"The faith of a true Christian is the same as that of Moses and the Prophets."
Letter 7. Messiah's Credentials
1. I have already shown numerous predictions concerning the Messiah to have received their literal fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth, blessed be his holy name; I will now point out those prophecies which relate to the credentials which were to confirm the authority of his mission. As it was necessary that the Messiah should be divinely appointed, as has been shown before, so it was equally necessary, to encourage our confidence and trust in him, that, on his coming into our world, his mission should be established upon undeniable evidence. And it gives me unspeakable pleasure to be able to state, without fear of contradiction, that the mission of Jesus is confirmed by credentials infinitely surpassing every other embassy. This will evidently appear, if we consider the peculiar and superior unction which he received; the declaration of heaventhe testimony of John the Baptistand the miracles which he wrought.
2. We commence with the first, viz. the peculiar and superior unction which Jesus Christ received. It has already been stated that the Father had engaged to qualify the human nature of the Mediator by anointing it with the Holy Ghost: hence one of the names of the Mediator is Messiah, or Moshiach, in Hebrew, and Christ, or Christos, in Greek, both signifying "the anointed." The first time that this word was used in the Bible, was by Hannah in her prayer: "the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth, and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed," or "Messiah" (1 Sam 2:10). R. D. Kimchi ingenuously acknowledges that the king mentioned here is the Messiah, of whom Hannah spake, either by prophecy or tradition. It is generally supposed that Jesus is the proper name of the Mediator, but Christ refers to his offices. By the former, our blessed Redeemer was always acknowledged by our nation; but they deny him to be the Christ; and the law which they made in his time is still in force, viz. "that if any man confessed that Jesus is the Christ, he should be cast out of the synagogue."
3. Now the name of Christ, or Messiah, is manifestly borrowed from the ancient divine institution of setting persons apart to an office by the ceremony of anointing. Kings and priests were always anointed, and prophets sometimes, but not always. But all these unctions were only types of that of the Messiah, who was to be anointed as prophet, priest and king. The royal psalmist informs us that "Messiah should be anointed above his fellows" (Psa 45:7), i. e. above those, who possessed with him a fellowship or similarity of office, as types of himself. Aaron was anointed high priest; Saul was anointed king; Elisha was anointed prophet; Melchizedeck was a king and priest; Moses priest and prophet; David, king and prophet, yet none was ever anointed to the union and comprehension of all these offices together, except the Messiah.
4. And as the priests and kings of old were set apart to their offices and dignities by a certain oil prescribed in the law of Moses (Exo 30:22-33
), so was the Messiah to be anointed with a better anointing, (of which the oil was but a shadow,) namely, with the Holy Ghost (see Isa 11:1-3; 61:1-3); which was not only to designate and set him apart to these great and important offices, but was likewise to qualify him, in his human nature, for the performance of them. All this was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, our Savior; for "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power" (Acts 10:38). Although he was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, yet, when entering his public ministry, he was publicly anointed, as a declaration of his election to the work. Thus Aaron and David, two eminent types of the Messiah, were twice anointed (Exo 28:41, 29:31; Lev 8:12-30
Moreover the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels, And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony, And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense, And the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot. And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy. And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations. Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you. Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people.
).(39) 39. See Abarbanel on Ex. 28:21; respecting David, see 1 Sam 16:13; 2 Sam 2:4. It is remarkable, that, immediately after the baptism of Jesus, it is said, that "being full of the Holy Ghost," he "returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil." From thence Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee; and from thence he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read, and there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord; and he closed the book, and he gave it again unto the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, this day is this Scripture fulfilled unto your ears" (Luke 4:1,14-21 - compare Isa 61:1-3). That this passage in Isaiah refers to the Messiah, is acknowledged by many of our ancient Rabbins.(40) 40. Kimchi in Sepher Shorashim, Rad. Mashach. R. Sol. Hamelech in Michlol Yophi in loco, and luchasin, fol. 69, 1. R. Soadiah Gaon, in lib. Haemun, c. 8. Now when Jesus said, "this day is this scripture fulfilled," it was as much as if he had said, "I am the person here spoken of; and at this present time the Spirit of God is upon me; I am anointed with the Holy Ghost, and now preach glad tidings to you, and all the good things here mentioned, and for the several ends proposed; and this scripture has its full accomplishment," &c. &c.
And he poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head, and anointed him, to sanctify him. And Moses brought Aaron's sons, and put coats upon them, and girded them with girdles, and put bonnets upon them; as the LORD commanded Moses.
And he brought the bullock for the sin offering: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the bullock for the sin offering. And he slew it; and Moses took the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about with his finger, and purified the altar, and poured the blood at the bottom of the altar, and sanctified it, to make reconciliation upon it. And he took all the fat that was upon the inwards, and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and their fat, and Moses burned it upon the altar. But the bullock, and his hide, his flesh, and his dung, he burnt with fire without the camp; as the LORD commanded Moses. And he brought the ram for the burnt offering: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram. And he killed it; and Moses sprinkled the blood upon the altar round about. And he cut the ram into pieces; and Moses burnt the head, and the pieces, and the fat. And he washed the inwards and the legs in water; and Moses burnt the whole ram upon the altar: it was a burnt sacrifice for a sweet savour, and an offering made by fire unto the LORD; as the LORD commanded Moses. And he brought the other ram, the ram of consecration: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram. And he slew it; and Moses took of the blood of it, and put it upon the tip of Aaron's right ear, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot. And he brought Aaron's sons, and Moses put of the blood upon the tip of their right ear, and upon the thumbs of their right hands, and upon the great toes of their right feet: and Moses sprinkled the blood upon the altar round about. And he took the fat, and the rump, and all the fat that was upon the inwards, and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and their fat, and the right shoulder: And out of the basket of unleavened bread, that was before the LORD, he took one unleavened cake, and a cake of oiled bread, and one wafer, and put them on the fat, and upon the right shoulder: And he put all upon Aaron's hands, and upon his sons' hands, and waved them for a wave offering before the LORD. And Moses took them from off their hands, and burnt them on the altar upon the burnt offering: they were consecrations for a sweet savour: it is an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And Moses took the breast, and waved it for a wave offering before the LORD: for of the ram of consecration it was Moses' part; as the LORD commanded Moses. And Moses took of the anointing oil, and of the blood which was upon the altar, and sprinkled it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon his sons' garments with him; and sanctified Aaron, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons' garments with him.
5. Another evidence of the divine appointment of Jesus as the Messiah and Mediator, is a declaration from heaven, delivered on two different occasions. First, at his baptism, which is thus narrated: "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt 3:16,17). Here is the testimony of the Father, of the near relation Jesus stood to him, and of the Father's approbation of his work.
The second declaration from heaven was, when Jesus was on Mount Tabor, in the presence of Peter, James, and John, and Moses and Elijah, "there came a voice out of the cloud, which said, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him" (Matt 17:5): here is an additional sentence, "hear ye him"; assuring the disciples that Jesus is that prophet "like unto Moses," whom all men, Gentiles as well as Jews, are commanded to hear and obey, at the peril of their destruction (Deut 18:18,19).
6. A third evidence of the divine mission of Jesus, is the testimony of John the Baptist.
Dear Benjamin, allow me to detain you for a few moments on this part of the subject. You know that nothing is more common amongst our people than to talk about Elijah Hannavoh, i. e. Elijah the prophet. To present this subject to your view in a clear light, I will show,
That the Messiah was to have an harbinger; this will appear,
7. a. From express prophecies. The first is in Isaiah 40:3-5. "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God; every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." The next is in Malachi 3:1: "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts." Again, Malachi 4:5, 6. "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
8. b. It appears, from the testimony of many of our ancient writers, that the Messiah was to have an harbinger. In Berashith Rabb.(41) 41. Fol. 219. S. 15. and in Talmud Eruvim(42) 42. F. 43, 2. it is written:"Before the Son of David cometh, Elijah will come, to publish glad tidings."Maimonides(43) 43. In hilchoth Melachim, c. 2, S. 12. saith:"Our wise men, of blessed memory, say, that before the coming of Messiah, Elijah will come."The Targums often speak of Elijah and the Messiah together.(44) 44. See Ex. 40:10. Deut. 30:4. Lam. 4:22. Seder Tephiloth, f. 56, 2; 128, 2, and frequently in Haggodo She! Pesech. In Pesikta Rabbetha, fol. 62, c. 1. And in Yalkut Shimoni on Isaiah,(45) 45. Fol. 53, c. 3. No. 337. there is a long account of the coming of Elijah three days before the Messiah, and of his going out and standing upon the mountains of Israel, repeating the words of Isaiah 52:7; "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, thy God reigneth!" and that his voice is so loud as to be heard from one part of the world to the other.
9. c. The same thing appears from the question put to John the Baptist by the messengers sent by the Jews, whether he was Elijah (John 1:21), which showeth that they expected the coming of Elijah.
I will now show that John the Baptist was the promised harbinger. This will appear,
10. I. From the testimony of those who could not be mistaken. a. The angel Gabriel foretold it, Luke 1:16, 17, "Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God; and he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
b. His father, Zechariah, by the spirit of prophecy declared it, Luke 1:76, 77, "And thou, child, shall be called the Prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people, by the remission of their sins."
c. John himself, whilst he said, "I am not Elijah," to rectify the mistaken notion that Elijah personally would appear, at the same time asserted that he was the person promised by the name and character of Elijah, to do the work of a harbinger (John 1:23).
d. The evangelists have recorded it. Matthew 3:1-4, "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey." Almost the same account we have in Mark 1:1-7, and Luke 3:1-6.
e. The Lord Jesus Christ himself hath twice testified it. When the messengers sent by John the Baptist had departed, "Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see?a prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come" (Matt 11:7-14). On another occasion, when the disciples of Jesus asked him, saying, "Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?" "Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist" (Matt 17:10-13).
11. II. From the exact fulfillment of the prophetic description of the harbinger, in John the Baptist; before I proceed, it will be necessary to remove the objection frequently urged, "that John himself declared that he was not Elijah, and that therefore the Messiah is not yet come; and that Jesus, in direct opposition to John the Baptist, declared that he was the Elijah that should first come." In answer, I would observe that Elijah is nowhere called Elijah the prophet, either in the Old or New Testament, but always the Tishbite. The prediction therefore contains simply a promise of a prophet, and calls him Elijah merely with respect of similarity of character and disposition. That this is the meaning, is evident from the exposition given of it by the angel Gabriel, in the words already quoted, viz. "that he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah." Nor is it an unfrequent thing for a person to be called by another man's name merely because of similarity of character or conduct. Thus the Messiah is frequently called David (Hosea 3:5; Eze 34:23, 37:24); not because he was David personally, or his Son, but because David was an eminent type of him. Thus also Phinechas is often called Elijah, and Elijah is called Phinechas, because of the similarity of their zeal for the Lord of hosts.(46) 46. See Kimchi 1 Chron 9:20. Targum Jonathan, Exo 6:18. Baal Hat. Numb. 25:12. Pocok. Not Port. Mos. page 219. Some of our Rabbins acknowledge that no one can determine whether the messenger and harbinger is to be Elijah personally, or only like to him in degree, as a prophet, and in disposition for zeal and piety, and that the event only can determine it.(47) 47. See R. Tanchuma in loco. Maimonides Tract. Melachim Cap. ult. Port. Mosis Notes, c. 6, p. 219. Hence when John the Baptist was asked whether he was Elijah, he answered in the negative, i, e. not Elijah in person; but being asked again, "Who art thou then?" he declared in the affirmative; "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness," &c. &c. Nor did our Lord mean that John the Baptist was Elijah personally, for he calls him more than a prophet (Matt 11:9); but like unto him, as the antitype is not only like, but far superior to the type. Having made these observations, I hope my dear Benjamin is prepared to receive the evidence that the prediction concerning the harbinger has been fulfilled in John the Baptist.
12. As it respects the similarity between him and Elijah. This might be shown at considerable length, but, to avoid prolixity, I will only observe that there was a striking similarity in their manner of dress; in their austere way of living; in their temper and disposition; in their piety and holiness; in their courage and integrity; in reproving vice; and in their zeal and usefulness in the cause of God and religion.
13. As it respects his office.
a. "To prepare the way of the Lord"; alluding to a common and well known custom, that when a great man or potentate traveled, a runner went before him, to see that the way be prepared. This John did, as foretold, by lifting up his voice in the wilderness, preaching repentance, directing to Jesus, as "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). His labors were most extensive and useful; for in the space of six months, before Christ came, he traveled and preached throughout the country round about Jordan (Luke 3:3).
b. "To turn the hearts of the fathers to," or rather with "the children," as Kimchi observes; Al for Im, i. e. abundance of people, both fathers and children; and thus we read "that Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan went after him" (Matt 3:5).
c. "Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse"; i. e. those that would not believe in the Lord, whose way John prepared.
14. The prophet proceeds to predict the calamities which should follow. Malachi 4:5, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." There can be no doubt that this great and dreadful day is a prediction of the awful calamities which befell our nation at the destruction of Jerusalem. For if we examine the histories of the former times ever so minutely, we shall not be able to find any national afflictions or miseries whatsoever to be compared with those which our people suffered at that time. To this dreadful day, John the Baptist alluded in his address to the Pharisees, in Matthew 3:2, 7, 10, 12. But the Lord Jesus Christ has more fully predicted those calamities, which have been most punctually accomplished. See Matthew 24:15-21; Mark 13:19; Luke 21:20-24; compare Daniel 9:26, 27.
15. The reader might naturally have expected, in this place, a discussion on the nature, design, subjects and mode of John's baptism; but having done this in my Essays on Baptism, the reader is referred to that work.
