Veiw of the Hebrews
by Ethan Smith
[p.271]Some objections to the scheme in the preceding pages have been noted. The writer is desirous that the due attention should be paid to every objection; hence the following things are appended.
The Afghans in Persia have by some been conjectured to be of the ten tribes of Israel. Mr. Vansittart of England has given notice of them. While he was in the east, he met with a Persian abridgement of a book styled, Ararul Afghainah; or secrets of the Afghans. This he translated, and sent to Sir W. Jones, who then presided over the Asiatic Society. He observes that it opens with a very wild description of the origin of that tribe of people, and conveys a narrative, which is by no means to be offered upon the whole as a serious and probable history. This book unfolds some notions of their having descended from Melic Talut, supposed to be king Saul. And a number of things they mention, which seem to have arisen from the ancient history of Israel. But not a rite or ceremony is noted of them, which seems to bear any resemblance to the ceremonial system of ancient Israel. Afghan a noted ancient leader, (they inform) remade frequent excursions to the mountains, where his posterity after his death established themselves, lived in a state of independence, built forts, and exterminated the infidels.” When Mohammedism was propagated in the east, the Afghans embraced it with avidity, and have remained under that delusion to this day. Surely this favours not their being of Israel. This people have latterly divided themselves into four classes. The first class consists of those who are purely Afghan. The second, of those whose fathers were Afghan, and their mothers of another nation. The third of those, whose mothers were Afghan, and their fathers of another people. The fourth of those whose connexion [connection] was still more remote.
A question arises, whether this history of their apparent descent from Israel might not have been furnished to this class of people from the grand impostor, Mohammed? They were a brave warlike race. They at once embraced his system; upon which they boast that he said to them, “Come, O molue, or kings;”—that Mohammed gave them his ensign; and said ”that the faith would be strengthened by [p.272]them.” He knowing that Israel were once planted in that region, might think further to please them by furnishing them with a legend of their having descended from that people. This he might have done by the Jewish apostate who assisted him in forming his system of delusion. But it is said that their account of the time of their departure from Palestine does not at all agree with the Old Testament account of the same. Mr. Faber upon the circumstances says; “It must be confessed, that this Afghan tradition bears a strong resemblance to many of those Mohammedan legends, which are founded upon scripture accounts, (i. e. allude to them, to strengthen the imposition) whence it is certainly not impossible that a tribe of Mussulmans might be in possession of it, without being descended from the house of Israel.”
But should the Afghans prove to be of Israel, they may be from a tribe, or scattering people of ancient Israel, who tarried behind when most of the people set off for this continent. The Indian tradition says, “that they once lived in another country, where the people were very wicked; and nine tenths of their people took counsel, and left that wicked people, and were led into this land. The posterity of that one remaining tribe may possibly now be found somewhere in the east. But the Afghans, according to their own account, have much mixed with other people. We are led to believe from prophecy that God would keep the tribes of Israel (as he designs they shall finally be known and recovered as such) free from any considerable degree of mixture.—And it would appear that Israel, as such, must be ascertained by evidence less liable to imposition than the aforenoted book of the secrets of the Afghans.
Doctor Buchanan gives an account of white and black Jews at Cochin, East Indies. The Most High speaks of gathering his ancient people from the east, and from the west. If nine tenths of Israel migrated to this continent; the residue of them might migrate to the East Indies. Doctor Buchanan informs that the white Jews there emigrated from Europe in later times. The black Jews have a tradition that they arrived in the Indies not long after the Babylonish captivity. And Doctor Buchanan adds; “What seems to countenance this tradition is, that they have copies of those books of the Old Testament, which were written before the captivity; but none of those whose dates are subsequent to that event.” It seems most probable then, that these black Jews are descendants of those Jews, who turned their course to that region of the east, when they liberated from Babylon, instead of returning to Jerusalem. Some of the Jews manifestly did thus part from their brethren, and migrate to the east. These were the Jews who abounded in eastern as well as western provinces of Ahasuerus, in the days of Haman, Esther and Mordecai; when the impious decree was obtained against them be Haman. Ahasuerus then reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven [p.213]provinces, even from India to Ethiopia.” Esther i. 1. And Jews appear, at that time, to have scattered in all these provinces. Thence these black Jews have became planted in India; and they had their bible as far as was written before the captivity. Their being the same principles, of different climates and habits of living, which have given to the American natives a darker skin than to the Jews of Europe; or than their ancestors possessed.
[p.273]But two arguments testify against those black Jews of Asia having descended from the ten tribes.
1. They call themselves Jews. The Jews have ever been strict to retain the knowledge of their descent. And the deep rooted prejudices mutually maintained between the Jews and Israel, forbid that the latter should ever relinquish their name for that of the former.
