Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

there the least appearance of it, when the prophets foretold it?

These predictions however, illustrious as they were, served only as a veil or preparation to others of far greater importance, to which the accomplishment of the former was to give a degree of authority and credit, superior in strength to allthat human understanding could imagine or desire for the gaining of a full conviction and an unchangeable belief. It is plain, I mean the predictions relating to the Messiah, and the establishment of the Christian church. These are so clear and circumstantial, that they surpass all imagination. The prophets have not only specified the time, the place, and the manner of the Messiah's birth, the principal actions of his life, and the effects of his preaching; but they saw and foretold the most particular circumstances of his death and resurrection, and have related them with almost as much exactness as the evangelists themselves, who were eye-witnesses of them.

But what shall we say of those great events, which constitute the fate of mankind, take in the extent of all ages, and at last happily lose themselves in the eternity, which was their end and design ; the establishment of the church upon earth by the preaching of twelve fishermen; the reprobation of the whole body of the Jewish nation; the vocation of the Gentiles, to be substituted in the place of a people once so, dearly beloved, and favoured with such high privileges; the destruction of idolatry throughout the world; the dispersion of the Jews into all parts of the earth, to serve as witnesses to the truth of the holy scriptures, and the accomplishment of the prophecies; their future return to the faith of Christ, which will be the refuge and consolation of the church in the latter days; and lastly, the translation of this church, after many trials and dangers, from earth to heaven, there to enjoy eternal peace and felicity ? These are the subjects with which the prophets entertain us, and for this end the holy scriptures were written,

U 3

Now

[ocr errors]

Now I ask in the first place, whether we shall not be wanting in the most essential part of the education of youth, if we suffer them to be ignorant of an history so venerable and important for its antiquity, its authority, and the greatness and variety of facts related in it, and more especially for the intimate union it has with our holy religion, as it is the foundation of it, as it contains all the proofs of it, points out to us all its duties, and for which it is so capable of inspiring us with the greatest respect from our most tender years, which may afterwards serve as a check and barrier against the licentious boldness of incredulity, which every day gains ground, and threatens us with the entire loss of the faith.

I ask in the second place, whether it be to study and teach Sacred History as we ought, barely to consider the facts contained in it as historical facts, or to lay them before youth as objects only of their curiosity and admiration, without shewing them as the firmest supports of their belief, the legal patent of their true nobility, and certain pledges of their future greatness; without teaching them to compare these miraculous and prophetical events with the most boasted prodigies and oracles of the heathen: and without making them sensible how vain those upon which the whole Roman religion, for instance, was founded, and which [m] Tully in some of his books has endeavoured to support with all his eloquence, (though in [n] others he absolutely overthrows them) how vain and frivolous, I say, these prodigies and oracles are, and how far remote, supposing they were true, from the certainty, majesty, and number of those, which the Sacred History presents us with in every page ?

Lastly, I ask whether we should pay to the Sacred History, dictated by the Holy Ghost himself, the respect which is due to it, by examining only the letter of it, without penetrating farther to discover the spirit and true signification of it, especially after such light as the evangelists and apostles, and since then the [m] L. d. de Nat. Decr. (n] L. 2. de Divinat.

constant

constant and uninterrupted tradition of the fathers, have given us upon this matter. We very often read in the Gospel, that the actions related there were the accomplishment of the figures and prophecies of the Old Testament; and Jesus Christ himself assures us, that Moses has principally written of him; [0] Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me. [p] St. Paul tells us, in clear and express terns, that Jesus Christ was the end of the law, and that what happened to the Jews, happened to them by way of type and figure. St. Augustine, who is herein no other than the interpreter and channel of the tradition of the church, declares to us, speaking of the saints of the Old Testament, that not only their words, but their life, their marriages, their children, their actions, were a figure and prediction of what was long after to happen in the Christian church; [9] Horum sanctorum, qui præcesserunt tempore nativitatem Domini, non solùm sermo, sed etiam vita, & conjugia, & filii, & facta, prophetia fuit hujus temporis, quo per fidem passionis Christi ex gentibus congregatur ecclesia ; and that the whole Hebrew nation were a kind of great prophet of him, who alone deserves to be called great; [] Totumque illud reg. num gentis Hebræorum, magnum quemdum, quia & magni cujusdam fuisse prophetam. Whence he concludes that a prophecy of Christ and the church should be sought for in the actions of that people : In iis quæ in illis, vel de illis divinitus fiebant, prophetia venturi Christi & ecclesiæ perscrutanda est.

