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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 himself : according to his own declaration. Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord Hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion : and long afterwards, but in its far more important sense, by the birth of our Saviour.
· Collins, p. 45.
2 Prideaux and others. * See Hey's Lectures, vol. i. p. 245.
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
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
* Fabricius (as quoted by Collins) says, Hic sermo ejus a multis non immerito anxie desideratus, et a Lucá fortasse auditus, nusquam extat. p. 7.
lars, which, it never could have occurred to them, would be likely to become the subject of doubt or debate. For we shall probably see in the course of this discussion, why such difficulties as those which are founded
upon double, secondary, or allegorical senses, could never have found a place in their minds, and ought not therefore to be suffered to exercise any influence over our's, at all prejudicial to our holy religion.
If we are asked, why we give implicit credit to the declaration, that Jesus did expound all these things to his disciples ? Our answer is not difficult. We believe him on the ground of the miracles which he wrought : the very ground upon which only he uniformly claimed to be believed : and
which the commentators generally rest the proof of his divinity. If again we are asked, what proof have we that the miracles were actually performed ? Our answer is equally ready. The credibility of the historians of the Gospel : who profess to have been eye-witnesses of the facts which they relate : who appear to have had no imaginable motive for publishing what they knew to be false : and who must have maintained its truth at the constant hazard of their
lives. If such men are not to be credited, even when they bear witness to the performance of miracles; there is an end to all reliance upon human testimony : and universal scepticism is its necessary consequence.
But were their histories published at or about the time to which they have been referred: that is, one of them at least, within forty years after the events which they record had occurred : and are they now substantially what they were then ? With respect to the last point it is only necessary to observe, that although the vigilance of collaters has detected very numerous various readings in the different manuscripts, none have been found to affect any material fact or doctrine; and the same observation may be applied to the different versions which have been made of them !. With respect to the first point, we have the strongest evidence of which the nature of the case will admit. From the third century, when Eusebius wrote, there is no period at which the existence of the Gospels is not as
Hey's Lectures, book i. chapters 8 and 9; and Bishop Tomline's Elements, vol. i. p. 13.