reverence
to His ordinances, the comfort he derives from
this communion : and we would hear no more of
attempted conversions, no more of wonderful
converts ;* and this indeed would be seeking to
serve the Lord, to love Him with all our might.

But it is not to the Nazarene world alone we
should make manifest the comfort and the beauty
of our Father's faith. Many who are hesitating
and lukewarm might be led to think more seri-
ously on this all important topic, were the ex-
ample of its professors such as might win the

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryGrace AguilarSpirit of Judaism; → online text (page 6 of 16)