REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE
Amongst the Jews.
DR. BUCHANAN'S SPEECH,
AS TO THE STATE OF
THE JEWS IN THE EAST.
PRINTED BY THOMAS KIRK, MAIN-STREET.
THE Committee respectfully inform the Public, that the Rev. Mr. FREY preaches under their patronage a LECTURE to the JEWS, every Sabbath Evening, at the JEWS' CHAPEL, Church Street, Spitalfields; and a regular Course of Lectures on the EPISTLE to the HEBREWS, every WEDNESDAY Evening. Divine Service is also performed in the same place of Worship, by other Ministers, in the Morning and Afternoon of the Sabbath Day; and an Exhortation addressed to the JEWS on FRIDAY Evening.
EXTRACT FROM THE REPORT
LONDON SOCIETY, &c.
JUNE 14, 1810
THE Report of the Committee to the general meeting of the London Society, held in December last, having, from a variety of circumstances, been delayed in its publication, and a considerable account of the progress of the Institution since that period having already been given to the public, it is not the intention of your Committee to print more than a short extract of that report, with the speech of the Rev. Dr. Buchanan, and the names of the additional subscribers.
Since the last meeting, your Committee have taken under their care, nine boys and thirteen girls, making the whole number now in the School, forty-four.
For the benefit of Adult Jews, your Committee have lately commenced a Sunday School, for the purpose of teaching those to read who may be disposed to attend. The great ignorance of these people can scarcely be credited; they are taught just to read the Hebrew without understanding it, and
very few, comparatively, are instructed in the English language. Hence they are not able to make use of the Scriptures to profit, and thus they become proper subjects of superstition and prejudice. Your Committee have also purchased for occasional distribution, a number of Bibles and Testaments in the German and Portuguese languages, that no occasion may be lost of supplying a Jew with a copy of the Holy Scriptures in the language in which he is able to read them.
The blessing of God on the efforts of the Society, like the influences which accompained the Mission of Moses, has aroused many Jews from the slumber of their superstitions, who are already saying to the Society, “We will go with you, because our God is with you.” But a great difficulty stands in the way of these people; a difficulty, in its consequences, not less apparently fatal, than that which the Red Sea presented; in that case with the enemy behind them and the sea before them, there appeared to be no chance of escape from either the sword or the waves. In the present case, the slightest disclosure of a tendency of mind to examine the truths of the Christian dispensation, excites persecution, and threatens consequent distress and ruin. In confirmation of this, it is only necessary to state two cases amongst many which have already fallen under the notice of the Committee. An aged man, of
the name of Barnard Jacobs, living in Petticoat Lane, brought two children to the Committee for reception into the School, and also expressed his wish to attend the service of the Chapel himself, from conviction of the truth of the Messiahship of our Lord Jesus Christ. No sooner was it known that he had been to the Jews' Chapel, than he was assaulted by his brethren, who not only broke his windows and injured his furniture, but declared they would murder him if he fell into their hands. For a time the Society were obliged to furnish him with the protection of a constable, but imprudently venturing into the street without his defender, the Jews seized him, and beat him with sticks in so dreadful a manner, as to cover the poor old man with bruises. The other was the case of a young man, by trade, a butcher, who, in consequence of attending the Chapel, was thrown out of bread. He applied to the Society to assist him in procuring some way of livelihood. They endeavoured to get him employment in Leadenhall Market, where it was no sooner discovered that he was a Jew, than every man in the employ of the carcase butchers, refused to work with him. A second effort was made by a member of the Committee to procure him employment in another line of business, and on his proposing to bind him as an apprentice, the antipathy to Jews, common to uninformed people,
was immediately evinced: all the men in the employ, declaring they would quit their master if he took a Jew as an apprentice. Thus, the poor Jew whose mind becomes opened to Christianity, is not only exposed to the persecutions of his unbelieving brethren, but he is also rejected by the prejudiced and uninformed in Christian Society. On these accounts, the Committee find themselves called upon to recommend to the Society the instituting of a House of industry, in which some kind of manufactory, or handicraft employment, may be carried on, whereby these people may be enabled to earn their bread. Several employments have been suggested to the Committee, the arts of which being easily attained, persons thus situated might be provided for, and instead of being burthensome, become profitable to the Institution.