2. The tribes of Israel were threatened with the famine of the word, which has been already noted; Amos viii. 11, 12. Here the ten tribes in their long banishment, should wander from “north to east, and from sea to sea;” running to and fro, to find communication from Heaven; but should remain destitute of the word of life, till about the time of their restoration. But the black Jews in Asia, as well as the white Jews there, have had their word of the Lord to this day, all the sacred writings, which were given before the Babylonish captivity. These reasons render it probable if not certain that these black Jews are not of the ten tribes of Israel.
Since preparing the above the writer has seen in communications from the London Jews Society, for May 1824, an extract of a letter from Thomas Jarratt, Esq. at Madras, East Indies, giving account of Mr. Largon’s mission in the east in search of the ten tribes. It is happy that such a mission has been undertaken to ascertain whether any traces can be found of Israel in the east. Mr. Largon gives the following account of some people discovered by him in Hindostan [Hindustan].
1. These people in dress and manners resemble the natives, so as not to be distinguished from them, but by attentive observation and inquiry.
2. They have some Hebrew names with local terminations.
3. Some of them read Hebrew. And they have a faint tradition of the cause of their original exodus from Egypt.
4. Their common language is Hindoo [Hindu].
5. They keep idols, and worship them; and use idolatrous ceremonies intermixed with Hebrew.
6. They circumcise their children.
7. They observe the Kippoor [Kippur], or great expiation day of the Hebrews.
8. They call themselves Gorah Jehudi, or white Jews; and they term the black Jews, Callah Jehudi.
9. They speak of the Arabic Jews as their brethren; but do not acknowledge European Jews as such, because they are of fairer complexion than themselves.
10. They use a Jewish prayer; Hear, O Israel; the Lord thy God is one Lord; Deut. vi. 4.
11. They have no priest Levite, or nasi among them; though they have elders and a chief in each community.
12. They expect the Messiah; and that when he comes, he will go to Jerusalem, whither they shall return, to be dispersed no more.”
For these reasons Mr. Jarratt seems inclined to view this people as of the ten tribes. Should they prove to be thus, they may be descendants of the small part of Israel who stayed behind, according to the Indian tradition, when nine tenths if their nation journeyed to this country. But relative to their origin, let the following things be considered.
1. They are found in the country of both the white and the black Jews; and seem to have no essential distinction from them. They [p.274]may then be of the tribe of Judah. Any circumstantial difference between them and the other Jews may be accounted for at least as easily, as we can account for the different complexions of the white and black Jews; or for the different complexions among the different tribes of our natives, or among any other different tribes of men, when all sprang from Noah. They appear from their name to be not so black as the black Jews. And they appear not to be so white as the European Jews from their aversion to them on account of their whiter complexion. From some circumstance they have a shade half way between the white and black Jews, then against their being of the ten tribes.
2. They call themselves Jews. Why then shall we not credit them, and believe they are Jews. The ten tribes after the separation, were never called Jews. And such was their inveterate enmity against the Jews, that they would never be likely to assume their name in a rejection of their own, as has been noted. It is predicted, in Isai. xi. 13, as one peculiarity of these two branches of Israel, after their final restoration, that they shall envy each other no more. Neither this prediction, nor the nature of the case, admits that Israel,—long ages before the restoration,—should be so in love with Judah, as to adopt his name instead of their own. This new clan of Jews, half way between the white and black Jews, say the Arabian Jews are their brethren. Grant this to be a fact, and they no doubt are the descendants of Judah.
3. The two ancient branches of the house of Israel were to be long lost from each other; as has appeared. This seems to warrant the belief that they were to be planted in different regions of the earth. But this does not accord with the idea of their having been found in a measure intermixed, or in the same vicinity. The ten tribes were to wander northeast, and from sea to sea; from one extreme ocean to another, in a famine of the word; Amos viii. 11, 12. While the American natives appear fully to answer to this description; the same cannot be said of that people in Hindostan [Hindustan].
