« ForrigeFortsæt »
to If then St. Paul and the church of Corinth were * not deceived, in ascribing to themselves this mira“ culous power, but really had it, there is the
strongest reason to think that neither were they “ deceived in the other powers to which they pre“ tended; as the same Spirit which gave
them that, < equally could, and probably would, give them the
others, to serve the same holy ends for which that
was given ; and by consequence St. Paul was no as enthusiast in what he wrote on that head to the “ Corinthians, nor in other similar instances, when * he ascribes to himself, or the churches which he
founded, any supernatural graces or gifts. Indeed
they who would impute to imagination, effects “ such as those which St. Paul imputes to the
power of God attending his mission, muft afcribe “ to imagination the same omnipotence which he * afcribes to God."
The arguments from PROPHECY adduced by the apostles
could not derive their weight from the influence of enthusiasm-proved in this section, fo far as relates to the prophecies of the old testament, which the apostles asserted were accomplished in the person of our Saviour.
If from miracles, we pass to the other mode by which the first preachers of Christianity convinced their disciples, even the argument from prophecy it will, I trust, appear that this was equally incapable of deriving its efficacy from any enthusiastic de. lusion.
This argument, as used by the apostles, almost entirely consisted in appeals to the Jewish fçriptures, in which the apostles contended were clear prophecies, fulfilled by the life and sufferings of their Lord, who, according to them, united in himself all the characters by which the promised Messiah was to be distinguished.
It would be inconfiitent with the subject of this essay, to enter into a detail of the arguments employed to prove this conclusion ; but without
such detail it is, I think, obvious that this was a species of argument which could not derive either its origin or fuccess from the influence of fanaticism.
argument, z “ Two hundred and fifty years," it is generally admitted that the Jewish scriptures were translated into Greek, at the desire of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, and copies of them deposited in the Alexandrian library at least two hundred and fifty years before Chrift.
The prophecies to which the first preachers of Christianity appealed, not only existed, at the latest,
two hundred and fifty years before their asserted accomplishment, but existed in the hands of their inveterate enemies, the Jewish scribes, priests, and Pharisees. Over these records they had no power; they could not themselves believe, nor make their hearers believe, that these prophecies existed, if they did not exist, nor could they alter the smallest item to adapt them to the events, by which it was afferted they were fulfilled.
And as the prophecies were in no degree in their power, so neither was it possible for them to direct the correspondent events ; for these had all taken place before the apostles began to preach the resurrection of their divine Master; and they had many
of them been brought about by the agency of his enemies, who had been the authors of his sufferings and death, which the apostles steadily maintained were plain accomplishments of acknowledged prophecies. --Still further, these transactions were of fo public a nature, they had it as little in their power to milreprésent, as originally to direct them.
But what is most important of all, the apostles could find no pre-disposition in any Jewish mind to admit the coincidence of the prophecy and the event, instantaneously, and embrace it enthusiastically, because such an accomplishment was totally the reverse of that which Jewish minds had long expected and ardently wished. The interpretation which the apostles gave the prophecies, and the facts to which they applied them, were such as shocked the national prejudices and the religious bigotry of their countrymen.
The Jews expected a temporal and triumphant Melfah, who was to appear suddenly in the temple, in the splendor of divine Majesty, and to live for. ever.—The apostles offered to their acceptance a peasant, the reputed fon of a carpenter, who lived a life of poverty, who had perished on the cross, and declared, as the event proved, that his kingdom was not of this world. The Jews expected that this Messiah would extend and perpetuate the rites and ceremonies of the mosaic law. The apostles contended that he had weakened or annulled its obligation, and substituted in its room, a religion abolishing these rites and ceremonies. The Jews confined to themselves the title and privileges of the chosen people of God. The
apostles contended, that now the period was arrived, foretold by the prophets, when God should be
a fought of them that asked not for him, when he « should be found of them that sought him not ; " that he should say, behold me, behold me, unto a « nation that was not called by his name."—When that was become true which was prophesied of Israel, " I have spread out my hands all day unto a re« bellious people, which walked in a way that was
not good ;" when their should be “no difference “ between the Jew and the Greek; for the same “ Lord over all, is rich unto all that call upon him; " and whosoever fhall call upon the name of the “ Lord, should be saved."
Now, without entering into any minute proofs to shew the Jews were wrong, and the apostles right, in this interpretation of the prophecies, it seems to be clear beyond all reasonable doubt, that this mode of interpretation could not have been originally adopted by the apostles, or received by the converts merely from the force of enthusiasm.
Reason and experience prove, that those doctrines which fanatics embrace, are generally such as have been grounded on some pre-conceived religious opi. nions, such as have been long the subject of attention,
: Isaiah lxv. 1, 2.
Rom. X. 12 to 20.