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Religious Prejudices

by A. C.

It has always appeared to me a great disadvantage to our nation, that so little has been given to the world by those among us who are so well able to combat with our literary adversaries in defence of our views and principles. To this circumstance alone may be attributed the unfounded prejudice which is attached to us in almost every part of the globe. Men have been progressing in knowledge since the commencement of the fifteenth century. In the arts and sciences; and even in matters of faith, many wonderful revolutions have taken place, all tending to harmonize and to render the mind more liberal. But in one particular there seems to have been no progression: the scandalous falsehoods which had their birth at an early period of the Nazarene era, or which were the remains of paganism, and which have since been industriously propagated over the whole earth, have survived to the present day; and we find that these monstrous and absurd calumnies against our nation, instead of having subsided along with the gradual disappearance of error, seem to have gathered strength in many countries, and they are not totally extinguished in any; for even in the United States, where universal toleration, or rather freedom of opinion, has established its benign sway, these barbarous prejudices of former ages are not without their influence upon the minds of the non-­Israelites. To what are we to attribute this unfortunate state of things, but to the want of energy on our part to dispel these mists of darkness? Why is it that we are every where looked upon as an inferior and unenlightened race, incapable of mental energy, and even despised by many sensible and shrewd observers ? For no other reason (and it must be confessed the reason is good;) than that few efforts have been made by our own writers to rescue us from unmerited obloquy. Our greatest literary characters hitherto, for the most part, have stood aloof, and allowed every thing that malice could invent to be widely circulated, without essaying to stem the torrent of illiberality and error.

It is true, that the rigorous laws and restraints upon our nation in Europe, afford a good reason for the inactivity of our rabbis in that quarter, although I still think they have evinced symptoms of lukewarmness, and frequently neglected to take advantage of times and circumstances, when they might have employed their pens with effect. But no excuse can be found for so long a neglect of this in the United States, where there are about twenty thousand souls belonging to our nation, and are daily increasing in number, in wealth, and in importance, and where no obstacles stand in the way of our publishing a just defence of our principles, and of vindicating ourselves, through the press, from base and unfounded charges. Proselytism can never influence a true Israelite in the present state of the world. He never can be found supporting societies for the propagating of his faith. His confidence is placed in the infinite power of the Supreme, "who can turn the heaps of men to the true worship," when it pleaseth Him, and who will accomplish this in his own time, without the aid of the puny and presumptuous efforts of mortals, who vainly think that they are capable of giving an impulse to the Almighty, and of hastening the fulfilment of his eternal decrees. There is, however, a defence of our just rights, and a rank in society, which we are entitled to hold, and to maintain by every lawful means in our power, which we ought not to omit upon every proper occasion. The law provides for the security of our property, and we never hesitate to resort to it when we suffer injury, or fear that we may unjustly be deprived of our goods. The same law, however, guards also our character and reputation. Shall we then be slow in vindicating what is dearer to us than wealth? Shall we remain for ever passive in that which is of greater importance to us than mere existence, whilst we continue alive to the security of what cannot add a day to the number of our years, nor ensure a moment of permanent happiness? Rouse then, my, brethren; rouse from the lethargy into which our nation has been so long plunged! The times are favourable to the exertion. It is absurd to suppose that nothing can resist the efforts of the Nazarenes to spread their faith. Has not experience taught us that they must fail? Nearly twenty centuries have elapsed since the founder of their system assured them that the kingdom of their Messiah was then to be established; that the knowledge of his doctrines should be conveyed to all ends of the earth. But how have these predictions been fulfilled? Of seven millions of human beings that now inhabit this globe, the Nazarenes cannot count more than two hundred and fifty millions, even at the utmost stretch, to whom the name of Jesus has been communicated; while the other four hundred and fifty millions, which, of course, include our nation, are, according to them, sitting in the valley of the shadow of death. And this, notwithstanding all the labours of the Bible and missionary societies in Great Britain, Europe, and America.

To be indifferent when our rights are questioned, shows we are undeserving of them. To submit to insult and defamation, without one struggle in our behalf, is clearly not to be worthy of an honoured name. We possess the means of doing ourselves justice, by exposing the machinations of our opponents. Let us, then, wield the weapons of reason and of truth on every occasion that offers. In this way, and in this way only, can we dispel prejudice, overcome hostility, and resume that rank in society of which we have been so long despoiled, and which was conferred by the God of our fathers as an inalienable inheritance.