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בס"ד

Questions,
Put by a Clergyman of Ruan, and answered by H. Saul Levy Morteira.

(Communicated by J. R. Paynado, Esq., of Hackney, England.)

I. “How is it proved, that in God there cannot be three persons in one essence?”

Certainly if this gentleman proceeded logically, he would have employed himself in proving the subject which he asked me to disprove, for all new doctrines require proofs and demonstrations. Nevertheless, as the proofs of truth are so ample, we need not fear being too liberal in bringing them forward; therefore I say, that among the many reasonable proofs of the unity of God I will bring a few from the Holy Scriptures, and from our own understanding. The first is, that neither the chosen people, nor the prophets, nor the priests, had any knowledge of such a doctrine; but, on the contrary, say in express words that they were taught to avoid it;—Deut. 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God, the Lord is One:” and in another place, 32.39, “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no other god with me.” The prophet Isaiah also says, “Ye are also my witnesses with the Lord; and my servants whore I have chosen that ye might know and believe me and consider that I am He; before me there was no god formed, and after me there shall be none.” The prophet Zechariah, foretelling the universal confession of the pure unity of God, says, 14:9: “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one,” as it were, saying one in essence and one in name, and there shall be no longer any distinction of persons. Besides these, there are many passages in the Scriptures to the same purport. The pure unity of God is also shown by demonstrative arguments. Of the many we will only advance three:

1st. If in the divine essence there were a distinction of persons, it were necessary drat there should be some object to distinguish them, and that the object should be found in one and wanting in the others. This object must necessarily be either a perfection, or an imperfection; if it is a perfection, the others in whom it is wanting, are imperfect. In God there cannot be imperfection. Ergo, there cannot be any distinction.

2d. One of two things is true: either each of these persons being endowed with divine wisdom is powerful by itself without the aid of the others, or it is not all-powerful without the aid of the others. If they allow the former, that each of itself is all-powerful, the others are superfluous, and in consequence, the essence of all superfluous. If they say that each requires the aid of the others, none of them are infinite and omnipotent; therefore, there cannot be a distinction of persons.

3d. For that which is infinite in act, there is no measure by which it can be measured. God, is infinite in act, therefore, cannot be measured by any measure. If there were three persons in the measured essence, one could be measured by or compared with the others; therefore, none could be infinite.

II. “If the belief of a Saviour Messiah was always necessary to the Jews, in order to obtain grace and pardon for their sins?”

It is necessary to define the term belief, which is here used. If it is to be understood as the belief which all the faithful are obliged to place in God, such the Jews never had and, never will have, in the Messiah, who will be a man. If it is to be understood as to the belief and faith that he will come and redeem the people of Israel, the Jews are obliged to entertain such belief as one of the articles of their law, since those who do not believe that God will send the Messiah, to redeem the Jews from the captivity and gather them to their land; are separated from the people of Israel, and have no hope of salvation.

III. “If the Messiah is to be one?”

In answer to this, it is necessary to investigate the etymology of the word Messiah, which is derived from the verb mashach, which signifies to anoint; as the high priests and kings were anointed with the anointing-oil, the great men and the chosen of God, are denominated in the Scriptures, Messiah: for example, Isaiah, 45:1, “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus.” David says, “Touch not my anointed;” and the leader we expect is thus called Messiah: and in answer to the question, we will say, there are many called Messiah, but he who will restore the Jews, is one.

IV. “By what authority do you prove, that the Messiah is to be simply man, and not man and God jointly?”

I have already said, that they who invent new things must bring the proofs, and not ask for them; the more so, when they promulgate a doctrine which is not taught in the Holy Scriptures, and is repugnant to reason; for, to ask authority to disprove that the Messiah will be man and God, is similar to requiring us to disprove that the Messiah will be a centaur or a hermaphrodite; but we can easier bring proofs of what we advance, than they can of the chimera which they propose. In the first place, the prophet Ezekiel says: “They shall be my people, and I will be their God; and my servant David shall be king over them.” here we see the difference between God, and the Messiah; one was to be their God and the other their king. The prophet Hosea says: “Afterwards the children of Israel shall return to seek the Lord their God, and David their king.” He did not say, David, their God. Besides, Isaiah, in speaking of the Messiah, says: “The spirit of the fear of the Lord shall be upon him.” Now by what we have advanced in our answer to the first question, we have shown the pure unity of God; if the Messiah was to be God and man he must necessarily be the only God, and it cannot be said of him that he feared himself. This is an ample answer. Besides which, if such a prodigy was to appear in the world, the Holy Scriptures would have predicted it, which I do not find in any passages; therefore such is not the case.

