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I believe, that whatsoever the most high God would have me to BELIEVE or DO, in order to his glory, and my happiness, he hath revealed to me in his holy Scriptures.
UPON the same account that I believe there is a God, I believe likewise, that this God is to be worshipped; the same light that discovers the one, discovering the other too. And therefore it is, that as there is no nation or people in the world, but acknowledge some deity, so there is none, but worship that deity which they acknowledge; yea, though it be but a stick or a stone, yet if they fancy any thing of divinity in it, they presently perform worship and homage to it. Nay, that God is to be worshipped, is a truth more generally acknowledged, than that there is a God. No nation, I confess, ever denied the latter, but no particular person ever denied the former: so that the very persons, who through diabolical delusions, and their own prevalent corruptions, have suspected the existence of a Deity, could not but acknowledge that he was to be worshipped, if he did exist; worship being that which is contained in the very notion of a Deity; which is, that he is the Being of all beings, upon whom all other things or beings 11do depend, and unto whom they are beholden both for their essence and subsistence. And if there be such a Being, that is the spring and fountain of all other beings, it is necessary that all others should reverence and worship him, without whom they could not subsist. And therefore it is that men are generally more superstitious in their worshipping than they ought to be, rather than deny that worship to him, which they ought to give.
That, therefore, there is a God, and that this God is to be worshipped, I do not doubt; but the great question is, who is this God whom I ought to worship? And, what is that worship which I ought to perform unto him? The former I have resolved upon in the foregoing article, as the light of reason and my natural conscience suggested to me; the latter I am resolved to search out in this, viz. Which of all the several kinds of worship that men perform to the Deity, and the several religions that men profess in the world, I had best make choice of to profess and adhere to. The general inclinations which are naturally implanted in my soul to some religion, it is impossible for me to shift off; but there being such a multiplicity of religions in the world, I desire now seriously to consider with myself, which of them all to restrain these my general inclinations to.
And the reason of this my inquiry is not, that I am in the least dissatisfied with that religion I have already embraced; but because it is natural for all men to have an overbearing opinion and esteem for that particular religion they are born and bred up in. That, therefore, I may not seem biased by the prejudice of education, I am resolved to prove and examine them all, that I may see and hold 12fast to that which is best. For though I do not, in the least, question, but that I shall upon inquiry, find the Christian religion to be the only true religion in the world, yet I cannot say it is, unless I find it, upon good grounds, to be so indeed: for, to profess myself a Christian, and believe that Christians are only in the right, because my forefathers were so, is no more than the heathens and Mahometans have to say for themselves.
Indeed, there was never any religion so barbarous and diabolical but it was preferred before all other religions whatsoever, by them that did profess it: otherwise they would not have professed it. The Indians, that worship the devil, would think it as strange doctrine to say that Christ is to be feared more than the devil; as such as believe in Christ, think it is, to say the devil is to be preferred before Christ. So do the Mahometans call all that believe not in Mahomet, as well as Christians call those that believe not in Christ, infidels. And why, say they, may not you be mistaken, as well as we? Especially, when there is at least, six to one against your Christian religion; all of which think they serve God aright, and expect happiness thereby as well as you. So that to be a Christian, only upon the grounds of birth or education, is all one, as if I was a Turk or a heathen; for if I had been born amongst them, I should have had the same reason for their religion, as now I have for my own: the premises are the same, though the conclusion be ever so different. It is still upon the same grounds, that I profess religion, though it be another religion which I profess upon these grounds; so that I can see but very little difference, betwixt being a Turk by profession, and a 13Christian only by education; which commonly is the means and occasion, but ought by no means to be the ground of any religion. And hence it is that in my looking out for the truest religion, being conscious to myself how great an ascendant Christianity hath over me, beyond the rest, as being that religion whereunto I was born and baptized, that which the supreme authority has enjoined and my parents educated me in, that which every one I meet withal highly approves of, that which I myself have, by a long-continued profession, made almost natural to me; I am resolved to be more jealous and suspicious of this religion, than of the rest, and be sure not to entertain it any longer without being convinced, by solid and substantial arguments, of the truth and certainty of it.
That, therefore, I may make diligent and impartial inquiry into all religions, and so be sure to find out the best, I shall, for a time, look upon myself as one not at all interested in any particular religion whatsover, much less in the Christian religion; but only as one who desires, in general, to serve and obey him that made me, in a right manner, and thereby to be made partaker of that happiness my nature is capable of. In order to this, it will be necessary to propose to myself some certain marks or characters, whereby I may be able to judge and make choice of the religion I intend to embrace: and they are, in general, these two, viz.
First, That is the best religion, wherein God is worshipped and served most like himself, i. e. most suitably and conformably to his nature and will. And,
Secondly, Since all men naturally desire, and aspire after happiness, and our greatest happiness 14consists in the fruition of God, that is certainly the best religion, which gives me the best and most comfortable assurances of being happy with God to all eternity.
