"The faith of a true Christian is the same as that of Moses and the Prophets."
Letter 1. A Mediator Appointed
Dear Brother Benjamin,
1. Never have I taken up my pen with greater pleasure than on the present occasion. O how my soul has longed to communicate to you the subject of this letter! It is inexpressibly delightful to be the bearer of good news. But what good news can be compared to the joyful sound of the Gospel? Yes, my beloved brother, glad tidings! glad tidings of great joy! "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth good will towards men." "The Lord has made a covenant with his chosen." In my last letter I have endeavored to point out the truly deplorable and helpless condition of man; yet, blessed be the Lord, it is not a hopeless condition. "What is impossible with man, is possible with God."
2. Agreeably to my promise, I will now give you a scriptural account of the Divine Appointment of a Mediator. I say scriptural, for, as it has been observed respecting the covenant between the great God and the father of the human race, that it was a matter of pure revelation, so it is with respect to the covenant or economy of redemption now under consideration; an economy incomparably more glorious and more ancienta covenant between the Eternal Father and his Eternal Son, for the redemption of mankind. This subject, you know, my dear Benjamin, is very little known amongst our people, and, alas! very few Christians have correct ideas respecting it.
3. I will therefore show, 1. The reality of such a covenant. In the illustration and confirmation of this subject, which relates to things which should come to pass, I shall confine myself wholly to the Old Testament. To point out all that is written in the law, in the prophets, and in the book of Psalms, would by far exceed the limits of this letter. I have therefore selected only a few passages, which I will first prove to relate to the Messiah, and then show that they establish the reality and illustrate the nature of the covenant.
4. No. 1. We begin with the second Psalm.
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
The characters of this Psalm are such as leave us no rational ground of applying it to David, or Solomon, or any of their successors; or to any other person than to that future Sovereign, the predicted descendant in whom David trusted and rejoiced, and tuned the harps of Zion to celebrate his holy dominion. Apostolic authority, also, permits us not to hesitate in regarding it as a direct and most important prophecy of the Messiah. Nor are we at a loss for testimonies from our most ancient rabbins. The Chaldee Targum refers it to the Messiah. So do the Bereshith Rab., the book Yalkut, and the other Talmudical writings almost without exception. Memorable are the words of R. Sol. Yarchi,"Our masters have expounded (this Psalm) of the king Messiah; but, according to the letter, and for furnishing answers to the Minim, (i. e. heretics, or Christians,) it is better to interpret it of David himself."(1) 1. Pocok, in Porta Mosis, Not. 307. Venum, in Psalm, tom. l. p. 49.David Kimchi has a passage precisely to the same effect. The ancient book Zohar has the following passage:"Of thee, Messiah, it is said, kiss the Son; thou art my Son, and he is the Prince of Israel, the Lord of the lower world, the Lord of the ministering angels, the Son of the Most High, and the indwelling of grace."(2) 2. Apud Kuinoel in libros. N. T. Histor. vol. 3. p. 84. See also Aben Ezra and Med. Tehillim in loco. Zohar, Numb. fol. 82, 2. Tal. Succath, fol. 52, 1. Maim. Sanhed. c. 10.No. 2. We notice next, Psalm 89.
Psalm 89 (Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite.)
I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens. I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah.
And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints. For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him. O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee? Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them. Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm. The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them. The north and the south thou hast created them: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name. Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand. Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.
Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted. For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted. For the LORD is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king.
Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him: With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him. And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him. But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him: and in my name shall his horn be exalted. I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers. He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven. If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.
But thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wroth with thine anointed. Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant: thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground. Thou hast broken down all his hedges; thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin. All that pass by the way spoil him: he is a reproach to his neighbours. Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries; thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice. Thou hast also turned the edge of his sword, and hast not made him to stand in the battle. Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground. The days of his youth hast thou shortened: thou hast covered him with shame. Selah. How long, LORD? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire? Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah. Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth? Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people; Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O LORD; wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed. Blessed be the LORD for evermore. Amen, and Amen.
Whatever differences of opinion there are respecting the penman, it is generally agreed that the Messiah is the subject. The twentieth verse is applied to him by the apostle (Acts 13:22, 23), and several parts of the Psalm are applied to him by our Rabbins.(3) 3. See Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Yarchi, on verse 51. Sanhed. fol. 97, 1. Yalkut Sim. part 2 foI. 56, 3. Shemoth Rab. fol, 104, 4. Zohar, Gen. fol. 30. 1.
The promise made to David is recited, and its provisions are detailed and dwelt upon, with all the affectionate lingerings of struggling hope and discouraging fear. The person in whom the promise remained to be fulfilled, is represented as a new David, a Son of God, a King, exalted by God his father to a dominion such as David and his posterity never knew; an empire of universal extent, conferring the greatest blessings upon its subjects, gloriously displaying the majesty of the divine perfections, and destined to continue to the end of time. Says a foreign divine:"All human affairs are subjected to the changes of fortune. Nothing is permanent; at least, reigning families are not. Not one of those who now occupy any of the thrones of Europe, (and the European thrones have been, for the most part, more regular and stable than any other,) is a thousand years old. It is plainly, therefore, contrary to the course of all human affairs, that to the family of David an everlasting throne should be promised. In fact, it was not to be brought to pass in the ordinary course of things, but was to be accomplished in that everlasting King, who is celebrated in the 72d Psalm and the 110th.Michaelis Anmerk. ub. 2 Sam. 7:19No. 3. The hundred and tenth Psalm
is also repeatedly applied to the Messiah, by almost all our rabbins, as well as frequently quoted in the New Testament, as will be shown hereafter.
Psalm 110 (A Psalm of David.)
The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 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. The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.
No. 4. Passing by, at present, Isaiah 7:14, which must be fully considered hereafter, we mention Isaiah 9:6, which is applied to the Messiah by the Targum; in Devarin Rab. fol. 196, 3. By R. Jose Galilaecus praefat. in Echa Rab. and Maimon. in Maji Synops, Theolog. Ind. Loc. 8. de Messiah, p. 21.(4) 4. See also Reuchlinum de arte Cabalae, lib. 1. p. 745. The Chaldee paraphrase is very observable:"The prophet speaketh of the house of David, because a child is born to us, a son is given to us, and he taketh the law upon himself to observe it; therefore his name is called from of old, Wonderful in council, God the mighty, He who abideth for ever, the Messiah, whose peace shall be abundant upon us in his days."We shall have occasion to consider this prediction more fully hereafter.
No. 5. In Isaiah 42:1-4, the Messiah is described as distinguished above all the other servants and prophets of God; the object of the most perfect divine complacency; qualified, by the richest participation of heavenly gifts, for communicating the true religion to the world; modest, lowly, and unassuming; supporting and soothing the weak and afflicted; indefatigably persevering in his arduous work of evangelizing the earth, and finally successful in it; a conqueror and a sovereign, but one who subdues and reigns by love. In the New Testament this prediction is applied to Jesus (Matt 12:18-21); and our Rabbins have applied it to the Messiah.
The Targum on the first verse saith,"Behold, my servant the Messiah."Kimchi, on the same place, saith,"This is the king Messiah."Abarbinel interprets it of the Messiah.(5) 5. Mash. yeshua. fol. 9:1,2; 10:1,2; 21:2 ; and on Isaiah fol. 64:3,4. The fourth verse is applied to the Messiah by Maimon.(6) 6. See also R. Isaac in chiz. Emunah. fol. 299.
No. 6. The 49th of Isaiah
is also applied to the Messiah in Zohar on Gen. fol. 127:2, and in Pesickta Rab. in Yalkut in loco.
Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God. And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.
Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. Thy children shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.
Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith the LORD, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee, as a bride doeth. For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away. The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell. Then shalt thou say in thine heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? and who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been? Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.
Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.
No. 7. The next passage in course is the fifty-third of Isaiah,
which more properly ought to begin at the 13th verse of the preceding chapter. Hence the Haphtorah(def) Haphtorah = a short selection from the Prophets read on every Sabbath in a Jewish synagogue following a reading from the Torah. for Parshah(def) Parshah = "portion." Weekly Torah text selection. Shophtim closes at the 13th verse; and Haphtorah for Parshah Noah and Ki-Setzai begins with the 54th chapter. Why the three last verses of the 52d chapter and the whole of the 53d chapter have been skipt over in the selection of the Haphtorath, I leave for our Rabbins to answer. For myself I am satisfied that the motive of withholding light from the people is to keep them in darkness. This portion of sacred Scripture is too plain for any reader not to see the fulfillment of it in Jesus of Nazareth. That the whole of this prophecy was applied by our fathers to the Messiah, is acknowledged by R. Moshe Alshech, in his commentary on the place. His words are as follows:
Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."Now it is said that, for certain, our doctors, of blessed memory, have, with one voice, affirmed and handed down, that it is spoken of the king Messiah; and I shall follow their authority, since it is well known that David and the Messiah are one and the same person."Aben Ezra, although he trieth to apply the prophecy to any other but the Messiah, yet confesseth"that many expound it of the Messiah because of the assertion of our fathers, of blessed memory, that on the day on which the sanctuary was destroyed, the Messiah was born, and is now detained in prison."(7) 7. Com. on Isa. 49:13. See the Targums on Isaiah 52:3, and 53:10. Sanhed. fol. 98, col. 2. Zohar in Ex. f. 85, 2. Beresh. Rab. Gen. 24:67. Pesikta in Kettoreth hassammim in Targ. Jer. Numb. 24:7. Tanchuma, Isa. 52:13. Med. Ruth. f. 34:3.Besides, the description given throughout this prophecy of one single individual, never hath and never can agree with any one besides the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, as shall be shown in a future letter.[For more on the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, please see our online book An Exposition of Isaiah 53 by D. Baron.]4. From some of the above passages it is evident that Jehovah has made a covenant with the Messiah. In the 89th Psalm, David, in celebrating the mercy and faithfulness of Jehovah, traces them to the unchangeable covenant, introducing Jehovah"I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations." This refers, doubtless, to the promise of the Lord sent by the prophet Nathan unto David, "And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom; he shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son (2 Sam 7:12,13). That this was a prophecy relating, in a primary and partial sense, unto King Solomon, none will deny; but it is equally true that it had a second and more glorious reference to the Messiah. Hence, in proving the superiority of Jesus over the angels, the apostle quotes the last verse. An angel also declared unto Mary that "The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32,33). There are many other passages of Scripture which show that there was an eternal and mutual agreement between Jehovah and the Messiah, which will be produced presently to illustrate the different parts of this covenant. We now proceed to consider
5. b. The nature of this covenant. This may be partially learned from the different names by which it is called. By some it is called the Covenant of Redemption, its great design being the redemption of sinners. "The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord" (Isa 59:20). Here the Messiah is frequently called "the Redeemer of Israel," and believers are exhorted to remember that they are redeemed with precious blood. Job believed in the existence of his divine nature, and in his future incarnation. "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth" (Job 19:25). Others prefer the appellation, the Covenant of Grace, in opposition to the Covenant of Works. It is the most illustrious display of the free, rich and abundant grace of God to a guilty world. By others again it is called a Covenant of Reconciliation and Peace; it being designed to bring about reconciliation between the offended Majesty of heaven and offending sinners of Adam's race. In the covenant of works God contracted with Adam as a friend, without the interposition of a mediator; but in this covenant man is considered as a fallen creature, a transgressor of the law, and an enemy to God. This covenant is the security of God's people. "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee" (Isa 54:10).
