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Dias' Letters.

(Continued from issue #8.)

Letter 6.

I remember having read, but in what author I cannot at present recollect, that in a controversy between a Christian and a Jew, the latter made several objections to the authority of the New Testament, to which the other, not being able to clear them up, returned this remarkable answer: "The authority or divine inspiration of the New Testament was as well grounded as that of the Old; and that there was no objection which could be made to the New Testament, which might not with equal propriety be made to the Old."

I think there cannot be a greater instance of distress, or rather despair, than when a disputant, rather than yield, is obliged to give up the very principles on which alone he can support his cause. A fine method this to convince the Jews of the authority of the New Testament, and at one stroke to silence them. But if Christians have no other arguments to establish its authority, we may declare they never will be able to work their conversion; for how can a Christian consistently call himself by that name, unless he admits the authority of the Old Testament? since, if he gives that up, must he not give up his religion at the same time also? It is of such who, notwithstanding, would be thought Christians, that an author very judiciously observes:

"If they really imagine that Christianity hath no dependence on Judaism, they deserve our tenderest compassion, as being plainly ignorant of the very elements of the religion they profess."* They must therefore admit as a postulatum, its authority; for was not the Old Testament cited by the apostles for every thing they pretended to prove? and is it not the Old Testament which they pretend is fulfilled in the New? Can persons, then, pretend to be Christians, on rational principles, without admitting the authority of the Old Testament? Can they either deny or lessen its authority? Therefore, there needs not any proof from us to Christians for the authority of the Scriptures called by them the Old Testament; to produce any, would be both labour and time lost, because they must admit its authority, or they cannot be Christians. The case of the Jews, in respect of the authority of the New Testament, is quite another thing; and this they must all know and acknowledge.

* Warburton's Divine Legation, Vol. I. B. I. Sect. 1, p. 6.

Besides, they well know the doubts which subsist concerning the books of the New Testament. The learned Doctor Beveridge says: "No one can be ignorant that some of the truly canonical books of the apostles were doubted of, in the three first centuries of Christianity."*

* Codex. Can. Vind. Edit. Elerico. p. 117.

And again, "Amongst all the more ancient writers of ecclesiastical matters, you will hardly find two that agree in the same number of canonical books."† "The writers of those times," says the famous Dodwell, "do not chequer their works with texts of the New Testament; which yet is the custom of the moderns, and was also theirs in such books as they acknowledged for Scripture; but they most frequently cite the books of the Old Testament, and would doubtless have done so by those of the New, if they had been received as canonical."‡

† Apend. Anter. Bibl. Sacr. p. 376. ‡ Dissert. 1, in Iren.

Now, from all these particulars, and what I before observed, it plainly appears, that the books of the Old Testament were the sole canon both of Jews and Christians; and that in the first ages of Christianity no other writings were accounted canonical; neither had they any other Scriptures but the Old Testament; and all the evidence which is produced to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, must be taken from there; for no other evidence can be of any validity or authority. Neither could he claim the Messiahship but from the prophecies; and, therefore, Jesus constantly refers to the evidence of the Old Testament. "In fine," says the most ingenious Mr. Collins, "Jesus and his apostles do frequently and emphatically style the books of the Old Testament 'the Scriptures,' and refer men to them as their rule and canon; but no new books are declared by them to have that character. And if Jesus and his apostles have declared no books to be canonical: I would ask who did, or could, afterwards declare or make any books canonical? If it had been deemed proper, and suited to the state of Christianity, to have given or declared a new canon, or digest of laws: it should seem most proper to have been done by Jesus or his apostles, and not left to any after them to do; but especially not left to be settled long after their times, by weak, fallible, factious, and interested men, who were disputing with one another about the genuineness of all books bearing the names of the apostles, and contending with one another about the authority of every different book."§ "Indeed, to speak properly," says the same ingenious person, "the Old Testament is yet the sole true canon of Scripture, meaning thereby a canon established by those who had a divine authority to establish a canon, and in virtue thereof, did establish a canon, as it was in the beginning of Christianity."** The Old Testament being, without dispute, the only Scripture both of Jews and Christians: from that alone are we to judge of the office and character of the Messiah; and for this purpose it will be proper to extract a few of the many prophecies concerning the Messiah, his kingdom, and the events to happen in his time, the better to compare them with what is related of Jesus in the New Testament, in which they are said to be fulfilled.

