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XIV. Proposition XIV. Fifthly, As this revelation, to the judgment of right and sober reason, appears of itself highly credible and probable, and abundantly recommends itself in its native simplicity, merely by its own intrinsic goodness and excellency, to the practice of the most rational and considering men, who are desirous in all their actions to have satisfaction and comfort and good hope within themselves, from the conscience of what they do: So it is moreover positively and directly proved to be actually and immediately sent to us from God, by the many infallible signs and miracles which the author of it worked publicly as the evidence of his divine commission, by the exact completion both of the prophecies that went before concerning him, and of those that he himself delivered concerning things that were to happen after; 337and by the testimony of his followers, which in all its circumstances was the most credible, certain, and convincing evidence, that was ever given to any matter of fact in the world.
First, The Christian revelation is positively and directly proved to be actually and immediately sent to us from God, by the many infallible signs and miracles which the author of it worked publicly as the evidence of his divine commission.
Of the life and character of our Saviour, as an evidence of the truth of the Christian revelation. Besides the great excellency and reasonableness of the doctrine considered in itself, of which I have already treated, it is here of no small moment to observe, that the author of it (separate from all external proof of his divine commission) appeared in all his behaviour, words, and actions, to be neither an impostor nor an enthusiast.359359 Πευστέον δὴ ἀυτῶν, εἴ ποτέ τις ἄλλος τοιοῦτος πλάνος ἱστόρηται, πραότητος καὶ ἐπιεικείας σωφροσυνης τε καὶ τῆς ἄλλης ἀρετῆς διδάσκαλος τοῖς ἀπατωμένοις γεγονὼς ἄιτιος,, &c.—Easeb. Demonstrat. Evangelic. lib. 3. c. 3. His life was innocent and spotless, spent entirely in serving the ends of holiness and charity, in doing good to the souls and bodies of men, in exhorting them to repentance, and inviting them to serve and glorify God. When his bitterest enemies accused him, in order to take away his life, they could not charge him with any appearance of vice or immorality. And so far was he from being guilty of what they did accuse him of, namely, of vain-glory and attempting to move sedition, that once, when the admiring people would by force have taken him and made him their king, he chose even to work a miracle to avoid that, which was the only thing that could be imagined to have been the design of an impostor. In like manner, whoever seriously considers the answers he gave to all questions whether moral or captious, his occasional discourses to his disciples, and more especially the wisdom and excellency of his sermon upon the mount, which is as it were the system and summary of his doctrine, 338manifestly surpassing all the moral instructions of the most celebrated philosophers that ever lived; cannot, without the extremest malice and obstinacy in the world, charge him with enthusiasm.
Of the miracles of Christ as the evidence of his divine commission. These considerations cannot but add great weight and authority to his doctrine, and make his own testimony concerning himself exceedingly credible. But the positive and direct proof of his divine commission are the miracles which he worked for that purpose; his healing the sick,—his giving sight to the blind,—his casting out devils,—his raising the dead,—the wonders that attended his crucifixion,—his own resurrection from the dead,—his appearance afterwards to his disciples,—and his ascension visibly into heaven.
These, and the rest of his stupendous miracles, were, to the disciples that saw them, sensible demonstrations of our Lord’s divine commission: And to those who have lived since that age, they are as certain demonstrations of the same truth, as the testimony of those first disciples, who were eye-witnesses of them, is certain and true.
To the disciples that saw them, these miracles were sensible and complete demonstrations of our Lord’s divine commission, because they were so great, and so many, and so public, and so evident, that it was absolutely impossible they should be the effect of any art of man, of any chance, or fallacy; and the doctrine they were brought to confirm was of so good and holy a tendency, that it was impossible he should be enabled to work them by the power and assistance of evil spirits; so that, consequently, they must of necessity have been performed, either immediately or mediately by God himself.
Of miracles in general. But here, because there have been many questions raised, and some perplexity introduced by the disputes and different opinions of learned men, concerning the power of working miracles, and concerning the extent of the evidence which miracles give to the truth of any doctrine, and because it hath been much 339controverted, whether true miracles can be worked by any less power than the immediate power of God; and whether, to complete the evidence of a miracle, the nature of the doctrine pretended to be proved thereby is requisite to be taken into the consideration or no; it may not perhaps be improper, upon this occasion, to endeavour to set this whole matter in its true light, as briefly and clearly as I can.
1st, That in respect of the power of God, all things are alike easy. then; In respect of the power of God, and in respect to the nature of the things themselves, absolutely speaking, all things that are possible at all, that is, which imply not a direct contradiction, are equally and alike easy to be done. The power of God extends equally to great things as to small, and to many as to few; and the one makes no more difficulty at all, or resistance to his will, than the other.
That therefore miracles ought not to be defined by any absolute difficulty in the nature of the things themselves to be done. It is not therefore a right distinction to define or distinguish a miracle by any absolute difficulty in the nature of the thing itself to be done; as if the things we call natural were absolutely and in their own nature easier to be effected, than those that we look upon as miraculous; on the contrary, it is evident and undeniable, that it is at least as great an act of power to cause the sun or a planet to move at all, as to cause it to stand still at any time: Yet this latter we call a miracle; the former not. And to restore the dead to life, which is an instance of an extraordinary miracle, is in itself plainly altogether as easy as to dispose matter at first into such order as to form a human body in that which we commonly call a natural way. So that, absolutely speaking, in this strict and philosophical sense, either nothing is miraculous, namely, if we have respect to the power of God; or, if we regard our own power and understanding, then almost every thing, as well what we call natural, as what we call supernatural, is in this sense really miraculous; and it is only usualness or unusualness that makes the distinction.340
2. What degrees of power God may have communicated to created beings is not possible for us to determine. What degrees of power God may reasonably be supposed to have communicated to created beings, to subordinate intelligences, to good or evil angels, is by no means possible for us to determine. Some things absolutely impossible for men to effect, it is evident may easily be within the natural powers of angels; and some things beyond the power of inferior angels may as easily be supposed to be within the natural power of others that are superior to them; and so on. So that, (unless we knew the limit of communicable and incommunicable power) we can hardly affirm, with any certainty, that any particular effect, how great or miraculous soever it may seem to us, is beyond the power of all created beings in the universe to have produced.
That therefore a miracle is not rightly defined to be such an effect as could not have been produced by any less power than the divine omnipotence. It is not therefore a right distinction to define a miracle (as some very learned and very pious men have done,) to be such an effect as could not have been produced by any less power than the divine omnipotence. There is no instance of any miracle in scripture, which, to an ordinary spectator, would necessarily imply the immediate operation of original, absolute, and underived power: And consequently such a spectator could never be certain that the miraculous effect was beyond the power of all created beings in the universe to produce. There is one supposition, indeed, upon which the opinion of all miracles being necessarily the immediate effects of the divine omnipotence, may be defended; and that is, if God, together with the natural powers wherewith he hath indued all subordinate intelligent beings, has likewise given a law, or restraint, whereby they be hindered from ever interposing in this lower world, to produce any of those effects which we call miraculous or supernatural: But then, how certain soever it is, that all created beings are under some particular laws and restraints, yet it can never be proved that they are under such restraints universally, perpetually, and without exception: And, without 341this, a spectator that sees a miracle can never be certain that it was not done by some created intelligence. Reducing the natural power of created beings to as low a degree as any one can desire to suppose, will help nothing in this matter; for, supposing (which is very unreasonable to suppose) that the natural powers of the highest angels were no greater than the natural powers of men, yet, since thereby an angel would be enabled to do all that invisibly, which a man can do visibly, he would even in this supposition be naturally able to do numberless things which we should esteem the greatest of miracles.
3. All things that are done in the world, are done either immediately by God himself, or by created intelligent beings; matter being capable of no laws or powers. And consequently there is, properly speaking, no such thing as the course or power of nature. All things that are done in the world are done either immediately by God himself, or by created intelligent beings; matter being evidently not at all capable of any laws or powers whatsoever, any more than it is capable of intelligence, excepting only this one negative power, that every part of it will, of itself, always and necessarily continue in that state, whether of rest or motion, wherein it at present is; so that all those things which we commonly say are the effects of the natural powers of matter and laws of motion, of gravitation, attraction, or the like, are indeed (if we will speak strictly and properly) the effects of God’s acting upon matter continually and every moment, either immediately by himself, or mediately by some created intelligent beings: (Which observation, by the way, furnishes us, as has been before noted, with an excellent natural demonstration of Providence.) Consequently, there is no such thing as what men commonly call the course of nature, or the power of nature. The course of nature, truly and properly speaking, is nothing else but the will of God producing certain effects in a continued, regular, constant, and uniform manner; which course or manner of acting being in every moment perfectly arbitrary, is as easy to be altered at any time as to be preserved. And if (as seems most probable,) this continual acting upon matter be performed by the subserviency of created intelligences appointed to that purpose by the supreme Creator, 342then it is as easy for any of them, and as much within their natural power, (by the permission of God,) to alter the course of nature at any time, or in any respect, as to preserve or continue it.
That therefore a miracle is not rightly defined to be that which is against the course of nature or above the natural powers of created agents. It is not therefore a right distinction to define a miracle to be that which is against the course of nature, meaning, by the course of nature, the power of nature or the natural powers of created agents; for, in this sense, it is no more against the course of nature for an angel to keep a man from sinking in the water, than for a man to hold a stone from falling in the air by overpowering the law of gravitation; and yet the one is a miracle, the other not so. In like manner, it is no more above the natural power of a created intelligence to stop the motion of the sun or of a planet, than to continue to carry it on in its usual course; and yet the former is a miracle, the latter not so: But, if by the course of nature, be meant only (as it truly signifies) the constant and uniform manner of God’s acting, either immediately or mediately, in preserving and continuing the order of the world, then, in that sense, indeed, a miracle may be rightly defined to be an effect produced contrary to the usual course or order of nature, by the unusual interposition of some intelligent being superior to men, as I shall have occasion presently to observe more particularly.
The unreasonableness of those who deny the possibility of miracles in general. And from this observation we may easily discover the vanity and unreasonableness of that obstinate prejudice which modern deists have universally taken up against the belief of miracles in general: They see that things generally go on in a constant and regular method; that the frame and order of the world is preserved by things being disposed and managed in an uniform manner; that certain causes produce certain effects in a continued succession according to certain fixed laws or rules; and from hence they conclude, very weakly and unphilosophically, that there are in matter certain necessary laws or powers, the result of which is that which they call the course 343of nature, which they think is impossible to be changed or altered, and consequently, that there can be no such thing as miracles: Whereas, on the contrary, if they would consider things duly, they could not but see that dull and lifeless matter is utterly incapable of obeying any laws, or of being indued with any powers; and that, therefore, that order and disposition of things, which they vulgarly call the course of nature, cannot possibly be any thing else but the arbitrary will and pleasure of God exerting itself and acting upon matter continually, either immediately by itself, or mediately by some subordinate intelligent agents, according to certain rules of uniformity and proportion, fixed indeed, and constant, but which yet are made such merely by arbitrary constitution, not by any sort of necessity in the things themselves, as has been abundantly proved in my former discourse: And, consequently, it cannot be denied, but that it is altogether as easy to alter the course of nature as to preserve it; that is, that miracles, excepting only that they are more unusual, are in themselves, and in the nature and reason of the thing, as credible in all respects, and as easy to be believed, as any of those we call natural effects.
4. Some effects prove the constant providence of God, and others prove the occasional interposition either of God himself, or of some intelligent being superior to man. Those effects which are produced in the world regularly and constantly, which we call the works of nature, prove to us, in general, the being, the power, and the other attributes of God. Those effects, which upon any rare and extraordinary occasion, are produced in such manner that it is manifest they could neither have been done by any power or art of man, nor by what we call chance, that is, by any composition or result of those laws which are God’s constant and uniform actings upon matter, these undeniably prove to us the immediate and occasional interposition either of God himself, or at least of some intelligent agent superior to men, at that particular time, and on that particular account. For instance, the regular and continued effects of the power of gravitation, and of the laws of motion; of the mechanic, 344and of the animal powers; all these prove to us, in general, the being, the power, the presence, and the constant operation, either immediate or mediate, of God in the world. But if, upon any particular occasion, we should see a stone suspended in the air, or a man walking upon the water, without any visible support, a chronical disease cured by a word speaking, or a dead and corrupted body restored to life in a moment; we could not then doubt but there was an extraordinary interposition either of God himself, in order to signify his pleasure upon that particular occasion, or at least of some intelligent agent far superior to man, in order to bring about some particular design.
5. Whether such interposition be the immediate work of God, or of some good or evil angels, can hardly be discovered merely by the work itself. Whether such an extraordinary interposition of some power superior to men be the immediate interposition of God himself, or of some good angel, or of some evil angel, can hardly be distinguished certainly, merely by the work or miracle itself; because it is impossible for us to know, with any certainty, either that the natural power of good angels, or of evil ones, extends not beyond such or such a certain limit, or that God always restrains them from exercising their natural powers in producing such or such particular effects.
That there is no reason to suppose all the wonders worked by evil spirits to be mere delusions. It is not therefore a right distinction, to suppose the wonders which the scripture attributes to evil spirits, to be mere præstigiæ, sleights, or delusions. For if the devil has any natural power of doing any thing at all, even but so much as the meanest of men, and be not restrained by God from exercising that natural power, it is evident he will be able, by reason of his invisibility, to work true and real miracles. Neither is it a right distinction to suppose the miracles of evil spirits not to be real effects in the things where they appear, but impositions upon the senses of the spectators; for, to impose in this manner upon the senses of men, (not by sleights and delusions, but by really so affecting the organs of sense as to make things appear what they are not;) is to all intents 345and purposes a true a miracle, and as great an one, as making real changes in the things themselves.
