Page images

dictory, and absurd speculations-speculations which have justly rendered the authors of them the objects of public derisiðn : and they have, no doubt, contributed to blind the eyes of mankind on the purport and doctrine of scripture prophecy, and to betray them into the toils of designing and insane pretenders. When persons have embraced such a theory on the doctrine and design of scripture prophecy, as would quadrate with the notion of an eternal prescience, and an inagumentable knowledge in the Deity, their premises have been unsound, and therefore all their deduc. tions from those premises have been equally fallacious. Only let the following predictions be regarded as personifications of the evils which they foretel, and they will be perfectly intelligible, and perfectly consistent with human reason and the general analogy of scripture truth : but an assumption that they are personal predictions, would involve contradictions as revolting to our reason and moral principles, as they would be derogatory to the moral character of the Governor of the world. “ And that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped ; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God.” 2 Thess. ii. 3, 4. Here the man of sin is represented as being already in existence; although at that time, he must have been far from having arrived at his maturity of growth and power. “ For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth, will let, until he be taken out of the way: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders.” ver. 7, 9.

There was, undoubtedly, a certain and personal prescience of the Messiah, which predicted the exact circumstances of his appearing on the earth. God had purposed and determined on the gift of his Son in the redemption of the world; therefore his name was to be called Jesus; he was to be born at Bethlehem; was to be the son of a virgin; was to belong to the tribe of Juda, and was to be of the lineage of David ; and he was to make his appearance in the world before the sceptre departed from Juda. The prophets predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. God was prescient of all these things,

because he had determined to bring them to pass. And I have no doubt whatever, that the Deity revealed the sum total of his determinations on these particular points, and, by consequence, the total sum of his knowledge.

There were other predictions relating to the Messiah, which contain very little of the particularity and narrative that distinguish the former species of predictions. They foretel his general reception by the Jews, his miracles and discourses, as well as his sufferings and his death ; but they contain no personal identifications. They predict his opening the eyes of the blind; but they do not mention Bartimeus: they predict his giving speech to the dumb, but they say nothing of his spitting on the tongue of the dumb man, or of his putting his fingers in his ears, or of his saying, Be thou opened : they foretel his healing the lame; but they contain no history of the man who lay for so long a time by the pool of Bethesda : they do, indeed, predict his raising the dead; but they do not contain a single word about the transactions at the grave of Lazarus, or of the tender and affecting circumstances which attended the raising of the widow's son: every one of which would be absolutely indispensable, if we would demonstrate an inaugmentible knowledge from the facts of prophecy.

If it be not possible to produce any single case in which every thing has been predicted concerning any event which has afterwards transpired, there is no evidence in scripture prophecy to prove an inaugmentable knowledge; and the absolute impossibility of such an historical prediction, must to every ingenuous mind clearly demonstrate the absolute impossibility of an infinite and inaugmentible prescience.

When we read that the prophets searched diligently what, or what manner of times, the Spirit which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, &c., we are very apt to overlook the important and obvious fact, that it is not the chronology of the times, but the character of the times, which the ancient prophets inquired into with so much curiosity and diligence.

“ Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to

And so

seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils ; speaking lies in hypocrisy; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats.” 1 Tim. iv. 1–3. Now every protestant can clearly and infallibly identify the church of Rome in several of these features of character; and therefore we are very apt to conclude that such predictions must have been personal, and that without considering what terrible consequences would of necessity follow

upon such an assumption. But if the foregoing prediction be personal, why is not the person of the Pope clearly identified therein ? If that had been done, it would have formally convicted the church of Rome itself, and would have opened the

eyes of every nation in the christian world. Here, again, I shall perhaps be gravely told, that such a disclosure of future events would be incompatible with human freedom and the moral government of the world.

we see, that when our ingenuous opponents cannot possibly stand any longer on their own ground, they will very politely beg a footing for a moment upon ours. But, stand off, man! and keep on thy own side of the argument. What hast thou to do with human freedom and the moral government of the world?

Are not human freedom and the moral government of the world, as incompatible with a certain and eternal prescience, as they are with the delivery of certain and formal

predictions ? The former is real; the latter is only verbal ; and yet we are to believe that moral freedom may comport with a real and certain prescience, but not with a verbal annunciation of that prescience! wonderful logic! This is juggling with a witness ! Did ever any vagabond impostor look more silly and confounded, when his wickedness was brought to light? And let me ask why this vagabond impostor of eternal prescience, that has been travelling over Europe for these fourteen centuries, should not be kicked off the stage; hooted out of town; transported beyond the seas; or suspended from the gallows?

Let me likewise ask of my reader, why was not the time of the flood as distinctly and chronologically predicted as the sojourn in Egypt, or the captivity in Babylon? Was it not because the longsuffering of God waited to witnesss their repentance; and repeal the de

But you say,

cree? And why was the desolation of Jerusalem fixed in the first instance for one period of duration, and afterwards abridged ? Was it not because the Lord had reason to mitigate the severity of his original purpose ? Every man, therefore, must either renounce his own reason on this point, or abandon for ever the notion of an inaugmentable knowledge in the Supreme Being.

The following case is a specious and popular sophism, by which the advocates of predestination have endeavoured to confound necessity and liberty. “If a person be left in a commodious and splendid mansion, where he has every thing to regale his appetites and gratify his wishes, and from which he has no inclination to depart; although every door be locked, and every means of escape impracticable, yet if he be ignorant of the fact, must not that person be actually free?"

What, free to leave the house, when it is impossible he should make his escape ? But you say, " He is ignorant of his situation.” But let me ask you, Does that ignorance render his escape the less impracticable ?

“ He has no inclination to leave.” And does his having no inclination to leave, render his evacuation of the place any less impossible than a contrary temper of mind would do? The advocates of prescience can only reconcile their system with an imaginary, but not a real liberty : nor would the most unreserved disclosure of the secrets of an eternal prescience have any influence upon the real condition of mankind : it might alarm their fears a little earlier than the advocates of such a theory could wish, but it would have no influence upon the real condition of any being, either in time or in eternity.

The notion of an eternal prescience is the most invidious and deleterious nostrum that was ever foisted upon dulity of the human mind, and the most adulterating ingredient that was ever introduced into christian theology. It is an illicit mint, in which the most fictitious material may be coined, and from which it may be issued in such quantities as to corrupt the entire currency of religious truth. Only let the authors of this base coinage issue to their utmost ability, and we shall not have one genuine coin, one single christian verity, in circulation from one end of the world to the other. It is high time for the christian world, and especially for christian ministers, to take up the

the cre


balances of rational investigation, and place the standard of unsophisticated scripture authority on the one side, and the coinage of human creeds and theological systems on the other, and boldly lift the beam. If every ecclesiastical dogma, and every religious opinion, were only brought to this rational and scripture test, we should eventually redeem the sterling currency of religious doctrine ; and in a very few ages, not a single doit of base or corrupted theology, would be left in circulation in any part of the christian world,

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »