Page images

ment? If David knew of only one person in one God, what ideas could he have had of that Messiah respecting whom be was inspired to write, “ The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” “ Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.” “ Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.*** And what were the views of Isaiah respecting the Personage of whom he was speaking, when he said, “Unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given ; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.” “Prepare ye the way of Jehovah; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.+ And how must Jeremiah have viewed the subject, while uttering predictions like the following, "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment in the earth. In his days, Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is the name whereby he shall be called, JEHOvah our RighTEOUSNESS."1 And what could Zechariah think of the sentiment he was uttering, while representing the great Jehovah as saying, “ They weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver ; a goodly price that I was prized at of them.” “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced.”

And if the pious in Israel had no thought of more than one person in the Godhead, what idea could they form of that mysterious One, so often introduced in their sacred books under the appellation of the Angel of Jehovah? After an extended and thorough investigation, Dr. J. P. Smith sums up the account given of this Angel in the Old Testament, in the following words: “He claims an uncontrolled sovereignty over the affairs of men. He has the attributes of Omniscience and Omnipresence. He useth the awful formula by which the Deity, on various occasions, condescended to confirm the faith of those to whom the primitive revelations were given; he sweareth by himself. He is the gracious Protector and Saviour ; the Redeemer from evil; the Intercessor; and the Author of the most desirable blessings. His favor is to be sought with the deepest solicitude, as that which is of the highest importance to the interests of men. He is the object of religious invocation. He

* Ps. cx. 1. xlv. 6. ii. 12. + Is. ix. 6. xl. 3. | Jer. xxiii. 5, 6. xxxiii. 15, 16. Ś Zecb. xi 13. xii. 10.

[ocr errors]

is in the most express manner, and repeatedly, declared to be Jehovah, God, the ineffable I am. Yet this mysterious person is represented as distinct from God, and acting (as the term angel imports) under a Divine mission.”

a It may be important to consider, for a moment, the opinion of those Jews who were cotemporary with Christ, relative to their expected Messiah. And it is evident, in the first place, that they expected the Messiah to be the Son of God. Indeed, the words, Son of God, and Messiah or Christ, seem to have been regarded by them as of the same import, “ The high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God." 66 We believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Martha said unto him, “I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.“These things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”+ It is manifest from these passages,

that the words Christ and Son of God were regarded by the cotemporaries of our Lord, both enemies and friends, as of the same general import. They were regarded as synoymous expressions. The Jews expected that the Messiah promised to their fathers, whenever he should appear in the world, would be the Son of God.

But we are sure, in the second place, that the Jews, in the days of the Saviour, regarded the phrase, Son of God, as importing Divinity. « The Jews therefore sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father,(and, of course, that he was God's Son, “making himself equal with God." On another occasion, when Jesus had spoken of himself as the Son of God, the Jews took up stones to stone him, saying, "For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy, because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.I-It is thus evident that the Jews, in the time of Christ, expected their Messiah to be the Son of God; and that they understood the phrase, Son of God, as importing Divinity-as importing, in some sense, equality with God.

But we have other means of knowing the opinion of the Jews, near the time of the Saviour, relative to the important subject before us.

Philo was a learned Jew of Alexandria, of a sacerdotal family, who was born a little before Christ, and who lived several

[ocr errors]

Smith's Scripture Testimony, Vol. i. p. 490. + Mat. xxvi. 63. John vi. 69, xi. 27, and xx. 31. $ John v. 18. *. 33,

years after his death. In all his references to the expected Messiah, he applies to him the appellation of Logos or Word; and although his conceptions are confused and sometimes contradictory, yet he manifestly speaks of this mysterious Personage as partaking of Divinity. “According to him," says Professor Norton in his late work against the Trinity, “the Logos, considered as a person, is a god.p. 235. Dr. Smith thus concludes his full and very satisfactory examination of Philo: “To this object,” (the Logos) “ he gives the epithets of the Son of God; the first begotten Son; the eldest Son; the Divine Word; the eternal Word; the Offspring of God, as a stream from a fountain ; the Beginning ; ihe Shadow of God; the Image of God; the eternal Image; the Inspector of Israel; the Interpretor of God; a second God, &c. This Word is de scribed as presiding over all things; superior to the whole universe; the eldest of all objects that the mind can perceive ; next to the Self-Existent. To this Word are ascribed intelligence, design, and active powers; and he is declared to have been the Instrument of the Deity in the creation, disposition and government of the universe.'* Such were the conceptions of a learned Alexandrian Jew, a cotemporary of Christ, in regard to the Messiah promised in the Old Testamert.