To accomplish this very desirable object, a suitable building and other conveniences are requisite. The Committee therefore beg to urge upon their friends and supporters, the propriety of commencing a subscription, to be called the Building Fund.
In contemplation of this desirable object, they have taken steps to procure a convenient spot of ground, and they hope shortly to receive plans for a building which shall be at once an Asylum and House of Industry for indigent and converted Jews.
In the infant state of the Society, the Committee are aware that much caution is requisite in respect of the state of their funds, and as already they have been compelled to advance in expenditure much beyond their receipts, (liberal indeed as they have been) yet they trust, that by the following expedient they shall not injure their funds for general purposes, whilst they may also be accumulating a fund for the purpose of building. To accomplish this, it is proposed to create, as an honorary distinction, a new class of members, called governors, and that a subscription of twenty guineas shall constitute a governor. By the 5th rule of the Society, a Subscription of ten guineas constitutes a subscriber for life, but the whole of that subscription necessarily is applied to general purposes, and the Committee are fully aware that they cannot apply any portion of that sum to the purposes of a building; but it is intended, if the proposition meets with the concurrence of the general meeting, that of the sum of twenty guineas so subscribed by the governors, ten guineas shall be carried to the account of the Building Fund, and ten guineas to general purposes; and also, that every person who has already made a donation of ten guineas, and has thereby become a life subscriber, shall, upon the further payment of the sum of ten guineas for the Building Fund, become a governor. The Committee hope that
the subscribers generally will see the necessity for adopting this measure, and will therefore give it that encouragement which its importance so greatly merits.
Your Committee cannot refrain from making a few observations upon the remarkable events which took place on the 13th instant, in the sight of many hundred persons: they allude to the baptism of several persons of the House of Israel, as the sign of their public avowal of their faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
Since the days of the Apostles, when the Gospel was transferred to the Gentiles, there is no account on record of so many Jews on one day making a voluntary public profession of faith in the crucified Redeemer. Well may it be said, “Blessed are your eyes for they see.” Behold, in these transactions the fulfilment of those prophecies which predicted that they should look to him whom they had pierced, and also the confirmation of the declaration of the Great Apostle, that God has not cast off his people.
Christians! in the spectacle of yesterday, exhibited by Children and sons of Abraham, putting on Christ, behold the great wave sheaf waved before the Altar as the first fruits of our Lord's spiritual Harvest. Hear ye his words, “Say not there are yet appointed times, and then cometh the Harvest: Behold I say unto you lift up your
eyes and look on the fields for they are white already to Harvest,” and although one may sow, and another may reap, yet, “he that reapeth, receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth, and he that reapeth, may rejoice together.”
Your Committee trust, that in their efforts they have only been actuated by a desire to promote the Glory of God, separate from any selfish or party views. They desire to express their public acknowledgments of that divine superintendance and blessing, without which all their labour would be in vain. From past experience they are encouraged to persevere; they call upon all sincere Christians to unite in fervent prayers to the throne of the heavenly grace for success upon the efforts of this Society, and they wish to urge all those “who make mention of the Lord, not to keep silence, and to give him no rest till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the Earth.”
Oh! believing Jews, ye are proofs that your “city is not forsaken:” ye have been “sought out:” may you testify by your lives and conversations that you are indeed the redeemed of the Lord, his holy people. We would remind you that the eyes of men and angels are upon you; your unbelieving countrymen will do all they can to force you to abandon the Cross of Christ, and the great enemy of mankind will assail you with a thousand
temptations; but recollect the animating charge given you to urge you on in your Christian warfare; fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life. Our Lord himself has left us on record, both warning and encouragement; on the one hand, he has declared, “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him,” and on the other, “To him that overcometh, I will confess his name before my father, and before his angels. I will grant to him to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my father on his throne.”
AT THE PUBLIC MEETING
At the City of London Tavern,
THE FOLLOWING SPEECH
WAS DELIVERED BY THE
REV. CLAUDIUS BUCHANAN, D.D.
