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phets.”—“Why should it be thought a thing incre. dible that God should raise the dead? Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which Moses and the prophets did say should come. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets ? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Acts xxvi.
As our Lord then professed to fulfill the law and the prophets, his religion was the religion of his ancestors improved, refined, and spiritualized ; and might well be called by the name of Judaism. With this view he considered the institutions of Moses and the language of the prophets, under the figure of a living being ; the external ordinances, or the express literal signification, as constituting the body, while the implied spiritual sense formed the soul of the Jewish scriptures. This new interpretation formed the nature and grounds of the dispute between the advocates of the Gospel and its opponents among the Jews. The latter, taking the words of Moses and the prophets in a literal sense, expected a temporal king; and, confining their attention to the letter of the law, considered it only as a system of external ordinances. But the former, overlooking the literal and primary signification, like the body or flesh, as of inferior importance, rested in the spiritual meaning as the soul, the essential part, of Moses and the prophets. Hence, while the Scribes and Pharisees degraded the religion of their fathers below its natural standard, Christ and his followers regarded it as a divine institution, addressing its exterior only to the infancy of human society, but expanding from sense to intellection with the progress of reason, till the period was ripe for the promised Messiah. In the fullness of time the Messiah came, rising like the sun with all the majesty and mildness of truth, supported by the power and illumined by the wisdom of God: he drew aside the veil of sense, the twilight of rites and symbols disappeared, and the Gospel, with life and immortality, emerged into a bright and eternal day.
3. Before the advent of Christ, the sanctions of the Jewish religion were altogether temporal, its rewards and punishments being confined to good and evil in the present life. But after the mode of interpreting it in a metaphorical sense was taught by Christ, it was a natural consequence that, as a spiritual prince was understood to be pre-signified under the symbols of a temporal prince, so the language immediately expressive of the present sensible world might be construed as holding forth an intimation, and even the assurance, of a higher and a spiritual state. It was this construction, it appears to me, more than any express prediction, that enabled our Lord to refer his adversaries to the Jewish Scriptures, as containing eternal life; (John v. 39.) and the great apostle of the Gentiles to affirm that he said “none other things than those which Moses and the prophets did say should come.”— Acts xxvi.
The doctrine of a future state, arising from the supposed immortality of the soul, prevailed not only in Judea, but in other countries. Our Saviour might have availed himself of this popular notion, as a powerful auxiliary in support of the Gospel. But though in some places he uses the common language respecting the soul, he has no where ad
duced its immortality in favour of the opinion that it survives thestroke of death. He might have considered the notion as very uncertain, or altogether erroneous; at all events, he could not but think it an improper subject of testimony; since its advocates, if they submitted to suffer in its support, would only evince the sincerity, not the truth, of their faith. Our Saviour, therefore, seems to have forbidden all discussion of this important question in the commission which he gave to his apostles ; and to have taught them to rest their own faith, and the faith of others, on the fact of his own resurrection, as a pledge, as the first fruits of the resurrection of all mankind. This fact, of which they were eye-witnesses, and in which they were deeply interested, they could not have mistaken. Now, if we examine the preaching of the apostles, we shall perceive that, though due use was made of Moses and the prophets, of the works of Christ and of the descent of the Spirit, the principal cause of the conversion of the Gentiles was the doctrine of a future state, placed on a solid foundation by the resurrection of Christ. It followed, moreover, that as the immortality of the soul was not insisted upon by Jesus and his apostles, it was naturally concluded that death was not its separation from the body, but a suspension of life in the grave; and that there could be no hope of a new life till the resurrection of the body. This conclusion might not necessarily follow; but it was natural to be drawn from the silence of the evangelical teachers on a question in which, if true, they might fairly avail themselves of the prejudice of mankind.
4. The spirit of proselytism, which prevailed among the Pharisees till the days of our Saviour,
ceased with the promulgation of the Gospel, on the part of those wicked men who opposed it: and it will appear on due reflection, morally impossible that any heathen should embrace Judaism in the sense in which it was inculcated by the adversaries of Jesus. For this assertion we have the following reasons: The supporters of ritual Judaism held forth to the acceptance of strangers a load of ceremonies which the nations despised and abhorred, and which the Jews themselves were unable to bear—a Messiah that should destroy and not save the world. This very principle involved them not only in rancorous hatred, but even in war and bloodshed, with all the surrounding nations. And who would become converts to a religion which offered only to debase and destroy those who embraced it? Besides, Judaism, as taught by the Pharisees, was altogether local: it could exist only in Judea; and so far from extending its empire over the minds of heathens, it necessarily ceased as a national religion with the cessation of the temple.
Lastly, Those among the Jews who resisted the claims of Jesus, so far from converting the Gentiles to Judaism, themselves apostatized from the law and the prophets. His miracles identified him with the attributes of Jehovah; and they could not reject him as the son of God, without referring to Beelzebub, contrary to their conviction, the divine works which the Father enabled him to do. And it is remarkable, that our Saviour, in many parts of his discourses with the Pharisees, supposes that in principle, as well as practice, they had apostatized from that great Being whom they had hitherto worshipped as the God of their fathers. Is it possible then, that men should attempt to persuade hea
thens to become Jews, when, as it appears from the New Testament and from the writings of Josephus, they had themselves plunged into the very dregs of heathenism?
When, therefore, we read in writings subsequent to the Christian æra, of Pagan converts made to Judaism, we are always to understand them as meaning that refined and spiritual Judaism which was taught by Christ and his apostles. Judaism, in this sense, had nothing to repel, and every thing to invite the notice and acceptance of the Pagan world. It offered a benign Saviour, who came not to destroy, but to save all mankind; it abolished those repugnant rites which had hitherto separated the Jews from the rest of the nations; it proclaimed peace on earth, and good-will in heaven ; the pardon of sin, and a life of eternal happiness to all without distinction, on the simple terms of repentance and reformation,