« PreviousContinue »
though sometimes they may comprehend more events than one, ye are they never applicable to contrary events. The pagan oracles were delivered for the immediate direction of those who consulted them; and therefore a mistake at first was of more fatal consequence the scripture prophecies were intended more for the instruction and illumination of future ages, and therefore it is sufficient if time shall illustrate the particulars. The pagan oracles are no sooner understood, than they are despised, whereas the reverse is true of the scripture prophecies, and the better you understand, the more you will admire them. The completion of the former demonstrates their fraud and futility, the completion of the latter their truth and divinity.
Upon the whole, what an amazing prophecy is this, comprehending so many various events, and extending through so many successive ages, from the first establishment of the Persian empire, above 530 years before Christ, to the general resurrection! And the farther it extends, and the more it comprehends, the more amazing surely, and the more divine it must appear, if not to an infidel like Porphyry, yet to all who like Grotius have any belief of revelation. How much nobler and more exalted the sense, more inportant and more worthy to be known by men and to be revealed by God, when taken in this extended view, and applied to this long and yet regular series of affairs, by the most easy and natural construction; than when confined and limited to the times and actions of Antiochus, to which yet it cannot be reconciled by the most strained and unnatural interpretation! What stronger and more convincing proofs can be given or required of a divine providence, and a divine revelation, that there is a God who directs and orders the transactions of the world, and that Daniel was a prophet inspired by him, a man greatly beloved,' as he is often addressed by the angel! Our blessed Saviour, Matt. xxiv. 15, hath bestowed upon him the appellation of Daniel the prophet; and that is authority sufficient for any Christian: but in this work have been produced such instances and attestations of his being a prophet, as an infidel cannot deny, or if he denies, cannot disprove. The character that is given of him by Josephus is nothing more than strictly his due. It expresseth the sense of the Jewish church; and the same must be the sentiments of every man, who will consider and compare the prophecies and events together. That historian ia
acida, Romanos vincere posse.
The Roman cagle in her pride shall smite.]
commending the superior excellence of Daniel's predictions; "for he was wont,” says he, “ not only to foretel future things, as other prophets also did; but he likewise determined the time, wherein they should happen."* Afterwards, having mentioned some of Daniel's prophecies, he proceeds thus : “ All these things, God have ing shewn them to him, he left in writing, that they who read them, and behold the events, might admire Daniel for the honour vouchsafed unto him by God; and by these things might be convinced how much the Epicureans are mistaken, who deny a providence, and allow not that God regards human actions, nor that all things are governed by a blessed and immortal Being for the preservation of the whole, but assert that the world is carried on at random without a guide or ruler: which, if it was without a governor as they pretend, would have been destroyed by the blind impulse, and have perished and come to nought, as we see ships, which are destitute of pilots, overwhelmed by the storms, and chariots overturned and broken to pieces, which have no drivers. For by these things predicted by Daniel, they appear to me widely to err from the truth, who declare, that God hath no care of human affairs; for we should not see all things succeed according to his prophecies, if it happened that the world was governed by chance "+
* Ου γαρ τα μελλοντα μόνον προφητευων διετέλει, καθαπερ και οι άλλοι προφηται, άλλα και καιρον ὡριζον, εἰς ὃν ταυία ἀποβήσεται. Non enim futura solum, quemadmodum ut alii vates, prædicere solebat, sed et tempus, quo hæc eventura erant, præfinivit. [Translated in the text.] Joseph. Antiq. lib. 10, cap. 11, sect. 7, p. 465, edit. Hudson.
