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them their laws and institutions, to preserve the memory of his name, amidst the contagion of idolatry; and to obtain for themselves political power and eminence, as the result of their obedience.
The nations among whom they were planted, respected and feared them, so long as they obeyed their law: they subdued and conquered, and led them into captivity, when they forgot their allegiance to Jehovah. The last and longest of their captivities was attended with this good effect; it extirpated the remnant of that attachment to idolatry which had caused so many sufferings. The reaction from idolatry to faith was such, that when the books of the New Testament were written, the devotion of the Jews to the ritual and ceremonial law was at its height. Idolatry was never named among them, without detestation and contempt. The strict observance even of a burthensome traditional law was added to the generally undeviating compliance with the Mosaical institutions; and the chosen people of God appeared to themselves, and to the heathen, to live in the firm profession and obedience of the most burthensome service, commanded by their inspired legislator. What was the cause, then, that at the very moment when the design of Moses seemed to have been accomplished; the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, should give his inheritance to the heathen, and the dead bodies of his servants to the fowls of the air? Why was your
land laid waste, the temple destroyed, your people scattered over the world, at that peculiar period; when your obedience to the minutest of your laws was most perfect? From the earliest ages your fathers believed, that a divine Being should come upon earth, to perform various essential benefits for mankind. This belief was supported by the predictions of the Old Testament.
The expectation of a Messiah is the foundation of the whole system. When your observance of your ritual was most exact, your expectation
of the Messiah was 'also most fervid. Yet your 'nation was afflicted by the dreadful visitation to which I have alluded: Thus your obedience and your faith were at their height, when the greatest desolation came upon you. Some proportionate cause must be assigned for this apparent mystery, and none can be found but that which is related in these books, which we, the Christians, have added to those received by yourselves, upon similar evidences of their inspiration. We receive them as the writings of your countrymen, upon the authority of the miracles which were wrought by their authors--their own internal evidence the prophecies they contain—and upon all other similar proofs which demonstrate to you the authority of the books of the Old Testament.
Here then we arrive at the question which divides the elder brother from the younger; the Jew from the Christian. In the inspired books which the Christian has appended to the sacred writings of the Jews, we read of the actions and preaching, the birth, and life, and death, of a Being, whom we assert to be the predicted Messiah. You rejected this Being, because he did not deliver you from the Roman yoke. You demand a temporal; we a spiritual deliverer. In this lies the difference between us. If a temporal Messiah is the object of the prophecies, He has not come; if a spiritual Messiah is to be expected, Jesus of Nazareth was the desire of nations.
Though I am largely digressing from our more immediate object, I entreat you to permit me to appeal to you as my fellow men on this subject. As we are immortal and accountable beings, the soul of man, which lives for ever, is of more value than the body, which must mingle with the elements--the future and eternal state is of higher consideration, than the present transitory world—and it is more probable, therefore, that the great Deliverer who was announced by a long train of prophets, and to whom the attention of mankind should be directed, would be the bestower of some inestimable benefits, which would refer to the soul, as well as the body; and to the future, as well as to the present world. Man is now, and has long been, the subject of so much misery and evil, that his deliverance from that state, and restoration to happiness in the world to come, would probably be the greatest, and the worthiest design of the Almighty.
In looking for a temporal Messiah, you anticipate a Being fit for earth alone. The Messiah whom we receive was fit for earth and for heaven. Your Messiah is a mere mortal, who must linger through his few years of feverish renown, “ pleased with this trifle still, as that before.” Our's is an immortal, who came down from an invisible world, to elevate the whole human race, and restore them to Communion with God. Your Messiah is expected to triumph, as a Cæsar or Napoleon, over the bodies of the slaughtered, amid the groans of the dying, and the tears of the widow and the orphan; our's shall mount to universal dominion by subduing the heart, and by changing the sword into the ploughshare, and banishing tears and grief for ever. Which is most glorious? Your's is compatible with the indulgence of all the lion passions of the heart; our's is only compatible with the conquest of self, with pure motives, and a holy life. Which is most worthy of an immortal—which yields most praise to God?
I shall be trespassing too much upon the time of the reader, if I permit myself to proceed further on this point.
I have not entered at great length into the various controversies which prevail among Christians. Where the subject was unavoidable, I have endeavoured to point out the principles on which both agree; and by following which, their differences would be more reconciled. This mode of proceeding generally offends both classes: but I did not wish to become a partizan. In that principal, and almost the only great controversy which divides those who unite in believing the Scriptural doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement, the question of Church government, I have expressed myself in the most decided manner. I have done so because I believe that Christianity is a system of positive institutions; and that those Christians who would represent Christ our Lord, as the Saviour of individuals only, have misapprehended the spirit of Christianity. Christ is the legislator of nations. As the Jews were a nation and a people, governed by the laws of God; so was it designed, that every nation under heaven should be bound by one law of Christian, and national polity. This object was to be effected by our Lord committing to his Church a system of authority, which is alike suited to all forms of civil government. Because the teachers of the people are in all nations the eventual arbiters of the character, the destiny, and the morality of a people; it pleased God to appoint an order of men, who should judge of the fitness or unfitness of all the teachers of the people ; and who should permit none to become Christian Ministers who had departed from the truth which Christ had revealed. To prevent ambition and pride, (the principal agitators of governments,) from disturbing the Churches, he made these men equal. The Apostles were equal among themselves, and they appointed teachers; and the Christian world never heard at that time of revolts, rebellions, or wars, among Christians. The purity of the apostolic government, was preserved among their immediate successors. The union of the Church with the civil power under Constantine, perverted episcopacy, by inducing ambition among the governors of the Churches ; and the usurpations of the Bishop of Rome, still more deeply injured the spirituality of the visible Church. The Reformation was the æra of new modes of Church government, as well as of the overthrow of the corruptions of that apostasy; and the Universal Church has been disgraced, and the world continued in evil, by the shameful and bloody divisions among Christians. These divisions still continue; but they would not have existed, if the institutions of the great Lawgiver had been observed; neither will they cease, till the great majority of Chritians shall revive among them the primitive laws of order and union. . I have not studied to discover new modes of interpretation. At the risk of being considered a compiler, I have freely taken from various works on Scripture, whatever appeared to be suited to my purpose. Though in danger of being esteemed erroneous, I have not hesitated to express a decided opinion on the controverted points I may have found it expedient to discuss. No fear lest I should be considered illiberal, or uncandid, has prevented me from condemning any opinion which is contrary to truth. No hope of pleasing has induced me for one moment to study the popular opinion; to vary my phrases, to soften my expressions, or in any way to flatter the people. While I have not studied novelty, I have not hesitated to express any new view of a subject which appeared to me desirable. I may use the expressive language of the great author of the Demonstration of the Messias, “I do not desire to live longer in this world, than whilst I am disposed both to find out the truth, and follow it (d)."
I must apologise for the period of the publication of this hook. Though some delay, arising from unavoidable circumstances, has caused me much regret, in other instances it has been willingly indulged. In contemplating the plan of the government of the world, as it is revealed to us in the Scriptures, I seemed to be surveying a more magnificent temple, erected to the glory of God, than the round unclouded sky, with the sun walking in its brightness. On every side I heard the song of angels, and of the spirits of the just made perfect. Like Adam in Paradise, I listened
(d) Bishop Kidder, Dem. of the Mess. dedication, p. 1.