MARKS'S JEWISH SERMONS. * THESE sermons are not only peculiar as
emanating from a Jewish minister, addressing a Jewish congregation, but as indicating that the religious movement is not confined to the Christian world. The West London Synagogue may be considered as a " Reformed " or an " Independent " church. According to Israelite views, the San- hedrin alone has power to regulate forms of worship ; but that body has ceased to exist for fifteen hundred years, or more than ten times as long as our Convocation has been suspended. Traditional modes of worship exist, which it may be concluded are no longer adapted to the times, the country, or the state of opinion. This is freely admitted by religious Jews ; but any proposed altera- tions are met by the difficulty or impracticability. About nine years ago, some zealous reformers cut through the knot by found- ing the West London Synagogue, with forms (we believe the change goes no further) adapted to the spirit of the age ; for, says Mr. Marks in his introductory sermon, "since the extinction of the right of ordination has rendered impossible the convocation of a Sanhedrin, whose authority shall extend over all Jewish con- gregations, does it not follow as a necessity, that every Hebrew congregation must be authorized to take such measures as shalt bring the Divine service into consonance with the will of the Almighty as explained to us in the Law and the Prophets P"
The discourses have a yet greater interest in their subjects. The sermons treat of the most distinctive features in Jewish doctrine and opinion, and present glimpses of the feelings and social prac- tices of the Jews both abroad and at home. Although repudiated with a sort of horror by the Jews of Western Europe, polygamy, it appears, is, as we suspected, not abrogated; that is, Oriental Jews who follow the patriarchal practice are not considered schis- matics. The loyalty and satisfaction of the British Jew is mingled with the religious pride of the chosen people, and a national pedi- gree the purest and most ancient in the world is matter for covert glorification. There is a sermon on the Immortality of the Soul ; in which Mr. Marks, contrary to a received opinion, endeavours to prove, by argument and quotation of texts, that the doctrine of a future existence was known to Moses, and was always a national tenet among the Jews. The discourse on the Final Ingathering of Israel raises, though remotely and indirectly, some points at issue between the Christian and the Jew. The interpretation of prophecy, the nature of the millennium, and the character of the expected Messiah, (who is not to be a divine person,) naturally raise mooted topics between the sects, though not in a controver- sial manner. "Israel's Vocation," and some other sermons, also verge upon topics where a controvertist on the look-out might find matter for his vocation ; though controversy does not appear to be
• Sermons preached on various Occasions, at the West London Syniwogue of Bri- tish Jews. By the Reverend D. W. Marks, Minister of the Congregation. Pub- lished at the request of the Council of Founders. Published by Oroombridge and Sons.
aimed at, the drift of the arguments being a clever claim for the Jews to all the religious and social improvements that have taken place since the Exodus; the Gospel being, in the phrase of the day, a ignored." Seine of the discourses indicate the nature of the pie- sent Hebrew practices and prevailing sins, if we may judge from the exhortations or denunciations of the preacher ; others exhibit the distinguishing tenets of the Jews, which may be described as a theism with inspired prophets, — that is, a revelation made through human instruments, and burdened with many ceremonies, as well as moral laws.
The sermons, however, are not wholly indebted to their pecu- liarity and consequent novelty. Mr. Marks is an independent- minded man, who looks to human authority with respect but
without submission, and, we should. imagine, with somewhat of the sturdiness of a reformer. He is well read in the Scriptures
and their commentaries, Tidmudical, later Jewish, and Christian ; but he does not neglect the world around him, enforcing his exhortations by references to actual life. His matter is full, his style close, with a good deal of easy strength; and though his discourses no doubt owe much of their interest to their rarity, yet even as Christian sermons they would have been entitled to atten- tion on account of their literary merit. One of the most curious points, in a theological view, is that which relates to the coming and character of the Messiah. The following passages from the sermon on the Final Ingathering of Israel will indicate the nature of the argument. The preacher has been treating of the prophecies relative to the restoration of Jeru- salem after the Babylonish captivity.
