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But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.
MANY good arguments there are, different in kind, which conspire to persuade the truth of our religion; such as are the intrinsic reasonableness, excellency, and perfection of its doctrine; the miraculous works performed in attestation thereto ; the special favor of Providence declared in the support and propagation thereof: but on no other ground do the Scriptures so much build its truth, and our obligation to embrace it, as on the exact correspondence and conformity thereof to all the ancient Scriptures, which did foreshow or foretell its revelation and introduction into the world; to those especially which described the personal characters, circumstances, and performances of our Lord : to this our Lord, in his discourses and disputes with incredulous people, referred them ; “Search the Scriptures,’ said he, ‘because in them ye expect to have eternal life; (that is, to find the true way of saving truth leading thereto;) and those are they which testify of me :’ by this he instructed and convinced his disciples; ‘beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself:’ and, “These (said he to them presently before his departure) are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me:’ this the Apostles, in all their preaching, (whereby they taught, proved, and persuaded the Christian doctrine,) did chiefly insist on : “Moses,’ saith St. Peter, “truly said unto the Fathers, yea, and all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days;’ and, ‘To him,” saith he again, “give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.’ And of St. Paul it is said, that “he mightily convinced the Jews—showing by the Scriptures, that Jesus was the Christ;’ and — he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets: thus the chief Apostles and founders of our religion in their public discourses; and in their Epistles they observe the same method; as particularly asserting Christian doctrines and duties by the testimonies of prophetical Scriptures, so generally affirming our religion to be chiefly grounded on them; ‘of which salvation’ (saith St. Peter, concerning the salvation exhibited by the gospel) “the prophets did inquire, and search diligently, who prophesied of the grace to come unto you;’ and (in regard to the conviction of others) he seems to prefer the attestation of this kind before the special revelation immediately made to the Apostles; for having spoken of it, he subjoins, kai éxople v Besławórepov rôv trpoonriköv Aéyov' “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye do take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts.” And St. Paul saith, that “the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, was then made manifest, and by the prophetical Scriptures, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations, to the obedience of faith;’ and, “The holy writings,’ he telleth Timothy, “were able to make him wise to the salvation,’ which is, ‘by the faith of Jesus Christ;" that is, they were able to show and persuade to him the truth of Christianity, which promiseth salvation to all that heartily embrace it and observe its laws. Such a stress was laid on this probation by the founders of our religion; and no wonder; for that it is not only extremely
forcible in itself, but hath some particular uses, and some peculiar advantages beyond others. The foreknowlege of future contingent events, (such as were many of those concerning our Saviour, depending on the freest acts of human will,) as it is for the manner of attaining it most incomprehensible to us, so it is most proper to God, and by all men so acknowleged; future contingencies being secrets which no man, no angel, no creature can dive into, they being not discernible in their causes, which are indeterminate; nor in themselves, who are finite. The prediction therefore of such events could not otherwise than proceed from his pleasure; neither could he yield it in way of favor and approbation to that which was not perfectly true and good: this way therefore doth absolutely confirm the truth and goodness of Christian doctrine; it withal manifests the great worth and weight thereof, as implying the particular regard and care God had of it, designing it so anciently, laying trains of providence toward it, and preparing such evidences for the confirmation thereof; it together into the bargain maintaineth the truth of the Jewish dispensation, the sincerity of the ancient patriarchs and prophets, and the vigilant care the divine goodness hath always had over the state of religion, and toward the welfare of mankind; never leaving it destitute of some immediate revelations from himself. It had a peculiar aptitude to convert the Jews, who were possessed with a full persuasion concerning the veracity and sanctity of their ancient prophets; and could not therefore doubt concerning the truth of that, which appeared conformable to that which they had foretold should be declared and dispensed for their benefit. This probation also hath this advantage, that it singly taken doth suffice to convince ; whereas others can hardly do it otherwise than in conjunction with one another, and especially with its aid: for the goodness of the doctrine may be contested in some points; and however good it seem, it may be imputed to human invention: strange effects may be deemed producible by other causes beside divine power; and they may be suffered to be done for other ends than for confirmation of truth; they are also commonly transient, and thence most liabie to doubt. Providence also is in many cases so mysterious and unsearchable, that the incredulous will never allow any inferences to be drawn from it: but the plain correspondence of events to the standing records of ancient prophecies (obvious and conspicuous to every one that will consult and compare them) concerning a person to be sent by God, who should have such circumstances, and be so qualified, who should in God's name preach such doctrines and perform such works, is a proof, which alone may assure any man, that such a person doth come from God, and is in what he declareth or doeth approved by him : no counterfeiting can here find place; no evasion can be devised from the force of this proof. This way therefore of discourse our Lord and his Apostles (whose business it was by the most proper and effectual methods to subdue the reasons of men to the obedience of faith and entertainment of Christian truth) did especially use; as generally in respect to all things concerning our Lord, so particularly in regard to his passion; declaring it to happen punctually according to what had been foreseen by God, and thence foreshowed by his prophets, rightly understood; “He took the twelve,” saith St. Luke of our Lord, ‘and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished : for he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on ; and they shall scourge him, and put him to death.' And again, after his resurrection, he thus reproves his disciples; ‘O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken :’ ‘Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory.’ They did not then (partly being blinded with prejudice, partly not having used due industry, and perhaps not excelling in natural capacity, however not yet being sufficiently enlightened by divine grace) apprehend, or discern, that according to the prophetical instructions our Lord was so to suffer; but afterward, when he had ‘opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures,' they did see, and specially urge this point: then St. Peter declared that • the Spirit of Christ, which was in the prophets, did testify beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow ;’ then it was their manner to reason (as is said of St. Paul) “out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered : saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come, that Christ should suffer:’ ‘delivering first of all, that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures: this is that which in my text St. Peter doth insist on, affirming about the passion of Christ, that it not only had been predicted by one, or more, but foreshowed by an universal consent of all the prophets; to illustrate and confirm which assertion of his, is the scope of our present discourse: to perform which, after having briefly touched the state of the matter in hand, we shall apply ourselves. That the Messias was to come in an humble and homely manner; (without appearance of worldly splendor or grandeur;) that he was to converse among men in a state of external poverty and meanness; that he was to cause offences, and find oppositions in his proceedings; that he was to be repulsed and rejected, to be hated and scorned, to be disgracefully and harshly treated, to be grievously persecuted and afflicted; yea, that at last he was to be prosecuted, condemned, and executed as a malefactor, is a truth indeed, which the Jews (although they firmly believed and earnestly expected the coming of a Messias) did not, and indeed were hardly capable to entertain. It was a point repugnant to the whole frame of their conceits; yea, inconsistent with the nature and drift of their religion, as they did understand it; for their religion in its surface (deeper than which their gross fancy could not penetrate) did represent earthly wealth, dignity, and prosperity, as things most highly valuable; did propound them as very proper, if not as the sole rewards of piety and obedience; did imply consequently the possession of them to be certain arguments of the divine goodwill and regard: they could not therefore but esteem poverty, affliction, and disgrace, as curses from heaven, and plain indications of God's disfavor toward those on whom they fell: they particularly are said to have conceited that to be rich was a needful qualification for a prophet; (no less needful than to be of a good complexion, of a good capacity, of a good conversation and life:) Spiritus Dei non requiescit super pauperem, ‘the Spirit of God doth not rest on a poor man;’ (that is, no special communications of grace, or of wisdom and goodness,