Images de page

Tyre; Assur also is joined with them; they have holpen the children of Lot." In David's time there was such a mighty combination of enemies against them, and so great a force was raised, that, one would think, might have been sufficient to swallow up the nation.—After Solomon's time, the nation was greatly weakened, and so much the more exposed to ruin, by their division into two kingdoms, often contending, and sel. dom in amity the one with the other. The nation was greatly exposed in Rehoboam's time to be swallowed up by Shishak king of Egypt; in Asa's time, by the vast army of the Ethiopians : and again, by the mighty army of the Moabites, Ammo: nites and Edomites, in Jehoshaphat's time, 2 Chron. xx. When the kings of Assyria overran and utterly destroyed the ten tribes, it was a wonder that the two tribes were spared, and the people were greatly exposed to be finally ruined by Sennacherib's army, who intended nothing else.

$ 12. When the people were carried captive into Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, and the whole land laid utterly waste; it was a wonder, that this did not prove an entire end to them as a people. It was a wonder they were kept distinct in their captivity ; that then they were delivered ; and that after they had been in captivity so long, till those that had formerly lived in Canaan were generally dead, and a new generation born in Chaldea was risen up, they should be brought back, and again settled in their own land, and established as a people there. It was a wonder that the land was vacant for them; and a wonder that they were not hindered in their design of resettling there, by the mighty opposition made to it by the Samaritans.

§ 13. The people were marvellously preserved from being blotted out from under heaven by Haman, in the time of Esther and Mordecai. They were wonderfully preserved in Antiochus's time, who was earnestly set on their utter destruction as a people; and it may be observed in general concerning them, during the time of the Old Testament, that there was no nation whatsoever against whom the nations in general were at such enmity, as the nation of the Jews; and they were, on this account, much more likely to be destroyed than any other nation.

§ 14. They lived in a part of the world, where they were more exposed to be overrun by other nations, and so to be by them either trodden down, or torn away and scattered abroad in the earth, than had they dwelt in any other part; living as it were, in the midst of the carth, betwixt three great continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Their land lay in the very road or thoroughfare between Asia and Africa; between Egypt and the great Eastern and Northern kingdoms, which for many ages were the greatest, most potent, and active kingdoms in the world. It seems the other nations thereabout were all destroyed from being a people, before Christ's time: as the Midianites, the Moabites, Ammonites, Amalekites, the seven nations of Canaan, and the Philistines.

§ 15. It is remarkable, concerning a great part of the time of the Old Testament, viz. from the Babylonish captivity till Christ, that a great part of the Jews lived dispersed amongst other nations : And both those who were thus dispersed, and those that lived in their own land, were all that time in the power of the Heathen nations of the four monarchies.

$ 16. With respect to the time since Christ, their preservation as a distinct nation, bas, in many respects, been still more remarkable. It was wonderful, that what happened to them in the time of Titus Vespasion, when the greater part of the nation was destroyed, and the rest dispersed all over the world in such wretched circumstances, did not prove their utter destruction as a people. And the calamities that had happened to the remnant soon afterwards, made their continuance as a distinct people yet more surprising. For within half a century after their destruction by Titus, in the reign of Trajan and Adrian, the nation in general every where rose in rebellion against the Romans; and were finally every where beaten; so that in these wars the Jews had a thousand cities and fortresses destroyed, with the slaughter of about five hundred and eighty thousand men. What are left of this people have ever since remained in a total dispersion over all the world, mixed every where with other people, without any thing like a government or civil community of their own, and often extremely harassed by other nations, though still they remain a clear and per. fectly distinct nation from all other people.




When we seek for any thing in the dark by so low a faculty of discerning as the sense of feeling, or by the sense of seeing with a dim light, sometimes we cannot find it: though it be there, it seems to us to be impossible that it should be. But yet, when a clear light comes to shine into the place, and we discern by a better faculty, or the same faculty in a clearer manner, the thing appears very plain to us. So, doubtless, many truths will hereafter appear plain, when we come to look on them by the bright light of heayen, that now are involved in mystery and darkness.