Having thus shown that the predictions concerning the harbinger have been fulfilled in John the Baptist, and John having declared that he was preparing the way for the Lord Jesus Christ, it follows that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah. The miracles which Jesus wrought, form another of the credentials of his Messiahship, and will be the subject of my next letter. For the present, I bid thee, Farewell.
Letter 8. Messiah's Miracles
Dear Brother Benjamin,
I have endeavored, in my last letter, to prove that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, from the credentials with which he was furnished, viz. the peculiar unction of the Holy Ghost; the voice from heaven, declaring him to be the Son of God, with whom the Father is well pleased; and the testimony of John the Baptist, the promised harbinger; and I also promised to consider, in this letter, the miracles which Jesus wrought, as another of the credentials of his Messiahship. To this subject, therefore, I now solicit your most serious attention.
When I say that Christ wrought miracles, I mean that he performed such acts as were contrary to the usual course of nature, and evidently surpassed all human power.
1. That miracles, when properly attested, are sufficient evidence of a divine mission, is generally admitted, especially by our nation. Hence, when Moses asked the Lord by what means he should convince Pharaoh and the Israelites that the Lord had sent him, Jehovah replied that he would work miracles by him, which would be sufficient credentials. Hence our Savior considered his miracles a stronger evidence of his Messiahship, than even the testimony of John. "I have greater witness than that of John for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me" (John 5:36).
2. That the Messiah was to work miracles, is evident, a. From the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Moses tells us, Deuteronomy 18:15-18, "that the Lord would raise up a prophet like unto himself." That this prophet was to be the Messiah, we shall show hereafter. Now, if that prophet was to be like unto Moses, he must, like him, perform miracles, to confirm his mission. The prophet Isaiah foretold that, in the days of the Messiah, "the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped; then shall the lame leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for, in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert" (Isa 35:5, 6, 42:7).
3. b. It is also evident, from the testimony of our nation. In our Lord's time they expected it. On several occasions they asked for a sign from heaven (Matt 12:38; Luke 11:16). "And many believed in his name when they saw the miracles which he did" (John 2:23). Those who had witnessed his miracles in feeding thousands with five loaves and two small fishes, said, "This is, of a truth, that prophet that should come into the world" (John 6:14). And on another occasion they said, "When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?" (John 7:31). Hence it appears that the people did expect that the Messiah would work miracles, and that they considered them sufficient credentials to prove his divine mission. Our Rabbins, since the time of Christ, have expressed the same opinion. They expect as many and as great miracles to be wrought by the Messiah as were wrought at the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. Some have asserted that as the Messiah was to be greater than Moses, so, when he came, he should work greater miracles than Moses had done.(48) 48. See R. Levi Ben Gershon on Deut 34:10, fol. 198, c. 2. Nay, Maimonides himself is obliged to acknowledge that miracles will be wrought by the Messiah, and that upon the account of them he would meet with a great deal of respect from the nations of the world.(49) 49. Pocok Port. Mosis. p. 158. Abarbanel(50) 50. Cap. Fidei. C. 13. says, that all feasts shall cease in the days of the Messiah, except expiation and purim; and he assigns this reason: that these feasts had been instituted in commemoration of the miracles wrought at the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt; but in the days of the Messiah they shall see far greater miracles, in comparison whereof the former are not worth remembering. He further observes: Whereas the Psalmist (Psa 74:9) complains of the want of miracles, the prophet Joel 2:28 foretold the restoration of prophecy and miracles in the days of the Messiah.(51) 51. See also Zohar. Ex. fol. 3, 4, and 4, 2. Targum on Isa 53:8. Sanhedrim, C. 11, S. 1. Targum, Ps. 18:32.
4. Jesus Christ wrought miracles. This is not only affirmed by the evangelists, who were men of probity, honesty, and integrity, but is acknowledged by our own Rabbins, especially in Toldoth Yeshu, a book written in direct opposition to the Christian religion. But whilst the fact is not denied, the cause is disputed.
5. a. In our Lord's time they ascribed them to the power of Satan. In the evangelical history of our blessed Lord, we read that when Jesus had cast a devil out of one that was both blind and dumb, and had restored the man to the use of his sight and speech again, the Scribes and Pharisees said of him, "This fellow does not cast out devils but by Beelzebub, the chief of the devils" (Matt 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15). To this false and blasphemous charge Jesus replied in so forcible a manner, by showing the improbability and absurdity of supposing that Beelzebub would lend his assistance to overthrow his own power, and that Satan would cast out Satan, that this groundless and ridiculous charge does not appear to have been afterward renewed during Jesus' life. A writer in the Jewish Repository has justly remarked:"How they could bring themselves to ascribe that benevolence and charity which every one of Jesus' miracles manifested, and that pure and heavenly doctrine which they were wrought in confirmation of, to a co-operation of a spirit whose very name denotes enmity, hatred, and malice to man as well as to God, and who is the author and promoter of evil, is, I confess, beyond my conception; but so they have done."Besides, the very first promise of a Messiah was, that he should bruise the head of the serpent, or, as John explains it, to destroy the works of the devil (Gen 3:15; 1 John 3:8); and Jesus Christ openly declared that he came to overthrow the kingdom of Satan; many of his miracles were exercised on devils themselves, to their shame, terror, and dispossession of the habitations they had invaded; he also declared them to be evil, wicked, malicious, unclean, and lying spirits; reserved for everlasting destruction in hell, under the wrath of the great God; and for this they ceased not to oppose him, to stir up all the world against him, until they thought they had prevailed in his death.
6. b. Our modern Rabbins, aware of the unanswerable refutation to the forementioned opinion, have presented it in a new dress, viz. that he wrought his miracles by the power of the name Jehovah, or Shem Hamphorash. This fabrication of lies and blasphemies is contained in Toldoth Yeshu; a nameless production, (no one can tell its author, age, or place of birth,) which has frequently been refuted. The shortest account and refutation I have met with, is in the Jewish Repository of 1813, and is as follows: One would expect to find this formidable charge supported by, at least, some plausible evidence; but, alas! it is supported by nothing whatever, but by two fabulous stories, so utterly incredible and contemptible in themselves, and contrary to each other, that they look more like the dreams of lunatics, than the inventions of men in their proper senses. The first of them is, in substance, as follows:"Once upon a time, Jesus went into the temple, and saw, somewhere there, the name Jehovah written; this name he exactly transcribed upon a piece of parchment, which he concealed in a wound which he had made in his foot for this purpose, and so carried it away with him unobserved; for it was unlawful lo carry any thing out of the temple. Many others, indeed, who went into the temple, saw this name there written, as well as Jesus, but not being so cunning as he was, and therefore not using the same artful method of preserving and conveying it away with them that he did; the right pronunciation of the name was driven out of their heads by the bellowing of lions, or the barking of two dogs, which were placed over the two iron pillars that stood before the temple gate, and thus Jesus alone was possessed of the right pronunciation of the name Jehovah."But of some people it is said, "that they have need of a good memory," for the second story is,"that Jesus, in the presence of Queen Helena, (Queen of Adiabene,) said, I can raise the dead; upon which the Jews ordered Judas Iscariot to go into the temple; and to obtain the right pronunciation of the name Jehovah, in the same way that Jesus had done; Judas accordingly did so: after this, in hearing of Judas, he boasted that he could work miracles, and to show he could do so, flew up into the air; but Judas immediately flew up after him; in consequence of which a scuffle ensued, in which Judas struck Jesus, so that he fell and broke his arm."This second story flatly contradicts the former; the first saith, that no one, during Jesus' life, knew the right pronunciation of the name Jehovah but himself; whereas, it appears by this second story, that Judas Iscariot knew the pronunciation of this name as well, nay, better than Jesus, for to this superiority it must have been owing that he was able to cast down Jesus to the ground, and to break his arm by the fall. These stories then, by contradicting each other, prove that both of them cannot be true, but both may be false; and that both of them are manifestly false, will appear from an examination of the particulars mentioned in them.
The first story says, "that Jesus and many others saw the name Jehovah written somewhere in the temple"; but where this somewhere was, is not mentioned, for very substantial reasons; because this was written upon nothing contained in that part of the temple into which the people were suffered to enter, nor was it written in any part of the temple, but only on a golden plate, which was fastened on the front of the high priest's miter, on which were engraven the words "Kodesh Lyhovah," i. e. holiness to the Lord, or to Jehovah; and this inscription must have been seen by many, and might have been seen by all present, as often as the high priest officiated in public; and as every one, who could read his Hebrew Bible, could read this inscription too, it must appear very strange that none of those who could read the name Jehovah could remember the true pronunciation of it; so that, to come at this, it was necessary for Jesus to obtain it by stealth; but, except when the high priest was officiating publicly, this inscription never could be seen by the people; for, at all other times, the high priest's miter, on the front of which this inscription was, together with the rest of his ornaments and dress, was laid up, at first in the northern chamber, where none but priests were suffered to enter, and afterward in the eastern tower: and the doors of the chamber wherein it was kept were not only locked, but sealed; so that this part of the story is by no means credible.
The next thing affirmed is, that when Jesus had written the name Jehovah on a piece of parchment, he concealed the writing in a wound he had made in his foot for that purpose; but when he could have concealed the writing as well, if not better, in some part of his clothing, what, in the name of common sense, could tempt him to conceal it in a wound made in his foot, in a part so tender, and so apt to inflame, and even to fester, by having a piece of parchment thrust into it; besides, that the discharge of blood occasioned by the wound, and of corruption occasioned by the parchment, would, in all probability, have so stained and defaced the writing as to render it illegible: this, therefore, is incredible, and more absurd than the former. The last particular mentioned in this story is, that all the others who, as well as Jesus, saw the name Jehovah written somewhere in the temple, had the true pronunciation driven out of their heads by the roaring of lions or the barking of two dogs, which were placed over the two iron pillars which stood before the temple gate. But lions and dogs being unclean beasts, and dogs particularly, having been declared by the law (Deut 23:18) to be such an abomination that even the price they were sold for was forbidden to be brought into the house of the Lord, it is utterly incredible that any of these beasts were suffered to be brought within the precincts of the temple, or that a declared abomination was placed over the pillars which stood before the temple gate. Besides, the Jewish historian Josephus(52) 52. Ant. Lib. 15, ch. 11. tells that the whole of the fabric of the temple (and consequently the pillars here mentioned) was built of durable white stone. From all which it appears that the lions, dogs, iron pillars, and all the rest of this absurd story, had no existence except in the wild imaginations of its fabricators. And so much for the first story: now for the second.
The second story tells us what Jesus said in the presence of queen Helena, and what afterward happened between him and Judas Iscariot. The scene of both these transactions is laid in Jerusalem; but the Jews do not pretend that queen Helena was ever at Jerusalem before her conversion to their religion, and she was converted to Judaism in the sixth year of the emperor Claudius, that is, in the thirteenth year after Jesus had been put to death by the Jews, and when Judas Iscariot, driven to despair by an accusing and tormenting conscience, had made way with himself; and so much for this second story, and so much for the charge brought against Jesus, that he wrought his miracles by magic arts, (or rather by the power of the Shem Hamphoresh,) which hath no other foundation but the two foregoing most incredible stories. I hope my dear Benjamin hath too much good sense to need any further arguments to show the fallacy of this rabbinical fable. In the sequel of this letter it will be shown that Jesus Christ performed his miracles by his own power. I will here briefly state that,
7. The design of his miracles was twofold: viz. to prove the reality of his divinity and the truth of his Messiahship. The manner in which he wrought his miracles, the concomitant circumstances, and the language of the sacred writers who recorded them, clearly show that he acted as a divine person, that in various, instances he wished this to appear, and that the inspired historians viewed matters in no other light. Permit me, my dear Benjamin, to call your particular attention to the following observation: Jesus wrought his miracles in his own name, and not in the name of God. His apostles, on the contrary, never wrought a miracle in their own name, nor in the name of God, but in the name of Jesus (Luke 10:17; Acts 3:16, 16:18). Again, Jesus wrought his miracles by his own power, and that by a mere word of command, and whenever he pleased (Matt 8:2,3,16; Luke 4:36; John 5:21, 10:37,38). Not so with Moses; he was only an instrument, and could not work miracles at all times. "For saith the Lord, I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders, which I will do in the midst thereof" (Exo 3:20). Again, "See that thou do all these wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand" (Exo 4:21). Moses could neither bring nor remove them. But Jesus was the author of his mighty works, and he did them whenever he pleased. He performed them by the word of his mouth, or by the touch of his garment, when he was present, and when he was at a distance. Nothing could withstand his power or his will. He rebuked the sea with supreme authority, which convinced the disciples of his divinity (Mark 4:39,41). This is the character and prerogative of Jehovah (Psa 104:6,7, 106:9). Many who saw these miracles, being convinced of his divinity, made him the object of faith; and for this purpose they are recorded (John 2:23, 6:2, 11:4, 20:30,31).
8. Our blessed Savior frequently appealed to his miracles as the credentials of his mission. When John the Baptist sent two of his disciples inquiring, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them" (Matt 11:2-5). Here we perceive that Jesus Christ answered their question neither in the affirmative nor negative, but referred them to the miracles which he wrought, agreeably to the predictions concerning the Messiah. John the Evangelist tells us that the miracles of Jesus are recorded, "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (John 20:31). And the apostle Peter thus addressed the multitude on the day of Pentecost: "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know" (Acts 2:22).