The Book Zohar is attributed to Rabbi Simeon, the son of Jochai, who lived before the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. That distinguished scholar Sehættgenius devoted much time to the study of this book, and has made important use of it, 'for illustrating the New Testament, in his Hore Hebraicæ et Talmudice. The following is part of the summary drawn up by this learned author : “ With respect to the names of the Messiah, he is expressly called in the Book Zohar by the incommunicable name Jehovah ; the Angel of God; the Shekinah, or Divine Glory; the Mediator ; Michael the Archangel ; the Angel of the Covenant; the Word of the Lord ; God, the holy and blessed; the Image of God; the Brightness of his Glory; the Lord of hosts; the Son of God; the faithful Shepherd; the Lord of the ministering Angels; the Angel Redeemer,” &c.t

Justin Martyr, speaking of the Jews in his time, a few years after the death of the Apostles, says, “ They profess to expect that the Messiah is yet to come, and that he will possess a kingdom, and that he will be God, THE OBJECT OF WORSHIP."I

• Scripture Testimony, rol. i. p. 594.

. + Horce Heb. 'Taimud. Tom. ii. pp. 911-913.

Dial. cum Tryph. p. 209.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Celsus, the first and ablest literary opponent of the Christian religion, flourished within seventy or eighty years of the Apostles. He writes as a Jew, and "reproaches the Christians with absurdity and folly, for imagining that such a mean and contemned person as Jesus could be the PURE and Holy WORD, THE SON OF God. He declares the belief of the Jews that the Word was the Son of God, though they reject the claims of Jesus to that honor.”

Even Gesenius, in his Commentary on Isaiah, admits that the Jews, near the time of Christ, were expecting their Messiah to be the “incarnate Jehovah.“This splendid conception," he thinks, " had its origin near the time of Jesus Christ, after the hope of a Messiah had been so long the object of tantalizing disappointment, but yet was raised continually higher and higher."

We have dwelt the longer on this point, because it is often said, as in the Tract before us, that the Jews were always Unitarians; and that " at the time of the introduction of the gospel,” the doctrines of the Trinity and of the Divinity of Christ

were wholly unknown to any human being.” Consequently it is insisted, that these doctrines, if revealed at all in the New Testament, should be revealed most explicitly and abundantly, and that the revelation of them might be expected to strike the minds of Jews with great astonishment. What astonishment,' it is said, 'must the disciples have felt, when it was first announced to them that their Master was a Diviue per

[ocr errors]

son !

But all such declamation is the result of ignorance as to the real opinions of the ancient Jews, or of something worse.

We have seen that the Messiah promised in the Old Testament was to be a Divine person; and that Philo, and the ancient Rabbins, and the Jews at the time of Christ, regarded their expected Messiah in this light. He would be the Son of God, and of course must be, in some sense equal with God." John v. 18. It was on this account, undoubtedly, that our Saviour, in the earlier part of his ministry, avoided making a frequent and

open declaration of his Messiahship. He knew that such a declaration would expose him to the charge of blasphemy, and that the Jews would think themselves under obligations to stone him.

That the modern Jews, like the Mahometans, are Unitarians, we do not deny ; but that the Jews in the time of Christ, and before, were Unitarians—that they were ignorant of the

• See Smith's Scripture Testimony, Vol. iii. p. 564.


Divinity of their expected Messiah, we shall by no means admit. The Old Testament is as full of the Divinity of Christ almost as the New, and both unite in beaming forth the light of this glorious doctrine upon the world.*

There is another point incidentally touched in this Tract, as it frequently is in the writings of Unitarians, on wbich we feel bound to offer a few remarks. " The doctrine of immortal life,” like that of the Trinity, " is not expressly taught in the Old Testament." The pious under the former dispensation, it seems, had no revelation on this subject. They had no knowledge of a future and immortal life, except the little they were able to glean from the glimmerings of nature, or from their heathen neighbors.t

Now to us it seems scarcely possible that any should read the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and maintain an opinion such as this. What did the Israelites of old think became of Enoch, when he was translated ; and of Elijah, when he was taken in a chariot of fire, if there was no future and immortal life? And what did the Psalmist mean, when he said, “ Thou wilt show me the path of life ; in thy presence is fulness of joy, and at thy right hand are pleasures forever more." “As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness." “ Thou wilt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart faileth ; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”_And how are we to understand Solomon, when he says,

6 Then shall the dust return to the earth, as it was ; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." “ The righteous hath hope in his death." Hope of what, if he has no knowledge of a future life? God says by Daniel, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt;" and by Hosea, “ I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O'death, I will be thy plague! O grave, I will be thy destruction !!!! Our Saviour directs the Jews to search the Scriptures,” (meaning the Old Testament) " for in them

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Even the Editor of the Christian Examiner affirms, that the doctrine of the Trinity may be traced to ages long before the Christian era." Vol. iii. p. 2.

The Hebrew faith never taught the immortality of the soul." Chris. Exam Vol. ix. p. 68. | Ps. xvi. 11 ; xvii. 15; Ixxiii. 24.

Ecc. xli. 7. Prov. xiv. 32.
Dan. xii. 2. Hos, xi. 10.

« PreviousContinue »