« AnteriorContinuar »
ercise a peaceable and never-ending government over the chil. dren of men : Ps. lxxii ; Isa. ix, 7; Dan. vii, 14, &c.
In addition to these numerous and principal circumstances, there are predicted in the Old Testament several minor parti. culars respecting the life, sufferings, death, and burial, of the Messiah, see Ps. xxii, 1. 8. 18. Ixix, 21; Isa. liii, 9; Zech. ix, 9; and, to crown the whole of their wonderful statement, the prophets, while they so exactly depict the circumstances of his human nature, and especially his humiliating sufferings and violent death, frequently describe him, nevertheless, as one possessing the name, and exercising the attributes, of Jehovah himself: see Isa, vii, 14. ix, 6, 7. xxxv, 1-6. xl, 3. 10. 11; Jer. xxiii, 5, 6; Zech. ii, 10-13; Mal. iii, 1--3, &c.
On the series of predictions now cited, I beg leave to offer two general observations.
In the first place, it may be remarked that, in the religion of the ancient Hebrews, the system of prophecy was very closely connected with the system of types. Not only did many of the ceremonies prescribed by the Jewish law represent, in a very striking manner, the principal features of the Christian dispensation ; but, several of the individuals, whose lives and characters distinguish the page of the Jewish history, and especially Moses, David, and Solomon, may justly be regarded as having been, in some respects, personal types of the Messiah. There are various passages in the New as well as in the Old Testament, which appear to countenance this idea, and from which we may gather, that it was currently received among the Jews; and the probability of its correctness is amply evinced by the correlative points to be observed in the comparison between the types and the antitype. Such being the case, it is by no means surprising, that a few of the prophecies now cited as relating to the Messiah are partially capable of a subordinate application to some typifying person. This is the case more particularly with certain passages in the Psalms, in which David describes the circumstances of his divine descendant, under the figure or shadow of his own: see, for example, Ps. xvi. xxii. xl, xli, comp. Isa. vii, 14-16. It is, however, a very curious and confirming circumstance, that we may almost uniformly observe, in prophecies which are thus capable, to a certain extent, of a double application, particular parts which are totally unsuitable to the type, and which can be explained solely of the antitype. Nor is it to be forgotten, that a considerable proportion of the evangelical prophecies contained in the Old Testament are susceptible
only of a direct and exclusive application to the Messiah himself.
These numerous prophecies, secondly, were uttered by persons who lived in very different ages, occupied a variety of stations, manifested a great diversity of character, and had in general no connexion with one another. Among the prophets whom I have now cited, are to be observed the names of Jacob, Moses, Job, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi; and to these several others might be added. And it is worthy of observation, that, while they display a general accordance in their descriptions of the Messiah, they severally contribute to the common stock of information some particular circumstances, which serve to distinguish their own predictions from those of others. Thus, for example, Moses mentions the resemblance of the Messiah to himself; Jacob, his tribe ; David, his resurrection; Jeremiah, his family ; Isaiah, his virgin mother ; Ezekiel, his pastoral character; Malachi and Haggai, his appearance in the second temple; Daniel, the year of his birth; and Micah, his native city. The prophecies of Christ, recorded in the Old Testament, may be described as so many rays of divine instruction, bearing severally their distinct characteristics, passing through a vast diversity of channels, sent forth from their great original at many different periods of time, yet harmonizing and converging in the progress of their course, and in the end meeting to display the fulness of their light, in a single focus.
