« AnteriorContinuar »
may be so far blinded in his Understanding, as to reject all the possible Means of his Reformation; nay, even upon the Supposition, that some departed Friend of his should appear to him from the Dead in order to reclaim him \ yet, such may his Perversenefs be, as to make no serious Reflection up- » on this important Event, but, on the contrary,, fortify himself in Wickedness, by supposing that the Apparition was but an idle Dream, the Sprt of a wanton Imagination, or the Effect of some melancholy Mood, and, to drive out the Thoughts of it, return to his lewd and licentious Courses again. But whafc Affinity has this to a Man's pretending to come with a Commission from Heaven, in order to establish a new Religion, and (to justify his Pretences) curing all Diseases in an Instant, removing all natural Defects, with a Touch, and even raising the Dead to Life again with a Word speaking? « Can the Ethiopian change his Skin, or the Leopard his Spots? Is the Case of the one: Can God countenance a Lye, or communicate his Power to an Impostor? Is the Case of the other.
B Jer. xiii. 23.
The dis- We allow indeed, that the first Prea
a n« cners °ftne Go/pel made use of the Prothe Apo- phefies of the Old Testament in order to ft'es ap- convert Men to the Christian Religion:
t£%° But then ic is t0 be observ'd, that the and Gat- Converts, to whom they made this Apuies. plication, were Jews, who believ'd the Divine Authority of the Prophets, and not Gentiles, who had no such Persuasion. * Thus St. Paul, in his Discourse with the Jews .at Antioch, begins with the Call of Abraham, and, after a short historical Deduction of Matters from thence to the Time of David, he adds,, k Of this Man's Seed hath God, according do his Promi/e, raised unto Israel a Saviour "Jesus: Where we may plainly perceive, that the Apostle's whole Argument rests upon the Authority of the Prophets; whereas the lame St. Paul, preaching to the People of Athens, argues from quite different Topicks. He lays not one Word of the Prophets, to whose Mission and Authority the Athenians were perfect Strangers, but begins with declaring to them i God, who made the World and all things therein; than goes on condemning all idolatrous Practices, and assuring them that God is not worshipped with Mens Hands,
* The Use and Intent of Prophecy. * Act xiii, ij. !Acts xvii. 34, &c.
as though he needed any Thing; next accounts for the 'Times of Ignorance, at •which God winked j and ib tells them at last, that God now expects every Man to repent, having appointed Jesus Chriji to be the Judge of all Men; and, for the Proof of this, he appeals to the Truth of Christ's Resurrection, whereof he hath given AJJurance, fays he, unto all Men, in that he hath raised him from the Dead. Now, why the Apostle's Argument upon one and the lame Subject, in Affs xiii. and xvii, lhould be so widely different, the only true Reason, that can be given, is, the different Circumstances of the Persons, to whom he delivered himself. In Æs xiii, he argues professedly with Jews, to whom were committed the Oracles of God, and who, from these Oracles, were well instructed in the Marks and Characters of the Messiah. It had been highly absurd therefore to reaibn with them upon other Arguments, till he had first convinc'd them by their Prophets, and, having so convinc'd them, , it would have been impertinent. To them therefore he urges and applies the Authority of the Prophets only. But to the Athenians, who knew not the Prophets, or, if they knew them, had no Veneration for them, it had been
quite quite ridiculous to offer Proofs frorri Prophecy; and therefore he chuses rather to appeal to the principles of natural Religion, and to the Miracles of the Gospel, the Fame of which had probably, long before, reached to Athens, and the Truth of which (they being mere Matters of Fact) was capable of undeniable Evidence and Demonstration.
Sand k St# Paul indeed>in his Defence both St. Peter l before Felix and m Agrippa, appeals to might the Law and the Prophets; and St. <P&Prophets **" in his Discourse » before Cornelius, before urges their Testimony in Confirmation uLGln' °f Christ's Divine Mission, But, when we consider, in St. Paul's Cafe, that the nature of the Accusation, laid against him, made it necessary for him to appeal to the Old Testament, to which Felix and Agrippa, having liv'd so long among the "Jews, could hardly be accounted Strangers j and that, in St. Peter's Case, the mention he makes of thef Prophets to one, who was a Proselyte (as Cornelius was) worshipping the God of Israel, and believing the Scriptures of • the Old Fejlamentj was no more than proper and- seasonable; we shall hardly be indue'd to think, that these Cases
. kVia. Grounds and Reasons, *.• So, $$. 'Acts xm 81 Acts xvi. * Acts x.
are any tolerable Exception to the general Rule, which the Apostles had, of applying the Testimony of the Prophets to their Jewijb Converts only; and (which I may add) of applying them in their obvious and literal, not any remote or myjlical Sense. For had they applied them in And th»t this manner, how can we imagine, ° that thev "fasuch a Number of "jews of all Degrees, pijedap Rulersj Priests, and Scribes of all Sects, them in Men of Learning, and who, by their rlJ^ nd Profession and Station, were oblig'd to obvious know the Scriptures, should forsake the Sense Religion they were accustom'd to, up- on y* on the Authority of Passages, which, in their plain Meaning, were lb far from countenancing, that they openly confronted the new Religion they were to embrace, without any View of worldly Interest, with the certain hazard of • their Lives here, and the loss of God's Favour hereafter, in Cafe of Insincerity.
Fancy what we will of the Weakness, or Enthusiasm of those, who set about converting the Jews in the Method of impertinent Citations j their Weakness could not make their Proofs strong, nor infuse Credulity into Men > perfeftly qualified to judge, as having
m Bp. Chandler's Defence of Christianity* * Grounds and Reasons, pt 39.