In what is said, for instance. of Abraham, [s] that he cast out Hagar, who was his lawful wife, though a bond-woman of a second rank, with Ishmael his son, without giving them any thing for their subsistence but a little bread and water, can any man of good sense or understanding comprehend that this patriarch, who was so liberal and humane to strangers, would

[O] John v. 46. [p] Rom. x.4.

i Cor. x. II. [9] S. Aug.de Catech.Rud. c. 19.

[r] L. 22. contra Faust. c. 24. [s] Gen. xxii,

U 4

have

have treated his wife and son with such severity, if there was not some mystery concealed under it?

Though tradition did not discover to us the meaning of the same patriarch'saction in offering up Isaac, would not reason alone, I mean in a man enlightened with faith, suffice to make us discern in it the charity of our heavenly Father, who had so great å love for mankind, as to give his only Son for them?

Can we tell the children the history of the brazen serpent fixed and hung upon a cross in the widerness as a remedy for the Israelites, who had been bitten by the fiery serpents, without explaining to them at the same tiine, of whoin this serpent was the type?

Should we rightly understand the admirable history of Jonah, if we limited it only to the letter, and did not discern the resurrection of Christ restored to life again from the grave on the third day, and the speedy and miraculous conversion of the Gentiles, which was the fruit of our Saviour's death and resurrection?

And the same may be observed in many other pas. sages in Sacred History, which are not understood if not fully comprehended. We should study it as Jews, and not as Christians, if we did not remove the veil that covers it, and were content with the surface, which, though rich indeed and valuable, conceals other riches of a far more inestimable value.

These types or figures should be explained to youch more or less fully in proportion to their years, taking care to dwell especially upon such as are explained in the New Testament, the meaning of which cannot possibly be mistaken; however, a choice sho be made of the clearest of these, and such as are best suited to the age of the pupil. There are some however so plain and evident in themselves, though not explained in the New Testament, that we cannot possibly doubt their signification, as the history of Joseph, and several others of the like nature.

ARARTICLE II.

USEFUL OBSERVATIONS FOR THE STUDY OF SA

CRED HISTORY.

THE first care to be taken in the study of history in general, is to throw it into such order and method as to be able clearly to distinguish facts, persons, times, and places; and to this end chronology and geography may contribute, which have been deservedly called the two eyes of history, as they give a great addition of light to it, and remove all kind of eonfusion.

When I recommend the study of chronology, I am far from inclining to engage you in the examination of those difficult and knotty questions, of which it is very Susceptible, and of which the discussion properly belongs only to the learned. It is sufficient, if they have a clear and distinct idea, not of the precise year

a of every particular fact, for that would be endless and extremely troublesome, but in general of the age wherein the most considerable events fell out.

Sacred History, from the creation of the world to the birth of Jesus Christ, is usually divided into six ages or parts, which in all take in the space of four thousand years. This division is not difficult to be retained, vor above the comprehension of children. The number of years in each of these ages is next to be observed, avoiding, as much as possible, the fractions or small numbers, and reducing them to a round sum. Thus the fourth age, which reaches from the departure out of Egypt to the time when the foundations of the temple were laid, exactly computed, includes but four hundred and seventy-nine years and seventeen days. But it is better to tell youth, that it amounts to about four hundred and eighty years. This space may be again divided into different parts, but we must not multiply them too much; into forty years, which the

people

« ForrigeFortsæt »