6. c. We next observe the parties of this covenant. In all covenants, as we have already noticed, there must be two or more parties. In this covenant it is generally considered that the contracting parties are two, viz: the Father and the Son. My dear Benjamin will allow me to take for granted, at present, what I hope to prove hereafter in its proper place, namely, that there are three distinct persons in the one Jehovah. Now the eternal Father, and his co-eternal Son, are particularly mentioned in the Scriptures as the contracting parties, but not to the exclusion of the Holy Spirit, who hath an important part to perform, as will be seen presently.
In the sixth chapter of Zechariah, verse 9-13, we have a remarkable prophecy concerning the Messiah. "The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah; then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest; and speak unto him, saying, 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; even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both." In this prediction the prophet truly describes, in a short, but lively manner, the person, offices and glory of the Messiah, subjoining, at last, the cause of all these; namely, why the Messiah appeared as such a person, executed such offices and obtained such a glory, namely, because of that eternal covenant which was established between him and his Father, calling it, verse 13th, the "counsel of peace."
7. That the Messiah is meant by the branch, will not be denied. The same person is spoken of under the same title and character in chapter 3:8, which verse the Targum paraphrases thus:"Behold I will bring forth my servant, the Messiah."It hath also been applied to the Messiah by Kimchi, and Aben Ezra, R. Abendana in his notes, in Michlol Yophi in loco, and by R. Joshua in Echa Rab.(8) 8. Fol. 58, c. 2. The same person, also, is called "the righteous branch," in Jeremiah 23:5, and 33:15; which is applied to the Messiah by the Targum, and by many others of our Rabbins: see Kimchi and R. Sal. ben. Melech in Loco, R. Isaac in Chiz. Emunah,(9) 9. P. 1, c. 42. who also interprets "the Lord our righteousness" of the Messiah (v 6); and so it is likewise understood by R. Yochanan in Tal. Bava Bathra,(10) 10. Fol. 75, c. 2. by R. Aba bar Cahana,(11) 11. In Echa Rab. f. 58, 2. by R. Sadaia Gaon,(12) 12. In Dan. 7: 13. and in Beresh. Rab.(13) 13. Gen. 25:6, see gal. de Arcanis, c. v. 1. 8, c. 3. In Isaiah 4:2 it is said, "In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautified and glorious"; which the Targum renders thus:"At that time the Messiah of the Lord shall be for joy and glory";and Kimchi also expounds it of Messiah.[For more on this section, please see The Branch, or Four Aspects of Messiah's Character by D. Baron.]8. Another passage of sacred writ which deserves our notice is Proverbs 8:23. "I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was." That the speaker in this text, called Wisdom, is a person, and not a mere attribute of the divine nature, is evident from the personal properties, personal acts, and personal words which are ascribed to it. Besides, none will deny that the wisdom which speaks in this chapter is the same that speaks in chapter 1st from ver. 20 to 27. These verses I would earnestly recommend to the perusal and meditation of my dear Benjamin; and I doubt not that he will join me in approving the sentiment of the learned Dr. Owen, who saith,"If wisdom there, i. e. chapter 1, be not a person, and that a divine person, there is none in heaven. For who is it that pours out the Holy Spirit? who is it that men sin against in refusing to be obedient? who is it that in their distress they call upon, and seek early in their trouble? The whole Scripture declares unto whom, and unto whom alone, these things belong, and may be ascribed."The word, translated here, set up, signifies to pour out, anoint, appoint. It is the same that is used in Psalm 2:6. "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion," which is applied to the Messiah, as has already been shown. The holy unction poured on the head of kings, priests, or prophets, was used at their inauguration into their office. Hence we see that the Messiah did not take upon himself the honor of being the mediator, but that he was chosen, called, and appointed by the Father. To this truth our attention is called by Jehovah himself. "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth" (Isa 42:1). And no doubt, in allusion to this, the apostle, when speaking of the precious blood of Christ, by which we are redeemed, he saith, "who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:20).
9. As it was necessary that the Mediator should be appointed and authorized for his work, so likewise it was necessary that he should act voluntarily, and give his consent. As it was the free and sovereign pleasure of the Father to provide a Savior for guilty men when he passed by the fallen angels, so it was the result of the Son's own will to assume our nature and become our kinsman and Redeemer. Thus it is written, Psalm 40:6, "Mine ears hast thou opened, or bored," alluding to the custom used under the ceremonial law, by which the willing servant was signified to be obliged, by his own consent or choice, to serve his master for ever. To this appointment the Son replied, "Lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart." To the same purpose the Messiah is introduced, saying, ''The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away my back" (Isa 50:5). The Messiah, being equal with the Father, could not be compelled, against his will, to undertake the work of redemption, but he did it cheerfully. Hence the Messiah assures us "that his delights were with the sons of men from the foundation of the world" (Pro 8:31).
Hence it was no more "unjust" or "cruel," when, in the fullness of time, the Father dealt with his beloved innocent Son as if he had been a servant and a criminal, than it is considered unjust or cruel in a creditor, jury, or judge, to deal with a surety as if he himself had contracted the debt for which he became security.
10. a. Having thus considered the parties contracting, we now state the contract itself, or the condition of the covenant. It hath already been stated that the great design of this covenant was the redemption or salvation of sinners. The Father there required of his Son to do all that was necessary for the sinner to be pardoned freely, sanctified wholly, and glorified eternally, consistently with all the perfections of God and the demands of his holy law. But, for order's sake, I will mention a few particulars.
11. a. The Messiah was to make known the will of his Father. We have already frequently noticed that every part belonging to salvation is matter of pure revelation. The volume of nature affords no light on this subject. The book of redemption is that sealed book which none could open or reveal but the Son of God. Hence the Messiah saith, "I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee: Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" (Psa 2:7,8). He was not only to be "the glory of his people Israel," but also "a light to lighten the Gentiles." "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open, the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house" (Isa 42:6,7).
12. b. It was required of the Messiah that he should perfectly obey the law of God. Hence the prophet, speaking of the Messiah, saith, "The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable" (Isa 42:21). The holy law of God, given to man in innocency as a covenant, being violated and broken, and the authority of the great lawgiver affronted and opposed by man's disobedience, the Messiah, the second Adam, was to be made under the law, to bring in an everlasting righteousness, and not only fulfill the law, both in its precept and penalty, but to magnify it and make it honorable. To add a new lustre and glory unto the law which it never had before, through the dignity of his person who should obey, it behoved the surety of this better covenant, in order to the fulfillment of the conditionary part, to perform a series of universal and spotless obedience to the moral, Jewish, ceremonial and mediatorial laws, from the commencement to the conclusion of his humble state.
13. c. Another article of the covenant was, that the Messiah should make satisfaction for the numerous and aggravated offences of his people. This is one thing in which especially this covenant differs from that made with Adam. Of Adam, it was required only to obey, but the second Adam was both to obey and to die. For this covenant was made with the Messiah as the representative and surety of sinful men, who have not only come short of the obedience which the law requires, but, by the violation of its precepts, have incurred its penalty. Thus was the work assigned to the surety, far more arduous than that assigned to the head of the first covenant. In order that we might escape eternal death, and obtain eternal life, our surety was not only to spend a holy and meritorious life, but he was also to undergo an accursed and expiatory death. Man was a criminal debtor; the debt must be paid: the Messiah, by agreement, puts himself in the sinner's stead; to pay this debt, submit to the revenging arm of justice, and thereby release the prisoners. He was to be made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law; as we were under the law, so was the surety to bear the curse of the law for us; that whatsoever power the law had over us, in regard to its precepts, the Messiah was to obey; whatsoever, in regard of its curses, he was to undergo; and thus undertaking for us, he was to endure the stroke of his Father's wrath, to which we sinners were liable. As the proper and primary design of sacrifices was to expiate typically for sins, so the Messiah was to expiate really for the sins of his people; God laid their iniquities upon him, and then punished them in him; so that he bore the penalty which sinners themselves should have undergone. Man having sinned, either he himself or his surety must suffer the punishment thereby deserved. God would have sin punished somewhere; the Messiah, therefore, having put himself into the sinner's stead, he must bear the punishment due to the sinner. For though God would so far release his law as to admit of a substitution or commutation as to the person suffering, yet he would have its penalty inflicted either upon the proper offender himself, or upon the Savior, who was willing to interpose for the offender so as to suffer what he should have suffered. Hence all those predictions which so minutely, emphatically, and pathetically speak of the Messiah as a "Man of sufferings and acquainted with grief; whose face was marred more than any man; who was smitten and stricken of God; wounded and bruised for our iniquities; pouring out his soul unto death; his soul making an offering for sin; cut off, but not for himself. His hands and feet pierced."(14) 14. See Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Daniel 9. Hence the awful commission of Jehovah, "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered" (Zech 13:7). This was the sacrifice which God required exclusively of all others as to any satisfaction. For, saith the Messiah, "Sacrifice and burnt-offering thou wouldst not; in them thou hadst no pleasure: then said I, Lo, I come" (Psa 40:6,7). He pronounced them utterly useless for the satisfaction of justice, though fit to prefigure the grand sacrifice intended.
14. Our ancient Rabbins were not ignorant of this covenant agreement between Jehovah and the Messiah.Jehovah is introduced as addressing the Messiah thus: "Righteous Messiah, those who are hid with thee, are such whose sins in time shall bring thee into grief; thy ears shall hear reproaches, thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth; thou shalt be wearied with sorrow."Again it is said that the Messiah taketh upon himself the afflictions and punishment of Israel; and if he had not diminished or made light the afflictions, not any one in the world would have been able to bear the punishment of the law. Whilst Israel dwelt in their own land, they kept off all manner of afflictions and evil diseases by means of sacrifices; but now the Messiah takes them away, as it is written, "he was wounded for our transgression" (Isa 53:5), Yalkut chadash.(16) 16. No. 29, fol. 154, c. 4.