To embrace a religion without these marks, would be worse than to have no religion at all; for better it is to perform no worship to God, than such as is displeasing to him; to do him no service, than such as will be ineffectual to make me happy, and not only frustrate my expectations of bliss, but make me for ever miserable.
The religion, then, that I am to look after, must be such a one, wherein I may be sure to please God, and to be made happy with him; and, by consequence, such a one, wherein all the cause of his displeasure and my misery may be removed; and that is sin. For sin being infinitely opposite to him, as he is a Being of infinite purity and holiness, must certainly set me at the greatest distance from him, and render me most odious in his sight; and whosoever does so, must make me as miserable as misery can make me. For as our holiness consisteth in likeness, so doth our happiness in nearness to God: and if it be our happiness to be near unto him, it must certainly be our misery to be at a distance from him. In enjoying him we enjoy all things, he being and having all things in himself; and so in not enjoying him, we are not only deprived of all that we can enjoy, but made liable to the punishments that are the consequence of it.
That there is no such thing in nature, as virtue and vice, as good and evil, as grace and sin, is what I can by no means persuade myself to, for my conscience tells me, that there is: and not only mine, but every one that ever yet lived, upon the face of 15the earth; all people of whatsoever nation or language, still acknowledging sin to be sin, and that the displeasing the deity, which they worship, is indeed an evil that ought to be carefully avoided. And therefore, the very heathens did not only upbraid others with it, but likewise often checked themselves for it; and all men naturally desire to seem though not to be holy. But let others say what they will, I, for my own part, cannot but see sin in myself, by the very light of nature. For, my reason tells me, that if God be God, he must be just and perfect; and if I be not so too, I am not like him; and, therefore, must needs displease him; it being impossible any thing should please him but what is like unto him. And this deformity to the will and nature of God, is that which we call sin, or which the word sin in its proper notion, brings into my mind.
And being thus conscious to myself, that I have sinned against my Maker, I may reasonably conclude, that as he is omniscient, and, by consequence, a witness of these my offences, so must he likewise be just in the punishment of them; for it cannot stand with his justice, to put up with such offences, without laying suitable punishments upon the offender. And these punishments must be infinite and eternal; for wherein doth the nature of divine justice consist, but in giving to sin its just punishments, as well as to virtue its due rewards? Now that the punishment of sin in this world, is not so much as it deserves, nor, by consequence, as much as, in justice, ought to be laid upon it, to me it is clear, in that every sin being committed against an infinite God, deserves infinite punishment; whereas all the punishments we suffer in this world cannot 16be any more than finite, the world itself being no more than finite, that we suffer them in.
Upon these grounds, therefore it is, that I am fully satisfied in my conscience, that I am a sinner; that it cannot stand with the justice, nor the existence of God that made me, to pardon my sins, without satisfaction made to his divine justice for them; and yet, that unless they be pardoned, it is impossible for me to be happy here, or hereafter. And therefore must I look after some religion, wherein I may be sure, my sins may be thus pardoned, and my soul made happy, wherein I may please God and God may bless me. Which that I may be the better able to discover, I shall take a brief survey of all the religions I ever heard of, or believe to be in the world.
Now, though there be as many kinds of religions as nations; yea, almost as particular persons in the world; yet may they all be reduced to these four; the Paganish, Mahometan, Jewish, and Christian religion.
As to the first, it is indeed of a very large extent, and comprehends under it all such as neither acknowledge Mahomet to be a prophet, nor expect a promised Messiah, nor believe in a crucified Jesus: and, since it is the majority of numbers, that usually carries the vogue, let me see whether the paganish religion, being further extended, and more generally professed than any, or indeed all the rest, be not the true religion, wherein God is most rightly worshipped, and I may be the most certainly saved. And here, when I take a view of this religion, as it is dispersed through several parts of Asia, Africa, and America, I find them very devout in worshipping their deities, such as they are, and 17they have great numbers of them: some worship the sun, others the moon and stars, others the earth, and other elements, serpents, trees, and the like. And others again pay homage and adoration to images and statues, in the fashion of men and women, hogs, horses, and other shapes; and some to the devil himself, as in Pegu, &c.
But now, to go no further, this seems to me at first sight to be a very strange and absurd sort of religion; or rather, it is quite the reverse of religion. For the true notion we have of religion, is the worshipping the true God, in a true manner: and this is the worshipping false gods in a false manner. For, I cannot entertain any other notion of God, than as one supreme Almighty Being, who made and governs all things, and who, as he is a spirit, ought to be worshipped in a spiritual manner. And therefore, as the very supposing more deities than one implies a contradiction; so the paying divine homage, in a gross, carnal manner, to material and corporeal beings, which are either the work of men’s hands, or at best, but creatures like ourselves, which can neither hear nor understand what we say to them, much less give us what we. desire of them, is not religion, but idolatry and superstition, or rather madness and delusion. So that this religion, I see, if I should embrace it, would be so far from making me happy, that the more zealous I should be for it, the more miserable I should be by it. For he that made these things cannot but be very angry at me, if I should give that worship to them, which is only due to himself; and so, in the way whereby I expect my sins should be pardoned, they would be more increased; it 18being a sin against the very light of nature, to prefer any thing before God, or to worship any thing in his stead; therefore, leaving these to their superstitious idolatries, and diabolical delusions, I must go and seek for the true religion somewhere else.
