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Remarks on Dias’ Letters.

Hackney, 18th June, 1847.

Mr. Editor,

My attention has been called to an article in the “Voice of Israel,” of March last, which has been continued in two succeeding numbers), headed Dias’ Letters, by the Rev. H. Highton,  M.A., who professes to examine and answer in detail the 17th letter, which appeared in the Occident of April, last year. If we may suppose that number to have reached the reverend, gentleman in the course of the following May, he has not hurried himself to answer it. I also infer that he has made some remarks on the preceding letters; but he does not point out the numbers of the Voice of Israel which they illustrate, and I do not feel courage enough to wade through the whole series. Now as, to the examination and reply. The reverend gentleman quotes the observation of Mr. Dias on the debate which took place when Paul went to Jerusalem to justify himself for having taught that it was not necessary for the gentile converts to submit to circumcision, and receive the Law of Moses, for which I refer your readers to your said number for April. “Now, in the first place,” <<355>>Mr. H. says, “I would observe there is a dishonesty about Mr. Dias’ statement which must seriously prejudice against him every impartial person.” This is a common practice with our opponents, when they find a man’s arguments too strong to he openly attacked; they endeavour to prejudice their readers against them personally. The Rev. Alex. McCall prefaced his abortive refutation of Orobio’s work, by an unmanly attack on the lady who had translated it, by accusing the writer of dissimulation and hypocrisy, because he would not give the merciful Inquisitors an opportunity to save his soul at the expense of his body, by burning him as a Jew.

Dias complains that the text is adulterated, and that there is not the least connexion between the prophecy and the application. Mr. Highton says that the text is not vitiated, but is as fair a quotation as any honest and sincere man would make from memory; that “the residue of men which shall seek the Lord,” and the remnant of Edom which shall be joined to the restored nation, have the same meaning; because Edom and man are written in Hebrew with the same letters, the only guide to the pronunciation and meaning, being the punctuation, and that there is as much reason to believe the reading of James to be correct as that from which the authorized English translation of the passage in Hosea is made. As to the relevancy of the quotation to the subject, I give you his own words. “The only object of St. James in quoting the subject was to show that the Scriptures spoke of a people being taken out of the gentiles for the name of God, and that, too, previous to the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel; and for that purpose the quotation, so far from being irrelevant is most apposite and adequate.” What was the subject under discussion? whether Paul was justified in dispensing with circumcision and the Law of Moses, in the instance of the converts which he had made. And what was the example which James adduces? the call of Abraham from his gentile family, and the separation of his descendants from all other nations to be God’s peculiar people, to whom He gave as everlasting memorials those laws, in the observance of which Paul was educated, and which he was then teaching might be dispensed with. What connexion has the quotation with the subject under consideration? Mr. H. does not pretend that it has any; he says, “The object <<356>>of James was to show that the Scriptures spoke of a people being taken out of the gentiles for the name of God, and that, too, previous to the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.” James was speaking to Jews; I think he must have  surprised them in telling them that the call of Abraham, and the separation of his descendants from all other nations, was mentioned in their holy book; and still more surprised would they have been had he imparted to them the fact, which Mr. H. thinks was part of his object, namely, that the nation was selected previous to the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel. However, I acquit James of the last discovery, the merit of which is due to Mr. Highton. I believe that James’ object was to mystify his hearers, and so reconcile them to the innovation which Paul had made, and to get their consent to the letters which they sent to Antioch, Syria,  and Cilicia, in which they associate themselves with the Holy Ghost in the directions they give. The passages in the Prophets which show that at the restoration of the Jews other nations will be joined with them in the worship of one God, are too numerous to require pointing out; it is to that circumstance which Amos alludes, and there is no ground for the supposition of Mr. H., that it alluded to the establishment of Christianity. At all events the text indicates that the Israelites, or as the nation is figuratively described, “the tabernacle of David which is fallen” shall “possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations which are called by my name;” this would seem to show that Israel will enjoy a spiritual supremacy. It is not likely that the nations who will rush to serve the Lord at Jerusalem will be able to impose their faith on the Jews,—the tabernacle of David which will then be set up, will be built “as in the days of old.”