6. How we are to distinguish miracles worked by God, for the proof of any doctrine, from the frauds of evil spirits. When therefore, upon any particular occasion, for instance, when at the will of a person who teaches some new doctrine as coming from God, and in testimony to the truth of that doctrine, there is plainly and manifestly an interposition of some superior power producing such miraculous effects as have been before mentioned; the only possible ways by which a spectator may certainly and infallibly distinguish whether those miracles be indeed the works, either immediately of God himself, or (which is the very same thing,) of some good angel employed by him, and, consequently, the doctrine witnessed by the miracles be infallibly true and divinely attested; or whether, on the contrary, the miracles be the works of evil spirits, and consequently the doctrine a fraud and imposition upon men: The only possible ways (I say) of distinguishing this matter certainly and infallibly, are these:—If the doctrine attested by miracles be in itself impious, or manifestly tending to promote vice, then, without all question, the miracles, how great soever they may appear to us, are neither worked by God himself, nor by his commission; because our natural knowledge of the attributes of God, and of the necessary difference between good and evil, is greatly of more force to prove any such doctrine to be false than any miracles in the world can be to prove it true: As, for example, suppose a man, pretending to be a prophet, should work any miracle, or give any sign or wonder whatsoever, in order to draw men from the worship of the true God, and tempt them to idolatry, and to the practice of such vices as in all heathen nations have usually attended the worship of false Gods, nothing can be more infallibly certain, than that such miracles ought at first sight to be rejected as diabolical. If the Deut. xiii. 1, &c. doctrine attested by miracles be in itself indifferent, that is, such as cannot by the light of nature and 346right reason alone, be certainly known whether it be true or false; and, at the same time, in opposition to it, and in proof of the direct contrary doctrine, there be worked other miracles, more and greater than the former, or at least attended with such circumstances as evidently show the power by which these latter are worked to be superior to the power that worked the former; then that doctrine which is attested by the superior power must necessarily be believed to be divine: This was the case of Moses and the Egyptian magicians. The magicians worked several miracles to prove that Moses was an impostor, and not sent of God; Moses, to prove his divine commission, worked miracles more and greater than theirs, or else (which is the very same thing,) the power by which he worked his miracles restrained the power by which they worked theirs, from being able at that time to work all the same miracles that he did; and so appeared evidently the superior power: Wherefore, it was necessarily to be believed that Moses’s commission was truly from God. If, in the last place, the doctrine attested by miracles be such as, in its own nature and consequences, tends to promote the honour and glory of God and the practice of universal righteousness amongst men, and yet, nevertheless, be not in itself demonstrable, nor could, without revelation, have been discovered to be actually true, (or even if it was but only indifferent in itself, and such as could not be proved to be any way contrary to or inconsistent with these great ends,) and there be no pretence of more or greater miracles on the opposite side to contradict it; (which is the case of the doctrine and miracles of Christ;) then the miracles are unquestionably divine, and the doctrine must, without all controversy, be acknowledged as an immediate and infallible revelation from God: Matt. xii. 25. Because, (besides that it cannot be supposed that evil spirits would overthrow their own power and kingdom,) should God, in such cases as these, permit evil spirits to work miracles to impose upon men, the error 347would be absolutely invincible; and that would, in all respects, be the very same thing as if God worked the miracles to deceive men himself. No man can doubt but evil spirits, if they have any natural powers at all, have power to destroy men’s bodies and lives, and to bring upon men innumerable other calamities; which yet, in fact, it is evident God restrains them from doing, by having set them laws and bounds which they cannot pass. Now, for the very same reason, it is infinitely certain that God restrains them likewise from imposing upon men’s minds and understandings, in all such cases where wise, and honest, and virtuous men would have no possible way left by which they could discover the imposition.
The difference between those who teach that the immediate power of God is, or is not, necessarily requisite to the working of a miracle, is not very great at bottom. And here at last the difference between those who believe that all miracles necessarily require the immediate power of God himself to effect them, and those who believe created spirits able to work miracles, is not very great. They who believe all miracles to be effected only by the immediate power of God, must do it upon this ground, that they suppose God, by a perpetual law, restrains all subordinate intelligent agents from interposing at any time to alter the regular course of things in this lower world; (for, to say that created spirits have not otherwise a natural power, when unrestrained, to do what we call miracles, is saying that those invisible agents have no power naturally to do any thing at all.) And they who believe that subordinate beings have power to work miracles must yet of necessity suppose that God restrains them in all such cases at least where there would not be sufficient marks left, by which the frauds of evil spirits could be clearly distinguished from the testimony and commission of God.
And now, from these few clear and undeniablo propositions, it evidently follows;—
1st. The true definition of a miracle: That the true definition of a miracle, in the theological sense of the word, is this—that it is a 348work effected in a manner unusual or different from the common and regular method of providence, by the interposition either of God himself, or of some intelligent agent superior to man, for the proof or evidence of some particular doctrine, or in attestation to the authority of some particular person. And if a miracle so worked be not opposed by some plainly superior power; nor be brought to attest a doctrine either contradictory in itself, or vicious in its consequences, (a doctrine of which kind no miracles in the world can be sufficient to prove;) then the doctrine so attested must necessarily be looked upon as divine, and the worker of the miracle entertained as having infallibly a commission from God.
2. The strength of the evidence of our Saviour’s miracles. From hence it appears, that the complete demonstration of our Saviour’s being a teacher sent from God, was, to the disciples who saw his miracles, plainly this: That the doctrine he taught, being in itself possible, and in its consequences tending to promote the honour of God and true righteousness among men; and the miracles he worked being such that there neither was nor could be any pretence of more or greater miracles to be set up in opposition to them,—it was as infallibly certain that he had truly a divine commission as it was certain that God would not himself impose upon men a necessary and invincible error.
3. Concerning the objection, that we prove in a circle the miracles by the doctrine, and the doctrine by the miracles. From hence it appears, how little reason there is to object, as some have done, that we prove in a circle the doctrine by the miracles, and the miracles by the doctrine. For the miracles, in this way of reasoning, are not at all proved by the doctrine; but only the possibility and the good tendency, or at least the indifferency of the doctrine, is a necessary condition or circumstance, without which the doctrine is not capable of being proved by any miracles. It is indeed the miracles only that prove the doctrine, and not the doctrine that proves the miracles; but then, in order to this end, that the miracles may 349prove the doctrine, it is always necessarily to be first supposed that the doctrine be such as is in its nature capable of being proved by miracles. The doctrine must be in itself possible and capable to be proved, and then miracles will prove it to be actually and certainly true. The doctrine is not first known, or supposed to be true, and then the miracles proved by it; but the doctrine must be first known to be such as is possible to be true, and then miracles will prove that it actually is so. Some doctrines are, in their own nature, necessarily and demonstrably true, such as are all those which concern the obligation of plain moral precepts; and these neither need nor can receive any stronger proof from miracles than what they have already (though not perhaps so clearly indeed to all capacities,) from the evidence of right reason. Other doctrines are in their own nature necessarily false and impossible to be true; such as are all absurdities and contradictions, and all doctrines that tend to promote vice; and these can never receive any degree of proof from all the miracles in the world. Lastly, other doctrines are in their own nature indifferent, or possible, or perhaps probable to be true; and these could not have been known to be positively true, but by the evidence of miracles, which prove them to be certain. To apply this to the doctrine and miracles of Christ. The moral part of our Saviour’s doctrine would have appeared infallibly true, whether he had ever worked any miracles or no. The rest of his doctrine was what evidently tended to promote the honour of God, and the practice of righteousness amongst men: Therefore that part also of his doctrine was possible and very probable to be true; but yet it could not from thence be known to be certainly true, nor ought to have been received as a revelation from God, unless it had been proved by undeniable miracles. And the miracles he worked did indeed undeniably prove it to be the doctrine of God. Nevertheless, had his doctrine in any part of it been either absurd and 350contradictory in itself, or vicious in its tendency and consequences, no miracles could then possibly have proved it to have been true. It is evident therefore that the nature of the doctrine to be proved must be taken into the consideration, as a necessary circumstance; and yet that only the miracles are properly the proof of the doctrine, and not the doctrine of the miracles.
4. Of the pretended miracles of Apollonius and others. From hence
it follows, that the pretended miracles of Apollonius Tyaneus, Aristeas Proconnesius,
and some few others among the heathens, even supposing them to have been true miracles,
(which yet there is no reason at all to believe, because they are very poorly attested,
and are in themselves very mean and trifling, as has been fully shown by Eusebius
in his book against Hierocles, and by many late writers; but supposing them, I say,
to have been true miracles,) yet they will prove nothing at all to the disadvantage
of Christianity: Because they were worked either without any pretence of confirming
any new doctrine at all; or else to prove absurd and foolish things; or to establish
idolatry and the worship of false Gods; and consequently they could not be done
by the divine power and authority, nor bear any kind of comparison with the miracles
of Christ,360360 Διὰ τί οὐχὶ καὶ βεβασανισμένως τοὺ ἐπαγγελλομ̥νους τὰς δονάμεις ἐξετάσομεν
ἀπὸ τοῦ βίου καὶ τοῦ ἡθους καὶ τῶν ἐπακολουθούντων ταῖς δυνάμεσιν,
ἤτοι εἰς βλάβην τῶν ἀνθρῶπων, ἢ εἰς ἡθῶν ἐπανόρθωσιν.—Origen. advers. Cels. lib. 2..
Μέσον τοίνυν σαυτὸν στήσας τῶν περὶ τοῦ Ἀριστέου γινομένων, καὶ τῶν περί τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἱστορ9ουμένων, ἵδε εἰ μὴ ἐκ τοῦ ἀποβάντος, καὶ τῶν ὡφελουμέ_ων εἰς ἡθῶν ἐπανόρθωσιν καὶ ἐυλάβειαν τὴν πρὸς τὸν ἐπὶ πᾶσι θεὸν, ἐστὶν εἰπεῖν· ὅτε πιστευτέον μὲν ὡς οὐκ ἀθεεὶ γενομένοις τοῖς περὶ Ἰησοῦ ἑστορουμένοις, οὐχὶ δε τοῖς περὶ τῆς Προκοννησίου Ἀριστέου. Τί μὲν γὰρ βουλομένη ἡ π9ρόνοια τὰ περὶ τὸν Αριστέαν παράδοξα ἐπραγματεύετο, καὶ τί ὡφελῆσαι τῷ τῶν ἀνθρώπων γένει βουλομένη, τά τηλικ^ῦτα (ὡς ὄιει) ἐπιδεἰκνυτο, οὠκ ἔχεις λέγειν.—Id. lib. 3. which were worked to attest a doctrine that tended in the highest degree to promote the honour of God and the general reformation of mankind.
To return therefore to the argument. The miracles 351(I say) which our Saviour worked were, to the disciples that saw them, sensible demonstration of his divine commission. And to those who have lived since that age they are as certain demonstrations of the same truth as the testimony of those first disciples, who were eye-witnesses of them, is certain and true: Which I shall have occasion to consider presently.
Secondly. Of the fulfilling the prophecies, as an evidence of our Saviour’s divine commission. The proof of the divine authority of the Christian revelation is confirmed and ascertained, by the exact completion both of all those prophecies that went before concerning our Lord, and of those that he himself delivered concerning things that were to happen after.
Of the prophecies that went before, concerning the Messiah. Concerning the Messiah it was foretold, (Gen. xlix.10.) that he should come, before the sceptre departed from Judah: And accordingly Christ appeared a little before the time when the Jewish government was totally destroyed by the Romans. It was foretold that he should come before the destruction of the second temple, (Hagg. ii. 7.) The desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts; the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former: And accordingly Christ appeared some time before the destruction of the city and temple. It was foretold that he should come at the end of 490 years, after the restoring of Jerusalem which had been laid waste during the captivity, (Dan. ix. 24.) and that he should be cut off; and that, after that, the city and sanctuary should be destroyed and made desolate: And accordingly, at what time soever the beginning of the four hundred and ninety years can, according to any interpretation of the words, be fixed, the end of them will fall about the time of Christ’s appearing, and it is well known how entirely the city and sanctuary were destroyed some years after his being cut off. It was foretold that he should do many great and beneficial miracles; that the eyes of the blind (Isa. xxxv. 5.) should be opened, and 352the ears of the deaf unstopped; that the lame man should leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing;—and this was literally fulfilled in the miracles of Christ,—the blind received their sight, and the lame walked, the deaf heard, &c. (Matt. xi. 5.) It was foretold that he should die a violent death, (Isai.liii. throughout,) and that not for himself, (Dan. ix. 26.) but for our transgressions, (Isai. liii. 5, 6, and 12.) for the iniquity of us all, and that he might bear the sin of many;—all which was exactly accomplished in the sufferings of Christ. It was foretold, (Gen. xlix. 10.) that to him should the gathering of the people be, and (Psal. ii. 8.) that God would give him the heathen for his inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for his possession;—which was punctually fulfilled by the wonderful success of the gospel, and its universal spreading through the world. Lastly, many minuter circumstances were foretold of the Messiah,—that he should be of the tribe of Judah, and of the seed of David, that he should be born in the town of Bethlehem, (Mic. v. 2.) that he should ride upon an ass in humble triumph into the city of Jerusalem, (Zech. ix. 9.) that he should be sold for thirty pieces of silver, (Zech. xi. 12.) that he should be scourged, buffeted, and spit upon, (Is. l. 6.) that his hands and feet should be pierced, (Psal. xxii. 16.) that he should be numbered among malefactors, (Is. liii. 12.) that he should have gall and vinegar offered him to drink, (Psal. lxix. 21.) that they who saw him crucified, should mock at him, and at his trusting in God to deliver him, (Psal. xxii. 8.) that the soldiers should cast lots for his garments, (Psal. xxii. 18.) that he should make his grave with the rich, (Is. liii. 9.) and that he should rise again without seeing corruption, (Psal. xvi. 10.) All which circumstances were fulfilled to the greatest possible exactness, in the person of Christ: Not to mention the numberless typical representations which had likewise evidently their complete accomplishment in him. And it is 353no less evident, that none of these prophecies can possibly be applied to any other person that ever pretended to be the Messiah.
Of the prophecies that Christ himself delivered concerning things that were to happen after. Further, the prophecies or predictions which Christ delivered himself, concerning things that were to happen after, are no less strong proofs of the truth and divine authority of his doctrine, than the prophecies were which went before concerning him. He did very particularly, and at several times, foretel his own death, and the circumstances of it, (Matt.xvi. 21.) that the chief priests and scribes should condemn him to death and deliver him to the Gentiles, that is to Pilate and the Roman soldiers, to mock, and scourge, and crucify him, (Matt. xx. 18 and 19.) that he should be betrayed into their hands, (Matt. xx. 18.) that Judas Iscariot was the person who would betray him, (Matt. xxvi. 23.) that all his disciples would forsake him and flee, (Matt. xxvi. 31.) that Peter particularly would thrice deny him in one night; (Mar. xiv. 30.) he foretold further, that he would rise again the third day, (Matt. xvi. 21.) that, after his ascension, he would send down the Holy Ghost upon hi sapostles, (John xv. 26.) which should enable them to work many miracles: (Mar. xvi. 17.) he foretold also the destruction of Jerusalem, with such very particular circumstances, in the whole 24th chapter of St Matthew, and the 13th of St Mark and 21st of St Luke, that no man who reads Josephus’s history of that dreadful and unparalleled calamity,361361 Very remarkable also is the history recorded by a heathen writer of what happened upon Julian's attempting to rebuild the temple: Imperii sui memoriam magnitudine operum gestiens propagare, ambitiosum quondam apud Hierosolymam templum, quod post multa et interneciva certamina obsidente Vespasiano posteaque Tito ægrè est expugnatum, instaurare sumptibus cogitabat immodicis; negotiumque maturandum Alypio dederat Antiochensi, qui olim Britannias curaverat, pro præfectis. Cù m itaque rei idem instaret Alypius, juvaretque provinciæ rector; metuendi globi flammarum prope fundamenta crebris assultibus erumpentes fecere locum exustis aliquoties operantibus inaccessum; hocque modo, elemento destinatius repellente, cessavit inceptum.—Ammian. Marcellin. lib. 22. sub initio. can without the greatest obstinacy imaginable, 354doubt of our Saviour’s divine fore-knowledge. Lastly, he foretold likewise many particulars concerning the future success of the gospel, and what should happen to several of his disciples; he foretold what opposition and persecution they should meet withal in their preaching; (Matt. x. 17.) he foretold what particular kind of death St Peter should die; (Job xxi. 18.) and hinted, that St John should live till after the destruction of Jerusalem; (Job, xxi. 22.) and foretold, that, notwithstanding all opposition and persecutions, the gospel should yet have such success as to spread itself over the world; (Matt. xvi. 18. xxiv. 14. xxviii. 19.) all and every one of which particulars were exactly accomplished, without failing in any respects.
Some of these things are of permanent and visible effects, even unto this day; particularly the captivity and dispersion of the Jews through all nations, for more than 1600 years; and yet their continuing a distinct people, in order to the fulfilling the prophecies of things still future: This (I say) is particularly a permanent proof of the truth of the ancient prophecies: But the greatest part of the instances above mentioned were sensible and ocular demonstrations of the truth of our Lord’s doctrine only to those persons who lived at the time when they happened: The credibility of whose testimony, therefore, shall be considered presently in its proper place.
Objections answered. But before I proceed to this, it may not be improper in this place to take notice of some objections which have of late been revived and urged against this whole notion, both of the prophecies themselves, and of the application of them to Christ. The sum and strength of which objections is briefly this.
That all the promises supposed to be made to the Jews before Christ’s time, of a Messiah, or deliverer, were understood and meant of some “temporal deliverer” only, who should restore to the Israelites a mere worldly kingdom, “without the least imagination of a spiritual deliverance,” or of any such Saviour as is preached in the New Testament.355
That, consequently, “all the prophecies” in the Old Testament, applied to Christ by the apostles in the New, are applied to him in a sense merely “typical, mystical, allegorical, or enigmatical;” in a sense “different from the obvious and literal sense,” by “new interpretations put upon them not agreeable to the obvious and literal meaning of those books” from whence they are cited: That is to say, that the prophecies were all of them intended concerning other persons, and other persons only; and, therefore, are falsely and groundlessly applied either to Christ in particular, or in general to the expectation of any such Messiah as should introduce a spiritual and eternal kingdom.
That there are several passages, cited by the apostles out of the Old Testament, which are either not found there at all, or else are very different in the text itself from the citations alleged; and consequently, are, by the apostles, either misunderstood or misapplied.
That even miracles themselves “can never render a foundation valid, which is in itself invalid;—can never make a false inference true;—can never make a prophecy fulfilled, which is not fulfilled;”—can never make those things to be spoken concerning Christ, which were not spoken concerning Christ: And, consequently, that the miracles said to have been worked by Christ could not possibly have been really worked by him; but must, of necessity, together with the whole system, both of the Old and New Testament, have been wholly the effect of imagination and enthusiasm, if not of imposture.
Now, in order to enable every careful and sincere reader to find a satisfactory answer to these, and all other objections of the like nature, I would lay before him the following considerations.
1. I suppose it to have been already proved in the foregoing part of this discourse, that there is a God, and that the nature and circumstances of men, and the necessary perfections of God, do demonstrate the 356obligations and the motives of natural religion; that is, that God is a moral as well as natural governor of the world. Whoever denies either of these assertions is obliged to invalidate the arguments alleged for proof of them in the former part of this book, before he has any right to intermix atheistical arguments and objections in the present question: It being evidently ridiculous in all who believe not that God is, and that he is a moral judge as well as natural governor, to argue at all about a revelation concerning religion, or to make any inquiry whether it be from God or no.
2. As God has in fact made known even demonstrable truths,362362 See above, prop. vii. sec. 4. natural and moral truths, not to all men equally, but in different degrees and proportions to such as have a disposition and desire to inquire after them; so it is agreeable to reason and to the analogy of God’s proceedings, to believe that he may possibly, by revelation and tradition, have given some further degrees of light to such as are sincerely desirous to know and obey him; so that they who will do his will may know of the doctrine whether it be of God: As our natural knowledge of moral and religious truths in fact is, so revelation possibly may further be, as it were a light shining in a dark place.
3. It appears in history, that the great truths and obligations of natural religion have, from the beginning, been confirmed by a perpetual tradition in particular families, who, though in the midst of idolatrous nations, yet stedfastly adhered to the worship of the God of nature, the one God of the universe. And by the nation of the Jews (notwithstanding all their corruptions in practice, yet in the system and constitution of their religion) has the same tradition been continually preserved: Whereby they have been as it were a city upon a hill, a standng testimony against an idolatrous world.
4. Among the writings of all, even the most ancient 357and learned nations, there are none but the books of the Jews, which (agreeably to the above demonstrated truths concerning the God of nature, and the foundations of natural religion,) have, exclusive of chance and of necessity, ascribed either the original of the universe in general (an universe full of infinite variety and choice,) to the will and operation of an intelligent and free cause, or given any tolerable account, in particular, of the formation of this our earth into its present habitable state.
5. But in these books there is not only (in order to prevent idolatry) a full account (agreeable to the principles of natural reason,) how the heavens, and the earth, and all things therein contained, are the creatures of God, but, moreover, an uniform series of history from the infancy of mankind, consistent with itself, and with the state of the Jewish and Christian church at this day, and with the possibilities of the predicted series for the future, for several thousands of years. Which consistency with the possibilities of such predicted future events could not be by chance (as I shall show presently,) but is itself a great and standing miracle.
6. In these books, agreeably to the hopes and expectations naturally founded on the divine perfections, God did from the beginning make, and has all along continued to his church or true worshippers, a promise that truth and virtue shall finally prevail; should prevail over the spirit of error and wickedness, of delusion and disobedience: That the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head: (Gen. iii. 15.) That among her posterity should arise a deliverance from the delusion and power of sin, by which Satan should be bruised under their feet: (Rom. xvi. 20.) That, in particular, from the seed of Abraham, and from the family of Isaac, and from the posterity of Jacob, and from the house of David, should arise the accomplishment of all God’s promises to his church, and all the blessings included in God’s covenant with his true worshippers. That at length the earth should be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the 358waters cover the sea, (Is. xi. 9.) that the kingdoms of this world should become the kingdoms of the Lord: (Rev. xi. 15. Dan. vii. 27.) That in the last days, unto the mountain of the Lord’s house, the seat of his true worship, should all nations flow; (Is. ii. 2.) That God would create new heavens and a new earth; (Is. lxv. 17.) wherein dwelleth righteousness; (2 Pet. iii. 13.) wherein the people should be all righteous, and inherit the land for ever: (Is. lx. 21. lxv. 25. xi. 9. 1. 26.) Should be all holy; (Is. iv. 8.) even every one that is written among the living.363363 Or written unto life, רחיומ הבתוב So Dan. xii. 1. every one that shall be found written in the book. That God would set up a kingdom, which should never be destroyed, but stand for ever; (Dan. ii. 44.) and that the saints of the Most High should take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever, (Dan. vii. 18, 22, 27. Is. chap. lx.)
7. All the great promises, therefore, which God has ever made to his church, to his people, to the families or nations of his true worshippers, are evidently to be all along so understood as that wicked and unworthy persons, of whatever family, or nation, or profession of religion they be, shall be excluded from the benefit of those promises, shall be cut off from God’s people; and worthy persons of all nations, from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, shall be accepted in their stead. That is to say; in like manner as the promise was made originally, not to all the children of Abraham, but to Isaac only, and not to both the sons of Isaac, but to Jacob only; and among the posterity of Jacob, all were not Israel which were of Israel, but in Elijah’s days, seven thousand only were the true Israel; and in the time of Isaiah, though the number of the children of Israel was as the sand of the sea, (Is. x. 22.) yet a remnant only was to be saved, (Rom. ix. 27.); and in Hosea God says, I will call them my people which were not my people, and her beloved 359which was not beloved, (Hos. ii. 23. Rom. ix. 25.) So it is all along evidently to be understood, that the children of the promise, in the literal sense, according to the flesh, the visible church, or professed worshippers of the true God, are but the type or representative of the real invisible church of God, the (Rom. ii. 28. iii. 7 and 9. iv. 12.) true children of Abraham, in the spiritual and religious sense, the saints of the Most High, who shall possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever, (Dan. vii. 18.) even every one that is written among the living. (Is. iv. 3.)
8. It being evident that God cannot be the God of the dead, but of the living; and that all promises made to such worshippers of the true God as at any time forsook all that they had, and even life itself, for the sake of that worship, could be nothing but mere mockery if there was no life to come and God had no power to restore them from the dead: This (I say) being self-evident, it follows necessarily, that when the time comes that the promised kingdom shall take place, the dead must be raised, and the saints, which have died in the intermediate time, must live again, and stand in their lot at the end of the days, (Dan. xii. 13.) When God styles himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; (Exod. iii. 6, 16.) and said to Abraham, I am thy exceeding great reward, (Gen. xv. 1.) and I will—be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, (Gen. xvii. 7.) and I will give the land unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, (Gen. xvii. 8, 13, 15, 17.) and repeated the very same promises to Isaac, (Gen. xxvi. 3.) and to Jacob personally, (Gen. xxviii. 13.) as well as to their posterity after them; (Deut. i. 8.) and yet gave Abraham none inheritance in the land, though he promised that he would give it to him and to his seed after him, (Acts vii. 5.) but Abraham himself sojourned only in the land of promise as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise, (Heb. xi. 9.) who all confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims 360on the earth, (Heb. xi. 13.) and Jacob particularly complained that the days of the years of his pilgrimage had been few and evil; (Gen. xlvii. 9.) and, in blessing Isaac and Ishmael, God promised to make Ishmael fruitful, and to multiply him exceedingly, (Gen. xvii. 20. xxi. 18.) so that he should beget twelve princes, and God would make him a great nation, and multiply his seed exceedingly, that it should not be numbered for multitude; (Gen. xvi. 10.) and yet in the very same sentence expressly, by way of opposition, and of high and eminent distinction, declares that, notwithstanding all this, yet his covenant, his everlasting covenant, he would establish with Isaac: (Gen. xvii. 19, 21.) When all this (I say) is considered, the inference of the apostle to the Hebrews cannot but appear unanswerably just, that these patriarchs looked for a city somewhat more than temporal, even a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God; (Heb. xi. 10.) and that they who said such things declared plainly that they sought a country, a better country, that is, an heavenly; (Heb. xi. 14, 16.) and that for this reason God was not ashamed to be called their God, because he had prepared for them a city. And if this inference was necessarily true concerning the patriarchs, who confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth; (Heb. xi. 13.) much more concerning those who were tortured, not accepting deliverance, (Heb. xi. 35.) must it needs be true that the only possible reason of this their choice was that they might obtain a better resurrection.
