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writing, that they might be to the Jews a rule of life and worship forever. *
This collection of his they call Mishna, or Mishnaioth, being, as is pretended, a repetition of the law in an exposition of it; whereas indeed it is a farrago of all sorts of traditions, true and false; with a monstrous mixture of lies and fables, useless, foolish, and wicked. The things contained in it are by themselves referred to five heads:
1. The oral law received by Moses on mount Sinai, preserved by the means before declared.
2. Oral constitution of Moses himself after he came down from the mount.
3. Constitutions and orders drawn, by various ways of arguing, out of the written law.
4. The answers and decrees of the sanhedrim, and other wise men in former ages.
5. Immemorial customs, whose original being unknown, are supposed, to be Divine.
The whole is divided into six parts, noted with the initial letter of the word which signifies the chief things treated of in it. To this Mishna of R. Judah they annex the Tasiphot, or additions of R. Chaiah, his scholar, expounding many passages in his master's works; and to them, moreover, is subjoined a more full explanation of the Mishna, which they call Baracelot, being a collection of some anti-talmudical masters.
* Maimon. in Jad Chazacha. The author of Sedar Olam, Tzemach, David, &c.
+ As follows.
1. (7) Zeraim, seeds, divided into eleven Massichtot, or treatises, containing in all seventy-five chapters.
2. (n) Moad, appointed feasts, divided into twelve treatises, containing eighty-eight chapters.
3. (5) Nashim, of Women, distributed into seven treatises and seventy-one chapters.
4. (5) Nezikim, of Losses, divided into eight treatises and seventy-four chapters.
5. ( Kodoshim, of Sanctifications, containing eleven books and ninety chapters.
6. (1) Teharoth, of Purifications, in welve books and a hundred and twenty-six chapters.
About three hundred years after the destruction of the temple, R. Johannan, composed the Jerusalem Talmud, consisting of expositions, comments, and disputes upon the whole Mishna, excepting the last part about purifications. An hundred years after that, or thereabouts, R. Ase composed the Babylonian Talmud, or Gemara; thirty-two years, they say, he spent' in this work; yet leaving it unfinished; seventy-one years after, it was completed by his disciples. And the whole work of both these Talmuds may be referred to five heads:
1. They expound the text of the Mishna. 2. They decide questions of right and fact.
3. They report the disputations, traditions, and constitutions of the doctors that lived between them and the writing of the Mishna.
4. They give allegorical monstrous expositions of the scripture, which they call Midrashoth; and
5. They report stories of the like nature.
This, at length, is their oral law grown into; and, in the learning of these things consists the whole religion of the Jews; there being not the most absurd saying of any of their doctors in those huge heaps of folly and vanity, that they do not equal, nay, that they are not ready to prefer, to the written word; that perfect, and only guide of their church, whilst God was pleased with it. In the dust of this confusion, they dwell, “loving this darkness more than light, because their “deeds are evil.” Having, for many generations, entertained a prejudicate imagination, that those traditional
figments, amongst which their crafty masters have inserted many filthy. and blasphemous fables against our Lord Christ and his gospel, are of Divine authority! and having utterly lost the spiritual sense of the written word, they are by it sealed up in blindness and obdurateness; and shall be so until the veil be taken away, when the appointed time of their deliverance shall come.
88. (II.) A brief discovery of the falseness of this fancy of their oral law, which is the foundation of all that huge building of lies and vanities that their Talmuds are composed of, shall put an end to this discourse.
1. The very story of the giving of the law on mount Sinai sufficiently discovers the folly of this imagination. The Jews are ready, on all occasions, not only to prefer their pretended oral law to that which is written; but also openly profess, that without it, the other is of no use to them. I desire, then, to know, whence it is, that all the circumstances of giving and teaching the less necessary (as the written law is deemed) are so exactly recorded; but not one word is spoken of this oral law, either of God's revealing it to Moses, or of Moses teaching it to Joshua, or any others? Strange! that so much should be recorded of every circumstance of the less principal, lifeless law, and not one word of either substance or circumstance of the other. How know they, that any such law was given to Moses, as they pretend? What testimony, or record of it, was there made at the time of its giving, or for two thousand years afterwards?
2. Did their forefathers, at any time before the captivity, transgress the oral law, or did they not? If they say they did not, but kept it, we may then see, that the most strict observance of it could not preserve them from all manner of wickedness. What a despicable fence must it have been to the written law! If they shall say that it was not kept, but broken by them; I desire to know whence it comes to pass, that, whereas God, by his prophets, doth reprove them for all their other sins, and in particular, for their contempt of his written law, the statutes, ordinances, and institutions of it, he no where once mentions their supposed greater guilt of despising the oral law; but there is as universal a silence concerning its transgression, as there is of its institution? Can we have any greater evidence of its being fictitious, than this; that whereas it is pretended it is their main rule of obedience, God never reproved them for the transgression of it; though, whilst he owned them as his church and people, he suffered none of their sins to pass unreproved, especially not any of equal importance with this upon their principle?
3. Moses was commanded to write the whole lave that he received from God, which he accordingly did; Exod. xxiv, 3, 4; xxxiv, 28; Deut. xxxi, 9-24; but where was the oral law, which they say was not to be written, when Moses was commanded to write the whole law that he had received of God? This new law was not then coined, being, indeed, nothing but the product of their apostasy from the law which was written.
4. The sole ground and foundation of this oral law lies in the pretended imperfection of the written law. This is what they plead for the necessity of it; the written law extends not to all necessary cases that occur in religion, many things are redundant, many wanting, of which they gather numerous instances; so that they will grant, that if the written law had been perfect, there had been no need of this traditional But whom, in this matter, shall we believe, a
few ignorant Jews, or God himself, bearing witness, that his “law is perfect,” and requiring no more in his worship, but what is in this prescribed? See Psal. xix, 8; Prov. xxx, 5, 6; Deut. iv, 1, 2; and this perfection of the written law, though it be perfectly destructive of their traditions, not only the Karæi, among themselves, earnestly contend for, but also sundry of their Gemarists acknowledge, especially when they forget to oppose the gospel.
5. God every where sends his people to the written law of Moses for the rule of their obedience. If there is such an oral law, it is one that God would not have any one to observe; nor did ever reprove any one for its transgression.
$9. And yet this figment is the bottom of the present Judaical religion and obstinacy, When the apostle wrote this epistle, their obstinacy had not yet arrived at this rock of offence; since their falling on it, they have increased their blindness, misery, and ruin. Then they were contented to try their cause, by what God spake to their fathers in the prophets, which kept open a door of hope, and gave some advantages for their conversion; but that door is now shut up until God shall take away this veil from their faces, that they may see to the end of the things that were to be abolished.
By this means principally have they, for many generations, both shut out the truth, and secured themselyes from conviction. For, whatever is taught in the scripture, concerning the person, office, and work of the Messiah, seeing they have that which they esteem a revelation of at least equal authority; teaching them a doctrine quite of another nature, and more suited to their carnal principles and expectations, they readily discard, and will rather rest in any evasions, than yield