DURING my residence in the East, my mind was much occupied with the present state and circumstances of the JEWS. I visited them in different provinces, examined their books, and discoursed with them on the subject of the prophecies, and I found that no where do they despair of being restored to Jerusalem; no where do they despair of beholding their Messiah. It is with great satisfaction, then, that on my return to England, I contemplate the establishment of your society. It is, indeed, with much surprise I behold three hundred gentlemen assembled on the present occasion, under the patronage of noblemen of our country, to promote this noble design. The sudden elevation of your Institution, and the interest which it has almost instantaneously created in the public mind, are sure prognostics of its perpetuity.—
It is one of those institutions which, like the BIBLE SOCIETY, need only to be proposed, to recommend itself to the minds of men, by its perfect reasonableness and propriety; and I may add, by the Divine obligation it involves. I entertain a confident hope that this society, or some institution analogous to it, will be perpetual in the Church of Christ, and that it will endure, to use an oriental expression, as long as sun and moon endure; or, at least, as long as there is a Jew in the world who is not a Christian.
There is a measure I would propose to the consideration of your society, which I think will contribute to its celebrity and success: which is to open a correspondence with the Jews in the East.
Perhaps it may not be known to some, that by the events of the late war in India, a colony of Jews have become subject to Great Britain. This is the colony of the white and black Jews of Cochin. The number is calculated to be about 16,000. Mr. Frey informs me that the number of Jews in the united kingdom is not reputed to be greater than 14,000. So that our Jewish subjects in the East are yet more numerous than those in the West; and they are equally entitled to the regard and attention of your society.
I visited Cochin soon after the conquest of the province. The Jews received me hospitably, and permitted me to examine their libraries and
their synagogues; and they presented to me many valuable manuscripts, which are now deposited in the library of the university of Cambridge. One of these is a roll of the Pentateuch, on goat skins dyed red; one of the most ancient perhaps which the East can produce. The white Jews live on the sea coast, and have commerce with foreign nations: the black Jews live chiefly in the interior of the country. The Hindoos call them ISRAELI: they call themselves BENI-ISRAEL, and not JEWS; for their ancestors did not belong to Judah, but to the kingdom of Israel. They consider themselves to be descended from those tribes who were carried away at the first captivity.—In some parts of the East, the Beni-Israel never heard of the second temple. They never heard of the Christian account of the coming of the Messiah. Some of them possess only the Pentateuch and Psalms, and Book of Job.—Others have no portion of scripture left. But their countenance, and their observance of the sabbath and of peculiar rites, demonstrate that they are Jews. The white Jews at Cochin, despise the black Jews as being of an inferior cast, and do not approve of intermarriages with them, because they do not belong to the second temple. Both among white and black Jews, I found that there was a general impression that there would soon be a rumour of wars, and a commotion among the PEOPLE,
on their account. The white Jews expect a second Cyrus from the West, who shall build their temple the THIRD and LAST time.
You may address the Jews of Cochin with great advantage on the subject of the Christian religion, for they have the evidence of the Syrian Christians before them.
These ancient Christians live in the vicinity, and are YOUR witnesses. At one place, in the interior of the country, which I visited, there is a Jewish synagogue and a Christian church in the same Hindoo village. They stand opposite to each other: as it were the LAW and the GOSPEL: bearing testimony to the truth, in the presence of the heathen world.
I was informed that many years ago one of the Jews translated the New Testament into Hebrew, for the purpose of confuting it, and of repelling the arguments of his neighbours, the Syrian Christians. This manuscript fell into my hands, and is now in the library of the university of Cambridge. It is in his own hand writing; and will be of great use in preparing a version of the New Testament in the Hebrew language. It appears to be a faithful translation, as far it has been examined; but about the end, when he came to the epistles of St. Paul, he seems to have lost his temper, being moved perhaps by the accute argument of the learned BENJAMITE, as he calls the
Apostle, and he has written a note of execration on his memory. But behold the providence of God! The translator became himself a convert to Christianity. His own work subdued his unbelief. IN THE LION HE FOUND SWEETNESS; and he lived and died in the faith of Christ. And now it is a common superstition among the vulgar in that place, that if any Jew shall write the whole of the New Testament with his own hand, he will become a Christian by the influence of the evil spirit.