4. We are led to believe (as has been noted,) that God would furnish a place of retreat and safe-keeping for his outcast tribes of Israel for 2500 [p.215]years; that they might be kept, and not be lost among the nations. Would Israel then be led into the heart of the populous Hindostan [Hindustan]?—or into any of the crowded empires of the east? It is inadmissible. The Jews were to be dispersed through the cities and nations, and were to be kept and known as Jews. But this cannot be said of the ten tribes. Fact forbids it; and facts are stubborn things. The Jews have been known as such, over the nations, in all ages since their dispersion. The ten tribes have never been known; but have been lost from the world. Some have objected to the distinction recognized in this book between dispersed and outcast. I wish every part of this subject to be thoroughly examined; but I wish to be examined with candour, and with an acknowledgment of plain facts. This distinction is plainly made in the word of God. Of the final restoration it is predicted Isai. xi. 12; “And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” This is one of a number of texts recognizing this distinction, Had not providence illustrated and fulfilled [p.275]this distinction, we might with better grace say, it is a mere accidental expression, or a mere expletive. But when we find the thing exactly fulfilled for so many centuries; that the Jews are dispersed, and know as Jews for 1800 years; and then the ten tribes have been outcast and unknown both to the Jews and the civil world for between two and three thousands of years; we are warranted to say—(all groundless doubts of it notwithstanding) that there is a manifest meaning in this inspired and repeated distinction. As well might any other manifest facts be denied as this! But this fact does highly favour the belief, that the ten tribes would have been, and doubtless were, planted in regions very different from the populous regions of the east Indies.
5. Compare the evidences which have been adduced in favour of the hypothesis, that the natives of our continent are the tribes of Israel, with the above evidence in favour of the Hindoo [Hindu] Jews being the ten tribes; and what will be the result? The question is cheerfully submitted to every impartial reader. And it is cheerfully submitted whether more than ten times as much evidence has not appeared in favour of the former, as has ever yet appeared of any other people on earth.
Some have objected to the following effect against the theory in the preceding pages: Who knows but such traditions and religious customs, as are said to be found among the natives of America, may not be found among all or most of heathen nations? Let such be asked in their turn; Who knows but much of the rites of the Christian religion may not be found among all or most of the heathen nations? Who knows that these rites are from heaven, and are not of heathen origin? This is a more glaring case; but is perhaps upon the same scale of reasoning. The objection must be too loose and general, if not uncandid. If such rites and religious traditions as are found among the Indians of America, can be found among any other heathen nations; let the fact be adduced, and something is accomplished. But idly to [p.216]say, who knows—is an easy way of answering not only human writings, but the word of God itself. And it is an objection unworthy of a serious answer.
That some traditionary notions of the flood, of the ark, of the confusion of tongues, and of sacrifices, have been handed down in heathen mythologies, is so far from being denied, that Christians glory in the fact, as adding an incontestible argument to the divinity of revelation. And some nations living in the twilight of ancient revelation, caught some rays of the light shining from heaven, and blended various shreds of bible sentiment and bible morality with those of the heathen, is admitted as a manifest fact. Says a first character of our nation; “Neither Plato nor Aristotle would have taught even their purblind ethics, had not the light of divine revelation shone. They moved in the twilight made by the radiations from the church. Philosophy was not born in Greece, till after the Jews were dispersed among the heathen by Nebuchadnezzar. Pythagoras, the earliest of the Grecian philosophers, and the contemporary of Thales, the founder of the first school, began to flourish half a century after that event. He spent twenty years in Egypt, where much of the Jewish religion had long before been known. He visited Phoenicia and Chaldea. He conversed with the Persian Zoroaster, and also with the Jewish prophets. Thales travelled [sic] in pursuit of knowledge [p.276]to Egypt, where the Hebrews had lived hundreds of years, and in the neighbourhood of which they had lived nine centuries.” These correct remarks of Doctor Griffin suggest the aid derived by ancient heathen philosophers from their contiguity to a people blessed with the true light from heaven. This principle may account for all the excellencies found in the morals of Seneca, and other heathen moralists. They caught some of the rays which shot off from the true Light of Israel. The golden age of Virgil was no doubt borrowed from the Kingdom of the Messiah in the prophet Isaiah. But while we admire various of the sayings of Seneca, Cicero, and some other heathen writers; we are not in the least staggered at the divine assertion that “the world by wisdom knew not God.” But we are led to admire the word of prophecy shining in ancient Israel; the distant twilight of whose rays could light up in unsanctified heathen minds ideas so correct and so sublime. These things are cheerfully admitted.
And it is also admitted that various heathen nations in the contiguity of the light of Israel, having their superior and subordinate divinities of heathenism, might borrow the name of the God of Israel, and attach it to their superior false divinity. Yes, the Romans had their Jove, the Moors, their Juba, and the Greeks their lout And other contiguous heathen nations might symbolize with them in some similar facts.
