Page images
PDF
EPUB

steps of his exaltation. Thirdly, Characters relating to uncontested facts, or facts of such public notoriety that unbelievers do not call them in question.

Of this last fort are various facts and events, relating partly to Christ's life and death, and partly to his church, and partly to his enemies.

As to the first, Unbelievers own the facts relating to the time and place of Christ's birth, the nation and family of which he descended, the low station in which he lived, and the sufferings of his life and death. Also the second they own : and they cannot but own several important facts relating to the amazing success of Chriit's doctrine ; particularly its producing the greatest revolution that ever happened in the world, in its most important concerns, namely, those of religion, by enlightening so many of the Gentile nations in the knowledge of the true God, dispelling Heathen darknefs, abolishing Heathen idolatry, and establishing in its room the worship of the one Supreme Being, the Creator of the world. As to the third point, namely, facts relating to Christ's enemies, it is owned on all hands, that after the unbelieving Jews had crucified Christ himself, and yet had his gospel for several years preached to them, and continued obstinate in rejecting it, their temple and metropolis were destroyed, their civil polity diffolved, their nation dispersed through the world; and that they have been wanderers among the nations ever froni that time to this day : for however people differ about the true causes of these calamities, the reality of them, the extraordinary nature of them, and the period of time at which they began, are beyond all controversy.

Unbelievers own the tiuth of these, and the like facts : they only deny that they were foretold.

The obvious differences betwixt the three forts of characters that have been mentioned, point out A 2

thie

the different uses to be made of them in the reason-
ings in view. Seeing it is an evident rule of just
reafoning, that people should avoid begging the
question, or taking for granted the conclusion that
is to be proved ; therefore as a Christian, in argu-
ing with an unbeliever, must not take it for granc-
ed that the doctrines or miracles that have been
mentioned are true, so neither must an unbeliever
take it for granted that they are false. The true
way is, to begin with the facts that are uncontested,
If it can be proved, that these uncontested facts
were foretold, and that the prophecies concerning
them mike up, as it were, a historical description
of Christ, distinguilhing him from all others; and
that the facts themselves are of that nature that they
could not be foretold but by divine inspiration; all
these things will make up a convincing proof, at
once of the divinity of the prophecies, and of the
divine' mission of Christ, and consequently of the
truth of the doctrines and miracles in question.

If it be asked, whether the prophecies contain-
ing thefe doctrines and miracles be of use in con-
vincing unbelievers ? in answer to this, it is suffi-
cient at prefent to observe, that these prophecies
may be said to contain uncontested facts, in fo far
as they foretell the faith and worship of the gospel-
church, or of the worshippers of God ainong the
Gentile nations. Thus it is evidently a foretelling
of uncontested facts, if the prophets foretell, that
the Gentile nations, in worshipping the true God,
would seek salvation and happiness from him,
through a Mediator, clothed with such offices as
the gospel ascribes to Christ, as the universal Pro-
phet, Priest, and King, of the people of God of all
nations. Though unbelievers do not own the truth
of these and tie like peculiar doctrines of the go-
fpel, yet they must own it as a fact of public no-
toriety, that these doctrines are believed and pro-
felted by the Christian nations : and if it can be pro-

.

[ocr errors]

yed, that the prophets not only assert the truth of these doctrines, but also foretell the actual belief and profession of them among the nations ; it will follow, that the prophecies containing gospel-doctrines contain evident proofs from uncontested facts.

The above-mentioned rule, of beginning with uncontested facts, shows the reasonableness of some diversity in the metkod of arguing from the prophecies in different ages; because the facts that are uncontested in one age, may not be so in another. In the days of the apostles, at the first preaching of the gospel, the prophecies concerning the enlightening of the Gentiles, could not be considered, as they may and ought to be now, as containing uncontested facts; because that great revolution was not yet accomplished. The actual accomplishment of it gives us some advantage above the first Chriftians, as they had the advantage of us in various other respects. The miracles of the apostles, believed to be acknowledged as uncontested facts among the multitudes of diverse nations who were eyewitnesses of them ; by these miracles they proved Christ's divine miflion, his resurrection, and the other supernatural facts and doctrines which conititute the peculiarities of the gospel. It was a strong corroboration of the argument from miracles, thaç the peculiar doctrines and facts contained in the gospel were also contained in the writings of the prophets : and in a matter of so great importance, no one proof, however evident, could make additional confirmations superfluous.

The fecond general principle which it is needfu! to have frequently in view in the following reasonings, is, That the prophecies applied to Christ are applicable to him only, especially when they are taken complexly. There are some of the historical characters of Christ which are peculiar to him, even when they are taken separately; such as the characters relating to the enlightening of the Gentile nations: but there are others, which, when taken separately, are common to many other persons ; such as, to be born at such a time and place, and of such a family; to live in such a Itation; to suffer a vio. lent death, and the like.

ters

Concerning these two different forts of characters, it is proper to observe the following things : First, That even those characters, which, taken separately, are common to many different persons ; when joined to characters that are of a singular and diltinguishing nature, add much to the evidence. Thus, whereas it is an evident proof, that the prophecies in view are meant of Christ, if they speak of one extraordinary person who was to bring about such an enlightening of the Gentiles, as is known to have been the effect of the gospel; it is still a great addition to the evidence, if they foretell the time and place of that extraordinary person's birth, the family of which he was to descend, and the other circumstances formerly hinted at : for though these things, taken separately, are common. 10. Jesus Christ with many others; yet they distinguish him from many more who were not born at such a time or place, or of such a family. And though it should be supposed, that, without inspiration, men might have foretold the enlightening of the Gentiles by one eminent person, it is evidently impossible, that, without inspiration, men should foretell when, or where, or of what nation or family, that particular person should be born.

Another thing needful to be observed is, That oft-times, where there are no historical characters or events, which, taken separately, are of such a peculiar and singular nature as to distinguish one particular person from all others; a combination or series of things, which of themselves are of a common, and not of an extraordinary kind, may make up a clear historical description of one person, fufficiently characterising, and distinguifhing him from

all

[ocr errors]

all others whatsoever. There is miny a true description or history of a particular perfon, or event, or series of events, in which, if it be tken into pieces, it will be hard to find any one thing, of which there are not various resemblances in defcriptions of quite different persons or events *; just as in the truest pictures, done to the greatest perfection, it will be hard to find any one feature, of which there are not resemblances in the pictures of several other persons, who, upon the whole, may be very unlike one another. As it is not one particular feature, but the whole complexion, or complication of features, that infallibly distinguishes one face from all others; so it is not, generally speaking, one particular quality or event, but a complication of such things, that distinguishes one particular character or history from all others. These things low, on the one hand, that it is a particular advantage in the prophetical description of Christ, that it contains several characters, which, even taken separately, are peculiar to him; and, on the other hand, that those characters which, taken separately, are common to him with others, are, when taken complexly, or when joined with the more extraordinary and fingular characters, of manifold use in the argument in view.

The third general principle needful to be proved is, That the things contained in the prophecies in view, are things that could not be foreleen by.human fagacity, or fulfilled, as it were, by chance. Human lagacity can foresee events that happen according to the uniform course of nature, or events of which there are probable causes existing at the time when they are foretold. Thus, for instance, in the days of Seneca, the knowledge that learned men had of geography, and the state of navigation sven at that time, were probable causes of new dif

* Sec Ecclef. i. 9. 10,

coveries

« PreviousContinue »