4 NOVEMBER 1882, Page 10


THE readers of Mr. Claude Montefiore's interesting paper, in the September number of the Contemporary Review, on the capacity of Judaism for becoming a universal religion, and of Miss Cobbe's equally interesting paper on "Progressive Juda- ism " in the November number of the same review, will not have failed to notice how profoundly oven those who wish to see Judaism become as universal as Christianity without becoming Christianity, feel the difficulty iuvolved in its hitherto tenacious and triumphant tribalism. Miss Cobbe suggests that the cruel persecutions which the Jews have undergone have tended to inten- sify their caste-feeling, which is undoubtedly true ; but it was not persecution which inspired the deep jealousy with which the Jews of our Lord's time guarded from the Proselytes of the Gate the full rights of children of Abraham, and with which even the first Christians contemplated that cordial association with Gentile converts which was so great a cause of offence at Antioch, and led to the assembly of the first " Council " of the Church. It is quite true, of course, that no one can read the later Prophets with any discrimination, without perceiving that the great burden of their teaching was the coming of a day when the Gentile world should be gathered into the Jewish fold,— nay, that in some rare passages the prophets taught that the Gentile world should share all the privileges of the Jews without even being recognised by the Jews as qualified for them :— "Doubtless, thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not ; thou, 0 Lord, art our • Father and Redeemer ; thy Name is from everlasting." It would, therefore, be absurd to deny that the Jewish faith did contain a specific principle of development, long before that -development came which Christians regard as the dying of the Jewish seed, in order that it might bring forth much fruit. But what does seem to us a priori incredible is, that historical Judaism should ever undergo a transformation of this kind, of which the essence should be denationalisa- tion and nothing more,—the giving-up of the cherished conviction that God was in some peculiar sense the God of the Jews, without that antecedent burst of divine splendour, that conspicuous justification of the early promises of Israel's history, that new unveiling of a hidden glory and reassertion in still grander proportions of the ancient majesty of the theocratic: sovereignty, which was anticipated by the Prophets under the form of a Messianic reign. Mr. Claude Montefiore's first prin- ciple of reform is the resignation by the Jews of all Messianic hopes. Now, whatever else the Messianic expectations of the • Jews meant, they at any rate meant this,—that at the great crisis of Judaism, at the moment when Judaism passed from a national to the higher stage of a human religion, there should be a new and still greater unveiling of the divine power, like in . kind, though more subduing and.overwb elming in the magnificence of its moral spleudour, to the manifestations of God's power in the deliverance from Egypt and the entrance into Canaan. He who "with a mighty hand and stretched-out arm" had led Israel out of bondage, and given him a Passover rite as the commemoration of that great event, was certainly to manifest both his goodness and his power in some yet grander and more persuasive way on that great day when it was anticipated that Gentiles should "come to thy light, and kings to the brightness bf thy rising." Whatever Judaism was, it was in the strictest sense a manifestation of God's personal converse, first with the father of the Jewish people, with whom God made a personal covenant, and then with the whole people, whose bonds he broke, and whom he sustained in the Wilderness, led into the Pro- mised Land, ruled in that land, and purged by the affliction of exile. And a religion of that kind could not, in our opinion, take a new departure, and was never expected to take a new departure, without a fresh and still more glorious mani- festation of the same historic as well as personal Providence, of the same absolute divine disposal of the destiny of man and the forces of Nature, nor without a new revelation of the spiritual significance of those monotonous " laws " of both terrestrial and human habit in which men so .frequently lose sight of the Supreme Will. Such revelations had been at the root of the whole training of the Jewish people. To suppose that Judaism would take a new departure of the greatest

moment, without a new and still greater manifestation of the same divine character and will which had presided over the whole history of Judaism, seems to us to suppose that it had abrogated its whole essence as a religion. To drop the Messianic expectations altogether, and put nothing in their place, and yet to announce a great development of Judaism, seems to us to be an attempt at grafting Rationalism on Jada- ism,—an even more hopeless feat than the grafting of a black- thorn on a vine. Christianity is the development of Judaism, because, in the belief of Christians, it does constitute a new and much sublimer unveiling of God's personality, in explanation of, as well as in strict continuity with, the great Divine acts embodied in the previous history of Israel; but for that very reason, it fulfils those earnest Messianic expectations which the new Jewish Reform proposes simply to drop.

Nor can we share Miss Cobbe's hope, that even if the new Progressive Judaism could take root, it might perhaps gather together into a living Church the Theists now scattered about Europe without any definite religious society of their own. In the first place, Theism, as distinguished from Revelation, tends to be what Miss Cobbe very justly calls it, a" Natural Religion;" and natural religion, however deeply it may affect the individual soul,— which we should be the last to deny,—is apt to make very light of social worship and of rites of any kind. Theists, for the most part, believe that the soul gets glimpses of God, just as it gets glimpses of the infinite in space or time, because it has a certain affinity with the infinite, alike in spirit, space, and time ; and a creed which rests, therefore, on what we may call a doc- trine of natural affinity, and does not believe that it is by any personal act of God's, but rather by forces inherent in human nature, that we obtain such vision of him as we have, is very apt to rest content with that affinity, and not to insist on formal or public expressions of a phase of our life at once so mysterious and so fragmentary. The religions which insist on periodical acts of public worship have almost always derived their authority from real or sup- posed commands of God to that effect, and these acts of public worship have always combined specific reference to the great eras of revelation, and to the divine acts in which, as the wor- shippers believe, their national faith has originated. All this does not suit Theists. Even Mr. Claude Montefiore intends, it appears, to retain five Jewish feasts, and to hold fast to the great initiatory Jewish rite, at least for Jews. How can Theists unite in worship with the holders of a creed so antique, and, as they would think, so obsolete, as this P But there is a further reason why, as we think, Theists, if they ever become an im- portant factor in the religious life of the day—which, as yet, has never happened—would probably be the last to feel any warm sympathy with "Progressive Judaism." • Theists, as distinguished from believers in any historical religion, almost always take up the belief in natural law, in the absolute immut- ability and continuity of the creative energy during all ages, with a certain fervour of belief; and reject what is called "miracle," as wholly opposed to the genius of our modern science. This sort of religion was profoundly marked, for instance, in Carlyle, who was a Theist of the most fervent type. But in him, Theism was a sort of natural Calvinism,---a belief in the un- changeability' of God's decrees, as illustrated from Nature. Nor do we see any distinctive sphere for Theism, unless it accepts the laws of Nature as perhaps the best modern mirror of the character of the Creator. If, however, this should be, as we think it will be, the distinctive character of modern Theism, as distinguished from the much more spiritual faith of the Christian, it is hardly conceivable that Theists should accept even "Progressive Judaism" as their religious guide. • Judaism can never wholly sever itself from its history, and its history embodies its deep belief-that the so-called laws of Nature do not declare God, and cannot declare God, as he declares himself to the human spirit. And Judaism embodies that belief in language far too emphatic to admit of any amalgamation with Naturalistic Theism of any type whatever.