Page images

much dejected, appears before him. The grand seignior requires a miracle, and chooses one himself; and it was this: that Sabatai should be stripped naked, and set as a mark for his archers to shoot at; and if the arrows did not pierce his flesh, he would own him to be the Messias. Sabatai had not faith enough to bear up under so great a trial. The grand seignior let him know that he would forth with impale him, and that the stake was prepared for him, unless he would turn Turk. Upon which he çonsented to turn Mahometan, to the great confusion of the Jews. And yet some of the Jews were so vain as to affirm that it was not Sabatai himself, but his shadow, that professed the religion, and was seen in the habit of a Turk: so great was their obstinacy and infidelity; as if it were a thing impossible to convince these deluded and infatuated wretches.

• After all this, several of the Jews continued to use the forms, in their public worship, prescribed by this Mahometan Messias ; which obliged the principal Jews of Constantinople to send to the synagogue of Smyrna, to forbid this practice. During these things, the Jews, instead of minding their trade and traffic, filled their letters with news of Sabatai their Messias, and his wonderful works. They reported, that when the grand seignior sent to take him, he caused all the messengers that were sent, to die; and that when other janizaries were sent, they all fell dead by a word of his mouth; and being requested to do it, that he caused them to revive again. They added, that though the prison where Sabatai lay was barred and fastened with strong iron locks, yet he was seen to walk through the streets with a numerous train: that the shackles which were upon his neck and feet did not only fall off, but were turned into gold, with which Sabatai gratified his followers. Upon the fame of these things the Jews of Italy sent legates to Smyrna, to inquire into the truth of these matters. When the legates arrived at Smyrna, they heard of the news that Sabatai was turned Turk, to their very great confusion : but going to visit the brother of Sabatai, he endeavoured to persuade them that Sabatai was still the true Messias ; that it was not Sabatai that went about in the habit of a. Turk, but his angel or spirit'; that his body was taken

into heaven, and should be sent down again when God should think it a fit season. He added that Nathan, his forerunner, who had wrought many miracles, would soon be at Smyrna; that he would reveal hidden things to them, and confirm them. But this Elias was not suffered to come into Smyrna ; and though the legates saw him elsewhere, they received no satisfaction from him at all.

· There appeared another impostor in the year 1682. one Rabbi Mordecai, a Jew of Germany, a man famous among his countrymen for his learning, and austere kind of life. He was also much cried up for his prophecies, which he uttered, about five years before, at Prague and other places. He was a very sharp reprover of vice, and was for that reason commonly called Mochiah, i. e. the Reprover. He was so vain as to profess himself to be the Messias; and not only to require the Jews to salute him as such, but upon the matter to adore him. The Italian Jews gave him credit, and so did many of the Jews of Germany also, whither he came out of Italy. We are told that he was mightily caressed in Italy, and received for the Messias; though the Jews of that place, after they saw their error, did not care to own him. A certain Jew, that by order of the Jews called him into Italy, tells us, that upon conversing with him, he found him to be an inchanter, and very silly; that he thereupon warned the Jews not to be. lieve him: upon which the credulous Jews were so enraged that they treated their monitor very maliciously, and dismissed him from the place of his abode. They withal threatened him very severely, if he durst speak evil any more of their Messias : that this Jew continuing to disparage this impostor, the Italian Jews were so enraged that they endeavoured to cast him out of the place where he was settled, and declared that whosoever should do him mischief, or bear false witness against this person, who defamed their Messias, should be esteemed guiltless.' Kidder.

Joannes a Lent wrote a · Schediasma de Judæorum Pseudo-Messiis.' Bishop Kidder treated the same subject in his · Demonstration of the Messias,' and made use of this Schediasma ;' and I have borrowed from them both. Kidder's book contains much useful erudition delivered in a slovenly and plebeian style, as may be seen in this spe

cimen. De La Croix, in his - Relation of the Othoman Empire,' hath also given us an ample account, and many curious and entertaining particularities of Sabatai Sevi, who, when he had apostatized, preached at Constantinople, and drew over many Jews to profess Mohammedism. At last he was committed to prison for the rest of his days, and died A. D. 1679. La Croix saw him, and heard him preach.

With Rabbi Mordecai endeth the history of the false Messiahs, and the Jews (I think) have had none since. It may seem strange that they should have rejected Christ, who gave them so many proofs of his mission, and yet should follow every impostor who pretended to be the Messias, without offering any sufficient or even plausible evidence of it. The reason is plain : Our Saviour, by not setting up a temporal kingdom, dashed all their worldly views at once; but the other claimers of the title of Messiah began with promises of delivering them from their ' enemies, and restoring to them their country and their lost liberties.

