« AnteriorContinuar »
aside from the main point; whereas in conversations we must be more cautious, lest we drop an expression that might lead to a disputation on a by point. This I always premise, that we should enter with such only, upon a discourse concerning Jesus Christ, as themselves watch an opportunity for so doing, or upon whose proper application of the subject we may calculate with some degree of certainty. But then it is necessary to let them feel that the heart of the speaker is full of love to Jesus, as well as to his people of Israel.
A Jew once observed to several of his brethren concerning me, “ This man loves 'Tholah' (meaning the crucified or 'hanged' (Deut. xxi. 23.) Saviour) so dearly, that after you have listened to him for some time, you will also be quite taken in by him.” And all those of this people that know me, testify that I am a great friend of the Jews. It is from the Acts of the Apostles that I have principally acquired my method of discoursing with them, and which is as follows :
1. I adhere to this main point: The crucified Jesus is the Messiah; by his death he has reconciled us unto God, and through him alone are we enabled to obtain grace and remission of sins. This is that gospel which the apostles have preached to the Jews, as appears from the Acts of the Apostles. From this point I do not suffer myself to be diverted, and if the Jews would draw me into the consideration of another subject, (e. g. concerning the holy trinity,) I then tell them that I can not enter upon the discussion of it before we have come to an understanding respecting faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Now the proof of this truth, that the crucified Jesus is the Messiah, is the principal disederatum.Many Christian divines endeavour to prove this truth to the Jews from the prophecies of the Old Testament, and by so doing, do indeed follow the example of our Lord's apostles. But here we ought to observe, that the Jews, of that day, ihemselves, expounded all these predictions as bearing a reference to the Messiah ; for which reason, the apostles from them might argue against the Jews; but that the latter, in after ages, have given them a different interpretation, in order to destroy the force of the evidence. The Jews of the present day follow their example, and whenever you quote a text from the Old Testament, they immediately refer you to the marginal notes of their Rabbies, and you are thus involved with them in an unprofitable dispute.
I therefore merely stake this position: Jesus is the Messiah, for himself has said it. The high priest said unto Jesus, “I adjure thee, by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ the Son of God ?” Jesus saith unto him, “ Thou hast said." Then followed the sentence—“He is guilty of death."
It may well be supposed that this proof will at first appear strange to the Jews; but we must add thereto, God hath raised him from the dead. So soon as they hear this, they conceive that
if the latter be true, the former must be true likewise ; for if, as they say, Jesus had been a malefactor, who had been “stricken, śmitten of God and afflicted” for his own iniquity, then God had not raised him up, and thereby justificd him. A Jew, being in a company, once said, “Well then, suppose we admit that he was raised up ;'when another Jew quickly replied, “ if that be true, then all is true what he has said."
Thus then, they have no other resource lest, but to call the reality of his resurrection in question. They therefore inquirc,
Have you seen and witnessed the resurrection of Jesus ?!' To this we reply, “Did you see God give the law by Moses? you believe the fact notwithstanding; and so we believe that Jesus is risen, although we have not seen it. He was seen, however, by all his disciples, and 500 brethren beside; and the former have not only confirmed their testimony concerning the resurrection by miracles, but have also sealed it by their death. From them the account has been handed down to us; and now, whosoever in his distress turns to Jesus, and obtains grace through him, receives the most convincing assurance that Jesus lives." A Jew at Amsterdam, having once heard me argue on this subject, next day called me to himself, and said, “You were the occasion that I could not sleep all last night!"
Several of my Christian friends, however, have started many objections to this first point of my method. They said, it might derogate from the honour and power of our Saviour to say, that God had raised him up. From hence the Jews would directly conclude-therefore Jesus is not God, although the Saviour himself has said, “I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again." But to this objection I answer, “No doubt the Saviour had power over his life, but he did not exercise it; as he indeed, during his stay on earth, laid aside all his divine glory.
Others have given their opinion that I should begin at this truth with the Jews, that all things in heaven and on earth, were created by Jesus, and that he became man to suffer and die for us ; for when once they would believe that, they would likewise easily believe that he was risen again. The above truth, however, immediately excites their controversial spirit in reference to the doctrine of the trinity, to which that truth directly leads. We must forbear so much the more to begin with the Jews at this point, since not even a baptized Christian is able to believe from the heart that Jesus is his Creator, if he have not before recognized him as his Redeemer.
But the case is quite a different one, when the Jews ask me, whether I and my brethren believe in the divinity of Jesus. Then I make an open and undisguised confession; but yet tell them by the way, that no man can believe this but he that has experienced it in himself, that grace, pardon, and freedom from sin, may
be found in the sacrifice of Jesus. The same proof that Jesus is the Messiah, because himself hath said it, I avail myself of, when treating of the doctrine of Jesus. Every thing Jesus has taught must be true, because he has said it; for God hath raised him up from the dead, and thus confirmed the whole of his doctrine.
Whoever would attempt to prove the doctrine of the trinity from the Old Testament, to the Jews, would fall into a diffuse debate with them about the interpretation of such passages. But if they ask me, whether I believe this doctrine ? I cordially testify to them that I do. If they call for proofs, I state no other but this: Jesus has taught it in these words,—“ Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." I do not enter into a further application of the subject with them, but remind them, that first of all, they must acknowledge Jesus to be the Messiah.
In brief, I preach to them the crucified Jesus; that he is the Messiah ; became man for us, and died; reconciled us with God; rose again, and ascended into heaven, to whom we must turn if we would have eternal life. Whosoever can believe this, will afterwards believe every other doctrine Jesus taught. I have also observed that many have been thereby convinced, or at least brought to reflect seriously on the matter. A Jew once said to
- When I hear you, then I am convinced that Jesus is the Messiah; but when I think, now I will believe on him, then it appears to me as though a fever were coming upon me.
