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Mirium; or The Power of Truth. A Jewish tale. By the author of "Influer Philadelphia : Key & Biddle. 1883.
WHETHER or not important truths are sometimes most usef presented in the drapery of fiction, we shall not now undertak decide. The religious world are, perhaps, equally divided on question. It is, however, too late in the day to attempt an ei change in the taste of the reading public on this subject, even were desirable. We have no choice in this matter. The ti is formed, and there are continually ever-increasing means of tifying it. We are not willing to see the whole of this field oc pied by those who have nothing to say on the subject of relig or who are diametrically opposed to the great truths of the bil All we can do, therefore, is, while we put in our caveat aga every work of this kind which is immoral and pernicious, to sei occasionally, and bring out to notice, those which are calculate exert a salutary influence. Such we certainly consider the li work before us, and with this view we have determined to say few words in its favor.
It was originally published, as appears from the preface, 1826; and met with such encouragement that it has reached i third London edition, from which the present reprint, int country, is taken. Whether it has ever before appeared here, do not know; we have never ourselves met with it, or seen it ticed. Our readers may perhaps call to mind an anecdote gir several years since in some of the religious papers, in respect a Jew who was converted to christianity in consequence of an a peal from his dying daughter, who had herself, unknown to his embraced the religion of Christ. It is on this incident that t author of Miriam has founded a touching little story, combini imaginary details, of circumstances leading to the result, an wrought up with considerable power. Notwithstanding occasion blemishes in style, and defects in the symmetry of the tale, will be read, we think, with interest, while the spirit which it i culcates cannot be too much admired or commended. We sha not dwell at any length on the details of the story ; but it seen necessary for our purpose to allude to the circumstances out which the tale is formed. Imlah Durvan, a rich Jew, had select for his residence an estate called Fernhill, in the neighborhood the little village of Glencairn, in Westmoreland. Here he live in solitude, avoiding the society of christians, and manifesting by baughty demeanor, his entire contempt for all who belony 10 the sect. The companion of his walks was a sweet girl, an only chil left him as the pledge of her love and the sole living relic of hi departed wife. A German by birth, enthusiastically attached to the cause of Israel, he had devoted himself to the object of accomplishing, by every means in his power, the restoration of his people to the holy land. Having married the daughter of an opulent Jew, he settled in Gottingen, in hopes of preparing the way for success in his plans. But he was doomed to disappointment.
* He had lost his only child, a boy on whom he had raised many a bright prediction ; but so assured was he of future greatness, that, eren in his desertion, he anticipated the revival of his power in the birth of an expected heir. But, alas ! he was to be humbled and taught the devices of God by a still heavier stroke ; for he again became a father, but of a female child, and that same hour widowed him of his first of earthly treasures. He could have almost cursed the birth of that sweet infant, whose sex is considered amongst the Jews a degradation, rather than a blessi g; but when he saw it sleeping in its peaceful innocence, he raised it to his bosom, and felt he could not but love the last sweet relic of her who had been to him the gentlest—best of beings! He had not dreamt of death, and it had fallen where he could least bear it; but it came a messenger of mercy to his self-willed Leart, for he knelt down, and for the first time humbled under a sense of his own arrogance, he prayed that God would spare him from further vengeance, and bless the babe, whom, in his bitterness, he had wellnigh cursed.
0, had the Redeemer's name then passed his lips, who can tell what mighty workings might have wrought his salvation in that dread hour of acknowledged shame and contrition! But, alas ! he rose an unbeliever, and suffered still an unbeliever's unblest, unhappy meed.' pp. 10, 11.
Confiding his child to the care of an aged rabbin, named Mendez, be sent her to England, while he settled his affairs in Germany; and subsequently followed her there, where he purchased Fernhill, and took up his abode. Under the instruction of Rabbi Mendez, little Miriam grew up with all the strong prejudices and feelings of a Jew.
