Графични страници
PDF файл

which seems to be waiting till the heir shall resume his claims, by some other way, which is known only to the God of their fathers--all this must be left to that history, which is the only right interpreter of our faith-preserving prophecy. The experience of the past ages may teach us the manner in which the pride and ambition of man pursue their own plans, and are successful, or are defeated, as the God of Christianity may please to appoint, for the accomplishment of his own designs.

Greece boasted of Marathon and Thermopylæ-Greece was triumphant, and Persia was repulsed. Neither Themistocles nor Miltiades, nor his son, who completed their victories, nor Darius, nor Xerxes, nor his successor, could have believed, that their opposite continents were in commotion, and the whole world was agitated, that the poor and despised prophets of Judæa might be proved to have spoken truth; and the walls of Jerusalem be rebuilt after the predicted period of the Babylonish captivity (c). When Cyrus the younger advanced into the plains of Babylon, from the frontiers of Persia, with a well-appointed army of veteran Greeks, who returned to their own country after his unexpected fall, by a retreat which is still commemorated as the most renowned in history; neither Cyrus, Clearchus, nor Xenophon, could have imagined that they were preparing the way for the accomplishment of the prophecies of God; by pointing out to the Greeks of a subsequent generation, that when their forces should be united under one head, the kingdom of Persia was at their disposal ; as an obscure Jew

not find another so suited, in all circumstances, as that which is, with emphasis, called the Holy Land. These observations, perhaps, may not deserve great weight, but they ought not to be wholly neglected; especially when it is considered how many passages of Scripture there are which plainly declare, that the time shall at length come, when Zion shall be the joy of the whole earth."--Note to Hymns to the Supreme Being, p. 126. ap Hales Analysis of Chronology, vol. ii.

p. 1351.

(c) See Hales's Analysis of Chronology, vol. ii. pt. 2. p. 482.

had predicted. They could not tell, that one reason, why Cyrus could not conquer Persia, with an army of the same people who should hereafter subdue it, might be—the

prophecy of Daniel, that a Greek alone should become its conqueror.

Rome did not know that its gradual conquests should overspread the world, and the nations should imperceptibly conform to its government; and then that its factions should be extinguished, and compelled, whatever their republican indignation might be, to submit to one imperial ruler; in order that the words of the Jewish prophets might be fulfilled, and the world be at peace, when the Messiah should be born. But as we now look back


these events, and see how the God of Christianity rides in the whirlwinds of war, and directs all the storms of human passions : so shall the generations which are yet to come, look upon the changes in England, which established that Protestantism which is the blessing of mankind—they shall look back upon the Revolutions of France, and the opposition of England to infidelity in religion, and anarchy in politics, and admire, in the unlimited consequences of the events of the last generation, the accomplishment of the prophecies of God.

Brethren of the house of Israel ! if any such may be induced to listen to a student of your own Scriptures, your rank among nations will still be high and splendid. The God of your fathers has now permitted you, for nearly two thousand years, to wander over the world, an oppressed, an insulted, and despised people, without a sovereign, a kingdom, or a church. God is a Being unchangeable, and wise, and good. You hold in your hands a collection of books which tells you of the glories of your ancestors—how they were separated from the rest of the world, neither because they were greater, nor wiser, nor better, nor braver, than the rest of men upon whom the rain descended and the sun shone: but because the love of God elected them, and gave them their laws and institutions, to preserve the memory of his name, amidst the contagion of idolatry; and to obtain for themselves political power and eminence, as the result of their obedience.

