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MY DEAR BRETHREN,
Ar this momentous time, when so much is spoken on subjects profoundly interesting to us, we not unfrequently observe how busy calumny is in plundering our holy faith of its godly character. We perceive how some go even so far as to affirm, that they do not know at all in what our religion does consist; and, when we refer them to the Bible, the book revered by all, they say that its doctrines have been in the course of time so disfigured, that they can no longer be looked upon as our guide, and consequently that we have no religion at all. We can imagine that such a statement must have raised a smile in most of you, and must appear as absurd as if a man were to deny his own existence; for his religion is his life, nay his life of life—but there are others who, though convinced of the falsehood of an assertion so monstrous, yet cannot, in their simplicity, produce the arguments necessary for its refutation, although their own belief be of adamantine firmness. Therefore, we think it our duty to try to bring the substance of our holy faith, as we are now bound to believe and to practise it, into the smallest
possible compass; and though the topic is one not easily despatched, and is difficult to be condensed into one discourse, I could not but invite you to follow me on a subject which will require your concentrated and continued attention. Besides, when can such a task be more justifiable and more indispensable than this day, when we have just heard repeated the awful revelation on the mountain of Sinai. Therefore let us endeavour to give a sketch of our holy faith. We take our text from the book of Ecclesiastes (xii. 13, 14), running thus:
את האלהים ירא ואת מצותיו סוף דבר הכל נשמע שמור כי זה כל האדם: כי את כל מעשה האלהים יבא במשפט על כל נעלם • אם טוב ואם רע:
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or whether evil."
After the wisest of men had, in the book of Ecclesiastes, considered how man is so low and yet so high, so insignificant and yet of such great moment-after he had beheld his earthly possessions from a double point of view, in their importance and their vanity and vexation of spirit-after he had contemplated the various purposes and destinies for which man was created: he finally
comes to that point which solves all the contradictions exhibited in that book: "Fear God, keep his commandments; for God shall bring every work into judgment." In these words are involved the three fundamental articles of our faith, into which the thirteen dogmas of Maimonides are condensed" namely:
I. The Existence of God, DM MINIYD.
II. The Divine Revelation,
en jp 7717.
III. The Future Reward and Punishment, 750
May the Lord bless our humble words, that we may succeed in representing with dignity that which is most dignified!
To fear God means first to know God. While the fear of every other thing decreases in proportion as we approach to and are acquainted with it, the fear of God, on the contrary, increases the more we learn of Him, and the more our minds are filled with conceptions of His attributes. We tremble like our forefathers on the mountain of Sinai, when we perceive within and without us His thunderings and lightnings. True, it is difficult to comprehend those attributes: it is as if a child were to
Mishna Sanhedrin 10:1.
b Ikarim 1:4.
< Exod. xix. 16. It is to be observed, that, contrary to the usual phenomenon. on this occasion nip thundering preceded
dig a hole in the ground for the purpose of exhausting the ocean. The study and labour of a life would not be sufficient to explore even one of the divine qualities. But to be convinced of His existence is not difficult. There is not a star that shines, not a plant that grows, not an insect that moves, but what is sufficient to confound the atheist. "Ask the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee; the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea, they shall declare unto thee that it is the hand of the Lord who has wrought them."d It cannot be by chance; for chance has neither order nor regularity. Blots of ink cast promiscuously on paper cannot form a well-written letter -but in the world there is the greatest order and regularity. Chance has no design or end; but the natural as well as the moral world affords the most conspicuous and striking proofs of profound design and wisdom. Whithersoever we look, the most minute and inconsiderable, as well as the most stupendous and illustrious, works of God bear equal marks of that exquisite wisdom.
To fear God signifies, in the second place, to know God rightly-not to fall into the hands of those rival enemies, superstition and unbelief, that is, to believe too much or too little. "Take ye good heed," said the Lord, "unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake
d Job xii. 7.