A reply to the author of a recent letter to the Bishop of Manchester.
(Wertheimer, Lea, and Co.)
Though I have not read the Bishop's sermon to the Jews, I have a few words to say in acknowledgment of your letter, sent me by yourself or some other unknown donor.
You appear throughout to forget two things, which the scriptures you own do not fail to urge: the predicted and now fulfilled ruin of the Jews as a people before their final restoration and glory; and the sovereign grace of God equally assured to the Gentiles meanwhile.
1. The law, the Psalms, and the prophets, are unmistakable that Israel were to break down as God's witness so completely that He would disown them for a season. (See Deut. 28:47-48; Deut. 28:63-64; Deut. 29:26-27; Deut. 31:16-18; 29; Deut. 32:5-6, 15-20; Ps. 43:1; Ps. 53; Ps. 68:18 (19 Heb.); Ps. 106; Ps. 118; Isaiah 1:9; 14, 15; Isa. 6:9-13; Isa. 8:14; Isa. 10:22; Isa. 65:2; Hosea 1:6-9; Hosea 3:4.) So Ezekiel shows us at the beginning the cherubim of glory gradually departing when the first Gentile power executed judgment on Israel, and at the end the return of the glory when the last Gentile empire is judged and Israel are once more and for ever blessed.
2. The same living oracles are no less explicit that divine mercy should visit and bless the Gentiles during His disowning of Israel. (See Deut. 32:21; Ps. 18:43 (44), 49 (50); Isa. 8:16-17; Isa. 9:1; Isa. 49:6; Isa. 53:14-15; Isa. 65:1; Hosea 1:10 (Hosea 2:1 Heb.)
These scriptures (save where the entire chapter is referred to) I cite from the version of Mr. Isaac Leeser, who is regarded by his brethren as a learned and conscientious Hebraist.
Deuteronomy 28:47-48; 63-64, "For the reason that thou didst not serve the LORD thy God with joyfulness and with gladness of heart while there was abundance of all things; therefore shalt thou serve thy enemies whom the LORD will send out against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of everything; and they will put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until they have destroyed thee … And it shall come to pass, that, as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good and to multiply you, so will the LORD rejoice over you to bring you to nought, and to destroy you; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. And the LORD will scatter thee among all the nations, from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; and there wilt thou serve strange gods which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone."
Deuteronomy 29:26-27, "And the anger of the, LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it the entire curse that is written in this book; and the LORD plucked them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and he cast them into another land, as it is this day."
Deuteronomy 31:16-18, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and then will this people rise up, and go astray after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be in the midst of them, and they will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. And my anger shall he kindled against them on that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be given to be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall overtake them, and they will say on that day, Is it not because my God is not in the midst of me that these evils have overtaken me? But I will assuredly hide my face on that day on account of all the evils which they have wrought, because they have turned unto other gods."
Ibid. 29, "For I know that after my death ye will to a surety become corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you, and that the evil will befall you in the latter days when ye do the evil in the eyes of the LORD, to incense him through the work of your hands."
Deuteronomy 32:5-6; 15-20, "The corruption is not his, it is the defect of his children, of the perverse and crooked generation. Will ye thus requite the LORD, O people, worthless and unwise? is he not thy father who hath bought thee? is it not he who hath made thee, and established thee? … Thus did Yeshurun grow fat, and he kicked; (thou art grown fat, thick, fleshy;) and then he forsook the God who made him, and lightly esteemed the God of his salvation. They incensed him with strange gods, with abominations they provoked him to anger. They sacrificed unto evil spirits, things that are not god, gods that they knew not, new ones lately come up, which your fathers dreaded not. Of the Rock that begat thee thou wast unmindful, and forgottest the God that had brought thee forth. And the LORD saw this, and he was angry; because of the provoking of his sons and of his daughters. And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end will be; for a perverse generation are they, children in whom there is no faith."
Psalm 43:1, "Judge me, O God! and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: from the deceitful and unjust man do thou deliver me." The godly ones confess here that not the Gentiles but the Jews are an, "ungodly nation."