But I ask the objector; can these ancient facts afford him a satisfactory account how the ancient natives (granting them to be of Tartar extraction) came to possess so many traditions of the Mosaic ceremonial law? Behold these natives, filling this western world, far separated from the old continent, living at a period of between two and three thousand years later than the [p.217]ancient heathen round about Israel, destitute of letters, children of nature, roaming for more than two millenaries in wild forests; and yet possessing many manifest traces (what ancient heathen even in the vicinity of Israel never possessed) of the ceremonial laws of Moses! Too often did the sons of Jacob adopt the idolatrous customs of their heathen neighbours. But when did their heathen neighbours return the compliment? Who of them ever adopted the ceremonial religion of the God of Israel? The Mosaic ceremonies were the distinguishing peculiarities of the chosen tribes. By these they were insulated from all other people of the earth, who were in gross idolatry. “You only have I known of all the family of the earth.” “He suffered all other nations to walk their own way.” While some traditionary notions of the flood, the ark, of Babel, and of sacrifices, taught long before, were floating in heathen mythologies; the peculiarities of the Mosaic ceremonial code were never adopted by heathen nations.
Let the objector then, (who cannot but be haunted with the thought, Who knows but a lively imagination can find just such things as these among all heathen nations?) be so kind as to inform us; how the ancient Scythians of the north, (barbarous, and far remote from all intercourse with the people of Israel,) should be supposed to be so intimately acquainted and delighted with the distinguished ceremonial religion of Israel, as not only to have adopted it themselves; but to have so deeply imprinted it in the minds of their posterity as of America, for thousands of years? Men, seriously to adopt this alternative must be far more wild, and fond of miracles, than ought to be admitted at this day of light and improvement!
[p.277]And it must be extraordinary, to hear men of letters, and of Christian improvements, when so many distinct Indian traditions, manifestly from the ceremonial law of Israel, have been ascertained from a great variety of unimpeached witnesses,—Indulging in the vague objection, Who knows but such things exist among all heathen nations? Let it be asked also; Who knows that the Mosaic rituals descended from Heaven? Who knows but they were derived from heathen mythologies?
Let the fact be ascertained, that the Indians of our wilds have brought down from their ancestors a variety of the ceremonial laws of ancient Israel; and let who will object, or disbelieve,—I shall rest satisfied that a very considerable if not a sufficiency of that very kind of evidence is here found, which about this period of the world is to bring to light the long lost tribes of the house of Israel.
The writer has seen a review of his first edition in the United States Literary Gazette, in which objections are made which merit some reply.
The Reviewer it seems does not believe in a literal restoration of the Jew, and Israel to Palestine. He argues that as “the prophecies relative to the advent of the Lord were misunderstood by the Jewish church,” existing when Christ appeared;—as they were understood to speak of the restoration of Israel; but the dispersion of the two remaining tribes followed;” So “the existing Christian church believes that when the Millennium arrives the children of Israel will be restored to their promised land.” But they may be under an equal mistake. The Reviewer seems cautious in being understood as adopting this as his own sentiment. But it appears manifest that it is his sentiment, and a ground of his reasoning. As far as the Reviewer makes reliance on this argument, I would briefly say, it does not follow, that because the Jews, when Christ appeared, had become extremely corrupt, perverted their own scriptures, were prepared to reject and crucify the Lord of Glory, and were just ready for destruction; that accordingly “the existing Christian church” may now be as grossly ignorant relative to the true sense of Israel’s promised restoration. It is to be hoped the present church of Christ has more correct evangelical sentiment, and more grace, than had those Jews. They certainly have had more opportunity to investigate the true sense of the prophecies than had those Jews. And it is to be hoped many of them are far less corrupt.
The Reviewer informs us, that the words “Judah, Israel, Jerusalem, &c. used in the prophecies, which relate to this subject, are nearly synonimous [sic] with the word church.” And he proceeds to inform that “those prophecies which had a primary reference to the consummation and the devastation of the Jewish dispensation existing at the time they were revealed, were necessarily fulfilled in relation to those who were literally denominated Israel and Judah. But those which, speaking of Israel and Judah, relate in fact to the establishment, the condition and progress of another church, cannot be expected to have their fulfilment with any peculiar reference to that nation, because it has ceased to be Israel, in the prophetic sense of the term.” With whatever extreme caution this sentence is phrased, its sentiment appears from all the use made of it, to be this; the Old Testament prophecies relative to the names of Judah and Israel, but which relate to periods subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem, [p.278]have no further allusion to those particular people; but to another community under the same name,—the Christian church. If this is not the sense of the Reviewer, I am unable to comprehend his meaning, or arguments. I understand it as being on this ground that he now believes that the many prophecies which seem to predict the literal restoration of Israel and Judah to Palestine, yet mean no such event. The Reviewer finds in Rom. xi. that the literal Jews are to be converted to Christ; but not to be restored to Palestine, as he conceives. But the ground he has assumed as much forbids their being brought to Christ as Jews, as their being as such restored to Palestine. If his premises contain his consequences; it can be only on the ground that no Old Testament prophecy relative to the literal Jews and Israel under the Christian dispensation, has any distinct appropriation to literal Jews and Israel; but to a Christian church under their name. And according to the same argument, their being brought to the land of their fathers can mean only their being brought into the kingdom of Christ.
