Grace Aguilar.

The Jewish faith : its spiritual consolation, moral guidance, and immortal hope : with a brief notice of the reasons for many of its ordinances and prohibitions : a series of letters answering the inquiries of youth online

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Online LibraryGrace AguilarThe Jewish faith : its spiritual consolation, moral guidance, and immortal hope : with a brief notice of the reasons for many of its ordinances and prohibitions : a series of letters answering the inquiries of youth → online text (page 30 of 33)
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edness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall
live thereby. Yet ye say, The ways of the Lord are not
equal. O house of Israel, I will judge you, every one
after his ways," would ever have been addressed to a
people to whom Immortality had still to be revealed. Their
objections "the ways of God are not equal" meaning
that on earth the ways of the Eternal are so plunged in
darkness, that we cannot discover who are objects of His
favour, and who are not, are not peculiar to the Hebrews,
but are raised in every age, and by the voice of every
people, under whatever religious denomination they may


be classed. God, through His prophet, reproved this
want of faith and unfounded complaint; but unless the
doctrine of Immortality had been revealed and received
long before, His words would have been without mean-
ing and without power, for the whole aspect of this world
would have denied them. You will wonder, perhaps,
why I so constantly refer to the idea of annihilation, as
its impossibility is so self-evident, that it scarcely needs
refutation. I refer to it only to prove that the ancient
Hebrews rejected it equally with ourselves. That the
Law and the prophets unite in bearing witness to the
assertion that to the people of God their immortal heri-
tage was known from the very beginning. That to ma-
terialists, to those who believed physical death the end
of existence, the Law and the prophets would have been
utterly devoid of meaning ; and, to have reached the un-
derstanding so as to guide the people, must not only
have been couched in very different language, but
incited them to righteousness by very different rewards.
Remember, dearest Annie, I do not only want to satisfy you
individually as to the important fact of our Immortality
being preached throughout the Bible, but thoroughly to
convince you, that, as the very essence of our religion,
it was known to, acted upon, and held forth as an incen-
tive to, the children of earth, from the death of Abel
downwards concentrated in the hearts of the righteous
of the descendants of Shem, and, emanating from them,
and for their sakes, on those to whom the Law was




THE thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel is such an
emphatic and thrilling description of the power of God
to restore the corrupt to life, and the resurrection of the
dead, that it needs no comment here, especially, as it is
a subject distinct from Immortality, and seldom, or ever
denied, as an article of the Jewish creed. The eight
concluding chapters of this same sublime prophet, so
powerfully delineate our Holy Land, as it will be after
the resurrection and Israel's restoration, agreeing so
forcibly with the ordinances of the Law, and all the
promises of God, that to suppose the faith of the children
of Israel will ever merge into another, appears actually
impossible to any one, who reads those chapters, even
without any other prophecy.

In Daniel, mysteriously incomprehensible as he gene-
rally is, we find exactly the same reference to our
immortality and resurrection, and in the same imagery,
though, if possible, still more forcibly and clearly (see
chap. xii. 1 3) : "At that time shall Michael stand up,
the great prince which standeth for the children of thy
people : and there shall be a time of trouble, such as
never was, since there was a nation, even to that same
time." This of course alludes to the end of the days,


before the tremendous revolution of earth and heaven,
which the Scriptures tell us is to herald the restoration
of Israel. " And at that time, thy people shall be
IN THE BOOK. And many of them that sleep in the
dust shall awake, some TO EVERLASTING LIFE, and
some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they
that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firma-
ment; and they that turn many to righteousness as the
stars for ever and ever," Dan. xii. 1 .3.

I have already given you my ideas on the perfect
compatibility and connection of the two doctrines of
Immortality and Resurrection, dearest Annie; and these
verses forcibly confirm them. The bodies must indeed
awake; for they have slept in death ; but the souls which
must rejoin them, to fit them for everlasting life, have
never ceased to exist. Observe, too, the same figure is used
by Daniel as Moses, David, and Isaiah, had used before,
and Malachi after him, "The. book of remembrance
written before the Lord for those that feared Him, and
thought often on His name." Do not heed the re-
marks of scornei's, as to the impossibility of the literal
words. In addressing man, that language and those
figures were used, which his senses could most clearly
understand. In a higher state of existence, there will
be higher images found.