Psalm 53: would have to be quoted as a whole. It speaks of the lawless enemy of God and his adherents, but this among the Jews: for what the law says, it speaks to them that are under the law, not to Gentiles.
Psalm 68:18 (19 Heb.), "Thou didst ascend on high, lead away captives, receive gifts among men, yea, even the rebellious, to dwell among them, O LORD God!'' It is beyond doubt Israel, who are here owned as "the rebellious" before the Eternal dwells among them; and this consequent on the ascension of the Lord on high to receive gifts as man and for men.
Psalm 106 is throughout a plain statement of the ruin and dispersion of Israel, though it calls for the mercy of God to save and gather them from among the nations.
Psalm 118 shows Israel not only compassed by the nations but severely chastised by Jehovah, and no deliverance or joy till the rejected Stone, the Messiah, is become the chief cornerstone.
Isaiah 1:9, 14, 15, "Unless the LORD of hosts had left unto us a remnant ever so small, like Sodom should we have been, unto Gomorrah should we have been compared. … Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are become a burden unto me: I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will withdraw myself from you; yea, when ye make ever so many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood."
Isaiah 6:9-13, "And he said, Go and say unto this people, Hear indeed but understand not; and see indeed, but know not. Obdurate will remain the heart of this people, and their eyes will be heavy, and their eyes will be shut: so that they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor their hearts be understanding, so that they be converted, and healing be granted them. And I said, How long, O Lord? And he said, Until that cities be left waste without an inhabitant, and houses without man, and the soil be made desolate as a wilderness, and the LORD will have removed far away the men, and the depopulation be great in the midst of the land. And should a tenth part thereof yet remain, it will again be swept away; (yet) like the terebinth and the oak, which, when they cast their leaves, retain their stems, so remaineth the holy seed, its stem."
Isaiah 8:14, "And he will be for a sanctuary; but also for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock to fall over unto both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem."
Isaiah 10:22, "For though thy people Israel should be as the sand of the sea, (yet) a remnant (only) of them shall return."
Isaiah 65:2, "I spread out my hands all the time unto a rebellious people, that walk in the way which is not good, after their own thoughts."
Hosea 1:6-9, "And he said unto him, Call her name Lo-ruhamah [Not finding mercy]; for I will not farther have any more mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will give them their full recompense. But upon the house of Judah will I have mercy, and I will save them through the LORD their God, and I will not save them by the bow, or by the sword, or by battle, by horses, or by horsemen. Now when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. Then said he, Call his name Lo-'ammi [Not my people]; for ye are not my people, and I will indeed not be unto you (a God)."
Hosea 3:4, "For many days shall the children of Israel abide without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without a standing image, and without an ephod and theraphim."*
* Mr. Leeser admits "that the prophet describes here exactly our present state, as it has also been for many centuries — neither altar of God nor idolatry, no consulting by the true priests nor by idols;" but he adds, "while we still adhere to the LORD, notwithstanding our sins." In this last the annotator departs from his text, which distinctly supposes a departure meanwhile from the LORD, and a return of Israel in the latter days, when He will betroth the long faithless wife to Himself for ever. Is not this the truth, rather than the flattering illusion of the modern Israelite? Their return and blessing are subsequent to their present anomalous state, and in no way begun yet.
These passages are ample proofs that God was to cut off Israel as a whole from their place of privilege as His people because of their sins; what follows will show His purpose of mercy towards the Gentiles while Israel are thus disowned for a while.
2. Deuteronomy 32:21, "They have moved me to wrath with things that are not god; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities; and I too will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a worthless nation."
Psalm 18:43 (44), 49 (50), "Thou deliverest me from the contests of the people; thou appointest me to be the head of nations; a people that I know not shall serve me. … Therefore will I give thanks unto thee among the nations, O LORD!"
Isaiah 8:16-17, "Bind up the testimony, seal up the law among my disciples. And I will wait for the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope for him."
Isaiah 9:1, "The people that walk in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death — a light shineth brightly over them.''