The Messiah answered, "Lord of the world, I joyfully take them upon me, and charge myself with their torments; but upon this condition, that thou shalt quicken the dead in my day."
"God," saith the Rabbi, "granted him this; and from that time the Messiah charged himself with all kind of torments, as it is written, Isaiah, 53:5, he was afflicted, &c."(15) 15. R. Hadarshan, in Gen. 1:1. see Charnock 2. 191. Magee on the atonement, vol. 2. 369.
15. d. We observe once more, that it was required of the Messiah that he should employ his mighty power and extensive authority for the important purposes of God's glory and man's salvation. The people committed to his charge were not only to be purchased by his blood, but he was to make them willing in the day of his power; He should rescue them from the hand of the mighty one, should watch over them during their pilgrimage in the wilderness, and, as the true Jehovah, safely conduct them through the river Jordan, and bring them into quiet possession of the heavenly Canaan. Hence the many predictions to that purpose, "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isa 40:11). The remainder of this subject we shall consider in our next.But O immeasurable grace!
Th' eternal Son takes Adam's place;
Down to our world the Savior flies,
Stretches his arms, and bleeds, and dies.
Amazing work! look down, ye skies,
Wonder and gaze with all your eyes!
Ye saints below, and saints above,
All bow to this mysterious love.
Letter 2. The Subject Continued
1. Having shown already the reality, nature, parties and condition of the covenant between the Father and the Son, we proceed now to notice the promissory part of it. As the party with whom the covenant was made comes under a twofold consideration, as the party representing, and the party represented, the promissory part of it must necessarily be viewed in a twofold light also, viz. as it relates to the Mediator himself, and as it relates to those whom he represents. From the Scriptures of the Old Testament it appears that the Father promised to his Son as follows:
2. a. To fit him for the work, by preparing him a human nature to be united with his divine, and by qualifying that human nature for the work the Mediator had to perform. With respect to the first, we observe, that when the covenant of works was made with the first Adam, he was furnished with sufficient strength for performing the condition of it, as has already been stated; when the second Adam was sent into the world to accomplish a superior work, he likewise was to be furnished with every necessary qualification. He needed a human nature. Hence the prophet foretold, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa 7:14). Nay, so certain and sure are the transactions of this covenant, that the same prophet spake of the incarnation of the Messiah as if it had taken place in his day: "For unto us a child is born, a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" (Isa 9:6). With respect to the qualification of the human nature, there are several promises. "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness; therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" (Psa 45:7). What the oil is with which he was to be anointed, the evangelical prophet, in more than one place, informs us: "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord" (Isa 11:2,3, 61:1-3). The human nature of the Messiah being a creature, could not beautify and enrich itself with needful gifts; this promise of the spirit was therefore necessary; his humanity could not else have performed the work it was designed for.
3. b. The Father next promised to strengthen and uphold him whilst engaged in the work. Hence, in the 89th Psalm there is a precious promise to that purpose: "Then thou spakest in vision to thy Holy One, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him: with whom my hand shall be established; mine arm also shall strengthen him" (Psa 89:19-21). We read of a similar one by the prophet, Isaiah 42:6; "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people." He promises here, in the loftiest expressions, so to strengthen him that he should not be discouraged, but should see the blessed effects of his undertaking; he would uphold him tenderly, as a father does his son, in his arms, that no hurt might happen to him. He is said, therefore, to "be made strong" by God, for himself. Psalm 80:15. "The Son of man, whom thou hast made strong for thyself." Saith the Targum,"The King Messiah, whom thou hast strengthened for thyself."The Father also promised,
4. c. To raise him from the dead. Hence David, in the name of the Messiah, said, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," or much rather, "Thou wilt not leave my body in the grave," "nor," or much rather, "for thou wilt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Psa 16:10). An express promise to this purpose we have in Isaiah 53,(17) 17. Please see Part 2, Letter 1, Section 4, No. 7. that he should be taken from prison and from judgment, and should prolong his days. By this the Messiah was to receive a public testimony of his filiation, of his commission, of the perfection and acceptance of his work, and the first fruits of the reward of the travail of his soul.
5. d. The Father also promised to exalt him at his right hand, as King of Zion. "Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion" (Psa 2:6). Again saith the prophet, "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isa 9:7). As the Messiah was to endure the cross, so he was also to enjoy a crown. The enduring of the cross was an article on his part; the bestowing a crown was an article on the Father's part. All the prophets foretold "the sufferings of the Messiah, and the glory that should follow" (1 Peter 1:11). His subjects, which are called his seed, were to be numerous, like the dew that falls at the dawn of the morning in abundance upon the flowers and the plants of the earth (Psa 110:3; Micah 5:7). The Father engaged "to bring his seed from the east, and gather them from the west; he would say to the north, give up; and to the south, keep not back bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth" (Isa 43:5,6). It is the Father's engagement to make his people willing, Psalm 110:3. "Thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not; and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee, because of the Lord thy God; for he hath glorified thee" (Isa 55:5). Finally, the Father promised him,
6. e. To be the judge of all. "I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear" (Isa 45:23). Animated by such assurances of assistance, acceptance, and reward, the Messiah is represented as expressing his cordial approbation and unshaken confidence. "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning; he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me: who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up" (Isa 50:4-9).
7. We now proceed to notice the promissory part of the covenant, as it relates to them for whom the Messiah undertook. Had the first Adam fulfilled the condition of the covenant of works, the life promised in it would have been imparted to his posterity, as well as himself. The second Adam, in like manner, by performing the conditionary part of the better covenant, has not only obtained an endless, glorious, mediatorial life for himself, but eternal life for all whom he represented in it. "In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began" (Titus1:2). "This is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life" (1 John 2:25). This life, purchased by the surety of the covenant, is deposited in him, to be by him communicated to the persons for whom he obtained it; and he faithfully and liberally dispenses it to them accordingly: "For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell" (Col 1:19). Hence, when the rich saving communications and supplies with which the church is furnished, to intimate the plenty and the perpetuity of them, are represented by the expressive image of an overflowing and ever-flowing river, it is said to proceed originally from the throne of God, and to run immediately from the throne of the Lamb; that from it, as a great reservoir, the church may be plentifully supplied, according as the exigencies do require (Rev 22:1). Thus the Mediator ever is the medium of gracious communication between God and men. The promises of this covenant are manifold and various, as well as great and precious. An interest in God, a saving relation and conformity to him, the favor and fruition of him, constitute the felicity and the dignity which the surety has purchased for his spiritual seed, and which, communicated to them through the channel of the promissory part of the covenant, they possess for ever and ever.
8. The pious Mr. Boston, in his treatise on the covenant of grace, having divided these promised blessings into three classes, viz. those before their union with Christ, those from their union with Christ until death, and those from death through eternity, he has the following observations:"Of the operation of the promises in the first and last of these periods we know but little; and indeed not much of it in the middle period. For it is like a river issuing from a hidden spring, and running far under ground, then rising above ground, and running on till it falls into the ocean. The hidden spring from whence the promise of eternal life to the elect issueth forth, is God's free grace, 'which was given us in Christ before the world began' (2 Tim 1:9). It runs under ground, undiscernible even to the parties themselves, until the moment of their union with Christ in effectual calling; then rising, it runs on, as it were, above ground, in visible streams, until death; and then it runs full and perspicuous through the ages of eternity."9. This covenant is well ordered. Every thing necessary during life, at death, and through eternity, is comprehended in it. Before conversion, the elect sinner is already the object of God's peculiar care. Like the apostle, "they are separated from their mother's womb." To whatever length in sin the wretch may be permitted to go, like the prodigal son, yet, like him, he shall be brought back to his father's house with weeping, lamentation, and self-abhorrence. "When I passed by thee," saith Jehovah, "and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, live; yea, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, live" (Eze 16:6). Once and again does he say unto the sinner, live. It has been supposed that the former refers to the preservation of the natural life during the unconverted state; the latter to the infusion of spiritual life at the happy period appointed for the sinner's conversion.
10. Hence we observe that there are many promises relating to their conversion and adoption.
By conversion, I mean their spiritual birth, which is like the new-born babe, born instantaneously, but grows up from infancy to childhood, and the full stature of a man. It includes the whole work of sanctification; a daily dying unto sin, and daily growing in newness of life. Let the following promises speak for themselves, and may you and I, my dear Benjamin, richly experience their happy influence. Isaiah 26:19, "Thy dead men shall live." Isaiah 44:3, 4, "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring; and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses." Again, Ezekiel 11:19, 20, "And I will give them one heart, and will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God." These promises are repeated with some little alterations by the same prophet, chapter 36:25-28; and 37:11-14, 21-28. But I will not conceal from you, my dear Benjamin, that whilst I believe the spirit and essence of these promises belong to every elect sinner, yet I am confident that in the literal, primary and fullest sense, they belong to both the houses of Judah and Israel, and will be faithfully accomplished in a future day, as I shall show, God willing, hereafter.
11. Justification is another promised blessing. This is a precious blessing to the guilty sinner, and much spoken of by the prophets. Daniel speaks of the everlasting righteousness to be brought in by the Messiah (9:25). Isaiah tells us that Jehovah has accepted it; and that, on account thereof, many shall be justified; chapter 42:21, "The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake." Again, chapter 45:24, 25, "Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength." - "In the Lord shall all the children of Israel be justified, and shall glory." And chapter 53:11, "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities." Hence the Messiah is emphatically called "Jehovah our Righteousness" (Jer 23:6, 33:16).
12. The perseverance of the elect is another precious promise in this covenant. Those that are once brought into a state of grace, shall never fall away from it totally and finally. For thus saith Jehovah: "I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me" (Jer 32:40). Here they are secured on both sides; God will never cast them off, and they shall never desert him. Hence Job declared "that the righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger" (Job 17:9). It is true, the best of God's children, whilst in this world, are liable to be overtaken by sin, and for it they will meet with fatherly correction; yet they shall not be cast off. For thus it is written: "If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail" (Psa 89:30-33).
13. Another precious part of the promises of this covenant belongs to the hour of death. At this most solemn period, when the king of terror presents his commission, when the dark grave opens her mouth; when all the channels of worldly comforts are dried up, and our nearest friends groan, and sigh, and weep, the believer says, "Weep not for me; for though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Jehovah my Shepherd is with me, his rod and his staff they comfort me" (Psa 23:4). With a smiling countenance, and eyes fixed on heaven, he exclaims, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever" (Psa 73:25,26). Having often meditated on the promise, "He shall swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces" (Isa 25:8); he is now enabled, by faith, to exclaim triumphantly, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 15:55-57).
