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refer the birth of Christ to some other energy or cause than the paternity of Joseph. "St. Matthew, whose uniformity of phrase in connecting the links of the pedigree, continues uninterrupted till he arrives at Jesus, there suddenly stops short, and instead of subjoining and Joseph begat Jesus,' in the same manner as he had said before, 'and Jacob begat Joseph,' changes his style and saith, 'the husband of Mary, of whom was born Christ;' and St. Luke, saying of Jesus, being, as was supposed, the Son of Joseph,' and the expression, as was supposed, though in a parenthesis in the English translation, is of equal authority with any part of the Gospel, it being found, without any variation, as far as I can trace it, in all the Greek MSS. ancient as well as modern; in all the old versions, and especially in the Syriac, which, according to the most probable computation, must have been made as early as the first century, and therefore of considerable weight in establishing the true reading, either of this, or of any other passage." Jewish Rep. Vol. III. 297.
6. With respect to the second part of your objection, that the miraculous conception of Christ is so mysterious or unparalleled that you cannot believe it; I fully agree that it is mysterious and unparalleled, and therefore it was foretold as a new creation, Jer. 31: 22; but it is unreasonable to reject it on that account. The same almighty power which could form Adam out of the dust, and Eve out of a rib, could, with equal ease, form the Messiah in the womb of a virgin. I shall once more borrow the words of the reverend author mentioned above. In his sixth letter to the Israelite, he saith, "That Christ should have been thus miraculously born, so far from redounding to the prejudice of Christianity, is one of the strongest arguments in favor of its truth; if truth is to be collected from the narratives of the Old Testament. For what, I pray, forms so striking a feature in the history of the most distinguished characters of holy writ as the sterility of the womb from which they were ge
nerated, and the interposition of Omnipotence to effect their formation. Did not the Almighty, to produce the birth of Samuel, as well as that of Samson, first remove the barrenness of the mothers; that is, to take the words of the sacred penmen in the most qualified sense, that natural inaptitude under which they labored, of bearing children in any manner; and which could be remedied only by a suppletion of those organs and powers on which fecundity depends? Certainly, both these were instances of generation being at least promoted, if not effected, in a supernatural way. But not to dwell on the foregoing and similar occurrences, what shall we say, to the birth of Isaac ? Sarah, when visited by the hand of the ever-gracious Jehovah, was ninety years old, and had never born a child during her life, and with whom it had now ceased to be after the manner of women, an infallible criterion of her natural inability to sustain conception; and yet, marvellous to relate, she brought forth Isaac, that immaculate and highly favored patriarch, who, in many circumstances of his life, no less than in that of his birth, was a typical representation of the predicted Messiah. That the conception of Isaac by Sarah was wholly miraculous, and required as extraordinary an effort of power to accomplish it, as the birth of Christ, narrated by the evangelists, is not to be denied." Mr. Oxlee, after showing that the Rabbins consider that both Sarah's youth and her virginity were restored to her by God at that time, to enable her to do what Jehovah had promised, he saith, “Now, if, to show the exuberancy of his grace, and to confer upon the patriarch the gift of a son in the decline of life, the Lord was pleased to work a miracle in the visitation of Sarah, and to effect, in the sight of the whole world, a change, which, without the creative aid of Omnipotence, must have been physically impossible; what ground can you lawfully state for objecting to the miraculous conception of Christ, seeing that the birth of the Messiah must have been an event of greater magnitude and importance, in proportion as his dig
nity and character were regarded as superior to those of that patriarch? The narrative of the one is as much entitled to credit and respect as that of the other; and whoever refuses not to admit the marvellous circumstances attendant on the conception of Isaac, will act a most uncandid part in rejecting the doctrines of the miraculous conception of Christ, as an incredible and impossible story." Jewish Rep. vol. 3: 354.
Now, my dear Benjamin, I pray God to accompany this letter with his peculiar blessing to remove your objections, and I hope the importance of the subject will be a sufficient apology for its length. Farewell.