Isaiah 49:6, "And he said, It is too light a thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; but I will (also) appoint thee for a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach as far as the end of the earth."
Isaiah 52:14-15, "Just as many were astonished at thee, so greatly was his countenance marred more than any (other) man's, and his form more than (that of) the sons of men, — thus will he cause many nations to jump up [in astonishment]: at him will kings shut their mouth for what had not been told unto them shall they see, and what they had never heard shall they understand."
Isaiah 65:1, "I allowed myself to be sought by those that asked not; I let myself be found by those that sought me not: I said, 'Here am I, here am I,' unto a nation that called itself not by my name."
Hosea 1:10 (2:1 Heb.), "And it shall come to pass that instead that people say of them, Ye are not my people [Lo-ammi], shall they call them, The sons of the living God."
Such scriptures as speak of the nations blessed when Israel is blessed, of their trusting in the Messiah when He reigns in peace and glory over the earth, of their rejoicing with His people Israel, are not cited now, but those that reveal the call of the Gentiles when Israel are Lo-ammi and under judicial blindness for a season.
These truths shine with light brighter than the sun in God's oracles; and the plainest facts answer to them. For on the one hand you, the chosen people, are expelled by God (none else could have done it) from your land, capital, and sanctuary, the only spot where you can sacrifice acceptably; and without sacrifice you surely know that your worship is at an end, as is your polity also while your land is ruled by the stranger. On the other hand those who were the vilest slaves of idolatry and moral corruption, who knew not the true God and only dreaded demons, now rejoice in your scriptures, not to speak of those which might be viewed as their own; and, while you groan, they worship and praise God as their very God and Father, having renounced the abominations of the heathen.
How comes this marvellous change? When your nation fell into revolting and persistent idolatry, not only in the people and in the priests but in the king of David's line, God justly indignant as He was swept you away into idol-loving Babylon for no more than seventy years. What sin is so much worse as to account for your actual dispersion during the last 1800 years? Do you not even suspect? What but rejection of your own Messiah, Emmanuel? The greatest of your prophets lays precisely these two counts of indictment against you: first, idolatry (Isa. 40 — Isa. 48); secondly, rejection of the Messiah. (Isa. 49 — Isa. 57) All is not exhausted yet; but it is obduracy itself to evade such a conviction of your sins. Yea, blinded by proud unbelief, you smote the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek — Him that was to be born in Bethlehem, yet to be ruler in Israel; and no wonder, for His goings forth were from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:1-3); and therefore has He given you up till the birth of God's final purpose of mercy and blessing for Israel. For the day comes, when they will repent and bow before the true Joseph who will then make Himself known to His brethren — that same Joseph, who even now sustains His guilty brethren, the sons of Israel, ignorant of Him yet famishing without Him who is exalted among the Gentiles, and there has a bride, His church. I am as sure as you that this Man, whom Jehovah owns as His Fellow (Zech. 13:7) and whom you are yet to own as the Jehovah that you pierced (Zech. 12:10),* will be the peace, and will fight against your foes as in the day of battle, King over all the earth. In that day shall Israel be blessed and exalted, and the Gentiles bow, and their kings minister to Zion, and your sun no more go down nor your moon withdraw itself.
* I am aware that certain Jews argue that "whom they have pierced" cannot be in apposition with "to me," because the next clause is, "they will lament for him," not me. But such a change of persons is not uncommon in scripture. See the very next chapter of Zechariah (Zech. 14:5): "And then will come the LORD my God, and all the saints with thee," not with Him. Here indeed nearly 40 MSS and the versions generally read "with him," some even changing the text further into "His holy ones," while certain of the Rabbis, etc., have tried to escape the truth by referring [this?] to Jerusalem. But in such cases, if anywhere, the critical maxim holds true: proclivi lectioni praestat ardua. There was obvious motive to tamper with the difficulty, none to favour it. In Zechariah 12:10 there can be no antecedent according to Hebrew idiom, but yachid. To escape this Kimchi interprets the connected words "because they pierced," leaving it open who was; but this is as opposed to legitimate grammar as Mr. Leeser's, interpolation of "every one." Its object is everywhere else expressed. It is well known that the Jews, who could not accept Kimchi's solution, changed the reading [ … ] , first giving it as the Kerl, afterwards introducing it into the text! But even the keenest of their controversialists (Abarbanel, Lipmann, etc.) either omit the fact or disown the daring innovation.