The next religion, that hath the most, suffrages and votes on its side, is the Mahometan religion, so called from one Mahomet an Arabian, who, about a thousand years ago, by the assistance of one Sergius, a Nestorian monk, compiled a book in the Arabian tongue, which he called Alcoran, which he made the rule of his followers’ faith and manners, pretending that it was sent from heaven to him, by the hand of the angel Gabriel.
This book I have perused, and must confess, find many things in it agreeable to right reason: as that there is but one God, gracious and merciful, the Lord of the whole universe; that this God we are to resign ourselves wholly to; that all that obey him shall be certainly rewarded, and all that disobey him, as certainly punished; and the like. But yet, I dare not venture my soul upon it, nor become one of the professors of it; because, as there are many things consonant., so there are many things dissonant to the natural light that is implanted in me; as, that God should swear by figs and olives, by Mount Sinai, as this book makes him to do, in the chapter of the figs: that Solomon should have an army composed of men, and devils, and birds; and that he should discourse with a bird, which acquainted him with the affairs of the queen of Sheba, and the like.
As to the argument whereby be would persuade 19us, that this book was sent from God, viz. that there are no contradictions in it, I take to be very false and frivolous. For besides that there are many books compiled by men, which have no contradictions in them, it is certain, there are a great many plain contradictions in this book, which overthrow his suppositions. Thus, in the chapter of the table, he saith, that “all that believe in God, and the resurrection of the dead, and have done good works, shall be saved:” but, in the chapter of gratification, he saith, “all that do not believe in the Alcoran shall be destroyed:” and so in the chapter of Hod. In like manner, he tells us again, in the chapter of the table, that the books of the Old and New Testaments were sent from God, and at the same time, supposes that the Alcoran was sent from him too; which to me, seems impossible. For, my reason tells me that God, who is truth and wisdom itself, cannot be guilty of falsehood and contradiction. And if these hooks contradict one another, as it is evident they do in many instances, it is plain God could not be the author of both; and by consequence, if the Scripture be true the Alcoran must of necessity be false. To instance but in one particular, the Alcoran says, in the chapter of women, “God hath no son:” in the Scripture, God said of Jesus, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;’33 Matt. iii. 17. and it expressly calls that Jesus, ‘the Son of God;’44 Heb. iv. 14. and so in many other things. Now it is impossible, that both these should be true, or, by consequence, that that should be true which says both are so.20
But if this were granted, there is still another objection against this religion; and that is, that the rewards therein promised will not avail to make me happy, though I should be partaker of them. For all the promises made to us in this paradise, are but mere sensible pleasures; as that we shall have all manner of herbs, and fruits, and drinks, and women with exceeding great and black eyes, as in the chapter of the merciful and judgment, and elsewhere; and such pleasures as these, though they may indeed affect my body, yet they cannot be the happiness of my soul. Indeed, I know not how this book should promise any higher happiness than that of the body, because it shows no means of attaining to it; it shows no way, how my sins may be pardoned, and so my soul made happy. It saith, I confess, that God is gracious and merciful, and therefore will pardon sin; so be is also just and righteous, and therefore must punish it. And how these two can stand together, is not manifested in the Alcoran; and therefore I dare not trust my soul with it.
Thus, upon diligent search, have I found the two religions, that are most generally professed, to have little or nothing of religion in them. I shall therefore, in the next place, take a view of that religion which hath the fewest followers, and that is the Jewish. A religion, not established by any human laws, nor, indeed, generally professed in any nation, but only by a company of despicable people, scattered up and down the world, which as the prophet expresses it, ‘are become a proverb of reproach, and a by-word among all nations whither they are driven.’ The principles of this religion 21are contained in a book written in the Hebrew tongue, which they call the Torah, or law, composed of several precepts, promises, and threatenings; together with histories of things past, and prophecies of things to come: this book, they say, was written by men inspired by God himself; and therefore they avouch it not to be of human invention, but merely of divine institution.
This book also I have diligently read and examined into, and must ingenuously confess, that at the very first glance methought I read divinity in it, and could not but conclude, from the majesty of its style, the purity of its precepts, the harmony of its parts, the certainty of its promises, and the excellency of its rewards, that it could be derived from no other author but God himself. It is here only that I find my Maker worshipped under the proper notion of a Deity, as he is Jehovah, and that is the right manner, for we are here commanded ‘to love and serve him with all our hearts, with all our souls, our might and mind,’55 Deut. iv. 5; x. 12. which is, indeed, the perfection of all true worship whatsoever. And as God is here worshipped aright, so is the happiness which is here entailed upon this true worship, the highest that it is possible a creature should be made capable of, being nothing less than the enjoyment of him we worship, so as to have him ‘to be a God to us, and ourselves to be a people to him.’66 Jer. xxxi. 33.