Other notices in the Old Testament, that the worshippers of the true God, in every age of the world, should at the end have their lot in the kingdom promised to the saints of the Most High, are, the translation of Enoch, (Gen. v. 24.) that he should not see death; (Heb. xi. 5. Wisd. iv. 10. Eccles. xliv. 16. xlix. 14.) and the taking up of Elijah into Heaven, (2 Kings ii. 11, Eccles. xlviii. 9. 1 Macc. ii. 58.) Allusions to it at least, if perhaps not direct assertions, 361are the words of Job, (Job xix. 25.) I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.364364 The introduction to these words is very solemn: Oh! that my words were now——graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever. And how they were anciently understood, appears from that addition to the end of the book of Job in the LXX, γέγραπται δὲ, ἀυτὸν πάλιν ἀναστήσεσθαι, μεθ᾽ ὧν ὁ κύριος ἀνίστησιν. So Job died, being old and full of days. “But it is written that he shall rise again with those whom the Lord raises up.” And those of Isaiah: Thy dead men shall live; together with my dead body shall they arise. A wake and sing, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. (Is. xxvi. 19.) And your bones shall flourish like an herb. (Is. lxvi. 14.) And that passage in Hosea: I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. (Hos. xiii. 14.) O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction. And that in Ezekiel: Behold,—the bones came together, bone to his bone; and— the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above;— and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet;——Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. (Ezek.xxxvii. 7, 8, 10, 12.) Again: The words of Isaiah; The righteous perisheth, and— is taken away from the evil to come; He shall enter into peace: (Is. lvii. 1, 2.) What more natural signification have they than that which the Book of Wisdom expresses, ch. iii. 1, 3. The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God;—They are in peace. And what but the future state can the conclusion of Isaiah’s prophecy reasonably be referred to? Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;—As the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. 362And— all flesh shall come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: For their worm shall not die; neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh, (Is. lxv. 17. lxvi. 22, 23, 24.) In like manner; Whom does God speak of by Ezekiel, when he says, the sons of (Ezek. xliv. 15, 16.) Zadock, that kept the charge of my sanctuary, when the children of Israel went astray from me;365365 בני ,ערוק The sons of righteousness. [which went not astray when the children of Israel went astray, (Ezek. xlviii. 11.)]—they shall enter into my sanctuary. And to what do the following words of the same prophet most naturally refer?366366 Ezek. xlvii. 9, 12. compared with Rev. xxii. 1, 2. He showed me a pure river of water of life:—And of either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Every thing shall live whither the river cometh:—And by the river, upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade; neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: It shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary; and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine. Still more strong is that allusion in Daniel; I beheld till the thrones were cast down, [till the thrones were placed,] and the ancient of days did sit:—A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: The judgment was set, and the books were opened. (Dan.vii. 9. 10.) But the following words of the same prophet are direct and express. Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, [every one that shall be found written in the book,] and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 363And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.—But go thou thy way, till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and shalt stand in thy lot at the end of the days; (Dan. xii 2, 3, 13.) Can any one, who considers these texts, with any truth or reason affirm that all the promises supposed to be made to the Jews before Christ’s time were meant of some “temporal” deliverance only, “without the least imagination of a spiritual deliverance?”
9. There are in the Old Testament many intimations, and some direct predictions, that all the great promises of God, made to his true worshippers, shall receive their final accomplishment by means of a particular person, anointed of God for that purpose; who, after the reduction of all adversaries, shall set up the everlasting kingdom. The seed of Abraham, in which all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, (and, in like manner, the seed of the woman, which was to bruise the serpent’s head,) might originally, with equal propriety, and in as reasonable and natural a sense of the words, be understood to signify (what St. Paul afterward asserts it did signify,367367 Gal. iii. 16. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed; that is to say, in the promise to Abraham, the Scripture uses the ambiguous word seed, not in the plural sense, but in the singular sense.) in the singular sense, a particular person, as, in the plural sense, a number of persons. The Shiloh which was to come, and to whom the gathering of the people was to be, (Gen. xlix. 10.) (the promise laid up in store, τὰ ἀποκείμενα αὐτῷ, as the LXX render it,) by its opposition in the text to the terms sceptre and lawgiver, most naturally signifies a single person who was to reign; and, by the gradation in the words of the text, somewhat of superior dignity to that of a sceptre and a lawgiver. The words of Balaam:—(Num. xxiv. 17, 19.) I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh: There shall 364come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel;—out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion;—are words so put in his mouth, as most properly and obviously to describe a much greater person than perhaps he thought of, a much greater person than one who should smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. Again; that the words of Moses:—(Deut. xviii. 15.) The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, like unto me, unto him shall ye hearken;—were not meant barely of Joshua, or of “a succession of prophets,” but of one who should have as eminent a legislative authority as Moses, may reasonably be gathered from the occasion of their being spoken, not merely by Moses, upon a general reliance and trust that God would provide him a successor, but by God himself, upon the people’s desiring in Horeb,—saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not: Then the Lord said, They have well spoken:—I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I command him: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (Deut.xviii. 16, 17, 18, 19.)—And that the words were anciently, long before the application of them by the writers of the New Testament, thus understood, and not concerning Joshua, or a succession of prophets, appears from those additional words at the conclusion of the book of Deuteronomy:—(Deut.xxxiv. 9, 10.) Joshua, the son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him—But there arose not a prophet since in Israel, like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.—The prediction of Isaiah is still clearer:—(Is. ix. 6, 7.) Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and 365his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace:368368 אביעך פדא יועצ אד דנוך, Wonderful, Counsellor, [LXX, Μεγάλης βουλῆς γἄγελος. as Mal. iii. 1, ὁ ἄγγελος τῆς διαθήκης XX .] the Mighty, the Potent One, the Father of the age to come. [Vulg. Pater futuri seucli. Compare Heb. ii. 5.] Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever: The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this. Again:—(Is. xi. 1, 3, 6, 9.) There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse.—He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.—The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, &c.—They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And (Is. xlii. 1, 3, 4.—Matt. xii. 17.) Behold my servant,—mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my spirit upon him:—A bruised reed shall he not break:—He shall bring forth judgment unto truth:—till he have set judgment in the earth, and the isles shall wait for his law. The prophet Jeremiah no less plainly:—(Jer.xxiii. 5, 6.—xxxiii. 15, 16.) I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth:—And this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. And Ezekiel:—(Ezek.xxxiv. 23, 25.—xxxvii. 22, 23, 24, 25.—Hos.iii. 5.) I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David;—And I will make with them a covenant of peace, &c.—One king shall be king to them all;—neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols;—366and they all shall have one shepherd; they shall also walk in my judgments,—and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. By Haggai is the same predicted:—(Hagg. ii. 6, 7.—Heb. xii. 26.) Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth,—And the desire of all nations shall come.369369 The Shiloh, unto whom shall the gathering of the people be. Gen. xlix. 10. And by Zechary:—(Zech. ix. 9, 10.—Matt. xxi. 5.) Behold, thy king cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass:—He shall speak peace unto the heathen; and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. And by Malachi;—(Mal.iii. 1.) The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple; even the messenger of the covenant. But most expressly of all by Daniel:—(Dan.vii. 13, 14.) I saw in the night visions, and behold one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him:370370 With reference to this it is, that Christ in the gospel perpetually styles himself the son of man, and once the son of man which is in [which in the prophecy is described as coming in the clouds of] heaven, John iii. 13: And tells his disciples that they shall see the son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, Matt. xxiv. 30. And the high priest, that hereafter ye shall see the son of man sitting on the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven, Matt. xxvi. 64. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom; that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away; and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. And the anointing of the Holy One, this prophet calls (Dan. ix. 24.) the sealing up of the vision and prophecy, and the finishing of transgression, and the making an end of sins, and the making reconciliation for iniquity, and the bringing in ever-lasting righteousness. [Do all these things denote nothing but “temporal” deliverance, “without the 367least imagination of a spiritual deliverance?”] And in the words next following, he is styled, by name, Messiah. (Dan. ix. 25.) Know, therefore, [ותדע know also] and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks.371371 Seven septendaries (or weeks) of years (as the word is used, Gen. xxix. 27. That is to say, forty-nine years, the number of years appointed until the jubilee, Levit. xxv. 8, 9, 10. Concerning the other number of Daniel in this place I shall have occasion to speak presently.
10. Concerning this Messiah, in the setting up of whose kingdom all the promises of God terminate, it is clearly predicted in the Old Testament that he should arise particularly from the tribe of Judah, from the family of David, and in the town of Bethlehem.
The first of these particulars is expressed in those emphatical words of Jacob:—(Gen. xlix. 8, 10.) Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise,— thy father’s children shall bow down before thee:— The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, [LXX, ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ τὰ ἀποκείμενα αὐτῷ, till the accomplishment of the promises which God has laid up in store for him,] and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. To which the writer of the Chronicles seems to refer, when he says:—(Chr. v. 1, 2.) The genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birth-right; for Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler, [Heb. and from him was it prophesied the ruler should arise.] And the Psalmist,—(Ps.lx. 7. cviii. 8.) Judah is my lawgiver.
The second is expressed in that promise to David,—(2 Sam. vii. 16.) thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee, [LXX, ἐνώπιὸν μου, before me;] thy throne shall be established for ever. Which words might, indeed, of themselves be understood concerning a succession of kings in the house of David: But that God had a further and a greater 368meaning in them, he very clearly explains by the following prophets. By Isaiah:—(Is. xi. 1, &c. compare Rev. iii. 7. v. 5. xxii. 16.) there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots; and then follows through the whole chapter a glorious description of an everlasting kingdom of righteousness, over both Jews and Gentiles. By Jeremiah;—(Jer. xxiii. 5.) I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth:—And this is his name whereby he shall be called, the Lord our righteousness. By Ezekiel;—(Ezek.xxvii. 23, 24, 25, 26.) they shall be my people, and I will be their God; and David my servant shall be king over them, and they all shall have one shepherd;—and my servant David shall be their prince for ever; Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant. And by Hosea:—(Hos. iii. 4.) The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king and without a prince, and without a sacrifice:—Afterward shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.
The third particular is expressed in those words of Micah:—(Micah, v. 2. Mat. i. 6.) But thou Bethlehem Euphratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. After the passages now cited out of the foregoing prophets, what can be more jejune than to understand these words of Micah concerning Zorobabel only as having been of an ancient family?
11. In the books of the Old Testament it is expressly predicted, that the kingdom of the Messiah should extend not over the Jews only, but also over the Gentiles. The (Gen. xii. 3. xviii. 18. xxii. 18. xxvi. 4. xxviii. 14.) promise made to Abraham, and so often repeated to him, and to Isaac, and to Jacob, that 369in their seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed, is thus opened and explained by the prophets.—(Is.xi. 10.) There shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious.—(Is.xlii. 1, 6. Matt. xii. 18.) Behold my servant—in whom my soul delighteth,—he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles;—I will—give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles. (Is.xlix. 6.) It is a light thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. (Is.lvi. 6, 7, 8.—John x. 16.) Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord,—even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and—mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord God, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel, saith, yet will I gather others to him, besides those that are gathered unto him. (Ezek. xlvii. 22.) The strangers that sojourn among you,—shall have an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. (Mal. i. 11.) From the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts.
12. Concerning the same Messiah, of whom so great things are spoken, and whose kingdom is to be an everlasting kingdom, it is still expressly predicted by the prophets that he should suffer and be cut off. Concerning the very same person, who (with respect to his coming to reign, and to introduce the everlasting jubilee or rest to the people of God, (Heb. iv. 9. σαββατισμός.) is styled Messiah the prince; (Dan. ix. 25.) concerning the very same person, I say, it is in the very same sentence expressly predicted that he should be cut off, but not for himself, (Dan. ix. 26.) [Heb. and the people should 370not then be his; unto him should not then the gathering of the people be. (Gen. xlix. 10.)] For which reason, and also because the words can with no tolerable sense be applied to any other person, and because moreover the connexion of the whole prophecy leads to the same interpretation; the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah likewise is most justly understood to be spoken of the Messiah: There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse; (Isa. xi. 1.)—with righteousness shall he judge the poor: (Isa.xi. 4.)—Behold my servant—mine elect in whom my soul delighteth;—he shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street; a bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench; he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. (Isa. xlii. 1, 2, 3.—Behold, my servant shall deal prudently; (Is. lii. 13.) Surely he hath born our griefs;—he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities:—He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth: He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who shall declare his generation?—For the transgression of my people was he stricken; and he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death:—When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin;—my righteous servant shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities:—He was numbered with the transgressors, and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Is. liii. 4, &c.)
13. All prophecies of blessings to the worshippers of the true God, expressed either as being to happen in the latter days, or in words which imply a lasting duration, are in reason to be understood as having reference to the times of the promised kingdom of the Messiah, of whom it is expressly said, that he shall bring in everlasting righteousness, (Dan. ix. 24.) and that his dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Dan. vii. 14.) Some 371prophecies of this kind are direct and express. Others, beginning with promises of particular intermediate blessings, and proceeding with general expressions more great and lofty than can naturally be applied to the temporal blessing immediately spoken of, are most reasonably understood to have a perpetual view and regard to that great and general event, in which all God’s promises to his true worshippers do centre and terminate, and of which all intermediate blessings promised by God are justly looked upon as beginnings, types, pledges, or earnests.
