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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:
סוף דבר הכל נשמע • את-האלהים ירא ואת־מצותיו
שמור כי זה כל־האדם: כי את־כל־מעשה האלהים יבא במשפט על כל-נעלס • אס־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, DW X'. II. The Divine Revelation, d'on 10 7710. III. The Future Reward and Punishment, 20
. 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
a Mishna Sanhedrin 10:1.
6 Ikarim 1:4. • Exod. xix. 16. It is to be observed, that, contrary to the usual phenomenon, on this occasion nisip 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.” 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 unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire.”e The dogma, that the Supreme Being is a spirit—the highest spirit — incorporeal —and neither may nor can be represented by any likeness, is of the greatest moment. He is elevated above all the passions, free from all the foibles, exempt from all the frailties which degrade man. Let it not be objected, that we find in the Holy Bible many instances where corporeal attributes are imputed to God, where it speaks of God's anger, revenge, jealousy- of God's rising and moving; for bear in mind, that the Bible being written for men, the Lord descends therein to the level of human understanding, of human apprehension and human conception, and
d Job xii. 7.
גדול נביאים שמדמים צורה-assumes human language it is a great thing that the prophets were* ליוצרה
“a permitted to assign the image of man to the Creator who created man in his image." But those expressions must be purged and purified in our minds from all gross associations; for “to whom will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?"& There is none, either in the heaven or in the earth, who can be compared or likened unto him.
To fear God signifies, thirdly, to trust in and worship God. The fear of God also differs, in this respect, from the fear of any other
generally we cannot have confidence in him whom
e Deut. iv. 15.
* Ber. Rabba, 27. Moreh 1:46. & Isa. xl. 18.
בעל הנס אינו מכיר and our present-that very oftenb
we fear; but the more we fear God the more our confidence in him must increase in strength. When we are convinced that with God is power which can give, and goodness which will give—that we owe to him alone all the benefits of our past
— 1033 “ he who is the object of a miracle, at first does not perceive it”, —such discovery of God's omnipresence, infinite goodness and kindness, must be a new ground of hope, of trust, and of cordial submission. We feel ourselves bound to worship him alone and none else; we feel it incumbent on us to lift up to him every day thanks 777in, praise
, ,' — past, praise for the present, and supplication for the future. It is true, that by uplifting our voice to heaven, we cannot convey to the Almighty any new knowledge; for he knows everything before we call, he hears before we cry.j But though we cannot work a change in God, we can work a change in ourselves by making ourselves fit subjects for his benevolence, kindness and mercy, and qualifying us to receive his blessing.
thanks for the - בקשה and supplication ,תהלה
But we must not only worship God at certain hours or periods; but our whole life must be one
h Nidda 31, a.
Our daily prayers embrace these three parts. j Isa. lxv. 24.