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The reader may find in Prideaux's Connexion, Part I. Book 5. much more information on this subject : but these extracts must suffice for our present purpose. An excellent friend of mine used to say,
that a story is at first like a bit of wire; but one polishes it, another heads it, and another points ' it, and so it becomes a pin.' Every one who considers how circumstantial alterations, in reporting any fact, take place, as it
from one person to another, even without
intentional misrepresentation, must be aware, that oral tradition, except in a few simple principles, maxims, and rules, must, without a greater and more constant miracle than any recorded in scripture, be a most vague and uncertain mode of transmission: especially when interpretations, additions, exceptions, and limitations of six hundred and thirteen precepts are in this manner to be transmitted from one to another, during the course of three thousand years ! But I forget: the snowball grew at length too large : it became necessary to write the oral law; and thirteen folios are filled with it, and with the comments on it!
If a man should publish the Bible in English, with all the discordant expositions which have ever been given of it; it would not be a more heterogeneous mass, than this written and expounded oral law; and it would not contain half, if the tenth part, of the grossly offensive and pernicious things comprised in it.
Our Lord, who taught his disciples to observe the ceremonies of the Mosaic law, and to obey the scribes as “ sitting in Moses's seat,” and teaching his doctrine; most decidedly protested against “ the traditions of the elders,” and taught his disciples and the people to do the same. Nor is there any prospect, of succeeding in our attempts to bring the Jews to embrace Christianity; so long as we, either timidly, or by a mistaken policy, allow them to retire unmolested behind these entrenchments. These strongholds must fall ; or they must be drawn forth from them to the fair ground of “ the law and the testimony," the written word of God; before our arguments, in other respects, will receive any adequate attention from them.
'Rev. John Newton, Rector of St. Mary, Woolnoth.
P. 93. I. 18. Moses received,' &c.- If Moses received the oral law, how is it that he gives no intimation of it, either in connexion with other laws, or in his addresses to the people, his charges to Joshua, his prophetic song, or his blessings on the tribes of Israel? How is it that he gives such plain commands of quite a contrary nature? How is it that the written law was to be set before the people, every seventh year, at the feast of tabernacles, 2 but not a hint of any other law? Not a hint from Joshua, the next in order, (1. 22,) but the contrary ;3 or from any of the twelve judges, (1. 23,) the next successors mentioned? Some quotations they made from the written law, but nô allusion to the oral law. Many of the persons mentioned in this transmission of the
· Deut. xxxi. 9--13.
Deut. iv. 2. xii. 32.
Josh. i. 8. xxiji. 6.
oral law have left us nothing on record; (1. 24-28;) none of them any thing favourable to it. Isaiah's appeal is “ to the law and to the testimony.” Hosea says, in the name of God, “ I have written “ unto him the great things of my law;”? but not a word about any oral law. This must be wholly unaccountable, if any such oral law existed. But, in fact, this oral law was not invented till after the close of the Old Testament eanon : and it is never mentioned in any writings prior to the New Testament, as far as I have any opportunity of learning. Either Josiah had never heard of it, or it was something widely different from the written law; else his consternation at finding and reading the latter would not have been so great. 3 Ezra and Nehemiah ordered every thing according to the written law; constantly referred to it, and read it to the people. 4 Malachi calls on the people, saying, “ Remember
ye the law of Moses.”5. Had he been asked, what law, would he not have said, that contained in the Pentateuch?
P. 94. 1. 10. “Malachi was-the great seal,' &c. I do not understand in what sense - Malachi was ' the great seal of the Old Testament,' except as his short prophecy is placed last among
prophetical books of that sacred volume. Nor does it appear, (however his prophecy, that God would “ send Elijah, the prophet, before the coming of “ the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” may be interpreted,) what way it can prove that there
Is. viii. 20. xxix. 11-13. * 2 Kings xxii. 9-13. ix. X. 28–39. xiii. 1-3.
? Hos. vii. 12.
should be no more a prophet in Israel, until the restoration of Israel.' Not a word is said on that subject in the context; and “the great and “ dreadful day of the Lord” evidently means “the
day which shall burn as an oven; and all the
proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall “ be stubble: and the day that cometh shall “ burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it « shall leave them neither root nor branch.” These are contrasted with the opposite character. “ But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun “ of righteousness arise, with healing in his “ wings,” &c. Nothing is hinted about gentiles : two opposite characters among the Jews are most clearly described, with reference to the preceding chapter:1 and the day spoken of is that of dreadful destruction on the proud, wicked, and obstinate Jews ; such as took place, at the desolation of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans, and not that of the restoration of Israel.'-—But, even if this were not so, the promise of one prophet being sent does not necessarily imply that no other would be sent.
P. 94. 1. 21. Each receiver was as God 2 in his age, as Moses in his age.'—This is assuming a very high ground indeed for the oral law; and it naturally occurs to inquire, Who is the receiver in this present day for he may perhaps prove a rival to “the man of sin,” described by St. Paul, “who opposeth, and exalteth himself above all “ that is called God, and worshipped; so that he
Comp. Mal. iii. 146, 11-18. iv. 1-3.
So it is in Mr. C.'s book: but I doubt whether good is not mcant.
as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing “ himself that he is God:"] especially as oral tradition, not the written word of God, is the sole support of the infallibility of each competitor. If, however, it be answered, that none in this age makes this high claim ; we further ask, “Who was the last of these infallible and divine re
ceivers ?' And how can we know, whether those who have since handed down these oral traditions, either by word of mouth, or in large books, have infallibly communicated what they received from the last of those who was as God in his age?' Till these things be clearly ascertained, we remain in the same uncertainty or hesitation as before ; or rather we are the more convinced that so arrogant a claim must be unfounded.
P. 94. 1. 28. "The seventy elders,' &c.—Mr. C. before maintained that all Israel were prophets, (p. 45,) but here only the seventy elders.(L. 30.) Only Moses, &c.—Eldad and Medad, at least, of these prophets, are mentioned. 2_Will learned and considerate Jews fully approve of this statement: that each of these prophets was as 'good in his day, as Moses was in his ?' (p. 95. 1. 2.) It may be proper to compare
with what has been before considered, when Mr. C. was interpreting the words, “ And there arose not
a prophet since in Israel, like unto Moses, whom “ the Lord knew face to face:" 'Which is,' says he,' that there never will be another prophet like ‘unto Moses.' (p. 90.) Were the words adduced3 added by Joshua ? Then Joshua' was as good
2 Thes. ii. 3, 4.
· Num. xi. 6, 27.
: Deut. xxxiv.'10.