You cannot suppose then that I deny, enfeeble, or envy Israel's future glory on the earth under Messiah and the new covenant. How can one who looks, as every Christian ought, to be glorified in heaven with Christ? I have no sympathy with the conceit of Christendom which arrogates your blessings, as if you had lost your place and the Gentiles had gained it for ever. The Bishop of Manchester might be as slow to believe that Christendom is speedily to be judged for its apostasy, as you are that Israel suffer for theirs. The mass in Christendom now are no better than the mass of the Jews when Nebuchadnezzar or even Titus destroyed Jerusalem. But I see, in the scriptures we both acknowledge as divine, that your most fiery trial immediately precedes the deliverance of such Jews as are written in the book. (Dan. 12:1) You are destined to receive as "the king" in Palestine the basest of impostors (Dan. 11:36-39); and the last empire of the Gentiles, the fourth Roman beast of Daniel 7, will play its most guilty part in it, when it revives (as it will soon) for God's final judgment. You both refused the true Christ; you are both to receive the Antichrist, when the Lord of glory will appear to the perdition of the beast and the false prophet and all their adherents, but to the deliverance of such Jews and Gentiles as will have been kept from this audacious blasphemy and lawlessness.
It is a ruinous oversight of your own scriptures and of your history to say that God's anger "is appeased." Heavier punishment is yet in store for the Jew for his unbelief. And what evidence can be imagined lower than yours for pretending to God's favour as a people? "The gift of genius," talents, learning, distinction, and, "last not least! the abundance of their wealth and prosperity!!!" And the Jew flatters himself that "these are stubborn facts that outweigh a thousand quotations!" So naturally does slight of their own scriptures follow slight of their own Messiah, with the loss of their place and nation, yea also of eternal blessedness: for if He sits at Jehovah's right hand, the true Melchizedek, what will it be for His enemies when He strikes in the day of His wrath? (Compare Psalms 45:3-6, Ps. 110) His glory measures His judgments, and they are guiltiest who having the word of God fail to read and understand it aright.
Have you not forgotten the words of Moses in whom you trust? He does declare in Deuteronomy 28 the principles of the divine government of Israel; but the sum of all is the blessing of Jehovah in the land which He gives them, according to His oath to the fathers. But in this same chapter He warns Israel with yet greater detail and solemnity, that, if they should not hearken to His voice, Jehovah should send on them curses to consume Israel from off the land and to pursue them elsewhere, so that they should become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all nations. In Deuteronomy 29 He presents all nations asking why Jehovah had so desolated the holy land, and wherefore the heat of so great anger; and the answer is, Because Israel forsook the covenant of Jehovah for false gods, and so the curse fell, and they were rooted out of their land in great indignation. Further in Deuteronomy 30 Moses declares that, when Israel come to repentance among the nations whither they are driven, and return to Jehovah their God, and obey His voice, then will He return their captivity and in His compassion gather them back and bring them into the land, and not only bless and multiply them there but put all the curses on their enemies and persecutors.
It appears to me clear that you have read your law to but little purpose. Weigh Leviticus 26, its warnings, threats, and assurance of mercy when your uncircumcised hearts are humbled. Does God fail to keep His word? or is it not rather you who have not yet truly confessed your iniquity and accepted its punishment? When Israel's hearts are humbled, God declares He will remember His covenant and the land. Has He done so yet? If not, why not? Do you not see, then, in all this and much more, the plainest proof that you are still altogether impenitent, and with this brand of unblessed outcasts on your brow? Are you not glorying in your shame just like the Gentiles which knew not God, who like you boasted (and some of them with no less reason than you for more than two thousand years) of their arts in peace and war, their prowess, skill, learning, and letters?
