Logic Taught by Love/Appendix 2
Whatever may be the faults of the Jewish people, a question which need not be here discussed, they have brought down to us from some remote civilization a tradition of enormous value:—
The vital conviction which, during thousands of years, at all times pressed upon the Israelites, was that they were a "chosen people" selected out of all the multitudes of the earth to perpetuate the great truth that there was but one God—an illimitable, omnipotent, paternal spirit who rewarded the good and punished the wicked—in contradistinction from the multifarious subordinate animal and bestial demi-gods of the other nations of the earth. This sublime monotheism could only have been the outgrowth of a high civilization, for man's first religion is necessarily a worship of "stocks and stones," and history teaches us that the gods decrease in number as man increases in intelligence. It was probably in Atlantis that monotheism was first preached. The proverbs of "Ptah-hotep," the oldest book of the Egyptians, show that this most ancient colony from Atlantis received the pure faith from the motherland at the very dawn of history: this book preached the doctrine of one God, "the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked." (Reginald S. Poole, Contemporary Review, Aug., 1 88 1, p. 38.) "In the early days the Egyptians worshipped one only God, the maker of all things, without beginning and without end. To the last the priests preserved this doctrine and taught it privately to a select few." (Amer. Ency., vol. vi. p. 463.) The Jews took up this great truth where the Egyptians dropped it, and over the heads and over the ruins of Egypt, Chaldea, Phœnicia, Greece, Rome, and India this handful of poor shepherds,—ignorant, debased, and despised,—have carried down to our times a conception which could only have originated in the highest possible state of human society.
And even scepticism must pause before the miracle of the continued existence of this strange people, wading through the ages, bearing on their shoulders the burden of their great trust, and pressing forward under the force of a perpetual and irresistible impulse. The speech that may be heard to-day in the synagogues of Chicago and Melbourne, resounded two thousand years ago in the streets of Rome; and at a still earlier period, it could be heard in the palaces of Babylon and the shops of Thebes—in Tyre, in Sidon, in Gades, in Palmyra, in Nineveh. How many nations have perished, how many languages have ceased to exist, how many splendid civilizations have crumbled into ruin, how many temples and towers and towns have gone down into dust since the sublime frenzy of monotheism first seized this extraordinary people? All their kindred nomadic tribes have gone; their land of promise is in the hands of strangers; but Judaism, with its offspring, Christianity, is taking possession of the habitable world; and the continuous life of one people—one poor, obscure, and wretched people—spans the tremendous gulf between "Ptah-hotep" and this nineteenth century.
If the Spirit of which the universe is but an expression—of whose frame the stars are the infinite molecules— can be supposed ever to interfere with the laws of matter and reach down into the doings of men, would it not be to save from the wreck and waste of time the most sublime fruit of the civilization of the drowned Atlantis —a belief in the one, only, just God, the father of all life, the imposer of all moral obligations?
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Granby Row. Manchester.