Mr. H., in continuation, says, “Whichever interpretation we adopt, it is clear that the prophet Amos looked forward to the gentiles being called by the name of God before the time when the tabernacle of David should be restored. That tabernacle, it is true, has not been restored, but it is true, that a people from among the gentiles have been visited, and called by the name of God, and have a knowledge of God and of the Messiah, which the Jews have not.” James quotes Simeon for what he did not say. “Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the gentiles to take out of them a people for his name.” By that <<357>>Simeon could only allude to the call of Abraham, had he spoken the words. But Simeon, whom I take to be Peter, that being the name given him, Mark 3:16, merely told them, Acts 15:7, that God had chosen him from among them that he preach the gospel to the gentiles. This is another instance in which the Apostles succeeded in confusing and perplexing the converts. I cannot sufficiently admire the audacity of Mr. H. in saying that a nation which has been taken from among the gentiles has a knowledge of God and of the Messiah, which the Jews have not. From whom did the Christians, for I suppose it is to them he alludes, receive that knowledge? Had it not been for a few heretical Jews, they would possibly be, at the present time, worshipping Jupiter, Odin, Thor, &c., as their ancestors did. It is to the Jews they are indebted for the knowledge of that God whom they have insulted by associating Him with two imaginary beings who are not even possessed of names; for though they have invented names for those minute Infusoria, five hundred millions of which are contained in a drop of water, they have only distinguished these two associates by calling one “the Son,” and the other “the Holy Ghost” of our God.

In the next section of the lucubrations of the learned gentleman, he passes to the passage in Hosea, which Paul evidently applies to the converts, when he says; “Even us whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the gentiles; as He saith also in Osee.” Now, if this is not a direct application of the quotation to the gentiles, it is irrelevant to the subject of his epistle. God says that the children of Israel, by their manifold transgressions, had invited a temporary rejection, which He shows metaphorically by the names of the two children of the prophet, Lo ruhama, and Lo ammi; and afterwards, in the assurance of His forgiveness He says, still alluding to the names of the two children: “And it shall come to pass, in the place where it was said to them, Ye are not my people, that it shall be said to them, Ye are the sons of the Living God.” Does this concern any but the Jews, as is justly observed by Mr. Dias? Has it any reference to the gentiles? But Mr. H. says: “Dias, by his criticism, proves that he does not understand Paul, (which is no imputation on his intellect, for Paul is frequently unintelligible,) who intended the quotation not to refer only to the clause immediately preceding <<358>>it, but to the whole subject on which he was treating, the temporary rejection and restoration of Israel; and that his allusion to the case of the gentiles, in verse 24, was merely parenthetical.” This, perhaps, may have been the case, as it is in harmony with the habitual duplicity of Paul, who says of himself that he wars everything to every one. “Where then is the inapplicability of this prophecy?” asks Mr. H., adding, “True it is that, as Mr. Dias says, it concerns the Jews only.” In that consists its inapplicability, and Mr. H. allows it. “But,” says he, “it is not true, as he says, that it concerns only their restoration, it concerns also their casting away;” and then proceeds with a loving exhortation to Israel to consider why it is that the Jews have so long been rejected, and concludes with a recommendation to study the writings of Paul, for which, I am afraid, we shall not feel sufficiently grateful.

The paragraphs 19. and 20. are next tested. In the first, Paul refers to Deut. 30:11-14, in which Moses tells Israel that the commandment which he had just rehearsed to them was not a thing in the heavens, or beyond the sea, that they could not reach it; this he applies to Christ and the faith which he was preaching to them. The next relates to the promise made to Abraham and his seed, which Paul contends, without the least reason, must be considered to mean not many, but one, and that one to be Christ. Now, it would be a waste of time to prove the absurdity of Paul’s interpretation, which is another instance of his bad faith, in endeavouring to deceive the, Romans, who, he thought, could not detect the fallacy. But, let us see what excuse Mr. H. can make for him. “The passage,” he says, “undoubtedly presents some difficulty; but observe that Paul does not assert that Moses had in view the peculiar application of the words which he makes himself.” Now this is a singular instance of modesty in Paul, which he certainly did not learn from Jesus, who boldly affirmed that all the prophets, from Moses to Malachi, spoke of him.

(To be continued.)