Are you not, on the contrary, the merest moneychangers of the Gentiles, a people without a country, without a king or even a prince; and, what is the most awful of all, though no longer zealots of a false religion, without the true, and this the unquestionable sentence of your own holy prophet? O that you might ponder the words with which Hosea concludes his prediction of your present misery, "after that will the children of Israel return and seek for the LORD their God and David their king, and fearing will they hasten to the LORD and to His goodness in the latter days?" Alas! you are as yet far from seeking Jehovah, or the king Messiah: else would you be blessed and a blessing under His reign in your own land. Does He not say? "I am as a lion unto Ephraim, and as a young lion to the house of Judah; I, even I, myself will tear in pieces and go away; I will bear away, and none shall deliver him. I will go (from here and) return to my place, till they acknowledge their guilt, and seek my presence; in their affliction will they seek for me." (Hosea 5:14-15)
How can you then venture to affirm that you have a single mark of divine favour according to the law and the prophets? Is it not because you are not only guilty exiles by the fiat of Jehovah, but dead even to your wretchedness and degradation? So, under the symbol of the valley of dry bones, another of your holy men of old declared Israel were to be, as they beyond a doubt are, and have long been, dead and buried, till they hear the word of Jehovah, and live by His gracious power. Then shall they be saved out of all their dwelling-places wherein they have sinned, and brought into the land of Israel, where Judah and Joseph shall once more be one in Jehovah's hand, and one king reign over them all, and they cleansed from all their idols and detestable things and transgressions, shall be Jehovah's people, and He their God. If you dare not say that Israel are thus dwelling in their land under the everlasting covenant of peace, at least have done with the vainglory you have learnt from the heathen, and confess that you are still suffering the just punishment of your obdurate heart. You own your sins in general doubtless, but not the great transgression, your past idolatries, but not the blood-guiltiness which rests on you till it be confessed in His presence: else surely He who is good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy to all that call on Him, were even now opening your graves, and bringing you into the land of Israel to plant and bless you there for ever. Ezekiel 37.
The Holy One of Israel, whom your fathers (by the hand of lawless men) nailed to a cross and slew, Himself prayed, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And therein is accomplished the type of the fourth book of the law; where the unwitting manslayer finds refuge with such servants of God as have no inheritance they call their own on earth (earthly-minded Christendom being the persecutor of the Jews), but abides outside the land of his possession until the death of the high priest who has been anointed with the holy oil. So with the Jews, who in their ignorance killed the Messiah, and remain kept from the avenger of blood but outside the land of promise, till Christ closes the priesthood He is now carrying on in the heavens for those who believe during the exile and Lo-ammi state of the Jew. See Numbers 35.
Of course the controversialists of Judaism seek to evade such a scripture as Isaiah 53. Instead of reading in it the future confession by Israel of their past sin in rejecting their Messiah, they try to apply it either to Jeremiah, or to the prophets as a body, or to king Josiah, or to Israel as a people. But even the rationalistic Gesenius and De Wette could not deny that expiation runs through the chapter, as it does through the Jewish system in scripture from beginning to end. Again, though the sorrows of Jeremiah may to some extent agree with the Holy Victim that Isaiah portrays, not so will either their vicarious character, or still less the glorious consummation which will be their result when kings shut their mouths before His exaltation. Applied to Messiah, humbled and suffering, but returning to reign in glory, all is plain. Certainly those who would drag Jeremiah or the prophets into the chapter are not entitled to rebuke others for neglect of the context: not a clause consists with either idea. Abarbanel's thought of Josiah is no less unfounded than that of Saadiah Gaon, who would have Jeremiah. But what shall we say of R. Isaac's, in the Chizzuk Amunah? He, with Rashi, Aben Ezra, and D. Kimchi, conceives Israel to be here. Nor do I deny that Jews do appear, but wholly distinct from the One who suffers for their sins.
