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Plutarch, than that Plutarch was ill-natured, capricious, or inhuman."
If we may believe our logicians, man is distinguished from all other creatures by the faculty of laughter. He has a heart capable of mirth, and naturally disposed to it. It is not the business of virtue to extirpate the affections of the mind, but to regulate them. It may moderate and restrain, but was not designed to banish gladness from the heart of man. Religion contracts the circle of our pleasures, but leaves it wide enough for her votaries to expatiate in. The contemplation of the Divine Being, and the exercise of virtue, are in their own nature so far from excluding all gladness of heart, that they are perpetual sources of it. In a word, the true spirit of religion cheers, as well as composes the soul; it banishes, indeed, all levity of behaviour, all vicious and dissolute mirth, but in exchange fills the mind perpetual serenity, uninterrupted cheerfulness, and an habitual inclination to please others, as well as to be pleased in itself.
No. 495. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27.
Duris ut ilex tonsa bipennibus
Per damna, per cædes ab ipso
Ducit opes animumque ferro. HOR.
As I am one, who, by my profession, am obliged to look into all kinds of men, there are none whom I consider with so much pleasure, as those who have anything new or extraordinary in their characters, or ways of living. For this reason I have often amused myself with speculations on the race of people called Jews, many of whom I have met with in most of the considerable towns I have passed through in the course of my travels. They are, indeed, so disseminated through all the trading parts of the world, that they are become the instruments by which the most distant nations converse with one another, and by which mankind are knit together in a general correspondence; they are like the pegs and nails in a great building, which, though they are
but little valued in themselves, are absolutely necessary to keep the whole frame together.
That I may not fall into any common beaten tracks of observation, I shall consider this people in three views: first, with regard to their number; secondly, their dispersion; and, thirdly, their adherence to their religion: and afterwards endeavour to show, first, what natural reasons, and, secondly, what providential reasons, may be assigned for these three remarkable particulars.
The Jews are looked upon by many to be as numerous at present, as they were formerly in the land of Canaan.
This is wonderful, considering the dreadful slaughter made of them under some of the Roman emperors, which historians describe by the death of many hundred thousands in a war; and the innumerable massacres and persecutions they have undergone in Turkey, as well as in all Christian nations of the world. The Rabbins, to express the great havoc which has been sometimes made of them, tell us, after their usual manner of hyperbole, that there were such torrents of holy blood shed, as carried rocks of a hundred yards in circumference above three miles into the sea.
Their dispersion is the second remarkable particular in this people. They swarm over all the East, and are settled in the remotest parts of China: they are spread through most of the nations of Europe and Africa, and many families of them are established in the West Indies; not to mention whole nations bordering on Prester John's country, and some discovered in the inner parts of America, if we may give any credit to their own writers.
Their firm adherence to their religion, is no less remarkable than their numbers and dispersion, especially considering it as persecuted or contemned over the face of the whole earth. This is likewise the more remarkable, if we consider the frequent apostasies of this people, when they lived under their kings in the Land of Promise, and within sight of their temple.
If in the next place we examine, what may be the natural reasons for these three particulars which we find in the Jews, and which are not to be found in any other religion or people, I can, in the first place, attribute their numbers to nothing but their constant employment, their abstinence, their ex
emption from wars, and, above all, their frequent marriages; for they look on celibacy as an accursed state, and generally are married before twenty, as hoping the Messiah may descend from them.
The dispersion of the Jews into all the nations of the earth, is the second remarkable particular of that people, though not so hard to be accounted for. They were always in rebellions and tumults while they had the temple and the holy city in view, for which reason they have often been driven out of their old habitations in the Land of Promise. They have as often been banished out of most other places where they have settled, which must very much disperse and scatter a people, and oblige them to seek a livelihood where they can find it. Besides, the whole people is now a race of such merchants as are wanderers by profession, and, at the same time, are in most, if not all, places incapable of either lands or offices, that might engage them to make any part of the world their home.
This dispersion would probably have lost their religion, had it not been secured by the strength of its constitution; for they are to live all in a body, and generally within the same enclosure, to marry among themselves, and to eat no meats that are not killed or prepared their own way. This shuts them out from all table conversation, and the most agreeable intercourses of life; and, by consequence, excludes them from the most probable means of conversion.