The words are so clear in themselves, that they need
no comment. They do not contain a mere allusion,
like many verses in the previous prophets, but direct
intelligence, which cannot possibly be turned into any
other meaning, than the resurrection of the dead and
consequent Immortality of the soul, and the wide


distinction which shall be made between the righteous
and the wicked. " They that be wise,'' we know, from the
verses of Jeremiah which I have so often quoted, signify
the acquirers of that knowledge which God Himself
has pronounced to be superior to every other, the know-
ledge of Himself not the wisdom of either the learning,
the ambition, or the wealth of this world ; and " those
that turn many to righteousness, as the stars, for
ever and ever," ought to urge us on, by example
yet more than precept, to evince the superiority of the
strivings after righteousness over every other thought
and pursuit, ought to rebuke that mock humility, which
would bid us shrink from usefulness and good, on the
vain plea of unworthiness and to incite us by earnest
individual endeavour " to do justly, to love mercy, and
walk humbly with our God :" and, by the effects on
domestic and social happiness thence proceeding, to lead
others in the same safe and peaceful paths. With such
words before us, distinguishing " those that turn many
to righteousness " as destined for a glorious place in
Heaven, who can hold back, and pass through life, with-
out one thought, one hope, one effort for the benefit of
his fellow-creatures !

** Many shall be purified and made white, and tried,
but the wicked will do wickedly, and none [therefore]
of the wicked can understand ; but the wise shall under-
stand." This alludes to the same " end of days" as the
previous verses, and marks very powerfully the distinction
between those who, inclined to evil, yet resist it, and
seek the good, and those who determinedly pursue
wickedness, and so turn from them the grace of God
" that their eyes are blinded and their ears fat," so that
they cannot understand His ways, and are left in His


wrath to their own darkness; but the "wise shall under-
stand," because they have " made the Lord their study
and know in what things are His delight."

Though in the minor prophets, there may be but few
verses which will bear in direct words on our Immor-
tality, yet, it is as impossible to divide the doctrine
from them, as the soul or animating principle from
ourselves. They could not have been written by men
who were not believers in Immortality, nor understood
by a multitude to whom that truth had still to be revealed.
The very moral and spiritual religion which they
preached to vivify the law, and, removing mere formal
observance, to restore it to its intended purity, proved their
perfect acquaintance with a higher state of existence,
and the multitude's acknowledgment of it as the indi-
vidual essence of their religion. What would have been
either the use or benefit of so cultivating the higher and
purer qualities, as by so doing to approach nearer and
nearer the likeness of God, if we were to share the com-
mon fate of all men, wicked as well as righteous, and
die without once knowing the end and aim of their
spiritual aspirations, the idea and love of our Maker
still unsatisfied and unfilled? Why cultivate love, and
reverence, and piety, in preference to earthly power,
and wealth, and fame, if this little earth were our only
destined sphere ? But the question has been asked too
often to need re-iteration. I am only anxious that you
should feel as strongly as I do, that every moral and spiri-
tual precept of the prophets, pre-supposes Immortality
as the ground-work of their faith, and that they are
without such supposition, actually incomprehensible.

" For thus saith the Lord unto the House of Israel,

LETTER XXVI 1 1. 403

Lord, AND YE SHALL LIVE." " Seek Him that maketh
the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of
death UNTO THE MORNING, and maketh the day dark
with night," etc. " Seek good and not evil, THAT YE MAY
LIVE" (Amos v.).

