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ther will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."
The different effects, which the same religious truths and the same religious advantages produce upon different persons, afford one instance of a state of trial. God is now proving the hearts of the children of men, drawing them to himself by persuasion, by that moral evidence which is enough to satisfy, not to overpower. Faith in this way becomes a moral virtue. A trial is taken of the goodness and honesty of the heart. "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light; but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" The same seed of the word is scattered by the blessed sower in various soils, and the quality of the soil is left to appear by the produce.
EXTERNAL EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY-PROPHECY.
HAD Jesus appeared only as a messenger of heaven, the points already considered might have finished the defence of Christianity, because we should have been entitled to say that miracles such as those recorded in the Gospel, transmitted upon so unexceptionable a testimony, and wrought in support of a doctrine so worthy of God, are the complete credentials of a divine mission. But the nature of that claim which is made in the Gospel requires a further defence: for it is not barely said that Jesus was a messenger from heaven, but it is said that he was the Messiah of the Jews," the prophet that should come into the world."* John, his forerunner, marked him out as the Christ.t He himself, in his discourses with the Jews, often referred to their books, which he said wrote of him.‡ Before his ascension, he expounded to his disciples in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.§ They went forth after his death declaring that they said none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come ;|| and in all their discourses and writings they held forth the Gospel as the end of the law, the fulfilment of the covenant with Abraham, the performance of the mercy promised to the fathers.
If the Gospel be a divine revelation, these allegations must be true; for it is impossible that a messenger from heaven can advance a false claim. Although, therefore, the nature of the doctrine, and the confirmation which it receives from miracles, might have been sufficient to establish our faith, had no such claim been made; yet, as Jesus has chosen to call himself the Messiah of the Jews, it
* John iv. 26; vi. 14. Luke xxiv. 27.
↑ John i. 29-31.
John v. 39, 46.
is incumbent upon Christians to examine the correspondence between that system contained in the books of the Jews, and that contained in the New Testament; and their faith doth not rest upon a solid foundation, unless they can satisfy their minds that the characters of the Jewish Messiah belong to Jesus. It is to be presumed that he had wise reasons for taking to himself this name, and that the faith of his disciples will be very much strengthened by tracing the connexion between the two dispensations. But the nature and the force of the argument from prophecy will unfold itself in the progress of the investigation; and it is better to begin with attending to the facts upon which the argument rests, and the steps which lead to the conclusion, than to form premature conceptions of the amount of this part of the evidence for Christianity.
In every investigation it is of great importance to ascertain precisely the point from which you set out, that there may be no danger of confounding the points that are assumed, with those that are to be proven. There is much reason for making this remark in entering upon the subject which we are now to investigate, because attempts have been made to render it confused and inextricable, by mis-stating the manner in which the investigation ought to proceed. Mr. Gibbon, speaking of that argument from prophecy, which often occurs in the apologies of the primitive Christians, calls it an argument beneath the notice of philosophers. "It might serve," he says, "to edify a Christian, or to convert a Jew, since both the one and the other acknowledge the authority of the prophets, and both are obliged with devout reverence to search for their sense and accomplishment. But this mode of persuasion loses much of its weight and influence, when it is addressed to those who neither understand nor respect the Mosaic dispensation, or the prophetic spirit."* Mr. Gibbon learned to use this supercilious inaccurate language from Mr.
Gibbon's Roman History, chap. xv,
Collins, an author of whom I shall have occasion to speak fully before I finish the discussion of this subject, and who lays it down as the fundamental position of his book, that Christianity is founded upon Judaism, and from thence infers that the Gentiles ought regularly to be converted to Judaism before they can become Christians. The object of the inference is manifest. It is to us, in these later ages, a much shorter process to attain a conviction of the truth of Christianity, than to attain, without the assistance of the Gospel, a conviction of the divine origin of Judaism: and, therefore, if it be necessary that we become converts to Judaism before we become Christians, the evidence of our religion is involved in numberless difficulties, and the field of objection is so much extended, that the adversaries of our faith may hope to persuade the generality of mankind that the subject is too intricate for their understanding. The design is manifest; but nothing can be more loose or fallacious than the statement which is employed to accomplish this design. In order to perceive this you need only attend to the difference between a Jew and a Gentile in the conduct of this investigation. A Jew, who respects the Mosaic dispensation and the prophetic spirit, looks for the fulfilment of those prophecies which appear to him to be contained in his sacred books, and when any person declares that these prophecies are fulfilled in him, the Jew is led, by that respect, to compare the circumstances in the appearance of that person with what he accounts the right interpretation of the prophecies, and to form his judgment whether they be fulfilled. A Gentile, to whom the divinity of the prophecies was formerly unknown, but who hears a person declaring that they are fulfilled in him, if he is disposed by other circumstances to pay any respect to what that person says, will be led, by that respect, to inquire after the books, in which these prophecies are said to be contained, will compare the appearance of that person with what is written in these books, and will judge from this comparison how far they correspond. Both the Jew and the Gentile may be led, by this comparison, to a firm conviction that the messenger, whose character and history they examine, is the person foretold in the prophecies. Yet the Jew set out with the belief that the prophecies are divine; the Gentile only attained that belief
in the progress of the examination. It is not possible, then, that a previous belief of the divinity of the prophecies is necessary in order to judge of the fulfilment of them; for two men may form the same judgment in this matter, the one of whom from the beginning had that belief, and the other had it not.
The true point, from which an investigation of the ful filment of prophecy must commence, is this, that the books, containing what is called the prophecy, existed a considerable time before the events which are said to be the fulfilment of it. I say, a considerable time, because the nearer that the first appearance of these books was to the event, it is the more possible that human sagacity may account for the coincidence, and the remoter the period is, to which their existence can be traced, that account becomes the more improbable. Let us place ourselves, then, in the situation of those Gentiles whom the first preachers of the Gospel addressed; let us suppose that we know no more about the books of the Jews than they might know, and let us consider how we may satisfy ourselves as to the preliminary point upon which the investigation must proceed.
The prophecies, to which Jesus and his apostles refer, did not proceed from the hands of obscure individuals, and appear in that suspicious form which attends every prediction of an unknown date and a hidden origin. They were presented to the world in the public records of a nation; they are completely incorporated with these records, and they form part of a series of predictions which cannot be disjoined from the constitution and history of the state. This nation, however singular in its religious principles, and in what appeared to the world to be its political revolutions, was not unknown to its neighbours. By its geographical situation, it had a natural connexion with the greatest empires of the world. War and commerce occasionally brought the flourishing kingdom of Judea into their view; and, although repugnant in manners and in worship, they were witnesses of the existence and the peculiarities of this kingdom. The captivity, first of the ten tribes by Salmanazar, afterwards of the two tribes by Nebuchadnezzar, served still more to draw the attention of the world, many centuries before the birth