But if this be correct, how strangely have “the existing church,” and the most profound and pious commentators, been deceived in supposing that they have seen held up before the world, a tremendous fulfilment of Old Testament denunciations of signal judgments on the literal Jews now for about 1800 years! Those predictions foretold they should be removed into all kingdoms, for their hurt, their reproach; and they should be a proverb, and a taunt, and a curse in all places; Jer. xxiv. 9. Ezek. v. 15. Are we now to learn that such things were never to befall the Jews, as such, under the Christian system? Should the present church decline this sentiment, and still adhere to their belief, that Old Testament predictions of evil are now fulfilling on the Jews as such; they may be likely still to infer that the connected predictions of the recovery of the same Jews, and their restoration to their own land, may likewise be expected to have a literal accomplishment. And if so, they may in like manner deem it a truth that the collateral predictions of the restoration of Israel with the Jews, will have a literal fulfilment.
Does the Reviewer mean to have it understood that the ten tribes, when expelled from Canaan, 725 years before Christ, amalgamated with the heathen world, and were lost? The writer was informed, before he saw the review, that this was the sentiment of the Reviewer. And I see not but the review carries this sentiment. But the existing Christian church will want more evidence than has yet been discovered, to adopt this belief. The names of Israel and the Jews, it is acknowledged, are in some sacred passages used in a mystical sense. But to take an occasion from this to annihilate all further use of these terms in the prophecies, as relating to that particular people, would indeed be extraordinary!
The reasoning of Paul, Rom. xi. to show that the temporal casting away of the Jews was consistent with the entail of the covenant of grace with Abraham, involved (among other things) the fact, that they as Jews should be recovered. And the same argument must hold equally true with the ten tribes?
Had the Jews disappeared from the world when expelled from Canaan and never more been heard of as Jews; whatever difficulty might have attended the reconciling of this with the divine promise and predictions; the Reviewer would have had greater plausibility of reasoning on his side. But as the Jews do still as Jews exist; and are receiving the manifest fulfillment of ancient denunciations upon them as Jews; it must be a task indeed to show that the predictions of their restoration to the land of Canaan (where they shall in numbers, and in prosperity, far exceed all their ancient fathers,) are to receive no literal fulfilment. But if they are to be literally fulfilled, then the predictions which are blended with those of the event, that Israel shall in like manner be recovered to the same land, that the two sticks in the prophet’s hand shall become one, Ezek. xxxvii. and all this over and above God’s giving them a new heart and a new spirit; must likewise be literally fulfilled. [p.220]Had the general theory of the Reviewer been correct, probably nothing more would have been heard of the Jews, after the destruction of Jerusalem, than has long been heard of Israel. But the Jews have been wonderfully kept a distinct nation, for many centuries. And one of the brightest ornaments of the republic of science, (and one too who did not deem it beneath his dignity to study the prophecies) could say; “Whenever I see a Jew, I seem to see a standing miracle in favour of the truth of divine Revelation!”
Relative to the proofs adduced in the View of the Hebrews in favour of our Indians having descended from Israel; The Reviewer says; “Various degrees of credit are due to the authorities on which Mr. S. relies.” Reply. I never heard these authorities impeached, unless this insinuation is designed to impeach them. It was designed that nothing dubious should be admitted. And the testimonies of authors are given in their own words, that nothing should appear coloured.
The Reviewer expresses his difficulty with the scheme, from a dissimilarity of the Indian features and countenance with those of the Jews. This objection has in the preceding pages received an answer, which will not hear be repeated.
But granting all the facts stated in the Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews, the Reviewer discovers nothing conclusive in all this. For he says; “We have no evidence that the customs and institutions of the Hebrews, which were sanctioned by divine authority, were all peculiar to that people, nor that they originated with them.” It is admitted that various sacrifices were offered among other nations. And circumcision was practised [sic] among the descendants of Abraham in Arabia. But the chief reliance of the writer was on those rites, which he ever deemed peculiar to Israel. Have we then “no evidence” that the Passover, the ark of the covenant, the special feasts in Israel, the separation of females, the annual atonement, cities of refuge, and the other ceremonial observances adduced;—have we no evidence that these originated in Israel? Have we now to learn that the ceremonial laws in Israel were only “sanctioned by divine authority there;”—but that they were not “peculiar to that people;” nor did they originate with them?” Let evidence of this be exhibited, and it shall have its weight. But till this is done, I shall stand firm in the old belief, that God did originate the ceremonial law in Israel. As soon should I believe that the rites of the Christian religion did not originate from God in his church, but originated among the heathen; and were only “sanctioned by God” in his church; as to believe the same relative to the rites of the ceremonial law, which have been noted.