14. For since, from the express prophecies before cited, of the Messiah’s everlasting kingdom of righteousness, it appears that God had in fact a view to that, as the great and general end of all the dispensations of providence towards his true worshippers from the beginning; and no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation, (2 Pet. i. 20.) (that is, the meaning of prophecies is not what perhaps the prophet himself might imagine in his private judgment of the state of things then present,) because the prophecy in old time came not by the will of man, but holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; there may, therefore, very possibly, and very reasonably, be supposed to be many prophecies, which, though they may have a prior and immediate reference to some nearer event, yet, by the spirit of God, (whom those prophecies which are express show to have had a further view,) may have been directed to be uttered in such words, as may even more properly and more justly be applied to the great event which providence had in view, than to the intermediate event which God designed as only a pledge or earnest of the other: For instance; suppose these words of Daniel,—I beheld till the thrones were cast down, [till the thrones were placed,] and the ancient of days did sit:—A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the judgment was set, and the books were opened: (Dan. vii. 9, 10.) Suppose (I say) these words were spoken concerning the slaying of a wild beast, or the destruction of a temporal empire, (ver. 11.) yet what reasonable man, who had ever elsewhere met with any notices of a judgment to come, could doubt but the destruction there spoken of was therefore expressed in those words, that it might be understood to be the introduction to the general judgment? The exact and very particular description of a resurrection, in the 37th of Ezekiel, supposing it to be indeed spoken of a temporal restoration of the Jews, yet who can doubt but it was so worded with design to allude to a real resurrection of the dead? The words of Micah: Thou, Bethlehem, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting: (Micah, v. 2. Mat. ii. 6.) Supposing it possible they could be spoken of Zorobabel, yet, if afterwards there should arise out of Bethlehem one in whom were found all the other prophetic characters of the promised Messiah, who could doubt but the words were intended either solely, or at least chiefly, of the latter? The words of Jeremiah: (Jer. i. 7.—vi. 5.) Babylon hath been a golden cup;—the nations have drunken of her wine, therefore the nations are mad: Flee out of the midst of Babylon,—be not cut off in her iniquity:—My people, go ye out of the midst of her, and deliver ye every man his soul from the fierce anger of the Lord. Who, that considers the nature and character of the Babylon in Jeremiah’s time, and compares it with the nature and character of the Babylon described by St John, can doubt but the spirit which influenced Jeremiah foresaw and intended to allude to that Babylon which had (Rev. xvii. 4.) a golden cup in her hand full of abominations, (ver. 2.) and the inhabiters of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication, (ch. xviii. 3, 4.) and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her:—Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues: For the 373words of Jeremiah are more strictly applicable to this latter Babylon than to that in his own time. Again; The words of Isaiah:—(Is. vii. 14.—Matt. i. 23.) Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel, that is to say, God with us. Supposing Isaiah himself could possibly at that time understand them concerning a son of his own, concerning a son to be born of a young woman afterwards, who at the time then present was a virgin; and that his being styled Immanuel meant nothing more than that, before this child was grown up, Judah should be delivered from the then threatened incursions of Israel and Syria; (all which, notwithstanding the seeming connexion of the words in the place they stand, is very difficult to suppose;) yet, if afterwards any person, comparing the solemn introduction wherewith the words are brought in, “Hear ye now, O house of David; is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive,” &c. If any one, I say, comparing this solemn introduction with the promises repeated to the house of David in other passages of the prophets, that there should be born unto them a Son who should (Is. ix. 7.—Ezek. xxxvii. 25.) sit upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom for ever, and of the increase of whose government and peace there should be no end;—and considering, moreover, the character of this promised Son, that he should (Dan. ix. 24.) finish transgression, and make an end of sins, and make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness: If a person, considering and comparing these things, should in his own days find a son really born of a virgin, attested to by numerous miracles, and by God’s command named Jesus, (which is synonymous to immanuel, a potent Saviour or God with us,) because he (Matt. i. 21.) should save his people from their sins, that is, should (Dan. ix. 24.) make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness; 374Could such a person possibly entertain the least doubt, whether God, who sent Isaiah to repeat the fore cited words to the house of David, did not intend thereby to describe, if not wholly and solely, at least chiefly and ultimately, this latter saviour? In like manner; suppose those great promises to David, (2 Sam. vii. 13, 14, 16.) concerning the establishment of the throne of his Son for ever, were by David, and the prophet himself that delivered them, understood (τῇ ἰδία ἐπιλύσει, as St. Peter speaks,) concerning Solomon, and a succession of kings in his family; yet, when following prophecies clearly and expressly declared, that out of the root of Jesse should arise a Messiah who should reign for ever, no reasonable man can doubt, but that the former and less clear prophecy was likewise intended of God, and therefore rightly applied by the apostles of Christ to the same purpose? To give but one instance more: Suppose the words, (Ps. xvi. 10.) Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption, were by David spoken concerning himself, (which, however, can by no way be proved,) yet who, that (Acts. ii. 30.) knew David himself to be a prophet, and that had compared the other prophecies concerning the (Is. xi. 1, &c.) branch out of the roots of Jesse, the (Ezek. xxxvii. 24.) one shepherd of Israel, even God’s (ver. 25.) servant David who should be their prince for ever, and yet was to be (Dan. ix. 26.—Is. liii. tot.) cut off before he should reign for ever; and that had himself seen (as St. Peter did) and actually conversed with Christ risen from the dead; who, (I say) in these circumstances, could possibly doubt but that (2 Sam. xxiii. 2.) the spirit of the Lord which spake by David intended the fore-mentioned words should be understood of, and applied to Christ? And the like may be said concerning some other prophecies which are vulgarly supposed to be applied typically to Christ.
15. It is not agreeable to reason, or to the analogy of Scripture, to suppose
that the Jews, before our Saviour’s
375time, could have a clear and distinct understanding of the full meaning,
even of the express prophecies, much less of those which were more obscure and indirect;
when both were intended to be only as it were a light shining in a dark place.372372 See above, Prop. VII. 4. But thus much is evident, that the Jews, both before
and in our Saviour’s time, had from these prophecies a general expectation of a
Messiah,373373 Percrebuerat Oriente toto vetus et constans opinio, esse in
fatis, ut Judæâ
profecti rerum potirentur.—Sueton.
Pluribus persuasio inerat, antiquis sacerdotum libris contineri, eo ipso tempore fore, ut valesceret Oriens, profectique Judæâ rerum potirentur.—Tacit. and that this Messiah was to be, not merely a “temporal” deliverer, but אביצר, Pater futuri seculi, the head of the future state, as well as of the present. Nor does it at all appear that our Lord’s disciples, when they (Luke, xxiv. 21.) thought he would have redeemed Israel, or when they (Acts, i. 6.) asked if he would at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel, I say, it does not at all appear that they expected merely a “temporal” kingdom, but their error was in expecting a present kingdom; and therefore our Lord’s answer to them, is not concerning the nature but the time of the kingdom. And the modern Jews, at this day, who to be sure have entertained no prejudicate notions from the New Testament writer’s interpretation or application of prophecies, have (I think) still an universal expectation, that the Messiah shall be their prince in the future state as well as in the present.
16. When Jesus Christ, by (John x. 25.) the works which he did in his father’s name, and (John v. 36.) which his father gave him to finish, had proved himself to be sent of God; (which truth the apostles likewise confirmed by their testimony, by their works, and by laying down their lives, not for their opinions, which possibly erroneous and enthusiastic persons may sometimes sincerely do, but in attestation to 376facts of their own knowledge) and it appeared, moreover, that there was wanting in him no circumstance, no sine qua non, no character, appropriated by any of the ancient prophets to the promised Messiah, he had then a clear right to apply to himself all the prophecies, which either directly spoke of the Messiah, or which, through any intermediate events, pointed at him, and were applicable to him.
17. The application of this latter sort of prophecies to Christ is not allegorical. It is not an allegorical application, much less an allegorical argument or reasoning. But they are applied to him, as being really and intentionally, in the view of providence, the end and complete accomplishment of that, whereof the intermediate blessing was a pledge or beginning.
18. The application of this latter sort of prophecies to Christ, was never by reasonable men urged as being itself a proof that Jesus was the true Messiah. Nay, the application of the most direct and express prophecies whatsoever, (unless when the characters be so particular as not to be at all compatible to different persons, or the marks of time be very definite and exact,) has not of itself the nature of a direct or positive proof, but can only be a sine qua non, an application of certain marks or characters, without which no person could be the promised Messiah. Many men were of the seed of Abraham, and of the tribe of Judah, and of the family of David, and born in Bethlehem of Judea, and suffered, and were cut of; and yet neither any nor all of these characters could prove any man to be the promised Messiah, but the want of any one of them would prove that any man was not he. The proof of Jesus being the Christ were (John v. 36.) the works which his father gave him to finish. The application of direct and express prophecies to him is nothing but such a congruity of marks or characters as removes all objections by which an adversary would endeavour to prove that it was not he. Ought not Christ (Luke, xxiv. 26.) to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory, is not 377proving from his sufferings, that Jesus was the Christ; but removing the objection, by which some were apt to infer from his sufferings that he could not possibly be the Christ. The application of indirect prophecies to him is only a giving of further light from the analogy and conformity of the Old Testament to the New, by way of illustration and confirmation, to such as have been before convinced by the direct proofs. The proof, therefore, of the truth of Christianity does not stand upon the application of prophecies; but the works by which Christ proved himself to be sent of God gave him a right to apply to himself the prophecies concerning the Messiah; and the marks or characters of the promised Messiah, given by the prophets, were so many tests by which his claim was to be tried. “Miracles,” indeed, “can never render a foundation valid, which is in itself invalid; can never make a false inference true; can never make a prophecy fulfilled, which is not fulfilled; can never mark out a Messias, or Jesus for the Messias, if both are not marked out in the Old Testament:” But miracles can give a man a just and undeniable claim to be received as the promised Messiah, if the prophetic characters of the Messiah be applicable to him: And this it is by which Jesus was proved to be the Christ.
19. From what has been said concerning the application of indirect prophecies, it is easy to observe the nature and use of types and figures, and allegorical manner of speaking; that these were much less intended to be ever alleged for proofs of the truth of a doctrine; and yet, in their proper place, may afford very great light and assistance towards the right understanding of it: An instance or two will make this matter obvious. There is a very remarkable passage in the epistle to the Galatians, where the apostle himself styles the thing he is speaking of, an (Gal. iv. 24.) allegory; that is, he draws an argument, a simile. The allegory, or similitude, he makes use of is not alleged by him as a “proof” of the truth of the doctrine 378he is asserting, but as a proof of the falseness and groundlessness of a particular objection urged by the unbelieving Jews against it: The doctrine the apostle asserts (both in the epistle to the Romans and in this to the Galatians,) is, that Christians of the Gentiles, who imitate the faith and obedience of Abraham, (being circumcised with the circumcision—of Christ, Col. ii. 11.) are equally capable of being admitted to the benefit of God’s promises to his people, as the Jews of the literal circumcision, who were lineally descended from that patriarch. In opposition to this, the Jews alleged, that since to the Israelites confessedly (Rom. ix. 4.) pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; since theirs, confessedly, were the fathers or patriarchs, to whom all the promises of God were originally made, it could not possibly be true, nor consistent with the promises of God made to their fathers, that these Israelites, who had been all along the peculiar people or church of God, should at last be rejected for not receiving the gospel; and that believers from among the Gentiles of all nations should be received in their stead. Now, in reply to this objection, the apostle argues with the greatest justness and strength, from the analogy of a like case acknowledged by themselves, in which the reason of the thing was the same, even from the analogy of God’s method and manner of proceeding in the giving of those very original promises to the patriarchs, upon which this prejudice of the Jews was founded. (Gal. iv. 21. &c.) Tell me, says he, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? That is, will ye not attend to the analogy of God’s method of proceeding, in those very promises on which ye depend? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond-maid, the other by a free woman: But he who was of the bond-woman, was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman, was by promise: Which things are an allegory, &c. That is to say, even originally, 379the promise was not made to all the children of Abraham, but to Isaac only, which was, from the beginning, a very plain declaration that God did not principally intend his promise to take place in (Rom. ix. 8.) Abraham’s descendants according to the flesh, but in those who, by a faith or fidelity like his, were in a truer and higher sense the children and followers of that Great Father of the faithful. In like manner, and for the same reason, the promise was not made (Rom. ix. 10.) to both the sons of Isaac, but to Jacob only; and, among the posterity of Jacob, all (Rom. ix. 6.) were not Israel, which were of Israel. What ye (Gal. iv. 21.) yourselves, therefore, saith St. Paul, who are so desirous to be under the Mosaic law, cannot but acknowledge to have been originally and always true, the same is true (ver. 29.) now. What was true concerning the two sons of Abraham, and likewise concerning the two sons of Isaac, who were the patriarchs with whom God’s covenant was originally made, is, by continuance of the same analogy, true concerning the covenant established with the families, and with the nation of the Jews, descended from those patriarchs; it is true concerning the church of God through all successive ages; it is true concerning the (Gal. iv. 25.) Jerusalem which now is, and concerning that which is to come. As (ver. 22.) Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond-maid, the other by a free woman: And as (ver. 30.) the son of the bond-maid, though, according to the flesh, no less truly his natural descendant than the other, yet was not to be co-heir with him, who, by the promise of God, was appointed to inherit: So, says the apostle, the (ver. 25. 26.) Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children, the visible earthly church, which received the external ceremonial law from Mount Sina, is not, by that outward general denomination, entitled to the eternal favour of God: But the Jerusalem which is above, which is the mother of us all, of all who, by true faith and sincere obedience are pleasing to God; this heavenly Jerusalem, 380this spiritual invisible church or city of the living God it is, to which all the promises of God, made in all ages to his church, are, in reality, originally and finally appropriated.
From this remarkable instance, it is well worth observing, by the way, that when the apostles are supposed to argue with the Jews ad hominem, the meaning is, that arguments alleged by the apostles to the Jews in particular, differ from arguments brought to the Gentiles, in this; not that they were at any time arguments drawn from things acknowledged by the Jews, and in themselves otherwise inconclusive; but that they were drawn, justly and strongly, from things well known among the Jews, though what the Gentiles were strangers to.
