« AnteriorContinuar »
P R E F A C E.
A Considerable time ago, a copy of the work which I here attempt to refute, was sent to me, by the Committee of the London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews, with a request that I would answer it. The same was done, as I understood, to a few other persons. Having looked into the book in rather a slight manner, and being fully engaged at the time, I was not at all inclined to undertake the service; thinking that some other person, more at leisure, would do it in a more adequate and acceptable manner.
But, being somewhat less engaged in the beginning of the present year, I again took up the work, and read it more attentively; purposing, if not too late, to make some short remarks on particular passages, and communicate them to any one who, I should learn, was preparing an answer.
Fn attempting this, however, the whole concern appeared to me in a new light; and I pcrceived that by this work an opening was given to the zealous friends of Christianity, and cordial friends of the Jews, for bringing the whole subject in controversy between Christians and Jews before the public and the nation of Israel.
I am indeed free to acknowledge, that before I carefully studied Mr. Crooll's statements I had not well understood the subject; nor had I been aware of half of the objections, current opinions, and traditions, which stand in the way of a Jew, to prevent his embracing Christianity. The arguments adduced, indeed, did not appear either conclusive, or very difficult to be answered: but questions were started on almost every part of the subject, of which I had not previously thought; and, in some instances, I found that a considerable degree of plausibility was given to objections.
It is true, I understood that the original work was not to be published by the London Society without an answer: but it occurred to me, that, if it were not answered, the author might have to say, that he had, in some sense, challenged the Committee and friends of that Society to answer his work, but they were not able; and therefore that he at length published it himself, as unanswerable: or, at least, that the substance of it would in one form or other be circulated. On inquiry, I could not learn that any one was engaged in preparing an answer: and thus I was led on, step by step, at length to undertake the service: and, after many changes in my plans and arrangements, which have occasioned much delay, the result is presented to the public in its present form.
I cannot but fear, however, that some Christian friends may question the propriety of publishing such a work, for the sake of answering it: and I am fully aware, that stating plausible objections, without a very satisfactory refutation of them, is, in all ordinary cases, a dangerous measure. But this appears to me not to be an ordinary case; but one which cogently requires something to be attempted; and I regard it as a most important opening to a fair and full investigation of the whole argument, which ought not to be neglected.
In fact, Jews have hitherto kept themselves within certain strong holds, and inaccessible recesses; making occasional incursions against Christianity; rather than attempted to lead forth their troops into the open field of fair argument: and Christians seem to have been so afraid of offending them, by clearly exhibiting the mysteries of our holy religion; that they have, as it were, kept the grand things to be contested in the back ground. But I rejoice that there is at length a prospect of the whole subject becoming more generally examined and understood.
It has been the opinion of several learned men, that nothing should be brought forward in this controversy, except the insulated question, Whether Jesus be, or be not, the promised Messiah; and that the peculiar doctrines of Christianity should be kept out of sight. I own I once was favourable to this idea: but it is manifest from Mr. C.'s work, that these peculiar doctrines, or at least those views of Christianity which are maintained in the Creeds and Articles of our church, form so prominent a part of the objections of the Jews to the New Testament, that they are nearly inaccessible to all other arguments: and they must remain so, as far as I can perceive, till it is clearly shewn that these doctrines are contained in the Old Testament; or are not at all inconsistent with its leading principles. This, therefore, I have attempted: with what success others must decide. Many things, in the management of the argument, will appear to the Christian reader different from what he was prepared to expect or approve: as indeed, they are far different from what at first impressed my own mind. But to reason with Jews on the sole authoritative ground of the Old Testament, concerning Christianity and its most important doctrines, which we are accustomed to prove almost exclusively from the New Testament; is an undertaking attended with far more difficulties, than it may appear to be to those who never made the trial.
In respect of such Jews as may be induced to read this work, I can only intreat their candour and attention. I am conscious, before God, of most cordial good-will to the nation, and to every individual of it: but, as I am also deeply convinced of the truth and excellency of Christianity, I do earnestly long and daily pray for their conversion to their own Messiah, and our most gracious Lord and Saviour. I have not indeed, in what I have written, declined to use all my ability, be it what it may: "I know not "to give flattering words;" and in a few instances I have hinted a gentle reprehension. I trust, however, that even Jews will allow me to be a fair, a candid, and a benevolent opponent; and that they will not say, that I have treated them disrespectfully, or with bitterness and severity.