[p.280]The Reviewer adds; “Neither does it appear that the Jewish scriptures were the first that God gave to man. On the contrary; there is strong proof that parts of the first books were compiled from earlier scriptures. All the ancestors of the Indians might have had a book, without being Hebrew.” That communications were made from God to man, before the days of Moses, perhaps there is no room to doubt. And possibly the knowledge of some [p.221]things which Moses was inspired to incorporate into his history, might have been correctly handed down by tradition. But if there is “strong proof” that eastern nations had possessed sacred writings before the writings of Moses, from which antecedent writings our natives may have brought down the tradition that their ancestors had a book of God, with no allusion to the writings of Moses; so that such a tradition is no evidence that these Indians descended from Israel; (which is the argument of the Reviewer;) how strange it must be that none beside the Indians of America, and the Reviewer, have any knowledge of such a book of God? Why have not the literary world been blessed with the knowledge of it? Why could not our literary Reviewer himself have laid his hand upon it, and presented it to us; or at least some of the “strong evidence” in its favour? The human family in the days of Abraham were going off to gross idolatry. God selected and covenanted with Abraham, in order that the true knowledge of himself might be maintained on earth. “He suffered all other nations to walk their own way.” And he said to Israel, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” Moses, in this family, was inspired to write the book of God. And it is noted as the special privilege of the circumcised Israel, that “to them were committed the oracles of God.” Now was there during all this time, in the other nations of the east, the knowledge of another book of God, so well known among the nations, and the sacred impressions of it so deep and universal, that the descendants of the northern barbarous nations might bring down many deep and correct impressions of it for three or four thousand years, in so distant and extensive a region of the world as this continent? So that all the rites of our natives, and their notions of an ancient book of God, afford no evidence of their being of Israel? Why has nothing of this kind ever been known in the learned world, till our literary Reviewer has brought it to light? Can he make it appear indeed, that although the natives of our continent claim the one Great Spirit as the God of their fathers, who they say were exclusively in covenant with him; who had his prophets to work miracles, and foretell the future events; who had the ark of the covenant; places of refuge; high priests; yearly atonements; and many other exclusive Mosaic rites; yet all this amounts to no distinctive evidence that they descended from Israeli—because they may have derived all these things from ancient heathen nations. One of two things from the Reviewer’s view of this subject, appears true; either the church of God have been under a great mistake relative to the origin of the Mosaic religion; or, deep literature does not always constitute a man a sound divine!
The Reviewer seems to be disturbed, that the writer should make the attempt he has done in this little book, to give an explanation to some prophecies relative to Israel. He informs that “the true mode of interpreting the prophecies is certainly little understood at this day.” He proceeds to allude to a dissertation on the prophecies of the writer published some time since; which he says received a quietus in the death of Buonaparte.” The [p.222]Reviewer certainly expresses these things with a sufficient degree of disrespect! One would imagine he was indeed much disturbed at any attempt to explain prophecy. But his assertion relative to the general ignorance “of the true mode of interpreting the prophecies,” surely must be understood as indicating that he himself has been so happy as to arrive at a superior knowledge upon this subject. Now, whether he has reached this high attainment by close application, or instinctively, he surely should not object to others taking what they may judge the most proper methods to obtain a small degree of that knowledge, of which he is so happy as to have much! The information given by the Reviewer, relative to what the scriptures do or do not mean concerning the restoration of the Jews, certainly would seem to indicate, that he himself has made great proficiency in this knowledge. For one must possess considerable knowledge on this deep subject, before he can with modesty and propriety publish what shall sweep away at a stroke the long received rules and writings of such men as Mede, Lawman, Bishop Newton, Sir Isaac Newton, and other most profound and celebrated expounders of the prophetic scriptures! The Reviewer then should be willing, (if he has been so successful) that others should make their humbler attempts; even though they should arrive at some different conclusions from himself. If this seems foreign from the first professed object of the Reviewer; the blame will not be attached to the reviewed, when it is considered he is following only where he is led, in self-defence.
Relative to the duty of studying the prophetic scriptures, let the following divine testimonies be considered. To the Jews Christ said, when light was far inferior to what it now is, “How is it that ye do not understand the signs of the times?” The signs of the times were the fulfillments of prophecies then taking place. “Whoso readeth, let him understand.” “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein; for the time is at hand.” Numerous were such testimonies many centuries ago. Light has been rising on the subject. And now it must be viewed as involved in inexplicable darkness! When then can so great a part of our holy revelation ever be understood? Or was it given in vain? Why has God commanded men to search and understand this part of his blessed word?