Let us now go back to the destruction of Jerusalem by Vespasian and Titus. The Jews, who escaped this slaughter, remained in a poor condition in various parts of the Roman empire ?

Iis autem, qui in Judæa remanserant, Titus imperavit ut-nullus sabbatum deinceps servaret; nullus a menstruata muliere se contineret, quemadmodum ex tractatu Talınudico Megilla clarum est. J. a Lent.

Was ever any thing so absurd ? and who but a Talmudist, or a Cabbalist, could take it into his silly head to conceive that Titus would have published such a decree, to plague the poor Jews ?

atque equidem,
Tum etiam, si nolit, cogam ut cum illa una cubet.'

Terent. Adelph. v. 3.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Concerning the state of the Jews from the destruction of Jerusalem to the end of the fifth century, their ecclesiastical government, their colleges, their talmud, or deuteroses, their rabbins, doctors, piatriarchs, and apostles, there are some curious remarks in Pezron, Defense de l'Antiquité des Tems.'

This good-natured emperor was so far from persecuting, that he pitied and protected them; and when he was at Antioch, and the people there earnestly importuned him to banish the Jews from that city, he checked them, and said, Where would you have these unhappy men go? they have now no country and city of their own to receive them. Josephus, B. J. vii. 5.

Domitian succeeded Titus, and was a cruel and worthless prince, who oppressed all his subjects, but particularly the Jews. He imposed heavy tributes upon them, which they were ill able to pay, and exacted them with great rigour and insolence.

After this, in the time of Trajan, the Jews grew weary of their dependency, and of the Roman yoke, and raised a rebellion in Libya, Ægypt, Cyprus, and Mesopotamia; they exercised all sorts of iniquities and cruelties, and slew an innumerable multitude of people. If they had not been infatuated, they would never have chosen such a time to rebel, when the Romans had one of the greatest, bravest

, and wisest emperors that ever reigned, who understood war perfectly, and who loved it too much ; for, with many accomplishments, he had that defect. This revolt brought on a war between the Jews and Romans : battles were fought, and the Jews were beaten, and severely punished.

After Trajan, Adrian was emperor, who also was a great and powerful prince, and who took care to maintain numerous and disciplined forces. Under him the Jews rebelled again in Palæstine, headed by one Barcochal, an impostor and a false prophet, who was a robber and a murderer, and ravaged the country, and did incredible mischief.

Encouraged by this villain, the Jews drew together and attempted to settle at Jerusalem, whereby they provoked Adrian to send an army against them, which took Jerusalem, and destroyed it down to the ground a second time, and slew all the Jews that were to be found, not sparing even the infants. If we may believe the Jewish writers, their nation at that time suffered calamities not less severe nor less extensive than those under Vespasian. It is said that there died by sword, famine, sickness, and fire, five hundred-and-eighty thousand persons. The surviving Jews

'were sold in the markets, like beasts, to any who would purchase them, for a small price.

When this war was thus ended, Adrian forbad all the Jews, on pain of death, to set foot in Jerusalem. It is said by some antient writers, that once a year they purchased leave to approach their old city, and there to fast and weep over its ruins.

Adrian then rebuilt a city near the place where Jerusalem stood, gave it a new name, peopled it with Pagans, and made it a Roman colony. It

appears from some passages in history that not long after this, under Antoninus Pius, the Jews rose and rebelled again, and were repressed. It is astonishing how after sp many calamities they should have had the resolution and the strength to appear in arms.

Under his successor Marcus Aurelius, one of the best emperors that ever lived, they were so foolish and infatuated as to join themselves to a base worthless rebel, who rose up against so good a master : but the emperor forgave them, and showed them more mercy than they deserved.

Under Severus they were troublesome, and did something that provoked him to make war against them, in which he had the advantage. This emperor, who was of a cruel disposition, published a rigid edict against them, and threatened to punish any of his subjects who should embrace their religion.

The conversion of Constantine produced a great revolution, by which Christianity became the established religion. And now the Jews were subject to Christian as they had been before to Pagan emperors; but this revolution brought with it no advantage to them: it was rather a detriment.

• The Jews were not much happier under Christian emperors than they had been under the reign of idolaters. Their condition varied according to the temper of their rulers. Christians had suffered so much from persecution, that they could not instantly change their maxims and their notions about it. Constantine contented himself with making some laws which laid some restraint on the liberty of the Jews, though they were, the objects of his hatred : but the Christians insensibly followed the bent of corrupted

« PreviousContinue »