But that which I look upon, still, as the surest character of the true religion, is, its holding forth the way, how I being a sinner, can be invested with this happiness, or how God can show his justice, in 22punishing sin itself, and yet be so merciful, as to pardon and remit it to me, and so receive me to his favour; which the religions I viewed before did not so much as pretend to, nor offer at all. And this is what this book of the law does likewise discover to me, by showing that God Almighty would not visit our sins upon ourselves but upon another person; that he would appoint and ordain one to be our sponsor or Mediator, who by his infinite merit, should bear and atone for our iniquities, and to show his love and mercy, in justifying and acquitting us from our sins, at the same time that he manifests his justice, in inflicting the punishment of them upon this person in our stead. A method so deep and mysterious, that if God himself had not revealed it, I am confident no mortal man could ever have discovered or thought of it.
Neither are there any doubts and scruples concerning this great mystery, but what this book does clearly answer and resolve; as will appear more plainly from a distinct consideration of the several objections that are urged against it.
As, 1. That it does not seem agreeable either to reason or Scripture that one man should bear the sins of another; because every man has enough to do to bear his own burden; and since sin is committed against an infinite God, and therefore deserves infinite punishment, how can any finite creature bear this infinite punishment? especially, it being due to so many thousands of people as there are in the world!
But this book sufficiently unties this knot for me, by showing me, that it is not a mere man, but God himself, that would bear these my sins; even he whose name is, ‘Jehovah Tsidkenu,’ ‘The Lord our 23 righteousness,’77 Jer. xxxiii. 16. where the essential name of the most high God, which cannot possibly be given to any, but to him, who is the Being of all beings, is here given to him, who should thus bear my sins, and justify my person; whence David also calleth him Lord,88 Psalm cx. 1. Isaiah calleth him, ‘The mighty God’99 Isa. ix. 6. Yea, and the Lord of hosts himself, with his own mouth, calls him ‘his fellow.’1010 Zech. xiii. 7.
Objec. 2. But my reason tells me, God is a pure Spirit, and, therefore, how can he suffer any punishments? or, suppose he could, how can one nature satisfy for the offences of another? It was man that stood guilty; and how can it stand with the justice of God, not to punish man for the sins he is guilty of?
To resolve this doubt, this holy book assures me, that this God should become man, expressly telling me that as his name is ‘Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace,’ so he should be born a child, and given as a Son.1111 Isa. ix. 6. And, therefore, at the same time that the Lord of hosts calls him his fellow, he calls him a man too, ‘Against the man that is my fellow, says the Lord of hosts.’1212 Zech. xiii. 7.
Objec. 3. But if he be born as other men are, he must needs be a sinner, as other men be; for such as are born by natural generation, must necessarily be born also in natural corruption.
To remove this obstacle, this holy book tells me, that ‘A virgin shall conceive and bear this Son, and his name shall be Emmanuel.’1313 Isa. vii. 14. And so being 24begotten, but not by a sinful man, himself shall be a man, but not a sinful man: and so being God and man, he is every way fit to mediate betwixt God and man; to reconcile God to me, and me to God, that my sins may be pardoned, God’s wrath appeased, and so my soul made happy in the enjoyment of him.
But there is one thing more yet, that keeps me from settling upon this religion; and that is, the expiration of the time in which this book promiseth this person should come into the world; for it is expressly said, that ‘Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon the city, to finish the transgressions, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision, and the prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.’1414 Dan. ix. 24. From which anointing he is, in the next verse, called Messiah, the Anointed, (under which name he is, from hence, expected by the Jews,) and the beginning of these seventy weeks is expressly said to be ‘at the going forth of the commandment to build and restore Jerusalem.’1515 Ibid. 25. Now if we understand these seventy weeks in the largest sense for seventy weeks, or ‘sabbaths of years,’1616 Lev. xxv. 8. as it is expressed, the time of the Messiah’s coming must have been but four hundred and ninety years after the commandment for the building of the city; whereas whether we understand it of the decree and command that Cyrus made,1717 2 Chron. xxxvi. 22, 23; Ezra, i. 1, 2, 3. or that which Darius made,Ezra, vi. or that 25Artaxerxes made,Ezra, vii. I say, whichsoever of these decrees we understand this prophecy of, it is evident that it is above two thousand years since they were all made; and therefore, the time of this person’s coming hath been expired above one thousand six hundred years at least.
