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indubitable, in any interpretation, which they have hitberto received. There is however a remarkable passage in Daniel—the celebrated prophecy of the seventy weeks-- which, if there were no other, appears to me sufficient to have authorized the general expectation we have mentioned. There is not a shadow of reason for yielding to the suggestions of Porphyry, that this book was written after the events it predicts, and that it is only an ambiguous bistory of the times of Antiochus. Our Saviour himself appeals to a part of it, in describing the desolation of Jerusalem. Therefore it certainly existed in his time, and was applied to approaching events. Let it be remembered too, that Porphyry does not pretend to dispute the existence of the book before the time of Christ, but quarrels with the application of its prophecies to him. In this celebrated prediction, iben, it clearly appears, that in about five hundred years from ibe decree to rebuild Jerusalem, after the captivity, the Messiah should appear. From whatever date the reckoning is made, or whatever length is assigned to the years, the variations are not, upon any supposition, so great as to prevent our acknowledging that such a prophecy, wherever it was read, must have excited the expectations, which we are sure prevailed, of the appearance of the Messiah about the very time that Jesus lived. If you
add to these considerations, that more than one intimation is given in the prophets, that the Messiah should come while the second temple was standing, that it was well understood that he should be born of the family of David, and of the tribe of Judah, you will instantly perceive that he must have appeared, if at all, before the destruction of Jerusalem. For who does not know, that since that unparalleled desolation, the Jews have been dispersed throughout the habitable globe, that they have not now the vestige of a temple, that their distinction of tribes is confounded, that their families and genealogies are utterly lost, and that it became and bas remained, from the hour of this overthow, utterly impossible to apply the distinctive marks of the Messiab to any future pretender ? Christ, tben, must have appeared at the period he did, or not at all; and in our controversy with the Jews this circumstance appears nearly decisive. It was the fulness of time, the consummation of prophecy, the closing period of the Jewish state.
3. In the third place; the peculiar circumstances and character of the nation, when God sent forth his Son, render that period the fulness of time. Even from the time of Malachi, a period of several centuries, they had been favoured with no prophet, or authorized instructer. Their religion, which was introduced in the infancy of the world, only to answer God's design of exbibiting the providence and preserving the knowledge of one supreme Deity, in the midst of an idolatrous world, bad now accomplished its purpose. About two centuries before Christ, the sacred books of the Jews had been translated into Greek, which might then be called the language of the civilized world. They were ibus made accessible to all the readers and ibinkers of that polished age; and the language of many of the beathen philosophers discovers, that they were not unacquainted with Moses. At this period, too, tbe Jews, under tbe favour of the successors of Alexander, had established themselves in every considerable city in the Roman Empire. Their synagogues were every where tolerated, and they seem to have had proselytes all over the world. The world was indeed in such a situation, that the knowledge of any thing extraordinary in their fortunes would be instantly diffused.
The corruption of their manners and of their religion had, by this time, discovered the utter insufficiency of their economy, and demanded a thorough revo
lution. The traditions of the elders had completely nullitied their law: it had lost all its moral, and retained only its ceremonial force; and an insane zeal for this narrow and superstitious religion had usurped, in their minds, the place of every virtue, buman or divine. They were at once the most corrupt and bigoled of religionists; and God's mercy seemed to call for the abolition of this peculiarity, and the introduction of a more liberal and more spiritual dispensation. The common Jews were enslaved by a bierarchy, inconceivably odious, and yet they were never more furiously zealous for their rituals and their temple. Indeed this privale religious seal, * as it was called, appears to have been almost the only principle by which they were actuated ; and this principle is not only consistent with, but encourages and justifies, all the crimes of society, treachery, revolt, discord, revenge, secret conspiracies, assassinations and open murder. The testimony of Josephus, in numerous passages, corroborates ihat of the apos. tle Paul to the depravity of the Jews; and be somewhere observes, that never was there a time, from the beginning of the world, more fruitful in wickedness than that in which he lived, and tbat if the Ro mans had delayed to come against their city, it must have been swallowed up hy an earthquake, or overwhelmed by a deluge. Surely, if ever the extreme
, corruption of a national religion could demand the interposition of Jehovah, this was the fulness of time for the appearance of his Son.
4. The moral and religious condition of the heathen world, at the period of Christ's birth, is another proof, that this was tbe most proper time for his appearance. In consequence of ihe progress of philosophy, and other causes, the polytheism of ancient times bad lost all its influence, except with the lowest of the people, and there was nothing left to supply its
* See Lardner, vol. I.
place in the minds of the great. The fear of the gods had vanisbed, and with it almost all sense of moral obligation. Power and wealth had introduced into the Roman nation the most effeminate and selfish corruption, and the early virtues of the commonwealth were no longer known. In Greece, the worship of the gods was the mode, and their temples were the theatres, of inconceivable profligacy; and in truth, the remains of their idolatrous superstition seemed to exist only for ibe more public encouragement of every species of infamy. The glowing description, which Paul gives in the first chapter of Romans of the corruptions of that age, is confirmed by innumerable passages in pagan writers. To say all in one word, they had united the more dissolute vices of a luxurious age with the more sanguinary crimes of a ruder state of society.
5. Lastly, the intellectual progress, which the world had iben made, was such as to demand the introduction of a revelation. The time of Christ was the age of refinement in literature, and of acuteness in philosophical investigation. The thinking part of the world had proceeded just far enough to discover the utter futility and absurdity of their indolatrous religion, and to reach the bounds of unassisted speculation, without finding any thing on which to rest. The result of the labours of philosophy appeared to be a total scepticisin on the most important subjects of human duty and expectation. The irregular fears of a future state had been supplanted by the materialism of Epicurus; and this system—if system it may be called, which left them without a God, a providence, a morality, or a retribution-was the fasbionable philosophy of the more cultivated classes. They had learnt just enough to believe, that religion and morals were entirely unconnected; that the old rites were to be kept up, only as the established religioo of the state ; and they had proceeded just far enough to
suppose, that it was the absurdest thing in the world to talk of religion, except as an old established folly for weak minds. In all ibe fine writings of the best sages of paganism, there is nothing to be found like a system of morals, which reaches to the heart, and regulates and sanctifies the affectious. They had attained glimpses of some great truths, but their knowledge was like the occasional flashes of the lights in the north; a knowledge, wbich, in their best men, only excited a more ardent desire for the full light of intellectual day. In this state of the human understanding, in the fulness of time, the Sun of righteousness arose.
There are other circumstances in the state of the world at that time, which sufficiently prove the fitness of the moment when God chose to send his Son into the world; but I for bear to enlarge on this bead.
My second proposition was, that the very facts, which show the fitness of the time for the introduce tion of christianity, are the very circumstances which show, that it would have been impossible to establish it in the world without supernatural aid. This state of the world not only leni our religion no aid in its promulgation, but is the very state of things which leaves us no other method of accounting for the unexampled progress of christianity, but the belief that the power of God was exerted in its origin and propagation.
If I should be so fortunate as to make this appear, you will acknowledge, with me, the wonderful toresight of God in this singular jucture of human affairs: that the very circumstances, which most sbowed the necessity, and demanded ibe introduction of a new religion, should also prove that it could not have made its way in the world, except by supernatural means, and of consequence unless it had been true. You will cry out with the apostle, How unsea cbable,