« PreviousContinue »
ner, could not have been divinely inspired; but, as I said, that they could not have had even common sense. The way will then be perfectly open for all that remains, and he may make an easy transition to Atheism, Deism, or what he pleases.
BIRMINGHAM, February 25, 1790.
THE REV. DR. PRIESTLEY,
BY THE LATE
REV. JOHN FLETCHER.
Doctor Priestley is mistaken, when he asserts that the
Prophets always spoke of the Messiah as of a mere man like themselves, and that the Jews never expected that the Messiah could be more than a man. In opposition to this error, this letter proves, that our first parents expected a divine Alessiah, and that the Divine Person who appeared to the Patriarchs and to Moses, was Jehovah the Son, or Christ in his preexistent state.
You might have given us, at least, twenty lines of plain, upcontroverted truth in the beginning of your History ; but regardless of so decent a cautiou, you stun us at once by a glaring, anti-christian paradox. In the sixteenth line of your huge work, (for we need not go by pages to reckon up your errors, (speaking of the thoughts which the Jews entertained of the Messiah, you say, “ None of their Prophets gave them an idea of any other than a man like themselves in that illustrious character, and no other did they ever expect.”
* See the first Letter in the first part.
Now, Sir, in opposition to this strange assertion, I shall shew you, not only that the Prophets gave the Jews an idea of a Divine person to appear in the character of the Messiah, and that accordingly they ex. pected such an one ; but that even our first parents must have formed a much higher notion of that · Seed of the woman which was to bruise the serpent's head,' than that of “ a mere man like themselves.” In proof of this, I shall not produce the expression of Eve upon the birth of Cain, whom, it is highly probable, she thought to be that seed, though according to the Hebrew it is, 'I have gotten the man, the Jehovah.' But I shall go upon surer grounds than any particular expression can afford. I shall argue from facts and from the reason of the case. However unwilling you may be to allow it, it is nevertheless, as we have already seen in the former part of this work, an unquestionable truth that the Logos, the Word, who was in the beginning with God and was God,' was the immediate Maker of our first parents, of that beautiful world in which he placed them, and of all the creatures over which he set them, nay, and of all things visible and invisible. Now can we suppose that Adam, who, as he came out of the hands of his Maker, had such knowledge, that at first sight he gave names to all the creatures as they passed in review before him, and vames perfectly descriptive of their natures ; can suppose, (I say,) that he did not know who was his Creator, and the Creator of all these creatures he had named ? Certainly we cannot. But if he knew who was his Creator, he could hardly be ignorant who would be his Redeemer. For, considering the holy and happy state he and his partner had been in before their fall, the serenity of their minds, the vigour of their bodies, and the beauty and fertility of the blissful
spot where their bounteous Lord had placed them ; and considering the sad change that had vow taken place, the dreadful ruin they had brought on themselves and their posterity by their transgression ; considering their crime itself, with its awful retinue, shame, the curse, sorrow, toil, death, and corruption; it was reasonable, surely, to think, that the repairer of the breach, the restorer of a ruined world, would be that Divine Person, by whom it was created. Thus, when we see an exquisite piece of mechanism capitally injured in all its parts, we reasonably conclude, that none can completely mend it but the maker, or an artist who equals him in skill.
Nor was it unreasonable for our first parents to think, that their Redeemer would be he, whom St. Paul calls 'the Lord from heaven :' For, he who made and married them, who gave them the garden of Eden, and warned them not to eat of the forbidden fruit; be, who came to them 'walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and from whose preseuce they hid themselves, when they heard his voice;' he, who, after he had couvicted them, and had passed sentence of death upon them, so kindly saved them from despair, by the unexpected promise of a deliverer ; he, who already carried his merciful condescension so far as to strip them of their • fig leaves, to make them coats of skin,' and to clothe them with needful and decent apparel ;-he might, in some future period, condescend to unite himself, some way or other, to the woman's seed, and become the destroyer of death and the serpent.
The reasonableness of this hope is evident, if he taught our first parents (as it is highly probable he did) to offer in sacrifice the beasts,' of whose skins he made them coats,' and thus already shewed himself
our passover, the Lamb of God, typically slain from the foundation of the world. Nor can we more reasonably account for the original notion and the unirersal custom of expiatory and propitiatory sacriices, thau by the supposition, that mankind were led
to this part of divine worship by a peculiar revelation, or by a positive command of that, Divine Person, who familiarly conversed with Adam, and who is called God or Lord God, twenty-six times, in the second and third chapters of Genesis.
The same scriptures, which inform us, that ' No man hath seen God [the Father) at any time, but that the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared him,' (John i. 18,) teach us nevertheless, that God appeared to several of the Patriarchs, and sometimes even in a human shape. Hence it follows, that we must either reject St. John's declaration above quoted, or admit, that he who thus appeared, is the Son, the Logos, who was in the beginning with God, and was God.'
The truth of this conclusion will appear more clearly, if we take a view of the design and circumstances of these ancient manifestations, these preparatory, and transient incarnations (if I may so call them) of the Word, who in a fixed period was to be really and last. ingly manifested in the flesh.
Whether we consider his expostulating with Cain, about the murder of Abel ; his trying and coudemning that murderer, as he had done Adam, and his ' setting a mark upon' the guilty vagabond, lest any finding him should kill him ;' or whether we take notice of the manner in which he directed Noah to build his ark, made him enter into it, shut him in, saved him and his family from the flood, and then 'speaking unto him, said, Go forth out of the ark,' &c.—Whether we advert to the friendly manner in which he appeared to, and conversed with Abraham, in his various stations and journies ; or, whether we attend to the familiarity with which, accompanied by two of his angels, he came to that Patriarch in a human shape, condescended to eat with that friend of God, as he ate with Simon, and was worshipped and invoked by him, as the “ Judge of all the earth,' who claimed the absolute right of sparing Lot, and destroying Sodom, as he had spared Noah, and destroyed the whole world by water ; aud