Every event for time and eternity, now future, is known only by prophecy. And yet “the true mode of interpreting prophecies is certainly little known at this day.” Does this hold true in relation to the judgment, and eternity? to the resurrection, to heaven, and to hell? Where shall we draw the lines? Are no opinions to be formed of the Millennium?—of the battle of that great day of God? Why then are ministers commanded to “blow the trumpet in Zion, to sound an alarm in God’s holy mountain, that all may tremble for the day of the Lord, which is nigh at hand?” And if these vast events must be studied and known, why not other great events connected with them, and revealed with equal clearness?
But if the Reviewer may have mistaken as much in relation to the prophecies, as he has in stating that the writer’s former Dissertation received a quietus in the death of Buonaparte; possibly his knowledge [p.282]of this subject will not prove to be of great practical importance; and possible his remarks may receive a “quietus” in a statement of facts.
The writer did about fourteen years ago publish a Dissertation on the Prophecies. He did it at the request of many, and with the special recommendation of more than half a dozen of the first literary characters in New England.
In this work Buonaparte was noted only as one signal leader of the last head of the secular Roman beast rising from the bottomless pit. But he was never identified with this beast; but was ever distinguished from it. Hence let his death have taken place ever so soon, after the beast was exhibited in his characteristic marks, it would in no sense have given a quietus to Mr. S’s. scheme. For as the first part of the ancient imperial head of this beast depended on no one emperor; but was accommodated with many in succession; so notice was given that it might be with the last imperial reign of the same head, recovered to life in the last days. See the following quotations from the first edition of the Dissertation. “And the king shall do according to his will, and he shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous [sic] things against the God of gods.”
“By a king in the language of prophecy, is generally to be understood a kingdom, or civil power, and not an individual person. In the sense we are to understand the king in this text. In the passage we are presented with a great atheistical power, who in his commencement is to be anarchical.—His licentiousness is first noted; he “shall do according to his will;” breaking every restraint. His anarchy follows; “and he shall exalt himself above every God,” i. e. above every king or legitimate ruler. War with kings, was to be among his first characteristics. His atheism follows: “and he shall speak marvellous [sic] things against the God of gods.” He shall blaspheme and deny the God of Heaven. “But in his estate shall he honour the god of forces.” After this power shall gain national importance, he shall honour military munitions, or pay his first attention to the arts of war.
“And a god whom his fathers knew not, shall he honour with gold and silver, and precious stones, and pleasant things.” Although his father’s god, and all gods (kings) have been rejected; yet a god, or ruler of foreign descendants shall by and by come to be acknowledged by this power, and honoured with great magnificence. “Thus shall he do in the most strong hold with a strange God whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain.” This infidel power shall overrun strong holds, and powerful nations, with this foreigner at their head, who shall be received as their supreme ruler, and honoured with the highest dignity. And he shall lead them [p224]to subdue states and nations; and shall distribute their governments among his favourites.
“And at the time of the end the king of the south shall push at him; and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind.” The Ottoman empire may provoke the infidel power to its own ruin. “Whether this will be the case; or whether some other two powers, one on the south, and the other on the north of the infidel power, will be found to unite, with a view to check their common enemy; time will decide.”*
[p.283]This power is ever treated of in this Dissertation as an empire, and not as any emperor, or succession of emperors.
This beast in his last head, (in the scheme of the seven vials given in the Dissertation, which scheme has never been disproved, but has met with general, if not universal approbation) was to continue through the last three and greatest vials, the fifth, sixth and seventh. The periods of these vials was to be distinguished from each other by various reverses experienced by this power. Says the writer in his first edition, “Floods of delusion, of wicked agents, of falsehoods and abuse, if not of national rage, armies and bloody violence, will be excited, as though belched out of the mouth of the old serpent, like an overwhelming torrent; in so much, that nothing can save the cause of Christ from destruction, but signal interpositions of Providence in counteracting those violent measures, and confounding the enemy, like the earth opening her mouth and swallowing up floods of water.”** Great reverses in the state of this power of the last days were thus implied in the first edition of this work.