$ 2. How are we ready to trust to the determinations of one universally reputed a man of great genius, of vast penetration and insight into things, if he be positive in any thing that appears to us very mysterious, and is quite contrary to what we thought ourselves clear and certain in before? How are we ready in such a case to suspect ourselves; especially if it be a matter wherein he has been very much versed ; has had much more occasion to look into it than we; and has been under greater advantages to know the truth? How much more still, it one should be positive in it, as a thing he bad clearly and undoubtedly seen to be true, if he were still of ten times greater genius, and of a more penetrating insight into things, than any that ever bave appeared ? And, in matters of fact, if some person whom we had long known, one of great judgment and discretion, justice, integrity, and fidelity, and had always been universally so reputed by others, should declare to us, that he had seen and known that to be true which appeared to us very strange and mysterious, and concerning which we could not see how it was possible; how, in such a case, should we be ready almost to suspect our own faculties, and to give credit to such a testimony, in that which, if he had

not positively asserted it, and persisted in it, we should have looked upon as perfectly incredible, and absurd to be supposed ?

§ 3. From that text, John iii. 12. 6. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things ?”— several things are manifest concerning mysteries in religion. (1.) That there are things contained in those doctrines which Christ came into the world to teach, which are not only so far above human comprehension, that men cannot easily apprehend all that is to be understood concerning them; but which are difficult to be received by the judgment or belief; “ How shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things ?” difficult, upon the same account that the doctrine of the new birth was difficult to Nicodemus, because it was so strange, and seemingly impossible. (2.) We may from the words infer, that the more persons are, in themselves, and in their own nature, above us ; the more the doctrines or truths concerning them are mysterious to us, above our comprehension, and difficult to our belief; the more do those things that are really true concerning them, contain seeming inconsistencies and impossibilities. For Christ, in the preceding verses, had been speaking of something that is true concerning man, being of the same nature, an inhabitant of the same world with ourselves; which, therefore, Christ calls an earthly thing. And this seemed very mysterious and impossible, and to contain great seeming inconsistencies. 56 How can a man be born when he is old ?" This seemed to be a contradiction. And after Christ had somewhat explained himself, still the doctrine seemed strange and impossible ; ver. 9. “ How can these things be?". Nicodemus still looked upon it as incredible, and, on that account, did not believe it at that time, as is implied in these words of Christ ; " If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not.” But Christ here plainly significs that he had other truths to teach that were not about man, an carthly inhabitant, but about a person vastly above men, even about himself who is from heaven, and in heaven, as in the next verse: “ And no man bath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven ; even the Son of man which is in heaven.” Which, therefore, would be much more difficult to men's understanding and judgment, seeming to contain greater impossibilities and inconsistencies; as he then proceeds immediately to declare to bim an heavenly thing, as he calls it, viz. that Christ, an heavenly and divine person, should die; ver. 14, 15. Such a mysterious doctrine, 60 strange, and seemingly inconsistent and impossible, that a divine person should die, is more strange than that men should be born again. Hence, when divines argue, from the mysterious nature of many things here below with which we are daily conversant, that it would be very unreasonable to suppose but that there should be things concerning God which are much more mysterious; and that, therefore, it is unreasonable to object against the truth of the doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, &c.; they argue justly, because they argue as Christ argued.

$ 4. The wiser Heathens were sensible, that the things of the gods are so high above us, that what appertains to them should appear exceedingly mysterious and wonderful to us; and that it is therefore unreasonable to disbelieve what we are taught concerning them on that account. This is fully expressed by Pythagoras; viz. “ Concerning the gods, disbeliere nothing wonderful, nor yet concerning divine things. This, says Janblicus, declareth the superlative excellency of God instructing us, and puts us in mind, that we ought not to estimate the divine power by our own judgment. The Pythagoreans stretched this rule beyond the line of divine revelation, to the belief of every oriental tradition.” Gale's Court of the Gentiles, p. 2. b. 2. c. 8. 190,

$5. It is not necessary that persons should bave clear ideas of the subject of a proposition, in order to be rationally convinced of the truth of the proposition. There are many truths, of which mathematicians are convinced by strict demonstration, concerning many kinds of quantities, as, surd quantities and fluxions; but concerning which they have no clear ideas.

$ 6. Supposing that mankind in general were a species of far less capacity than they are; so much less, that, when men are come to full ripeness of judgment and capacity, they arrived no higher than that degree to which children generally arrive at seven years of age; and supposing a revelation to be made to mankind, in such a state and degree of capacity, of

many such propositions in philosophy as are now looked upon as undoubted truths; and let us suppose, at the same time, the same degree of pride and self-confidence as there is now; what cavilling and objecting would there be! Or, supposing a revelation of these pbilosophical truths had been made to mankind, with their present degree of natural capacity, in some ancient generation-suppose that which was in Joshua's time-in that degree of acquired knowledge and learning which the world had arrived at then, how incredible would those truths have seemed !

« PrécédentContinuer »