If, in the last place, we consider what providential reason may be assigned for these three particulars, we shall find that their numbers, dispersion, and adherence to their religion, have furnished every age, and every nation of the world, with the strongest arguments for the Christian faith, not only as these very particulars are foretold of them, but as they themselves are the depositaries of these and all the other prophecies which tend to their own confusion. Their number furnishes us with a sufficient cloud of witnesses, that attest the truth of the Old Bible. Their dispersion spreads these witnesses through all parts of the world. The adherence to their religion makes their testimony unquestionable. Had the whole body of Jews been converted to Christianity, we should certainly have thought all the prophecies of the Old Testament, that relate to the coming and history of our Blessed Saviour, forged by Christians, and have looked upon
them, with the prophecies of the Sibyls, as made many years after the events they pretend to foretell.
No. 499. THURSDAY, OCTOBER 2.
My friend Will. Honeycomb has told me, for above this half year, that he had a great mind to try his hand at a Spectator, and that he would fain have one of his writing in my works. This morning I received from him the following letter, which, after having rectified some little orthographical mistakes, I shall make a present of to the public.
I was, about two nights ago, in company with very agreeable young people of both sexes, where talking of some of your papers which are written on conjugal love, there arose a dispute among us, whether there were not more bad husbands in the world than bad wives. A gentleman, who was advocate for the ladies, took this occasion to tell us the story of a famous siege in Germany, which I have since found related in my historical dictionary, after the following manner. When the emperor Conrade the Third had besieged Guelphus, duke of Bavaria, in the city of Hensberg, the women, finding that the town could not hold out long, petitioned the emperor that they might depart out of it, with so much as each of them could carry. The emperor, knowing they could not convey away many of their effects, granted them their petition; when the women, to his great surprise, came out of the place with every one her husband upon her back. The emperor was so moved at the sight, that he burst into tears, and after having very much extolled the women for their conjugal affection, gave the men to their wives, and. received the duke into his favour.
"The ladies did not a little triumph at this story, asking us at the same time, whether in our consciences we believed that the men of any town in Great Britain would, upon same offer, and at the same conjuncture, have loaden themselves with their wives; or rather, whether they would not
have been glad of such an opportunity to get rid of them? To this, my very good friend Tom Dapperwit, who took upon him to be the mouth of our sex, replied, that they would be very much to blame, if they would not do the same good office for the women, considering that their strength would be greater, and their burdens lighter. As we were amusing ourselves with discourses of this nature, in order to pass away the evening, which now begins to grow tedious, we fell into that laudable and primitive diversion of questions and commands. I was so sooner vested with the regal authority, but I enjoined all the ladies, under pain of my displeasure, to tell the company ingenuously, in case they had been in the siege above-mentioned, and had the same offers made them as the good women of that place, what every one of them would have brought off with her, and have thought most worth the saving? There were several merry answers made to my question, which entertained us till bed-time. This filled my mind with such a huddle of ideas, that upon my going to sleep, I fell into the following dream.
"I saw a town of this island, which shall be nameless, invested on every side, and the inhabitants of it so straitened as to cry for quarter. The general refused any other terms than those granted to the above-mentioned town of Hensberg, namely, that the married women might come out with what they could bring along with them. Immediately the gate flew open, and a female procession appeared, multitudes of the sex following one another in a row, and staggering under their respective burdens. I took my stand upon an eminence in the enemy's camp, which was appointed for the general rendezvous of these female carriers, being very desirous to look into their several ladings. The first of them had a huge sack upon ber shoulders, which she set down with great care: upon the opening of it, when I expected to have seen her husband shoot out of it, I found it was filled with china ware. The next appeared in a more decent figure, carrying a handsome young fellow upon her back: I could not forbear commending the young woman for her conjugal affection, when, to my great surprise, I found that she had left the good man at home, and brought away her gallant. I saw the third, at some distance, with a little withered face peeping over her shoulder, whom I could not suspect for any but her spouse, till upon her setting him