V. “Whether the redemption of Israel is to be temporal only?”

The redemption of Israel will be temporal, as was that of Moses from the bondage of Egypt; for a spiritual redemption results only from an observance of the law given on Mount Sinai, which will be more easily kept when the people of Israel shall enjoy temporal benefits and be free from all the impediments that are now as stumbling-blocks to their faith; besides which, they will enjoy peculiarly the divine favour promised by the Lord, as Ezekiel says: “I will take away the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh; and I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers, and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” These words are clear and will not allow of any other interpretation; and they who wish to quote all the passages of Scripture which declare this truth, must quote nearly the whole.

VI. “Whether the law of Moses, in what relates to the ceremonies will be kept at the time of the Messiah, so that no other law or ceremonies will be given?”

The verses of Ezekiel, which we have quoted in the answer to the preceding question, are so applicable to the present that we need not seek any other answer. Nevertheless, from the multitude of texts that show that the law of Moses will be kept in the time of the Messiah without any alteration, I will select three only.

1st. What God says after having announced the punishment of the disobedient and transgressors: “And when all these things shall come upon you, the blessing and the curse;” &c. “And shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day. Then the Lord will turn thy captivity, and gather thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee; and the Lord thy God will put all these curses on thine enemies which hate thee and which persecuted thee; and thou shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord thy God, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day, when thou turn to the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” Here, at the conclusion of the law, the Lord says, that in order to return from captivity, it was enjoined on us, and after our redemption it was necessary for our salvation, to keep the law given to us that day; and that there might not be any room for doubt, he does not only point out the time, saying, “which I have commanded you this day;” but also points out the place where it is to be found, saying, “to keep all the statutes and ceremonies written in this book of the law.” What expectation can we have of another law after such explicit words?

2dly. In all the prophets this truth is promulgated in the same manner as it is laid down is the law. Malachi says: “Remember the law of my servant Moses which I commanded him on Horeb, on all Israel statutes and judgments:” it is called here the law of Moses, that it may not be falsified. 

3dly. The Holy scriptures say in Deuteronomy: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God and keep his statutes, his judgments, and his commandments all the days.” So that as long as there are days, we are obliged to keep all the laws of Moses without adding to them, or taking away therefrom, as the Lord commands in the same book, 4:2: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish ought from it.” These few reasons are sufficient out of the many which might be given.

VII. “By what means can the Jews, at the present time, obtain pardon of their sins; without which they cannot be saved?”

The means by which they can obtain pardon for their sins, are those which are pointed out in the law and the prophets in so many places. I will particularize what is said by Isaiah, 55:7: “Let the wicked man forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him turn unto the Lord and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Ezekiel says: “But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do what is lawful and right, he shall surely live and shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be remembered unto him; in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die, saith the Lord, and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” And such a return to virtue is indeed easy by the institution of the Day of Atonement, as it is said in Leviticus 16:24: “And this shall be a statute to you for ever.” And 30: “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you to cleanse you; that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.” And as there are no longer the sacrifices which were appointed to obtain that pardon, it is to be obtained by penitence and forsaking our evil ways, as the Psalmist says, 60:17: “The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite Heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” And this because we cannot at present sacrifice, not having the means which, when we receive them, will be a more easy and efficacious method of obtaining pardon; as it is said at the end of that Psalm, verse 20: “Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with burnt-offerings, and whole burnt-offerings; then shall they offer bullocks on thine altar.”

(To be continued.)