9. And now, my dear brother, having shown that miracles are sufficient credentials to prove a divine mission, that the Messiah was expected to work miracles, and that Jesus Christ wrought many miracles to prove both his divinity and his mission; let me ask you, is it unreasonable to believe that he is the Messiah? Have I not the same evidence for believing that he is the promised Messiah, as our fathers had for believing that Moses was sent to bring them out of Egypt? What would you say if a pamphlet like the Toldoth Yeshu was circulating a story that Moses had made himself master of magic in Egypt, and stole the name Jehovah, and by its power wrought all his miracles, and persuaded our fathers that he had been sent by God, and thus acted as an impostor? Would you give credit to such a report without the strongest evidence of its authenticity? But the Toldoth Yeshu is destitute of every evidence of truth, is full of contradictions, and is evidently a fable not known till many centuries after the death of Christ. But before I dismiss the subject I will endeavor to make a brief comparison between the miracles of Christ and those of Moses; and I trust it will clearly appear that the superiority is greatly in favor of the former. I will mention but a few particulars.
10. a. Notice, my dear Benjamin, the greatness of the miracles which Jesus wrought. He raised the dead to life again, and one that had been dead already four days, and seen corruption. He cured the most incurable diseases. A woman that had labored twelve years of an issue of blood, that had wasted her estate upon physicians without success, was cured by the mere touch of his garment. He cures another that had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, that was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. Another, who had an infirmity thirty-eight years, he heals with a word of his mouth. He restores one to sight who had been born blind. He cures the leper, and effectually rebukes the fever. He speaks the word, and the demoniac is dispossessed, and the paralytic cured. He multiplies a few loaves and fishes to satisfy the wants of five thousand, and the fragments exceed the original stock. He commands devils, and they obey; he speaks to the raging waves, and there is a great calm. Well might the spectators exclaim, "Such things were never seen in Israel!"
11. b. Observe, next, the number and variety of his miracles. Our Rabbins ascribe to Moses seventy-six miracles, and to all the other prophets only seventy-four; but the miracles related by the evangelists to have been wrought by our blessed Jesus, by far exceed those done by Moses and all the other prophets together. And what shall be said of those many more which are not recorded? The evangelist John saith, "that if they should be written, he supposed that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25); a figure of speech, bold indeed, but such as our people were well acquainted with. Hence, "many of the people believed on him, and said, when Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than this man hath done?" Equally surprising is the variety of his miracles. Had he cured many diseases of the same kind, it might have been presumed that he had acquired peculiar skill in that one particular disease. But here is no room left for suspicion. For Jesus not only healed all manner of discuses, but he displayed his almighty power over death, the king of terror; over Satan, the god of this world; and over the uncontrollable elements of wind and water.
12. c. Let us notice the manner in which Jesus wrought his miracles. How different was the conduct of Jesus in working miracles, from that of Moses and the apostles. They acted with the most profound humility and direct appeal to the Almighty, as his agents; but Christ, as the Lord of universal nature, in whose hand was the life of every living thing. They never forgot themselves in their ministerial character, so far as to attempt to work a miracle at their own pleasure, in their own names, and by their own power. But Jesus wrought miracles in the same manner as he created the world. In the beginning, "God said, let there be light, and light was"; in like manner he said to the stormy wind and boisterous seas, "peace, be still, and there was a great calm"to the leprous, "be clean"to the crooked, "be straight"to the deaf, "hear"to the blind, "see"to the dumb "speak"to the withered hand, "be stretched out"to the dead, "arise"and to the putrid carcass, "come forth." Here allow me, dear Benjamin, to observe, that if our Lord and Savior was nothing more than a mere man, and acted solely by commission from his Father, in like manner as Moses and the prophets did, and in no higher sense, there was an arrogance and presumption in his manner infinitely unbecoming such a character. But upon the principle that he was God, as well as man, all is plain, natural, and easy.
13. d. The utility of our Lord's miracles is another circumstance which deserves our notice. All the miracles which Moses wrought, were injurious either to men or beasts, or both. But of Jesus it is witnessed, "that he went about doing good." He who once filled mount Sinai with smoke, and thunder, and lightning, so that Moses himself exceedingly feared and quaked, might have shaken the pillars of the earth, darkened the sun, moon and stars, and caused fire and brimstone to come down from heaven to consume his adversaries; but he "came not to destroy, but to save the world." His miracles were so many acts of mercy and relief. "His errand was to bring glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will to men."
14. e. In closing the comparison, we notice the publicity of Christ's miracles. Our Lord did not shun the light, for his deeds were good. Multitudes witnessed the cure of the paralytic. All the people were amazed at the cure of the blind and dumb. Much people were with Jesus when he raised the widow's son to life. The man that had been 38 years under his affliction, was cured in the city of Jerusalem, at a festival where all the Jews were collected. The demoniac was dispossessed in the synagogue, and Lazarus was raised from the dead when many of the Jews were present.
15. I might further observe, that Jesus Christ not only possessed in himself the power of working miracles, but he also communicated it to others. When he sent forth the twelve apostles, "he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease." After his resurrection also, when he renewed the commission of preaching the Gospel to his disciples, he said to them, "These signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." This promise of our Lord was abundantly fulfilled; both during his continuance on earth, and after his ascension into heaven, his disciples wrought these and many other mighty works, by which they fully attested the doctrine which he had appointed them to publish.
Now, my dear brother Benjamin, notwithstanding this very brief and imperfect account of the miracles of Christ, may I not expect your approbation of our Lord's declaration concerning our brethren in his day: "If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin; but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father" (John 15:24). May your sentiment be like that of some of our fathers, who said, "When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?" and like them, also, may you believe in him as the Christ, the Son of God. Yea, "let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom they have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). Farewell.
Letter 9. Jesus the Prophet
Beloved Brother Benjamin,
In describing the engagement of Messiah, we mentioned that he was to reveal the will of God to men; or, in other words, that he was to sustain the office of a Prophet. I will therefore now endeavor to show more particularly that the Messiah was to be a Prophet; that he was to be like unto Moses; that Jesus Christ is that Prophet; and will describe the way in which he reveals the will of God, as another evidence that he is the promised Messiah. The office of a prophet is, to teach the people the will of God; to prove his mission by miracles, and illustrate his doctrines and precepts by his holy life and exemplary conduct. That Jesus Christ thus exemplified his holy and heavenly doctrines, that he confirmed his mission by miracles, we have already proved in preceding letters. I shall now proceed to illustrate the subject in the method already proposed, viz.
1. I. Messiah was to be a Prophet. This is evident from prophecies in the Old Testament. The first and most remarkable is that in Deuteronomy 18:15-19, "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him shall ye hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb, in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth: and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words, which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." With respect to this office, he was promised "to preach good tidings to the meek," to be "a light to enlighten the Gentiles," "a witness to the people," and "to have the tongue of the learned."
2. We argue, from the general expectation which prevailed at the time of our Lord, that the Savior should appear in the character of a glorious Prophet. When John the Baptist appeared, our people sent priests and Levites to him, asking, "Art thou that prophet?" (John 1:21); and when Jesus performed his miracles, they said once and again, "This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world" (John 6:14, 7:40). Yea, even the Samaritans, who had only the Pentateuch, expected that the Messiah would make a complete and perfect revelation of the will of God. For when Jesus told the woman of Samaria that the time is come when the mode of worship was to be changed, she replied, "I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come he will tell us all things" (John 4:25).
3. Some of our modern Rabbins, as well as the more ancient, acknowledge that Messiah is to be a Prophet, to make new revelations and give new laws. It is laid down as a principle in Neve Shalom,"that the King Messiah shall be exalted above Abraham, be high above Moses, and raised above the ministering angels."And it is for the excellency of the revelation made by him, that he is so exalted above Moses. Hence Maimonides himself acknowledges,(53) 53. Tract. de Regibus."that, at the coming of the Messiah hidden and deep things shall be revealed, or laid open to all."And you know, my brother, the technical expression used by our Rabbins; when disputing on any subject, and cannot agree, they drop it, by saying Taika, i. e. let it rest till Messiah comes, and he will solve all questions and disputes. And no doubt it was to this common saying the woman of Samaria alluded in the passage just quoted: "he will tell us all things." In Zohar(54) 54. In Gen. fol. 74, 1. it is said,"In the days of the Messiah, even the little children in the world shall find out the hidden things of wisdom, and know in it the ends and compulations (of times;) and at that time he shall be made manifest unto all."Again,(55) 55. Lev. 10, 1. Judah saith,"The holy blessed God will reveal the deep mysteries of the law in the times of the King Messiah, for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, &c.; and it is written, They shall not teach every man his brother."Maimonides saith,"The whole world shall be filled with the words of the law, and with the words of the commandments."(56) 56. Hilchoth Melachim, c. 11, S. 4, and 12, 5.4. II. We will now show that the Messiah was to be a prophet like unto Moses, and that Jesus Christ is that Prophet. It is very evident that the prediction in Deuteronomy 18 had no reference to Joshua, as some would apply it; for although he was appointed a leader and commander of the people of Israel, to whom they hearkened, yet he was no prophet, nor was he ever accounted as such by our nation; and instead of his being like unto Moses, there is a striking difference in the most prominent features of their characters. Moses is called the lawgiver; Joshua gave no law, but followed and executed the law given by Moses. Moses was made ruler of Israel by the Lord God of Israel himself; Joshua was made ruler by Moses, according to the command of God. Moses received the law from the immediate hand of God himself; Joshua received that same law from the hand of Moses, a fellow mortal. Moses was a legislator, a lawgiver; and neither Joshua, nor any other prophet whom Israel yet acknowledges, ever pretended to such a character. Joshua never ascended the mount into the cloud of glory, nor did God converse with him face to face, as a man does to his friend. Besides, the Scripture plainly declares that Joshua was not the prophet like unto Moses; for Deuteronomy 18:15 shows that the prophet alluded to was to arise in the latter days, after Israel possessed the land; and lest there should be any misapprehension, it is written in Deuteronomy 34:10-12, "And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face; in all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land; and in all the great terror which Moses showed in the sight of Israel."
5. Nor is it applicable to Jeremiah, as others would apply it. There was nothing peculiar in him, to style him a prophet like unto Moses. Nor could it mean a succession of prophets, for one single prophet is promised, and not many; nor was there ever a regular succession of prophets; and our nation have been without any prophet for two thousand years. Nor hath there ever been a prophet like unto Moses, until the appearance of Jesus Christ. Hence our people have, to the present day, always magnified Moses above all the prophets, calling him,"the father and prince of the prophets, and that all the prophets prophesied from the fountain of his prophecy."(57) 57. Maim. Yesod Hattorah, c. 7. Sec. 6. Seder Tephil. f. 212.Having made it manifest, that the Messiah was to be a prophet; and that Moses in particular, prophesied that the Messiah was to be a prophet like unto himself; and that no prophet, until Jesus came, was like unto Moses; I shall now show, and I hope to the perfect satisfaction of my dear Benjamin, that Jesus of Nazareth is that promised prophet. This is evident,
6. a. From the repeated application of the prediction to Jesus Christ, in the New Testament. When the apostles Peter and John, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, had cured a man who had been lame from his mother's womb, a great multitude had collected at the temple at Jerusalem, and were filled with wonder and astonishment; Peter, with holy boldness, addressed the people, and showed, from the writings of the prophets, that those things were to come to pass in the days of the Messiah, and he referred to the prediction now under consideration. "For Moses truly said unto the fathers, a prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me, him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you; and it shall come to pass, that every soul which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people" (Acts 3:22,23). In like manner did the martyr Stephen apply it to Jesus Christ (Acts 7:37). And there can be no doubt that, in direct reference to this prophecy, the voice from heaven, at the baptism of Jesus, and particularly afterward, at his transfiguration, in the presence of Moses and Elijah, said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" (Matt 3:17 and 17:5).
7. b. This is further evident from the striking similarity between Jesus Christ and Moses. This is a subject which, of itself, would furnish most pleasing, instructive, and edifying material, sufficient to fill several letters. Many eminent divines hare treated it in a masterly manner; but perhaps none has succeeded better than Dr. Jortin, to whom I am indebted for the following abridgment:
Moses Jesus Christ Moses was preserved in his infancy from the wrath of king Pharaoh so was Christ from the wrath of Herod Moses fled from his country Christ fled into Egypt Moses returned by the advice of an angel so did Christ Moses refused to be an heir to a king Christ refused to be made a king Moses was learned in all wisdom Christ grew in wisdom and stature Moses contended with magicians and conquered them Christ contended with devils and overthrew them all Moses was a lawgiver, a prophet, a worker of miracles, and a king Christ was all this in a superior degree" (and Priest after the order of Melchizedeck:) Moses brought darkness over all the land Christ's death on the cross brought darkness over Judea the darkness on Egypt was followed with the destruction of the first-born Christ's darkness was followed by the destruction of the Jews by Titus Vespasian Moses foretold the calamities of the Jews Christ foretold the dreadful siege and ruin of Jerusalem the Spirit in Moses was put on the seventy elders the Spirit of Christ was poured on the twelve apostles and the seventy disciples Moses was victorious over kings and nations of the world Christ has been victorious over kings and nations of the world by his glorious Gospel Moses conquered Amalek by holding up his hands Christ conquers Satan and sinners by his intercession in heaven Moses turned away the wrath of God from the provoking Israelites Christ turns away the wrath of God from all the millions of his people by his death and his prayers Moses ratified a covenant between God and the Israelites by blood sprinkled on the people Christ ratifies the covenant of grace by shedding his own blood, as the blood of God (Acts 20:28) Moses instituted the passover Christ instituted the Lord's supper Moses lifted up the serpent to cure the stung Israelites Christ was lifted up on the cross to cure our souls, stung and poisoned with sin the affection of Moses to the people was repaid with ingratitude we have all been ungrateful to Jesus Christ Moses was ill-used by his own family Christ's own near relations did not believe on him Moses had a wicked and perverse people to deal with for forty years Christ had a people of the most perverse and wicked dispositions Moses was very meek above all men Christ was infinitely meeker than Moses, and all the meekest men in the world the people could not go into the land of Canaan till Moses was dead not a soul could ever be admitted to enter heaven but on the foundation of the death of Christ, who hath opened the kingdom of heaven, by his atoning blood, for all believers Moses died on account of the people's rebellion Christ died for the sins of his people Moses went up to die on Mount Nebo Christ went up to die on Mount Calvary Moses died in the vigor of his age Christ died in the flower and glory of his manhood Moses never felt sickness or decay Christ's body had no seeds of death Moses was buried and no man saw his body the unbelieving Jews did not deserve to see the body of Christ after his resurrection Moses before his death promised another prophet Christ before his death promised another comforter, even the eternal Spirit, in all the glory of his mission and divine influence in the church to the end of the world.
