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Dias’ Letters
Letter 16

(Continued from issue #3.)

16. Having in my four last letters examined all the quotations produced by St. Matthew, and said by him to be fulfilled in Jesus, and found them not to be so, in their proper plain and literal sense, you will, I am sure, excuse my not doing the like by the other quotations in the other evangelists, as it would be not only tedious, but would occasion you a needless expense for postage. However, I can with truth assure you, that having carefully examined every one of them, they all appear to me to be such, as either do not concern the Messiah, or are not applied according to their literal sense, and plain obvious meaning. This you will soon find, if you will be at the trouble of comparing the passages, said to be fulfilled, with their plain meaning in the prophet; the very same fate happens to those quoted in other parts of the New Testament. There is one, however, which I shall treat on, in this letter, that deserves our attention; because it is famous with some people, and is produced, as one that is plainly accomplished, and fulfilled in Jesus.

The passage I mean, is twice alluded to, and quoted in the Acts.* “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words into his mouth, and he shall speak unto them, all that I shall command him”† From hence Dr. Leland concludes, that “Moses tells the people, that God would raise up from among them, a prophet like unto him; that is, not an ordinary prophet, but one of peculiar eminence; that should, like Moses, give them laws in the name of God himself, and to whom they were indispensibly obliged to hearken, and to pay an entire obedience.”‡ Had this learned divine pointed out the particulars, by which Jesus distinguished himself, to be this eminent person, prophet, and lawgiver, like Moses, he had done something to the purpose; and then we should be enabled to judge of their exact agreement and likeness. This he has not done; but this is what I shall now examine; and as we have on record the principal actions of both, it is not difficult to make the comparison. But first, I must observe, that Moses, having nothing foretold, either concerning his person, or character, had, consequently, no description to answer; so that this circumstance alone makes a wide difference in the character of Moses and that of the Messiah. Had there been any description of Moses, he must undoubtedly have, in a very exact manner, answered that description, or it would have been vain and absurd in him, to have expected to be received by the people. Moses therefore, proceeds, on a very different plan. To draw the attention of those to whom he was sent, he discovers his commission, in confirmation of which, and to engage them, he wrought sundry miracles, and at last happily executed his promise, in delivering the Israelites from the Egyptian bondage. Then it was, and not till then, that the people were convinced, that he was a person sent from God for that purpose. It was his performing this essential part of his commission and promise, that wrought in them this belief. “Thus the LORD saved Israel, that day, out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore; and Israel saw that great work, which the Lord did upon the Egyptians; and the people feared the LORD, and believed the Lord, and Moses his servant.”§ Now had Moses failed in the essential part of his commission—could or would any of his miracles, however stupendous, have proved him to have been sent from God with such a commission? Certainly not. And as it was absolutely necessary, that Moses should accomplish the delivery of the Israelites, according to his promise; so it was necessary, that the Messiah should perform those things, which are foretold concerning him. His character and office we have a description of; therefore, whoever pretends to it, must, undoubtedly, answer it, and must never be received, until he attests his character by fulfilling the prophecies, which described him; the prophecies being, as I have proved, the test, or touchstone, by which alone, those he was promised to, were to judge, if he were the person therein described or not. The most stupendous wonders and splendid miracles would not, in this case, afford any proof of his character; because it had no dependence on them. It must stand or fall, according as his actions, agreed, or disagreed with the prophecies; or as he did, or did not fulfil them.

* Acts 3:22. † Deut 18:15.  ‡ Divine Authority, vol. 1. p. 100. § Exod. 14: 30, 31.

