Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

out against the Christians, and that they were punished with death by orders of the emperour. Now, secondly, ought Josephus in his history, to have made mention of Jesus and his disciples? Assuredly he ought. Might he not have regarded that event as beneath the notice of historical dignity? Clearly not; and for the following reasons:- In the time of Josephus, the Christians were already so considerable a body of people that they drew the attention of emperours. These masters of the world enacted laws against them; they condemned them to capital punishment, and enjoined the magistrates to search for and apprehend them. The fidelity, therefore, of history, required that mention should be made of them. This was the opinion of Tacitus and Suetonius, to whom the sect of the Christians was an object far less interesting than to a Jew, as Josephus was. These two historians were persuaded that the rise and progress of Christianity were of sufficient importance to be ranked among the great transactions which they wished to deliver down to posterity. Besides, Josephus, in the 8th book of his Antiquities, chap. 2d, speaks of three sects among the Jewsthe Essenes, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees; although the two last had ceased to exist after the destruction of the nation, and at the time his history was written. He ought not, therefore, to have been silent concerning the sectof the Christians, which had sprung up among the Jews, was existing even in his time, and had made a far greater progress than those which he mentions; for it had spread over several provinces of the empire, and even in the capital; whereas the others had not extended beyond Judea, or some of the neighbouring places. Again, Josephus mentions very cir. cumstantially all the impostors, or heads of parties, which had started up among the Jews, from the reign of Augustus to the destruction of Jerusalem. He writes, that Judas the Gaulonite, or Galilean, excited the Jews to rebellion against the Romans;* and, in another place he tells us, that the president, Tiberius Alex. ander, ordered the two sons of this ringleader to be crucified.t

He relates that an impostor brought the Samaritans together on Mount Gerizim, with a promise of discovering to them the sacred vessels that Moses had buried in that place. He speaks of the preaching of St. John the baptist, and the great concourse of people that followed him; he bears witness to the sanctity of his life, and adds, that the Jews believed that the army of Herod was de. feated by Aretas king of the Arabians, as a punishment of the crime committed by him in putting that holy person to death.

He tells us, that an impostor named Theudas, seduced a great number of Jews, and led them towards Jordan, with a promise that he would divide that river, and that they should go over dry-shod. Cuspius Fabius, president of Judea, being apprized of it, sent a

[merged small][ocr errors]

body of soldiers to disperse this multitude, who killed Theudas, and brought his head to the president. He writes, that Felix, president of the province, having taken by stratagem Eleazar, the son of Dineus, the leader of a considerable troop of robbers, he sent him loaded with chains to Rome. He informs us, that an Egyptian, being come to Jerusalem, gave himself out for a prophet, and persuaded the people to follow him to the top of the Mount of Olives, and that from thence they should see the walls of Jerusalem fall down at his command. When this came to the knowledge of Felix, he placed himself at the head of the troops that were in the city, and having attacked this deluded people, killed four hundred of them, and took two hundred prisoners: but the Egyptian escaped and was seen no more. In a word, he relates, that a lying sorcerer drew the people into the wilderness, and promised them that under his conduct they should be secured from every kind of evil. The president, Festus, sent some troops against them, who defeated and dispersed them. Now, Jesus was the leader of a party, far more considerable and conspicuous than any other mentioned by Josephus. Those impostors, those heads of parties, who had drawn multitudes together, had no followers out of Judea; all of them were quickly dispersed, and nothing but the remembrance of them was left, when Josephus wrote his history. But this was not the case with the sect, the party which had been raised by Je. sus. It still subsisted in the life-time of Josephus. It had spread over all the provinces of the empire, and even through the capital itself. The Roman sovereigns exerted all their power to crush it. This party, therefore, or sect, had a much superiour claim over any others mentioned by the Jewish historian, to a place in his his. tory.

