« PreviousContinue »
and not the Gentiles, were the only persons authorized and qualified to judge whether Jesus of Nazareth, of blessed memory, was the true Messiah or not, by comparing his pedigree, character, &c. &c. with the Old Testament, the will of the testator. This, I conceive, is the most probable reason why Jesus said "that he was not sent but unto the lost sheep of Israel;" and why he commanded his apostles "not to go into the way of the Gentiles, nor into any of the cities of the Samaritans, but to go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;" and why, after his resurrection, they were to commence preaching at Jerusalem; and hence the apostle assigns this among the reasons why he was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, because it was preached and made effectual to the Jews first. See Matt. 10: 6, 15, 27. Luke, 24: 47. Rom. 1. 16. Hence, when John the Baptist sent to Jesus to inquire whether he was the Mes siah, or whether they should wait for another, Jesus neither answered in the negative nor in the affirmative; he could not say no, for he knew that he was the Messiah; and he would not say yes; for he came not to bear witness of himself; but he directed them to some of the characteristics by which the Messiah was to be known; saying, "Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them." Matt. 11: 2–5 And when the two disciples, in the way to Emmaus, were perplexed with doubts and fears, whether Jesus was the Messiah or not, Jesus expounded to them all that was written in the law, in the prophets, and in the book of Psalms, concerning the Messiah, and fulfilled in him. Luke, 24. In like manner the apostle Paul went into the synagogues every Sabbath day, reasoning with the Jews from the Scriptures, (the Old Testament, of course, for the New was not then written,) that Jesus was the Christ, or Messiah, the Son of God.
§ 4. Probably it may appear strange to you, my dear Benjamin, that our nation should have rejected Jesus of Nazareth as an impostor, if he was the true Messiah, answering the characteristics of the Old Testament. I might easily point out to you a variety of causes which led them to commit this fatal act, but for the present one must suffice. The art of printing not being known at that time, it must have been of immense expense to get the whole of the Old Testament written in Hebrew, on parchment, and therefore we may well suppose that few, very few only, could procure a copy. Hence, in the days of Josiah, one copy of the law only could be found in the whole Jewish nation. The scribes, lawyers, and other teachers, took the advantage of this circumstance, and taught the people more by the vain traditions received of the fathers than by the word of God. They led the people to expect a Messiah altogether different from the one promised to our fathers, characterized in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. All the blessings and benefits they expected from the Messiah were of a temporal nature only, and restricted wholly to our nation. They expected that he would overturn the Roman empire, set up the throne of David, his father, and raise his people above all other nations. Hence, when our blessed Lord and Savior came and professed to be the Messiah, multitudes followed him; and when they saw that he possessed almighty power; speaking to the raging waves of the sea, and causing a great calm; commanding legions of devils, and they instantly obeying; feeding thousands with a few loaves, and healing all manner of diseases; they greatly rejoiced, and desired to make him a king; but when Jesus plainly told them that his kingdom was not of this world, that he came to seek and save those that are lost, and that he must be crucified and slain, then their hopes and expectations being turned to disappointments, they cried, Away with him; crucify him! crucify him! We will not have this man to reign over us." Thus, not knowing the
Scriptures, they rejected the true Messiah, and for the same reason our dear people follow their example to the present day. You perceive then, my dear Benjamin, the importance of making ourselves first well acquainted with the charac teristics of the Messiah, delivered in the Old Testament, and then examining the history of the Lord Jesus Christ, contained in the New Testament, before we can decide the question, whether Jesus is the Messiah or not. I purpose therefore to follow this plan in my future letters.
§ 5. But before I commence these interesting subjects, it may not be improper to show, first, the necessity of a Messiah, or Mediator. For it will ever be true, that "the whole need not a physician, but those that are sick." The knowledge of our lost and ruined condition is absolutely necessary, before we can justly prize and value the remedy. Till men are really apprized of their danger and wants, it is impossible for them properly to estimate the Gospel grace, or to embrace the scheme of it with that full assent and warmth of affection which so inestimable a benefit deserves. I propose, therefore, to give you, in some future letters, a statement of the creation and fall of our first parents; their ruined and helpless condition, and the promise of a Messiah. The angel of the covenant be with you. Amen.
THE CREATION OF MAN.
When I closed my last letter I had no idea that so much time would intervene before you would receive the present. I regret the delay, which could not easily be pre
vented. Besides some unforeseen circumstances which occupied much of my time, the importance of the subject required more than usual deliberation. As much of the security and stability of a building depends on the foundation, so do the future letters depend on the subjects proposed in my last.
§ 1. The first of these subjects is the creation of man, or our first parents. From the sacred Scriptures we learn, and by faith we understand, that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, Heb. 11: 3. Moses, our inspired historian, gives us, in a few verses, a most sublime description of the creation of the heavens and the earth, with all their hosts, by the Word and Spirit of Jehovah. The Psalmist, also, expresses it as elegantly, in a few words: "He spake, and it was; he commanded, and it stood fast, or they were created." Ps. 33: 9. 148: 5. God having thus made the world, and richly furnished it with every creature, wherein the glory of his wisdom, goodness and power might be seen, he finished the great design by creating man in his own image, and in his own likeness. "The house being
built, its inhabitant appeared; the feast being set forth, the guest was introduced; the theatre being decorated and illuminated, the spectator was admitted, to behold the splendid and magnificent scenery in the heavens above, and the earth beneath; to view the bodies around him moving in perfect crder and harmony, and every creature performing the part allotted in the universal drama; that seeing, he might understand, and understanding, adore its supreme Author and Director."-Bp. Horne.
§ 2. But though man be the last in creation, yet he is the noblest in our world. When Jehovah gave being to the universe, he formed three distinct orders of nature; the one purely spiritual, the other purely material, and between both, one mixed, which unites the extremes in itself. This is man, the abridgment of the universe, allied to the angels in his soul, and to material things in his body, and
capable of the happiness of both; by his internal faculties enjoying the felicity of the intellectual, and by his external tasting the pleasures of the sensitive world. But his greatest excellency was a perfect conformity to the Divine pattern. The account of man's creation is introduced with special solemnity, as the joint work of the co-eternal three. "And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Gen. 1: 26, 27.
§ 3. The surest way of ascertaining the nature of the image of God, in which Adam was made, is by referring to the image of God, in which the soul is renewed by the grace of God. The image restored, was the image lost; and the image lost, was that in which Adam was created. The renewed image the apostle describes as consisting in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. His words are, "And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him." Col. 3: 10. "And that ye put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Eph. 4: 24.
§ 4. 1. With respect to knowledge, although we cannot ascertain the extent of the knowledge which Adam had in his first state, yet it certainly was very great. He knew himself, and he knew God, in a manner and to a degree adapted to the state and circumstances in which he was placed. He must have been conscious of the duty incumbent upon him, and of the felicity inseparably connected with it. His giving names to the various species of creatures, corresponding to their respective natures, has often been mentioned as a striking proof of the knowledge which he then had. Gen. 2: 19, 20.