The remarks already made wherein life and death
are thus used, will equally apply to the above verses.
I have only transcribed them as increasing the weight
of evidence. And in the same way the words of
Micah vii. " Who is a God like unto thee that pardoneth
iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant
of his heritage ? He retaineth not his anger for ever,
because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, He
will have compassion upon us. He will subdue our
iniquity, yea, thou wilt cast all their sins in the depths
of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and
the mercy to Abraham, which thou hadst sworn unto
our fathers from the days of old," allude as strongly to
Immortality, and are as incomprehensible if we deny it,
as the promises of the thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah,
already brought forward. By the words, the " remnant
of His heritage," it is unanswerably clear, that it is
Israel in her miserable captivity, whom the prophet
addresses ; but what comfort, what truth, could there be
in these promises, if there were no other state of exist-
ence ? In every land, in every age, we have been, and
are, subject to the most awful persecution and misery,
if not by actual violence, by contempt, and abasement,
and being socially and politically denied our privileges
of men and citizens. We know and acknowledge these
things as the effect of our fathers' sins, in their deter-


mined departure from their law and their God, but un-
less there had been a clear revelation of another world,
where these temporary ills and sufferings cannot enter,
the promise of Micah was utterly false, and must have
been indignantly rejected by the mass, as impossible to
be fulfilled. How could our iniquity be pardoned ?
How could the transgression of the remnant of His
heritage be passed over, if physical death entirely closed
the scene ? How could He be declared not to retain
His anger for ever, but delight in mercy, and have
compassion upon us, if a few brief troubled years of
misery, and but too often a death of horror, were the sole
portion of the wretched Jews? How could the truth
(or promise) be performed unto (the seed of) Jacob, and
the mercy to (the seed of) Abraham, as sworn unto our
fathers in the days of old, if the countless millions who
have perished by persecution, the unborn thousands who
will yet die in their captivity, have no existence beyond
this earth, no individuality in Heaven ? It is useless to
follow the argument farther. If we believe in God and
in His word, the history of the Jews from their disper-
sion to the present time, in every age, and clime, and
people, is evidence trumpet-tongued of revealed and
destined Immortality.

" Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God,
mine Holy One? WE SHALL NOT DIE," Habakkuk
says in the twelfth verse of his first chapter, following it
with an humble enquiry as to why " He who is of purer
eyes than to behold iniquity," should so bear with the
treacherous and wicked, as to permit them to go on their
way rejoicing and triumphing over the righteous; the sub-
ject does not conclude with the chapter, as the division


might lead us to suppose. The second continues it, by
the prophet declaring he will stand on the watch-tower
and look for the reply, but it was not to come distinctly.
God said, " Wiite the vision and make it plain upon the
tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision
is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall
speak and not lie. Though it tarry wait for it, because
it will surely come, it will not tarry." This alludes to
the inspirings of the prophetic spirit within him reprov-
ing the impatience which would see the end at once.
The next verse answers his enquiries directly. " The
soul which is lifted up [to enquire more than God
chooses to reveal], is not upright within him. BUT THE
JUST SHALL LIVE BY HIS FAITH." In these few words we
have one of the sublimest references to our immortal
destiny which the prophets contain. What could be the
use of faith, if we were only created for a life which is,
as it were, revealed to mortal sight ? There is no virtue
so scoffed at, and so little understood, as that which God
Himself declares will win us LIFE ! And it is because it
is of Him, that, it leads to Him, and therefore seemingly
is of no possible use in a mere worldly career, that it is so
scorned. The very fact of its being deemed romance,
and^folly, and superstition, by men whose only aim is to
amass wealth, and live up to all the goods and pleasures
and luxuries of earth, whose minds are so narrowed that
they can see nothing beyond their individual interests;
and so declare they will believe nothing but what can be
proved, nothing but what they can understand ; this very
fact is proof of its spiritual and deathless nature, incom-
patible with the mere animal or earthly part of our
existence. Created as we are with capabilities, feelings,