** Grounds and Reasons, p. 16, 17. § Ibid. p. 13.

  1. "In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the North to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers."—Jer. 3. 18.
  2. "Thus saith the Lord God, behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations* whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land, and will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all, and they shall no more be two nations; neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all; neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling places wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them, so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. And DAVID my servant shall be king over them, and they shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt, and, they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever; and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant, and will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them, yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people; and the nations shall know that I, the LORD, do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore."—Ezekiel 37. 21-36.
  3. * No such word in Hebrew as gentiles or heathen, as it only means nations.

  4. "And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed; neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his day Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our righteousness. Therefore, behold the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but the LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries wherein I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land."—Jer. 23. 3-8.
  5. "And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign to the people; to it shall the gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim."—Isa. 11. 10-13.
  6. "Therefore, thus saith the LORD GOD, now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous, for my holy name; after that they have borne their shame and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land and none made them afraid. When I have brought them again from the people, and gathered them out of their enemies' lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations; then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the nations: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there, neither will I hide my face any more from them, for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God."—Ezek. 39. 25-29.
  7. "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem."—Isaiah 27. 12, 13.
  8. "Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant DAVID; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant DAVID a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it. And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land, and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. And I will make them, and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in its season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them. And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beasts of the land devour them; they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid. And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more."—Ezekiel 34. 22-29.
  9. "And there shall be no more a pricking briar unto the house of Israel, nor any grieving thorn of all that are round about them that despised them; and they shall know that I am the Lord God: Thus saith the Lord God: When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses and plant vineyards; yea, they shall dwell with confidence, when I have executed judgments upon all those that despise them round about them; and they shall know that I am the Lord their God."—Ezek. 28. 24-26.
  10. "As I live, saith the Lord God, Surely with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you. And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there I will plead with you face to face. Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord God."—Ezek. 20. 33-36.
  11. "I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered, and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen."—Ezek. 20. 41, 42.
  12. "Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd doth his flock. For the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he."—Jer. 31. 10, 11.
  13. "Fear not, for I am with thee; I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will 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; even every one that is called by my name; for I have created him for my glory, I have formed, him; yea, I have made him."—Isa. 43. 5, 6, 7.

It is needless to transcribe more passages declarative of these great events of which the prophetic writings are full. From these and many other prophecies of the like nature, we may collect the office and character of the Messiah. But before we proceed, it is certainly necessary to explain the meaning of the word Messiah. משיח Messiah or Mashiach, as pronounced in Hebrew, signifies anointed, or the anointed one. It is applied to kings, priests and prophets, as they were anointed to their office. Jews, therefore, by way of eminence and emphasis, called, and continue to call, that person whom God should raise up, and make the instrument for the accomplishment of such prophecies, as particularly describe, and foretell the delivery and glory of the nation, by this name. Now, if Christians will prove that Jesus fulfilled these prophecies, they will then convert the Jews, for they require nothing else.*

* With due deference to the author, we wish to observe that only his mission as Messiah would thereby be proved, but not the character which Christians assume for him; since the one whom we expect is to be a man acting under the power and guidance of the Lord, but not a part of the divinity. Such a being is contrary to scripture and is not the Christ whom we expect.—Ed. Oc.

NOTE.—The above letter is, according to our own view, the most important of the series thus far. It states truly, that in arguing with Christians, we need not prove as a preliminary the truth of the books of the covenant, for these are emphatically as requisite to them as to us. Mr. Dias is therefore perfectly correct to step forward at once to the character of the Messiah, as laid down in Scripture. And this we think far more important than his preceding discussion concerning the authenticity of the gospels, acts and epistles; for our religion is true, not because the grounds of Christianity are not proven, but because it is a system, one and entire in itself, and was instituted by God, and sprung from Him long before the followers of the self-styled Messiah of Nazareth was in existence. The prophets speak of a Messiah, or if you prefer the word, a Christ, who is to accomplish all that has been predicted of him. Now precisely such a one and no other can be received as the fulfiller of scriptural prediction; but if he omit any of these, he is not the one whom we expect:—though he accomplish all the gospels say of him, though by his agency the blind see, the deaf hear, the sick are made whole, and the dead are called to life. Such acts are not his mission for this is the redemption of Israel and the world; and unless this have been, or be accomplished, the personage under question cannot be the King of the Jews. We therefore ask the reader's particular attention to the letter which we furnish this month, although it does not communicate so many curious details as its predecessors.—Ed. Oc.

(To be continued.)