Who can read this amazing and beautiful resemblance between Moses and Christ, and not be struck with astonishment and delight? A fruitful imagination may find out a likeness where there is none; but as the Doctor concludes,"Is this similitude and correspondence, in so many things, between Moses and Christ, the effect of mere chance? Let us search all the records of universal history, and see if we can find a man who was so like to Moses as Christ was, and so like to Christ as Moses was. If we cannot find such an one, then have we found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, who is over all, blessed for ever. Amen."8. c. Another proof that Jesus Christ is the prophet predicted by Moses, arises from the execution of the threatening in that prediction: "Whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him," i. e. I will punish him for it; and which the apostle expresses by a "being destroyed from among the people" (Acts 3:23). And Maimonides(58) 58. In Yesod Hattorah, c. 9. sec. 4. says, that such a person is guilty of death by the hands of heaven. Surely, my brother, never was there a more remarkable fulfillment of prophecy than this, in the destruction of millions of our dear people, and the dispersion of the whole nation, not so much for their heinous crime of crucifying the Lord of glory, as for their refusing to obey his Gospel, and acknowledging him as the Messiah, the prophet, like unto Moses, after his resurrection. O, that our beloved brethren and kinsmen would seriously consider this part of the subject. O that they would trace the unparalleled sufferings which they have been called to endure, for so long and unprecedented duration, to the true cause! I cannot but believe that they would soon be convinced that the only and true cause of it is stated by the apostle, viz. "For ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: For the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost" (1 Thess 2:14-16). The Lord Jesus Christ himself expressly foretold, and plainly predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, and the ruin of the commonwealth of our nation, as a punishment for rejecting him. That our people have suffered these national calamities, is attested by one of our own historians, and corroborated by other writers. Josephus has described the commencement, progress, and conclusion of that destructive war, which ended in the final overthrow of that renowned city, wherein God had chosen to put his name and manifest his glory.
Does it not strike you, dear Benjamin, with astonishment, that when Senacherib came with a mighty army against Hezekiah, God declared that he would defend Jerusalem, against all the power of the enemy; and to fulfill his promise, an angel slew, in one night, a hundred and four score and five thousand of the Assyrians, and thereby forced the assailants to a precipitate retreat out of the country (Isa 37:36). But when the Roman general led his legions into Judea, no such protection was afforded. On the contrary, the country was wasted, the city was encompassed by a multitude of armed men, who carried on the siege with the greatest vigor, and drove the besieged to the greatest extremities. The inhabitants, instead of uniting their strength in defence of the place, were unhappily rent into factions, and opposed one to another. These waged an intestine war within the walls, which were constantly assaulted by the foe without. Thus the city was divided against itself, and every man's sword turned against his fellow. To complete the distress, the famine prevailed to so great a degree, that the tender mother killed, roasted, and ate her own infant.(59) 59. See Josephus, B. vii. ch. 8. Deut 28:57. Multitudes of people were thus consumed by the sword and by hunger; and after all, Jerusalem, God's chosen city, was taken by stormthe holy temple burned with fire: and after a most terrible slaughter, our whole nation was scattered abroad, and condemned, like Cain, to wander as fugitives and vagabonds in the earth. Here let us pause a moment, my dear Benjamin, and ask, wherefore hath the Lord thus done unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? why hath he given up his people to be destroyed by the sword and by the famine? He protected them against the tyranny of Pharaoh, and preserved them in their passage, through the Red Sea, where the Egyptian army was drowned. By a glorious cloud he conducted them through the pathless desert, and in that barren land he fed them with angels' food; the nations of Canaan he overthrew before them, and granted them privileges which no other people under heaven enjoyed. But nowO my heart weeps within menow this very people are banished from the land of promise, exposed to numerous hardships, and live in a degraded state of exile, which has lasted more than seventeen hundred years, and none can tell the end.
This amazing change in the condition of our people cannot fail to strike every attentive mind, for they are fallen from the greatest height of national prosperity to the greatest depth of national adversity. Yet surely God hath not done it without cause. All that he hath done in afflicting our people, when he delivered them into the hand of the Chaldeans, who burned Jerusalem with fire, and carried the people, into captivity, a plain and satisfactory reason was assigned for it in the following words: "They mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people till there was no remedy" (2 Chron 36:16). And it is on this principle alone that the last destruction of Jerusalem and the present dispersion of our people can be accounted for. Since the Babylonish captivity, they have not been addicted to gross idolatry in worshipping graven images and adoring the work of men's hands: so far from it, they have been particularly tenacious of their own laws, and have carefully avoided all connections with the nations among whom they sojourn. Yet it is evident that they must be guilty of some very grievous and heinous crime, otherwise God would never suffer them to be oppressed and scattered as they have been. Their crime, then, is evidently the rejection of Jesus Christ. They would not hearken unto that prophet like unto Moses, whom the Lord raised up; they treated both him and his followers with the greatest indignity, and cruelly persecuted them unto death; they would not hearken to God's words which that prophet spake in God's name, and God hath required it of them, by punishing them for their disobedience. The curses denounced in the song of Moses have fallen upon them because they rejected and crucified the Lord of glory. O that our beloved brethren, who have suffered so much, and who are still suffering for their sins, would be persuaded seriously to consider the matter. What stronger proof of the truth of Christianity can possibly be given than the destruction of Jerusalem and their own dispersion, which Jesus predicted, and which have so remarkably come to pass? Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised God, is burned with fire, and all our pleasant things are laid waste. Would God suffer them thus to be spoiled and afflicted if they were obedient to his commandments? If they had done right in rejecting Jesus of Nazareth, would the Lord abandon them thus to the power of their enemies? God has evidently confirmed the mission of Jesus Christ by destroying their commonwealth and expelling them from Canaan. O that the Lord would speedily pour upon our dear people "the spirit of grace and supplication, that they may look unto him whom they have pierced, and mourn for it as one mourneth for his only son, and be in bitterness for it, as one that is in bitterness for his first born" (Zech 12:10). 9. d. There are some other predictions respecting the prophetical office of the Messiah, which have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
From Isaiah 9:1, 2, it appears that Galilee was to be a conspicuous place of the Messiah's employment as prophet and teacher. Hence, although Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, yet he was educated and brought up in Galilee, and there he commenced his work as a prophet (Matt 4:12-16). Hence both Jesus and his disciples were called Galileans.
The same prophet foretold the matter of Messiah's preaching, in the 61st chap. 1-3. That this prophecy relates to the Messiah, is acknowledged by our Rabbins, and with it Jesus began his public ministry. Luke 4:1, 14-21
as has already been shown, and to it he referred John's disciples as a proof of his Messiahship (Matt 11:3-5). The little success which attended the ministry of Jesus, was likewise foretold (Isa 53:1, 6:9,10. Comp. Matt 13:13-16).
Luke 4:1, 14-21
1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
Although Jesus spake and taught as never man taught, and confirmed his doctrine by innumerable miracles, the most astonishing and the most benevolent, yet few, comparatively, believed in him.
10. e. The predictions which Jesus himself delivered, and the exact fulfillment of many of them, deserve our peculiar attention. Jesus Christ foretold, with wonderful exactness, not only the events which should befall himself, the sufferings which he should undergo, and the persecution which his disciples should experience, as well as the support they should receive, all of which were most minutely realized; but he also foretold, with a precision which could result only from divine foreknowledge, the siege of our holy city; the destruction of our temple; and the fatal ruin which should overwhelm our nation; events, of which, at that period, there did not seem the remotest probability. He foretold also the astonishing propagation of his Gospel which has indeed, according to his description, resembled a grain of mustard seed, that, from being the smallest of seeds, becomes a great tree, under the shadow of which all the fowls of heaven can lodge in safety. In spite of all the opposition of our rulers, in spite of all the persecutions of heathen emperors, in spite of all the ridicule of philosophers and the malice of Satan, nay, in spite of the inveterate corruption of the human heart, the religion of the Gospel has been established in the world: and though in too many places debased by superstition and corrupted by heresy, it has, in the lives of its sincere professors, produced such fruits as most irrefragably demonstrate its divine origin.
The church of Christ, thus established, has continued nearly 1800 years unshaken by all the malice of its enemies. According to the prediction of its founder, the gates of hell have not been able to prevail against it. According to the wise observation of our famous Rabbi Gamaliel,"Had the counsel of this work been of man, it would have come to naught";but it is manifestly of God, since none have been able to overcome it.
11. III. We consider, next, the manner in which Jesus Christ exercises the office of a prophet. As the Mediator was to be the object of faith and fountain of happiness to the saints before his incarnation, as well as to those afterward, it was necessary that the covenant between the Father and Son should be revealed to them, that their faith and hope might rest upon a sure foundation. Hence we have already observed, that one of the covenant stipulations was, that the Mediator should reveal the will of his Father. This revelation is comprehended in the single word Gospel, or good news, viz. how sinners are to be saved by faith in Christ. Hence the apostle assures us that the Gospel was preached to the fathers (Heb 4:2; Gal 3:8). The variety of methods used, and the different periods in which Christ made known the will of God, are subjects worthy of our attention, and would be considered, were it not that they would lead us too far away from our chain of argument. I shall with pleasure embrace the first opportunity of entering fully on that subject; at present I will simply state, that the time of Christ's teaching or acting as a prophet may be divided into two general parts, viz. before his incarnation, and afterward. The former is again divided into five periods.
12. 1. From the fall of Adam to the flood. This period includes not only the first promise made to Adam (Gen 3:15, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent," which was the principle of faith and obedience to the fathers before the flood, as has already been shown, but also the revelations made to Seth, Enoch, Lamech and others. 2. From Noah to the giving of the law. With Noah God renewed the covenant, and established his worship in his house; and to Abraham our father, the promise of the Messiah was restricted and confirmed by oath; and with him and his seed God entered into a peculiar covenant, of which circumcision was the sign and seal. During this period, no doubt, God made many revelations to Melchisedeck and others, which have not been preserved. 3. From the giving of the law at Sinai, to the time of David and the prophets. Hitherto it might be styled the patriarchal dispensation, from thence to the death of Messiah it may be called the Jewish or Mosaic dispensation. 4. From David to the Babylonish captivity. 5. From thence to the time of Christ, which finishes the Old Testament. This period includes Ezra and the other prophets that assisted in the reformation of our people after their return from captivity, who in an especial manner excited the people to an expectation of the coming of the Messiah. 6. From the preaching of John the Baptist, and commencement of Christ's personal ministry, to the end of time. This period is called the New Testament or Gospel dispensation, for reasons to be shown hereafter. Meditate on these things, my dear Benjamin, and may He, who taught as never man taught, make you wise unto salvation. Farewell.
Letter 10. Priestly Office of the Messiah.
1. Allow me to propose to your very serious consideration, the predictions of the priestly office of the Messiah, and their fulfillment in Jesus Christ; which, I trust, will prove to you an additional satisfactory evidence of the truth of his Messiahship. As the principal glory of all the Mosaical worship consisted in the person and office of the high priest, so does the glory and efficacy of the spiritual worship consist in the person and office of the Messiah, the high priest of our profession. Hence the office of the priesthood is one of the most important subjects in all revelation; inasmuch as it exhibits to our view one of the most striking displays of the Gospel, and of the ground of guilty man's acceptance before God. Hence this doctrine hath, in all ages, by the craft and malice of Satan and his emissaries, been either directly opposed or variously corrupted.
To consider the subject in all its parts and ramifications would by far exceed the limits of my design. I shall endeavor to give you a general statement of the priesthood; show that the Messiah was to be a priest; and that Jesus of Nazareth fully supported the character and office of a priest.
2. Let us notice, first, the origin of the priesthood. Before the promulgation of the law of Moses, the fathers, or first-born in every family, the princes and the kings were priests. Thus Cain, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Melchizedeck, Isaac, Jacob, and Job offered their own sacrifices. After the delivery of our nation from Egypt, the priesthood was confined to the tribe of Levi, and consisted of three orders, the high priest, priests, and Levites. The qualifications required in every priest, the time of service, the mode of consecration, the sacrifices offered on the occasion, and their different employments, are all mentioned in the books of Moses, and some will be mentioned hereafter. The high priest was the most eminent person of the sacerdotal family. Besides his suit of apparel common to him with his brethren which he wore on the day of expiation, he had other robes, called the golden garments, which he wore whilst attending his ordinary employ. Besides his liberty to interfere with the work of the other priests, he was the supreme judge of all controversies in the congregation of Israel, and directed all his brethren in their work. He alone entered the holy of holies, and performed the whole work of expiation for Israel on the annual day of atonement.