Since then, Josephus could not be ignorant of Jesus, or of the sect which he founded; and since it was evidently his duty, as a faithful and judicious historian, and in conformity to the plan he had adopted, to relate what he knew of this sect; what could have been his motives for suppressing any mention concerning it? an inquiry into these motives is of considerable importance. This historian either believed that the whole account of Jesus's disciples concerning their master was false, or he believed that it was true. In the first supposition, he would not have been silent. Every thing led him to speak on such an occasion, viz. the interest of truth, zeal for his religion, the foundations of which were sapped by the Christian system, and the reputation of his countrymen, who were accused by the disciples of Jesus, of having put to death, through a malignant and cruel jealousy, the Messiah, the Son of God. These were motives which he could not have overlooked. By detecting the imposture of the apostles, Josephus would have covered the enemies of his people with confusion, rendered himself popular with his countrymen, and conciliated the favour of the emperours, who wished to stifle Christianity in its birth. He would have secured the applauses of all those who held this reli. gion in abhorrence, and undeceived multitudes, whom the first disciples of Jesus had deluded. Now, is it possible to believe, that a man well acquainted with an imposition, which it is so much his interest to publish, should be thus scrupulously and profoundJy silent respecting it, especially when such an obvious occasion to mention it was presented? If false miracles should, at this day, be attempted or propagated among the people, tending to play upon their credulity, and unsettle their faith, would not the zeal of every publick minister of religion, of every cotemporary historian, be excited to detect the impostors, and to prevent their delusion? Would they not conclude, (and with good reason, that silence on such an occasion would be a criminal prevarication? It appears, therefore, very evident, that had Josephus believed the relations and testimony of the apostles concerning Christ, to be false, he would have been anxious to record and enforce his opinion. If he did not believe them to be false, he was, of course, convinced of their truth. The fear of displeasing his own nation, and of incurring the resentment of the emperours, must have been the cause of his silence, which, in this case, is therefore as powerful a testimony to the truth and authenticity of the gospel history, as the most explicit narrative could have been.

FOR THE THEOLOGICAL MAGAZINE.

ON JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.

Being an abridgment of Dr. Whitby's preface to his Commentary

on the Epistle to the Galatians.

AMONG the articles of the Christian religion, faith in Christ, and justification by faith, are truths of primary importance, affecting the whole system of revelation, and claiming, of course, the solemn attention of all who believe in it. True indeed it is, that these subjects have, in latter ages, given occasion to some controversy and confusion of ideas; but this circumstance can with no more propriety dispense with the obligation upon the professors of religion, of maintaining what they conceive to be the truth in i. this point, than in any other article of religion whatever; though indeed when prejudices are discarded, and the passages relating to these doctrines are critically examined, no very material difference

will be found among the reformed churches on this head. In all the apostolick epistles, these primary doctrines are frequently insisted upon as essentially connected with the Christian system; but in none are they delivered with more earnestness and perspicuity than in the epistle to the Galatians, of which the principal drift seems to be, an elucidation of the doctrine of justification by faith. Wherefore, we will endeavour to show, first, what is the scriptural meaning of the word faith, especially as it relates to justification; or in other words, what is true Christian faith as taught in the scriptures. Secondly, what the apostle means by justification. Thirdly, that this justification is ascribed by him to faith alone, in opposition to works of righteousness performed either by Jew, or Gentile And Fourthly, that it imposes upon us, nevertheless, the highest obligations to perform them, under the penalty of forfeiting all its blessings; and that it offers always sufficient motives to Christian obedience, which, if sincere and lasting, it will certainly produce. And first, as to the scriptural meaning of the word faith. I think it appears evident throughout the whole New Testament, that gospel faith is nothing more than a cordial and firm belief, that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord, the true Messiah or Prophet, sent from God to reveal his will to the world; the Son of God, and Saviour of mankind. To prove this, we need only consider, that divine faith in general, is a firm assent unto, or full persuasion of mind concerning any truth revealed immediate. ly by almighty God himself, or by those whom he has commissioned to reveal it, and bear testimony to it. For since human faith consists in a full persuasion of the truth of what is told us by fellow mortals, divine faith can be only a similar persuasion, resting altogether upon the authority of God. This description of faith is clearly taught by the apostle St. John, i. 5. for having declared, v. 4, 5, that the faith by which we overcome the world, is the belief that “ Jesus is the Son of God,” he proceeds to the proofs of this proposition, viz. “ that Jesus is the Son of God.” Ist, Because the holy spirit beareth witness to it, and he is the spirit of truth, v. 6. 2d, Because there are three that bear record in heaven to it, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, v.7. “Now," says he, if we receive the witness of men, If we rely upon their testimony in courts of judicature, if by the mouth of two or three human witnesses, our weightiest concerns are determined, shall not the witness of God be greater?” that is, shall it not establish our faith in this particular, that "Jesus is the Son of God.” To disbelieve this truth, says the apostle, is to give me lie to God, v. 10, “ because we believe not the record, whichi God has given of his Son." If we do not receive this testimony on his authority, “we set our seal, that God is not true,” John ii. 33. This being, then, the nature of divine faith in general, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ must be a full assent to, or a firm persuasion 01, the truth of every particular, which God himself has revealed, . of persons commissioned by him have testified and recorded conCelting our Lord Jesus Christ; or, in other words, “it is an un.

