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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

XIII
Unprofessional Sermons

Righteousness

ACCORDING to Mr. Matthew Arnold, as we find the highest
traditions of grace, beauty and the heroic virtues among the
Greeks and Romans, so we derive our highest ideal of righ-
teousness from Jewish sources. Righteousness was to the
Jew what strength and beauty were to the Greek or fortitude
to the Roman.

This sounds well, but can we think that the Jews taken
as a nation were really more righteous than the Greeks
and Romans ? Could they indeed be so if they were less
strong, graceful and enduring ? In some respects they
may have been—every nation has its strong points—but
surely there has been a nearly unanimous verdict for many
generations that the typical Greek or Roman' is a higher,
nobler person than the typical Jew—and this referring not
to the modern Jew, who may perhaps be held to have been
injured by centuries of oppression, but to the Hebrew of
the time of the old prophets and of the most prosperous
eras in the history of the nation. If three men could be set
before us as the most perfect Greek, Roman and Jew re-
spectively, and if we could choose which we would have
our only son most resemble, is it not likely we should find
ourselves preferring the Greek or Roman to the Jew ? And
does not this involve that we hold the two former to be the
more righteous in a broad sense of the word ?

I dare not say that we owe no benefits to the Jewish nation,
I do not feel sure whether we do or do not, but I can see no
good thing that I can point to as a notoriously Hebrew con-

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