If Jesus’ pretentious were true, he ought to have performed, and done those thins, which were foretold; and in so doing, have given an undeniable proof. This would have convinced the people, that he was the promised person, beyond all objections; and he would then have acted consistently. The character of the Messiah, you will find in my 6th letter, (Occident, Vol. I, page 606), collected from the prophecies there mentioned. The following is a short description or epitome of his office: “And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcast of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah, from the four corners of the earth.”* This was the criterion given, by which the people were to judge, and distinguish him from all pretenders. In this description there is no room left to cavil; his office is described as it concerns the nations, for whom he is to “set up an ensign,” that they might enter, and be partakers of the blessing of his government; and next we have his office, as it concerns the Jews, and what he was to do for them, viz.: “He is to assemble the outcast of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah, from the four corners of the earth.” Had Jesus fulfilled this prophecy, he would then have proved himself to be the Messiah, or person meant under that denomination; and would have drawn the whole Jewish nation after him. How it came to pass that he did not prove himself by doing so, is not my business to inquire; but that he did not, is very evident. The names of Israel and Judah cannot be usurped here; because the prophet having described his office with regard to the gentiles, he next describes it as regards the Jews; and that the prophet’s true meaning might not be misapprehended, he further describes them by the epithets of outcast and dispersed. Surely Christians will not understand themselves as meant, under these distinguished circumstances; neither do I believe they will refer the accomplishment of his prophecy to their invented heavenly kingdom; for that would be doing the outcast and dispersed, too much honour to assemble and gather them there; and they will hardly allow them, that in heaven, of which they deprive them here on earth. Besides, they are not ignorant, that “A king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth; in his days shall Judah be saved, and Israel dwell safely.”† The contrary and reverse of all which, happened in the days of Jesus; how then could he be that person?

* Isaiah 11:12.  † Jer. 23:5.

Here then we have a very material difference between Moses, and the promised Messiah; the one had no character or description to answer, the other had. But it is plain, that Jesus did not answer it; and in order to show, that Jesus was not the prophet like Moses, let us make a short comparison. Moses was prepared by God with a sign, when the Israelites should demand it; but Jesus constantly refused any sign.* Moses did mighty wonders, and wrought such stupendous miracles, as convinced those, who beheld them; these he did not do after the manner of jugglers, before chosen witnesses, nor in corners, but in public, and in the presence of all the people, whom he assembled for that purpose; he performed them in the presence of his very opponents, who were sometimes made to feel the truth and effects of them.

The magicians, who endeavoured to rival him, confessed that it was the hand of God. Thus acted Moses. But Jesus took quite a different method; those miracles which are related of him, were wrought in secret, performed before chosen witnesses, and on believers only, in corners, and by-places; the very persons who partook of the benefits were hindered from mentioning them, and were enjoined secrecy; his very brethren and relations disbelieved them.† The difference is manifest, for one convinced his enemies and rivals, the other could not even convince his brethren and nearest relations. The more Moses’ opponents doubted or denied his commission or power, the greater and more surprising were the proofs he gave them. But Jesus did the very reverse: “For he did not many mighty works there; because of their unbelief.”‡ Had he acted like Moses, he ought to have performed other great wonders; for the greater their unbelief, the greater ought his miracles to have been, and the greater would the honour have been by their conviction; so it was that Moses did and acted. It is not certain from what cause this unbelief arose; it is not possible, however, that the greatness or his miracles should have occasioned it; because these would naturally have a contrary effect. Who knows but their unbelief might be owing to some discovery made in the method of his performing his miracles, at which they might take offence; of which discovery, “He,” (Jesus being ignorant of the true cause,) “marvelled, because of their unbelief?” This I only offer as a conjecture; pray, consult the evangelists, to see if what they say concerning this affair, will bear this sense.§

* Matt. 12: 39. , † Ibid. 13: 54.  ‡ Ibid. 13:58.  § Matt. 13:58.

Let us continue the comparison: Moses was greatly honoured, and esteemed, by his brethren and countrymen; but Jesus was quite the contrary; for he declares himself that no prophet is accepted in his own country.* Moses delivered the Israelites from the Egyptian bondage: did Jesus deliver the Jews from the power and yoke of the Romans? He indeed promised to “gather them, as a hen did her brood.”† But this he never performed, nor even attempted; though he knew this to be the chief part of the Messiah’s character, and the desire and hope of the nation; yet he pretends to excuse himself, by saving, “they would not,” when the contrary is really true.