So likewise doth this book of the law, (as they call it) assure us, that the sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh come,’1818 Gen. xlix. 10. where the Jews themselves, Jonathan and Onkelos, expound the word Shiloh by Messiah; and so doth the Jerusalem Targum too. Now it is plain that there hath been neither sceptre nor lawgiver in Judah, nor any political government at all among the Jews, for above sixteen hundred years; which plainly shows either their prophecies and expectations of a Messiah are false, or that he came into the world so many ages since, as were here prefixed.
So likewise it was expressly foretold in this book, that ‘the glory of the second temple should be greater than the glory of the former.’1919 Hag. ii. 9. Now the Jews themselves acknowledge, that there were five of the principal things which were in the first, wanting in the second temple, viz. 1. The ark with the mercy-seat and cherubim. 2. The Shechinah, or divine presence. 3. The holy prophetical Spirit. 4. The Urim and Thummim. 5. The heavenly fire: and from the want of these five things they say, the words ‘I will be glorified;’2020 Ib. 1. wants an he at the end, which in numeration denotes five. Yea, and when the very foundation of the second temple 26was laid, the old men that had seen the first, wept to see how far short it was likely to come of the former.2121 Ezra, iii. 12. To make up therefore the glory of the second temple, to be greater than the glory of the first, notwithstanding the want of so many glorious things, they must of necessity understand it of the coming of the Messiah into it, who is called, ‘The desire of all nations.’2222 Hag. ii. 7. Whereas the Jews themselves cannot but confess that this temple hath been demolished above sixteen hundred years; and therefore, it is impossible for the Messiah to come into it, and for its glory to be greater than the glory of the first temple; and, by consequence, for the word which they profess to believe in to be true.
Indeed, the time of the Messiah’s coming was so expressly set down in these and the like places, that Elias, one of their great rabbies, gathered from hence that the world should last six thousand years; two thousand without the law, two thousand under the law, and two thousand under the Messiah,2323 Sanh. c. 11. which computation of the Messiah’s coming after four thousand years from the beginning of the world, comes near the time of the sceptre’s departing from Judah, and the end of Daniel’s seventy weeks. Which shows, that this rabbi was fully convinced, that it was about that time that the Messiah should come. And therefore it was, likewise, that above sixteen hundred years ago, the Jews did so generally expect his coming; and that so many did pretend to be the person, as Baz-Cozbah, who about that time, vaunting himself to be the man, almost the whole nation unanimously concurred in following 27him, insomuch, that, as the Jews report, there were no less than four hundred thousand, or as others, five hundred thousand men slain by Adrian the emperor, in the city Bitter, all fighting in defence of this pretended Messiah. There were likewise many others that fancied themselves to he the man, and were so esteemed by some till manifestly convinced of their error, as we may read in some of their books. And unto this day many of them hold that he is already come, but that, by reason of their sins, he is not yet revealed unto them.
Hence it is, that my natural reason draws me into this dilemma, that either that book which the Jews receive as the word of God is indeed not so; or else that they do not rightly apply it: and so, that either their religion is a false religion, or else their profession of it a false profession: and therefore, I must go hence and seek me some other religion to fix my soul upon. Not as if my reason told me. that all the prophecies which I have mentioned here, were false in themselves, but only that they appear so to this sort of professors; for, for my own part, I cannot shake off my faith in this law, which they profess to believe in; especially now I have so seriously perused it, and so deliberately weighed and considered of it. Neither can I believe that ever any Mahometan or Indian, that did, without prejudice, set himself to read it through, and to examine every particular, by the light of unbiassed reason, could say, it was ever hatched in a human brain; but that it is indeed of a heavenly stamp and divine authority. And, therefore, though I am forced by the strength of 28reason to shake hands with this religion, yet the same reason will not suffer me to lay aside that law, which they do profess, but only their profession of it. So that whatsoever religion I settle upon, my natural conscience still commands me to stick close to this book of the Jewish law, and to receive and entertain it as the word of the glorious Jehovah, the Being of all beings.
Well, there is but one religion more generally professed in the world, that I am to search into; which if, upon good grounds, I cannot fix upon, I shall be the most miserable of all creatures; and that is, the Christian religion, so named from Jesus Christ, whose doctrine, life, and death, is recorded by four several persons, in a book which they call the Gospel. And this book appears to me to be of undoubted authority, as to the truth and certainty of those things that are therein recorded. For, if they had been false, both the persons that wrote them, and he of whom they wrote had so many malicious enemies ready, upon all occasions, to accuse them, that they had long ago been condemned for lies and forgeries. But now, these writings have been extant for above sixteen hundred years, and never so much as suspected, but even by the worst of enemies, acknowledged to be a true relation of what passed in the world about that time: my reason will not permit me to be their first accuser, but enjoins me to receive them, under that notion, in which they have been brought down to me through so many generations, without any interruption whatsoever. For this general reception on all hands, is a sufficient ground for me to build my faith upon, as to the 29truth of the relation, though not a sufficient ground to believe every thing contained in the book to be the word of God himself; for, in this particular, it is not the testimony of others that I am to build upon, but its own; I may read its verity in man’s testimony, but its divinity only in its own doctrines.