14. We notice, further, that the promises of this covenant extend to the happiness, in a future world, to be enjoyed through the countless ages of eternity. Of this happiness we can indeed say but little, "as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor 2:9). Thus much, however, we are taught to believe, that no sooner is the believing soul freed from its body, than it is immediately freed from sin and pollution, from pain and sorrow, and it is immediately taken up to heaven, to join with all the redeemed who are before the throne of God and the Lamb, saying: "Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his father: to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." Hence the saints often groan, being burdened, desirous to depart and to be with their God and Savior, "in whose presence is fullness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore" (Psa 16:11). But this part of heaven's felicity will be greatly increased, when their dead bodies shall be raised, and being changed like the glorious body of Jesus, shall be reunited with the soul, and thus be for ever with the Lord. Then shall they shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many unto righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever. This is the highest pinnacle of the saints' hopes, when in their whole man they shall enjoy the whole of eternal life in its perfection.
15. In addition to the spiritual happiness of the present and future life, we might also notice the suitable temporal blessings promised in this covenant. "It is ordered in all things." When Adam, by the violation of the covenant of works, forfeited life, he, of course, forfeited the comforts of life. The sinner, therefore, before his conversion, is in a situation similar to a malefactor condemned to die. Though, during the delay of the execution of his sentence, he has a certain allowance of the necessaries of this life, he has no legal title either to life or to the enjoyments of it. So the sinner, before conversion, has neither a federal title to life, nor to any of its enjoyments; but as soon as he is interested by faith, in this covenant, recovers what he forfeited by the violation of the covenant of works. He has many promises both of provision and protection. "He shall dwell on high; his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks; bread shall be given him, his water shall be sure" (Isa 33:16). "The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing" (Psa 34:10). "The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Psa 84:11).
16. Thus, my dear Benjamin, I have endeavored to state, in a manner as brief as possible, the different parts of the covenant between the Father and the Son. It will, probably, strike your mind that I did not notice a penalty annexed to this covenant, as is the case with other covenants. This was no omission. There was no penalty annexed to the condition, for there was no necessity of it. A penalty in a covenant supposes the possibility of failure, but, in this covenant, both the parties contracting were infallible, and therefore the supposition of a penalty in it must be preposterous and absurd.
17. It is still more probable that you will ask, for whom did the Mediator enter into this covenant? did he, like the first Adam, enter into covenant for all mankind, or only for a part? The answer in the Assembly's Catechism to the question, "Did God leave all mankind to perish in the state of sin and misery?" is as Scriptural as it is plain and decisive; the words are these: "God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation, by a Redeemer." Election bespeaks the choice and separation of a part from the whole. The Scriptures are numerous which prove a personal election, from eternity, to everlasting life. Let the following suffice: John 6:37, 17:2, 24; Rom 8:29, 33; Eph 1:4, 5, 11; 2 Thess 2:13; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Peter 1:2; Rev 13:8. It is the observation of an eminent divine,"As a wise master-builder makes a plan of his work before it is executed, so God formed a plan in his own mind. He had all possible worlds in view, and knew what would come to pass on every possible scheme. He saw what would take place if the world be formed as it now is. He saw what man would do, and what was fit for himself to do; to whom it would be proper for him to give grace, and to whom to deny it. Viewing the whole, he pronounced his fiat, or complete plan, and said, thus let it be."As it is an imperfection to act without a reason, we may be sure God had a reason why he should choose some and such of the human race, and leave others; and this reason must be consistent with his holiness, wisdom, righteousness, and goodness. It is equally certain that the reason or cause of election is not to be found in man. For what moral goodness could he foresee in fallen and corrupted man before his conversion? Surely none; for what the apostle said of himself is true of all: "In me, i. e. in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." Nor can faith and holiness, after conversion, be the moving cause of his electing man to everlasting happiness; for their very faith and holiness are wrought in them by the Spirit of God, and are the effects and fruits of election rather than the cause. It becomes us, therefore, to adopt the language of our Savior, saying, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight" (Matt 11:25,26).
I will close this particular, and with it this letter, by observing, that as the apostle, in Romans 5, reasoned that all men have sinned in Adam, because we see that all men die; so I would reason on the present subject. We have seen, from the Scriptural statement in this letter, that the Father promised to his Son a seed, i. e. sinners, who shall be regenerated, adopted, justified, and finally and certainly saved; but we see multitudes die without being regenerated or adopted, who, of course, cannot be saved; therefore they could not have been chosen unto salvation, nor redeemed by the Mediator, nor promised to the Savior.
In my next letter I will, by divine permission, show that the Mediator, or Messiah, was revealed to our first parents in paradise. May it be our happy lot, my dear Benjamin, to be numbered with his chosen when he shall make up his jewels. Amen.
Letter 3. Messiah Revealed in Paradise
1. Having proved the appointment of a Mediator, or Messiah, I will now call your attention to the first revelation made of him. But before I refer you to the prediction itself I think it important to refute a fatal sentiment which is rather increasing amongst our dear people. With great grief and sorrow of heart I have deeply lamented the infidelity of many of our Jewish brethren, who do not hesitate to call in question the promise made of a Messiah to our fathers. The author of the scheme of literal prophecy suggested "that the belief of a Messiah was a novel conceit among the Jews, invented not long before the age of Jesus." A Mr. Bennett, of London, in a pamphlet addressed to Lord Crawford, &c. advanced the same sentiment. But I trust it will be made evident, from many passages of Scripture which will be referred to hereafter, as well as from those already quoted, all of which have been understood of the Messiah by our ancient Rabbins, that a Messiah has been promised.
2. Besides, the expectation of a Messiah supposes that God had promised one. No sooner had the Messiah been revealed to our first parents than they greatly longed to see him, and rejoiced at the birth of their first born son, in the hope that he was the promised Savior, as shall be shown hereafter. It is beyond doubt that he was the object of faith, hope, and desire of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Lord Jesus Christ said to the Jews in his time, that Abraham rejoiced to see his day; and he saw it, and was glad; or as the Syriac and Arabic versions rightly render the word, "He was desirous to see my day" (John 8:56). Jacob, with his dying breath, said, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord" (Gen 49:18). Perhaps you may be able to call to recollection, my dear Benjamin, the memorable words of the Targum on this passage; they are as follows:"I have waited for thy salvation, said our father Jacob; not for the salvation of Gideon, the son of Joash, which is a temporal salvation, nor for the salvation of Samson, the son of Manoah, which is a transitory salvation, but for the salvation of the Messiah, the, son of David, (which is an everlasting one,) who shall bring the children of Israel to himself, and his salvation my soul desires."You doubtless remember that part of the prayer of Simchath Torah, i. e. the last, the great day of the feast of tabernacles, where it is said,"Abraham rejoiced with the rejoicing of the law; he that cometh shall come, the branch, with the joy of the law. Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, rejoiced with the joy of the law, he that cometh shall come, the branch with the joy of the law."Job, that famous man in the east, who was not of the posterity of Abraham, yet professed his faith in the Messiah in that well known and memorable exclamation of his, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me" (Job 19:25-27). I am aware, my dear Benjamin, of the great controversy, both respecting this passage and the whole history of Job; but I trust that in a future letter I shall make it evident that the book of Job is no fiction, and that this passage contains two of Job's articles of faith, viz. his faith in the Messiah, and in the resurrection of the dead. That Moses had a knowledge of the promises concerning a Messiah, is evident from his having recorded them as given to our first parents in Paradise, renewed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as will be shown hereafter; and that he understood and believed them, is evident from the effect which his faith in the Messiah had upon his life and conduct, as described by one of our own brethren, well acquainted with the sentiment of our people respecting the history of Moses, and guided by the pen of inspiration. His words are: "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward" (Heb 11:24-26). We are further assured by an infallible witness that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which his disciples saw, and have not seen them (Matt 13:16,17). The royal Psalmist exclaimed, "O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!" (Psa 14:7): and the prophet Isaiah, speaking of the days of the Messiah saith, "It shall be said in that day, lo, this is our God: we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation" (Isa 25:9). This and the preceding verses are applied to the Messiah by our Rabbins.(18) 18. See Tal. Bab. Sanhed. fol. 94, 2, Mish. Moed Katon, c. 3, s. 9. Midrash Coheleth, fol. 61, 2. Zoh. Gen. fol. 73, 1. Shemoth Rab. s. 20, fol. 131, 4.
3. At the time of the coming of Christ there was a general expectation; among our nation it was universal. Pious Simeon and Hannah, and many other devout persons, waited for the consolation of Israel. The Pharisees sent priests and Levites to ask John the Baptist whether he was the Christ. The common people exclaimed, "If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly." Hence they were ready to receive any one, who pretended to be the Messiah. And it is worthy of observation that many false Christs came after Jesus, but none before. The Samaritans, likewise, had the knowledge of a Savior, and expected his coming, as is evident from the conversation of the woman of Samaria at Jacob's well (John 4:25).
4. But it is still more remarkable, the Romans themselves had the same expectations; and not only they, but all the eastern part of the world, which may well include all that was then known. Thus says Suetonius,(19) 19. Vit. Vesp. 4.''that an ancient and constant tradition had obtained throughout all the East, that in the fates it was decreed, that, about that time, some who should come from Judea, should obtain the dominion, or government, i. e. of the world, which the Romans then possessed."And Cornelius Tacitus(20) 20. Hist. L. 5. c. 13. speaks almost in the same words; telling of the great prodigies which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, he says"that many understood them as the forerunners of that extraordinary person who, the ancient books of the priests did foretell should come about that time from Judea, and obtain the dominion."Virgil, in his famous 4th Eclogue, written about the beginning of the reign of Herod the Great, compliments the consul Pollio with this prophecy, by supposing it might refer to his son Saloninus, then born; but the words are too great to be verified of any mere mortal man: and he speaks of such a golden age, and such a renovation of all things, as cannot be fulfilled in the reign of any earthly king. And Virgil expresses it almost in the words of the Holy Scriptures (Isa 65:17), wherein they tell of the glorious age of the Messiah; of new heavens and a new earth, then to begin, and to be finally completed at the end of the world.The last age decreed by fate is come,Thus the Poet depicts in glowing colors, and makes a perfect paraphrase of Isaiah 65, from verse 17 to 25
And a new frame of all things does begin;
An holy Progeny from heaven descends,
Auspicious be his birth, which puts an end
To th' iron age, and from whence shall rise
A golden state far glorious through the earth.
. The prophet says, "The wolf and the Iamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw as the bullock; and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy, in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord." The poet
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD."Nor shall the flocks fierce lions fear;Nay, the very atonement for our sins, which Daniel attributed to the Messiah (9:24), to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, is thus expressed in this Eclogue
"No serpent shall be there,or herb of pois'nous juice."By thee, what footsteps of our sins remainAnd the very words of Haggai 2:6, seem to be literally translated by Virgil. Thus saith the prophet of the coming of the Messiah; "Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come." And thus the poet
Are blotted out, and the whole world set free
From her perpetual bondage and her fear.Enter on thy high honor, now's the time,And as if Virgil had been learned in the doctrine of Christ, he tells that these glorious times should not begin immediately upon the birth of that wonderful person, then expected to come into the world; but that wickedness should keep its ground in several places.
