Page images

In 1753, a bill naturalizing them, passed in parliament, but the very next year it was repealed ; such was the public indignation.

In Holland the Jews have had much comparative perplexity. But there, at some periods, they have been excluded from every lucrative and honorable employment, and from the arts and professions. A fine of 1000 florins was laid on him who found the least fault with the government. And no Jew could purchase meat of any but the public butchers, on penalty of being scourged.

In the Ottoman empire they have ever been treated with the utmost contempt

. They pay a tax for the privilege of worsbipping in their own way.

In their ancient city of Jerusalem, they have for 1900 years received nothing but oppression, ignominy and reproach. Sometimes they have for ages been entirely excluded from it, and not suffered to look at it from the distant mountains. And when permitted to reside there, have exbibited the most affecting spectacle of human wretchedness.


The Apostles made great efforts for the conversion of the Jews, and were eminently successful. 3000 were converted on the day of Pentecost. But after the destruction of Jerusalem they were so hardened in opposition to Christ, and such objects of general detestation, that they were for a long period left to total blindness by God

and man.

In the year

428 some faint efforts were made by the bishop of Minorca, to convert the Jews in that island. A similar effort was made in 606 in the isle of Cyprus; but neither were very successful. In 1250, Raymond de Penneforte exerted himself to this effect in Spain. In 1411, pope Benedict XIII. appointed a public conference; Jerome, a converted Jew, reasoned with his brethren out of the scriptures, and 4 or 5,000 were said to be converted. 25,000 Jews renounced their religion in Spain in 1413; but it was merely for safety. They

[blocks in formation]

secretly observed the Jewish rites. In 1690, Esdras Edgardus, a converted Jew at Hamburg, made the most successful efforts, recorded since the days of the Apostles. Gregory XIII. ordered a sermon to be preached every week at Rome, for their conversion, and compelled one third of the Israelites in the city to

be present.

In the year 1800, the Missionary Society in London zealously engaged in the conversion of the Jews, and were afterwards much aided in their designs by Joseph Frey, a converted Jew, who became a preacher of the Gospel of considerable celebrity. And in 1809, a society was formed in London, consisting of fifteen different denominations, until 1815, when it fell into the hands of the establishment, whose special object was the conversion of the Jews. Of this society Mr. Frey was made president, and he preached often to his brethren. Hundreds attended on his preaching, some of whom were converted. Some thousands of pounds have been expended in instructing Hebrew children, and printing and circulating Hebrew Bibles and Tracts. A seminary was founded in 1821, for the education of Jewish youth for the ministry. Thirty have gone forth to preach the Gospel to their brethren in Asia.

In 1819, a society was formed in Edinburgh for the conversion of the Jews; another has been established in Glasgow, and several on the continent.

In 1820 was formed the American Society for meliorating the condition of the Jews. Many auxiliary and several Independent societies have since risen up in various parts of the U.States, through the agency of the Rev. Mr. Frey, the converted Jew.

But the greatest effort made by any individual of modern times, has been made by Joseph Wolf, a converted Jew—a man of astonishing talents and most noble spirit, who has visited his brethren in Europe and Asia, and addressed them with great power and effect.


The number of Jews in the world and in various coun

tries at different periods is an interesting subject, but never can be ascertained with much accuracy. At the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, they probably numbered not far from three millions. This number has varied much in different ages and countries, according to the opportunity given them for increase. For the first 1200 years, they were far more vumerous in the East than in the West. But in the tenth century, their numbers were greatly diminished there by the invasion of the Tartars and persecution of the Persians. In Palestine their number has always been small. When they were banished from Spain in 1492, there were in that kingdom 70,000 families. In 1619, there were in the province of Fez, 80,000. In the Ecclesiastical state they have numbered an hundred synagogues, nine of which were in Rome. Their present number is probably between three and four millions. In the Ottoman empire it is supposed that there are a million. At Constantinople, 80,000. At Aleppo, 5,000. Jerusalem, 3,000. In China, India, and Persia, 300,000. Of the white and black Jews at Cochin, 16,000. In Ethiopia, 100,000. In Morocco, Fez, and Algiers, 400,000. In Poland, 300,000. England, 20,000. Holland, 60,000. France, 20,000. The United States, 6,000.