The correspondences of types and antetypes, though they are not themselves proper proofs of the truth of a doctrine, yet they may be very reasonable confirmations of the foreknowledge of God; of the uniform view of providence under different dispensations; of the analogy, harmony, and agreement between the Old Testament and the New. The words in the law, concerning one particular kind of death, (Deut. xxi. 23.) He that is hanged is accursed of God, can hardly be conceived to have been put in upon any other account than with a view and foresight to the application made of it by St. Paul. (Gal. iii. 13.) The analogies between the (Exod. xii. 22. 46. Johni. 29. xix. 36. Rev. i. 5.) Paschal Lamb, and the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world; between the Egyptian bondage and the tyranny of sin; between the (1 Cor. x. 1, 2.) baptism of the Israelites in the sea and in the cloud, and the baptism of Christians; between the (Heb. iii. 15.-9. iv. 1, 2, 3. 1 Cor. x. 1-11.) passage through the wilderness, and through the present world; between (Heb. iv. 8. 9.) Jesus [Joshua] bringing the people into the promised land, and Jesus Christ being the captain of salvation to believers; between the Sabbath of rest (Heb. iv. 5. ix. 1.) promised to the people of God in the earthly Canaan, and the eternal rest promised in 381the heavenly Canaan; between the (Numb. xxxv. 25. 28.) liberty granted from the time of the death of the High Priest, to him that had fled into a city of refuge, and the redemption purchased by the death of Christ; between the (Heb. ix. 25.) High Priest entering into the holy place every year with blood of others, and Christ’s (Heb. iv. 12, 24, 26.) once entering with his own blood into heaven itself, to appear in the presence of God for us; these (I say) and innumerable other analogies, between the (Col.ii. 17.) shadows of things to come, the (Heb. x. i.) shadows of good things to come, the (Heb. viii. 5.) shadows of heavenly things, the (Heb. ix. 9.) figures for the time then present, the (Heb. ix. 23.) patterns of things in the heavens, and (Heb. ix. 2.) the heavenly things themselves; cannot, without the force of strong prejudice, be conceived to have happened by mere chance, without any foresight or design. There are no such analogies, much less such series of analogies, found in the books of mere enthusiastic writers, much less of enthusiastic writers living in such remote ages from each other. It is much more credible and reasonable to suppose, (what St. Paul affirms,) that (1 Cor. x. 6.) these things were our examples; and that, in the uniform course of God’s government of the world, (Ver. 11.) all these things happened unto them of old for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. And hence arises that aptness of similitude, in the application of several legal performances to the morality of the gospel, that it can very hardly be supposed not to have been originally intended. As (1 Cor. v. 6, 7, 8.) know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 382Again; (Phil. iii. 3.) we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus; and have no confidence in the flesh. And (Col. ii, 13, 11.) you being dead in your sins, and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath God quickened together with Christ:—In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by [the Christian, the spiritual circumcision,] the circumcision of Christ. And (1 Cor. ix. 13, 14, 8, 9, 10. 1 Tim. v. 18.) do ye not know that they which—wait at the altar, are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.—Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? for it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? or saith he it altogether for our sakes?
Some applications of texts out of the Old Testament are mere allusions; that is, nothing more is intended to be affirmed than that the words spoken in the Old Testament are as truly and as justly applicable to the present occasion as they were to that upon which they were originally spoken. Of this kind I think is that of St. Matthew:—(Matt. iii. 17.—Jer.xxxi. 15.) Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, in Rama there was a voice heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning; Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. Thus likewise St. Paul:—(2 Cor. viii. 13, 14, 15.) I mean not that other men be eased, and you burdened; but by an equality; as it is written he that had gathered much, had nothing over; and he that had gathered little, had no lack. Again:—(Is. vi. 9.) What Isaiah says of the Jews, (supposing he did not speak there prophetically, though the solemnity of the introduction makes it much more reasonable to believe he did: But, supposing he spake of the Jews in his own 383time,) Go and tell this people, hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye, indeed, but perceive not; make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert and be healed: was (Matt. xiii. 14.) fulfilled, was verified, was equally true, equally applicable to the Jews, in our Saviour’s days. Of the same kind seems to be (Matt.viii. 17.) St. Matthew’s explication of that passage in (Is. liii. 4.) Isaiah; Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. The sense of the words in the prophecy is what St. Peter expresses:—(1 Pet. ii. 24.) Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree. And the Apostle to the Hebrews:—(Heb. ix. 28.) Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. Yet St. Matthew says:—(Matt. viii. 16, 17.) He healed all that were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses. His meaning is, Christ healed diseases in such a manner, that even in that sense also the words of Isaiah were literally verified. To give but one instance more; (Matt. xiii. 34, 35.) All these things, (saith the evangelist) spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables,—that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world: That is, the words (Ps. lxxviii. 2.) of the psalmist were as properly, as truly, and as justly applicable to the things which our Lord spoke, as to the occasion upon which they were originally spoken by the psalmist.
To such as are accustomed only to modern languages, and understand not the nature of the Hebrew and Syriac speech, it may seem very surprising, that, in the (Matt. viii. 17.—xiii. 35.) two last-mentioned passages, the citations are introduced with these words, That it might be fulfilled which was spoken 384by the prophet, saying, &c. But all who understand those languages well know, that the phrase answering to these expressions, ἵνα πληρωθῆ, that it might be fulfilled; mean nothing more than, hereby was verified, or, so that hereby was verified, or the like. And they who understand not the languages may yet easily apprehend this, by considering the nature and force of some other expressions of the like kind. As: (Jer.xxvii. 15.) They prophecy a lie in my name, that I might drive you out. (Matt. xxiii. 34, 35.) Behold, I send unto you prophets,—That upon you may come all the righteous blood. With (Exod. xi. 9.—xvii. 3.—Numb. xxxii. 14.—Ps. li. 4.—Jer.vii. 18.—Matt. x. 34, 35.) many other passages of the same nature; where the words “that such a thing may be,” do not at all signify the intention, “to the end that it may be,” but merely the event, “so that it will be.” In the case of the most direct and express prophecies of all, the words, “this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet,” never do, never possibly can signify literally, that the thing was done for that end, that the prophecy might be fulfilled; because, on the reverse, the reason why any thing is predicted always is, because the thing was (before that prediction) appointed to be done. Much more, therefore, in the case of indirect prophecies, the words—this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet—necessarily and evidently mean this only, that the thing was so done, as that thereby or therein was verified what the prophet had spoken.
20. It cannot, therefore, with any sort of reason or justice, be inferred from such citations out of the Old Testament as I have now mentioned, that the apostles either misunderstood, or enthusiastically misapplied the writings of the prophets. Nor can any just argument be drawn against the authority of the books of the Old and New Testament from such topics as these; that the copies of the law, in the times of the idolatrous kings of Judah and Israel, were well nigh 385lost, that some texts cited out of the Old Testament by the writers of the New, are not now found in the Old Testament at all; that other texts are read differently in the Old Testament itself, from the citations of the same texts recorded in the New, and the like: Which things have indeed given occasion to weak and ridiculous writers to invent certain senseless rules or regulations, according to which men may at any time rightly make what wrong quotations they please: But, in truth, the things themselves I am here speaking of are nothing but what must of necessity happen in a long succession of ages.
When—(2 Chr. xxxiv. 14.) Hilkiah the priest (in the days of Josiah,) found, in the house of the Lord, a book of the law of the Lord, given by Moses; it is very probable, indeed, from the circumstances of the history, that copies of the law were then very scarce, and that this found by Hilkiah, was, to his surprise, an authentic or original copy. But that the whole should have been at that time a forgery of Hilkiah, is evidently impossible, because the very being and polity of the nation, as well as their religion, was founded upon the acknowledgment of the law of Moses, how much soever idolatrous kings might at certain times have corrupted that religion, and caused the study of the law to have been neglected. And in the very same book, wherein the account is given of this particular fact, of Hilkiah’s finding a copy [an authentic copy] of the law, it is expressly and at large recorded how, in a foregoing reign, the king—(2 Chr. xvii. 7. 8, 9.) sent to his princes—to teach in the cities of Judah, and with them he sent Levites and priests;—and they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people.
That, in length of time, some whole books should have been lost, is nothing wonderful. There are several books expressly cited in the Old Testament, of which we have now nothing remaining. That in 386the books which remain there should sometimes, for want of infallibility in transcribers,374374 In some few places there is reasonable ground for a worse suspicion. As, for instance, Psal. xxii. 16. where the sense most evidently shows it ought to be read, and the LXX version shows it anciently was read, כארו or כרו “they pierc’d my hands and my feet;” the Jewish masters, in all their correct Hebrew editions, have written it, כארי “as a lion my hands and my feet;” which has no tolerable sense at all. happen omissions, transpositions, and various readings, is still less to be wondered at. Nothing but perpetual miracle could prevent it: They who have skill to compare, in the original, certain passages in the books of Chronicles, with the correspondent places in the books of Kings, or the 18th Psalm, with 2 Sam. c. xxii. which is a transcript of the same Psalm, or the 14thPsalm with the 53d, which are also one and the same Psalm transcribed; and, much more, they who can compare the Septuagint translation with the original will be able to find instances of these things, and very often also to see plainly how and whence they happened: (All which, far from diminishing the authority of the books, are strong arguments of their antiquity, and against their having been forged by Esdras, or any other hand.) What wonder then is it, that among the numerous texts cited in the New Testament out of the Old, one or two should now not be found in our present copies of the Old Testament, and that some others should be read differently in the Old Testament, from the citations of the same texts recorded in the New? Or how does this at all affect the authority of either, when much the greatest part of the texts cited agree perfectly either in words or at least in sense; and the whole series, harmony, analogy, connexion, and uniformity of both, compared with the system of natural and moral truths, and with the history of the world and the state of nations, through a long succession of ages, from the days of Moses to this present time, shows that the books are not the result of random and enthusiastic imaginations, but of long foresight and design? 387for the spirit of enthusiasm is very hardly consistent with itself through the writings of one single person. How then is it possible that for 3000 years together, and pretending too (through all that time) to an uniform series of predictions, it should happen never to have fallen into such a track of expected events, as the nature and truth of things and the situation of the kingdoms of the world should have rendered absolutely impossible, and altogether incapable of any farther, much less of any final completion?
21. I shall conclude this head with pointing at some particular extraordinary prophecies, which deserve to be carefully considered and compared with the events, whether they could possibly have proceeded from chance or from enthusiasm. Some of them are of such a nature as that they can only be judged of by persons learned in history, and these I shall but just mention. Others are obvious to the consideration of the whole world, and with those I shall finish what I think proper at this time to offer upon this subject.
Concerning Babylon, “it was particularly foretold 375375 Prideaux Connection, part I, book ii. page 67. edit. fol. that it (Is. xiii. 17. xxi. 2.) should be shut up, and besieged by the Medes, Elamites, and Armenians: That the river should be dried up: (Jer. l. 38. li. 36.) That the city should be taken in the time of a feast, (Jer.li. 39. 57.) while her—mighty men were drunken; which accordingly came to pass,” when “Belshazzar and all his thousand princes, who were drunk with him at the feast,” were “slain by Cyrus’s soldiers;” (Cyropædia, lib. 7.) Also it was particularly foretold, “that God would make the country of Babylon (Is. xiv. 23.) a possession for the bittern, and pools of water; which was accordingly fulfilled by the overflowing and drowning of it, on the breaking down of the great dam in order to take the city.” Could the correspondence of these events with the predictions be the result of chance? 388But suppose these predictions were forged after the event; can the following ones also have been written after the event? or with any reason be ascribed to chance? (Jer. l. 39.) The wild beasts of the desert—shall dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein: And it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, &c. (Jer. li. 26. xxxvii. 64.) They shall not take of thee a stone for a corner,—but thou shalt be desolate for ever, saith the Lord:—Babylon shall become heaps, a dwelling place for dragons, an astonishment and an hissing without an inhabitant:—It shall sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her. (Is. i. 19, 20, 21.) Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,—shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah: It shall never be inhabited; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there: But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there.
Concerning Egypt, was the following prediction forged after the event? Or, can it, with any reason, be ascribed to chance? (Ezek. xxix. 14, 15.) Egypt—shall be a base kingdom: It shall be the basest of kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: For I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations.
Concerning Tyre, the prediction is no less remarkable: (Ezek.xxvi. 14, 21.) I will make thee like the top of a rock; thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more;—thou shalt be no more; (Ezek. xxvii. 36.) The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any more. (Ezek. xxviii. 19.) All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee.
The description of the extent of the dominion of 389that people, who were to possess Judea in the latter days; Was it forged after the event? Or can it reasonably be ascribed to chance? (Dan. xi. 40, 41, 42, 43.) He shall come—with horsemen and with many ships, and—shall overflow and pass over: He shall enter also into the glorious land, [and (ver.45.) shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain;] and many countries shall be overthrown: But these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; and the Lybians and Ethiopians [כשים] shall be at his steps.
When Daniel,376376 The fame of which was so early spread, that Ezekiel, who was contemporary with Daniel, plainly alludes to it when he says of the prince of Tyre, chap. xxviii. 3. thou art wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that they can hide from thee. in the vision of Nebuchadnezzar’s image foretold (Dan. ii. 38-44.) four great successive monarchies; was this written after the event? Or can the congruity of his description with the things themselves reasonably be ascribed to mere chance?
When the angel says to Daniel; (Dan. ix. 24.) seventy weeks377377 Weeks or septenaries, of years. Compare Gen. xxix. 27. Num. xiv. 34. Ezek. iv. 6. are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, &c. Was this written after the event? Or can it reasonably be ascribed to chance, that from (Ezra, vii. 6, 7, 8.) the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king, (when Ezra went up from Babylon—unto Jerusalem with a commission to restore the government of the Jews,) to the death of Christ;378378 This and the following observation was extracted out of a MS. communicated by Sir Isaac Newton; and was published in his life-time in the foregoing editions of this discourse, with his express consent. [from ann. Nabonass. 390290, to ann. Nabonass. 788,] should be precisely 490. [70 weeks of] years?
When the angel tells Daniel, that (Dan. ix. 25.) threescore and two weeks the street [of Jerusalem] shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times [ובצוק העתים, but this in troublous times not like those that should be under Messiah the prince, when he should come to reign;] was this written after the event? Or can it reasonably be ascribed to chance, that from the twenty-eighth of Artaxerxes,379379 Τοῖς Ἱεροσολύμοις, ἀνῳκοδομήθη τὸ τεῖχος, ὀγδόῳ καὶ αἰκοστῷ τῆς Ξέρξου Βασιλείας ἔτει, μηνὶ ἐννάτῳ· τέλος δὲ τῶν τειχῷν λαβόντων, &c.—Josephus, Antiq. Judaic. lib. 11. cap. 5. Compare Nehem. v. 14. when the walls were finished, to the birth of Christ, [from ann. Nabonass. 311, to ann. Nobonass. 745,] should be precisely 434 [62 weeks of] years?
