|Vol. III, No. 8
Heshvan 5606, November 1845
Put By a Clergyman of Ruan, and Answered by H. Saul Levy Morteira.(Communicated by J. R. Peynado, Esq., of Hackney, England.)
VIII. “How is it proved from the Scriptures that the Messiah is not yet come?”
I have already said that such questions are contrary to all rules of discussion, since they require the respondent to give reasons in opposition to an assumption which the appellant should be bound to prove, and which the respondent by a simple denial could avoid any farther discussion. However, as the proofs are so abundant, I will point out a few from the many signs which the Law and the Prophets tell us are to announce the coming of the Messiah, and which have not been accomplished till now. I will select only four. First, we will allude to the general peace which all the world will enjoy at the coming of the Messiah; Isaiah 2:4: “And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more;” and, Micah 4:1. This peace the holy Scriptures promise in many parts; but now we see continual wars in the world, and within the last 200* years, fire-arms have been invented—weapons unknown to the ancients, instead of the old ones being destroyed. The second proof we will take from the state of religion, and the knowledge of God which the Prophet foretells shall pervade the whole world, without any difference, in the days of the Messiah. According to Jeremiah 31:34: “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every one his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest of them, for I will forgive them their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Zephaniah 4:9 says: “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord to serve him with one consent;” and Zechariah 14:9: “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one;” and to this purpose many other passages. We see that there never was less conformity in the world in matters of religion, than at present; therefore the Messiah has not yet come, and therefore, being room for such questions and answers, is a farther proof. The third proof is furnished by the present state of the people of Israel. Scripture clearly reveals that the Messiah is to restore them to their country and pristine greatness. The prophet Isaiah says (11:12.): “And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth;” and for this proof are not obliged to refer to single verses, but can cite whole chapters in the same prophet; chap. 53, 54, 56, 60, 61, 62, 63, and 66, from beginning to end; Jeremiah 30, 31, and many other parts, which show that the object of the advent of the Messiah is the happiness and prosperity of the people of Israel; and now we see them scattered, oppressed and persecuted; therefore it is evident, that the Messiah is not yet come. Our fourth proof we will bring from the promises of the prophets, of the prosperity of Jerusalem at the time of the Messiah: Isaiah 52:1: “Awake, awake, put on thy strength, Oh, Zion! put on thy beautiful garments, Oh, Jerusalem! for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean;” and Jeremiah 3:17: “At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered unto it to the name of the Lord to Jerusalem, neither shall they walk any more after the imaginations of their evil heart.” The prophet Ezekiel, after describing the magnificence of Jerusalem says, in the last verse of his book: “The name of the city from that day shall be, ‘The Lord is there.’”
It must be remembered that these answers were written in the 1600’s.
IX. “What answer can be given to the Christians who allege the completion of some of the prophecies, as Is. 53 and Ps. 22:2?”
In order to give a complete answer to this question, it would be necessary to write many volumes; but as the celebrated fifty-third of Isaiah, and the twenty-second Psalm, are particularised, I will say as briefly as possible, that to establish the interpretation which the Christians advocate, it is necessary to prove many preliminary points which are disputed, and which must be allowed before they can be used for the explanation of said prophecies. This would prove a laborious undertaking; but the said 53d chap. has passages which will not allow the interpretations of the Christians; as where it says: “But he was wounded for our transgressions.” The text is in the plural, and does not allude to a single person. In the same manner, “When they shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days;” terms which are only applicable to a person who has children, and who lives long; things which are very different from the application which the Christians give to these passages.
The true explanation is, that it alludes to Israel, whom the prophet calls the servant of God; a title very common in the Scriptures, and says, that the kings and princes of the earth shall see the great change which the Lord will make from the lowest misery to the highest greatness, as it is stated in the whole of the preceding chapter; they will be astonished and will say, “Who would have believed such a miracle; he was as a root growing out of the dry ground, without form or comeliness, despised by all; but now we know that the ills we deserved he bore; we thought that he was punished by divine justice, punished by our hands, whilst we, following our own inclinations, exercised our scourges upon him, who patiently supported confiscation of property and corporal punishments from the hands of every nation; they were buried among the wicked; for the sake of their riches they were put to death.” These reflections, says the prophet, the kings will make on seeing the prosperity of Israel, and concludes with saying: “The cause of his ills was that the Lord would punish him, but he shall be comforted when he knows that his seed shall be eternal, and what was promised shall be fulfilled.” The 22d Psalm also speaks of Israel in the captivity, and says: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” a pious exclamation which is also made use of by Isaiah 49:14: “But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” Here the same expression is used, and the allusion in the Psalm is cleared up.
X. “What nation will receive and obey the Messiah, whether the Jews or the gentiles?”
All will acknowledge and obey him. The prophecies are full of the proofs thereof; a few of which I will adduce. Balaam says, Numbers 24:l7: “I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh; there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Seth;” from Seth the son of Adam through Noah, proceeds the whole human race. Isaiah says, 60:12: “For the nation and kingdom which will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly waste.” The Psalmist says, 72:8, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth;” and again, verse 11: “Yea, all kings shall fall down before him, all nations shall serve him.” Daniel, speaking of the Messiah captain of the fifth monarchy says, 7:13: “I saw in the night visions, and behold one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near to him, 14. And there was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed;” and many other prophecies to the same purport, showing that the Messiah shall be revered and acknowledged in all parts of the world, and by all nations.
