Page images
PDF
EPUB

those who insist upon them I confess that I am not one of that number. On the contrary, I cannot deny their existence, nor shut my eyes to the effects which they may produce upon different descriptions of persons: and I know of no duty, therefore, more imperative upon a Christian minister, than to endeavour to confirm the faith of those who do believe: and to convince those who do not. Nor should he ever in my judgment consider the former a superfluous task, or the latter a hopeless one but should constantly bear in mind and act upon this advice of the great Apostle-Now we exhort you, brethren, (says St. Paul to the Thessalonians,) warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men." And his instruction to the same effect to Titus, that holding fast the faithful word as he had been taught, he might be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

With these few preliminary observations, I shall proceed at once to the consideration of a general argument against the prophecies, which is to be found in a book, written in the early part of the last century, which was cha

66

racterised by no less a judge than Bishop Warburton, as one of the most plausible books ever written, or likely to be written, against Christianity'." As the works of that eminent and learned Prelate are in every body's hands, this author may not have yet sunk into that oblivion, which it were desirable should be his fate; and his opinions may survive and be disseminated, when his name shall have been quite forgotten: it is fit, therefore, that their fallacy should be detected and exposed. His object was to shew, that as the New Testament professes to be founded upon the prophecies contained in the Old, and those prophecies are in general to be understood, not in a literal, but only in an allegorical or figurative sense; if that mode of interpretation were valid, Christianity would be firmly established, but if not, then it must be false 2. And he then goes on rather to insinuate, than positively to assert, that that mode of interpretation is fanciful, illogical, and unsatisfactory.

46.

1 Divine Legation, vol. vi. p.

2 Collins on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian

Religion.

[ocr errors]

One of the principal instances which he selects to illustrate his argument, is that famous prediction of Isaiah, which at this period of the year is always so forcibly brought to our minds. Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. These words he contends in their obvious and literal sense, relate to a young woman in the days of Ahaz, King of Judah. And this he endeavours to prove from the context, and cites many weighty and respectable authorities' from amongst believers, in support of his opinion. It is true that we have some equally eminent writers, who maintain, on the other hand, that the prediction did in its primary and literal sense refer to the Messiah. Perhaps an attentive consideration of the whole chapter and of the subsequent one, will at least leave a candid mind in doubt, whether this prophecy had not a double sense. And that it was accomplished in the first instance by the birth of a son to the prophet himself3: according to his own declaration. Behold I and the children

[blocks in formation]

whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of Hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion: and long afterwards, but in its far more important sense, by the birth of our Saviour.

But it is contended, not only that this and some other prophecies of the Old Testament, cited and said to have been fulfilled in the New, must be understood in a secondary and typical sense; but a solitary instance is produced of one which "does not expressly occur in any place of the Old Testament, and therefore (it is argued) cannot have been literally fulfilled'." It is this from the second chapter of St. Matthew. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the Prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene. It is admitted that these words do not occur in any of the Prophets but in the book of Judges it is said, the child shall be a Nazarite, alluding to Samson and the book of Judges is placed by St. Jerome among the Prophets. If therefore St. Matthew applied these words to Christ, which were originally spoken concern

[blocks in formation]

ing Samson, it must have been in a typical or secondary sense. Supposing therefore we concede to this Author for the sake of argument his premises, that there are in the New Testament, some predictions from the Old cited and applied to our Saviour, which can be so cited and applied only in a figurative and allegorical sense : we may still deny the validity of his conclusion, that Christianity must on that account be considered as false. And to maintain this position, we cannot take surer or better ground, than the declaration contained in the text: that Jesus did expound to his disciples from Moses and all the Prophets, the things concerning himself'. If we believe that assertion to be true, which every man who is really a Christian must necessarily do, we cannot doubt, that Jesus did accurately explain to the several writers of the Gospels, the manner in which the various predictions relating to the Messiah in the Old Testament, were accomplished by him: though they have in general contented themselves with simply stating the fact, without entering into particu

1 Fabricius (as quoted by Collins) says, Hic sermo ejus a multis non immerito anxie desideratus, et a Lucá fortasse auditus, nusquam extat. p. 7.

« PreviousContinue »