It is not the Gentiles* but the Jews who say, "Who would have believed our report? … Our pains he carried while we indeed esteemed him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. Yet he was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and through his bruises was healing granted to us." It is Israel who thus speak, when repentant confessing their past unbelief. They had regarded Him as an utter aversion to God, when in truth He was making atonement for their transgressions. It is not only the language and the context, but the whole scope of the prophecy, that fix its real point to be Messiah, first bearing the sin of many, then dividing the spoil with the strong, when He is exalted and extolled and placed very high. And so Jonathan ben Uzziel interpreted in the Targum, and "the wise men of blessed memory," as Abarbanel tells us, in many of their Medrashes; so the book of Zohar (comment on Exod. fol. 95, col. 3), and even the Talmud Babyl. (in Sanhed. Perek Chelek, fol. 98, col. 2), and the Yalkat Shimoni on the passage. But the most remarkable of all perhaps is the fact that in the public prayers of the synagogue, both at the Passover and on the day of atonement, even the Jews of our day "allude to Isaiah 52 and Isaiah 53 as applying to Messiah, though the translator has tried to weaken the last of them by trying to bring in Josiah in defiance of the context.
* Dr. Phillipson strives hard to get rid of the truth here; as if Isaiah were declaring the present degradation of Israel to be necessary for the accomplishment of their mission, and their sufferings as borne by Israel to be the means of happiness for the nations! Is it possible that men who fear God, and tremble at His word, can fail to see that this would neutralize His solemn condemnation of Israel as guilty without excuse, and the moral glory of the Messiah as their only Saviour? Alas! those whom the prophet is here convicting of being doubly "wicked" wish to deprive of His praise Him who had done no violence, and in whose mouth was no deceit, the spotless, suffering, uncomplaining Lamb, on whom, Jehovah declares, the plague was laid "for the transgressions of my people." Who is He then? and who are "My people?" Surely not the same, but in the most marked contrast — Israel once unbelieving, now confessing; and one who was bearing their guilt, but is afterwards their highest glory and that of all the earth. Can any interpretation be more certain than this? Can perversion be more evident than that which is current among the Jews of our day? Let them weigh the section before God for their own souls. It is the old snare of every heart, Jewish or Gentile alike, the pretension to stand for oneself, instead of finding one's only safety in Messiah and His atonement of sins.
It is vain for you or any other to retreat from the testimony of God's word (and I have cited only what you must and do own) into questions of translation or interpretation — the constant resource of unbelief, of Rabbis on the one hand, and of papists as well as rationalists on the other. Any respectable version of your own is quite enough to convict you of defying God's warnings, as you now despise the lesson of your own disconsolate condition — not only without a king and a prince, but without a sacrifice, without an image or statue, and without an ephod and teraphim. The prophet supposes, that you are no longer worshipping a false God; but he unquestionably predicts Israel's abiding many days in this strangely abnormal state without the true God or His ordinances. Has it no adequate moral cause? Did God so cast off and punish His people (now Lo-ammi) without some sin far more flagrant than their far less punished idolatry of old? What was the sin? What does Daniel intimate in Dan. 9:26-27? You may speak of "solace and rules of conduct for this life as well as assurance and hope for the life hereafter." But if you have not hearkened to the Prophet from among the Jews like unto Moses, who was to speak all that Jehovah should command Him, Jehovah declares that He will require it of you. Your own Pentateuch thus demands that you should hearken under the penalty of divine judgment; and now that the judgment is on you, we entreat you to pause and consider. Even before God gave you up, when you were in the land under your own anointed king you were ever disposed to be refractory, disobedient, and idolatrous. What have you done worse? Will boasting of your "ancient and glorious religion" mend matters? So did they who perished under the avenging Roman.
Pardon me if I think that you talk with levity of the Messiah even in your sense, when you argue that, whether He has come or is yet to come, "it does not, in the slightest degree, affect the eternal truths of our religion.'' It would have been truer to have said that the eternal truth of God was independent of that law of Moses which was unknown even to your fathers who received the promises — promises only to be fulfilled when you repent, among your other sins, of that for which God drove out Ephraim from the land and some time after also drove out Judah, and worst of all of that for which He dispersed the remnant that returned from Babylon.
