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- scientious in the observance of their riles and ceremonies.
§ 4. You, my dear brother, have no doubt, like myself, felt thankful to God for blessing us with parents, who, like Abraham our father, commanded their children that they should keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judg. ment; yet it is a deplorable fact, that they never taught us wherein true religion consists. With shame I confess to you, that for many years all the ideas I had on this important subject centred in this : that I must live and die as a Jew, professing and observing what my parents did, without even expressing or harboring a doubt respecting the truth, propriety, or utility of their creed.
How often have I been told, by Christians as well as Jews, "that for a person to change the religion in which he was born and brought up, is the worst thing he can do, and is a sure evidence of his being a bad man.” This sentiment, however, is contrary to Scripture and reason. You, my dear brother, as well as any other one of our nation, would certainly be shocked at the very thought that our father Abraham, who renounced the idolatrous religion of his fathers, and worshipped the true God, " did the worst thing a man could do, and thereby evinced himself to be a bad man.” Besides, if his conduct was blamable, the blame falls on Jehovah, whose express command was the rule of his conduct. And dare any one, who is called by the name of Jesus, assert such a principle? Did not he commission his apostles and ministers to preach his Gospel to every nation; to open their blind eyes; and to turn them from darkness to light; from their dumb idols, to serve the living and true God? If a Jew or a Gentile, for renouncing the religion of his fathers, and believing in Jesus Christ, be blamable, the blame belongs to Jesus, who commands all to believe in hin, and not to him who obeys this divine command. Further, is it not universally considered contrary to reason, to continue in the erroneous belief and practice of our forefathers, in matters of a tem
porary or worldly nature. The husbandman, the mariner, the mechanic, the artist, the lawyer, and the statesman, each and every one considers it his duty and privilege to depart from the old mistaken views, principles, modes, and manners of his forefathers, and to follow the more correct, improved, and useful ideas and principles of the present day: and why should we not much more the religious errors of our forefathers, and embrace the true religion of the Bible ? Surely it is of infinitely greater importance to secure our spiritual and eternal happiness, than to improve our temporal and worldly circumstances. For “ what is a man profited,” saith the Lord of heaven and earth, "if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matt. 16:26. However unscriptural and unreasonable this maxim is, alas ! it is very common. In my travels, during the last forty years, which have been very frequent and extensive, both in Germany, my native coun. 'try, in Britain, and in these United States, I have observed, with much grief and sorrow of heart, that this maxim is the foundation of the religious creeds of mankind in general, until the Spirit of God impresses on their hearts the importance of caring for their precious and immortal souls. Few can assign a better reason why they are heathens, Mahomedans, Jews, or Christians, than that their forefathers had been of the same persuasion. O, Christian reader ! what is the foundation of your hope ? why are you a Christian and not a Jew? why a Protestant and not a Roman Catholic ? why an Episcopalian or a Presbyterian, &c. &c. Is it because, like the noble Bereans, you have examined the Scriptures and built upon the foundation that God has laid therein; or have you followed the mere example of your forefathers ? Remember, that religion is a personal thing, and that you and I must very soon appear at the bar of Almighty God, and be either acquitted or condemned, after being tried and judged, not by the peculiar creed of our parents, but by his revealed will, contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
5. Excuse this digression, dear Benjamin; consider how uncertain and dangerous was the maxim by which I was thus guided. For while we cannot doubt the sincerity of our dear parents, as it respects their religious creed, yet surely there was a possibility of their being mistaken. Now, suppose I had discovered that they had been really and radically mistaken in their religious views, would it not have been as much my duty to renounce error, and to embrace the truth, as it was the duty of our venerable father Abraham to leave the idolatrous religion of his parents.
$ 6. But probably you will reply, that Abraham had an express command from God. This is true; and so had I. Not, indeed, in the same mode of communication; yet no less clear and certain. “ For we have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto we do well to take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.” And certainly we are no less bound to believe and obey what God has said in his written word, than the patriarchs were bound to believe and obey what he made known to them in dreams and in visions. But before I point out unto you those portions of the sacred Scriptures which have convinced me of the truth of the Christian religion, I will show you why I believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God.
§ 7. When it had pleased the Lord, in his wise and holy providence, to bring me into company with a Christian fellow traveler, (see my Narrative, chap. 2,) who asserted that the promised Messiah had already come, and that Jesus of Nazareth, whom our fathers crucified, was that Messiah; in a moment, as it were, the foundation of my creed was shaken, my mind was filled with doubts, and I was exceedingly anxious to know whether Jesus was indeed the Christ. I now began to read the Scriptures of the Old Testament, to see what kind of a Messiah God had promised to our fathers. How great was my surprise when I read those clear and striking descriptions of the prophet, concerning the person, life, sufferings, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, which I had never seen or heard before. For you well know, my dear Benjamin, that the 53d chap. of Isaiah, the 19th chap. of Daniel, and many other parts of the writings of the prophets, are not included in the Haphtoreth, (i. e. the portions selected to be read in the Synagogue,) nor are they read by many in private. (Narrative, chap. 1.)
§ 8. I now eagerly desired to know whether all that had been foretold by the prophets, had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth; I therefore procured a copy of the New Testament, the first I ever touched; for you remember how often we were cautioned against it, and told that “ to touch a New Testament was as defiling as to touch a swine." I read the Gospels twice over. All was new and unheard of before; many things appeared very dark and mysterious, and I had none to ask for information, except the minister, my spiritual guide, but to whom I could not go as often as I wanted explanations. Under these discouraging circumstances the words of my blessed Savior were of great use to
“ What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” John, 13: 7. It is impossible, my dear brother, to describe my astonishment in reading the history of my blessed Lord. How different is his real character from that blasphemous account of him called Toldoth Jeshu, which we were in the habit of reading every year on the evening before Christmas-day. Truly he is the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely, and as the poet said:
“ All human beauties, all divine,
I was equally surprised to find the most minute predictions fulfilled in Jesus. My judgment was soon convinced that he was the promised Messiah, and I began to rejoice in the hope of glory.
§ 9. But alas ! this happy state and frame of mind did not continue very long. It was suggested that the New Testament was not the word of God. For some time I was much perplexed and greatly cast down. The minister, one day, perceiving that I groaned under some burden, inquired into the cause of it. I first hesitated, for fear of giving offence, but his kind and affectionate conduct removed my apprehensions, and I told him my doubts about the truth and authenticity of the New Testament. He then asked, “ Do you believe the Old Testament to be the word of God ??? · Yes,” said I. “ What is the reason,” said he, " that you
believe it to be the word of God? How do you know that it is not a forgery ?" Because,” said I, “ my parents always believed it, and all the Jews believe it." "Well," replied he, "if that be a sufficient and satisfactory reason, then the New Testament is the word of God too, for all Christians believe it to be so. But,” said he, “there are other proofs by which we may know whether a book is a divine revelation or not." By this pious and good man I was first instructed in the evidences of the Old and New Testament.
§ 10. This subject is, of all others, the most important, and yet as strangely neglected. Whatever instructions may be derived from the volumes of nature and providence, it is the Bible, and the Bible, only, that can give a satisfactory answer to the serious and anxious inquíry, what shall I do to be saved ?" And it is because so few study the evidlences of the Bible, that so many fall into dangerous errors, or into open infidelity. I will, therefore, in my next letter, give you some general ideas on the subject of a divine revelation, and afterward state the leading evidences that prove the Bible to be the word of God.