IT is deeply interesting to pursue the contrast of the Aryan and Semitic languages—or, let us say, of two such representatives of them as Greek and Hebrew. The metaphysical subtlety of Greek, its rich variety, its delicate capacity for reflecting the minutest shades of difference in meaning, the extraordinary wealth of its inflections, the softness and music of the language, its lightness, gaiety, voluptuousness, its extraordinary flexibility and precision as a well-understood, conventional instrument of human expression, its genial lyric playfulness, the oceanic roll of its oratory, and the sonorous lilt of its epic verse, all contrast strangely and forcibly with the grave, unbending stateliness of the Hebrew. One would say that Greek is liquid, and Hebrew metallic; or that Greek is a coloured sun-picture, reproducing with the minute fidelity of Nature herself every shadow on the earth and every ripple on the sea, while Hebrew is a broad, rough, unshaded sketch in the sweeping strokes of a Michael Angelo or a Tintoretto.
But while we admit that there was in the Semite but little of that science, or philosophy, or courageous love of truth which are the glory of the Aryan,—while we acknowledge him to have been utterly deficient in the spirit of liberty which solved the problem of rendering individual development compatible with imperial and military organisation,—while we point out the one-sidedness of his intellect, the sameness of his passions, the monotony of his history, the uniformity of his literature, the je-ficiency in him of the social instincts and of large humanitarian conceptions, the religious absorption which deadened in him all interest for science, and the iconoclastic zeal which destroyed for him the possibility of art—let us never forget the truly immeasurable work which he effected for the world. The very intensity and subjectivity of his religious conceptions were his weakness no less than his strength. They were his weakness, because a noble and fertile spirit of inquiry is impossible for one whose capacity of wonder is swallowed up in his awe for the Infinite and the Unseen, for whom every event is Kismet or Destiny—whose sufficient expression of astonishment is, "Allah is great," and whose ready solution of every inquiry is, "Allah knows." No philosophic conception of great demiurgic laws, and no modification or adaptation of those laws to human purposes, was possible to a nation which regarded everything as the direct, immediate, unconditioned exercise of Divine power, either by God Himself, or by individual angels or demons who stood ready to effect His purpose. "When a bull is angry the devil leaps up between his horns," wrote one of the Rabbis, and the same conception of miraculous intervention and personal agencies exhausts their entire philosophy of the universe, and the events which take place in it. Mr. Newman has somewhere said that the result of what is called Evangelical teaching upon his mind, was to intensify in him the conviction that the only two realities—the only two entities whose existence he could entirely realise—were himself and God. No expression could be chosen which more accurately describes the natural feelings of a Hebrew, or which could more simply indicate the tendency of his literature. Yet, as a direct consequence of this, although the Hebrew is the only member of his race who has handed down to posterity a permanent literature, and although his race has been intrusted with but one memorable work for mankind, yet that literature is of absolutely priceless value, and that work is the most infinite of all in its bearings, for the literature is the Bible, and the work is the dissemination of a belief in the One True God. If there be a meagre sterility in the Hebrew's words, there is an infinitude in their power. If he evoked his awful music from a monochord, it was yet a sublimer chord, and one of more mysterious efficacy, than any of those whose blended music was heard in the seven-stringed harp which the Aryan played. The very subjectivity of his emotions, the introspective egotism of his whole spiritual constitution, led him in his deep meditations to educate for ever the conscience of mankind, and drove him forth at one period with fanatic proselytism to spread among races, in all other respects his superiors, his sublime faith in the unity of God. Free from the enormous confusions and complications of unaided Aryan thought, there have been but three religions which looked upward consciously and solely to the one true God. Those three religions were Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and those three religions (which are well-nigh the sole religions of the civilised world) sprang from three Semitic centres, which are separated from each other but by a few days' journey. The Hebraic Semite was, what he so intensely felt himself to be, a member of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people. "Greece," says Thomas de Quincey, "was, in fact, too ebullient with intellectual activity—an activity too palaes-tric and purely human—so that the opposite pole of the mind, which points to the mysterious and the spiritual, was, in the agile Greek—too intensely a child of the earth—starved and palsied; while in the Hebrew, dull and inert intellectually, but in his spiritual organs awake and sublime, the case was entirely reversed. Yet, after all, the result was immeasurably in favour of the Hebrew. The Greek has won the admiration of the human race, he is numbered among the chief brilliancies of earth, but on the deeper and more abiding nature of man he has no hold. He will perish when any deluge of calamity overtakes the libraries of our planet, or if any great revolution of thought remoulds them, and will be remembered only as a generation of flowers is remembered, with the same tenderness of feeling, and with the same pathetic sense of natural predestination to evanescence. . . . Whereas the Hebrew, by introducing himself to the secret places of the human heart, and sitting there as incubator over the awful germs of the spiritualities that connect man with the unseen worlds, has perpetuated himself as a power in the human system: he is co-enduring with man's race, and careless of all revolutions in literature or in the composition of society." The Aryans believed in the secular Avatar of their gods ; far more real, far more enduring in its effects over the remotest generations, was the Avatar of Hebrew Prophecy.