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“ letter as from us, that the day of Christ is at hand,” adds a declaration, that that day should not come till after some signal apostacy, and the revealing of fome mighty and unrighteous power, which he terms " the man of fin," the character and progress of which, he reminds them he had already in conversation described to them, and now therefore only briefly touches on.
Thus also St. Peter, while he afferts the certainty of their Lord's coming to judge the world, yet de. clares it should be so long deferred, that immoral and impious men should scoff at the delay. How remote from enthusiasm, or from deceit, are fuch predictions in both the apostles ? May we not reason with a late * judicious writer, that a fanatic would have been flow to entertain in his own mind, or to disclose to his hearers and correspondents, such discouraging ideas; and that a hypocrite would not have betrayed these discrediting particulars of his own plan, by foretelling the depravity of those who should hereafter embrace it.
Finally, it seems probable, for the same reason, that if impostors had fabricated such a prediction after the event, in order to gain credit to their Lord,
1 2 Peter, the entire 3d chap.
* Dr. Mainwaring, professor of divinity in Cambridge, in his fermon preached before the univerfity, the 3d of May, 1795, p. 2.
they would have confined themselves to that event, as the only one which it was consistent with their purpose to allude to.—Now, this is not the case ;this prophecy does not confine itself to the immedi. ate event of the destruction of Jerufalem, but predicts a continuation of its defolate and ruinous state.
Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, u till the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled." Now, to this hour Jerusalem is trodden of the Gentiles, and to this hour the event, denoted by the times of the Gentiles being fulfilled, in whatever sense we interpret these words, has not taken place. Is the prediction of this coincidence of two continued and independent circumstances, in the course of human affairs, for above one thousand seven hundred years, to be accounted for, either by enthusiasm or imposture.
But I must forbear enlarging on fuch prophecies of the new testament, as were not fully accomplished during the lives of those to whom it was first ad. dressed; as these could have formed no part of the evidence on which the first converts received the golpel, which only I am now obliged to consider. Undoubtedly no argument more decisively proves the genuine inspiration, and divine authority, of the apostolic writings, than the predictions found in them, of the successive fortunes of Christianity, from its first promulgation to the present hour ; predicti. ons which have been constantly and gradually accom
plished on the earth, and are at this moment advanc, ing to a still more perfect and signal completion.
But this important argument, which every day receives accumulated evidence, need not.be introduced here, it has been ably and fully treated of by ? many writers, whose works I would earnestly recommend to every man who wishes to confirm his faith, and impress upon his heart a deep sense of the divine origin and stupendous importance of the Christian scheme. I shall conclude my remarks on this part of
* Amongst the most useful of these works are the following: Lardner on the fulfilment of our Saviour's predictions concerning the Jews-Jewish and Heathen testimonies, vol. 1. ch. ii.Seventh vol. of Dr. Keppis's edition-Ditto, in his three sermons on the state of the Jews, vol. 10, p. 63--Newton's dissertations on the prophecies--Bishops Hurd, Halifax and Bagot, in their sermons preached at Warburton's lecture-Worthington's sermons, preached at Boyle's lecture, 1766—Sharpe's second argument in defence of Christiany-Kidder's demonftration of the Mefliah- The works of Joseph Mede, and Henry More-The approved commentators on the New Testament, especially on the Revelations--Whiston's fcripture prophecies—* Dr. Macknight's truth of the gospel history, p. 199–Miller's history of the propagation of Christianity-*Benson's essay on the man of fin, in his paraphrafe on the Epistles, p. 268-And to mention no more, the Rev. E. W. Whitaker, in his general and connected view of the prophecies relating to the times of the Gentiles, Egham, 1795, fold by Rivington, in London, i vol. 12mo. a work which must interest the generality of readers, as the au. thor adduces the testimony of the celebrated Mr. Gibbon, to the facts which, as he alledges, prove the accomplishment of the scripture prophecies.
N. B. The tracts marked * are re-printed in the 5th vol. of Bishop Watson's excellent collection.
the subject, by observing, that as the prophecies contained in the apostolic writings, which by their - speedy accomplishment may have contributed to con
ciliate or to confirm the faith of the first converts, aré evidently such as enthusiasm did not dictate; fo also these writings rarely contain any predictions of events immediately approaching, except those delivered by our Lord, which we have now confidered and the few they do contain are not ascribed to the apostles or evangelists themselves.
In the Acts of the apostles I have observed only the following predictions. One, of the famine which took place in the days of Claudius Cæsar, and which was related, not merely to shew the inspiration of the prophet, but because it was connected with the fubject of the history; as in consequence of it a contribution was raised in the different churches for the Christians in Judea-a fact to which frequent allusi, ons are made, both in the Acts and Epistles.---Another was pronounced, “when St. Paul was going up to Jerufalem, declaring, that the Jews there would bind him, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles; which seems also to have been mentioned, not so much for its own fake, as to introduce the affecting incidents connected with it. When the Christians, at Cæsarea, befought the apostle, that he would not go up to Jerusalem ; and he answered, with the firmness of a martyr, and the tenderness of a parent, “ d what mean you to weep and to break “ mine heart, for I am ready, not to be bound only, “ but to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord « Jesus.” Both these predictions are ascribed to the fame person, Agabus, who does not seem to have been distinguished on any other account in the Chriftian church,
b Acts xi. 30.
e Ib. xxi. 10.
St. Paul himself is described in one place, when in danger from a violent tempesto, to have received an assurance, that he, and all his companions in the voyage, should escape ; and in another, he exhorts the Thessalonians, not to be moved with his afflictions, for “f yourselves, says the apostle, know that we are “ appointed thereunto ; for verily, when we were with
you we told you before, that we should suffer tribula“ tion, even as it came to pass, and ye know.” But though assured that he was appointed to sustain suffering in general, yet he confesses himself ignorant of the particular mode of suffering which awaited him; for before he heard the prophecy of Agabus, as to the particular event of his journey to Jerusalem, he declares to the church at Ephesus—“ 8 Behold I
d Acts xxi 13.
e Ib. 27. 10.
i Thef. iii. 3. & Acts xx. 17.—The entire address is well worth perusal; conscious truth and honesty, fincere piety, and prudent, but earneit zeal, breath forth fo forcibly in every part of it, as can scarcely fail of penetrating the heart, and convincing the understanding of every reader.