PREDICTIONS OF SEVERAL CIRCUMSTANCES CONNECTED WITH THE BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH, FULFILLED IN JESUS OF NAZARETH.
§ 1. As the coming or advent of the Messiah in general, so his birth in particular, has been the subject of many predictions. Several circumstances are mentioned in the law, in the prophets, and in the book of Psalms concerning it. 1. The place of his birth was pointed out by Micah, 5: 2, "But thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
That this prophecy relates to the birth of the Messiah, is evident, 1. from the scope and connexion of the text; which was to comfort and support the people of Israel under the severe judgment announced in verse the first. The birth of Messiah is announced, the true source of joy, comfort and support. Hence one of the names given to the Messiah by our Rabbins is Menachem, i. e. "he shall comfort."
2. From the character given of him in the text. Messiah is frequently called a Prince, Ruler and Governor, and he is the Eternal Jehovah, (as shall be proved hereafter.) Indeed, no words can more forcibly express the pre-existence of the Messiah from eternity, than those used in the text. "The words do naturally import an original, distinct from the birth of Christ, which is here declared to have been from eternity, for so the word Mickedem, translated here 'from of old,' but rendered from everlasting, Hab. 1: 12, and the expression Meolamim, 1endered 'from the days of eternity,' do plainly signify." Lowth. Yarchi applies it to the Messiah, and explains it by Ps. 72: 17. Before the sun was, his name was Yinon," i. e. "a Son."
That this is a promise of the Messiah, is acknowledged by the Targums and other Jewish writers. Targum Jonathan on Gen. 35:21, and on Micah, 4: 8. Yarchi, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi in loco. Abendana in Michlol yophi in loco. R. Isaac in Chizuck Emunah, p. 1, c. 33. Told. Yeshu, p. 1, 7. The Jews in our Lord's time applied it to the Messiah; for when the wise men came to Herod, and inquired where the new born King of Israel was to be found, he sent for the chief priests and scribes, and demanded of them where Christ should be born; to which they very readily replied, "In Bethlehem of Judea ;" and to prove the truth of their assertion, they cited this very prophecy of Micah. See Matt. 2: 5, 6. The evangelist hath been charged with misquoting the passage of the Old Testament, but the difference is so trifling that it scarcely deserves notice; and if the difference were material and important, no blame could
be attached to the evangelist, who acted merely the part of a faithful historian, and related the answer just as given by the priests and scribes. If there be a mistake, error, or corruption, the blame falls on the priests and scribes.
That Jesus Christ was born at Bethlehem, is a fact which has never been denied, and wants therefore no proof. The circumstance, however, which caused him to be born there is too remarkable to be overlooked. Mary lived at Nazareth, and there the holy child was conceived, and would, no doubt, have been born there, but the Scripture cannot be broken. Augustus made a decree for the enrolling or taking the names of his subjects and tributaries, upon which account Joseph and Mary removed from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a town of their own tribe, and family of David, and there was Mary delivered of her first-born, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Luke, 2: 1, 7. It is remarkable that Augustus had made this decree 27 years before, and was already proclaimed in Tarracon, a city in Spain; but, because disturbances broke out, it was not carried into effect. Surely this was the Lord's doing.
§ 2. The second prediction, respecting the birth of Messiah, is the divine worship which was to be paid him by the angels. That the Messiah was to be worshipped by angels, we are informed by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews, ch. 16. Amongst the arguments used by him to show the superiority of Jesus over the angels, he saith, "And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him." The manner in which the apostle introduces this sentiment, and the proof of it, show that both were well known to the Hebrews. The passage in the Old Testament to which the apostle alludes, is generally supposed to be Ps. 97: 7, "Worship him, all ye Gods." The object to be worshipped is repeatedly called Jehovah in the preceding verses, and distinguished from the idols. It is very evident that this Psalm is a part and continuation of the preceding one, the