This book, therefore, I have also diligently perused, and find it expressly asserts that Jesus Christ, whose life and death it records, was indeed that person, who was long promised by God, and expected by the Jews: and, that all the prophecies under the old law, concerning that Messiah, God-man, were actually fulfilled in this person: which if, upon diligent search, I can find to be true, I shall presently subscribe both with hand and heart, to this religion. It is a comfort to me that it acknowledgeth the Jewish law to be sent from God; for, truly, if it did not, my conscience would scarcely permit me to give any credit to it; being so fully convinced that that book is indeed of a higher extract than human invention, and of greater authority than human institution. And therefore it is that I cannot, I dare not believe, but that every particular prophecy contained in it, either is, or shall be, certainly fulfilled, according to every circumstance of time and place mentioned therein; and by consequence, that this prophecy, in particular, concerning the Messiah’s coming, is already past; the time wherein it was foretold he should come, being so long ago expired. So that I do not now doubt whether the Messiah be come or no, but whether this Jesus Christ, whom this book of the gospel speaks of, was indeed the person. 30And this I shall best find out by comparing the Christian’s gospel with the Jewish law; or the histories of Christ under the one, with the prophecies of the Messiah, under the other; still concluding, that if whatsoever was foretold concerning the Messiah, was fulfilled in this Jesus Christ, then he was indeed the Messiah that was to come into the world. And, to make this comparison the more exact, I shall run through the several circumstances that attended his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, and show how punctually the prophecies were fulfilled in every particular.
And first, for the birth of the Messiah, the law saith, he was to be ‘born of the seed of Abraham,2424 Gen. xxii. 18. and David;’2525 2 Sam. vii. 17. ‘and of the stem of Jesse,’2626 Is. xi. 1. from whence he is frequently called by the Jews, ‘Bar-David, the son of David.’ The gospel saith, ‘Jesus Christ was the son of David, the son of Abraham.’2727 Matt. i. 1. The law, ‘that he was to be born of a virgin.’2828 Is. vii. 14. The gospel, that ‘Mary, a virgin, brought forth this Jesus.’2929 Matt. i. 18; Luke, i. 17, 31, 35; ii. 5, 6, 7. The law, ‘that he was to be born at Bethlehem Ephratah.’3030 Mic. v. 2. The gospel, that this Jesus was born there.3131 Matt. ii. 1.
The law says, that he was to be ‘brought out of Egypt.’3232 Hos. xi. 1. The gospel, that Jesus was called thence.3333 Matt. ii. 19, 20. The law saith, that ‘one should go before the Messiah,’3434 Mal. iii. 1; iv. 5. and should ‘cry in the wilderness.’3535 Is. xl. 3. The gospel, that John Baptist did so before Christ.3636 Matt. iii. 1, 2; Mark, i. 2, 3. The law, that ‘the Messiah should preach 31the doctrine of salvation in Galilee,’ which sitting before in darkness should see great light.3737 Is. ix. 1, 2. The gospel, that Jesus did so.3838 Matt. iv. 12, 23. The law, that in the Messiah’s days, ‘the eyes of the blind should be opened, and the ears of the deaf should be unstopped, and the lame leap, and the tongue of the dumb sing.’3939 Is. xxxv. 5, 6. The gospel, that it was so in the days of Jesus Christ.4040 Matt. iv. 23; xi. 5. But for all these wonders and miracles, the law saith, they ‘should hear, but not understand; and see, yet not perceive.’4141 Is. vi. 9. And the gospel, that ‘seeing, they did not see; and hearing, they did not hear; neither did they understand.’4242 Matt. xiii. 13; Mark, iv. 12. The law, that he should be ‘despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.’4343 Is. liii. 3. The gospel, that Jesus Christ ‘had not where to lay his head;’ ‘his soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;’4444 Matt. viii. 20; xxvi. 30. yea, ‘he was in an agony, and his sweat was as drops of blood:’4545 Luke, xxii. 44. so well was he acquainted with grief. The law says, that ‘he should ride into Jerusalem upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.’4646 Zech. ix. 9. And the gospel, that, ‘Jesus Christ, as he was going to Jerusalem, having found an ass, sat thereon.’4747 John, xii. 14; Matt. xxi. 6. At which time, the law saith the people should cry, ‘Hosannah, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.’4848 Psalm cxviii. 26. The gospel, that the multitude did so to Christ.4949 Matt. xxi. 9. The law, that ‘one of his own familiar 32friends, in whom he trusted, which did eat of his bread, should lift up his heel against him.’5050 Psalm xli. 9. The gospel, that Judas, who was one of Christ’s disciples, and so eat of his bread, did betray him into the hands of the Jews.5151 Matt. xxvi. 47; Luke, xxii. 6. The law, that he should be prized at, and sold for thirty pieces of silver, with which should he bought the potter’s field.5252 Zech. xi. 12, 13. The gospel, that they covenanted with Judas to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, with which they afterwards bought the potter’s field.5353 Matt. xxvi. 15; xxvii. 