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Mr. English having attempted in general to show, that our Lord could not be the Messiah, (with what success we have already seen,) proceeds to say, “But since one would esteem it almost incredible, that the apostles could persuade men to believe Jesus to be their Messiah, unless they had at least some proof to offer to their conviction, let us next consider and examine the proofs adduced by the apostles and their followers from the Old Testament, for that purpose.” I pass over the unfairness of thus representing the writings of the apostles, as a professed statement of the prophetical or any other arguments in favour of Christianity, as I shall find an opportunity to speak upon this subject hereafter.
The reader might expect from this show of candour which Mr. English makes, that he was going to present him with a fair discussion of the relative merit of the Jewish and Christian interpretation of the prophecies. Far otherwise. . Mr. English transcribes for us a portion of the eighth and ninth chapter of Col. lins' Grounds and Reasons, and espouses the unworthy artifice to which that writer resorted.
It is well known that the sacred writers, in conformity to the style of their countsy and age, made an application of passages of the Old Testament to subsequent events, to which they had no original reference. This they did, not to intimate that these events were the primary objects of the predictions, but to gratify the minds of those who venerated the prophetick writings, by showing the correspondence which could be traced between them and passing events. It was on passages thus quoted by the evangelists from the Old Testament, that Collins disingenuously seized, and Mr. English has followed him. They set before us the texts of Isaiah and Hosea ; show us that one had an immediate fulfilment, and the other was merely historical, and neither of course was accomplished in our Lord. On this summary process they charge* the sacred historians who quote these texts, with ignorance and fraud, and the cause they defend with imposture.
I have but alluded to this at present, as å reason for not seriously attempting to show that passages so quoted were really fulfilled as prophecies in the person of Jesus Christ. I shall endeavor in the sequel to give the subject a fair examination, and pass now to the consideration of those prophecies, which are really to be regarded as proofs of the religion. In these
* I say," they charge,” for though Collins reasons in the person of a Christian, and speaks respectfully of the religion; yet the arg ent implies the falsehood of the pretensions of Christianity.
it will, I hope, be made to appear, that the Christian interpretation is the only one, which can reasonably be adopted.
The first of these is from Deut. xviii. 15 : “ The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren like unto me; unto him ye shall hearkea.” This is applied by St. Peter to our Lord, Acts iii. 22, and it was certainly most remarkably fulfilled in him, allowing the truth of the evan. gelical history, as it records our Lord's prophetick character and actions. But the question, which has been asked is this, whether it was à prophecy solely of the Messiah, or 2. of any other single person, or 3. of a succession of inspired messengers ? Some advocates of Christianity defend the first ; other interpreters have set up the second ; but the majority, whether Christians or Jews, maintain the latter. In granting therefore to Mr. English that this interpretation is correct, we should only follow the example of the most learned and judicious Christian interpreters. With this I might leave the question, but I cannot forbear to remark, that Mr. English, in what he has done in support of this interpretation, has been restrained too much by the authority of Collins. Otherwise he might have added to the names of Grotius, Stillingfleet, and Le Clerc, produced by him, those of Michaelis, Dathe, Rosenmul. ler, and Priestley, and particularly Delgado, a Jew. In adducing the authorities of Gro
tius and Stillingfleet, he should have done, what Collins did not set him the example of, quoted them fairly. The impression, which would be left on the minds of the reader from Mr. English's observations upon their authority would be, that they did not allow this prophecy to have had reference to a fulfil. ment in Christ;-whereas Grotius remarks, in commenting upon
the words of the prophecy : 66 The divine command has this general reference, that every prophet which arose in Israel should be obeyed, who wrought miracles and made predictions, and did not teach idolatry, although he should require things contrary to the law. But this divine command has an eminent reference to Jesus, than whom none was more illustriously designated by the marks, which God appointed, of a prophet."* And Stillingfleet says, that 66 these words, though in their full and complete sense they do relate to Christ, (who is the great prophet of the church,) yet whoever attends to the full scope of the words will easily perceive, that the immediate sense of them doth relate to an order of prophets which should succeed Moses among
the Jews.” One thing is sufficiently clear from incidental passages in the gospels : that the Jews of our
* Generaliter hæc Dei lex eo pertinet, ut quicumque propheta in populo Dei surrexerit miracula faciens, aut futura incognita certo prædicens, nec abducens populum ad deos falsos ei pareatur, etiamsi quid contra legem præcipiat. EXIMIE autem pertinet aci Jesum, quo nullus illustrior illis signis, per quæ prophetas cogmosci Deus voluit."--Grotius ad Actor iii. 22. † Origines Sacræ, book ij. c. iv. $ 1.
Saviour's time did understand this to be a prophecy of the Messiah. Witness the message to John the Baptist, “ art thou THAT prophet," (o #pofnons;)* also this in John vii. 40,
Many of the people, when they heard this saying, said, of a truth this is the prophet.”+
Finally, many Jews of high repute, (and among them Joseph Albo, who makes a great figure in Collins' scheme of literal prophecy ful. filled, and is mentioned from that, by Mr. English in his appendix to the letter to Mr. Cary,) do apply this prophecy of Moses to the Mes. siah. I
The next passage is from Psalm xvi. 10 : 66 Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades, nor suffer thy holy one to see corruption.” Having quoted this passage, St. Peter argues that David, having been buried and exposed to corruption like other men, could not have signified himself in these words; and being also a prophet, must have spoken them of Christ, the only person to whom they would apply.$—This argument, says Mr. English, though imposing and apparently plausible, yet rests upon two mistakes. For, 1. the Hebrew word translated corruption really here means destruction and perdition, and 2. that instead of the original passage being “thy holy one,” in the singular number, it is “thy saints,” in general, in the plural.-As to the first of these assertions it is either ambiguous or erroneous. The corruption of the grave is one kind of destruction or perdi
Chandler's defepce of Christianity, p. 305. $ Ibid. p. 307.
$ Acts ïi. 29.
* John i. 21.