impulses, aspirations, for ever looking beyond, utterly
distinct from the wants of the animal, there would and
must be constant suffering without faith ; and were there
no other existence, we may be sure a merciful God
would have created us differently. He would never
have endowed us with faculties doomed to die imperfect.
He would never have promised that the just shall LIVE
by his faith, if there were not some other existence
where that faith would be swallowed up in reality, and
our- vain yearnings all be filled. He would never have
given this solemn promise, if there were nought beyond
the present scene; for it would be demanding a most
difficult virtue from His children, which would neither
profit nor save them, and could only excite thoughts and
hopes and feelings never to be fulfilled. And not only
are these blessed words witness unanswerable of a re-
vealed and destined immortality, but contain in them-
selves the most intrinsic evidence of their divinity. None
but the universal Father would have made the sole con-
dition of His children's salvation, a virtue attainable by
all, from the lowest to the highest, the poorest to the
wealthiest, the most deficient in intellect to the wisest,
the youngest child to the greatest sage. None but the
Eternal, to whom all creation and all time is revealed,
would have demanded a virtue utterly distinct from the
things of sense and sight; the use of which could only
be known, to Him and with Him. Had wisdom, power,
and riches, been made the condition of LIFE, how few
could have attained to it ; but faith is in the power of all,
though not all may choose to encourage and use it. And
because it is in the power of all, because it is absolutely
necessary not only for our happiness as individuals, but


for our obedience and loving service, as children and sub-
jects of our God, because without it neither reason, nor
riches, nor might, could enable us to understand, and to
endure calmly the evil and sin, and suffering in ourselves
and around us; because without it, even God himself must
be denied or doubted; therefore, it is made the condition of
our salvation and acceptance, and O how thankful should
we be that so it is. How often are there conditions and
circumstances in life, when we can do nothing but
believe, when we can realise nothing but faith, when
prayer itself seems to have lost its comfort, when the
spirit is so crushed under the burden of the clay that the
very sense of God's love is darkened, when all that
had seemed beautiful and good is changed into deformity
and evil, when our very wisdom and reason seem
leagued against us, and tell us all is vanity and vexation.
Still, still, if we can but believe that all will be clear
again, that our Father has not forsaken us, though the
comfort of resting on Him seems to have departed, if
we can but feel ' k Yea though he slay me, yet will I
trust in him," we are safe safe, though every outward
service is denied us; safe, however man may deem us
wanting ; safe, not only for eternal life, but for returning
temporal joy.

And yet, dearest Annie, there are those who declare
the Jews have no faith ; that faith forms no part of Ju-
daism; ay, even amongst ourselves I have heard this
charge, and every pulse has throbbed with the vain wish
to prove to them their great, their fearful error. Ha-
bakkuk does but reiterate that which the Hebrews had
known from the time " Abraham believed in the Lord,
and his faith was accounted to him as righteousness," and


Moses was rebuked when he struck the rock, "because ye
believed me not." Through all the varied phases of
their history rebellion and doubt and insubordination
which had obtained yet more powerful dominion in
the time of the prophets than before; and even they, holy
and righteous men, were led to demand how it was the
wicked should so triumph, and that He who was of purer
eyes than to behold iniquity, could yet bear with them,
forgetting, in the triumphs around them, the words of
their prophet-king " That when the wicked flourish, it
is that they shall be destroyed for ever." And God,
therefore, in his mercy, declares that the vision, or His
judgment between the righteous and the wicked, " shall
yet speak and not lie"; that though it tarry, man was
calmly to wait for it ; for " the soul which is lifted up to
enquire more than it is right or needful for man in this
world to know, is not upright within him; " but the just,
however tried and sad his life on earth, is secure of LIFE
IN HEAVEN through his FAITH.

And this is all repeated, in different words perhaps,
but exactly the same sense, in the last of the prophets,
Malachi. Though containing only four chapters, it is to
me one of the most important of the prophetic books. As,
however, my present task is only to bring together all
the scriptural evidence of the revelation of Immortality
I cannot enter upon it as it deserves. The 13th, 1 4th
and 15th verses of the third chapter reiterate the people's
complaint, that it is vain to serve God, and what profit
is it to keep His ordinances, and walk mournfully before
Him ; " The proud are happy, they that work wicked-
ness are set up, yea, that tempt God, are delivered.''
And are not these the unspoken, perhaps, but the