"But the prophecies that bear upon the final ingathering of the twelve tribes of Israel are very differently worded ; and they most frequently con- nect with this event the coming of the Messiah. The prophet Jeremiah is commanded, at the opening of the thirtieth chapter of his book, to commit to writing the following prophecy—' Behold the time shall come, saint the Lord, when I will bring back the captivity of my people of Israel, and of Judah, saith the Lord ; and I will cause them to return to the land which I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.' It is then set forth that the He- brews will no more be subjected to the oppressive dominion of the heathen, but that they will be governed by their own rulers of the royal house of David. 'And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of Hosts, that I will nreak his yoke from off thy neck, and I will break asunder thy chains, and strangers shall no longer enslave him. But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.' It is very evi- dent that this prophecy was not accomplished at the return from Babylonia. The exiles who set out from the banks of the Chebar under Zerubabel con- sisted merely of the tribe of Judah, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away ; but Jeremiah speaks distinctly not of Judah only, but also of Israel ; i. e. the ten tribes, who, as a body, have never returned, nor have even been heard of, since their deportation by the Assyrian conqueror. Now as the Scriptures teach that God never speaks in vain, nor makes a promise which He does not pierform it follows that this prediction of Jeremiah remains to
be accomplished. *
"The prophecy of Isaiah, at the commencement of the second chapter, re.. lates (as will presently be shown) to the ingethering of Israel, whilst it brings into immediate connexion with that event the coming of the Messiah. The prophet teaches, that 'in the latter days' the temple will be firmly esta- bashed on the summit of Zion's hill, and that all nations will flow unto it. 'And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us ascend to the moun- tain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob ; in order that he may teach us His ways, and that we may walk in His paths; for out of Zion shall go .forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.' A personage is then introduced, who, according to most of the Hebrew and nearly all the non-Jewish commentators, is the Messiah ; and his office is thus described— "'And he shall judge among the nations, and he shall arbitrate between the several peoples ; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their ape ire into pruning-hooks ; nation shall not lift up sword against na- tion, neither shall they learn war any more.' We have here a very intelli- gible idea of the works of the Messiah. He is to reestablish the temple, gather in the captivity, annihilate tyrannical force, secure the triumph of mind and the dominion of love, and bring into harmony all men as the equal children of the one great Father. Agreeably to this prophecy, the universal recognition of the Messiah is not to depend upon accident, or the :mere exertion of faith ; his own works are to be his credentials, and no mortal will be able to resist the acknowledgment of his Messianic character, when he shall have executed the task which is appointed to him by the Scrip- tures. There can be little doubt that the prediction of Isaiah, just quoted, is to be taken in connexion with the final ingatheriug of Israel ; since we find the prophet Micah pronouncing the same oracle, in precisely similar words, and combining with it as a contemporaneous event a prophecy of the resto- ration of the Hebrews. 'In that day, saith the Lord, I will gather the halt- ing, and the exile will I gather, and him that I have afflicted ; and I will ordain the halting one to be a remnant, and the weary one a powerful nation ; and the Lord shall reign over them on mount Zion for ever.'
"There is, however, in the twenty-third chapter of Jeremiah a remark- able passage, which fully establishes the doctrine held by the house of Israel, that the advent of the Messiah, and the great ingathering of Judah and Israel, are to be synchronical events.
"Hera the prophet connects inseparably the restoration and the temporal prosperity- of Israel with the Messiah's advent. That the restoration here predicted cannot refer to the Babylonian captivity, is clear ; since Jeremiah Speaks of the gathering in of Israel 'out of all the lands where they are dispersed' ; and further, because Israel and Judah are mentioned conjointly. Besides which, the prophet teaches that such wondrous manifestations of God's providence are to attend the final ingathering of His people, as to sur- pass even the miracles performed in Egypt."
The peculiar nature of the doctrine of the " atonement " held by the Jews, and taught, as they allege, by the Scriptures, is indicated in the following passage from a sermon on the Mercy of God.