Offspring of God, O thou great gift of Jove!
Behold, the world, heaven, earth and seas do shake;
Behold how all rejoice to greet that glorious age.Yet some remains shall still be leftNow, how Virgil applied all this, is not the question, whether in part to Augustus, or partly to Pollio, and partly to Saloninus his son, then newly born; but it shows the general expectation that there was, at that time, of the birth of a very extraordinary person, who should introduce a new and golden age, and both reform and govern the whole world; justly, therefore, called by the prophet, "the Desire of all nations."
Of ancient fraud, and war shall still go on.
5. But, my dear brother, I need not enlarge on this subject, for it is a happy circumstance that one of the fundamental articles of the faith of our nation supposes the promise of a Messiah. For you know that the 12th article reads thus;"I believe, with a firm and perfect faith, that Messiah is to come; and although he tarrieth, I will wait or expect his coming daily."Maimonides, on the Mishnah of Sanhedrim,(21) 21. Chapter Pelek. calls the belief in a Messiah, a fundamental article. The substance of his words is as follows;"The twelfth article is the Messiah, i. e. to wait and believe that he is to come, &c. according as all the prophets did prophecy, from Moses even to Malachi; and whosoever doubts it, or mistrusts his excellency, it is as much as if he denied the law, and he hath no share the future world."Hence the coming of the Messiah is mentioned in the daily public prayers;"Make the offspring of David thy servant speedily to grow, and let his horn be exalted in thy salvation; for we hope in thy salvation all the day."Again,"He will send, at the end of the days, our Messiah, to redeem those who hope for the end of his salvation."And at the close of the blessing after every meal, they pray,"Merciful God, make us worthy of seeing the days of Messiah."
6. Thus you see, my dear Benjamin, that a Messiah must have been promised; and I shall make it abundantly evident, in my future letters, that God spake to our fathers of old, at sundry times, and in divers manners, by the prophets, concerning him that was to come into the world. We will now consider the first revelation made of him to our parents in paradise: "He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen 3:15). In the beginning of this chapter Moses, the inspired historian, gives us, first, an account of the temptation wherewith Satan assaulted our first parents to draw them to sin, and their compliance; and secondly, he presents to our view the criminals arraigned before the righteous Judge of heaven and earth, and the sentences pronounced on each of them. The consequences of the fall, on our first parents, we have already considered. Our text is a part of the sentence pronounced on the tempter; in which we have, first, a proclamation of war between the Messiah and Satan; the God of the universe, and the god of this world; and secondly, a prediction of a decided and triumphant victory by the former. We consider first, the parties engaged; and secondly, the effects produced.
7. We begin with the tempter. That the sentence pronounced in this verse against the serpent, the tempter, relates to Satan, is a general opinion. To suppose that the words are to be literally understood as describing only the rooted and constant enmity which should subsist between the serpent race and the posterity of Adam, or any particular destruction which should await the brood of serpents, would be altogether absurd, unworthy the wisdom of the judge, and unsuitable to the solemnity of such a proceeding. The curse was directed immediately against Satan, the infernal spirit, our great adversary, the devil. He is that serpent which "beguiled Eve through his subtilty; the great dragon, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world" (2 Cor 11:3; Rev 2:9). It is also the unanimous confession of our ancient Rabbins, that Satan was the tempter, and that the curse vas pronounced against him. I bring to your recollection a few of their sayings, and refer you to others. R. Bechai, the elder, in his Comment on the Law, on this passage says,"We have no more enmity with the serpent than with other creeping things. Wherefore the Scripture mystically signifies him who was hid in the serpent; for the body of the crafty serpent was a fit instrument for that force or virtue that joined itself therewithal. That was it which made Eve to sin, whence death came on all her posterity. And this is the enmity between the serpent and the seed of the woman. And this is the mystery of the holy tongue, that the serpent is sometimes called Saraph, according to the name of an angel, who is also called Saraph. And now thou knowest that the serpent is Satan, and the Evil Figment, and the Angel of Death."Rab. Judah, in Kelay Yaker, saith,"Many interpreters say that the Evil Figment has all its force from the Old Serpent, or Satan."To the same purpose is the author of Caphtor Wapherech. Saith he,"The devil and the serpent are called by one name."(22) 22. See Maimon. More Nevuchim, p. 2, ch. 20. Ber. Rab. Sect. 10. Mid. Wayikra, chap. 13, v. 2. R. Saadia Gaon, and R. Samuel ben Hophni, and Aben Ezra in Gen. 3, 3. R. Bechai ibi, Targum Jon. Gen. 3, 6. Zohar Gen. fol. 127, 1. 2. Sepher Bachir and Jmre Binah. ibi.Hence they give various names to this tempter. He is called Samal, i. e. the God that has blinded (comp. 2 Cor 4:3,4). Malach Hammaweth, i. e. the Angel of Death (comp. Heb 2:14,15) and nothing is more common with our Rabbins than to call him Nachash Hackadmoni; i. e. the Old Serpent (comp. Rev 12:9, 20:2). In Zeror Hammor,(23) 23. Fol. 143, c. 2. is said,"He that hateth," (i.e. prov. 25, 21.) "means Samal, who is the Serpent, who is Satan, who is the Evil Figment or desire, who has led astray or deceived the first man; and does lead astray, or deceive, all creatures, by his smooth words, which are smoother than oil; and draws men after him in their works and pleasures."8. We next notice the destruction of the tempter, foretold in this passage. His head is to be bruised. The expression plainly alludes to the way of destroying serpents by striking at their head; and is designed to signify the conquest and victory of the Messiah over the devil, and the destruction of his kingdom; a victory the most illustrious in its effects and consequences, and one which should amply revenge on the serpent's head the evils and miseries which he had introduced into the world. The remarkable and complete fulfillment of this prediction by Jesus Christ, will be made abundantly evident hereafter.
9. We proceed to show that this victory is to be obtained by the Messiah. That the Messiah is the person spoken of, will appear, if we consider, a. The remarkable description given, of him. Instead of "it shall bruise," it ought to be, "He shall bruise." The original word Hoo, is one of the names of God, a contraction for the word Jehovah, and so used in Psalm 102:27, "but thou art the same," original, "weathta Hoo," i. e. thou art Jehovah, the unchangeable; and again, in Isaiah 48:12. Ani Hoo, " I am Jehovah." Our people frequently use Hoo for the name of God(24) 24. See Seder Tephilloth, fol. 2, 1. 4, 1. Edition Basil. and in Zohar it is applied to the eternal and blessed God bruising the serpent's head, as expressed in this text.(25) 25. See Broughton's works, page 231, 465, 490, 507. And I still remember the prayer on Hoshani Rabb. where it is repeatedly said, "Ani wehoo hoshianoo, i. e. the first and the last will save us. Hence the seventy have retained the personal pronoun autos, which cannot, grammatically, refer to sperma, seed, but to the person meant under that character. The apostle's mode of reasoning, respecting the seed of Abraham, may well be adopted on this occasion. Having quoted the promise, that in Abraham's seed all the families of the earth should be blessed, lest any should apply it to the natural seed of Abraham, he reasons thus: "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ (Gal 3:8,16). In like manner, in this passage, it is not said, thy seeds, as of many; but Hoo, he, as one, which is the Messiah.
10. b. This person is emphatically called "the seed of the woman"; to intimate to our first parents, that whereas all mankind were to be the seed or offspring of Adam as well as of Eve, this person is to be of the seed of the woman only. Here is an intimation of the incarnation of the Son of God, and as the apostle calls it, "the mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh." A mystery which was more plainly foretold by the prophet Isaiah 7:14. "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." And the prophet Jeremiah saith, "The Lord hath created a new thing in the earth - a woman shall compass a man" (31:22); which predictions, and their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, will be more fully considered in future letters. Memorable are the words of our greatest and most judicious Rabbi, Maimonides. Reflecting on this passage, he says,"This is one of the passages in Scripture which is most wonderful, and not to be understood according to the letter, but contains great wisdom in it."(26) 26. More Nevochim, p. 2, ch. 30.11. c. From the work to be performed, it is evident that none but the Messiah could be the person spoken of in this passage. In order to bruise the head of the old serpent, or "to destroy the works of the devil," the manifestation of the Son of God was absolutely necessary. You well remember, my dear Benjamin, what has already been stated in former letters about the necessity of a Mediator. Man having become a guilty, condemned, and depraved creature, could no more change his nature or condition, than "the Ethiopian can change his skin, or the leopard his spots." If our first parents, in their state of integrity, were found too frail and feeble to withstand the serpent's subtilty, it could scarce be in the power of their descendants, in this fallen state, to conquer and subdue him by their own strength or policy, but that work will require one endued with an extraordinary power from on high.
Besides, this work of bruising the head of the serpent or Satan, is referred to in other parts of the Old Testament in passages applied to the Messiah by our Rabbins. I will name but two, which Yarchi considers as one in sense. Psalm 110:6. "He shall wound the heads over many countries." The whole of this psalm is applied to the Messiah, as I have shown already. The word Rosh is singular, and not plural, and frequently signifies a chief, captain, ruler, or governor. Hence the words may justly be translated, "He shall wound the head," i. e. him that is the head or ruler "over a large country," which is no other than Satan, the god and prince of this world. The other passage is Habakkuk 3:13. "Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation for thine anointed; thou woundest the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the meek." R. Kimchi applies this to the Messiah, and his comment may be thus paraphrased;"As thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, when they entered into the land of Canaan; so wilt thou go forth for the salvation of thy people, by the hands of the Messiah, the Son of David, who shall wound Satan, who is the head, the king and prince of the house of the wicked, and shall raze up all his strength, power, policy, and dominion."All this, my dear Benjamin, and much more, has been accomplished by my blessed Jesus, as I shall show you hereafter.