2. I concede to the Jews, that the promises of the Old Testament, which treat of their redemption from their present dispersion, are not yet fulfilled; but that they will be accomplished in their due time. All the hopes of the Jews centre in this, that the Messiah is yet to come, and bring them back out of their present captivity into their country, where they will enjoy great pros. perity and happiness. This they understand of a temporal happiness only, and are grossly mistaken. But the thing, considered for itself, is truly foretold by the prophets, as also many divines have proved. But from such prophecies as these, the Jews mean to prove that the Messiah is not yet come, since the completion of the work could be proved by no one.
These predictions in particular, Is. ii. 4. and Micah iv. 3. will bear here; “ They shall beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks ; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.'
.. Many Chris. tian commentators take these prophecies in a figurative sense, and say, all things of this kind ought to be explained in a spiritual way, because Jesus has purchased a spiritual peace for us : but such arguments do not convince the Jews. I have therefore, with less hesitation, taken up the literal explanation, particularly as a saying of our Lord's seems to justify the same. The disciples asking him, "Lord wilt thou at this time again restore the
kingdom of Israel ?'' he did not reply, you must not expect such another kingdom-but he said, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power." He therefore grants, that he would restore the kingdom to Israel, but the disciples were not to know the time appointed for it. Peter expressly declares, " The times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, and he shall send Jesus Christ, whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." Acts iii. 19–21. To this a Jew stated the following objection : “We think nothing of Jesus; on the contrary we hate him; how should he do all this for us?" I replied, “ Jesus will deal with you, as Joseph formerly did with his brethren. They had betrayed and sold him ; but he manifested himself to them as their friend and benefactor, and finally as their brother. In like manner will Jesus once reveal himself to you, though now you do not love him.” They were deeply affected by this declaration.
3. Whenever I admitted that they might retain their law when they became believers in Jesus, I removed a great stumbling block out of their way. The Jews believe that Jesus could not be the Messiah, because he had altered and abolished the law, although it had been given to them by God himself. But Jesus no where taught that the law be abolished for the Jews. The heathen, on the contrary, who believed in Jesus, were not concerned in it, because it had not been given to them, and therefore they, neither, ought to be burthened with it. The primitive believers, who were all from among the Jews, have retained the law of Moses, as plainly appears from Acts xxi. 20. &c.; consequently those Jews too, who in the last days will become believers in Jesus, may keep their law, till God vouchsafes to them another revelation. A divine, Jacob Rhenfendus, by name, was also aware of this; and in his dissertation “ defictis Judacorum hacresibus,” thus expressed himself: “ As the Gentiles were not suffered to be compelled to live like Jews, and observe the ceremonial law, so the Jews, who became believers in Jesus, ought neither to be forced to act in opposition to their law.
Having given the Jews my opinion on this head, some came to me for the express purpose of making further inquiry into the subject, and one said, "You have given me a much clearer insight into the matter, and removed a great stumbling block out of my way.”
4. It is very necessary that the Jews obtain a correct idea of God's people gathered from the Gentiles, that the offence which they generally take at Christians, may cease. I testify to them, that the decline among Christians is great, as formerly in Elijah's time, among the children of Israel. But as God then knew 7000 among them, that had not bowed their knees to Baal,
30 in like nianner, there were still many in all the different Christian denominations, who adhered to the doctrine of Jesus, and endeavoured to live up to it. He, in effect, did not yet deserve the name of a Christian, who with the mouth only confessed Jesus, but with his heart was far from him."
The anthor concludes his essay in these words : “I commend the whole matter to our Lord, who loves his people of Israel moro and better than any of us. And while writing this on the 10th Sunday after Trinity, when in many parts of Christendom the text for the sermon treats of the destruction of Jerusalem, it
is my sincere wish, that the tears which Jesus wept over Jeru• salem may mollify the hearts of the children of Israel, and that
his blood, shed for them also, might soon be upon them as their eternal blessing."
The Synod expressed their sentiments on the method laid down in this essay, to the following effect : “ that they would not disapprove of the same; but still gave it as their opinion, that it was not the only one that might bc adopted. Every thing depended on the operations of the Spirit of God, to accompany a testimony concerning Jesus. The apostles even, had pursued two different methods. Paul and Apollos, who were mighty in the scriptures, had therewith confounded the Jews; others had merely testified to them what they had seen and experienced. Both methods approved themselves as the power of God, in those that had not resisted the Holy Spirit. The above method required a man well versed in the scriptures, as well as in the language, the antiquities, customs and controversies of the Jews; but that God might also make use of the testimony of a less informed witness, when once it pleases him in mercy to visit his people of Israel. That we, the members of the United Brethrens' church, ought ever to remember, that the virtuous conduct of the children of God, even with the exception of words, afforded a convincing proof of the truth of the gospel to such as had an opportunity to observe it. That we, too, were called to bear such testimony, and as a matter of course, the Jews, as heretofore,* should henceforth engage a share in our prayers and our hopes.
SPEECÈES DELIVERED AT THE SIXTEENTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE
BRITISH AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY. According to the promise made at p. 170, we commencé our extracts from
the many eloquent and edifying speeches delivered before the British and Foreign Bible Society, at their last anniversary. These we shall precede by a letter from the venerable Bishop of Durham, addressed to
The Church Litany of the United Brethren has this petition : “Have mercy upon thy ancient covenant people, the Jews." Vol. VII.