3. That the Messiah was to be a priest, was typified in Melchizedeck and Aaron, and predicted in the following passages of sacred writ; "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedeck" (Ps 110:4). Again, "Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, behold the man whose name is the Branch, and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both" (Zech 6:12,13). That this last prediction relates to the Messiah, and was so understood by our ancient Rabbins, hath already been shown; but that the former, viz. Psalm 110, belongs to him, our modern Rabbins will by no means allow, and that for no other reason than their determined opposition to Jesus of Nazareth, blessed be his holy name. They are well aware, that if this psalm be a literal description of the Messiah, it establishes the truth of the most important and the most controverted doctrines of our holy religion.
4. I shall therefore endeavor to show the principal matter contained in this Psalm, point out the penman of it, and prove that it relates to the Messiah. The contents may be divided into three parts; the first four verses contain a prophetical description of Jehovah's declaration concerning the person called by the Psalmist, "his Lord." In the next two verses the Psalmist makes an address to his Lord, and in the last verse he merely hints at his state of humiliation and reward. The present subject requires the consideration of the first part only.
5. The Psalm commences thus: "A Psalm of David. The Lord, or Jehovah, said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Here we have three distinct persons: first, Jehovah; secondly, the person whom Jehovah addresses "to sit at his right hand"; and thirdly, the Psalmist, who declares the decree of Jehovah concerning him whom he calls "his Lord." I need not to inform my dear Benjamin that the expression, "sit thou at my right hand," must be taken metaphorically. "God is a Spirit," and hath no corporeal parts; but he speaks after the manner of men, and in allusion to what is common among princes, to place those at their right hand whom they highly esteem and respect, and this is a high honor and dignity bestowed upon such persons. Thus, when Bathsheba entered the presence of king Solomon, he ascended the throne and caused her to be seated at his right hand (1 Kings 2:19). Whoever, therefore, the person be it denotes dignity and pre-eminence above the highest rank of cherubim or seraphim; "for to which of the angels said he at any time, sit on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool?" The second part of the verse contains a promise, that whilst he is sitting at the right hand of Jehovah his enemies shall be subjugated.
The manner in which this is to be accomplished is expressed in the next two verses: "The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth." As soon as the Psalmist's Lord shall be seated at the right hand of Jehovah, his mighty rod, or his word, which is compared to a two edged sword, shall change the heart of his enemies and make them a willing people, and they shall exceed in number, as well as brightness and beauty, the spangles of early dew which the morning discloseth to the delighted eye of the beholder. But this person is to be a priest as well as a king upon his throne, as appears from the fourth verse; "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent; thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek."
6. Let us now inquire who was the penman or author of this Psalm. Some of our Rabbins would persuade us that it respects Abraham, and was addressed to him by Melchizedek, while others believe it was addressed to him by Eliezer. But this cannot be true. Abraham cannot be the subject of this Psalm; for when did Jehovah say unto him, "sit thou at my right hand?" Who were Abraham's enemies that should be subdued whilst he was sitting at the right hand of Jehovah? In what sense is the rod of Abraham to go forth from Zion, and produce such glorious effects as are mentioned verses two and three? or when did God swear to Abraham to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek? Nor could Melchizedek call Abraham his lord, seeing that he was far superior to Abraham; for "it is evident that the lesser is blessed of the greater, and that the greater receiveth tythes from the lesser." Besides, Melchizedek was both king in Salem and a priest to the most high God, and consequently far superior to our father Abraham.
That king David was the author is evident, first, from the title, "Mizmor Ledavid," "a Psalm of David." I am aware that R. D. Kimchi hath found out that the prefix le to the word David signifies to, and not of, David, and that therefore the Psalm could not be composed by him: but this cannot be admitted, because it may not only very well signify a Psalm made by David; but if it do not, then there is no title which shows any Psalm to be his; and some of them we are sure are his. Besides, this very author makes David the author of Psalm 18th, where the title is, "Leeved Jehovah Ledavid," i. e. a Psalm of David, the servant of Jehovah, where the prefix le is used twice, and should therefore be rendered by this author, a Psalm to David, to the servant of Jehovah. Again, in the Targum also, it is ascribed to David in these words: "a Psalm by the hand of David." In the next place, it is evident that David was considered the author of this Psalm in the days of our blessed Savior and his apostles; for when Christ asserted that David in spirit called the Messiah Lord, they did not attempt to contradict that David was the author of the Psalm. The apostle Paul, who was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, and must have known to whom they applied this Psalm, declares David to have been the author.
7. I will now show that the prediction of this Psalm respects the Messiah. We have already proved that it could not belong to Abraham; no more is it applicable to David. He being the author of the Psalm, could not be the subject of it; for he speaks of another, whom he calls his Lord. Nor hath he ascended into heaven, or sat down at the right hand of God. Nor was he a priest, being of the tribe of Judah. I well remember that a late author, one of our brethren, calls this Psalm a mere parody on David, composed by one of the Levitic poets; and to get over the difficulty that David was no priest, he translates the word Cohen a priest, verse 4th, a "chief ruler." Mr. Bennet however produces no proof that this Psalm was written by a Levitic poet, though the title ascribes it to David. Nor can Mr. B. be ignorant that though the word is used in a civil sense to express some dignity, yet it nowhere signifies a ruler, much less a king; and that its radical and real signification is "a sacrifice," or as the Targums well translate it, by "Meshammesh," i. e. one that ministers before the Lord. And the first time the word is used in the Bible, it is used in this sense. Genesis 14:18, And Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God. Mr. Bennet, however, should have given the credit of this new translation to the Targum, who substitutes the word "Rabba, a prince," for the word Cohen, a priest. But it was very evident that this Targum was composed more than 300 years after the death of Christ, when our Rabbins had begun to use every method in their power to give to every passage of Scripture, favorable to Christianity, a turn different from what it had before the coming of Christ.
That our ancient Rabbins applied this Psalm to the Messiah, will be evident to any one who will examine the following references: Raya Mehimna, Zohar. Gen 18:1. Num 99:2. Med. Tehillim in loco, and in Psa 18:35. R. Obadiah and Kimchi in loco. R. Saadiah Gaon, Dan 7:13. Nachmonides, disp. cum. frat. Paulo, page 36:55. R. Yodem, Psa 18:36. R. Moshe haddarshan, in Ber. Rab. Gen 18:1. The author of Arkoth Rochel saith,"Armillus shall stir up all the world to war against the Messiah, whom the holy God shall not compel to war, but shall only say unto him, sit thou at my right hand."It is equally evident that the Pharisees and Scribes, in our Lord's time, considered the Messiah the subject of this Psalm. For when he asked them, "what think ye of Christ? whose son is he?" they readily replied, "the son of David," but when Jesus objected, "how then does David in spirit call him Lord?" saying, "the Lord said unto my Lord." "If then David call him Lord, how is he his son?"(60) 60. It is worthy of observation that our Lord did not ask this question to prove his simple divinity, but rather the union, of the divine and human natures in the person of the Messiah. As God, he could not be David's son, and, as man, he could not be his lord; but in the union of their natures, he is both his son and his lord. They were non-plussed, and thrown into the utmost confusion; for, "no man was able to answer him a word" (Matt 22:42,46). Now, had it been the generally received opinion of the synagogue, at that time, that this Psalm was to be understood of some other person, and not of the Messiah, they could very easily have objected it to him; but Jesus seems to argue with them from what was agreed on, on all hands, and of which there could be no dispute among them, viz. that this Psalm was written by David, that it was written by him under the inspiration of the Spirit; and that the Messiah was the subject thereof.
8. Before I leave this subject, I cannot but notice the opinion advanced by one of our people, a correspondent in the Jewish Repository, vol. 2, under the signature of S. M. In page 150 he saith,"this Psalm was wrote by Abner, Saul's general, when he united Israel under king David's dominion."Being called upon for a proof of his assertion, he saith in his next letter, page 252,"I do not bring ancient Rabbinical proof," (the reason is, it is impossible to do so,) "but one of a later date, say in the year 1720, from a work printed in London, entitled 'Espego Fid de Vidas'; its author is named Daniel Israel Lopes Laguna."With respect to the 110th Psalm, he saith,''this Psalm was addressed by Abner to king David, &c."The following observation, made by the editors in page 253, is an unanswerable refutation of this novel opinion of Mr. Lopes Laguna:"Does S. M. really think that the mere assertion, of a writer in the year 1720 is entitled to be received as proof in such a case? If this writer has given any ancient authority for the assertion, why has S. M. been wholly silent respecting it? If S. M. be not acquainted with any ancient authority in support of it, how does he venture to say that such 'authority' has been ' obtained'? Is Don Lopes Laguna's having been 'acknowledged to be a man of profound learning,' sufficient to 'authenticate' every thing he may have affirmed? Do not the just rules of argument require the affirmative to be proved? Is not the necessity of proof so much the greater in proportion as the affirmation is at variance with the testimony of antiquity on the point in question? Is it any better than trifling to advance an assertion, and then say, 'it remains now for' an opponent 'to disprove' it. Has S. M. disproved the ancient authorities which declare this Psalm to have been written by David? Suppose any writer of the present day, 'acknowledged to be a man of profound learning,' should assert this Psalm to have been written by Daniel, and to have related to Cyrus, would S. M. admit such an assertion to be worthy of credit? If not, on what grounds would he reject it, that would not equally invalidate the assertion of Don Lopes Would it be argued that this Psalm is not all applicable to Cyrus? But is it all applicable to David? Was David a priesta priest for ever? Is the interpretation given by S. M. (that this language 'only indicates that the dominion of Israel shall for ever be in the house of David,') so self-evident as to require nothing to be said in support of it? And if such be the meaning of this language, how does S. M. suppose the prediction to have been fulfilled?"9. Pardon this digression, dear Benjamin. To return to our subject. The priestly office may be divided into three prominent partsto offer sacrifices, to make intercession, and to bless the people. As the soul and essence of the priesthood consisted in offering up sacrifices, this may be the proper place to show their origin and design.
Sacrificing is a religious act, in which a creature devoted to God was in a solemn manner destroyed in his presence, for sacred ends. Saith the great and learned Dr. Owen,"A sacrifice is a religious oblation of something consecrated and dedicated to God by the ministry of a priest, according to God's institution, to be destroyed for a testimony of the worship of God, and an external symbol."10. This mode of worship is of great antiquity. It was in use in the first ages of the world. We are sure that Job offered sacrifices, both for his children and for his friends. Our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob built altars and offered their sacrifices unto the God most high. Noah offered up sacrifices immediately on his coming out of the ark. Cain and Abel brought their respective offerings unto the Lord; and from the manner in which the transaction is introduced, it seems pretty clear that there was a regular fixed time, for this religious exercise. The expression alluded to is in Genesis 4:3, "and in the process of time it came to pass." The original is, "and it came to pass at the end of days." This intimates (as has been observed) a stated time for the performance of this duty; and the whole turn of the phrase marking a previous and familiar observance. Nor can it reasonably be doubted that Adam himself offered up sacrifices. For whence came the skins with which our first parents were, clothed? (Gen 3:21). The beasts to whom they belonged cannot, so soon after their creation, be supposed to have died of age; they must have been slain; and as animal food was not in use until after the flood, it is most natural to suppose that they were slain in sacrifice, as a constant memorial of their transgression, of the death which it merited, and of the divine mercy by which that death was withheld.
11. It is a remark of the pious and learned Dr. Witsius,"that God's clothing our first parents was a symbolical act, as seems evident from our Lord's own words, 'I counsel thee to buy of me white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear' (Rev 3:18). The mystical is first, As that clothing which Adam contrived for himself could not cover him so as to appear before the eyes of God; in like manner, nothing that a sinner can work or toil by his own industry, or wisdom, falsely so called, can produce any thing that can procure him a just and well grounded confidence by which he may appear before the tribunal of God. 'Their webs, which are spiders' webs, shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works' (Isa 59:5,6).I would further observe, that as the slaying of the animal exhibited the suffering and death of the Messiah, so its acceptance was an assurance of the acceptance of the sacrifice of the Savior; and the clothing of our first parents with the skins of the sacrifice, pointed out the righteousness of Messiah, brought in when he was "cut off, but not for himself" (Dan 9:24,26).
"Secondly, As the bodies of our first parents were covered with the spoils of mortality, and the skins of slain animals, so the garment of grace, whereby the body of sin is covered, is owing to the very death of Christ, without which, that righteousness which makes us acceptable to God, could not have been performed."
That Adam had been in the habit of offering up sacrifices, has been the general opinion of our Rabbins.(61) 61. See Targum and Rashi on Psa 69:32. Maimonides Mishn. book 8. treat. on the temple, chap. 2. sec. 2. Farewell.Behold the bleeding Lamb of God,
Our spotless sacrifice!
By hands of barb'rous sinners seiz'd,
Nail'd to the cross, he dies.
Blest Jesus, whence his streaming blood?
And whence this foul disgrace?
Whence all these pointed thorns, that rend
Thy venerable face?
"I sanctify myself (he cries)
"That thou may'st holy be:
"Come, trace my life; come, view my death
"And learn to copy me."
Letter 11. Origin of Sacrifices
1. Having in my last letter traced the practice of sacrifices to the family and person of Adam, I will now endeavor to show the divine authority for their conduct. I am perfectly aware, my dear Benjamin, that it has been a subject of great controversy, whether sacrifices are a human invention or a divine institution, yet, after a long and close examination of the arguments on both sides of the question, I am fully satisfied that sacrifices were appointed by God himself, and that immediately after the giving forth of the first promise of a Messiah. In favor of this opinion many divines have argued and written well, but, in my humble opinion, Dr. Magee, in his invaluable work on the atonement, has demonstrated it in the clearest and most convincing manner; and to this work I freely acknowledge myself indebted for many of the ideas I now wish to impress upon the mind of my dear Benjamin.