12. d. Our ancient Rabbins, as with one voice, have declared that by the seed of the woman, who was to bruise the head of the serpent, is meant the Messiah. You know, as well as I, their common saying, "that before the serpent had wounded our first parents, God had prepared a plaster for their healing; and that as soon as sin had made its entrance into our world, the Messiah had made his appearance." Hence both the Targums, that of Onkelos, and that of Jonathan, say,"that the voice which our first parents heard walking in the garden, was the Memra Jehovah,"i. e. the word of the Lord, or the Messiah, who is always meant by this expression; (as shall be shown hereafter;) and the Jerusalem Targum commences the verse thus:"And the word of the Lord God called unto Adam."The reason assigned by our Rabbins for calling the Messiah Memra Jehovah, is, because that, after man had sinned, God refused lo have any further personal or immediate intercourse with him, but made known his mind and will by the Messiah, as we do by our words, either spoken or written. Hence, says the author of Zeror Hammor, in Bereshith,"before they sinned, they saw the glory of the blessed God speaking with them; but, after their sin, they only heard his voice walking."In the Targum of Jonathan, and that of Jerusalem, it is said,"the seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent, and they shall obtain healing, or a plaster for the heel, (the hurt received by the Serpent,) in the days of Messiah the King."13. e. I would next observe, that if the Messiah is not revealed or promised in this passage, then have we no account of him until the days of our father Abraham, a period of more than 1500 years. But that the saints before that period did believe in the Messiah, is beyond doubt. For we are assured by the inspired apostle, in his epistle to our people, the Hebrews (chap 11), that Abel offered up his sacrifice by faith in the Messiah, (as shall be made evident hereafter,) and also that "by faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for, before his translation, he had this testimony, that he pleased God." But "how can two walk together, except they be agreed?" And there is no reconciliation with God, but through the Mediator, (as has already been proved). And as Enoch is said to have pleased God, he must have had faith in the Messiah; "For without faith," says the same apostle, "it is impossible to please God." But faith in the Messiah comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. It is therefore evident that both Abel and Enoch had the knowledge of a Messiah revealed or promised.
Permit me, my dear Benjamin, to detain you a few moments longer on this important subject, by observing, in the next place,
14. f. That we have reason to conclude that our first parents believed in the coming of the Messiah. Adam seems to have expressed his faith in the Messiah, the seed of the woman, by calling his wife by a new name, viz. Eve, or rather Chavwah, from the root Chayah, to live; saying, "because she was the mother of all living," i. e. appointed to be the mother of him who is the cause of spiritual life; or the mother of all believers, as Abraham was called the father, and Sarah the mother of the faithful. See Romans 4:11, 16; Galatians 4: 22, 28, 31; 1 Peter 3:6.
The faith of Eve in a Messiah is expressed in a still more remarkable manner. Her first born son she called Kain, from, the root Kanah, to obtain, possess; saying, "I have gotten a man from the Lord," or literally, "I have gotten a man, Jehovah," doubtless expecting that she had given birth to the promised Messiah, that was to bruise the head of the serpent. Memorable are the words of Jonathan ben Uziel on this passage. Says he,"And Adam knew his wife, which desired the angel, and she conceived and bare Kain, and said, 'I have obtained the Man, the Angel of the Lord.'"I need not inform you, my dear Benjamin that by the Angel of the Lord, our Rabbins understand the Messiah. Hence, (as I have stated in my narrative, chap. 2,) when parting with our dear father, he laid his hand upon my head, and said, "the Angel of the Covenant be with thee." Great has been the controversy on this sage, but nothing has appeared to me more judicious and pious than the statement made by the Rev. Pye Smith, D. D. and believing that my dear Benjamin will be much pleased with reading it, I will transcribe it in my next letter. Farewell
Letter 4. The Subject Continued
1. Agreeably to my promise, I now transcribe the sentiment of Dr. Pye Smith on the reason assigned by our mother Eve for calling her first born son Kain, viz, "I have obtained a man, Jehovah."
"From the special record of this exclamation of Eve on the birth of her first son, and from the very marked importance which is given to it, it may reasonably be considered as the expression of her eager and pious, though mistaken expectation that the promise (Gen 3:15,) which could not but have created the strongest feeling of interest and hope, was now beginning to be accomplished. The primary, proper, and usual force of the particle Eth, placed here before the word Jehovah, is to designate an object in the most demonstrative and emphatical manner. In this use it occurs immediately before and after this clause, and forty times in the first four chapters of these primeval records, not including the instance before us, nor those in which it has a pronominal suffix; it is also prefixed to every proper name in the governed case throughout the fifth chapter. This prodigious number of instances, all occurring in the same connexion, in the same strain of topic and discourse, in the same most venerable document, is surely sufficient to determine a grammatical question.(27)
It is true, that, in subsequent periods of the language, this particle came to be used as a preposition, to denote with, or by the instrumentality of; but this was but a secondary idiom, and many of its supposed instances, on a closer consideration, fall into the ordinary construction. There seems, therefore, no option to an interpreter, who is resolved to follow faithfully the fair and strict grammatical signification of the words before him, but to translate the passage as it is given above.
27. Except the case under consideration, and chapter 5:24, there is not the shadow of deviation from the usage. But this last is really not an exception, for that verb was used, in both Kal and Hithpael, as transitive, and taking the accusative case of the object. E.g. Deuteronomy 1:19, 2:7; 2 Chronicles 9:21; Job 22:14, 29:3; Proverbs 6:12; Isaiah 33:15; Micah 2:11.
"Yet the result of this straight and impartial course appears so difficult and harsh, that no surprise can be felt that interpreters have very generally thought it incumbent upon them to devise some mode of eluding it. For this purpose, the established meaning of the language has been more or less violated. But, however true and just is the sentiment contained in each of these interpretations, they all labor under the objection of being invented to escape a difficulty, and consequently of being at variance with the principle of a faithful adherence to the philological sense. If in any emergency we sacrifice that principle, we unsettle the solid rules of interpretation, and destroy the certainty of our conclusions from any written document. Better is it, in any case, to acknowledge the existence of a difficulty, should it even be to our present prowess, insuperable, than thus to break up the foundations on which all just criticism must rest.
"The mode of rendering adopted by the Targum ascribed to Jonathan, suggests a strong presumption that the ordinary solutions were, by that author, perceived to be incongruous with the true analogy of the language, and that the words given above are unavoidably the fair translation. That rendering is, 'I have gotten a man, the angel of Jehovah.' This appellation was an established designation of the Messiah.
"The proper question then is, how are we to explain this expression, confessedly so remarkable and difficult? Let us address ourselves to it with serious care and devout humility.
"In all disquisitions upon these most ancient of the scripture records, we should never lose sight of their characteristic brevity and abruptness. They do not form a history, but are rather a succession of memorials. In almost every instance, many things are not mentioned which must necessarily have taken place, and which the mind of the reader is called to supply. In most cases the omitted ideas, or even facts, are so obvious, that the conjectural supplement involves no presumption; in others, the obscurity is great. The case before us, however, is one which can admit of no doubt as to many circumstances; and, reasoning upon them, I submit the following attempt to meet the difficulty.
1. "Adam and Eve could not but have often reflected and conversed upon their former, and their now altered condition, the cause and consequences of the change, the gracious conduct of their offended God, and the probable meaning of the mysterious promise. In this infancy of the human race, extraordinary communications from the Deity may be argued to have taken place, on grounds of physical and moral necessity; and these sacred records declare the fact of such communications. It is then a reasonable and almost inevitable supposition, that the same mercy which had given them a glimmering of hope in the memorable promise, would support that hope, would furnish further nutriment to faith, and would direct to exercises of piety. The great institution of sacrifices, for instance, we have every fair reason, short of direct information, to believe now originated. To say the least that a reasonable probability will allow, our first parents must have had their minds directed habitually, and with strong feelings of interest, towards the promised seed which was to triumph over the destroyer of their happiness.
2. "The parturiency of Eve must have been productive of the deepest impressions on their minds. Notwithstanding what they might have observed in animals, the want of science, skill, and preparation; and the severe, perhaps unexpected pains endured, could not but occasion great distress and alarm.
3. "Equally great would be the delight, when the pain suddenly ceased, and a new human creature was brought to view. Let any tender mother recollect her own feelings on her first enjoyment of this blessing, and let her then try to imagine what must have been the feelings of the first mother, on the first occasion of a child being born into the world! The most vivid imagination must probably fall short of conceiving the reality of this most impressive case.
4. "It would seem to have been an idea, not merely probable, but inevitable, to Adam and Eve, that the beauteous and lovely creature thus presented to them by the providence of their God, was indeed the destined deliverer. We need not to impute to them the gross conception, that their infant was actually their great Creator and Sovereign; but, putting together all the circumstances, I would ask any reflecting person whether an indefinite idea of something connected with the Divine Being, in a way utterly unexampled and unknown, was not likely to arise in the mind of 'the mother of all living'; and whether she might not, from natural feelings of hope and exultation, and especially considering the extreme paucity of words which must then have belonged to language, give utterance to this yet most precious and joyous idea, in the remarkable manner that is recorded? We cannot but conclude, from the fact of its being thus recorded, and without any observation or elucidating of the exclamation, that by Moses, and the men of the earliest times before him, it was considered as a most memorable and important declaration; and still more, that to the Spirit of wisdom and truth it appeared worthy of imperishable preservation.
"A reason for the divine conduct in this presents itself at once. The whole connection of the Old Testament contains evidence of the systematic counsel of heavenly grace to maintain and strengthen among men the expectation of the glorious deliverer. The fond exclamation of Eve, bitterly mistaken as she was in its immediate application, was not the less the language of faith in the word of Jehovah. As a monument therefore of her faith, and as a link in the chain of notices and encouragements, it was worthy of being thus recorded.
"The inference from this fact, in reference to our present inquiry, is, that Adam and Eve looked for the deliverer from sin and evil with deep anxiety and sanguine hope; that they believed that he would be a child of man; and that they had an obscure, but yet strong impression, that, in some unknown and mysterious sense, he would be described as 'the man, Jehovah."'(28) 28. Scripture Testimony to the Messiah, vol. 1. 235-241.
2. Now, my dear Benjamin, having, at considerable length, proved that it was revealed in this passage, that Messiah was to obtain a complete and triumphant victory over Satan, it remains only to notice the last sentence, viz. that Satan should bruise the heel of the Messiah. This expression doubtless relates primarily and chiefly to the sufferings and death of the Messiah, to be brought about by the instigation of Satan, (as shall be shown more fully hereafter). Hence we read that it was Satan who put it into the heart of Judas to betray him, Peter to deny him, the chief priests to prosecute him, the false witnesses to accuse him, and Pilate to condemn him.
3. From what has been related, I hope, my dear brother Benjamin, you will be convinced that the curse pronounced on Satan, the tempter, in the 15th verse, contained a gracious revelation of the Messiah, and his mediatorial work, to destroy the works of the devil; and although I did not call it a promise made to our first parents, as divines generally do, yet it being pronounced in their presence and hearing, they did understand and believe it as such, as I have already shown above. Indeed, it may well be said of this short sentence, that it contained "multum in parvo" much in little. Like as the largest oak, with all its numerous and wide-spreading branches, is originally contained in the small acorn, so was the whole plan of salvation, however copiously and clearly unfolded in subsequent revelations, comprehended in the passage we have considered. Thus the light of the Sun of Righteousness shed forth his benign beams first in paradise, where the natural sun commenced his course; and as the light of the sun shines gradually brighter and brighter unto the perfect day, so was the rising of the Sun of Righteousness; for God was pleased "to speak to our fathers of old, at sundry times, and in divers manners, by the prophets." The second revelation, or direct promise of the Messiah, was made to our father Abraham, which I shall consider in my next letter. Farewell.
