Verse > Anthologies > Joseph Friedlander, comp. > The Standard Book of Jewish Verse
Joseph Friedlander, comp.  The Standard Book of Jewish Verse.  1917.
On Attempting to Convert the Jews to Christianity
WHEN thou canst wash the Ethiopian white,
Govern the winds or give the sun more light,
Cause by thy words the mountain to remove,
Control the seas or hurl the bolt of Jove,
Then hope—but not till then—to turn the Jews,        5
To Christian doctrines, and to Christian views;
For Christian faith, say conscience, is thy guide,
The Jews, for conscience sake ’gainst it decide.
One God thou callest three, and three but one,
The Jews acknowledge God as one alone,        10
To whom all honour, praise, and glory due,
From Christian, Pagan, Mussulman and Jew.
Were not the Jews from Abraham decreed
To be the holy and the chosen seed,
Appointed to receive and to record        15
The sacred scriptures of the Almighty’s word,
While every prophet’s tongue, and angels’ voice
Proclaimed that people God’s peculiar choice?
Then why should humanity presume
To question God’s decree and assume        20
Wisdom, beyond the reach of mortal ken,
Unknown to angels, unconceived by men?
To Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob too
God did sacred promises renew;
Told them, their seed, conducted by his hand        25
Should surely see and gain the promised land.
What though proud Pharaoh long in bondage kept
The sons of Jacob, while they mourned and wept?
Yet, in due time, the promises prevailed,
And God’s beloved their great deliverer hailed.        30
Moses the holy prophet of the Lord,
With inspiration blessed, proclaimed the word;
Gave comfort when his brethren most despaired,
And all the mercies of their God declared;
By miracles and wonders set them free        35
From Pharaoh’s proud and ruthless tyranny.
Led them triumphant from the fatal shore,
From which their enemies returned no more;
Who madly rash, and impiously brave,
All found in Israel’s path a watery grave.        40
Thus Pharaoh and the host of Egypt failed—
Israel was saved—the Lord of Hosts prevailed.
Did not such wonders and such judgments prove
The Jews to be the object of God’s love?
Then what art thou who darest dispute their claim        45
To blessings promised in the Eternal name?
Oppressed, distressed, and wandering o’er the world,
The ensign of their glory still unfurled?
What now supports them? What does joy afford?
Hope in the promises—faith in God the Lord.        50
Canst thou from hope and faith their tribes seduce
By specious arguments, howe’er profuse?
No, conversion must from conviction flow—
The mind to mere assertions cannot bow;
Man must believe what nature’s reasons cite,        55
Until illumed by some superior light,
Canst thou communicate those rays divine?
Presumptuous man! let humbler thoughts be thine.
Serve thou thy God with all thy heart and soul,
Seek not thy neighbour’s conscience to control;        60
But humbly hope that all who are sincere
In goodness, will eternal mercy share;
That every honest charitable heart
Will of celestial bliss enjoy its part;
When God shall summon all before his throne        65
Each one to answer for himself alone.

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