That sacrifices are not a human invention, will appear from the following considerations:
2. No satisfactory reason can be given for their origin or design. Some of the enemies of "Jehovah and his anointed" have triumphed in their imagined discovery that sacrifices are the invention of "priest-craft," for the purpose of "sharing with their gods, and reserving the best bits for themselves." But these honest men have craftily omitted to tell us who those priests were, before the institution of the Aaronic priesthood, when the head of each family, &c. &c. offered up his own sacrifices. Was it gain to Job and all the patriarchs, to burn their animals to ashes for the sake of getting the best bits, namely, the skin? Was not this their own before the rest was wasted? Such, however, is the superior sagacity of Mr. Morgan, Tintal, &c. &c. for the purpose of making the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God of none effect. Saith the learned Mr. Magee,"Such impotent cavils contemptible as they are, may yet be considered of value in this light; they imply an admission, that the invention of sacrifice on principles of natural reason is utterly inconceivable; since, if any such principles could be pointed out, these writers, whose main object is to undermine the fabric of revelation, would gladly have resorted to them, in preference to suppositions so frivolous and absurd"(62) 62. Vol. 2. p. 92.3. Others, somewhat more sober and serious, would have us to believe that they were originated by the light of nature, as expressions of gratitude. They tell us"that sacrifices are sacred gifts of things first received from God, and presented back to him for an external expression of gratitude, an acknowledgment of faith and every pious sentiment."To this it has been justly remarked,"if any have referred it to the laws of nature, their error is easily proved from this fact, that the sacrificial rites practiced by the ancients, have been wholly abolished by Christ among his followers; though he was far from abolishing any of the laws of nature, but by his authority ratified, confirmed, and established them all."(63) 63. Outram. De. Sacrif. 22.Besides, "no being has a right to the lives of other beings, but the Creator, or those on whom he confers that right." It could therefore not have entered the mind of Noah or Abel to slay animals, the grant of animal food being not given till after the flood; nor would God have accepted of such an offering.
4. Dr. Spencer and others maintain that sacrifices were originally considered under the notion of gifts, the effects of which in appeasing the anger and conciliating the favor of man being observed, it was supposed they would have the like effect with God, and thereupon was invented the rite of sacrificing. But if Cain and Abel sacrificed upon this principle, it will be hard to account for God's accepting the one and rejecting the other. Besides, the opinion that sacrifices would prevail with God, must proceed from an observation that gifts had prevailed with menan observation which Cain and Abel had little opportunity of making. Nor could gifts have been in use before property was established, which was not probably the case in the days of Cain and Abel.
5. Others, again, suppose that sacrifices were originally used as a federal rite, i. e. a kind of eating and drinking with God, as it were, at his table, and thereby implying the restoration to a state of friendship with him by repentance. and confession of sin. But this could not have been the case; for animal food was not in use before the flood, as has been fully proved by Dr. Magee and others.
6. The more generally received opinion is, that the practice of sacrificing is a religious act of worship, especially as an acknowledgment of contrition for sin, strongly expressed by the death of the animal, representing that death which the offerer confessed to be his own desert. This has been the most prevailing motive and design of sacrifices among nations and ages the most remote. Dr. Magee has proved, at considerable length,"that all nations, Jews and heathens, before the time of Christ, entertained the notion that the displeasure of the offended Deity was to be averted by the sacrifice of an animal; and that to the shedding of its blood they imputed their pardon and reconciliation."(64) 64. Vol. 2. 159.Hence the kind of sacrifices which they considered the most valuable, and which they offered the most frequent, was that of animals, slain and burned. Until the giving of the law no other offering than that of animals is recorded in the Scriptures, except that of Cain, and that was rejected. Does not this indicate that they knew that without the shedding of blood there was no remission of sin?
But this proves that sacrifices could not be a human invention, for,
7. a. It is contrary to reason. What man of common understanding could suppose that an infinitely good and benevolent Being would be pleased with the fumes and reekings of the bleeding sacrifices? "Does he eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?" (Psa 50:13). Would they not rather have chosen a "reasonable service" for the God that made them reasonable creatures? such as the sacrifice of prayer and of praise, of a pure mind and of a good life. Such, indeed, the wiser heathens did, in their opinions, exceedingly prefer. Pythagoras and Plato spoke often with regret and displeasure of the sacrifices and blood of beasts. Others wondered how the practice came first into the world. With respect to the expiatory sacrifices, who could think that the blood of bulls and of goats could take away sin, and that God would accept of that as a fit compensation for their crimes? It is most unreasonable to suppose any natural connection between the slaying of an animal and the receiving of pardon for the violation of God's holy laws. Will the insulted and violated law of a country be magnified and honored by hanging or executing a dog in the place of a robber or murderer? It is therefore highly unreasonable to suppose that those holy and pious patriarchs, who lived by faith and walked with God, should think the offering of the blood and burning of the flesh of a beast to be fit expressions of their gratitude to almighty God, or means to obtain his favor by way of expiation for their sins, without his institution?
8. b. In the next place, if sacrifices had been a human invention, it would have been will-worship, and therefore highly displeasing in the sight of God (Lev 10:12; Isa 29:13; Matt 15:19). The Old Testament saints would never have ventured to express their devotion in such strange manner, if they had not been required to do so by the declared will of God. But even suppose that the patriarchs had been so presumptuous as to invent or practice such bloody rites, it can never be admitted that God, who has, upon all occasions, testified his displeasure against the inventions of men in his worship, would have smiled upon such self-devised modes of adoration. Instead of testifying of their gifts, and accepting their burnt offerings, as he has done, would he not rather have upbraided them in the words of that well known reproof, "Who hath required these at your hands?" (Isa 1:12).
9. What has been said to prove the divine authority of sacrifices, is summarily contained in the following extract:"Whatever practice hath obtained universally in the world, must have obtained from some dictate of reason, or some demand of nature, or some principle of interest, or else from some powerful influence or injunction of some being of universal authority. Now, the practice of animal sacrifice did not obtain from reason; for no reasonable notions of God could teach men that he could delight in blood, or in the fat of slain beasts. Nor will any man say that we have any natural instinct to gratify in spilling the blood of an innocent creature. Nor could there be any temptation from appetite to do this in those ages when the whole sacrifice was consumed by fire; or when, if it was not, yet men wholly abstained from flesh; and consequently this practice did not owe its origin to any principle of interest. Nay, so far from any thing of this, that the destruction of innocent and useful creatures is evidently against nature, against reason, and against interest; and therefore must be founded in an authority whose influence was as powerful as the practice was universal; and that could be none but the authority of God, the Sovereign of the world; or of Adam, the founder of the human race. If it be said of Adam the question still remains, what motive determined him to the practice? It could not be nature, reason, or interest, as has been already shown; it must therefore have been the authority of his sovereign; and had Adam enjoined it on his posterity, it is not to be imagined that they would have obeyed him in so extraordinary and expensive a rite, from any other motive than the command of God."(65) 65. Delaney Rev. Exam. Diss. 8. p. 85.I hope, my dear brother, what has already been stated will convince you that sacrifices are a divine institution, and not a human invention. Allow me, however, to confirm this all-important proposition by one or two more remarks.
10. Let us for a moment consider what is said in sacred writ concerning the sacrifice of Cain and Abel. Moses, our inspired historian gives us the following account. "And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground, an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering: but unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not respect" (Gen 4:2-5). From this brief account it appears that both Cain and Abel brought their offerings unto the Lord; that each offered of that which he had, according to his occupation; and that the sacrifice of Abel was accepted, but that of Cain was rejected. Now, as the actions of both brothers seem to have been the same, why the Lord should have accepted the one and rejected the other, no satisfactory reason can be given by those who deny the divine authority of sacrifices; for, as it has been observed, if sacrifices be considered as gifts, or as federal rites, or as symbolical actions expressing the dispositions and sentiment of the offerer, or in any way that human invention can be conceived to have devised them; the actions of the two brothers appear to stand precisely on the same ground, each bringing an offering of that which he respectively possessed, and each thus manifesting his acknowledgment and worship of the great Author of his possession. But on the supposition that sacrifices were appointed by God, every difficulty vanishes, and all appears connected and satisfactory. We have already stated that it is more than probable that, immediately at the giving of the promise that "the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent," sacrifices were instituted to represent, by their death, the sufferings and death of the Messiah. Now, Abel, believing the design as well as the divine appointment of the institution, brought an animal sacrifice, which was accepted; but Cain, although performing the same act, but changing the matter and consequently disregarded the design, had his sacrifice rejected.
11. Hence the inspired apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews 11:4, informs us that the ground on which Abel's oblation was preferred to that of Cain was, that Abel offered his in faith; and the criterion of this faith also appears to have been, in the opinion of this writer, the animal sacrifice. His words are these, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain," i. e. by faith Abel offered that which was of the true nature of sacrifice. Now, as the same apostle teaches us "that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom 10:17), it is evident that Abel must have been acquainted with the nature and design of the institution of sacrifices, for without some assurance held as the object of faith, he could not have exercised this virtue; and without some peculiar mode of sacrifice enjoined, he could not have exemplified that faith by an appropriate offering. In opposition to those who consider sacrifices the effect of natural reason, it has been observed,"that the light of natural reason does not generate faith, but science; and when it fails of that, its offspring is absurdity. 'Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,' and comes not by reasoning, but by hearing. What things then were they of which Abel had heard, for which he hoped, and in the faith of which he offered sacrifice? Undoubtedly it was a restoration to that immortality which was forfeited by the transgression of his parents. Of such redemption, an obscure intimation had been given to Adam, in the promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent; and it was doubtless to impress upon his mind, in more striking colors, the manner in which this was to be done, that bloody sacrifices were first instituted."(66) 66. Ency. Brit. Art. Sacis.12. The diversity in the oblations of Cain and Abel, and their different reception, have been finely illustrated by a comparison with the parable in which our Lord represents the different devotions of a Pharisee and Publican, and their different successes. Abel, who, by sacrificing an animal, acknowledged his true character as a sinner, and evinced his faith and hope in the divine mercy by the appointed way of seeking forgiveness,was accepted: while Cain, who contented himself with a eucharistic offering, and acknowledging his obligations as a creature, but regardless of his condition as a sinner, and neglecting the instituted means of seeking the divine mercy,was rejected. So the Publican, with his confession of guilt, and supplication for pardon, "went down to his house justified, rather than" the Pharisee, with his fastings, and tithes, and thanksgiving.
13. That sacrifices are a divine institution, may be further argued from the distinction of clean and unclean animals being known before the flood. The first time we read of this distinction is in Genesis 7:2, where God commanded Noah, saying, "of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female; and of beasts that are not clean, by two, the male and his female." Under the Mosaic dispensation there were two kinds of clean and unclean beasts. Some were clean for men to eat, mentioned, Leviticus 11:3, 4, and some were clean for sacrifice to God, Leviticus 1:2, 10, 14. Now, as it appears from Genesis 9:3, that all beasts without distinction were allowed for food, the distinction mentioned in Genesis 7:2, must therefore refer to sacrifices. Hence we read, that as soon as Noah came out of the ark he "builded an altar unto the Lord, and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar, and the Lord smelted a sweet savor"; and as there is nothing in nature that constitutes this distinction, which depends wholly on the pleasure of Jehovah, it must require an express revelation. But in the command given unto Noah (Gen. 7:2) no characteristics are mentioned to distinguish one from the other; it follows, hence, that he was well acquainted, not only with the duty of sacrificing as a religious rite divinely instituted, but also with their nature, properties, and design.
14. And now, my beloved Benjamin, having thus endeavored to prove that sacrifices are a divine institution, and coeval with the first promise of a Messiah, I should now proceed to point out their original design; but as this letter has already exceeded the usual limits, I will close it in the words of that eminent divine whose name has already frequently been mentioned:"It is obvious that the promise made to our first parent; conveyed an intimation of some future deliverer, who should overcome the tempter that had drawn man from his innocence, and remove those evils which had been occasioned by the fall. This assurance, without which, or some other ground of hope, it seems difficult to conceive how the principle of religion could have had place among men, became to our first parents the grand object of faith. To perpetuate this fundamental article of religious belief among the descendants of Adam, some striking memorial of the fall of man and of the promised deliverance would naturally be appointed. What memorial could be devised more apposite than that of animal sacrifice?exemplifying, by the slaying of the victim, the death which has been denounced against man's disobedience; thus exhibiting the awful lesson of that death which was the wages of sin, and at the same time representing that death which was actually to be undergone by the Redeemer of mankind; and hereby connecting, in one view, the two great cardinal events in the history of man, the fall and the recoverythe death denounced against sin, and the death appointed for that holy One who was to lay down his life to deliver man from the consequences of sin. The institution of animal sacrifice seems, then, to have been peculiarly significant, as containing all the elements of religious knowledge; and the adoption of this rite, with sincere and pious feelings, would at the same time imply an humble sense of the unworthiness of the offerer, a confession that the death inflicted on the victim was the desert of those sins which had arisen from man's transgression, and a full reliance upon the promises of deliverance, joined to an acquiescence in the means appointed for its accomplishment." Magee.(67) 67. I. 53.Now unto the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world, be all honor and glory, for ever and ever. Amen. Farewell.