shaken belief, that he who suffered at Jerusalem, was the true Messiah, the Saviour of the world; the Prophet who was for to come, the person who was constituted Lord of all things; or, which amounts to the same thing, that he was Christ, the Son of God." This great fundamental truth respecting the person of Christ, is taught and attested by all the witnesses to the Messiah, as the scripture assures us. John the Baptist, who came for " a witness to testify of the light,” John i. 7,“ saw and bare record, that this is the Son of God," v. 34. God the Father testified, by divers methods, that he was the Son of God. Thus we read, John, v. 32: “ There is another that beareth witness of me, and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true, the Father himself who hath sent me, beareth witness of me," and this he did by a voice from heaven, saying, “ Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," Mark i. 11; and by giving the power of working miracles in confirmation of his doctrine, and own testimony; and therefore Christ speaks thus to the people, John v. 36. "I have a greater testimony than that of Johu; the works which my Father hath given me to do, they bear witness of me that the Fa. ther hath sent me.” The Holy Ghost also bears witness, that Je. sus is the Son of God, “ John i. 5, 6: and this he did not only when he descended upon our Saviour at his baptism, and by raising him from the dead, he being quickened by the spirit, 1 Pet. ii. 18: but by enabling him to cast out devils, and to perform such works as never any other person did, or could do. Whence our Lord concludes, “ If by the spirit of God I cast out devils, then is the king. dom of God come to you;" or, then is it clear that I am the Messiah sent from God to preach the doctrine of his kingdom to you, Matt. xii. 28: and again, says he, “ when the Comforter is come, even the spirit of truth, he shall testify of me,” John xv. 26: and this he actually did, for “we are witnesses of all these things,” says St. Peter, Acts v. 32: “ and so is also the Holy Ghost.” In a word, “ unto him give all the prophets witness,” Acts x. 43: and of all the scriptures, says Christ, they are they which testify of me,” John v. 39. If we consider, in the next place, the end for which all these witnesses are produced, we shall find the whole body of their testimony relating to the Messiah, and learn clearly from it, what is meant by faith in Christ. Sometimes it is said, that they bare record, that he is the Son of God, John i. 34. 1 John v. 5, 10. Sometimes they testify that he was the Christ," the Lord Christ, the Saviour of the world, “ the lamb of God, that taketh away its sins: exalted to be a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins to them that believed in his name.” They testify that he is Lord of all things; and “ that it was he who was ordained to be the judge of the quick and the dead.” They testify “that this Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are witnesses;" and again “ we have testified of God that he raised up Christ," I Cor. xv. 15. In short, the whole of their testimony, though under different expressions, goes clearly to prove, that Jesus Christ our

« AnteriorContinuar »