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For your late happy conversion to the Christian Religion, I am more than thankful; I glorify God for it; and I am persuaded, all true believers in Jesus Christ will do the same: for you are now become the children of Abraham's faith, and heirs of the promises made to him. Before, you were only the children of his nature, as your Jewish brethren are: and if we lament over them, as over those that are dead, we are to rejoice over you as persons who are alive from the dead. We are much surprized when a single Jew becomes a Christian ; but that three should become so at once is a great event; which would give us great encouragement, if we might presume to consider it as the first fruits of an harvest not far off; when your nation shall have their eyes opened to discover that Jesus Christ, whom they despised and rejected, is the true Saviour of the world.
The Christian Religion in these last days having assumed various forms, and being even without form ; I am thankful that the good providence of God hath directed you to that form of it which is still preserved by the Church of England; as sound a part of the
Church of Christ, in its profession, as is to be found this day upon earth; I wish we might say as much for its discipline; and from it you may certainly receive what the Church of Christ hath to give. On one side of it we see the errors and usurpations of the Church of Rome; on the other the lamentable divisions of the sectaries : who are to be peaceably admonished of that certain ruin which division must sooner or later bring upon the Christian world. Your high priest, Aaron, was no universal bishop: he presided over one peculiar nation, who were the chosen people of God. And when the nations of the world were taken into one great Catholic church, so called to distinguish it from the Jewish particular church, there was no universal bishop, but our Lord Jesus Christ, the chief Shepherd and Bishop of oursouls : and every national church was governed by bishops of its own, of whom we know the succession to these days, down to bishops of our own time: and you have had the blessing of being confirmed by one of the best of them. As your friend in Christ Jesus, I wish you to be farther instructed in the state of the case between us and the unbelieving Jews; that you may be enabled not only to stand your ground, but to perform the blessed office of leading others into the truth. Though I can say sincerely with St. Paul, “ that my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved;" yet I dare not indulge a hope, that any feeble efforts of mine, or any thing I can teach you
to say, will have effect on the Jews as a body, or on any considerable number of them, after they have so long resisted the arguments of wise and learned men. Whenever that shall happen, and by whatever instruments, it must be the Lord's doing, and it will be marvellous in our eyes. But the cause should never be
neglected : it is not to be given up in despair; for St. Paul assures us God is able (there is therefore no determination to the contrary,) to graft his people in again into their own olive, if they abide not still in unbelief. And the most promising method we can pursue, is to make use of their brethren whose eyes are opened, and by them to present a new sort of evidence, which Jews are not prepared to answer or evade. The evidence I mean is that of signs ; such as our Saviour himself gave
gave them from the Scripture of his own future resurrection. He gave them the sign of the prophet Jonah, swallowed for three days into the belly of a sea monster, and cast up alive upon the land. If the books of the prophets had been half filled with predictions in words, this one sign will have more force than them all on those who believe the fact: which, how it is possible to believe, without also believing the fact foreshown by it, I see not. Because there never would have been so strange a fact brought to pass in the world, as the return of Jonah from the belly of a fish; but for the sake of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the heart of the earth, which in due time was to follow : and in the mind of God, the fact of Christ was before the fact of Jonah.
This is the sort of evidence I would use, to prove what the Jews disbelieve of Christ and his religion. Men disbelieve truth, because they have first embraced error, and cannot part with it. This we shall find to have been the case with the Jews, whose errors were these following.
That God had promised to them in their father Abraham the possession of the land of Canaan; that is, the enjoyment of this present world; and that they were to serve him with this expectation. This was their first and greatest error; the foundation of all the
rest. For from hence it followed, that the kingdom of their Messiah was to be a kingdom of this world; and as Jesus of Nazareth did not affect such a kinga dom, but declined it, they concluded he could not be the person; and that God had showed it, by leaving him to be despised, persecuted, and put to a shameful death. Concerning themselves they thought, that as God had chosen them for his people, they should never fall away, and be separated from him. That their law and their temple being intended for perpetuity, would never be abolished. And, lastly, that the Church of God and its privileges could not be extended to the Gentiles, and that the Gentiles never would be taken into it.
Such were the doctrines of the Jews when Jesus Christ came amongst them. In these doctrines their teachers had brought them up; and by the prejudice of their education they thought them all true; but they were every one false, and the New Testament, hath taught us how to answer them.
REFUTATION OF THEIR FIRST ERROR.
God, they thought, had promised them the possession of this world in their father Abraham. Το this we answer, that such could not have been the sense of the promise to them, because it never had been so fulfilled to Abraham to whom it was made. The life of Abraham had not been a life of possession and enjoyment, but of trial and pilgrimage, from the time when God first called him, to the end of his days. He was commanded to leave his country and kindred, and go out as a stranger into a land, which, as he had never seen, could only be an object of his faith. When
he was removed into the land of Judea, no inheritance was given him in that land, not so much as to set his foot on: he had no possession in it, but a place for a burying-ground; and that he paid for with his own money, that it might never be mistaken for a part of the promised inheritance. Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise, led the same kind of life, confessed themselves pilgrims and strangers upon earth, and died without receiving any possession in this world.
How did it happen then, that their posterity, who had this history constantly before them, should make so fatal a mistake? How came they to be so ensnared by this world; so irrationally, so totally contrary to the example of their forefathers? The case was this: to the obedience of the law, which came afterwards, the rewards of this world were promised. Thus it came to pass, that the Books of Moses contained two sorts of promises. To the obedience of faith, such as was the obedience of the Patriarchs, the spiritual promise of the other world was given, as in those words of God to Abraham : “I am thy shield, and
thy exceeding great reward.” But to this the Jews were blind; and seeing the present world also promised to another sort of obedience, they fixed upon that, and there they stopped. The mire and clay of this world was from thenceforward
eyes; and so they could not see what their forefather Abraham would have seen, and have leaped for joy at the sight: for to his mind, who had given up the world for God, there were none of these impediments. A misunderstanding of the law, which came afterwards, did all the mischief, and does to this day. This was the first error of the Jews, and is now their great stumbling-stone.