Letter 12. Design of Sacrifices
1. Agreeably to promise, we proceed to point out the design of the institution of sacrifices. It may be necessary to distinguish between their original institution, and their re-appointment under the Levitical priesthood.
With respect to the former I would observe, in addition to what has already been hinted in the last letter, viz. that it was calculated, a. To teach our first parents the nature of death. They had been threatened with death; but what notion could they have of dying? they had never felt the cold hand of death nor witnessed the agonies of expiring nature; but to behold the struggles of the dying victim was calculated to excite and preserve in their minds a lively sense of what was meant by death, and what they had to expect for their transgression.
2. b. To illustrate the nature of the death of "the seed of the woman," by which we were to be reconciled unto God. As it was not designed by God that the Messiah should suffer and die before the lapse of several thousand years after the promise was made, there is nothing more natural than to suppose that the institution of sacrifices was ordained by God, as a sign and representation, to be observed in faith and expectation of the death and sacrifice of the promised Savior, as we now celebrate the sacrament of the Lord's supper in remembrance of that death and sacrifice already past.
c. To seal the promise to Adam, and confirm the new covenant with him, as he did afterward to Noah, to Abraham, and others, by accepting their sacrifice. The learned and pious Dr. Eusebius, having deduced from the Scripture account of the sacrifices of Abel, Noah, and Abraham, and from the sacrificial institution by Moses, the fact of a divine appointment of sacrifices, proceeds to explain the nature and true intent of the rite in the following manner:"Whilst men had no victim that was more excellent, more precious, and more worthy of God, animals were made the price and ransom of their souls; and their substituting these animals in their own room, bore, indeed, some affinity to their suffering themselves, in which sense all the ancient worshippers and friends of God made use of them. The Holy Spirit had taught them that there should one day come a victim, more venerable, more holy, and more worthy of God. He had likewise instructed them how to point him out to the world by types and shadows. And thus they became prophets, and were not ignorant of their having been chosen out to represent to mankind the things which God resolved to accomplish."(68) 68. Eus. Dem. Evang. L. I. cap. 10. p. 36.3. Dr. Owen, in his elaborate and invaluable exercitations, prefixed to his exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, having described the nature of the eternal covenant between the Father and the Son, says,"When God came to reveal this counsel of his will, this branch and part of the eternal compact between him and his Son, and to represent unto the church what had been transacted within the veil, for their faith and edification, as also to give them some previous insight into the manner of the accomplishment of these his holy counsels, he did it by the institutions of a priesthood and sacrifices, or a sacred office and sacred kind of worship, united and adapted to be a resemblance of this heavenly transaction between the Father and the Son. For the priesthood and sacrifices of the law were not the origina exemplar of these things, but a transcript and copy of what was done in heaven itself, in counsel, design and covenant, as they were a type of what should be afterward accomplished on the earth. Now although the names of priest and sacrifice are first applied unto the office mentioned under the law and their work, from whence they are traduced under the New Testament, and transferred unto Jesus Christ, that we may learn thereby what God, of old, instructed his church in; yet the things themselves intended and signified by these names, belong properly and firstly unto Jesus Christ, upon the account of this his undertaking, and the very names of priests and sacrifices were but improperly ascribed unto them who were so called, to be obscure representations of what was past, and types of what was to come."This tradition of sacrifices was handed down to all nations of the world, but the knowledge of their design was lost.
4. I close this part of the subject with a short but striking quotation from the interesting sermons of Dr. Randolph:"From those who presumptuously deride the doctrine of atonement, we would ask some reasonable solution of the origin of sacrifice. Will they make it consistent with and natural idea, will they discover in the blood of an innocent victim, any thing recommendatory in itself of the offerer's suit and devotions? Though they should clear away what they term a load of superstition from the Christian worship, they will find it encumbering every altar of their favorite natural religion; they will find these absurdities forming the significant and generally indispensable part of all religious ceremonies; and however disgraced, as we are ready to allow, with every abominable pollution; though retaining nothing to perfect the service, or to purify the offering, still, in its expiatory form, in its propitiatory hopes, the sacrifice of heathen nations preserves the features of that sacred and solemn office, which was ordained to keep up the remembrance of guilt till the full and perfect sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction was made by an eternal Mediator, for the sins of the whole world."5. I proceed to show the design of the re-appointment of sacrifices under the Levitical priesthood. Were it my intention to point out the design of the whole Mosaic dispensation, (as I hope to do, if life be spared,) I might easily show that it was the effect of infinite wisdom, love and grace; that all the ceremonial laws were serviceable to try the obedience of our nation, to restrain them from idolatry; that they were suitable to their then present condition; full of instruction as images and types of spiritual things, representing and pointing out the Messiah with all his blessed undertakings, and the unspeakable benefits which accrue to us from thence. But this would lead us too far from the subject under consideration. I shall therefore confine myself to that part of the Mosaic dispensation which relates more particularly to the priesthood of the Messiah.
To represent this all-important subject in as clear a light as possible, it will be necessary to show,
6. First, that sacrifices were reappointed to make atonement. This was the case with most of them, but especially with the daily lambs, the sin, trespass and burnt offerings, and the two goats on the annual day of atonement. That these are piacular and vicarious, i. e. substituted in the place of the guilty, to make atonement, i. e. to remove the wrath of God, and to procure the pardon of sin, and to restore to his favor, will appear,
7. a. From sacred Scripture. In the following passages sacrifices are expressly said to make atonement, and procure the pardon of sin: see Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35, 5:10, 13, 16, 18, 7:19-22; Numbers 15:25, 26, 28. The Hebrew word Copher, translated atonement, is from the root Caphar, which signifies to cover over; it intimates that our offences are, by a proper atonement, covered from the avenging justice of God; that the penalty of the transgression is remitted, and the offender restored to the privileges which he had forfeited. See the following passages: Exodus 32:30-32; Numbers 16:46, 48, 25:11, 13. Hence the pardon of sin is expressed by its being covered, and the punishment by its not being covered (Psa 32:1, 85:2; Neh 4:5). This word Caphar in Piail signifies to remove or take away, and consequently to be propitious and merciful in taking away of sin, as also to appease, atone, reconcile, and purge, whereby sin is taken away. See particularly the following passages: Genesis 32:20; Deuteronomy 21:8; Psalm 65:3, 78:38, 79:9; Proverbs 16:14. Hence you know, my dear Benjamin, that the tenth day of the seventh month is called Yom Kiphpurim, i. e. day of atonement or expiations; because of the extraordinary expiatory sacrifices offered therein. On this account also, the lid which covered the ark containing the two tables of the law, or ten commandments, was called Caphporeth, i. e. a mercy-seat, or propitiatory, as fitly signifying the effects of God's mercy to transgressors of his law. Here the effect is put for the cause. The expiatory and atoning sacrifice of the Messiah, by which justice is satisfied, and sin, as it were, hid from the sight of Jehovah, hath opened a way for the free exercise of mercy toward guilty sinners. And hence the seventy have translated the Hebrew word Caphporeth, by one which signifies to appear, to make propitiation.
8. It further appears that sacrifices were vicarious, or substituted in the place of the guilty, from the ceremony of the offender laying his hands on the head of the victim, either personally or representatively. See Leviticus 1:4, 4:14, 15; especially Leviticus 16:21, 22, where the high priest, on the great day of atonement, was to "lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, in all their sins putting them on the head of the goat." Nothing can be plainer than that by this action was manifested a transferring of sin from the offender to the sacrifice, and of the death due to the criminal to the innocent victim. Hence the blood of the animal was the expiation of the sin of the soul of the offender (Lev 17:11,14). Hence the sacrifices are said to bear the iniquities of the people, because the guilt and punishment of the sinner was transferred to them (Lev 10:17, 16:22). Upon this principle of imputation, and upon this principle only, we can explain why both the messenger, that only went with the scape-goat into the wilderness, and he that burned the residue of the bullock, whose blood had been carried into the holy of holies, were counted so unclean that they were not admitted into the congregation before they were purified and washed (Lev 16:26-28). Dr. Jamieson, speaking of the ceremony of laying on of the hands, says,"This rite was unworthy of the divine institution and of man's observance, except as typifying that great act of God's justice in laying upon Christ the iniquities of all his people, and the exercise of their faith in cordially assenting to this act and embracing him as their only surety."
9. b. From the almost unanimous opinion of our nation. You well know, my dear Benjamin, that all our Rabbins maintain the total inefficacy of a sacrifice to obtain the pardon of sin, unless the person who offered it added his confessions and supplications to the laying on of hands.(69) 69. See Abarbanel, Lev 16. R. Abuav. Aben Ezra, and R. M. B. Nachman, on Lev 5:5. Maimonides Teshuva, C. 1. The form of deprecation for any sinner offering a piacular sacrifice is given at length by Maimonides, in Maase Korban, ch. 3. The concluding words, which are, "But now I repent, and let this be my expiation," evidently referred to the animal placed under his hands, and signified (as our Rabbins justly observe) "Let this victim be substituted in my place, that the evil which I have deserved may fall on the head of my sacrifice." R. Levi ben Gerson,(70) 70. In his commentary on Lev. ch. 1. says,"The imposition of hands was a tacit declaration on the part of every offerer that he removed his sins from himself and transferred them to that animal."To the same purpose is the language of R. Isaac ben Arama:(71) 71. Lev. ch. 4."Whenever any one sins through ignorance, or even with knowledge, he transfers his sins from himself, and lays them upon the head of his victim."The same sentiment is expressed by Maimonides,(72) 72. More Nevoch, p. Ill, c. 47. and by many others which might be quoted, but those mentioned are already more than necessary as it regards my dear Benjamin; but as there are not a few, who call themselves Christians, who not only deny the vicarious sacrifice of Christ, but also boldly affirm "that the Jews never did, nor do at present, believe in the vicarious nature of sacrifices," I will beg your indulgence whilst I notice two or three testimonies that they did, and still do, consider the sacrifices as the substitute, the ransom, the expiation for their sins.
10. R. M. B. Nachman, speaking of the burnt offering, saith,"It was just that his blood should be shed, and that his body should be burned; but the Creator, of his mercy accepted this victim from him as his substitute and ransom that the blood of the animal might be shed instead of his blood; that is, that the life of the animal might be given for his life."(73) 73. Com. on Lev. ch. 1.Rabbi Bechai,(74) 74. On Lev. ch. 1. saith,"Whereas the sinner himself deserved that his blood should be shed, as the blood of the victim was, and that his body should be burned, as the carcass of the victim was; and God, to whom be praise, accepted this victim as his substitute and ransom. See how great was the kindness of God toward him! God, of his infinite mercy and goodness, for the sinner's expiation, accepted the life of a brute instead of his life. This sentence is true, and agreeable to reason."R. Isaac Abarbinel saith,"The offerer deserved that his blood should be shed and his body burned for his sin; but God in mercy accepted this victim as his substitute and ransom; and the blood of the animal was shed instead of his bloodthe life of the animal was sacrificed instead of his life."(75) 75. Praef. Lev. See also R. Isaac Ben Arama, on Lev. David de Pomis, in voce Olah. See also R. S. Yar-chi; Aben Ezra; R. M. B. Nachman; R. Isaac Ben Arama; and R. J. Abarbinel, on Lev. ch. 17, v. 11.11. That the sentiment contained in the preceding quotations is still believed by our nation, is evident from the prayer which they repeat, whilst they are turning or swinging a fowl three times round their head, before it is killed, on the day of preparation for the annual day of atonement. The prayer, as you know, is as follows:"Se chalipathi, se tachti, se caphparathi, se Hattarnegol yelech lamitha waani ailech lechayim tovim im col yisrael. Amen. i. e. This fowl (cock) is my exchange or ransom, this is in my stead, this is my expiation, this cock shall go unto death, but I shall go to a happy life with all Israel. Amen."12. Dear brother, whilst I am relating this religious act performed by our people with the greatest solemnity, my heart is grieved within me, and I am compelled to exclaim with the prophet, Jeremiah 9:1-3, "Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people; for they bend their tongues like their bows for lies; but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth." May not Jehovah say to them as he did to our fathers, "Who has required these things of your hands?" and again, "This people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precept of men." Gladly, dear Benjamin, would I have concealed this superstitious worship, were it not to show that, notwithstanding the infidelity of some of our brethren, the nation, as a body, still believe that sacrifices were of a vicarious nature, and that repentance must be accompanied by the death of the substitute. By this transaction another important truth is confirmed, namely, the doctrine of original sin. You know, dear Benjamin, that our Rabbins have taught that a male is to take a cock, and a female a hen, but that a woman with child must have both a cock and a hen, for the purpose, that if the infant in the womb be a female, the hen might atone both for the mother and child, but if a male, atonement is made for the child by the cock. If the unborn infant needs an atonement, it must certainly be considered a sinner.
13. To conclude, from these few quotations, selected out of many, the sentiment of our Rabbins, with respect to sacrifices, is, I trust, established beyond contradiction. It is evident that they have taught that the sins of the offender were transferred to his victim, and that he imprecated upon the victim the punishment due to himself. That they have maintained that those victims, whose blood was carried into the sanctuary, and whose carcasses were burned without the camp, were polluted by the sins of the guilty being transferred to them. That they have described every piacular sacrifice as the ransom, redemption and substitute of the sinner himself; and have asserted the life of every such victim to be given instead of the sinner's life. From sacred Scripture, and from the sentiment of our Rabbins, it appears therefore that my proposition is true, viz. that the Levitical sacrifices were instituted to make atonement for sin.
14. Secondly. My next proposition is, that sacrifices could not make atonement. Although this proposition seems to be in direct opposition to the former, yet I hope to establish its truth, and afterwards show the consistency of both.