* Thus was Miriam, at the age of sixteen, placed in a sphere of splendor and unbounded indulgence ; but accustomed as she had been to view the dazzling toys of wealth, they were little heeded now, although she knew that for her alone they glittered : for it was enough that in her father's heart she was the first and loveliest of them all, and that there she shone, like a lone and radiant star-more bright, because the only one that cheered his long dark night of grief. Dark was indeed that heart, for little could the sense of a self-righteous hope bring peace to a soul, wrapt within the vail of prejudice against the awakening truths of light and revelation. But, alas! Imlah believed that conformity to the moral laws and ordinances of the ancient prophets was enough to insure his salvation ; as if such poor, such undeserving services, could cancel the heavy debt of guilt which lies in every human heart, for which the Son of God himself took up his cross, and paid the VOL. VI.
high ransom of his sinless blood, that in him all nations of the eart should receive pardon and eternal life. pp. 13, 14.
The heart of Miriam was knit to her father; her feelings wer like bis own. In imagination she dwelt upon the coming day wher the wrongs of an injured people should be redressed.
•“O, father!" she one day exclaimed, “ will not our Messiah soo retrieve the injuries of Judah, when he shall come, the mighty con queror, to spill the blood of all our enemies? I am but young, an surely I may live to see that glorious day ; and if that blessing be in deed mine, you shall see, father, how I, woman as I am, shall wav the banners of our faith amidst the bleeding heaps of those deteste christiaus !") p. 15.
Events soon occurred, however, which brought her in more im mediate contact with the people she had been taught to hate A little girl, named Jessie Stuart, was the instrument of firs overcoming her prejudices, and the opportunity of witnessing a happy group of children, who, with their parents, were collected together on May-day in front of the parsonage, and joined together in singing a hymn to Jesus, was a means of bringing Miriam more acquainted with the simple villagers of Glencairn. The authoress has here drawn a beautiful picture of rural enjoyment, and of the impression produced upon the mind of Miriam by the artless strains of these christian children. Her father
Her father permitted her to repeat her visits to Glencairn, and continue her acquaintance with the Stuarts, but accompanies his permission with the following language of warning :
"“But remember, Miriam, I charge you solemnly against revealing the sacred mysteries of our own religion, or listening to the accursed idolatry of hers !—and though I believe you far too noble, too highminded, to stoop to the littleness of infidelity, yet, while I expose you to the choice of it, I swear by all that is sacred, that if ever you apostatize from your religion, or join in christian worship, that very hour, Miriam, shall I curse you—and in curses, such as never yet fell from a parent's tongue." ' pp. 33, 34.
We must pass rapidly over a number of incidents which are pleasingly related, respecting her intercourse with this family, to whom she becomes gradually more and more attached, and whose history is interwoven with a part of the tale. From Helen Stuart, one of the daughters, she receives a bible, on condition that she will not read it without her father's consent. This she obtains ; and bent on leading back her misguided friends from the errors of their apostasy to the Jewish faith, she enters upon a discussion of the principles of her own religion, as compared with theirs. At home, she stores her mind with the arguments and objections of
Rabbi Mendez, to whom she constantly repairs for aid to solve her difficulties. It is at the house of Mrs. Stuart that she engages in the discussion. Besides the members of the family, Mr. Howard, the clergyman, is present, and seeks to lead her mind to a proper consideration of the gospel. The hopes with which she began the discussion are soon at an end; but various circumstances operate to make her pursue her inquiries, till convicted by the truth, she yields to its power, and declares herself a christian. We cannot attempt even a slight sketch of the arguments which are used, and for which the writer professes her indebtedness to a work of the Rev. John Scott. Indeed, we do not consider this part of the work as evincing so much talent as some of the other portions. The father, in the mean time, little dreaming of what was passing in ber mind, had contracted his daughter to a wealthy Jew of Germany; and was indulging in the fond hope that perhaps by this union of two persons of the lineage of David, İsrael might be blessed even with the promised Messiah. The intelligence of this urangement is of course like a death-blow to Miriam's enjoyment. She dreads to make the avowal of her apostasy, and yet her feelings will scarcely permit her to withhold the disclosure. The struggle in her mind is well depicted :
She daily advanced in her persuasions of christianity, and consequently became the more reluctant to an alliance opposed not only to ber views of selfish happiness, but to all her present convictions; and she felt that it was almost treachery against her father longer to conceal from him her decided conversion to the christian faith. But yet how could she mar his returning happiness, and change his glad perspectire again to the blank of sorrow and disappointment ? Could she bear to see those smiles which now brightened his countenance like sunshine after a long eclipse, changed to tears which had already but too often dimmed every gleam of hope? Or how could she turn to bitterness against herself, the fond indulgence of such a parent? O, how Fould he withhold it all, did he but know that she was about to frustrate his blissful expectations! How would his feeling heart be agonized, if she were the only bar to his long-waited deliverance ;—if she, for whose sake he had borne a long exile of sorrow and abandonment, could make captivity more galling, and renew a bondage which, but for her, he would believe, might be soon removed !