The nations among whom they were planted, respected and feared them, so long as they obeyed their law: they subdued and conquered, and led them into captivity, when they forgot their allegiance to Jehovah. The last and longest of their captivities was attended with this good effect; it extirpated the remnant of that attachment to idolatry which had caused so many sufferings. The reaction from idolatry to faith was such, that when the books of the New Testament were written, the devotion of the Jews to the ritual and ceremonial law was at its height, Idolatry was never named among them, without detestation and contempt. The strict observance even of a burthensome traditional law was added to the generally undeviating compliance with the Mosaical institutions; and the chosen people of God appeared to themselves, and to the heathen, to live in the firm profession and obedience of the most burthensome service, commanded by their inspired legislator. What was the cause, then, that at the

very moment when the design of Moses seemed to have been accomplished; the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, should give his inheritance to the heathen, and the dead bodies of his servants to the fowls of the air? Why was your land laid waste, the temple destroyed, your people scattered over the world, at that peculiar period; when

your obedience to the minutest of your laws was most perfect? From the earliest ages your fathers believed, that a divine Being should come upon earth, to perform various essential benefits for mankind. This belief was supported by the predictions of the Old Testament. The expectation of a Messiah is the foundation of the whole system. When your observance of your ritual was most exact, your expectation

of the Messiah was also most fervid. Yet your nation was afflicted by the dreadful visitation to which I have alluded: Thus your obedience and your faith were at their height, when the greatest desolation came upon you. Some proportionate cause must be assigned for this apparent mystery, and none can be found but that which is related in these books, which we, the Christians, have added to those received by yourselves, upon similar evidences of their inspiration. We receive them as the writings of your countrymen, upon the authority of the miracles which were wrought by their authors--their own internal evidence the prophecies they contain-and upon all other similar proofs which demonstrate to you the authority of the books of the Old Testament.

Here then we arrive at the question which divides the elder brother from the younger; the Jew from the Christian. In the inspired books which the Christian has appended to the sacred writings of the Jews, we read of the actions and preaching, the birth, and life, and death, of a Being, whom we assert to be the predicted Messiah. You rejected this Being, because he did not deliver you from the Roman yoke. You demand: a temporal; we a spiritual deliverer. In this lies the difference between us. If a temporal Messiah is the object of the prophecies, He has not come; if a spiritual Messiah is to be expected, Jesus of Nazareth was the desire of nations.

Though I am largely digressing from our more immediate object, I entreat you to permit me to appeal to you as my fellow men on this subject. As we are immortal and accountable beings, the soul of man, which lives for ever, is of more value than the body, which must mingle with the elements--the future and eternal state is of higher consideration, than the present transitory world—and it is more probable, therefore, that the great Deliverer who was announced by a long train of prophets, and to whom the attention of mankind should be directed, would be the bestower of some inestimable benefits, which would refer to the soul, as well as the body; and to the future, as well as to the present world. Man is now, and has long been, the subject of so much misery and evil, that his deliverance from that state, and restoration to happiness in the world to come, would probably be the greatest, and the worthiest design of the Almighty.

In looking for a temporal Messiah, you anticipate a Being fit for earth alone. The Messiah whom we receive was fit for earth and for heaven. Your Messiah is a mere mortal, who must linger through his few years of feverish renown, “ pleased with this trifle still, as that before." Our's is an immortal, who came down from an invisible world, to elevate the whole human race, and restore them to Communion with God. Your Messiah is expected to triumph, as a Cæsar or Napoleon, over the bodies of the slaughtered, amid the groans of the dying, and the tears of the widow and the orphan; our's shall mount to universal dominion by subduing the heart, and by changing the sword into the ploughshare, and banishing tears and grief for ever. Which is most glorious? Your's is compatible with the indulgence of all the lion passions of the heart; our's is only compatible with the conquest of self, with pure motives, and a holy life. Which is most worthy of an immortal—which yields most praise to God?

I shall be trespassing too much upon the time of the reader, if I permit myself to proceed further on this point.

I have not entered at great length into the various controversies which prevail among Christians. Where the subject was unavoidable, I have endeavoured to point out the principles on which both agree; and by following which, their differences would be more reconciled. This mode of proceeding generally offends both classes : but I did not wish to become a partizan. In that principal, and almost the only great controversy which divides those who unite in be

« ПредишнаНапред »