During the continuance of the second temple, before the sceptre had departed from Judah, at the precise time predicted by Daniel --JESUS was born, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah, of the family of David, at Bethlehem, of a virgin. We find him preceded by a prophet comparable to Elijah-living in a very humble outward condition--anointed of the Holy Ghost-engaged in preaching the Gospel to the poor, in comforting the mourners, and in relieving every species of bodily and mental distress—performing miraculous cures of the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the dumb-meek, gentle, benevolent, faithful, and fulfilling all righteousness—not believed in by the Jews—despised, rejected, and persecuted of men-betrayed by his familiar friend--forsaken, in the hour of trial, by all his followers--led as a lamb to the slaughter-dumb in the presence of his persecutors nailed by his hands and feet to the cross-cut off, but not for himself-rising from the dead-ascending into heaven, sitting at the right hand of the majesty on high-the object of faith and allegiance to the Gentiles, and gathering the nations unto himself-exercising a spiritual dominion over the souls of men--fulfilling, in his own circumstances, a variety of minor particulars--and all these things in precise conformity with the predictions of the Old Testament. More especially, in the midst of his humiliations and distresses, and notwithstanding the lowliness of his human character, we find him in full agreement with the record, claiming the attributes and honors, displaying the powers, receiving the homage, and denominated by the titles, which appertain only to Jehovah : see Matt. xii, 6–8. xviii, 20; John v, 21–23. x, 28–30. xiv, 9. 23. xvi, 7; Rev. ii, 23. .... Matt, viii, 3. 8--13, comp. Acts ix, 34; Luke viji, 24 ; Matt. xii, 25; John ii, 24, 25, xvi, 19. 30; comp. Rey. ii, 23; John xx, 22. ... Matt. xiv, 33; John ix, 38. xx, 28, 29..... Luke, i, 76; John i, 1. xx, 28 ; Rom. ix, 5; Rev. xix, 16. xxii, 13.
When a lock and key precisely correspond, a presumption arises, even when they are of a simple formation, that they were intended for each other. When, instead of being formed in a simple manner, they are respectively of a curious and complex structure, and nevertheless correspond; such a presumption is exceedingly strengthened. But, when the lock is not only of a curious and complex structure, but contains such a wonderful combination of parts, that it is absolutely sui generis, and without parallel-when, among all the keys existing in the world, none present even any slight approach to a correspondent conformation, except one; and by that one the lock is easily and exactly fitted—then is all doubt on the subject discarded, and it becomes a moral certainty that the lock and the key proceeded from the same master-hand, and really appertain to each other. Now this is a familiar, but precise, representation of the proof afforded by a comparison between the Old and New Testaments, that the predictions respecting Christ, which we have now been considering, were true prophecies—that God himself was the author of these prophecies, as well as of the dispensation by which they were fulfilled.
Let us, then, briefly sum up our whole argument. Correct inferences respecting future events are often drawn from analogy by men ; but there is every reason to believe that the future is actually known only by that Being who has no counsellor, and who orders the course of events according to his own will.
Prophecies, which, by the nature of the circumstances to which they relate, as well as by their fulfilment, are proved to
have arisen from foreknowledge, must therefore be traced to God as their author.
Several prophecies, to which this description perfectly applies, were uttered by Jesus Christ. A great many more, of the same character, are contained in those genuine ancient books which compose the Old Testament.
All these prophecies, therefore, have originated with God; and, since those among men, of which Jesus Christ was the subject, as well as those which he uttered himself, are plainly to be regarded as so many direct attestations of the Christian revelation, we are again brought to the conclusion that CHBLSTIANITY IS THE RELIGION OF GOD,
ON THE INTERNAL EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.
SINCE a knowledge of history and a certain degree of general literary attainment are necessary, in order to our forming a complete view of the external evidences of Christianity, and since such knowledge and attainments are necessarily placed out of the reach of a considerable portion of society, we ought to be very thankful that there are other evidences of the divine origin of our religion, which, to the sincere inquirer, in every condition of life, are matter of observation, and, to all true Christians, matter of experience. These are usually denominated, the internal evidences of Christianity.
Simple as the Christian religion is found to be in its operation, and easily understood as it is (so far as relates to its practical purposes) by persons of very limited mental cultivation, it is, in fact, a complex system, a scheme made up of numerous parts. He, therefore, who would unfold the internal evi. dences of our religion in all their interesting detail, must examine every essential article which it proposes to our faith, every distinct feature of its law of practice, every single mo. tive which it supplies to action, and every particular channel through which it influences the heart; and he must endeavour to show that all the several parts of this one great system are worthy of the wisdom of God, and adapted to the spiritual wants of weak and degenerate man. Since, however, it would be impossible to comprise within the proper limits of one of these Essays so extensive a discussion, I shall attempt little more, on the present occasion, than to survey some of the principal moral effects produced by Christianity as a whole. For, although the divine origin of this scheme of religion may be traced, either in the unrivalled excellence of its moral code, or in the strength and harmony of its doctrines, and in their analogy with the known provisions of nature and providence, it is always to be remembered, that the moral effects of Christianity are, through the medium of faith and obedience, the result of its doctrines and precepts combined.
Before, however, we enter into the consideration of these