"From what has been advanced, it will be perceived that the chapter of our text brings us good tidings : it tells us that mercy is the pro- minent jewel in the moral crown of Deity, and that in this benign attri- bute we must seek the primary cause of the day of atonement, which our Almighty Father in heaven has appointed for a perpetual ordinance in
Israel. • "Though we may have sinned ever so grievously against the laws and , precepts of our God, He will not upbraid us for any transgression which we have committed, nor will He record it against us provided that we now re- , turn to Him penitently and sincerely. I speak not this, brethren, from mere inference, but on the authority of God's holy word, which is plainly revealed through the prophet EzekieL When the wicked turneth away from all
his sins which he bath eoratnitted, and keepeth my -statutes, and exeenteth judgment and righteousness, he shall live and not perish ; none of his transgressions which he bath done shall be remembered unto him ; in the righteousness which he death he shall live.' If, then, there be within us enough of virtue and faith to bring our hearts to the confession of our ini- quities, and our minds to the fixed determination of future amendment, we justify the Lord in righteousness, and our atonement is made on the grounds of our scripturally admitted claims to Divine forgiveness. "Such, dear brethren, is our blessed Jewish teaching, attested again and again by the plain unequivocal declarations of the Bible. In the doctrines and lessons bequeathed to us by Moses and the Prophets, we can discover nothing of the gloomy tenet which sprang up in later times, that God's jus- tice demands a particular satisfaction for sin, and exacts the full penalty in the form of a vicarious sacrifice. Agreeably to the teachings of the Scrip- tures as they strike the Jewish mind, the only essential atonement which our beneficent and merciful Father requires for transgression is repentance, made manifest by unconditional and immediate amendment. This atonement of- fered, we should hold it at variance with Biblical doctrine to urge the neces- sity of punishment to satisfy the justice of God, since nothing can be plainer than the inatruction set forth in the passage of the text, that the Lord with- held the rod of chastisement from fulling on the people of Nineveh because of the sincere repentance which they had made." One discourse is on the passage in the Commandments repre- senting God as a "jealous" God, visiting the sins of the fathers upon succeeding generations. The object of the preacher is to de- fend by explaining these expressions. It was necessary in those days to warn the people against idolatry in the most impressive way : hence the use of the word which we render "jealous." The punishment of the posterity refers to national not personal sins, and to a temporal not a future state. Every individual will be spiritually judged according to his own deeds ; but in this world na- tions do suffer temporarily, not only for their own conduct but for that of their ancestors, and in a temporal sense individuals suffer in the same way. The following illustration is not the best that might be taken from history, but it is apt.
"We do not, we cannot, for a moment deny that the conduct of one ge- neration exerts a powerful influence upon the destinies of the succeeding race. It were impossible that it should be otherwise. A little reflection must fully convince us of the remarkable effects wrought upon all bodies of men by the deeds of those who have preceded them, or with whom they are immediately connected in the social bond. History most plainly tells us that a land stained with violence and fraud does not escape its condign pun- ishment although ages of splendour may intervene between the period of glory and the day of terrible retribution. The Eternal proclaimed amidst the majestic wonders of Sinai, that from natural causes in the world the misdeeds of fathers are visited upon children to the third and fourth genera- tions of them that hate him' ; and it requires but little research amongst the treasures of experience to satisfy us of the constant working out of this truth in the history of the human race.
"Compare, if you will, brethren, the blessings of liberty and peace enjoyed by the inhabitants of this our native land, rendered great by the vim tuous exertions of preceding generations of Britons ; compare these blessings with the turmoil, the strife, and the wretchedness in which the inhabitants of the Peninsula are found, beneath an ever-smiling -sky, a witness for many years to scenes of torture, persecution, and ineffiffile horror ; and then say, whether a particle of doubt can linger in your inimis as to the solemn truth, that the sins of the fathers are' in a natural point of view visited upon their descendants.' But we may bring this principle much nearer to our hearts by regarding its effects in individual cases. If our fathers have neglected our moral and mental culture, it is most sure that we in the present, and to a certain extent our children in the next generation, will bear the sins of our ancestors. If our fathers by profligacy have consumed their estates, or by dissipation have rendered themselves subject to diseases which are often entailed, our parents' sins must unquestionably be visited upon us and our children. If you or I, brethren, were so unfortunate as to inherit a name associated with dishonour or guilt, it would be scarcely possible for us, though we should by no means be morally accountable, to escape altogether from the natural consequences of such guilt or dishonour."