Hosmer, THE STORY OF THE JEWS, p. 124-129.
[This amazing little tract could have served as the source-text for Marcus Eli Ravage's essays in The Century magazine – maybe it did (?). Of course, Ravage also mentioned Gibbon, as does Hosmer here. – JR, ed.]:
The arch of Titus still spans the ancient Sacra Via at Rome, at the top of the Velian ridge. Its beautiful proportions make it one of the most interesting monuments of the eternal city. Its noble sculptures, unfortunately, have not been well preserved, but still within the vault can be traced the seven-branched candlestick, the golden table, and the sorrowful train of Jews, as the captives bear the desecrated relics of the destroyed Temple beneath the cruel eyes of their conquerors. So, after eighteen hundred years, the solemn marble commemorates a tragedy than which calamity was never more complete!
Is the volume closed? Is the career of the Jew finished? Not so. In a century or two, he has accomplished as an outcast the most momentous of human conquests. We have already followed in brief the career of the Aryan races, in their majestic descent from their mysterious mountain cradle until they possess Europe,--then at last in the power of Greece, and a little later, in the power of Rome, come into contact with the Jew. The Aryan races go forward, as the centuries lapse, to make Europe, among the divisions of the world, the especial seat of power and civilization. As upon the night of barbarism, there flashed first the splendor of the Hellenic beacon, followed soon by the blaze of Rome, so, in his turn, came the Goth, kindling slow like anthracite, then through long centuries making bright the central plains and the islands of the sea. A torch, late, but vivid with promise, shone at last upon the Northeastern steppes. Meanwhile the Atlantic barrier of tempest and surge was at last broken, and the Western world, even to the Ocean of Peace, has become all alight. So the Aryan, with face ever toward the setting sun, has run his flashing series, till the West is East again, and the round world is becoming belted with his light. It is a tale of conquest never ending,--of the spreading of a radiance that never grows dim.
There was one, however, to master even the master,--to bring light even to the light-bringer. In the midst of his path the exultant Aryan encountered this swarthy, burning-eyed Semite of the Syrian hills and plains. His limbs were marked by the weight of the fetters he had worn as a bondman in Egypt. Scarcely had he been able to cope with the puny tribes of Syria, with Philistine, and Amorite, and the men of Moab. Driven by the lash of taskmasters, he had constructed the palaces of Nineveh. In Babylon he had been broken and sundered. Suffered at last to return from exile, as he built anew his temple-walls, his feeble hands could scarcely quell the attacks of the petty freebooters of the wilderness. What respect could a creature, so crushed and dismembered, receive from the superb brethren of the great Aryan household, robust of limb, imperial in brain, trampling the world into servitude! He was but a despicable opponent. So thought the sons of the captains of Alexander, and they tore him anew beneath the harrow of invasion. So thought the power of Rome, and the ambitious Titus made the neck of the Jew a stepping-stone to the imperial throne. Where in the history of conquests has there been annihilation so utter? But it was only a superficial victory that the Aryan won. From the foot of a cross upon which had died an obscure disturber of the peace, of peasant birth, went forth twelve poor men who had loved him. How trifling the circumstance! One day at Athens, upon Mars Hill, the travel-worn tent-maker, Paul, addressed, not far from the altar to the unknown God, a supercilious crowd. What mattered that small event! At Rome the passionate agitator, Peter, crucified at last head downward, died, confessing to the last the teacher in whose name he had spoken. But such things were done every day. What could a Jew effect? In the grapple between Aryan and Semite, the Semite was apparently crushed out of life; but even while the knee of the ruthless victor was upon his breast, the victim spoke a calm, strong mandate which abashed and overcame. "Yield to me," said the prostrate Jew, "in that point where the soul of man feels most deeply,--his thought of the great invisible world. Your deities, Zeus, Mars, Odin, are not gods but phantoms. Elysium, Tartarus, Walhalla, it is all unreal. Straightway dash in pieces your altars, though the smoke of sacrifice has ascended thence for ages. Straightway dismiss every hymn and precept, every rite and rule. Ended forever be libation and augury, obeisance of flamen, chant of vestal, the oracular whisper of the sacred oaks, the frenzy of the Pythoness aglow with the God. Dismiss it all as false. Take from me a faith which shall last you for ages, burn in your deepest soul, in spire you to the grandest which you shall ever undertake. Accept Jehovah, my God, as the only God. Accept my race as the chosen race; accept its literature as sacred and infallible. Reverence my land as a holy land. Accept a man of my race, not only as the Redeemer of the world, but the incarnate God himself. That your subjection may be the more marked and utter, this crucified Galilean whom I force you to receive as Lord and Saviour, I myself will utterly reject and contemn, requiring you to reverence what I despise as folly and superstition!"
Thus spoke the eagle-faced, burning-eyed captive, homeless, broken, humiliated, to his Aryan subduer at his very proudest. Did the Aryan obey? Straightway the Aryan obeyed. Greek, Roman, Celt, and Teuton pass under the yoke of the Jew. In his turn comes the Sclave, equally submissive, all the stronger brethren of the Aryan household enthralled really by the Semite, though superficially they seem to have vanquished him--their subjugation maintained through all these nineteen slow-lapsing centuries!
Is it a supernatural conversion, as the Christian world has always maintained, or can it all be explained according to the natural sequence of cause and effect, as the rationalist will assert? Whether natural or supernatural, the little race that has thus brought the world to its feet has possessed a preeminent force which has made its history unique. What the Jew has wrought is a marvel among marvels. It has been no strange thing upon the earth for beings in human guise to be made gods. Hercules, Odin, Alexander, Cæsar, and many another have been raised to the heavens and worshipped. Only, however, in the case of this first-born child of a Jewish mother has the apotheosis endured.* He stands in this exaltation, not in the wild fancy of barbarians, but in the trained and cool judgment of the races whose brain and vigor have made them foremost among men. These have felt that he spoke as never man spoke, and was the embodiment of his own gospel of love in his life and in his death. Who will say that his name is not above every name? If we refuse, as some men do, to ascribe to him a superhuman character, then how astonishing the miracle, that a Hebrew peasant has been able to so influence the destinies of mankind!
* Disraeli: "Tancred."
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