Letter 5. Messiah Promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
1. Agreeably to my promise, I will now direct your attention to the second revelation, or promise of a Messiah. It has already been observed that the promises of the Messiah were made gradually clearer and brighter. This will be seen, in some measure, in the manner in which he was promised to our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, recorded in the following passages. To Abraham: Genesis 12:1-3, "Now the Lord had said unto Abraham, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee; and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Confirmed to him by oath. Genesis 22:15-18, "And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord; for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies: and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." The promise repeated to Isaac. Genesis 26:2-4, "And the Lord appeared unto Isaac, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of. Sojourn in this land; and I will be with thee, and will bless thee: for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries; and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father: and I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries: and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." The promise renewed to Jacob at Beth-el. Genesis 28:13, 14, "And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth; and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south; and in thee, and in thy seed, shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
2. You will observe, my dear Benjamin, that in the first of these passages we have an account of the origin and separation of our beloved people, to be a peculiar nation, greatly honored and blessed above all other nations; "for to them pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen" (Rom 9:4,5). To prevent the universal prevalence of idolatry, and to reserve a remnant to himself, among whom his true worship might be maintained, to whom his oracles might be delivered, and with whom his ordinances might be established till the coming of the Messiah, the Lord, in his wise, holy, and gracious sovereignty, made choice of our father Abraham, and singled him out from among his associates in idolatry, whilst he suffered other nations to walk in their own ways. In consequence of this choice, "the God of glory appeared to him," and having made himself known unto him, and satisfied him that this was a divine revelation, he commanded him to leave his native country. To engage his prompt obedience, he promised to bless him personally, in things temporal, spiritual, and eternal; and relatively, in his posterity, "to make of him a great nation," and "to make his name great." And to crown the whole, he promised him the Messiah, saying, "In thee" (i. e. the Messiah, as shall be shown presently) "shall all the families of the earth be blessed." The remarkable fulfillment of this prediction, as far as it relates to Abraham and his natural posterity, is evident from their history; and the following observation of the venerable Dr. Scott is worthy our notice:"Abraham was not renowned either as a conqueror, a lawgiver, or an inventor of useful and ingenious arts; he was neither a monarch, a genius, a philosopher, nor so much as an author of any sort; but a plain man, dwelling in tents, and feeding cattle all his days; yet perhaps no mere man has been so widely and permanently had in honor. The Jews, and tribes of the Saracens and Arabians, justly own and revere him as their progenitor; many nations in the east exceedingly honor his memory at this day, and glory in their real or pretended relation to him. Throughout the visible church he has always been held in the highest veneration; and at present, Jews, Mahomedans, and even many gentiles, amidst all their discords and antipathies, vie with each other, and with Christians, who should most honor this ancient patriarch. It is evident from the history, that nothing could be more improbable at the time than this event; yet the prediction contained in these few words has been fulfilling most exactly and minutely during the course of almost four thousand years! Need we any other proof that the historian wrote as he was moved by the Holy Ghost?"
3. You will please, my brother, to notice, that as a reward for the unparalleled obedience of our father Abraham, the Lord not only renewed the forementioned promises, but confirmed them, in the second passage quoted, by an oath; but instead of saying, as at first, "in thee" he now said, "in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed"; and this mode is continued in the repetition of the promises to Isaac and to Jacob; and in all the four passages this is the closing blessing, that which includes and exceeds all other blessings. Without it, the possession of all other things can never make us happy; and with, it, the want of all other things cannot make us miserable. "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt 16:26). "For it has pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell (Col 1:19); and that out of his fullness we might receive, and grace for grace (John 1:16). Oh, then, my dearly beloved brother Benjamin, let us "first seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness. and all other things shall be added thereunto" (Matt 6:33). "For he that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32). Like our venerable father Abraham, let us obey God, and not fear, nor "confer with flesh and blood," for the Lord will be our "shield and our exceeding great reward" (Gen 15:1). Pardon this little digression.
4. Let us observe, in the next place, the increasing light of the Sun of Righteousness in the difference between the first revelation of the Messiah made to our parents in paradise, and that made to our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the former it was left undiscovered, and undetermined, out of what people or nation the Messiah was to arise, and only, in general, declared that he should be the seed of the woman; but in these it is expressed in plain terms, that he should be of the seed of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; in the former, a simple deliverance from the power of Satan was predicted, in the present, actual blessings are promised. I will now proceed to prove that by the seed is meant the Messiah; enumerate the blessings promised; point out the channel in which they are to flow; show the extent of the promise, and its exact accomplishment. We begin with the first:
5. To prove that the Messiah is meant by the seed in whom all the nations of the earth are to be blessed. I am perfectly aware, my dear Benjamin, that our modern Rabbins have tried to apply it to any person else rather than to the Messiah; and I am sorry to add, that even some Christian writers have adopted their sentiment; but nothing can be more evident than that the prediction is not applicable to any one person, either individually or collectively, but only to the Messiah; and has been literally fulfilled in Jesus Christ; blessed be his holy name for ever. Surely it is not applicable to our father Abraham. For in what sense can it be said that all nations have been blessed in him? In his own person he conversed with but few of them, and unto some of them, through their own sins, he was an occasion of punishment; as to the Egyptians (Gen 12:17), and to the Philistines (20:2,4). Some he destroyed with the sword (14:15); and was not in any thing, signally, a blessing unto any of them. Besides, in the repetition of the promise (22:18), it is expressly limited to his seed; and for the same reason it cannot be applied either to Isaac or to Jacob; for it is in their seed, and not in them, that the prediction was to be accomplished. It is true, that in the promise made to Jacob, it is said, "in thee and in thy seed"; but you well know, my dear brother, that not infrequently the second sentence is used as an interpretation of the former, and the wav conjunction is used instead of "that is to say," or "even"; and therefore may be read thus: "in thee," that is to say, or even "in thy seed." Take the following instances: Genesis 13:15, "All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever." Now we know that Abraham, personally, never inherited any part of the promised land; the meaning of the promise therefore is: "to thee," that is to say, or even "to thy seed." 1 Chronicles 21:12, "Three days the Lord's sword and the pestilence," for that is to say, "the pestilence." Hence (2 Sam 24:13), we read, "three days pestilence," the word sword being omitted. See also Psalm 16:10. (This last passage will be particularly examined hereafter.)
6. Neither can the prediction be applied to our nation collectively. There is no sense in which it can be said "that all nations" have been blessed in, or by them. For although they have been the means or instruments of handing the Bible and laws to other nations, yet they have not done it either willingly or designedly; for since they have been constituted a separate nation, there has always existed a mutual enmity between our people and all other nations. I am aware that because the word is used in Hithpael, i. e. "they shall bless themselves," the author of the "Scheme of Literal Prophecy,"(29) 29. P. 132. has adopted the opinion of our modern Rabbins, viz: that the nations of the world would take up this as a form of blessing: among them, saying, "God bless you as he did the Israelites, or seed of Abraham"; but this opinion is void of every vestige of proof. No one instance can be produced, where the nations of the world ever used such a form of blessing themselves; on the contrary, the name of our dear people has always been used, by all nations, by way of reproach, and as a proverb, and taunt, and a curse. Besides, the word seed is used in the singular number, in the same sense as it is used in the following passages: "God," said she, "has appointed me another seed instead of Abel" (Gen 4:25). "To me thou hast given no seed" (Gen 15:3). "Also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed" (Gen 21:13). The Targum on Psalm 18:26, says, understanding the declaration to relate to Abraham,"with his seed, which is Isaac."The seventy translate Ben, Son, in Deuteronomy 25:5, by Sperma, seed. That the word has a plural, is evident from the very name of the tract in the Talmud, called Sedarim, i. e. seeds, and is used in the plural number, even as spoken of the posterity of men.(30) 30. Tal. Rab. Sanhed. fol. 37. 1.
7. That by the word seed, is meant the Messiah, will appear, if we consider that this is the peculiar appellation of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament; I believe there is not one instance in which he is called the son of the woman, or the son of Abraham, or the son of Isaac, or the son of Jacob, or the son of David, though that was a more easy and intelligible phrase for a single person than the other, and though the New Testament so styles him on those occasions. I have already named four places belonging respectively to the woman, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, whose seed the Messiah was to be. The same word is applied to him when this promise comes be renewed to David; "when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom" (2 Sam 7:12). Or, as it is still more distinctly in the parallel account in 1 Chronicles 17:11, "It shall come to pass when thy days be expired, that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons, and I will establish his kingdom"; and again, in that noble comment on this famous prophecy, Psalm 89:3, 4, "I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant; thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne, to all generations." Again, verse 29, "His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven." Again, verses 35, 36, "Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David: his seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me." In all these places we see that the original promise (Gen 3:15), is still all along referred to.
8. That the seed in whom all nations are to be blessed, is the Messiah, is evident from many other passages of Scripture, where he is predicted as the source of blessings to all nations. "For to him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). David, speaking of the Messiah, says, "His name shall endure for ever, his name shall be continued as long as the sun; and man shall be blessed in him; and all nations shall call him blessed" (Psalm 72:17). The apostle Peter also assured our forefathers, "that all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying Abraham, and in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed" (Acts 3:24,25).
Further, we observe that this prediction is applied to Messiah, both in the New Testament and by our ancient Rabbins. We have just quoted the words of Peter, who applies the promise to Jesus the Messiah; and the apostle Paul, who was a perfect Hebrew scholar, and could speak the language fluently, brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, one of our chief Rabbins, and had made greater progress in Jewish learning than all his contemporaries, applies the promise to Jesus the Messiah, reasoning thus; "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ" (Gal 3:16). It is also applied to the Messiah by our ancient Rabbins: Sepher chasidim, Sect. 961, quoted in Allix' Judgment of the Jewish Church, page 57; R. Reuben, in his testament to his sons, charges them to worship the seed of Judah, who should die for them, in visible and invisible wars, and should be among them an eternal King; Whiston's note on Josephus' Ant. B. I. ch. 13. Sect. 4; in three passages quoted by Wetstein, from Bereshith Ravba and Ruth Ravba the singular Sera, seed, put to denote a son, is affirmed to signify "the King Messiah."(31) 31. Wetstein, N. T. Tom. II. in Gal. 3:16.