XI. “For what sin has God for so many centuries ruined the Jewish community?”
Although I do not confess to man, but only to the blessed God, it behoves us to confess our sins in justification of the divine justice, and because they are notorious from the reproaches of the prophets, as in Ezekiel 16:47, indeed the whole chapter; therefore let us not be surprised at the length or severity of our captivity, since it is instead of a total extermination, such as was inflicted upon Sodom, through the divine mercy; as the prophet Isaiah says, “Were it not that the Lord of hosts had spared us a remnant,” &c. If it is objected to this, that at the restoration of the captivity of Babylon our sins were pardoned, and that for other sins, committed in the second temple, we are suffering this tedious captivity: I will say, that the redemption from Babylon was only a visitation to try whether, by a restoration of the kingdom, they would repent and refrain from the heinous sins of murder, adultery, and idolatry, which they had daily committed; but instead of discharging the old debt, they contracted a new one. And that no one may suppose the return from Babylon was a complete restoration, with pardon of former sins, and that we are now suffering the punishment of sins committed since then, we must remember that the ten tribes, which were conquered by Shalmanesser, were carried away to unknown countries, above six hundred years before the destruction of the second temple, and have never yet returned to their country. All this was ordered with particular and divine providence, that nobody might attribute this captivity to any sins committed during the existence of the second temple; for the ten tribes, who were not present there, are suffering a captivity six hundred years longer than ours. Every lover of truth, and one who is without prejudice, must see clearly that the sins of the people had become so flagrant, that had they been committed by any other nation than the one to whom the Lord had pledged his word that they should not be made an end of, they would before now have been blotted from the memory of the nations. Therefore it is not surprising that the merited punishment should have been changed into this long captivity, as a culprit who is deserving of death may have his punishment mitigated to a long confinement.
XII. “What and how many are the articles of your faith?”
The fundamental articles of our faith are thirteen:
1. That there is one God, the primary cause of all things; that they exist by him, and that he exists independent of them all.
2. That there is only one God, his unity is perfect and simple, and is not subject to any possible mode of division.
3. That God is not material, and is not confined to any form, or subject to any accidents to which a corporeal form is liable.
4. That God is eternal, never leaving had a beginning and never will have an end, and all things originated by him.
5. That we must serve and pray to God only, and not to any other than him.
6. That God communicates his spirit and reveals his will to wise and virtuous men, according to his pleasure, and these are the prophets.
7. That the greatest of all prophets was Moses, by whose hands the law was given on Mount Sinai.
8. That the whole law, from the first letter to the last, was given by the blessed God, as well as the traditional explanations which are preserved by the congregation of Israel.
9. That the law which the Lord gave by the hand of Moses, and the traditions, are everlasting, and that, we may not add thereto, nor take therefrom.
10. That God is cognizant of the acts and thoughts of men, and nothing is concealed from him.
11. That God rewards those who observe his laws, and punishes transgressors, and that the essence of such reward is the glorified state of the soul, and eternal life, and the punishment consists of the degradation of the soul and hell.
12. That God will send a redeemer of the house of David and the lineage of Solomon, who will exceed in honour all the kings of the earth who have preceded him, and by whom will be accomplished all the felicity which the prophets have foretold.
13. That God will raise the dead at the period appointed by his divine wisdom.
These are the fundamental articles of our faith, from which spring many branches which it is not necessary to particularize.
XIII. “On what grounds do they fix their firm hope of the advent of the Messiah?”
This question argues a disbelief in the holy Scriptures, in which there is scarcely a page where there are not clear and irrefragable proofs of the divine promise on which our hopes are founded. They who are truly faithful should consider that the lapse of centuries ought not to cause the least distrust of the accomplishment of the divine words; and that, although when the leaves are dried up the tree languishes, still the word of the Lord will endure for ever; so much more, inasmuch as this length of time does not find us unprepared, for we were long ago forewarned, that we might not despair. The prophet Hosea says (3:4): “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim. 5. Afterwards shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their God and David their king, and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.” Jeremiah in his Lamentations, 5:20, says: “Why dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us for so long time?” Above all, it is worthy of remark, that the person who puts this question does not reflect, that the Christians say that the whole world waited for the Messiah four thousand years,—for such is the space of time from the fall of Adam to the advent of their Messiah,—whose coming was for the redemption of those souls which were lost before his appearance, independent of the just Jews, who were in limbo; and yet they reproach Jews with waiting sixteen hundred years to be restored to their land and government, though the object and space are so very different. But the divine wisdom foresaw all this, when he said by the mouth of the Psalmist, 89:50, “Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants, how I do bear in my house the reproach of all the mighty people, wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O Lord, wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.” This appeal, and many others which express our long hope, is what is here alluded to in the words, “the footsteps of thine anointed,” which delay so long his coming; and then, as one who ceases from sighing, the Psalmist concludes, saying, “Blessed by the name of the Lord for evermore, Amen and Amen;” as one who praises God for all.