When Daniel further says; (Dan. ix. 27.) and he shall confirm [or nevertheless he shall confirm] the covenant with many for one week; was this written after the event? Or can it reasonably be ascribed to chance, that from the death of Christ, (anno Dom.33,) to the command given first to St Peter to preach to Cornelius and the Gentiles, (anno Dom. 40,) should be exactly seven [one week of] years?
When he still adds; (Dan. ix. 27.) and in the midst of the week [$word$, and in half a week] he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate: Was this written after the event? Or can it with any reason be ascribed to chance, that from Vespasian’s marching into Judea in the spring anno Dom. 67, to the taking of Jerusalem by Titus in the autumn anno Dom. 70, should be [half a septenary of years,] three years and a half?
When the same Daniel foretels a tyrannical power, which should wear out the saints of the Most High, and they should be given into his hand until (Dan. vii. 25.) a time and times and the dividing of time, and (Dan. xii. 7.) again, for a time,380380 Three years and a half, or 1260 days, is, according to the analogy of all the forementioned numbers, 1260 years. times, and a half: 391(Which can no way be applied to the short persecution of Antiochus, because these prophecies are expressly declared to be (Dan. viii. 26.) for many days concerning (Dan. x. 14.) what shall befal thy people in the latter days, for yet the vision is for many days, concerning (ch. viii. 17.) the time of the end, (ch. viii. 19.) what shall be in the last end of the indignation; concerning those who (ch. xi. 33.) shall fall by the sword and by flame, by captivity and by spoil, many days; (ch. xi. 35.) to try them, even to the time of the end, because it is yet for a time appointed; concerning (ch. xii. 1.) a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation; the time (ch. xii. 7.) when God shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people; (ch. xii. 9.) the time of the end, till which the words are closed up and sealed; (ch. xii. 4.) to which the prophet is commanded to shut up his words, and seal the book, for many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased: even (ch. xii. 13.) the end, till which Daniel was to rest, and then stand in his lot at the end of the days. When Daniel, I say, foretels such a tyrannical power to continue such a determined period of time; and St John prophecies that the (Rev. xi. 2.) Gentiles should tread the holy city under foot, forty and two months, which is exactly the same period of time with that of Daniel: And again, that (Rev. xi. 3.) two witnesses clothed in sackcloth, should prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, which is again exactly the very same period of time: And again, that the (Rev. xii. 6.) woman which fled into the wilderness from persecution, should continue there a thousand two hundred and threescore days: And again, that she should (Rev. xii. 14.) fly into the wilderness for a time, and times, and half a time; which is still the very same period: And again, that a wild beast, a tyrannical power, (ch. xiii. 7.) to whom it was given to make war with the saints, and to overcome them, was (ch. xiii. 5.) to continue forty and 392two months,381381 There has prevailed among learned men a very important error as if the 1260 days, (or years) here spoken of, took their beginning from the rise of the tyranny here described: Whereas, on the contrary, the words of Daniel are express; that, not from the time of his rise, but after his having made war with the saints, and from the time of their being given into his hand, should be a time, and times, and the dividing of time, chap. vii. 24, 25. And St John no less expressly says, that the time, not of the two witnesses prophesying, (for in part of that time they had great power,) but of their prophesying in sackcloth, should be a thousand two hundred and threescore days, Rev. xi. 3. And the persecuted woman, after her flight, was to be actually in the wilderness, (and in her place there, of riches and honour,) a thousand two hundred and threescore days, chap. xii. 6. Wherefore also the forty and two months, (the very same period,) during which time power was given unto the wild beasts to continue, (in the original it is, ποιῆσαι, to do what he pleased, (Rev. xiii. 5.) evidently ought not to be reckoned from his rise, or from the time when the ten kings (chap. xvii. 12.) received power with him, but from the time of his having totally overcome the saints, and of his being worshipped by all that dwell upon the earth, ch. xiii. 7. 8. (still the very same period of time,) and to have (ch. xiii. 7, 8.) power over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations, so that all that dwell upon the earth should worship him: Is it credible, or possible, that ignorant and enthusiastical writers should, by mere chance, hit upon such coincidences of [occult] numbers? especially since St John could not possibly take the numbers from Daniel, if he understood Daniel to mean nothing more than the short persecution of Antiochus. And if he did understand Daniel to mean a much longer, and greater, and more remote tyranny, which John himself prophesied of as in his time still future; then the wonder is still infinitely greater that in those early times, when there was not the least footstep in the world of any such power as St John distinctly describes, (but which now is very conspicuous, as I shall presently observe more particularly,) it should ever enter the heart of man to conceive so much as the possibility of such a power, sitting, not upon the pavilion of heathen persecutors, but expressly (2 Thess. ii. 4.) in the temple and upon the seat of God himself.393
But these prophecies, which either relate to particular places, or depend upon the computation of particular periods of time, are (as I said) of such a nature as that they cannot be judged of but by persons skilled in history. There are some others more general, running through the whole Scripture, and obvious to the consideration of the whole world.
For instance; it was foretold by Moses that when the Jews forsook the true God, they should (Deut.xxviii. 25.) be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth; should be (Levit. xxvi. 33.) scattered among the heathen, (Deut. iv. 27.) among the nations, (Deut. xxviii. 64.) among all people from the one end of the earth, even unto the other, should there be (Deut. iv. 37.) left few in number among the heathen, and (Levit. xxvi. 39.) pine away in their iniquity in their enemies’ lands; and should (Deut. xxviii. 37.) become an astonishment, a proverb, and a by-word among all nations; and that (Deut. xxviii. 65.) among these nations they should find no ease, neither should the sole of their foot have rest; but the Lord should give them a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind; and (Levit. xxvi. 36.) send a faintness into their hearts, in the lands of their enemies, so that the sound of a shaken leaf should chace them. Had any thing like this in Moses’s time ever happened to any nation? Or was there in nature any probability that any such thing should ever happen to any people? that, when they were conquered by their enemies, and led into captivity, they should neither continue in the place of their captivity, nor be swallowed up and lost among their conquerors, but be scattered among all the nations of the world, and hated by all nations for many ages, and yet continue a people? Or could any description of the Jews, written at this day, possibly be a more exact and lively picture of the state they have now been in for many ages, than this prophetic description given by Moses more than 3000 years ago?
The very same thing is in like manner continually 394predicted through all the following prophets; that God would (Jer. ix. 16. Ezek. iv. 13.) scatter them among the heathen; that he would (Jer. xv. 4. xxiv. 9. xxix. 18. xxxiv. 17.) cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth; that he would (Ezek. v. 10, 12.) scatter them into all the winds, and (Ezek. xx. 23. xxii. 15.) disperse them through the countries of the heathen; that he would (Amos, ix. 9.) sift them among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve; that (Jer. xxiv. 9. xxix. 18) in all the kingdoms of the earth, whither they should be driven, they should be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing; and that they should (Hos. iii. 4.) abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim. And here concerning the predictions of Ezekiel, it is remarkable in particular that they being spoken (See Ezek. i. 1. iii. 11. xi. 24.) in the very time of the Babylonian captivity, it is therefore evident, from the time of his prophesying, as well as from the nature and description of the thing itself, that he must needs be understood of that latter (Tobit, xiv. 5.) “captivity into all places,” which was to happen after the “fulfilling the time of that age” wherein God was first to “bring them again” (out of the Babylonian captivity) “into the land where they should build a temple,” but not like to that which afterwards (after their final return) should “be built for ever with a glorious building.” The fore-cited prophecies (I say) must of necessity be understood of that wide and long dispersion which in the New Testament also is expressly mentioned by (Luke xxi. 24) our Saviour, and by (Rom. xi. 25.) St Paul.
It is also, further, both largely and distinctly predicted as well by Moses himself, as by all the following prophets: that, notwithstanding this unexampled dispersion of God’s people, (Levit. xxvi. 44.) yet, for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, God will not destroy them utterly; but (Deut. xxx. 1, 2, 3, 4.) when they shall call to mind among all the nations whither God has driven them, and shall return unto the Lord, he will turn their captivity, and gather them from all the nations,—from the utmost parts of heaven,—(Deut. iv. 30.) even in the latter days: That (Jer. xxx. 11.) though he makes a full end of all other nations, yet will he not make a full end of them; but (Isa. x. 21, 22. vi. 13. Jer. xxiii. 3. Ezek. vi. 8, 9.) a remnant of them shall be preserved, and return out of all countries whither God has driven them: That he (Amos, ix. 9.) will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth: That (Isa. xi. 11.-16. xxvii. 13.) the Lord shall set his hand again the second time, to recover the remnant of his people,—and shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah, from the four corners of the earth: For (Isa. xliii. 5, 6. Jer. xvi. 15. xxiii. 7, 8. xxxi. 8-12. xxxii. 37, &c. Ezek. xi. 15, 16, 17. xx. 41. xxviii. 25. xxxiv. 12, 13. xxxvi. 24. xxxvii. 21. xxxix. 27, 28, 29.) I will bring thy seed from the east, saith the Lord, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, give up; and to the south, keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth: (Isa. xlix. 22. lx. 8, 9, 10. lxvi. 20.) Behold I will lift up my hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people, and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders: (Isa. liv. 7, and the whole chapter.) For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercy will I gather thee; in a little wrath I hid my face from thee, for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee. And that these prophecies might not be applied to the return from the 70 years’ captivity in Babylon, (which moreover was not a dispersion into all nations,) they are expressly referred to the latter days, not only by (Deut. iv. 30.) Moses, but by (Hos. iii. 4, 5.) 396Hosea, who lived long after, (for the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice: afterward they shall return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days;) and by Ezekiel, who lived in the captivity itself, (Ezek. xxxviii. 8. xii. 14, 16.) after many days [speaking of those who should oppose the return of the Israelites,] thou shalt be visited, in the latter years thou shalt come into the land;—upon the people that are gathered out of the nations;—in that day, when my people of Israel dwelleth safely,—thou shalt come up against them,—it shall be in the latter days. These predictions therefore necessarily belong to that age, when (Luke xxi. 24.) the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled, and (Rom. xi. 25, 29.) the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And that, through all the changes which have happened in the kingdoms of the earth, from the days of Moses to the present time, which is more than 3000 years, nothing should have happened to prevent the possibility of the accomplishment of these prophecies, but, on the contrary, the state of the Jewish and Christian nations at this day should be such as renders them easily capable, not only of a figurative, but even of a literal completion in every particular, if the will of God be so; this (I say) is a miracle, which hath nothing parallel to it in the phenomena of nature.
Another instance, no less extraordinary, is as follows. Daniel foretels (Dan. vii. 23.) a kingdom upon the earth, which shall be divers from all kingdoms, (ver. 7.) divers from all that were before it, (ver. 19.) exceeding dreadful, (ver. 23.) and shall devour the whole earth: That, among the powers into which this kingdom shall be divided, there shall arise one power (ver. 24.) divers from the rest, who (ver.8, 8. 20.) shall subdue unto himself three of the first powers, and he shall have (ver. 8. 20.) a mouth speaking very great things, and a look more stout than his 397fellows. He shall (ver. 21.) make war with the saints, and prevail against them; (ver. 25.) And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws; and they shall be given into his hand, for a long season; even till (ver. 26. 27.) the judgment shall sit, and—the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High. (Dan. xi. 36. &c.) He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every God, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of Gods;—Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, (the God of Gods, as in the foregoing verse,) nor the desire of women, (forbidding to marry, 1 Tim. iv. 3.) nor regard any God; for he shall magnify himself above all: And in his estate shall he honour382382 Gods protector, as it is in the margin of the Bible, or saints protectors. the God of forces; and a God383383 Changing time and laws, ch. vii. 25. setting up new religions. whom his fathers knew not shall he honour.—Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange God, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain. Suppose now all this to be spoken by Daniel, of nothing more than the short persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes; which that it cannot be I have shown above: But suppose it were, and that it was all forged after the event; yet this cannot be the case of St. Paul, and St. John, who describe exactly a like power, and in like words; speaking of things to come in the latter days, of things still future in their time, and of which there was then no footsteps, no appearance in the world. The day of Christ, saith St. Paul, (2 Thess. ii. 3, &c.) shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God,384384 It is therefore a Christian (not an infidel) power, that he here speaks of. 398sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God: Whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness. Again, (1 Tim iv. 1, &c.) the spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;385385 Doctrines, concerning dæmons, that is, ghosts or souls of (good or bad) men departed. Epiphanius, citing this text, alleges the following words, as part of the text itself; ἔσονται γάρ, φησι νεκρῖς λατρεύοντες, ὡς καὶ ἐν τῷ Ἰσραηλ ἔσεβάσθησαν. “For they shall be, says the apostle, worshippers of the dead, even as the dead were anciently worshipped in Israel.” And he applies the whole to the worshippers of the blessed Virgin.—Hæres. 78. § 22.—forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, &c. St John, in like manner, prophesies of a wild beast, or tyrannical power, to whom was given (Rev. xiii. 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17.) great authority, and a mouth speaking great things, and blasphemies; and he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God: And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds and tongues, and nations; and all that dwell upon the earth, shall worship him.—And he that exerciseth his power before him,—doth great wonders,—and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth, by the means of those miracles which he had power to do.—And he causeth—that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark of the name of the beast. And the kings of the earth (Rev. xvii. 13, 15, 17.) have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beasts;—even peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.—For God hath put in their hearts [in the hearts of the kings,] to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. The name of the person, in whose hands the (Rev. xvii. 3, 7.) reins or principal direction of the exercise of this power is lodged, is (Rev. xvii. 5.) mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth: (Ver. 2.) With whom the kings of the 399earth386386 Have been led into idolatrous practices. have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication: And she herself is (Rev. xvii, 6.) drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: And (Rev. xviii. 23, 24.) by her387387 Φαρμακείὰ, (σοφοῖς φαρμάκοις) Methods of making men religious without virtue. sorceries are all nations deceived: And in her is found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that are slain upon the earth. And this person, [the political person,] to whom these titles and characters belong, is (Rev. xvii. 18.) that great city, (standing (ver. 9) upon seven mountains,) which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
If in the days of St Paul, and St John, there was any footstep of such a sort of power as this in the world; or if there ever had been any such power in the world; or if there was then any appearance of probability that could make it enter into the heart of man to imagine that there ever could be any such kind of power in the world, much less in (2 Thess. ii. 4.) the temple or church of God; and if there be not now such a power actually and conspicuously exercised in the world; and if any picture of this power drawn, after the event, can now describe it more plainly and exactly than it was originally described in the words of the prophecy; then may it with some degree of plausibleness be suggested that the prophecies are nothing more than enthusiastic imaginations.
