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SHECHINAH, OR DIVINE PRESENCE
CHURCH OR PEOPLE OF GOD.
In the Sketch of the author's Life, prefixed to these volumes, it has been mentioned, that during his imprisonment, in consequence of the acts passed against the nonjuring episcopal clergy of Scotland, he employed part of his time in studying the nature of that peculiar symbol of the Divine Presence, which is known to the biblical scholar, under the Hebrew title of the SHECHINAH. The direction of his thoughts to this interesting subject was no doubt suggested by a political measure, which in the summer of 1753 very strongly agitated the public mind. In the month of June, that year, the Roy
al assent was given to an Act to . permit persons
professing the Jewish religion to be naturalized by • Parliament;' an act which raised such a clamour in the country, as induced the legislature to repeal it in the very next session of Parliament.While it existed, however, the alarm produced by it will account for the fears expressed in the following Letter, addressed to a friend, upon this subject.
In our late conversation on various religious topics, you will remember it was observed, that the encouragements given, or supposed to be given, to the papists, in the reign of King James II. put the clergy on examining more narrowly the state of the popish controversy, and produced, in that short time, more publications in vindication and defence of the church of England, than had been seen in former reigns, or than have indeed appeared since. The press was occupied with little else but Answers and Replies, and Rejoinders; and the more that the popish missionaries fancied themselves in the good graces of the court, the more diligent were the established clergy in confuting their pretensions, and exposing to the eyes of the people the various corruptions and superstitions of their religious system. This was the happy effect of the apprehensions then entertained; and thus in a great measure was good brought out of
evil. The danger of falling into popery, thank God, is over, or at least it is not thought to be so great now as it was then. But, instead of Popery, the alarm on the present occasion runs against Judaism ; and, from some public measures lately adopted, there seems to be good reason for putting people on their guard against not the perverters only, but against those avowed and desperate enemies of Christianity, who would wish to see it totally annihilated. It is not the purity of our religion only, but it is the very essence of it, for which we must now contend; and, if consequences turn out, as it is feared they will ; if the late naturalization project shall draw over multitudes of Jews to Great Britain, there will be an absolute necessity for christians of all ranks and descriptions looking more carefully into the principles and foundations of their holy profession, than most of them at present are at the pains to do. It will, in that casė, be proper to banish, at least for some time, that spirit of debate and division which prevails so much among us; and, it will be incumbent on all the denominations and classes of those who embrace the gospel, to unite together, and join with heart and hand in support of the common
The Jews have a great deal to say for themselves, if we will be so careless as to say nothing against them; and, though there certainly be, in all essential points, a clear connection between B 2
the law of Moses and the gospel of Christ, yet so blinded are that people, and so prejudiced in favour of their own cause, that every argument, which has for its object the vindication of the Old Testament, they maliciously wrest and turn against the New. So that it will be found a duty imperiously demanded of us, if things go on as they are likely to do, to “ stand up,' in the literal sense, · for • the faith once delivered to the saints,' and to have ourselves armed with something to answer the calumnies, if not to stop the mouths of the inveterate adversaries of Jesus. It is true, all are not equally capable of retorting the Jewish objections against the christian religion: let such as are not, seek assistance, and listen to instruction from those that are. And let all those, to whom God hath given time and talents for making the necessary inquiries, employ those talents, and at least some small portion of that time, in such a useful and truly christian work. So shall we become impregnable against all the assaults and batteries of our foes; and the more that we see our faith attacked, the more precious will it appear ;, and we shall find it well worth our while to hold it fast without : wavering, because faithful is he that hath proç mised'' It is purely from a motive of this nature, and out of a due regard for the general and universally received principles of christianity, strengthened, too, by the obligations which I
? Heb. x. 23.