constant thoughts of the many in the present day? Ay, com-
ing sometimes even to those whose hearts are right with
God? And what is God's reply ? Words we have quoted
so many times in the course of our correspondence, that
it would seem almost needless to transcribe them here,
were they not needed as the last precious link in the
chain of evidence as to the Hebrew's knowledge of his
immortality which the Bible gives " Then they that
feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord
hearkened and heard it ; and a book of remembrance
was written before Him for them that feared the Lord
and thought upon His name; and they shall be mine,
saith the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels,
and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that
between the righteous and the wicked, between him that
serveth God and him that serveth him not. For be-
hold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven ; and all
the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble,
and the day that corneth shall burn them up, saith the
Lord of Hosts ; and it shall leave them neither root nor
branch ; but unto you that fear my name shall the sun
of righteousness arise, with healing in his wings. And
ye shall go forth and grow as calves in the stall, and ye
shall tread down the wicked ; for they shall be as ashes
under the soles of your feet in the day that I do this,
saith the Lord of Hosts."

With verses like these, is it possible that either Jew or
Christian can need more to prove to them the solemn
truth, that Immortality was revealed to the Hebrews as a
people ages before the Christian era, and that it is ad-
dressed to the Jews ; that the promises are made to no



new creed, but to the followers of the Mosaic Law; and
that to keep faithful to that Law, as far as their cap-
tivity would permit, was the proof of their righteousness
before God, is revealed in the next verse: " REMEM-

STATUTES AND JUDGMENTS." How then can we, dare
we, by indifference and silence, by living as if we had no
thought or hope beyond this earth, give a colouring to
the mistaken idea that all our knowledge of and belief in
Immortality is derived, unconsciously to ourselves, from
our intercourse with Christians; that it forms, and
formed, no part of the Jewish faith ! How can Jew or
Christian read the Old Testament, and yet believe this?
And still more remarkable how is it that no Jew has
ever yet, frequently and variously as this charge has been
made, turned to his Bible, and replied, his immortal
hope is there ? It is not enough to assert we believe
in it; that all our ancient fathers make it the ground-
work of their writings we must prove it ours, from that
one Book which both religions believe divine.

The verses I have transcribed need no comment,
dearest Annie. No effort of the unbeliever can twist
them into any other meaning than that future state,
where ALONE the distinction between the righteous and
the wicked can be discerned. They may cavil and
scepticise on the term "Book of Remembrance"; but
their remarks are of small importance to the believer,
who knows that all such human terms are merely used
by the infinite compassion of the Eternal, to reach the
limited comprehensions of the human beings whom He
addresses ; and that to appeal to them in the imagery of


Heaven, would be as perfectly useless and incompre-
hensible to them, as to speak in the finest poetry to a
new-born babe. The meaning is simply, that not a
thought, or word, or feeling, which aspires to the fear
and love of God, passes unnoticed by Him. That
while the righteous may seem forgotten on earth, and
the wicked to triumph unrebuked while those that
seek to love and serve Him are tried by every kind of
suffering, and those that care not for Him are prosperous
and happy; still, that for the former (the righteous)
every sigh and tear of uncomplaining pain, every word
and action tending to God's glory are registered with
Him, to mark us His when physical death has closed
this outward scene; and for the wicked, they flourish,
to be consumed, root and branch, from before the Lord.
This is the meaning of Malachi's words, agreeing alike,
in imagery and sense, with all the prophets who wrote
before him ; and still more clearly given, to console and
strengthen us in the path of right when the prophet's
spirit had utterly departed from us; and Israel, for con-
tinued iniquity, left to his own devices, and doomed to
drain the cup of fury proffered by all the nations. The
distinction between the righteous and the wicked could
be made even less visibly then, than when God still
spoke to Israel through His prophets; and, therefore,
lest they should despair, His mercy inspired His last
prophet to write such promise as could not be mistaken,
or twisted into any other sense. This is the inexpres-
sible comfort of Malachi, the intrinsic evidence of its
divinity and truth.




WITH the prophecy of Malachi, dearest Annie, we con-
cluded the chain of evidence which the Bible gives us

Online LibraryGrace AguilarThe Jewish faith : its spiritual consolation, moral guidance, and immortal hope : with a brief notice of the reasons for many of its ordinances and prohibitions : a series of letters answering the inquiries of youth → online text (page 30 of 33)