* Luke 4:24.  † Ibid. 13:34.

Moses was forty days and forty nights with God on the mount; but of Jesus, it is declared that he was there as many days and nights, with very different company, detained contrary to his will, famished, tossed, and led about by the devil; who must have been very superior in power to him,* or he could not so disrespectfully have used him. Moses governed the Israelites forty years; did Jesus do the like, or had he any command, post, or dignity?

* Matt. 4:1, 2.

Moses solemnly prepared the people, and appointed a time for the whole body of the nation, to gather themselves in one place, to the end that they all might receive the law; did Jesus do the like? Moses delivered to the Israelites a system of laws, moral, ritual, and political, by which they were to be governed, both in church and state; did Jesus do any thing like this?

I know it is pretended that he introduced a new dispensation; but this is so far from being clear, that the cause of his mission has always, is, and will for ever, be disputed. And I should be glad to be informed which of his laws, (I mean those which are practicable,) are new, and not commanded or known before: I have searched the evangelists, and do not find one. If this be the case, how can he be made to answer the description given of him, “of his giving laws like Moses, in the name of God himself?” If he did, which is the state or kingdom governed by them? It is evident, from the different, or rather opposite governments, in both, that he gave none; and they so widely differ in that of the church, (which one would think, ought to be his peculiar care,) that the different denominations, or sects of Christians, do most uncharitably condemn each other, and what one party follows as right, the rest condemn as sinful. Surely this could never have happened, had he, like Moses, delivered laws for the government of both church and state. Moses published his laws in the most authentic manner; they were attested by God himself; were those of Jesus published or attested in like manner?

Moses took the people’s express consent, who bound themselves, and posterity, to observe and obey; did Jesus do anything like it? Moses, to convince the people, that his laws were from God, enacted immediate rewards as a recompense, and blessing if they kept them; and on the contrary, immediate pains and penalties, if they neglected or forsook them. But Jesus refers them, both for rewards and punishments, to a state after their deaths. The nature of the first was convincing; the latter was not. In short, Moses proved himself to the satisfaction of all, that he was a person sent by God: Jesus did not. From these, and many other instances, I think that it is very evident and clear, that a more opposite character, to that of Moses, cannot be produced, either in their lives, or deaths. If even, therefore, we suppose, what is pretended, that a person was promised, who should be like Moses, and like him give laws: yet Jesus can never have been that person; for this passage cannot be consistently applied to him. On the other hand, it plainly and evidently appears from the context, that Moses promised a prophet to succeed him, or rather a succession of prophets; for he having therein forbidden the people the abominations of other nations, such as divinations, observing times, practising enchantments, or the consulting of witches, familiar spirits, wizards, and necromancers,* he then promises to raise them a prophet, &c., to whom they should resort, apply, and have recourse to, on all proper exigencies, for the knowledge of some future events. This is the true scope and intention of this passage; and in this, its plain, obvious sense, it is understood by persons of the greatest learning, and knowledge, both Christians and Jews. Father Calmet, very justly and judiciously, asserts this to be the true meaning. I will transcribe what he says; “As to the Hebrews,” says he, “who lived in the midst of these idolatrous people, accustomed to receive oracles, to have recourse to their diviners, magicians, and their interpreters of dreams: what temptation would they not have been under, to imitate these practices, these impieties, and superstitions, if God had not provided against it by affording them certain means of knowing some future events, in their most urgent necessities, by having recourse to the Lord, to his priests, and prophets. Thus when Moses had forbid the Israelites to consult magicians, witches, enchanters, and necromancers, he promised to send them a prophet, of their own nation, who should instruct them, and discover the truth to them. ‘The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.’ ”† It is needless to produce more authorities; the passage best explains its own meaning.