+ Ταυτα παντα ἐκεῖνος, Θει δείξαντος άυτω, συγγραψας κατελειψεν ώςε τις ἀναγιν ωσκοντας, και τα συμβαίνοντα σκοπυντας, θαυμάζειν έπι τη παρα το Θεό τιμη τον Δανιηλον και τις Επικυρειες ἐκ τύτων έυρισκειν πεπλανημένως, οἱ την τε προνοιαν ἐκβάλλυσι το βίου, και τον Θεον ἐκ ἀξίωσιν ἐπιτροπεύειν των πραγματων, ἐδ' ύπο της μακαριας και άφθαρτε προς διαμονην των όλων ήσιας κυβερνασθαι τα συμπαντα, άμοιρον δ ̓ ἡνιοχο και φροντις» τον κόσμον αυτοματως φερεσθαι λεγεσιν· ὃς εἶ τατον ἀπροςατητος ήν τον τρόπον, καθαπερ και τας ναυς έρημες κυβερνητων καταδυόμενας δρωμεν ύπο των πνευμάτων, ή και τα άρματα περιτρεπόμενα μη έχοντα τις ήνιοχοντας, συντρίβεις ἂν ἀπο της ἀπρονοητω φορας, ἀπολωλει και διεφθείρετο. Τοις γαρ προειρημένοις ὑπο Δανιήλυ, δοκυσι μοι σφοδρα της ἀληθες δόξης διαμαρτάνειν, οἱ τω Θεω μηδεμιαν εἶναι περι των ἀνθρωπινων ἀποφαινόμενοι προνοιαν ου yap ἀν κατα την έκείνη προφητείαν, εἰ συνεβαινεν ἀυτοματισμω τινι τον κόσμον διαγειν, παντα ἑωρωμεν ἀποβαίνοντα. Ista omnia, a Deo sibi monstrata, scriptis consignata reliquit ; ut qui ea legerint, et eventus perspexerint, Danielum mirentur ob tam insignem honorem illi a Deo habitum; et Epicureos magno in errore versari deprehendant, qui providentiam e vita ejiciunt, et a Deo res humanas curari non existimant, nec omnia natura beata et immortali (ad universitatis rerum perennitatem) regi et administrari volunt, sed sine rectore et curatore mundum suopte impetu ferri asseverant: qui si ita ut illi autumant præside careret, quemadmodum naves sine gubernatoribus videmus pro cellis et fluctibus obrui, currusque aurigis destitutos percelli, temerario sane motu labefactatus concideret periretque. Cumque ista præ dicta fuerint a Danielo, videntur rihi a vera opinione multum aberrare, qui Deum non curare pronunciant quid agat
In short, we see how well Daniel deserves the character which his contemporary Ezekiel hath given him, xiv. & xxviii., for his piety and wisdom; and these usually go together, for as the angel saith, ver. 10,- none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.' Happy are they, who both know the will of God, and do it!
OUR SAVIOUR'S PROPHECIES RELATING TO THE DESTRUCTION
IN FOUR PARTS.
THE Jewish church consisting only of a single nation, and living under a theocracy or the immediate government of God, experienced continual interpositions of a particular extraordinary providence in its favour and protection, and was from time to time instructed by prophets raised up and sent one after another as occasions required. But the Christian church being designed to comprehend the whole world, was like the world at first erected by miracle, but like the world too is since governed by a general ordinary providence, by established laws, and the mediation of second causes. This difference in the nature and constitution of the two churches, is the reason why prophecies, and miracles, and other supernatural powers, which were continued so long and repeated so frequently in the Jewish church, were in the Christian church confined to the first ages, and limited chiefly to the persons of our blessed Saviour, and his disciples, and their companions. There were prophets,' Acts xi. 27, who came from Jerusalem unto Antioch. One of them, named Agabus,' ver. 28, foretold the great dearth, which came to pass in the days of Claudius Cæsar.' The same prophet foretold likewise, Acts xxi. 10, 11, the bonds and imprisonment of St. Paul. Philip the evangelist had also, ver. 9, 'four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.' Prophetic as well as other spiritual gifts abounded in the primitive church; their sons and their daughters did prophesy,' Acts ii. 17, their young
genus humanum: non enim vaticiniis ejus eventus respondisse conspiceremus, si omnia in mundo temeritate regerentur. [Translated in the text.] ibid. p. 466.
men saw visions, and their old men dreamed dreams. But the only prophecies, which the Spirit of God hath thought fit to record and preserve, are some delivered by our blessed Saviour himself, and by his apostles, particularly St. Paul and St. John.