And it occurred to the writer, while preparing his second edition, (soon after) that these reverses were clearly held up in various collateral prophecies, as being far greater than he had expressly stated; while yet the power (not any individual leaders of it) would continue its mystical existence, till it should sink in perdition at the close of the seventh vial, subsequently to the restoration of the Jews. It was to be “part of iron, and part of clay; partly strung and partly broken.” Of this the writer gave ample notice in his second edition in the following sentences, and many similiar ones; “To how great a degree these reverses may proceed, God only knows. Should the brokenness of this last part of the Roman power be now made in some degree as conspicuous as his antecedent, (as the text “the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken,” seems to warrant us to expect) that wicked power would indeed be prostrated. But should this be the case, should all the horns of the anti-christian beast be torn off, and the wretch lie bleeding and fainting; yet it appears evident that all his work is [p.225]not yet done. He does not go into final perdition, till the battle of that great day of God, which is subsequent to the restoration of the Jews.”***
“The enormous power or influence, symbolized by the beast from the bottomless pit, (says the writer) depends on no one man; though it has been accommodated hitherto with a leader truly prepared for the work of judgement. In the first reign of the imperial head of the Roman beast, emperors were set up and deposed, and numbers slain, in thick succession. And it repeatedly seemed as though destruction had fallen upon the empire; still that imperial head continued, (i.e. till the days of Constantine.) That genius of the people continued, which would not be governed by any thing short of a military despotism. And this (it may be expected) will be the case on the Roman earth henceforth, till the battle of the great day. Should revolution succeed revolution, it would not alter the case. The nature of the beast from the bottomless pit is not changed. It rests on the broad basis of a general systematic corruption, which will never be [p.284]purged, but by the exterminating fire of the great day and notable day of the Lord.”
Much of this kind of notice was given in this publication, which fully accords with the subsequent death of Buonaparte, and the prostration of his particular schemes of ambition, which was so terrible under the fifth vial. It was anticipated in the following words on the king of the north coming against him like a whirlwind, &c. “The phraseology seems to intimate great success against the infidel power. For a mighty whirlwind usually prostrates everything in its way.”
“Between the present time and the battle of the great day, (the writer adds) as great intervals of light may be experienced as might be expected to form a transition from the event of one great vial of wrath to another.”
The scheme of the vials, in this Dissertation, makes the events of the French revolution the fulfillment of the fifth vial, poured on the throne of the Papal beast, and filling his kingdom with darkness. The sixth is to be fulfilled in the subversion of the Turks. And the seventh in the utter destruction of the great secular Roman beast, which arose in his last head. He is clearly to continue in some kind of existence, till the battle of the great day; though with the reverse which have been hinted.
In relation to the general scheme of this Dissertation, the writer of it has never found occasion to alter his mind. He as much believes, as when he wrote, that his scheme of the last head of the Roman beast, and the seven vials, is essentially correct; and has to the present day been more and more confirmed in the opinion, by the events of the times. He anticipated and published his opinion, that between one vial and its successor, there might be intervals of peace. He believes the fifth vial closed at the battle of Waterloo. He often from that time stated to his friends his apprehension that the sixth vial, to subvert the Turkish government, might next be expected. This was the scheme of his Dissertation. And events thus far appear fully to accord with the hypothesis.
The Reviewer then, on re-examining the subject, may possibly be convinced that his attack on the Dissertation was not only unprovoked and gratis, but wholly incorrect.
His following assertion is no less incorrect. He says; “But he (Mr. S.) maintains boldly that the prophecies respecting the restoration of the Jews, and the Millennium, must be fulfilled about this time.” The writer’s time for the commencement of the Millennium, (and his reasons for it) he gave to the public in his second edition, published ten years ago; which is stated to be about the year 2000. And never since that time has a word been by him uttered or written in opposition to this opinion.
In the first edition of his Dissertation, he stated the scheme of a noted author, and several things that might render it probable; which scheme introduces the Millennium before the close of the present century. But attending further to the subject, in his second edition, the writer became of opinion that the Millennium will not commence before the year A.D. 2000.****
Such representation then cannot be for the benefit of the public, or of the author reviewed; and hence cannot be for the honour of the [p.285]Reviewer! Some other things in the Review might be noticed, but shall pass. If the Reviewer’s conscience is satisfied with them, they may rest in silence.
The writer of the preceding pages is not insensible that such an attempt as he has made, is not only a task; but one that will excite obloquy from a certain class of men. He solicits information on the subject of his book from all who may find it convenient to communicate it. And every objection to his scheme, stated with candor, shall be gratefully received. But he shall never feel grateful for any communications to the public calculated to bring attention to the prophetic scriptures into disrepute; or to prevent a candid attention of the public to any evidences adduced relative to the state and recovery of the long lost tribes of Israel.
* See sect. 2, chap. I. 1st. edit.
** Page 45, 1st edit.
*** Page 8, 2d edit.
**** Page 131, 2d edit.