As the Jews were, at the destruction of Jerusalem, dispossessed of their lands, and driven into foreign countries, they were compelled to resort to commerce for support. And having ever been in expectation of returning to Judea upon a sudden summons, they have never purchased, to much extent, any territory, nor engaged largely in agricultural employments; but have been the brokers and bankers of others. Their commercial pursuits were much promoted in the fifth century by the invasion of the northern nations, who had an abhorrence of commerce, and suffered it all to be transferred to a people whom they viewed with ignominy and contempt." In England, they were for a long time the chief conductors of foreign trade, and wrought

[blocks in formation]

most of the gold and silver ornaments for the churches. In the Ottoman empire, they obtained the privilege of selling wine, because it was supposed that they would strictly regard the Jewish law which forbad their making any mixture. In Egypt and Morocco, they have ever farmed the customs, coined the money, and conducted all foreign commerce. In most parts of the world and in every age, they have accumulated great wealth. In Europe and America, they are now generally brokers, dealers in clothes, watches, jewels, and a number of young people are teachers of children.


In Great Britain the Jews are not known in law, but they are connived at and valued for their enterprise.They have the free exercise of their worship. and the opportunity to acquire, and ability to hold property to any extent. Their literature is respectable. They have five synagogues in London.

In Holland the Jews are numerous, wealthy, and respectable.

In Spain they are not known as Jews; but are numerous in every class of society, even among priests and inquisitors as good Catholics.

In Portugal, they are in the same manner obliged to dissemble. The Spanish and Portuguese Jews claim their descent from a colony of the tribe of Judah, sent into Spain at the Babylonish captivity, and will have no intercourse with the German Jews. They are in every respect superior to the German Jews, and vie with other Europeans in refinement and intelligence. They have separate synagogues wherever they reside.

In Germany and Prussia most of the vexatious statutes of former ages have been repealed, and the Jews are liv. ing in quiet. At Frankfort, however, they are subject to many humiliating restrictions.

From Russia, they were formerly excluded, but they have been united to it by the union of countries in which they resided, and favorable edicts have been passed by the emperor.--A colony of Caraite or protestant Jews, who adhere closely to the Scriptures, are on the

Crimea. Poland has been their chief seat in modern ages. There are now in that country from 2 to 300,000, enjoying great privileges.

In Sweden and Denmark, they have a good degree of liberty.

In France, from whence they were expelled in 1394, and where only a few for centuries were known at Metz at Bordeaux, their situation since the revolution has been highly gratifying. In 1791, all who would take the civic oath were admitted to the rank of citizens. This act first gave them a country in Europe. The emperor Napoleon convened an assembly of them in Paris, May 30th, 1806, that he might learn their principles, and the next year the Grand Sanhedrim, composed according to the ancient custom of seventy members, for the establishment of a civil and religious polity. A synagogue and a consistory were established in every department.

In Paris, the Jews had in 1812, a consistory and three grand Rabbies, and are improving in literature and agriculture.

In the Ottoman empire, the Jews are still numerous, but less affluent and more ignorant than in Europe. For a heavy tax to the Porte, they have the liberty of their own worship. They all wear beards, and are distinguished by their dress. Their priests are much respected. “In Jerusalem, their ancient city, they are as a people, the objects of universal contempt; who suffer the most wanton outrages without murmur ; who endure wounds and blows without a sigh ; who, when the sacrifice of their life is demanded, unhesitatingly stretch forth their necks to the sabre. If a member of the community thus cruelly proscribed and abused happens to die, his companion buries him clandestinely during the night, in the valley of Jehosaphat, within the purlieus of the Temple of Solomon. Enter their habitation, and you find them in the most abject, squalid misery, and for the most part occupied in reading a mysterious book to their children, with whom again it becomes a manual for the instruction of future generations. The legitimate masters of Judea should be seen as they are in their own

« PreviousContinue »