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To adopt the hint of his valued friend and correspondent, and almost the words he has suggested, the Writer assures his readers, that “ Truth is his object—that he is most willing to pay due deference to the opinions of wise, learned, and pious men, on this as well as on other subjects; that he wrote these Letters entirely irrespective of anything that had been written in support of either side of the question; and that he did not consult the sentiments of men first, and then the Bible, respecting the subject, but, knowing merely that the question did exist, made the Bible, and that alone, his text book.”
He is aware that the doctrine of Israel's literal restoration to Palestine is a popular one—that it has been favoured by some of the wisest, most learned, and best men in the Church of Christ, and that it is still maintained by the majority of Christians. But, however popular prepossession may be shocked at witnessing this favourite doctrine cited at the bar of Reason and of Scripture, it should be remembered, that other opinions, long maintained by erudition, and still more widely prevalent, have
been cited there before, and long since convicted of gross imposture. Nothing was ever more offensive to popular prejudice than the first annunciations of Christianity, when the declarations of Christ attached the stamp of falsehood to the secular interpretations of the Scriptures given by the carnal Jews. The Crusades, now so justly regarded as fanatical, and which, perhaps, may not inaptly illustrate the practical tendency of this doctrine, were sanctioned by all the erudition and popular favour of centuries. The first breath of Protestantism was deprecated as the menace of a moral plague, and its tenets regarded as monstrous innovations on unquestionable truth. The history of science teems with illustrations of the fact, that error may long remain garrisoned within the fortress of popular opinion, and be fortified by the bulwarks of learning. The unavailable philosophy of Aristotle might have amused, impeded, and school-ridden the world until now, had not Bacon arraigned it at the tribunal of scrutiny and common sense; yet the Novun Organum, now so justly appreciated as the
effort of a mighty mind, struggling to liberate imprisoned truth, was at first assailed as dangerous and revolutionary. Those innovators, Copernicus and Galileo, suffered persecution and imprisonment, though Newton be now enshrined in favour. The Ptolemaic system of Astronomy was long maintained, and favoured even by Bacon himself, though now rejected by the world of science. The late analyses of Sir H. Davy, have falsified some of the maxims of alchymy, which to have assailed a few years since, without actual experiment, would have been deemed the height of chemical heterodoxy. Let the consideration of these facts propitiate the reader, and allow him to approach the subject now investigated in the attitude of inquiry. Far be it from the Writer to indulge the ridiculous vanity of comparing himself with the great men whose detections of popular errors he has alluded to. His aim is only to impress upon the reader the possibility that exists of the doctrine now questioned being likewise a popular error, and to bring it fairly to the test of examination. For inasmuch
as the errors which, on account of their strong hold of the public mind, required the mental energy of a Luther or a Bacon to expose, prevailed almost everywhere, where Christianity or philosophy was known; the doctrine of Israel's literal restoration to Palestine, which, he presumes, has been rarely examined, and though one of the dogmas of the popular creed, has never excited much general interest, may be exploded, if false, without much credit due to his sagacity or perseverance, by one “ of the lowest of the people.”
The subject is important, not only in relation to the interests of the Jews, but highly so to the Christian Church likewise ; because, if the doctrine contested be fallacious, the principles of scriptural interpretation by which it is maintained are fallacious also; and, if not exposed and exploded, are calculated to sap the foundations of truth, to cherish the rank weeds of fanaticism, mislead the ignorant, misdirect the zealous, obstruct the progress of true religion, and weaken the efforts of those who scripturally seek the moral renovation of the world.
Had the Writer commenced the Letters with a view to publication, the points he has noticed might possibly have been somewhat differently arranged. As it is, the reasons assigned for objecting to the doctrine in question may be resolved into the following, although not thus numerically stated in the Letters. The reasons are stated here, that the Reader may perceive at once the line of argument pursued.
1. Because unsupported by the New Testa
ment. 2. Because at variance with the genius of Chris
tianity. 3. Because the allusions in the New to the lan
guage of the Old Testament, and the use
made of those allusions, are opposed to it. 4. Because there are phrases, terms, and pas
sages in the Old Testament, which cannot be taken literally, or without qualification; and which yet have an equal claim to be so taken with the phraseology adduced in support of a literal restoration; while the literal meaning of others is negatived, some by New Testament authority, and some by the mode of their collocation, or by the sense expressly attached, or otherwise attaching to them.