Imágenes de páginas

connexion with the subject of prophecy. It is well known that when Mr. English circulated his work in manuscript, a fact to which he alludes,* he did it with the express and solicitous apology for himself, that it was an abstract which he had made from unbelieving authors, principally Jewish; that “nineteen twentieths” of it was the work of others; that about two chapters was all he himself was accountable for ; and that he felt all the weight of the work to lie in the eight first chapters, which he had thought of publishing anonymously, to invite answers, and of discarding the rest as of no consequence. He deliberately ayowed, that though he should believe all the books of the New Testament not to have been writ. ten by the persons, to whom they are ascribed, he would yet believe that Jesus was the Mes. siah with all his heart, if it could be shown that his character corresponded with the descriptions of the prophets. Nevertheless, when Mr. Cary confined his attention to the seven first chapters, in which, strictly speaking, the discussion of the prophetical question is contained, he was met by Mr. English in a style of fierce reproach. Though Mr. Cary had reviewed that portion of his work, to which Mr. English himself, as is notorious, assigned whatever importance the book possessed, yet he turns upon him in reply with unmanly petulance, and points out chapter after chapter which now, it seems, against

* Letter to Mr. Cary, p. 5.

[merged small][ocr errors]

his own express declarations, have grown into importance, and must be confuted.

Another circumstance must be named, which has a little perplexed the consistency of Mr. English's work. When he drew

When he drew up his book in manuscript he was a firm believer in the Old Testament. It contained some eloquent passages, asserting its inspiration, authenticity, and divinity. And this of course gave weight to all he said upon the dissonance of the Old and New. But before he put his work to press he had begun to doubt, and finally, as I suppose is pretty apparent, ceased to believe in the Old Testament; and the eloquent pas. sages setting forth its inspiration were omitted. He still however preserved the chapter upon the excellence of the Mosaick law, and felt himself obliged often to throw in here and there an answer to the anticipated application of his objections against the New Testament, to the oíd. We might make some profitable observations upon the unjustifiable precipitancy, with which a work upon God's revelations was pushed into the world, even while its author's opinions were wavering and indigested. But it will be enough for our present purpose


say, Mr. English wrote his book in the belief of the Old Testament, in the belief of the Old Testament it must be answered. *

We shall have perpetual occasion to resort to the supposition, that the prophecies were given by inspiration, and in choosing

* Mr. English allows this himself, Grounds of Christianity examined, p. 65.

that as

between two interpretations of a prophecy, to prefer that which is most honourable to the Be. ing, who is supposed to have given it. · I have already said that the prophetical argument is least eligible. I mean not merely to the Christian, but to the unbeliever. It is a less eligible subject of discussion. For there is an uncertainty in the language of prophecy, which appears from the diversity of its interpretations, a diversity as great among Jews as Christians. Still the real meaning and proper fulfilment may often, may commonly be made apparent. At least of two totally different interpretations it will not often be difficult to say, which deserves the preference. I shall therefore think it sufficient reply to Mr. English, to show in any case that the Christian interpretation is more probable than his, though

Note. Mr. English's great deficiency with respect to refer. ences, had led me into a mistake, which I did not discover till after this chapter was written. But as it is quite immaterial, I did not think it worth the trouble of correcting. I have quoted (p. 9; a “Review of the controversy between the author of a discourse of the grounds and reasons of the Christian religion and his adversaries,” by Jeffreys, as the work to which Mr. English referred, when he alleged that Jeffreys allowed that miracles “had nothing to do” with the question in controversy. I have since found that it is probable that he referred to an earlier work of the same author, entitled “The true Grounds and Reasons of the Christian religion, in opposition to the false ones, set forth in a late book, entitled, the Grounds and Reasons, &c.” But, as I said, the mistake is immaterial. The two works were published within a year of each other, and not likely therefore to differ much. But that which I quoted, being the last, may be supposed to contain the author's maturest thoughts. I will however put down some extracts from the “ true grounds, for the entire satisfaction of the reader. After some preliminary remarks, to prove that a revelation is possible and probable, Jeffreys proceeds to the main question, and inquires first, what are the internal characters, one might expect in such a revela.

the reader will generally find something add. ed, not only to make it more probably but certainly correct.

and says,

tion, and next by what external evidence one might expect it to be supported. Under the first of these heads, he maintains that the professed revelation must appear to be worthy of God, before any miracles could prove it to have come from him, and his words are, “No miracles whatever can prove that to come from. God, which our reason shows us to be unworthy of him," p. 31. But when he proceeds to the next point, what external evidence of revelation is to be expected, he says, “ The external evidence for revelation is either miracles or prophecies. To begin with the first. We must remember what these miracles are to do, viz. to prove that doctrine, already shown to be worthy of God, did actually come from him, by shewing God's approbation of that person who pretends to a revelation, p. 39. He next treats of prophecy;

“ that besides the evidence this may bring to a revelation, in the same way as miracles have been explained to do be. fore, it carries some additional evidence, as it seems to discover a more immediate interposition of divine providence, in behalf of a person,” p. 43. And this he puts upon the unphilosophical ground, that though miracles might be counterfeited by evil spirits, prophecies could not so easily be. He soon after says, that "it DOES NOT necessarily follow from his answering the characters given of him [in prophecy,] that he is that person [predicted ;] but only when a person so and so qualified, bringing a doctrine worthy of God, working miracles, &c. answers those characters, he must be the man. p. 44. It was the opinion of Jeffreys, as the reader will have collected, that internal reason. ableness, miraculous works, and prophecies fulfilled, must unite too as proofs of Christianity. I owe an apology for dwelling so long on this matter. But I felt myself bound to notice my mistake, however immaterial, and was willing to show more dis. tinctly, in this early part of my reply, in what carelessness Mr. English had indulged in the statement of his authorties.





The Messiah expected by the Jews, and whom Mr. English supposes to be predicted in the Old Testament, is a temporal prince, and a conquering pacificator."'* The Chris. tians on the other hand maintain, that the prophets foretold not a political but a religious institution, not a temporal prince, but a moral teacher and spiritual Saviour. Which of these opposite views of the predicted character of the Messiah is correct, must be decided of course by an appeal to particular predictions. But it is also a matter of reason, and we have a right to argue upon the question, from the character of God, and the nature of man. Which then of these views, the Jewish or the Christian, doth most commend itself to the sincere believer in the moral government of God, and the rational and accountable nature of man? Considering the Old Testament as a revelation of God's gracious purposes, shall we interpret its promises of the Jewish or the Christian Messiah ? Regarding the mo

• Grounds of Christianity examined, p. 8. See also Basnage hist. des Juifs, l. iv. c, xxy. 87

« AnteriorContinuar »