9. Thus, my dear Benjamin, we perceive that Messiah is meant by the seed, in these predictions and promises made to our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I should now be led to consider the blessings to be derived from the Messiah, but having already spoken of this subject in a former letter, and purposing, by divine permission, to show hereafter the fulfillment of these predictions in the Messiah Jesus, I shall, at present, mention only those blessings, in other parts of Scripture, referred to the prediction under consideration. In the Messiah we are indeed blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places; with peace, pardon, righteousness, and eternal life; with grace here, and glory hereafter. Says one of our German divines,"In Jesus, the greatest of Abraham's descendants, the nations of the earth, and we also, have received the knowledge of truth, pardon of sin, tranquillity of conscience, hope of salvation, peace and joy in God, and the rich abundance of the gifts of the Holy Spirit."(32) 32. Seiler's Groe. Bib. Erb. vol. 1, p. 217.10. Justification, including the pardon of sin, acceptance with God, and eternal life, is particularly mentioned by the apostle, as included in this blessing to the Gentiles, saying, "The Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before, the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed" (Gal 3:8). "To him," saith the apostle Peter, "give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whoever believeth in him, shall receive remission of sins." The copious and powerful effusions of the Holy Spirit, was another blessing included in this prediction; as we are taught by the apostle of the Gentiles, saying, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree; that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal 3:13,14). This was also frequently mentioned by the prophets, as what was to be conferred at the accomplishment of the promise (Isa 44:3; Joel 2:28; comp. Acts 2:10-34
). And although the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, which were bestowed at first for the spread and confirmation of the Gospel, and as evidence that God received and justified uncircumcised Gentiles through faith, as he did Abraham (Acts 5:32, 11:15-19, 15:8-12), have ceased, yet the regenerating, sanctifying, and comforting influences of the Spirit, are still bestowed on all believers, and are essential to their being so (Rom 8:9,14). Another blessing is adoption into God's family, and a title to the heavenly inheritance. Hence, saith the same inspired apostle, "when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Gal 4:4,5). By the covenant with Abraham, our venerable father, his natural seed were typically adopted as a nation (Exo 4:22,23; Rom 9:4). But the mere children of the flesh, these are not the true children of God (Rom 9:4), and, therefore, when Christ, the promised seed, came to his own nation, it was only to those of them who received him, and believed on his name, that he gave power to become the sons of God, and these are described not as mere children of the flesh, but as born of God (John 1:11-13). The land of Canaan, also, which was promised to Abraham and his seed, for an everlasting possession, was but a type of the eternal inheritance in heaven. And our fathers, the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, understood it as such, and confessed themselves to be strangers and pilgrims on the earth, plainly declaring that they sought and desired a better country, that is, an heavenly, and looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb 11:13-17). Hence, saith the apostle, the Gentiles which "were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the worldare now no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Eph 2:12,19).
Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 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: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
11. We will now proceed to consider the extent, or subjects of these blessings. "All the nations of the earth," i. e. not every individual person, but some in all nations, who, with Abraham, believe in the same promised seed, as the apostle has taught us to explain this prophecy, saying. "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before, the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed; so then, they which be of faith, are blessed with faithful Abraham" (Gal 3:8,9). This was the happy dawn of day upon the poor benighted Gentiles. It was the Gospel, or good news to them, that they also should be made partakers of the blessings to be procured by the Messiah; and the same good news was repeatedly foretold by the Prophets. I will name but a few. "There shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious." "Behold my servantin whom my soul delightethhe shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. I will give thee for a covenant to the people, for a light of the Gentiles." "It is a light thing, that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth." "Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lordeven them will I bring to my holy mountain; andmine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people." "The Lord God, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel, saith. Yet will I gather others to him, besides those that are gathered unto him. The strangers that sojourn among youshall have an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel." "From the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts" (Isa 11:10, 42:1,6; Matt 12:18; Isa 49:6, 56:6,7; John 10:16; Eze 47:22; Mal 1:11).
12. How strange, my dear Benjamin, that, after so many and clear predictions, any of our beloved brethren should have conceived the idea of excluding the Gentiles from the blessings of the Messiah! for you know the great controversy which was so much agitated in the schools of Hillel and Shammai, viz. whether or no, when the Messiah came, the nations of the world would have any advantage by him? A vast majority were on the negative side of the question, and believed they would be all destroyed at his coming, and have no favor or mercy shown them. Yea, so deeply rooted was this erroneous sentiment, that even the disciples of Jesus, after their conversion, were offended, both with the apostles Peter and Paul, for preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. Hence we find that this opinion was much opposed by Christ and his apostles. Good old Simeon, when he had taken the holy child Jesus in his arms, said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32). Paul, in his epistle to the Romans (3:29,30), asks the following question: "Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith." And when the Jews were filled with envy at seeing the multitude attending the word preached, "then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth" (Acts 13:45-47).
13. Hence we may learn, my dear Benjamin, the true reason why the blessings of the Gospel are so frequently expressed in the New Testament in universal terms. For the controversy at that time was not, as it has been formerly, amongst Calvinists and Armenians, and is now, amongst Christians of the same denomination, Episcopalians against Episcopalians, Presbyterians against Presbyterians, and Baptists against Baptists, whether all and every individual of the human race has been redeemed by Christ; but the controversy was, whether any of the Gentiles should be redeemed by the Messiah, or not. John the Baptist, therefore, when he saw Jesus coming unto him, points him out, as it were, with his finger, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Here the word world is used for Gentiles, as distinct from the Jews: their lambs were offered for the Jews only, but Christ was a sacrifice to atone for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews. In the same sense, and for the same reason, our blessed Lord used the word world in his conversation with one of our masters in Israel, saying, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). In like manner the apostle John says that Jesus Christ was "the propitiation for our sins," meaning the sins of the Jews, for John himself was a Jew; "and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). The expressions all nations, all men, the whole world, &c. are evidently opposed to the limitation of the blessing to Abraham's natural seed, our nation, and extend it to all his spiritual seed of all nations, who are constantly distinguished from worldly nations as such, and described to be all who, like him, believe, be they Jews or Gentiles (Rom 4:11-14); for it is they who be of faith, that are blessed with faithful Abraham (Gal 3:9), and that are heirs according to the promise made to him (v 29).
14. I will now proceed, as proposed, to point out the channel in which these blessings shall come upon the nations of the earth, Jews as well as Gentiles. This channel is faith in the Messiah. It is indeed but faintly mentioned in this prediction, but plainly and repeatedly taught in the sacred Scriptures. The word Hithbarchoo, "shall be blessed" signifies, shall bless themselves, shall esteem or judge themselves blessed. Says an eminent critic,"To esteem one's self blessed in any one is an expression equivalent to this, to hope for all divine blessings through the person referred to, and to believe that God has such an especial love to that person, that he will bless us for his sake, and through our obedience to him. It is of precisely the same meaning as the expression usually employed by the apostle Paul, to believe on him."(33) 33. Michaelis, Uebersetz, U. Ammerk.As there was no other way of saving sinners but by the appointment of a mediator, as has already been stated, so there is no way for the sinner to obtain the blessings procured by that mediator, but by faith, in him. I am aware that this important truth was lost sight of, by many of our people, as early as Christ and his apostles. Even at that time, as well as hitherto, our Rabbins taught that the meritorious cause of the salvation of our people is their natural descent from Abraham, and their obedience to the law of Moses. Hence you well know, my dear Benjamin, that nothing is more common, both in the conversation and prayers of our people, than the following maxims: "Col Yisrael chelek leolam havba," i. e. every Israelite has part in the world to come; again, "Teshuvah, Tephillah, uzedakah maavirin eth col roah haggezeroth," i. e. repentance, prayer and alms-deeds deliver from every evil decree, or threatening. Now the apostle Paul, who was educated at the feet of Gamaliel, and well acquainted with the sentiments of our Rabbins, and who was also himself by profession a Pharisee, and exceedingly strict in practice, after his conversion he refuted these principles in a most masterly manner, and established the doctrine of salvation by faith in the Messiah.
15. Permit me, my dear brother, most affectionately to recommend to your serious and careful consideration his chain of reasoning contained in the 2d, 3d, and 4th chapters of his Epistle to the Romans; and from which I will quote but two of his arguments. With respect to their trusting to their mere descent from Abraham, he says, "He is not a Jew, who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; a circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of man, but of God" (Rom 2:28,29). That the circumcision of the flesh was a type of the circumcision of the heart, is acknowledged by our Rabbins, R. David Kimchi on Jeremiah 4:4, saith,"This is the circumcision of the heart."Philo, one of our nation, saith,"Circumcision taught the cutting off of all pleasures and affections; it is a symbol of two things particularly, the one is the cutting off of pleasure, and the other is the removal of arrogancy, that grievous disease of the soul";and in another place he calls purity, or chastity,"the circumcision of circumcision."(34) 34. De Migrat. Abraham, p. 402. De Circumc. p. 811. De Somnis p. 10, 11.Nor do our Rabbins restrict the appellation "Jew" to the natural descendants of Abraham or Judah; for it is said in the Talmud,"that whosoever denies idolatry is called a Jew."(35) 35. T. Rab. Megilloth, fol. 13, 1.Hence, in the same place,"Pharaoh's daughter is called a Jewess, because she denied idolatry, and went down to wash herself from the idols of her father's house.''And again it is said,"that faith does not depend upon circumcision, but upon the heart; he that believeth not as he should, circumcision does not make him a Jew; and he that believeth as he ought, he indeed is a Jew, though he is not circumcised."(36) 36. Sepher Niz. ad Gen. Apud Maji. Theolog. Jud. p. 252.16. With respect to their second maxim, "trusting in their own works," he shows, first, that it is contrary to the Scripture; and that our father Abraham himself was not justified by works, but by faith in the promised Messiah. I will give you his own words,"What shall we then say that Abraham, our father as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt; but to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then, reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, yet being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also; and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being, yet uncircumcised" (Rom 4:1-12).It remains only, my dear Benjamin, to show the fulfillment of this prediction, and this we will do, God willing, after we have shown that the Messiah must have come already, and that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah. For the present, I bid thee farewell.The God of Abram praise,
Whose all-sufficient grace
Shall guide me, all my happy days,
In all his ways:
He calls a worm his friend,
He calls himself my God!
And he shall save me to the end,
Through Jesus' blood.
He by himself hath sworn;
I on his oath depend;
I shall, on eagles' wings upborne,
To heaven ascend;
I shall behold his face,
I shall his pow'r adore;
And sing the wonders of his grace
Next Letter Table of Contents
This book is original to this site.
This book has been edited.
Copyright © 2006 JCR