This event occurred in the south of India: but a conversion no less remarkable took place, some time afterwards, in the north. Jacob Levi, a Jew from Smyrna, travelled over land to Calcutta, and heard the Gospel from one of the Lutheran preachers belonging to the Society for promoting christian knowledge, and became a convert to the truth. He delivered a testimony to the Jews, Hindoos, Mahomedans, and Christians; for he was acquainted with various languages, and spoke eloquently, like Apollos. But his course was short. He was ordained (like many witnesses of the Christian faith) to shine but for a moment. These solitary instances of the power of the Gospel seem to occur in almost every nation, previous to the general illumination. This conversion of Jacob Levi is recorded in the proceedings of the Society in Bartlett's Buildings, London.
But there is another body of Jews, not a colony but a kingdom of Jews, to which this Society may also address itself; and that is the Ten Tribes. For we have reason to believe that the Ten Tribes, so long lost, if they exist in a body at all, have at length been found. It has been sufficiently ascertained, by the investigations of the learned in India, that the Affghan nation consists of the descendants of the Jewish Tribes of the first dispersion.
When I was in the south of India, I asked the black Jews, where their brethren, the great body of the Ten Tribes, were to be found? They answered promptly, that they were to be found in the north, in the regions adjacent to Chaldea, the very country whither they were first carried into captivity. On my return to Calcutta I prosecuted the inquiry, under the advantages which the learned natives of the College of Fort William afforded me. Sir William Jones had recorded it as his opinion, that the Affghans were Jews, and referred to various authorities. A further investigation confirmed the judgment of that illustrious scholar. There were Affghan Jews in Calcutta at the time: one of my own servants was an Affghan. The Affghans are generally reputed by us to be Mahomedans, I asked my servant if he was a Mahomedan? “No,” said he, “I am a Mahomedan Jew.” I plainly discerned in his countenance the features of the London Jew. The general account
of the Affghans is this:—That their ancestors were Jews—that their common histories record the names of David, Saul, and other kings of Israel—that the Mahomedans came upon them with an invading army, and said unto them, We are Jews as well as you: we observe circumcision and keep the sabbath; let us incorporate our nations, and be one people, and unite against the Infidels—that they made a shew of yielding to Mahomedanism (as the Jews of Spain and Portugal pretended to yield to Christianity;) but in process of time the ascendancy of the new religion corrupted their ancient institutions: their sacred books begin to diminish in number; and it came to pass at last, that in many places they could be only recognized to be Jews by their countenance—by tradition—by peculiar rites, and the observance of the Sabbath; which are the only marks which distinguish some of the Beni-Israel of the south of India. Let us, therefore, address the Ten Tribes, and receive them in the state in which, by the providence of God, they are to be found. Some of the Jews of London are as ignorant, and as little entitled to the name, as the Affghans of India.
But there is a third body of Jews to whom you ought to write: I mean the SAMARITAN JEWS. They are not far from the shores of the Mediterranean, and are easily accessible. They possess
only the Pentateuch. They are few in number, and will receive with much deference any communication which you will be pleased to make to them relating to their religion and to the present state of Jewish nations.
Let letters then be addressed to these three bodies of Israelites; not in the name of CHRISTIANS, but in the name of the converted JEWS, who compose a part of this society. Let Mr. Frey write to them, not in the rabbinical Hebrew (for there are upwards of twenty dialects of rabbinical or commercial Hebrew in the world,) but in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, which all understand; let him inform them of the great events that have taken place in the west, namely, that Jews have become Christians; that the Christians are sending forth preachers to teach all nations; that the Messiah is surely come; and that the signs of the times encourage the belief that Israel is about to be restored, in a spiritual sense. Let him further direct their attention to particular PROPHECIES, and invite correspondence. And after Mr. Frey has exercised his ministry a year or two longer in this country, he may go forth as a missionary to the Jews of Cochin, with some of his brethren, that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” After preaching among them for a time, he may return again, and report what he has heard and seen.