7. The law, that ‘he should be numbered amongst transgressors.’5454 Is. liii. 12. The gospel, that Jesus was ‘crucified betwixt two thieves.’5555 Mark, xv. 27; Matt. xxvii. 38. The law, that he ‘should he wounded and bruised.’5656 Is. liii. 5. The gospel, that ‘they scourged Jesus,’5757 Matt. xxvii. 26. and ‘smote him.’5858 Mark, xv. 19. The law saith they should ‘pierce his hands and feet.’5959 Psalm xxii. 16; Zech. xii. 10. The gospel, that ‘they crucified Jesus;’6060 Matt. xxvii. 35; Luke, xxiii. 33. which was a death wherein they used to pierce the hands and feet of those that were put to death, and nailed them to the cross. But though they should pierce his flesh, yet the law saith that they should not ‘break his bones, no not one of them.’6161 Exod. xii. 46; Numb. ix. 12; Psalm xxxiv. 20. The gospel, that they ‘brake not the legs of Christ.’6262 John, xix. 33, 36. The law, that they who should see him, should laugh him to scorn, shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying, he trusted in 33the Lord that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.’6363 Psalm xxii. 8. The gospel, that the scribes and elders did so to Christ.6464 Matt. xxvii. 42, 43. The law saith they should ‘give him gall for meat, and vinegar to drink.’6565 Psalm lxix. 21. And the gospel, that they gave Christ ‘vinegar to drink, mingled with gall.’6666 Matt. xxvii. 34, 48. The law, that they should ‘part his garments amongst them, and cast lots upon his vesture,’6767 Psalm xxii. 18. The gospel, that they ‘parted Jesus’ garments, casting lots.’6868 Matt. xxvii. 35; John, xix. 23; Mark, xv. 24.
And as for the time of this Jesus coming into the world, it is certain that this Jesus came before the ‘second temple was demolished;’ for it is said, that he ‘went into it;’ yea, himself, ‘taught daily in it;’6969 Luke, xix. 45, 47. by which means the ‘glory of the second temple was greater than the glory of the first,’7070 Hag. ii. 9. according to the prophecy. And as for Jacob’s prophecy, that ‘the sceptre should not depart from Judah, nor the lawgiver, till Shiloh,’ or the Messiah, ‘came,’7171 Gen. xlix. 10. it is certain that it did not depart from Judah, till Herod, by the senate of Rome, was made king of Judea; in whose days this Jesus was born.7272 Matt. ii. 1; Luke, i. 5. And so did Daniel’s seventy weeks, or four hundred and ninety years, exactly reach unto, and were determined in, the days of this Jesus, as might easily be demonstrated. So that all the old prophecies, concerning the time of the Messiah’s coming, are perfectly fulfilled in this Jesus of Nazareth.34
But further, the law saith, that though the Messiah should be crucified, ‘yet God will not leave his soul in hell, nor suffer his Holy One to see corruption;’7373 Psalm xvi. 10. and that ‘when God should make his soul an offering for sin, be should see his seed, and prolong his days;’7474 Is. liii. 10. which plainly implies, that though the Messiah should die, yet he should rise again, and that within few days too, otherwise he would have seen corruption. Now the gospel saith, that this Jesus ‘rose from the dead;’7575 Matt. xxviii. 6; Luke, xxiv. 6. and that he was seen of several ‘after his resurrection, as of Mary Magdalen,’ ‘of the eleven disciples,’7676 Matt. xxviii. 9, 16, 17, 18; Mark, xvi. 14. ‘of the two that were going to Emmaus,’ ‘of Peter,’7777 Luke, xxiv. 13, 14, 15, 34. ‘and of the disciples that were gathered together, the door being shut.’7878 John, xx. 19. And, to be sure it was himself and not an apparition, Thomas, one of the twelve, ‘thrust his hands into his side, and found it flesh and blood.’7979 Ib. xx. 27. indeed, as before. ‘And he eat before them,’8080 Luke, xxiv. 43. which it is impossible for a spirit to do; yea, ‘he was seen of above five hundred at one time,’ and ‘of Paul himself.’8181 1 Cor. xv. 6, 8. Neither did he lie so long as to see corruption, for he was buried but ‘the day before the sabbath,’ and rose the day after.8282 Mark, xv. 42; xv. 1.
Lastly. He was not only to rise again, but the law saith, ‘he was to ascend on high, to lead captivity captive, and to give gifts to men.’8383 Psalm lxviii. 18. Now this cannot but be an undoubted character of the Messiah, not only to rise from the dead, but to ascend 35up to heaven, and thence to disperse his gifts among the children of men; and that Jesus did so, is likewise evident from the gospel; for, ‘after he had spoken with them, he was received up into heaven, and there sat at the right hand of God.’8484 Mark, xvi. 19; Luke, xxiv. 51. And he gave such gifts to men, as that his disciples, of a sudden, were enabled to ‘speak all manner of languages;’ to ‘work many signs and wonders;’ to ‘heal all manner of diseases;’ yea, ‘with a word speaking, to cure a man lame from his mother’s womb.’8585 Acts, ii. 8; v. 12, 15, 16; iii. 6, 7.
