The Jews and the Mosaic Law
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The Jews and the Mosaic Law The Jews and the Mosaic Law -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- There would have been less occasion to offer myself again to your notice, if the language I used in my late very imperfect essay had not been misconceived. The limits I had prescribed myself did not allow me sufficient room to express my meaning with all the clearness I could have desired; and I am therefore under the necessity of explaining my views more fully. Before I do this, however, permit me, my dear friend, (and I reciprocate the term with the utmost cordiality,) to express the gratification I feel that you were so well pleased with the spirit of my remarks. In return, I beg leave to offer my acknowledgements for the courtesy and kindness you have shown in replying to me. I am happy in having so generous and temperate an opponent. Indeed it was the presence of those estimable qualities in your vindication of the Jews from opprobrious and unmanly attacks, and not any predilection for controversy, that made me consent to claim your attention at all. I wish you every success in your attempts to allay the prejudice that exists against your nation; and I trust your appeal to the liberality of an enlightened people will not be in vain, so far, at least, as it may be enforced by the virtue and integrity of your lives. To this test I doubt not you will be perfectly willing to submit yourselves. In the application I intended to make of the passage from Matthew, chap. v. v.43, "Ye have heard it said, thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy," you have entirely misapprehended my object; and I am the more grieved at it, as you have manifested so much generous sensibility on the occasion. I cheerfully acknowledge that, if war is admissible, the provisions of your law tended very much to mitigate its rigors, considering the principles on which it was waged by contemporary nations.
Now, admitting the Jewish religion to be founded on the power of God, which I firmly believe, (though adapted in some of its details to the particular state of the children of Israel,) I may reasonably ask you to make the same concession in regard to our religion, in so far as it enjoins the same duties with yours. The same truths cannot be derived from sources contradictory in their nature. If any great moral duty is founded on the power of God in one instance, it must be equally so wherever it is known and acknowledged. If this concession is granted, I presume you will not withhold your assent to the following propositions: 1. That the object of true religion is to reform the heart, and cleanse it from all impurity. 2. That consequently no religion of which this is not the legitimate effect can be of any value. If, therefore, this be, in any degree, the effect of Christianity, which I have feebly endeavored to show, just so far is it entitled to respect, and no farther. (h) It is far from my intention, however, to be understood as confining the exercise of these redeeming virtues to those who profess the Christian name. In every important discussion, it is proper that a definite meaning should be attached to particular terms. This is the more indispensable on the present occasion, as you seem to have taken a very limited view of the gospel. The New Testament is not the gospel of Christ, but a written testimony in support of it. "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation." Romans i. 16. Wherever, therefore, the power of God is manifested to salvation, there is the gospel known. The apostle Paul says, moreover, that "it is preached to every creature under heaven." Col. i. 2,3. It follows of course that the law of Christ cannot be any external written law; and though many of my fellow-professors believe it to be essentially such, yet there is no evidence in the New Testament at all conclusive in support of such an opinion.
In the operations of this living reality does the Christian religion consist, according to my belief, and not in the dogmas of men, nor in their conjectures concerning external historical events. He who becomes a subject of the government of the spiritual Messiah, is introduced by him into holiness and purity, whether he call him by one name or another. For it is the thing that produces the effect; and not the name by which it is called. All the prophetic declarations of the reign of the Messiah, are predicated upon such a change in the human mind, as is above referred to; for it is impossible, in the nature of things, that righteousness should cover the earth as the waters do the sea, by any other means than the suppression of all unrighteousness. But the power which is alone able to perform these miracles of love and goodness, must be omnipresent; and, therefore, as Moses testified, it is not far from us: "it is very high thee, in thy heart and in thy mouth, that thou mayest do it." (m) In conclusion, my friend, though these are my views, I always hope to be able to extend to others who see through a different medium, that charity which I am well aware I shall need on account of my own imperfections. You say you are determined never to change your faith. It is far from my desire to make proselytes, for the name is perhaps no essential part of Christianity. It is by "doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly;" doing to others as we would they should do us; loving God above all things, and our neighbor as ourselves; that we fulfill the end for which we were created, at least during our present state of existence: and whoever does this I hope to regard him as a brother, let his name be what it may.
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