Thirdly; Of the testimony of our Saviour’s disciples as an evidence of the truth of the Christian revelation. The chief evidence of the facts on which the truth and certainty of the Christian revelation depend, to us who live now at this distance of time, is the testimony of our Saviour’s followers; which, in all its circumstances, was the most credible, certain, and convincing evidence that ever was given to any matter of fact in the world.
To make the testimony of our Saviour’s followers a sufficient evidence to us in this case, there can be 400required but these three things: What things are requisite to make the testimony of our Saviour’s disciples a complete evidence. 1. That it be certain the apostles could not be imposed upon themselves: 2. That it be certain they neither had nor could have any design to impose upon others: And, 3. That it be certain their testimony is truly conveyed down to us unto this day. All which things are indeed abundantly certain, and clear enough to satisfy any reasonable and unprejudiced person.
For 1. That the apostles could not be imposed upon themselves. That the apostles could not be imposed upon themselves, is evident from what has been already said concerning the nature, and number, and publicness, of our Saviour’s miracles: They conversed from the beginning with our Saviour himself; they heard with their ears, and saw with their eyes; they looked upon, and they handled with their hands of the word of life, as St John expresses it, (1 John, i. 1.) They saw all the prophecies of the Old Testament precisely fulfilled in his life and doctrine, his sufferings and death: They saw him confirm what he taught, with such mighty and evident miracles, as his bitterest and most malicious enemies could not but confess to be supernatural, even at the same time that they obstinately blasphemed the Holy Spirit that worked them: They saw him alive after his passion, by many infallible proofs; he appearing, not only to one or two, but to all the eleven, several times, and once to above five hundred together. And this, not merely in a transient manner, but they conversed with him familiarly for no less than forty days, and at last they beheld him ascend visibly into heaven; and soon after they received the Spirit, according to his promise. These were such sensible demonstrations of his being a teacher sent from heaven, and, consequently, that his doctrine was an immediate and express revelation of the will of God, that, if the apostles, even though they had been men of the weakest judgments and strongest imaginations that can be supposed, could be all and every one of them deceived in all these several instances; men can have no use of their senses, nor any possible proof of any facts whatsoever, nor 401any means to distinguish the best attested truths in the world, from enthusiastic imaginations.
2. That the apostles could have no design of imposing upon others. It is certain the apostles neither had nor could have any design of imposing upon others. This is evident both from the nature of the things they did and suffered, and from the characters of the persons themselves: They confirmed what they taught by signs and miracles; they lived according to the doctrine they preached, though manifestly contrary to all the interests and pleasures of this present world; and, which deceivers can never be supposed to do, they died with all imaginable cheerfulness and joy of mind, for the testimony of their doctrine and the confirmation of their religion. This, I say, is what deceivers can never possibly be supposed to do: For it is very remarkable the apostles did not lay down their lives for their opinions, (which enthusiasts may possibly be supposed to do,) but in attestation to facts of their own knowledge: They were innocent and plain men, that had no bad ends to serve, nor preferment to hope for in the world: Their religion itself taught them to expect, not dominion and glory, not the praise of men, not riches and honour, not power and ease, not pleasure nor profit,—but poverty and want, trouble and vexation, persecution and oppression, imprisonments, banishments, and death: These things are not the marks and tokens of impostors. Besides the success and event of their undertaking, that plain and illiterate men should be able to preach their doctrine to many different nations, of different languages, and prevail also in establishing the belief of it; that they should all agree exactly in their testimony, and none of them be prevailed upon, either by hopes or fears, to desert their companions, and discover the imposture, if there had been any; these things plainly show that their doctrine was more than human, and not a contrivance to impose upon the world. This argument is excellently urged by Eusebius: Is it a thing possible to be conceived, saith he, that deceivers and unlearned men, men that understood no other language but their mother 402tongue,388388 Κᾀκεῖνο δε πῶς οὐ μεστὸν ἐκπλήξεως, τὸ πλάνους ἄνερας καὶ ἰδιώτας, μήτε λαλεῖν μήτε ἀκούειν πλέον τῆς πατρίου φωνῆς ἐπισταμένους, μὴ μόνον διὰνσηθῆναι τολμῆσαι προελθεῖν ἐπὶ την τῶν ἐθνῶν ἁπ8άντων περίοδον, ἀλλὰ καὶ προελθοντας κατορθῶσαι τὸ ἐπιτηδευμα; Σκεψαι δὲ, ὁποῖον ἐστὶ, καὶ τὸ μηδενα μηδαμοῦ διάφωνον ἐξενεγκεῖν περὶ τῶν πράξεων τοῦ Ἰησοῦ λόγον. Εἰ γὰρ ἐπὶ πάντων ἀμφιγνοουμένων πραγμάτων, ἔν τε τοῖς κατὰ νόμους δικαστηρίοις, καὶ ἐν ταῖς κοιναῖς ἀμφισβητήσεσι, τῶν μαρτύρων συμφωνία κυροῖ τὸ ἀμφιγνοουμὲνον· πῶς οὐκ ἂν ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἐπὶ τῶνδε συσταίη, δώδεκα μὲν ὄντων Ἀποστόλων, εβδομήκοντα δὲ Μαθητῶν, μυρίου τε πλήθους τούτων ἐκσὸς, ἁπάντων θαυμαστην συμφωνίαν ἐπιδεδειγμένων, καὶ μαρτυρησάντων γε τοῖς ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ πεπραγμένοις, οὐκ ἀνιδρωτὶ, διὰ δὲ βασάνων ὐπομονῆς, καὶ πάσης ἀικίας καὶ θανάτου.—Euseb. Demonstrat. Evang. lib. 3. cap. 2. should ever think of attempting so extravagant a thing as to travel over all nations? and not only so, but that they should be able also to accomplish their design, and establish their doctrine in all parts of the world? Consider, moreover, how remarkable a thing it is, that they should in no respect disagree one from another in the account they gave of the actions of Christ. For if, in all questions of fact, and in all trials at law, and in all ordinary disputes, the agreement of several witnesses is always accounted sufficient to determine satisfactorily the matter in question; is it not an abundant evidence of the truth in this case, that twelve apostles, and seventy disciples, and innumerable other believers, have borne witness to the actions of Christ, with the most exact and perfect agreement among themselves; and not only so, but have endured also all kinds of torments, and even death itself, to confirm their testimony? Again, that illiterate men, saith he,389389 Κῃρύττειν δὐ ἀγροίκους ἄνδρας ἐις πάντας τὸ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ὄνυμα, καὶ τοὺς μὲν ἀυτῶν τὴν Ῥωμαίων ἀρχὴν καὶ ἀυτήν τε τὴν βασιλικωτατην πόλιν νείμασθαι· τοὺς δὲ τὴν Περσῶν, τοὺς δὲ τὴν Ἀρμενίων, ἑτέρους δὲ τὸ Παρθῶν ἔθνος, καὶ αὖ πάλιν τὸ Σκυθῶν, τινὰς δὲ ἤδη καὶ ἐπ᾽ ἀυτὰ της ὀικουμένης ἐλθεῖν τὰ ἄκρα, ἐπί τε τὴν Ἰνδῶν φθάσαι χώραν, καὶ ἐτέρους ὑπὲρ τὸν ᾨκεανὸν παρελθεῖν ἐπὶ τὰς καλουμένας Βρεττανικὰς νήσους· ταῦτα οὐκ ἔτ᾽ ἔγω γε ἡγοῦμαι κατὰ ἄνθρωπον εἶναι, μήτι γε κατ8ὰ ἐυτελεῖς καὶ ἰδιώτας, πολλοῦ δεῖ κατὰ πλάνους καὶ γόητας.—Id. ibid. cap. 7. should preach the name of Christ in all parts of the world, some of them in Rome itself, the imperial city, others in Persia, others in Armenia, others in Parthia, others in Scythia, others in India, and the farthest parts of the world, and others beyond the sea, in the British 403isles: This I cannot but think to be a thing far exceeding the power of man, much more the power of ignorant and unlearned men, and still much more the power of cheats and deceivers. And again: No one of them, saith he,390390 Ὀυδείς τε ἀυτῶν πώποτε τὰ συμβάντα τῶς προανῃρημένοις τρέσας, ἐξέστη της ἑταιρίας, οὐδὺ ἀντεκήρυξε τοῖς ἄλλοις, εἰς φῶς ἀγαγὼν τὰ συντεθειμάνα. Ἀλλὰ καὶ ὁ ζῶντα προδοῦναι τολλήσας ἀυτὸν, ἀυτοχειρίᾳ καθ᾽ ἑαυτοῦ παραχρῆμα τὴν δίκην ἐπεσπάσατο—Id. ibid. being ever terrified at the torments and deaths of others, forsook his companions, or ever preached contrary to them, and detected the forgery. Nay, on the contrary, that one, who did forsake his master in his life-time, and betray him to his enemies, being self-condemned, destroyed himself with his own hands. And much more to the same purpose, may be found, excellently said by the same author, in the seventh chapter of the third book of his Demonstratio Evangelica.
3. That the apostle’s testimony had been truly conveyed down to us. It is very certain, that the apostles’ testimony concerning the works and doctrine of Christ is truly and without corruption conveyed down to us, even unto this day; for they left this their testimony in their writings: Which writings have been delivered down to us by an uninterrupted succession, through all intermediate ages. Their books were all translated very early into several languages, and dispersed through all parts of the world; and have most of them been acknowledged to be the genuine writings of those whose names they bear, even by the bitterest enemies of Christianity in all ages. Passages, containing the most material doctrines, have been cited out of them by numberless authors, who lived in every age, from the very days of the apostles unto this time; so that there is no room or possibility of any considerable corruption, such as might in any wise diminish our certainty of the truth of the whole. In sum; there is no matter of fact in the world, attested in any history, with so many circumstances of credibility, with so many collateral evidences, and in every respect attended with so many 404marks of truth, as this concerning the doctrine and works of Christ.
Of the authority of the books of Holy Scripture. And here, by the way, it is to be observed, that the peculiar authority which we attribute to the books of Holy Scripture contained in the New Testament, is founded in this; that they were written or dictated by the apostles themselves. The apostles were indued with the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, at Pentecost: And this not only enabled them to preach the doctrine of Christ with power, but also effectually secured them from making any error, mistake, or false representation of it. And the very same authority, that by this singular privilege was added to their preaching, it is manifest, ought, for the same reason, to be equally attributed to their writings also. Now, all the books of the New Testament were either written by the apostles; or, which is the very same thing, approved and authorized by them. Most of the books were uncontrovertedly written by the apostles themselves, St Paul having been made one of that number by a commission from heaven, no less visible and sensible than that which was granted to the rest at Pentecost. And those books which were written by the companions of the apostles were either dictated, or at least approved and authorised by the apostles themselves. Thus, Eusebius expressly tells us, that St Peter reviewed and approved the gospel of St Mark, and that391391 Κυρῶσαὶ τε τὴν γραφὴν εἰς ἔντευξιν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις.—Euseb. Histor. l. 2. c. 15. it was this approbation that authorised it to be received by the churches. And Irenæus; that what St Mark wrote was dictated by St Peter;392392 Marcus, discipulus et interpres Petri, quæ à Petro annuntiata erant, edidit.—Iren. lib. 3. c. 1.and that the gospel of St Luke was only a transcript of St Paul’s preaching.393393 Lucas, sectator Pauli, quod ab illo prædicabatur Evangelium, in libro condidit.—Id. ibid. Vide et Tertullian. adv. Marcion, lib. 4. And Tertullian in like manner;394394 Licet et Marcus quod edidit, Petri adfirmetur, cujus interpres Marcus; nam et Lucæ digestum, Paulo adscribere solent.—Tertull. adv. Marcion. lib. 4. St Mark was only St Peter’s scribe, and 405St Luke St Paul’s. And Eusebius; that St John395395 Ἥδη δὲ Μάρκου καὶ Λουκᾶ τῶν κατ᾽ ἀυτοὺς ἐυαγγελίων τὴν ἕκδοσιν πεποιημὲνων, Ἰωάννην ἀποδέξασθαι μὲν φασὶν, ἀλήθειαν ἀυτοῖς ἐπιμαρτυρήσαντα·—Euseb. Hist. l.. 3. c. 24. also reviewed the Gospels of St Mark and St Luke, and confirmed the truth of them. And, to mention no more, the same historian tells us, that (besides some smaller reasons drawn from some mistaken passages in the book itself) the chief reason why the authority of the Epistle to the Hebrews was questioned by some, was396396 Τινὲς ἡζετήκασι τὴν πρὸς Ἑβραίους, πρὸς τῆς Ρωμαίων ἐκκλησίας ὡς μὴ Παύλου οὖσαν αὐτὴν ἀντιλέγεσθαι φήσαντες,—Id. lib. 3. c. 3. because they thought it not to be written by St Paul himself.
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