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Jews is a corruption of the Old Testament system, just as popish superstition is a corruption of christianity. We hence see the true source of that inveterate opposition, which the Pharisees showed to our Savior. For their carnal traditions and propensities having taught them to look for a temporal Messiah, their prejudices against Jesus of Nazareth on account of his low appearance and spiritual doctrine induced them, and still induce their followers to reject him as an impostor.
As a large number of students is now for the first time introduced to this course of lectures; it will be proper briefly to unfold to them their nature and importance, and retrace the ground, over which we have travelled. In obedience to the authority of this university, we have spent considerable time in exploring the venerable antiquities of the Jews. As the civil and religious peculiarities of this distinguished people originated from God himself, and were intended to answer the most benificent purposes both to them and to the world; so they furnish objects of contemplation highly important, entertaining, and improving. An accurate knowledge of them reflects great light and beauty on many parts of scripture, which cannot be fully understood and appretiated without some acquaintance with the history, the laws and customs of the antient Hebrews. If the antiquities of heathen nations, of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans have deservedly engaged a long succession of critical and learned inquirers; certainly those of the Jews, which emanated from infinite wisdom, challenge an equal portion of attention; especially as they afford a clue to the general history of the antient world, and bring into a striking view the grand scheme of divine Providence. Influenced by these considerations, we have attempted to explain first the civil, and secondly the religious polity of this chosen nation. We have seen that their civil government was originally a Theocracy, that is, a system, of which God was the framer, and in which he was immediate
Sovereign; a system primarily intended to preserve in our world the knowledge, worship, and obedience of Jehovah, and of course the interests of genuine virtue. We have also seen that this constitution, and the laws which grew out of it, admirably secured temporal liberty and happiness; that they formed a free and confederate republic, combining the best features of the most perfect governments, which human wisdom in after ages has devised. This happy government continued, till the people, having lost its true spirit, fell under the Scourge of anarchy and despotism. But the religious institutions of this nation form the most conspicuous trait in their history. As their political laws were chiefly designed as handmaids to religion ; so apostacy from the belief and worship of the one true God was justly made a capital crime or high treason against the state ; and their sacred rites were enforced by temporal rewards and punishments, suited to their gross apprehensions and feelings. As a great variety and abundance of religious ceremonies suited the genius and exigences of that people, and were needful as guards against surrounding idolatry, as memorials of past events, and as types of future gospel blessings; so the special and leading rites of their worship were admirably fitted to these ends. We have shown that the ceremony of circumcision was peculiarly suited to display, confirm, and perpetuate the religious faith and obedience of the Israelites; to secure them by an impregnable barrier against pagan idolatry; and to keep them united in one select and holy fraternity. We have seen that their weekly sabbath, by calling them to solemn rest and worship after six days of labor, held up to their very senses a lively image of the six days’ work of creation; of the rest or complacency of Jehovah on the seventh day; of his infinite power, wisdom, and goodness exhibited in the formation of the universe, and in their redemption from Egyptian bondage; and of the future eternal rest and felicity of his faithful worshippers in the heavenly Canaan. Thus it tended to promote that exclusive reverence and worship of the true God, those sound and strong impressions of moral and religious truth, which are the supports of private and national virtue. We have also pointed out the fitness and utility of those various offerings and sacrifices, in which the ancient Jewish worship abounded. The frequent spectacles of bleeding victims, suffering and atoning for the guilty offerers, pathetically displayed to their senses the purity and justice of God, the evil of transgression, their own desert of death, the necessity of some atonement, and the readiness of Deity to pardon the penitent, through the future sacrifice of a Mediator. We have also explained the manner and shown the expediency of those visible appearances, by which Jehovah manifested himself to his antient people, particularly in the tabernacle and temple. We have largely attended to the stated officers of the Jewish church, such as the Priests and the Levites ; and likewise to those occasional ministers of religion, the Old Testament Prophets. We have shown the qualifications and important services of these several orders, and vindicated them from the aspersions of modern scepticism and infidelity. We have noticed other religious distinctions and classes of men among the Jews ; particularly their Wisemen and Scribes, their Rabbies and Nazarites, together with a set of writers called the Masorites, who settled and preserved the true reading of the Hebrew scriptures. Lastly, we have inqnired into the nature and origin of those religious sects, which divided that people; particularly the Samaritans, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The two last are frequently mentioned in the New Testament. The Sadducees in many particulars answered to modern freethinkers. They began with exploding tradition and superstition, and with pretending to reform the word of God from corrupt appendages; but they ended in denying the existence of a future state, and accommodating their principles to their worldly and licentious inclinations. The Pharisees on the contrary, like the modern votaries of superstition, professed an uncommon deadness to the world, and devotion to religion, but substituted human traditions, trifling ceremonies, and external mortifications in the room of genuine piety and virtue. Hence our Savior stigmatizes them as vain glorious hypocrites and whited sepulchres. We hence see the true source of that inveterate opposition, which both these parties manifested to Jesus Christ and his gospel. The libertine principles of the former, the carnal traditions and bigotted zeal of the latter, with the pride, selfishness, and national prejudices of both, had strongly attached them to a temporal Messiah. These sentimeuts, feelings, and expectations inspired them with contempt and malignity against Jesus of Nazareth on account of his low appearance and spiritual doctrine. And as the great body of the Jewish nation from their dispersidn to this day have closely adhered to the sentiments of the Pharisees ; hence they have obstinately persisted in their rejection of christianity, and continue still to expect a temporal deliverer. Having given you this short summary of our preceeding lectures, we will finish our account of Jewish sects by describing two other religious bodies who make some