Letter from Pliny Fisk to "Brethren", May 7, 1822

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Malta May, 7. 1822.

Dear Brethren,

In a letter which I received a few days since from Br. Bird he enquires what prejudices & errors I have to encoutter most frequently. Hoping that it may be of some use to you all in preparing for your labors in these parts of the world I will suggest a number of topics to which my attention has been more or less called. They relate to different classes of people.

I. The Romish & Oriental Christians. 1. Learn whatever you have opportunity to learn of the origin, history & principles of the different sects.

2. Read more or less of the writings of the Greek & Latin Fathers. A familiar knowledge of Ecclesiastical Greek & Latin is important.

3. Supremacy & infallibility of the Pope. What do Catholics mean by these terms? Examine Mat. 16.18 Eph. 2.20. with Catholic commentaries. Examine the history of the church of Rome, the ordination of its first Bishops, their powers & the extent of their authority, the history of individual Popes & the writings of Catholics against Protestants.

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4. Purgatory. The substantially the same as that with Restorationers.

5. Transubstantiation & Consubstantuation. See, John. 6.48-58-Mat. 26. 26-28. Mark 14.22. -25. Luke 22.17.-20. - 1Cor. 10.16. & 11.23-29.

6. Use of Images & praying to Angels & Saints If we make use of the portraits & statues of our friends & benefactors may we not also use pictures & statues of Apostles & Prophets; provided we use them right? If it is right to put into Primers for children & family Bibles pictures of Angels of Christ & of scripture scenes, may not the same be placed in churches? How will you show the impropriety of a picture designed to represent God the Father? If it is right to ask saints on earth to pray for us how will you show that we may not do the same to saints in heaven?

7. Marriage. Does the scripture sanction the idea that celibacy or monachism under any of its forms is peculiarly acceptable to God? See 1.Cor. 7. - 1 Tim. 5.14. Heb. 13.4. Is the marriage of the clergy forbidden? See 1. Cor. 9.4. Mat. 8.14. May a Minister who has buried a wife marry again? See 1. Tim 3.2. Titus 1.6. Ezek. 44.22. — When & why were monachism & the celibacy of the Clergy first introduced & encouraged or commanded in the church?

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8. Confession to Priests & Absolution by the Priests.

9. Is baptism regeneration? What says the Bible? What said the Fathers? The oriental Christians I believe generally if not universally say yes.

10. Is there any criminality in making the sign of the cross?

11. Is it best to wage war with these churches or endeavour to keep on good terms with them? Is it best generally to introduce the above topics in conversation with them, or rather lead them to read the Bible, urge [home?] on their hearts & consciences the doctrines & duties which they admit &c?

II. The Jews. 1. Examine Gen. 49.10. Can it be rendered "The Sceptre &c. shall not depart forever, for Shiloh shall come"? How did the Jew's interpret it before Christ came?

2. Examine Daniel 9.23-27.

3. Ira. 9.6. Will it do to render it "The Counsellor, the Mighty God shall call him the Father of the Age, the Prince of Peace?

4. The Jews say the O. Test. predicts a Messiah, who was to be a man, nothing more. Is there any palpable, irresistible proof of the Messiah's Divinity in the O. Test?

5. Are the prophecies of the O. T. fulfilled in the N? Examine carefully Isa. 5.3. To whom does it apply? What does "my servant" mean in Isaiah?

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6. Is the N. Test. consistent with the Old? Examine the various quotations. See also. Ps. 16 & Acts. 2, 27. & 13.36 — Acts 7.4. & Gen. 11.26. 32 & 12.4 — Acts 7.6. Gen. 15.16. Ex. 12.40. Gal. 3.17. — Acts 7.14 & Gen. 46.27. —Acts 7.16. Gen 23. 3-20 & 33.19 & 49. 29-32, & 50.13. Mat. 2.15 Hosea. 11.1.

7. Abolitions of the ceremonial law. The Gentiles are not required to adopt it. See Acts 15 Gal. 3. & 4. - Jews who embraced Christianity were originally permitted to adhere still to their ritual. See Acts. 16.3. & 21. 20-26. Gal. 5.6. [??Hos.??] 7.18, 19. Does the N. T. anywhere fobid Jews to observe their law? Does the O. T. intimate that the ceremonial law should be abolished? Jer. 31. 31-34. &c. Does the O. T. predict that the ceremonial law should be perpetual? Deut. [3??.?]. Have Jews, who embrace Christianity now, be permitted to continue still to attend on the worshop of the Synagogue?

8. A familiar acquaintance with the Heb. Bible is desirable. Some knowledge of the Targums & the Talmund & the Rabbinical writings would be useful.

How reconcile the different genealogies of Math. and Luke? Every Jew objects that Christ is not of the Royal family of David according to Matthew for he was only the reputed son of Joseph.

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III Mohammedans. 1. Read Sale's Translation of the Koran with his preliminary Dissertation, the Life of Mohammed & any Mohammedan writings that you may meet with, & the history of Mohammedism.

2. An important point is to prove the integrity of the present received text of the O. & N. T. Mahommedans admit the inspirations of the Pentateuch the Psalms, the Prophets & the Gospel but say that Jews & Christians have corrupted the text. Be prepared to prove the contrary.

3. Examine Deut. 18.15. Mahommedans say Mahommed is the Prophet like unto Moses.

4. Examine John. 14.16.17. & 15.26 Mahomedans say their Prophet is the promised comfort. Is there any authority from [??HSS]. for omitting the explanatory words - the spirit of truth?

5. Read again & again the last part of H. Martyn's Life.

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