That sacrifices could really atone for, or purge the conscience from dead works, or be acceptable to the divine Majesty for their own sake, or any intrinsic value, is denied by reason and Scripture. Would it be consistent with the honor of God, to be contented with the blood of a beast for an expiation of sin? How could there be in it a discovery of the severity of his justice, the purity of his holiness and the grandeur of his grace? How could he have made known his infinite hatred of sin, if he had accepted the blood of an abject animal as an atonement for the sin of a spiritual and precious soul?
There is no proportion between them and the sins of men. The sin of a rational creature is too heinous to be expiated by the blood of an irrational creature. An inferior nature can never atone for the sin of a nature superior to it. Beside, the repetition of them shows their insufficiency. Had the wrath of God been appeased by them, why should the fire burn perpetually upon the altar?
15. Their inability to atone for sin is declared in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. In the prophet Micah, "rivers of oil, and thousands of rams," are denied to be an adequate propitiation, yea even the "first born" would not be accepted for transgression, nor "the fruit of the body for the sin of the soul" (6:7), and the apostle, in the Epistle to the Hebrews (10:4), positively declares that it is impossible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin.
Maimonides also observes that in the religious rites connected with sacrifices, there was nothing intrinsically acceptable to God, nothing with which he was pleased for its own sake.(76) 76. More Nevoch, p. 3, c. 32.
Thirdly. The Levitical sacrifices had a twofold design, agreeably to the twofold relation in which our nation stood with God.
16. a. They stood in the common relation to God as sinners.
In this respect the Levitical sacrifices, like those originally instituted, neither could nor were designed to expiate their sins, but only to typify the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah, and by faith in him who was to come, they realized the same benefits as those do who do now believe in him as having come. He was the original idea and pattern of them, and they were instituted as types of him who was the antitype, a greater and better sacrifice, an oblation of a higher nature, which was to succeed and abrogate them for ever. An inspired apostle has assured us that the whole Levitical institution was typical (Col 2:17; Heb 9:10). Now, as sacrifices were the soul and life of that dispensation, so they were the most typical of the Messiah. This observation is confirmed by the following passages: John 1:29; 1 Cor 5:7; Heb 7:27, 10:1; 1 Peter 1:19; Rev 5:6, 13:8.
17. Saith the pious Mr. Brown,"In the death of Christ we see the great antitype of these legal oblations. Most certain they were public acknowledgments of guilt, and professions of faith in the grand propitiation which they believed should appear in the end of the world. Tell us, thou sweet singer of Israel, who is he that shall do for us what the law could not do! In the 40th Psalm, David, speaking not of himself, but of a far more glorious person, hath these most emphatical words: 'Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire: burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required. Then said I, lo, I come to do thy will O God.' It was not Christ who came to imitate the sacrifices, but they were ordained to prefigure him. They were the shadow of future good things, but the body is of Christ. When Christ was first revealed, the sacrifices seem to have been practiced, and when he died they ceased to be offered. The temple heard his dying groan, rent her vail in presence of the priesthood, as they offered the evening sacrifice and the paschal lamb. From this time forth shall your office be vacated, ye legal priests! ye beasts of the field, no more shall ye smoke as victims on God's altar, for the merciful High-Priest hath now given himself an offering and a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savor unto God! Now, if with the prediction of his death they began, and ended with the accomplishment, what can be more plain than the relation betwixt them, as the shadow and the substance? Set this relation aside, and it is impossible to vindicate, to any advantage, the original appointment of sacrifices, or to account for their abolition after they were enjoined."18. b. They stood also in a political relation to God. He was the king of Israel, and they were his chosen subjects. In this relation God gave them peculiar laws, the obedience and disobedience of which was connected with temporal rewards and punishments, without any reference to future happiness or misery. In pity and compassion to his people, the Lord was pleased to enlarge the design as well as the variety of sacrifices. In addition to the original typical design, they were now appointed to make a real atonement or reconciliation, between the King of Israel and his peculiar people for certain sins, such as sins of ignorance, weakness, &c. The offended Sovereign was appeased, and the offender delivered from punishment, and restored to the performance of duties, and the enjoyment of privileges which were peculiar to the congregation of Israel. In reference to this two-fold relation of our nation, and the two-fold design and efficacy of sacrifices, the apostle remarks thus: "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb 9:13,14).
Hence the seeming contradiction of the first and second proposition is reconciled. When the Levitical sacrifices are said to make an atonement, it relates to the political state of the Jews; when it is asserted that they could not make an atonement, it relates to their relation to God as sinners.
Thus the sacrifices answered two important ends; they delivered immediately from temporal misery, and typically exhibited a spiritual Savior: like the brazen serpent which was lifted up as an immediate remedy for the wounded Israelites, and secondly, as a type of the Messiah "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:14,15). Hence, David, in his great and heinous sins of murder and adultery, flies to mere mercy (Psa 51:16), for God had appointed no sacrifice, for the expiation of such sins, as to the political guilt contracted in that commonwealth, though otherwise no sins or sinners were excluded from the benefit of sacrifices.
19. I have now, my beloved brother Benjamin, endeavored, I hope, to your satisfaction, to show that the rite of sacrificing was practiced in the family of Adam, the father of the human race; that its origin was a divine command; that the sacrifice of the Messiah was both its pattern and its antitype; and that the Levitical sacrifices were merely re-appointed with a variety of laws and ceremonies, that besides their typical design, they might also make an atonement for the political sins of our nation. I should now proceed to show that it was predicted as well as typified, that the Messiah was to suffer and die as a vicarious sacrifice; but this I must defer to the next letter, and close the present by noticing a sentiment respecting the design of the Levitical sacrifices, which is as false and pernicious as it is general and common. Some of our famous Rabbins, such as Maimonides, R. L. B. Gerson, and Abarbanel, and some eminent Christian writers, such as Spencer, Grotius and others, are of opinion that Moses indulged our fathers in the practice of sacrificing and other ceremonies, because they had become so violently attached to them that it would have been imprudent or dangerous to prohibit it. Nay, Sir Thomas R. Blunt,(77) 77. In his Essay, p. 6. is bold and impious enough to say"that God enjoined the Jews the use of sacrifices because they had been used to this kind of worship in Egypt, and God had no other way to bring them off from their idolatry but this. Therefore he was forced to comply with them, and indulge them in this pagan folly."This is indeed "cutting the knot," and plucking up the tree of life by its very roots. At one stroke it denies the divine authority of sacrifices; it classes Moses, nay, Jehovah himself, among those wicked politicians, who say, "let us do evil that good may come out of it"; it makes the apostle a liar, for he saith that all things under the law were types and shadows of better things to come; it makes the death of the Messiah of none effect, and consequently it saps the only foundation of a sinner's hope.
But as this opinion has been unanswerably refuted by many divines, I shall make only two or three observations.
20. a. It is an undeniable fact, as has been already shown, that sacrifices were in use in the family of our first parents, before heathens were born, or idolatry practiced; and that after the flood, Noah, the father of the new world, offered up sacrifices as soon as he came out of the ark; and so the practice continued through the ages of the patriarchs, until they were re-appointed at the foot of Mount Sinai. Instead therefore of the Jews learning the practice of sacrificing from the Egyptians, it is evident that all nations learned it from the patriarchs, who had received it by divine command.
21. b. So far was Moses from commanding the Israelites to imitate the customs of the heathen, that they were expressly forbidden it, and that immediately after the re-appointment of sacrifices; "for the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the Lord your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do; and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their ordinances" (Lev 18:1-3; Eccl 7:29). Is it credible that a man in his senses, yea, a wise politician, nay, even the infinitely wise God, would express his abhorrence, and forbid the practices of the Gentiles, and yet at the same time appoint his people several rites which the Gentiles used, and that merely because they were Gentile rites, and practiced by the idolatrous nations? Surely not. Further we observe,
22. c. So far was God from having accommodated the Mosaic institutions to the customs of the Gentiles, that it is evident that most, if not all, the Levitical ceremonies were in direct opposition to those in use among the heathens, and that for the purpose of keeping them a distinct people. Hence, as you well know, our Rabbins call the Mosaic rites Seyak letorah, i. e. a hedge of the law; and hence the apostle saith, "Before faith came we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed" (Gal 3:23). Here the apostle compareth the ceremonial law to a strict watch, or military guard, by which our nation was kept from joining the idolatrous nations.
That the Mosaic rites and ceremonies were in direct opposition to the idolatrous rites of the Gentiles, has been fully shown by many writers, such as Selden, Hottinger, and others, chiefly, however, borrowed from Maimonides.(78) 78. More Nevoch. part 3. ch. 38, &c. This most learned and judicious of all our Rabbins observed,"that God commanded our people to kill and sacrifice those animals which the Egyptians chiefly held as sacred, that they might not take them for gods."This hath also been noticed by Gentile historians. Thus Diodorus Siculus saith,"that Moses commanded the rites of sacrificing, and the manner of the Jews' lives, to differ much from the way and usage of other nations."Eclog. and Tacitus speaking of our lawgiver, saith"that the Jewish nation was set up by him, by his enjoining them new rites, and such as were contrary to the custom of other mortals; those things were counted profane with them which are held sacred with us; and again, those things were lawful with them which are reputed abominable with us."(79) 79. Hist. Lib. 5.23. d. Mr. Belsham himself, the oracle of the present Unitarians, who reduces the blessed Jesus to the level of a mere man, who counts his blood of no greater value than that of bulls and of goats, and who regards the authority of the sacred Scriptures no farther than it answers his own ends, (as I shall show hereafter(80) 80. In the meantime see the Rev. Mr. Parson's preface to Simpson's Plea for the Deity of Jesus, London edit. 1812.) even this very Mr. Belsham acknowledges, that so far was the Levitical institutions from being a matter of indulgence to the Jews, that they were"solely intended to preserve the Jews from the idolatry and polytheism of the neighboring nationsto preserve them a distinct people, till the time appointed came for the opening of the Christian dispensation, when the distinction between Jew and Gentile was to be done away."Again, he saith,"The ceremonial laws of the Mosaic dispensation were intended merely to preserve unbroken the barrier between Jew and Gentile till the coming of Him," &c.Here it happens for once that this heterodox divine hath advanced an orthodox sentiment. But whilst he assigns a proper reason for the institution, he is very much mistaken in asserting that it was "solely and merely intended" for this purpose, for he himself being judge that it was a school-master to lead to Christ; for in the very same page he saith,"In the Mosaical law the great scheme of redemption was obscurely insinuated, rather than distinctly portrayed, in types and figures, in the sacrifices of the altar and the atonements of the priest." "The Redeemer was seen through the rites of the Mosaic dispensation, as through a veil or a glass, darkly."(81) 81. Religion without Cant, p. 112.I doubt not that before Mr. Belsham goes to heaven he will not only expunge these erroneous words, "solely and merely," but find that besides these two designs, infinite wisdom had some other ends in view in the institution of the Levitical rites.
24. The following observation, in refutation of the subject under consideration, is particularly worthy of attention:"Whatever might be the bent and dispositions of the Israelites, it was Moses' proper business to rectify them. He was not to indulge them in their fancies, but inform them of their duties, and direct them to what was fit, reasonable, and consistent with good morals and piety, though that happened to be never so much against their gust and inclinations, which accordingly he every where did: and there are numerous instances of it through all his government of them. His doing otherwise might indeed have shown a great deal of policy, but not near so much probity and goodness as are discoverable through his whole conduct of this great people."(82) 82. Dr. Woodward's discourses on the ancient Egyptians, (archaol. vol. iv.).25. A remark made by my friend Allen,(83) 83. The translator of Outram on the Sacrifices, London edition, 1817, p. 28. shall close this letter."There can be no need of resorting to Egyptian ingenuity for the archetypes of rites enjoined by Moses. That a notion so degrading to his system and so dishonorable to the authority by which he acted could ever be adopted by a believer in the divine legation of the Jewish lawgiver, is truly astonishing. A notion so improbable in itself requires the most positive and unequivocal evidence to justify its admission. But of such evidence it is entirely destitute. 'Its most learned advocate,' it was long ago observed by the learned Shuckford, 'is able to produce no one ceremony or usage practiced both in the religion of Abraham or Moses, and in that of the heathen nations, but that it may be proved that it was used by Abraham or Moses, or by some of the worshippers of the true God, earlier than by any of the heathen nations.'(84) 84. Connect, vol. i, p. 317. And that the divine author of the Jewish code imitated the customs of idolaters who had imitated and corrupted the true religion of the patriarchs, is a proposition, the mere statement of which seems sufficient to ensure its rejection. But the adoption of this hypothesis by any who admit the Divine authority of the New Testament, as well as the Old, is still more extraordinary. The New Testament represents the law as preparatory to the Gospel, and the rites of Judaism as typical of Christianity. Hence it will follow, that if the law of Moses was a compliance with heathen notions and customs, the Gospel of Jesus Christ must be the same. This inference is unavoidable. But that the system of the Gospel, in which Jehovah is declared to have 'abounded in all wisdom and prudence,' which is described as an object of eternal decrees, and the consummation of preceding economies, which is represented as exciting the curiosity of angelic minds and affording them new discoveries of 'the manifold wisdom of God'that this system was framed in compliance with the notions of erring heathens, who had 'changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator,' is a notion equally repugnant to reason and dishonorable to revelation."Excuse, my dear Benjamin, the length of this letter: read it over with meditation and prayer, and the God of our fathers give you an understanding mind and believing heart. Amen. Farewell.
Next Letter Table of Contents
This book is original to this site.
This book has been edited.
Copyright © 2006 JCR