Thus the gospel seems to me to he a perfect transcript of the law, and the histories of Jesus nothing else but the prophecies of Christ turned into a history. And, when to this I join the consideration of the piety of the life which this man led, the purity of the doctrine which he taught, and the miraculousness of the works he wrought, I cannot but be further confirmed in the truth of what is here related. For the miracles which he wrought, as the healing of the sick with a word of his mouth, raising the dead, feeding so many thousands with five loaves, and the like, were so powerful and convincing, that his very enemies, that would not believe him to be the Messiah, could scarce deny him to be a god.8686 Joseph. Antiq. lib. xviii. c. 4. And it is to this day a tenet amongst some of them, that the miracles which Jesus did, were not the delusions and jugglements of the devil, but real miracles, wrought as they say, by the virtue of the name of God, Jehovah, which he had gotten out of the temple. By which it is 36plain, they acknowledged God to be the author of them, which I cannot see how he should be, unless they were agreeable to his will, and for the glory of his name.
Neither was the doctrine of the gospel only established at the first, but likewise propagated by miracles afterwards, as it was necessary it should be, for, if it had been propagated without miracles, itself had been the greatest miracle of all. It was, no doubt, a great miracle, that a doctrine so much contrary to flesh and blood, should be propagated by any means whatsoever; but a far greater, that it should be propagated by a company of simple and illiterate men, who had neither power to force, nor eloquence to persuade men to the embracing of it. For who would have thought that such persons as these were, should ever make any of the Jews, who expected a king for their Messiah, to advance them to temporal dignities, or believe, that that Jesus, whom they themselves scourged and crucified at Jerusalem, was the person? Or, that they should be able to propagate the gospel amongst the Gentiles also, who neither believed in the true God, nor expected any thing of a Messiah to come and redeem them? But this they did, and brought over not only many persons, but whole nations and countries to the profession of the gospel; propagating this most holy doctrine among the most barbarous and sinful people in the world, maugre all the opposition that the world, the flesh, and the devil, could make against it. Now can any man, that exerciseth his reason think they did all this purely by their own strength? No sure, none of these wonderful effects could ever have been produced by any thing 37less than the wisdom, and power, and faithfulness of their Lord and master, whose service they were engaged in, and who promised to be with them ‘to the end of the world.’8787 Matt. xxviii. 20. Questionless, it was nothing else but the Spirit of the most high God, that went along with them, and accompanied the word they preached; otherwise, it never could have made such deep impression upon the hearts of them that heard it, as not only to command their attention, but to hinder them from resisting, when they strove and endeavoured to do it, the power and authority by which the disciples spake.
And now, methinks, I begin to perceive this divine Spirit is come upon me too, and seems, by its powerful influence, to be working up my heart into a thorough persuasion, that it is Christ, and Christ alone, I am to cast my soul upon; that it is he alone, that is the way to life, and his word alone, the word of life, which ‘whosoever believes, and is baptized into, shall be saved, and he that believeth not, shall be damned.’ Away, then, with your Pagan idolatries, your Mahometan superstitions, and Jewish ceremonies; it is the Christian religion alone, that I am resolved to live and die in, because it is this alone, in which I am taught to worship God aright, to obtain the pardon and remission of my sins, and to be made eternally happy. And, since all his doctrines and precepts are contained in the Holy Scriptures, it is necessary that I shall assent unto them, as a standing revelation of God’s will and an eternal treasure of divine knowledge; whereby all, that sincerely believe in Christ, may 38be sufficiently instructed, as well ns thoroughly furnished, unto every good word and work.
Without any more ado, therefore, I believe, and am verily persuaded, that all the books of the ancient law, with all those that have been received into the canon of the Scripture by the church of God, since the coming of Christ, which we call the New Testament; I say, that all these books, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of the Revelations, are indeed the word of the eternal God, dictated by his own Spirit, unto such as himself was pleased to employ in the writing of them; and that they contain in them a perfect and complete rule of faith and manners; upon the due observance of which, I cannot fail of worshipping and serving God, in such a manner, as will be acceptable to him here, and of enjoying hereafter ‘those exceeding great and precious promises,’ that he has reserved in heaven, for such as do so.
Unto these books, therefore, of the law and gospel, I am resolved by his grace that wrote them, to conform all the ensuing articles of my faith, and all the actions and resolutions of my life. Insomuch that whatsoever I find it hath pleased his Sacred Majesty herein to insert, I believe it is my duty to believe; and whatsoever he hath been pleased to command me, I believe it is my duty to perform.39
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