True Greatness Of The Old Testament - Part 6
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
So that the whole history of the world to this day is in truth one continual establishing of the Old Testament revelation : ' O ye that love the Eternal, see that ye hate the thing that is evil! to him that ordereth his conversation right, shall be shown the salvation of God.' And whether we consider this revelation in respect to human affairs at large, or in respect to individual happiness, in either case its importance is so immense, that the people to whom it was given, and whose record is in the Bible, deserve fully to be singled out as the Bible singles them. ' Behold, darkness doth cover the earth, and gross darkness the nations ; but the Eternal shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee !' For, while other nations had the misleading idea that this or that, other than righteousness, is saving, and it is not ; that this or that, other than conduct, brings happiness, and it does not ; Israel had the true idea that righteousness is saving, that to conduct belongs happiness.
Nor let it be said that other nations, too, had at least something of this idea. They had, but they were not possessed with it; now, to feel it enough to make the world feel it, it was necessary to be possessed with it. It is not sufficient to have been visited by such an idea at times, to have had it forced occasionally on one's mind by the teaching of ' experience. No; he that hath the bride is the bridegroom; the idea belongs to him who has most loved it. Common prudence can say : Honesty is the best policy ; morality can say : To conduct belongs happiness. But Israel and the Bible are filled with religious joy, and rise higher and say : ' Righteousness is salvation !'—and this is what is inspiring. ' I have stuck unto thy testimonies ! Eternal, what love have I unto thy law ! all the day long is my study in it. Thy testimonies have I claimed as mine heritage for ever, and why? they are the very joy of my heart!' This is why the testimonies of righteousness are Israel's heritage for ever, because they were the very joy of his heart. Herein Israel stood alone, the friend and elect of the Eternal. ' He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statues and ordinances unto Israel. He bath not dealt so with any nation, neither have the heathen knowledge of his laws!'
Poor Israel ! poor ancient people ! It was revealed to thee that righteousness is salvation ; the question, what righteousness is, was thy stumbling-stone. Seer of the vision of peace, that yet couldst not see the things which belong unto thy peace ! with that blindness thy solitary pre-eminence ended, and the new Israel, made up out of all nations and languages, took thy room. But, thy visitation complete, thy temple in ruins, thy reign over, thine office done, thy children dispersed, thy teeth drawn, thy shekels of silver and gold plundered, did there yet stay with thee any remembrance of thy primitive intuition, simple and sublime, of the Eternal that loveth righteousness? Perhaps not ; the Talmudists were fully as well able to efface it as the Fathers. But if there did, what punishment can have been to thee like the punishment of watching the performances of the Aryan genius upon the foundation which thou hadst given to it ?—to behold this terrible and triumphant philosopher, with his monotheistic idea and his metaphysical Trinity, 'neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance'? Like the torture for a poet to hear people laying down the law about poetry who have not the sense of what poetry is,—a sense with which he was born ! like the affliction to a man of science-to hear people talk of things as proved who do not even know what constitutes a fact ! From the Council of Nicæa down to Convocation and our two bishops 'doing something' for the Godhead of the Eternal Son, what must thou have had to suffer !