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speaks ; Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and fin as it were with a cart rope : that fay, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it : and let the counsel of the Holy One of Ifrael draw nigh and come, that we may know it! ch. v. 18, 19. Under the power of these irreligious mockers the righteous (and such has ever been their lot) were wearied and oppressed, but the prophet speaks comfort to them; Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that caft you out for my name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed, Ixvi. 5. As wicked as the people of Israel were, yet in all times were there some who waited for the salvation of God; whose faith and hope are well expressed by the son of Sirach; The power of the earth is in the hand of the Lord, and in due time he will set over it one that is profitable, Ecclus. X. 4. . That the prophecy, given at the time of the fall, was understood in the ancient Jewish church to relate to the times of the Messias, may with great probability be inferred from many passages, but especially from one in Isaiah, where, after a full description of the kingdom of Christ, and the happiness of those who were the feed of the blessed of the Lord, the state and condition of the wicked, in the time of that kingdom, is thus described in few words ; And duft fall be the serpent's meat, If. lxv. 25. By what figure of speech, or for what reason, is the serpent here made to signify those, who are diftinguished from the feed of the blessed? And how comes the punishment of these reprobates to be set forth by the
serpent's eating duft? Here is nothing in the prophet to explain this figure ; but he seems to use it as a saying well known, and perfectly understood by his countrymen : and from whence could they borrow it, but from the history of man's fall? There you may find the feed of the blesed, to whom victory over the serpent is promised; and there may you see the serpent doomed to eat duft : and the allusion to this ancient prophecy, in Isaiah's description of the kingdom of the Messias, shews in what sense it was understood of old, and for many ages before the birth of Christ.
These prophecies, relating to the kingdom of the Messias, have still a larger and more extensive use, not confined to any particular age, but reaching to every age of the Christian church : they were given to the Jews of old for the support of their faith, and are a standing reproof to their children of this age for their unbelief: they taught those of old time to
expect the kingdom of Christ, and are a condemna- tion to those of this time for rejecting it: they are a
support and an evidence to the Gospel, and furnish every true believer with an answer to give to him who asketh the reason of the hope that is in him.
They who are educated in the belief of Christianity, and taught to receive the books of both Testaments with equal reverence, are not apt to distinguish between the evidence for their faith, arising from the one and the other. But if we look back to the earliest times of preaching the Gospel, and consider how the case stood as to the Jewish converts on one side, who were convinced of the divine authority of the Old Testament; and as to the Gentile converts on
the other, who had no such persuasion; the distinction will appear very manifestly. The ancient prophecies, though they are evidence both to the Jew and to the Gentile, yet are they not so to both in the same way of reasoning and deduction, nor to the same end and purpose. For consider; the Jew was possessed of the oracles of God, and firmly persuaded of the truth of them: the very first thing therefore which he had to do upon the appearance of the Messiah, was to examine his title by the character given of him in the prophets ; he could not, consistently with his belief in God, and faith in the ancient prophecies, attend to other arguments, till fully satisfied and convinced in this : all the prophecies of the Old Testament, relating to the office and character of the Messiah were immovable bars to all pretensions, till fulfilled and accomplished in the perion pretending to be the promised and long expected Redeemer. For this reason the preachers of the Gospel, in applying to the Jews, begin with the argument from prophecy. Thus St. Paul, in his discourse with the Jews at Antioch in Pifidia, begins with the call of Abraham; and, after a short historical deduction of matters from thence to the times of David, he adds, Of this man's feed hath God, according to his promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus, Acts xiii. 23. Where you fee plainly, that the whole argument rests upon the authority of prophecy; and all the parts of this apoftolical sermon are answerable to this beginning, proceeding from one end to the other upon the authority of the old prophets. But the very fame apostle St. Paul, preaching to the people of Athens, Acts xvii. argues from other topics ; he says nothing of the prophets, E to whose mission and authority the Athenians were
perfect strangers, but begins with declaring to them, · God that made the world, and all things therein : = he goes on condemning all idolatrous practices, and
assuring them, that God is not worshipped with men's : hands, as though he needed any thing. He accounts
to them for the past times of ignorance, at which God winked, and tells them, that now he calls all
men to repentance, having appointed Christ Jesus to · be the judge of all men : for the truth of which he
appeals to the evidence of Christ's resurrection ; Whereof, says the Apostle, he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead, ver. 31. Whence comes this difference? How comes St. Paul's argument, upon one and the same
subject, in Acts xiii. and xvii. to be so unlike to · each other? Can this be accounted for any other
way, than by considering the different circumstances of the persons to whom he delivered himself? In
Acts xiii. he argues professedly with Jews, to whom -- were committed the oracles of God, and who, from
these oracles, were well instructed in the great marks and characters of the expected Messiah. It had been highly absurd therefore to reason with them
upon other arguments, till he had first convinced : them by their prophets : and, having so convinced
them, it would have been impertinent. To them therefore he urges and applies the authority of prophecy only: but to the Athenians, who knew not the prophets, or, if they knew them, yet had no reverence or efteem for them, it had been quite ridiculous to offer proofs from prophecies ; the appeal therefore before them is made to the sound and
clear principles of natural religion; and to the miracles of the Gospel, the fame of which probably had long before reached to Athens, and the truth of which, they being mere matters of fact, was capable of undeniable evidence and demonstration.
It is very observable, that St. Paul, in his sermon at Athens, goes no further than calling them to repentance, and to faith in Christ, as the person appointed by God to judge the world ; in which doctrine he had natural religion with him in every point, excepting the appointment of Christ to be judge, for which he appeals to the evidence given by God in raising Jesus from the dead. But to the Jews he speaks of a Saviour, of remission of fins, of justification of all believers from all things, from which the law of Moses could not justify. Whence comes this difference, unless from hence; that the Jews were from their Scriptures well acquainted with the lost condition of man, and knew that a redemption from fin, and the powers of it, was to be expected ? But the Gentiles had lost this knowledge, and were first to be taught the condition of the world, and the various administrations of Providence with regard to mankind, before they could have any just notion of the redemption of the world.
With respect to the Gentiles then, the case stood thus: they were called from idols to the acknowledgment of the true God; from iniquity to the practice of virtue ; by setting before them Christ Jesus, the preacher of righteousness, and the appointed judge of the world, under the confirmation of many signs and wonders wrought by God for this purpose. Being so far established, they were led back to view this