I grieve for you who can thus speak of such deadly unbelief. This did not Abraham. Before the writings of Moses or the law, he waited for Messiah. So did Abel, and Enoch, and Noah. All their hopes turned, on the Seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent's head, though the serpent should wound His heel. The common object of faith for all the godly before the law was not Judaism, but the coming Messiah. He was the centre of the promises and, I admit, of blessings for the elect people, Abram's seed, and in their land; but deeper than and above all He is the Seed in whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. Did you ever notice Jehovah swearing thus, after Abraham's only son had been under the sentence of death as a burnt-offering till the third day when he was raised up as it were from the dead by God's intervention? After the figure of death and resurrection the blessing to all the nations was then solemnly proclaimed. (Gen. 22)
That the Messiah is Son of God (Ps. 2) and Son of man exalted over all things (Ps. 8), that He is a divine person yet born of the virgin, God with us (Isa. 7, 8, 9), is certain. Hence it can be nothing secondary but vital to own Him thus come, as every Christian believes, including multitudes of your brethren since in every age. Further, a Messiah, suffering for sin and bringing in righteousness, gives the only worthy sense to sacrifice and offering, to brazen and golden altar, to Levite and priest. Not a rite but proclaims the sinner's need or the provision of grace in the Saviour. Not a glory but is a reflection of the Anointed who is dead, risen, and ascended to heaven. God come down to man, and man gone up to God, both united in His person, who is owned in His humiliation as the equal of Jehovah (Zech. 13), and who, when reigning as God on His throne, owns man as His companion. (Ps. 45) Do you not understand here that, if it be wicked to go after a strange god, it is yet worse to insult the true God when He deigned in love to become man and to die in order to save righteously and for ever those who believe? Do you doubt the justice of this? I reply that it is a question not of man's righteousness but of God's. Now if one man by sin ruined mankind, as the first book of Moses shows, is it not worthy of God that another man, His Son, should save all that believe in Him? His suffering for sins had made it a righteous thing for God thus to justify, to be a just God and a Saviour.
I bless God for every word of His that is revealed, from Genesis to Malachi, to speak now of nothing more; but I affirm that not one distinctive good in Christianity is derived from or is to be found in Judaism. Do not the holy and the inspired writers you own, and the tradition of Judaism reject a suffering Saviour, God and man in one person? Not faith but unbelief denies that the infinite sacrifice of the true atonement-day is already offered and accepted of God and efficacious for ever for those who believe on Him and rest on it. We have a great high-priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God: is this no good, or is it found in Judaism? We have an altar, which is so far from being derived from Judaism that contrariwise they have no right to eat of it who serve the tabernacle. So too by the Holy Spirit we were sealed after we believed the gospel, and in no way did Judaism give it us. Our relationships, with God as our Father, with Christ as our Head, what have they to do with Judaism? They are founded entirely on the Messiah, whom Judaism refused and crucified, as now raised up by God and glorified in heaven, which is our characteristic place of blessing as truly as Canaan was and will be for Israel.
If indeed you were sinless, one could understand the vaunt, "Judaism is all sufficient for us." But a Jew shows less conscience than the heathen if he conceives that he can have remission of sins without blood of a sacrifice acceptable to God. You know that you have no such sacrifice; you ought to know then that dying in your sins without blood upon the altar, you are lost. The third book of Moses declares that it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul. (Lev. 17:11) Is not this a truth of your religion? Is it eternal or temporary? If temporary, why do you boast of that which is so transient? If eternal, where and how do you stand before God and His word which you own to your own condemnation? If you disown this cardinal truth of the law, what can save you? Without atoning blood, you are more miserable and more guilty than the most benighted of the Gentiles. Alas! rationalism possesses the Jew even more than Christendom.
