« ForrigeFortsæt »
59 gai, Zechariah, and Malachi; and to these several others might be added. And it is worthy of observation, that, while they display a general accordance in their descriptions of the Messiah, they severally contribute to the common stock of information some particular circumstances, which serve to distinguish their own predictions from those of others. Thus, for example, Moses mentions the resemblance of the Messiah to himself; Jacob, his tribe; David, his resurrection; Jeremiah, his family; Isaiah, his virgin mother; Ezekiel, his pastoral character; Malachi and Haggai, his appearance in the second temple ; Daniel, the year of his birth ; and Micah, his native city. The prophecies of Christ, recorded in the Old Tesment, may be described as so many rays of divine instruction, bearing severally their distinct characteristics, passing through a vast diversity of channels, sent forth from their great original at many different periods of time, yet harmonizing and converging in the progress of their course, and in the end meeting to display the fulness of their light in a single focus.
During the continuance of the second temple, before the sceptre had departed from Judah, at the precise time predicted by Daniel,- Jesus was born, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah, of the family of David, at Bethlehem, of a virgin. We find him preceded by a prophet comparable to Elijah-living in a very humble outward condition-anointed of the Holy Ghost-engaged in preaching the Gospel to the poor, in comforting the mourners, and in relieving every species of bodily and mental distress-performing miraculous cures of the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the dumb-meek, gentle, benevolent, faithful, and fulfilling all righteousness --not believed in by the Jews --despised, rejected, and persecuted of men-betrayed by his familiar friend--forsaken, in the hour of trial,
[Ess. III. by all his followers-led as a lamb to the slaughterdumb in the presence of his persecutors -nailed by his hands and feet to the cross-cut off, but not for himself-rising from the dead-ascending into heaven, sitting at the right hand of the majesty on high--the object of faith and allegiance to the Gentiles, and gathering the nations unto himself-exercising a spiritual dominion over the souls of men-fulfilling, in his own circumstances, a variety of minor particulars - and all these things in precise conformity with the predictions of the Old Testament. More especially, in the midst of his humiliations and distresses, and notwithstanding the lowliness of his human character, we find him in full agreement with the record, claiming the attributes and honors, displaying the powers, receiving the homage, and denominated by the titles, which appertain only to Jehovah : see Matt. xii, 6– 8, xviii, 20; John v, 21-23, x, 28-30, xiv, 9, 23, xvi, 7; Rev. ii, 23, .... Matt. viii, 3, 8—13, comp. Acts, ix, 34; Luke viii, 24; Matt. xii, 23; John ii, 24, 25, xvi, 19, 30; comp. Rev. ii, 23; John xx, 22. .... Matt. xiv, 33; John ix, 38, xx, 28, 29. .... Luke i, 76; John i, l, xx, 28; Rom. ix, 5; Rev. xix, 16, xxii, 13.
When a lock and key precisely correspond, a presumption arises, even when they are of a simple formation, that they were intended for each other. When, instead of being formed in a simple manner, they are respectively of a curious and complex structure, and nevertheless correspond; such a presumption is exceedingly strengthened. But, when the lock is not only of a curious and complex structure, but contains such a wonderful combination of parts, that it is absolutely sui generis, and without parallel—when, among all the keys existing in the world, none present even any slight approach to a correspondent conformation, except one; and by that one the lock is easily and
Ess. 111.] Recapitulation and Conclusion.
61 exactly fitted-then is all doubt on the subject discarded, and it becomes a moral certainty that the lock and the key proceeded from the same master-hand, and really appertain to each other. Now this is a familiar, but precise, representation of the proof afforded by a comparison between the Old and New Testaments, that the predictions respecting Christ, which we have now been considering, were true prophecies--that God himself was the author of these prophecies, as well as of the dispensation by which they were fulfilled.
Let us, then, briefly sum up our whole argument. Correct inferences respecting future events are often drawn from analogy by men; but there is every reason to believe that the future is actually known only by that Being who has no counsellor, and who orders the course of events according to his own will.
Prophecies, which, by the nature of the circumstances to which they relate, as well as by their fufilment, are proved to have arisen from foreknowledge, must therefore be traced to God as their Author,
Several prophecies, to which this description perfectly applies, were uttered by Jesus Christ. A great many more, of the same character, are contained in those genuine ancient books which compose the Old Testament.
All these prophecies, therefore, have originated with God; and, since those among them, of which Jesus Christ was the subject, as well as those which he uttered himself, are plainly to be regarded as so many direct attestations of the Christian revelation, we are again brought to the conclusion, that CHRISTIANITY IS THE RELIGION OF GOD.
ON THE INTERNAL EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.
SINCE a knowledge of history and a certain degree of general literary attainment are necessary, in order to our forming a complete view of the external evidences of Christianity, and since such knowledge and attainment are necessarily placed out of the reach of a considerable portion of society, we ought to be very thankful that there are other evidences of the divine origin of our religion, which, to the sincere inquirer, in every condition of life, are matter of observation, and, to all true Christians, matter of experience. These are usually denominated, the internal evidences of Christianity.
Simple as the Christian religion is found to be in its operation, and easily understood as it is (so far as relates to its practical purposes) by persons of very limited mental cultivation, it is, in fact, a complex system, a scheme made up of numerous parts. He, therefore, who would unfold the internal evidences of our religion in all their interesting detail, must examine every essential article which it proposes to our faith, every distinct feature of its law of practice, every single motive which it supplies to action, and every particular channel through which it influences the heart : and he must endeavour to show that all the several parts of this one great system are worthy
63 of the wisdom of God, and adapted to the spiritual wants of weak and degenerate man. Since, however, it would be impossible to comprise within the proper limits of one of these Essays so extensive a discussion, I shall attempt little more, on the present occasion, than to survey some of the principal moral effects produced by Christianity as a whole. For, although the divine origin of this scheme of religion may be traced, either in the unrivalled excellence of its moral code, or in the strength and harmony of its doctrines, and in their analogy with the known provisions of nature and providence, it is always to be remembered, that the moral effects of Christianity are, through, the medium of faith and obedience, the result of its doctrines and precepts combined.
Before, however, we enter into the consideration of these effects, it ought to be clearly understood, that mere pretenders to Christianity have little or no connexion with our argument—that our views must be directed exclusively to those persons who have received revealed truth with cordiality, and who, without making reserves in favour of their own perverse inclinations, have really submitted their hearts to its sanctifying and saving influence. Such persons were the primitive Christians, whose firm faith and devoted and innocent lives have been declared and recorded, even by their enemies: vid. Plinii Epist. lib x, ep. 97. And such also, whatsoever be their peculiar denomination, and notwithstanding their many infirmities, are the humble, peaceable, and unobtrusive, followers of a crucified Redeemer, even in the present day.
That it is at once fair and necessary to premise this distinction, a very slight degree of reflection may convince us. If the wheels of my watch are clogged with dust—if an untutored workman, in his ill-directed attempts to repair it, has added to it some fresh spring