Often would poor Miriam thus catechise her feelings; while duty still urged a principle paramount to them all; and she felt it a severe and bitter trial to yield the powerful pleadings of filial affection to the more absolute requirements of a bigher love.' pp. 236, 237.
Her resolution is, however, at length taken, but from day to day she delays the communication to her father. Many interesting circumstances are here thrown in, showing the better side of Imlah's character, and the greater difficulty of breaking away from such a
father, whose heart is, as it were, bound up in his child. Int mean time she is acquiring more clear views of christian doctrine And here, we are happy to say, the truths inculcated are strict evangelical. To our mind, however, they labor under the sam defect which is found in the works of Mrs. Hannah More, M Sherwood, and others of the English writers, in making regener tion a gradual process. The want of revivals of religion, and u more marked cases of sudden conversion, in that country, are, presume, the chief causes to which this fact is to be attribute We should not, perhaps, be willing to coincide in the explanatio of some other points; but in the great facts of the gospel syster the authoress is clear and correct.
Again and again does Miriam determine on declaring to her f ther the state of her heart, and as often is she prevented. one time some peculiar expression of his love makes her feel tha she cannot so break in upon his charmed circle of happiness, ao send a withering blight over the sweet confidence with which h reposes himself
her affection. Again some event occur which induces her still longer to delay. At length, howeve Miriam is taken ill. The fond father hangs over her from da to day, and hopes and fears alternately possess his breast. Th crisis of her disorder arrives. She has fallen into a deep slumber During her illness thus far, the principles of the gospel, which sh had so lately learned, are her support; and her firm trust in he new-found 'Redeemer, is the source of her consolation. In the progress of the tale, she had been permitted to see the varied exemplifications of christian character, in the painful occurrence which her friends had been called to meet. Now she is hersell enabled to judge of the same by her own experience. But here we must leave the authoress herself to be heard, and in our view the following extracts are the most interesting, both as exhibitions of her talents as a writer, and for the effect they are calculated to produce :
"" Yes, yes, I remember that I fell asleep,” said Miriam, thoughtfully ; then raising herself, she remained for a moment with her hand over her eyes, as if trying to collect her thoughts, when suddenly clasping her hands she exclaimed, with a countenance of enthusiastic energy, “0, Corah! I have had such a dream as I would sleep on for ages to enjoy again. I have been, as I thought, in the presence of the Lord, my sins forgiven, and my soul washed white in the precious blood of Him whom Israel blindly, basely crucified! And then I felt as if borne on the ethereal air of heaven, amid the golden harps of saints and cherubim, whose hallelujahs filled all space! But it was all a dream; sin is still here, and I have left my Master's work undone : and yet, Corah, I do believe my soul will soon be freed from all its miserable bonds, for death is nigh at band,-my heart beats even now with effort, and my frame is chilled with the damp dews of life's last struggle !"