It is a mistake however that the failure of Christendom arises from forsaking Judaism for distinctive principles of its own. As the apostasy of the Jews was by their abandoning Jehovah and His law for Gentilism and its idols, so of Christendom by judaising. Christianity stands by faith of Christ dead, risen, and glorified in heaven, and the possession of the Holy Ghost now on earth thereby. But Christians soon grew weary of the cross here and glory in heaven with Christ. They preferred that place of earthly glory and power with the law as their rule which God had given to Israel; and so seeking they were ruined. It was salt that had lost its savour. I go farther than you, believing that, when Jehovah my God comes and all the saints with Him (Zech. 14), He will judge guilty Christendom no less than Judaism. This is more serious than perishing by its own dissensions or any other human cause.
Judaism then is insufficient to supply even the first need of a soul awakened to feel the burden of its sins. The Jew must either stifle his conscience by denying that he has sins, or abandon the law of Jehovah by pretending to an atonement for his soul without blood. Thus the modern Jew really gives up the hopes and promises of his forefathers. He looks for no daysman, he trusts in no kinsman-redeemer, he requires no intercession, but, like any other unbeliever, he pretends to have direct access to God Himself. And no wonder; for they have refused in unbelief their own Messiah, who, though God over all blessed for ever, came in flesh to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. How then can you any longer say that yours was the religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Moses, Elijah, and Daniel? (p. 8) You say, "Regard with religious awe our preservation and the preservation of our religion! Seek not to disturb it! Honour the religion of the Jew, if only because it was the religion of Jesus, whom you claim as the Founder of your religion." But as well might one be told to regard with religious awe Lot's wife when she became a pillar of salt. Doubtless the Messiah was born of the virgin, and of David's house; but how can one honour the religion of those who all cried, "Not this man, but Barabbas." … "We have no king but Caesar"? The truth is that the law for sinful man is but a cavern, however magnificent, of darkness and death till Messiah (in hope or actual accomplishment) bring in light and life: then only is all lit up with a brightness which bespeaks itself divine.
You do not well to be angry if those who enjoy eternal life and peace in believing desire the same for others who are either insensible to their misery, or intensely sad, as I trust some of Israel are in their present desolation under the evident judgment of God. I admit that Jews might try to spread their Judaism or Gentiles their heathenism, and that Christians ought to compassionate efforts so futile for those who have faith. It is however no question of any right of ours, but of His authority who commanded His servants to preach the good news to every creature. It is one of the many points of contrast between the law and the gospel.
Nor are you justified in drawing from God's unchanging character that the Jew must remain what He was. Notwithstanding I myself believe there never has been a moment since God's call of Abraham that He had not in that line one or more faithful to His name. When the Messiah came and went out of the Jewish fold, the Jewish sheep followed; and so there has been an elect remnant of Jews outside Judaism ever since, without speaking of the Gentiles. I believe too that the day is coming fast when all of that people who refuse the true Christ will fall under Antichrist or otherwise perish for rebellion against Jehovah, and that then the nation all righteous, owning the despised Nazarene as their Messiah, yea their Lord and their God, shall be a blessing to all the families in the earth. But that day is not yet come; and whoever lives and dies hearing of the Lord Jesus Christ now but rejecting Him perishes for ever. What could the most decided Jew think of the Christian's charity who yet forbears to speak of the only One who, as he believes, can save Jew or Gentile? It would be far more reasonable to doubt the charity and indeed the faith of him who could be silent when man's salvation and God's glory are at stake. It is all well to instruct and exhort and correct fellow-Christians, but this does not absolve from the duty of proclaiming the Lord and Saviour. Neither the law nor the constancy of the Jew can save his soul, nor that "boundless charity" which he proposes to the Christian's emulation — a charity which, I must say, is clean opposed to the principles and precepts of the Talmud, and which you must know, if you fairly traced it, to be directly and emphatically the spirit of the Gospel, though the synagogue tried to get the credit of it. But, leaving this, what is the Christian to do who is sure that the Jew is perishing for ever for the want of that Saviour whom God has given in their rejected Messiah? It is evidently a question of faith and love; and he who has them not can be necessarily no judge of the matter.
Yours, W. K.
G. Morrish 24, Warwick Lane, Paternoster Row, London.