Our blessed Saviour, as he was the great subject of prophecy, so was an illustrious prophet himself; as he excelled in all other spi-itual gifts and graces, so was eminent in this also, and gave ample proofs of his divine commission by his prophecies as well as by his miracles. What he said upon one occasion, is equally applicable to all his predictions, that their accomplishment is a sufficient attestation of his being the Messiah; John xiii. 19,-Now I tell you before it come, that when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.' He foretold not only his own passion, death, and resur rection, but also the manner and circumstances of them, that he should be betrayed by one of the twelve, even by Judas Iscariot the son of Simon; that all the rest should be offended because of him that very night, and, notwithstanding their protestations to the contrary, should forsake him and fly: that Peter particularly, who was more zealous and eager than the rest, before the cock crew twice, should deny him thrice; that he should be betrayed to the chief priests, and be delivered to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, to spit upon, and to kill him; that he should be crucified, and the third day should rise again, and appear to his disciples in Galilee. He foretold that his apostles should be enabled of plain fishers to become fishers of men; that they should be endued with power from on high to speak with new tongues and to work miracles; that they should go forth into all nations, and publish the glad tidings of the gospel unto the uttermost parts of the earth. He foretold the persecutions and sufferings which his disciples should undergo and particularly by what manner of death Peter in his old age should glorify God, and that John should survive till after the destruction of Jerusalem. He foretold the rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles; that the kingdom of heaven should be taken away from the former, and be given to the latter, who should bring forth the fruits thereof; that the number of his disciples from small beginnings should increase wonderfully, as a little seed groweth into a tree, and a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump; that his church should be so founded upon a rock, that it should stand for ever, and all the powers of hell should not prevail against it. These things were most of them contrary to all human appearances and impossible to be foreseen by human prudence, or effected by human power; and he must be thoroughly acquainted with the
hearts of men, and with the direction and disposition of future events, who could foretel them with such certainty and exactness and some of them are actually accomplishing in the world at this present time.
But none of our Saviour's prophecies are more remarkable than those relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, as none are more proper and pertinent to the design of these discourses and we will consider them as they lie in the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Matthew, taking in also what is superadded by the other evangelists upon parallel occasions. These prophecies were delivered by our Saviour about forty years, and were committed to writing by St Matthew about thirty years, before they were to take effect. St. Matthew's is universally allowed to be the first of the four Gospels ;* the first in time, as it is always placed the first in order. It was written, as most writers affirm, in the eighth year after the ascension of our Saviour. It must have been written before the dispersion of the apostles, because St. Bartholemew is said to have taken it along with him into India, and to have left it there, where it was found several years afterwards by Pantænus. If the general tradition of antiquity be true, that it was written originally in Hebrew, it certainly was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, for there was no occasion for writing in that language after the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews into all nations. It is asserted upon good authority,§ that the Gospels of
* Πρωτον μεν γεγραπται το κατα τον ποτε τελωνην, ύςερον δε ἀποςολον Ιησυ Χριςε Ματθαιον. Primum evangelium scriptum esse a Matthæo, prius quidem publicano, postea vero apostolo Jesu Christi. Origen, apud Euseb. Eccles. Hist. lib. 5, cap. 25, &c. &c. [The first gospel was written by Matthew, who was originally a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ.
+ On croit que saint Matthieu commenca a travailler à son evangile, la huitéme année aprésla resurrection du Sauveur ; c'est a dire, l'an 41 de l'ere vulgaire. Presque tous les anciens mauuscrits Grecs le marquent ainsi à la fin de son volume. [It is thought that St. Matthew began the writing of his Gospel, in the eighth year after the resurrec tion of our Saviour; that is to say, in the forty-first of the common æra. Almost all the Greek MSS. notice it at the end of the volume.] Calmet preface. Magno consensu perhibent Patres, Matthæum, in gratiam credentium ex Judæis in Palæstina, evangelium suum scripsisse, et quidem, ut multi addunt, Hierosolymis, octavo post ascensioner Christi anno, qui Claudii imperatoris primus fuit. [The fathers generally agree that Matthew wrote his gospel for the sake of the believing Jews in Palestine: and indeeó as many add, in Jerusalem, in the eighth year after Christ's ascension, which was the first of the emperor Claudius.] Wetstein.
Euseb Eccles. Hist, lib. 5. cap. 10. Hieron. Catalog. Script. Eccles. in Pantano p. 112, vol, 4, par. 2, edit. Benedict.
Papias et Clemens Alex. apud Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. 2, ap. 15: Origen. apud Euseb, lib. 6, cap. 25; Tertull. advers. Marcion. lib. 4, sect. 5, p. 416 edit- Rigaltii Paris. 1674. Hieron. de Script. Eccles. p. 101, vol. 4, edit. Benedict, &c &c.