Images de page

dial reception, in all quarters of the earth; that multitudes should become his disciples, and join themselves to his church; and that his death upon the cross, which threatened to be the greatest obstacle to its progress, as it subjected him to ignominy and contempt, should ensure its triumph over all opposition.* Of predictions so plain, and of an accomplishment so exact, where shall we find a parallel instance, except in the scriptures?

In the writings of Paul and John it is foretold, that a certain power should arise, which would assume the characters and attributes of divinity, change the laws and ordinances of heaven, work signs and lying wonders to confirm its usurped authority and impious tenets, and persecute, with unrelenting fury, those who should refuse to submit to its dominion. What is still more remarkable, it is foretold that this power would profess the christian religion, for the man of sin is represented as sitting, not in a temple of idols, but in the temple of God; some of the doctrines and practices which he would impose upon mankind are specified; and the very place where he would erect his throne is pointed out, the imperial city of Rome.t Let any person seriously consider this account, with all its particulars, and he will be convinced, that nothing was more improbable than the appearance of such a power, at the time when its rise was predicted. Who could have imagined, that any person, calling himself by the name of Christ, would dare to usurp his place, and style himself the head of his church; would

* Mat. xxi. 43. Luke xiii. 28-30. John xii. 20-33.

2 Thess. ii. 1-12. 1 Tim. iv. 1-3. Rev. xvii. &c.

carry his impiety and arrogance so far as to claim the titles of Lord and God, and the attributes of holiness and infallibility; would have the audacity to interpose his mandates in cases already decided by the supreme authority of heaven; to prohibit what God had permitted and commanded, and to enjoin what he had forbidden? Who could have supposed, that christians, in the days of the apostles, so enlightened, and so jealous of their spiritual liberties, would ever become so stupid and indifferent, as to allow such a power to raise itself on the ruins of their religion and their reason; and to exercise an imperious sway over their bodies and their consciences? Could fancy, in its wildest workings, have conceived, that Rome, the mistress of the world, the city where the Cæsars reigned, and idolatry triumphed in the plenitude of power and splendour; that Rome, where christianity was little known, and was known only to be hated and proscribed, would at some future period acknowledge as its sovereign a christian priest? Nothing could have been more remote from the apprehensions of men; and if such an event or combination of events, had by some chance been suggested, it would have been deemed equally absurd as the most extravagant dream of a madman. Yet these improbable predictions have been most punctually fulfilled in all their circumstances, as Protestant writers have unanswerably proved.

There is one book of the New Testament, which almost wholly consists of predictions, and ought to be considered as sustaining a very peculiar character. It is a history, written beforehand, of the church and of the grand political events connected

with her fate, from the age of the writer to the end of the world. To consider the scheme of prophecy laid down in the Revelation, would lead to a discussion too tedious for this place. It may suffice to observe, that of its predictions many have been already fulfilled, as we have seen with respect to some of those which relate to the antichristian church; others are at present fulfilling; and hence we are authorized to expect, that the rest will be fulfilled in their order and season.

[ocr errors]

From this slight survey of the prophetical parts of the New Testament, the inspiration of the writers may be fairly deduced. If there be a decisive proof that a man spoke, not by his own spirit, but by the Spirit of God, it is this, that he declared things, which it was not possible for any creature placed in the same circumstances to have known by natural His knowledge in such a case is manifestly supernatural. He who foretold, with the utmost precision, events which did not take place for some hundred years after his death, must have had intercourse with that Being, from whose eye nothing is hidden, and whose infinite mind comprehends the whole chain of causes and effects.


Some observations on the argument from prophecy will be introduced in the next chapter, when we consider the inspiration of the Old Testament.

The preceding illustration, I trust, will make the reader sensible of the strength of this third argument for the divine authority of the christian scriptures. Conjoined with the two former arguments, it completes the proof which I proposed to bring; and I am persuaded, that in the mind of every person, who understands and seriously ponders it, the

evidence now produced will give rise to a full conviction, that the books of the New Testament are not the compositions of men who meant to impose upon the world, but a genuine revelation from heaven, in recording which the writers were infallibly guided by the Spirit of truth.


The Inspiration of the Old Testament.

WHEN the Son of God expired without the gates of Jerusalem, the end was accomplished for which the Jews had been separated from the other nations of the world, and the law of Moses had been given. Their ritual, therefore, lost all its force, and the observance of it was rendered impracticable, by the destruction of their temple and their dispersion over the face of the earth. But the Jewish scriptures did not become useless, and their authority was not abrogated, when the nation, of which they contain the history and the laws, ceased to exist in its political and ecclesiastical capacity. We still revere them as authentic records of those dispensations which were introductory to the gospel; and we receive them as a part of the rule of faith and manners, the obligation of which is perpetual.

It must be acknowledged, indeed, that the scriptures of the New Testament are more adapted to our circumstances, than those of the Old in general are; and that the former excel the latter in several respects. Every work of God is good; but as he is a wise and free agent, he does not always work to the utmost of his power. One work, therefore,

may be comparatively better than another, though he who is infinite in perfection be the author of both; and consequently one portion of revelation may suppass another in the importance of its matter, the clearness of its doctrines, and the rich and animating displays of divine grace which it affords. The gospel may excel the law, as the law was more glorious than the patriarchal dispensation. Yet ascribing, as we do, the same origin to the law and to the gospel, to the writings of the prophets and to those of the apostles, we assign to both an equal rank in the sacred canon; and we seek from both instruction with respect to the conduct of life and the salvation of our souls. I know of none, by whom the inspiration of the Old Testament hath been denied, while that of the New was admitted, except some ancient heretics, who seem indeed to have been delirious fanatics, and who affirmed, that the God of the Jews was an evil being, and that Moses and the prophets were his ministers.*

In entering on the proof of the inspiration of the sacred books, I observed, that though their natural order required us to begin with those of the Old Testament, yet a considerable advantage would be afterwards found to result from first ascertaining the inspiration of the christian scriptures. The advantage is this, that, if the New Testament be once proved to be inspired, the inspiration of the Old Testament must be admitted without farther proof, because its books are explicitly recognised in the for

* Of these the most noted were the Manicheans, or Manichees, so called from Manes, or Manichæus, the founder of the sect. It appears that they likewise rejected some books of the New Testament. Mosheim's Hist Cent. iii. chap. 5. Similar notions were vented by other heretical sects.

« PrécédentContinuer »