But when you write these letters, a PRESENT must accompany them after the oriental manner. And let this present be the BIBLE. You need not, indeed, send the Old Testament to all; for the Jews of the East possess that book intire, with every jot and tittle that belongs to it. They are our LIBRARIANS. They are ordained by Providence, as it were, to be the official guardians of the perpetual purity of the sacred volume. But you must send them the NEW TESTAMENT in the Hebrew tongue: in the language and character of the Old Testament, which all understand and revere. And let it have the MASSORA, that the text may be settled by good authority, before it pass out of your hands. We Christians are, in regard to the New Testament, the Massorites; we are qualified to determine the sense. if the version be sent forth without POINTS, the words of our Saviour may be expounded by the eastern Jews in different ways.—The Arabic, Persian, Chaldaic, and Syraic languages, all have points. You may take them away, indeed, as has been done in the Old Testament Hebrew; but if you do so, you will not be able to understand what is written, unless you have got it previously by heart. All the children learn these languages in the east, with points; and they are constantly used by grown persons when the sense is doubtful. A letter, without points, on a new and difficult
subject, would be an enigma. It is commonly said in Europe, that “the points are not of Divine origin.” But I do not understand the meaning of these words. If the CONSONANTS be of Divine origin, the VOWELS are of Divine origin. The consonants cannot be pronounced without the vowels. A consonant implies the presence of a vowel. The Hebrew consonants, which are said to be of Divine origin, were changed in form by a heathen people. A child, in the time of Moses, would not have been able to learn the Book of Genesis without points. When he had got it by heart, indeed, the points would be of no use: and for this reason, and for no other, are they not used in the synagogue. It is sometimes the labour of ten years for the Hebrew reader in the synagogue to learn to read the scriptures without points. Had not providence ordained the Massora of the Old Testament, it is impossible to say how great our difficulty might have been in translating that volume at this day: but the same providence which has preserved the CONSONANTS, has preserved the VOWELS also. Neither do we know that EVERY consonant (which is thus said to be of Divine origin) is preserved. Nor is it necessary it should.
It is with surprise I learn, that as yet you have not obtained a version of the New Testament in the Hebrew language, for the use of the Jews. It is surely the very first duty of your society to execute
this translation. You are beginning to work without instruments. How can you find fault with a Jew for not believing the New Testament if he has never seen it? It is not to be expected that he will respect a version in English: but give them the New Testament, in the language of the Old Testament, in the imposing form of the primæval Hebrew, the character which he is accustomed to venerate and admire, and then you do justice to his weakness, and may overcome his prejudice.
How strange it appears, that during a period of eighteen hundred years, the Christians should never have given the Jews the New Testament in their own language! By a kind of infatuation, they have reprobated the unbelief of the Jews, and have never at the same time told them what they ought to believe.
I shall conclude with observing, that the chief difficulties which this society will probably meet with, will be from the opposing Jews at home. But when they see that your converts multiply in number, and when they hear that you are writing to other nations, regardless of their ignorance and opposition; when they learn that you have discovered the ten tribes, that you have sent to them the New Testament in the holy language; that you are discussing with them the subject of the prophecies, and that Mr. Frey and his brethren are going forth as “ambassadors, in light ships, to carry the
tiding of gladness to a nation scattered and peeled, terrible from their beginning hitherto,” Isaiah xviii, the hostile Jews will be alarmed, their spirits will sink within them, and they will begin to think that a great day in Zion is at hand.
Every time you meet here, in this public manner, in the presence of the Israelites, your cause acquires strength.—Every time that these annual sermons are preached, and the voice of prayer and supplication for the outcasts of Israel ascends to Heaven, it is like the blast of the rams' horns before the walls of Jericho: and so the enemy will soon begin to consider it: and I doubt not that before you have encompassed the walls seven times, an impression will be made.—It may be the will of God, that before the trumpet of your anniversary assemblies has been seven times sounded, the wall will begin to shake, a breach will be made, and Joshua, the spiritual Joshua, will enter and take the city.