* Deut. 18:9-13.  † See Cal. Dict. on the word Oracle.

But notwithstanding the clearness of this passage, the authors of the Universal History pretend that Joshua could not be that prophet like Moses, whom God promised to raise, and commanded the people to obey, under heavy penalties; because Joshua received directions from Moses, to consult the Urim and Thummim, upon all emergencies;* and from thence they urge and say, “How could he, therefore, be the head prophet and director of ouch a numerous nation, who wanted a director himself? or how could the people be charged to hear, and obey him, who was to receive his orders from the high priest.”† To this objection, I answer partly in their own words, from a remark of theirs: “That his (Joshua’s) great character, drawn by Jesus the son of Sirach, mentions his succeeding that lawgiver, (meaning Moses,) in the prophetic spirit;” and concerning his book, they tell us, “That both Jews and the generality of Christians, have acknowledged it as his, and as a canonical book.”‡ To this we may add what they also assert, “That Joshua was the only inspired writer of that age, that we read of.”§ Thus these historians are obliged to assert, not only his inspiration, but his being the head prophet; for they read of no other; notwithstanding their endeavours to depreciate his character, to serve a turn. In like manner they are obliged to make him the director and governor of “such a numerous nation;” when they say, “Providence had by this time, so far signalized him, that he became reputed by the whole Jewish nation.”|| And they assert in another place that, “After this, Joshua governed the Israelitish commonwealth peaceably,”¶ and they do, throughout their history, give repeated instances of his being the governor; and also of the obedience being paid him. Thus do these historians contradict themselves. But whatever they may think or say, we have a superior evidence and guide;—to that then let us go;—I mean the Bible; from which it is plain, “That he was the man in whom was the spirit,”** as the text expresses it. It is also plain, that it was he whom the people were to obey.†† It is plain likewise, that those who did not regard that which he commanded, were severely punished.‡‡ This answered to what God promised: “That whosoever will not hearken unto my words, which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.”§§ Jesus therefore could not be here meant; because to him, it happened the very reverse; neither can Christians, consistently, claim this passage for Jesus, because there is in it a clause, declaring that, “The prophet which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.”|||| A provision this, which there could be no necessity for making, had the promise concerned Jesus; who, they, if consistent, must allow could never come under it. Be that as it will, it is plain that God spoke to Joshua immediately, without the intervention of any other person or thing, in like manner, as he did to Moses.¶¶

* Numb. 27:21.  † Univ. Hist. vol. 3. p. 436. ‡ Ibid. 483.
§ Ibid. || Ibid. 479.   ¶ Ibid. 482.
** Numb. 27:18.  †† Ibid. 30.
‡‡Compare the 17th and 18th verses of the 6th ch. of Joshua, with the 22nd and sequel of the 7th ch.  
§§ Deut. 18:19.  |||| Ibid. 20. 
¶¶ Josh. 1:1; 4:1-15; 5:2; 6:2; 7:10; 7:1-&c.  

Of this we have repeated instances, and God himself tells him, “As I was with Moses, so will I be with thee; I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”* In consequence of this promise, “God magnified him in the sight of all Israel, that they might know, that as I was with Moses, so will I be with thee.”† And we accordingly find that the people “feared him, as they did Moses, all the days of his life.”‡ These acts are enough to show that Joshua succeeded Moses as a prophet, director, and governor; that God revealed, and spake to him, immediately, in like manner as he did to Moses, in whose place he was appointed, and substituted; that he was obeyed, and feared in like manner as Moses was, all the days of his life; and to think otherwise, or to imagine that Jesus is meant here, is in every respect, inconsistent and absurd, he being the most unlike the person promised, as is evident from all the circumstances of his life.

* Josh. 1:5.  † Ibid. 3:7; 4:14.  ‡ Ibid.

(To be continued.)