But in the midst of that dense gloom one ray there was, feeble indeed at first as if human suffering had deadened even that, but brightening and strengthening with every passing day. It was the sincerity of her faith—the dearer, more precious to its followers, from the scorn and condemnation, in which it was held by man.
The fact that the most Catholic kingdom, of Spain, was literally peopled with secret Jews, brands this unhappy people, with a degree of hypocrisy, in addition to the various other evil propensities with which they have been so plentifully charged. Nay, even amongst themselves in modern times, this charge has gained ascendency; and the romance-writer who would make use of this extraordinary truth, to vividly picture the condition of the Spanish Jews, is accused of vilifying the nation, by reporting practices, opposed to the upright dictates of the religion of the Lord. It is well to pronounce such judgment now, that the liberal position which we occupy in most lands, would render it the height of dissimulation, and hypocrisy, to conceal our faith; but to judge correctly of the secret adherence to Judaism and public profession of Catholicism which characterized our ancestors in Spain, we must transport ourselves not only to the country but to the time, and recall the awfully degraded, crushing, and stagnating position which acknowledged Judaism occupied over the whole known world. As early as 600—as soon, in fact, as the disputes and prosecutions of Arian against Catholic, and Catholic against Arian, had been checked by the whole of Spain being subdued and governed by Catholic kings—intolerance began to work against the Jews, who had been settled in vast numbers in Spain since the reign of the Emperor Adrian; some authorities assert still earlier.[A] They were, therefore, nearly the original colonists of the country, and regarded it with almost as much attachment as they had felt towards Judea. When persecution began to work, “90,000 Jews were