صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the apostle Paul foretells that there should not be a life. lost of those who sailed with him, notwithstanding the severity of the tempest; we find afterwards, that the prediction depended upon the sailors staying in the ship. So that probably what was foreseen was, that the ship and crew might be saved by the skill of the sailors; and that, if they deserted it, it must perish.

These, and other passages, which might be quoted, seem to favour the preceding attempt to solve part of the difficulty of the Divine prescience of the actions of free creatures. But it must still be confessed, that the subject is involved in such intricacies as we shall not in all probability be able to clear up in the present state. However it be, we are not immediately concerned with any thing but what may affect doing our duty and that neither prescience, nor any thing else, does any way abridge our freedom in performing that, and so securing our final happiness, we need not use any reasoning to be convinced. We have no other assurance that we exist, than feeling; and we have the same for our freedom. Every man feels, that in all his actions, whether virtuous, vicious, or indifferent, he is naturally free. And what we feel we cannot bring ourselves seriously to doubt, if we would, though we may cavil at any thing.

That many parts of Scripture prophecy, not yet accomplished, are obscure, and of doubtful signification; so that the most learned interpreters are divided in their sentiments about what may be intended by them, must be acknowledged. And that this is no more than might have been expected, will appear by considering, that had many future events been too clearly predicted, the obstinacy of men Laight have rendered miracles necessary upon every occasion to bring about the completion of them.

With all the pretended obscurity of prophecy, there are still enough of unquestionable and conspicuous completions to show that the predictions of Scripture were given, not by chance, nor by bold conjecture, nor by partial informations from evil spirits, as some have thought was the case of some of the responses of the heathen oracles, but by One who saw through futurity down to the most distant periods, from the time of their being given out; by Him,

who holds the reins of government in his own hand. The few following examples may serve as a proof of this. Moses, in his account of the deluge, (Gen. viii. 21, 22.) assures mankind, in the name of God, that there should never be another universal flood; but that the four seasons of the year, and the revolutions of day and night, should go on without interruption to the end of the world. This is one of those predictions which could not have been written since the event, as has been pretended, in derogation of some others: the period taken in by it not being yet concluded. And considering the extraordinary wisdom so conspicuous in the character of Moses, it does not seem conceivable, that he, who expected to bave the opinion of future ages as an inspired person, should, without Divine authority, have ventured his whole character upon such an affirmation as this, which he could have let alone, lest the event should have detected him for an impostor. For how could he know, without inspiration, what change in nature might happen, which might totally change the course of days and nights and seasons? How could we know that there might not happen some such revolution in his own times, to the utter ruin of his charac→ ter as a prophet? How could he know that another deluge might not come according to the order of Nature; and as he had published the account of the preservation of Noah and his family in the ark, was it not natural to expect, that upon the least appearance of such another judgment, people would set about making arks for their own safety, which would have proved the total degrading of his character as a prophet and a lawgiver? The event hitherto has answered the prediction, and, in all probability, future ages will fully prove it to have been given from God.

The same wise lawgiver of the Jews founded a very important part of that constitution in a manner extremely injudicious and improvident, if we suppose him not to have acted upon Divine authority. What I refer to, is his confining the priesthood, which he declares to be everlasting to the single family of Aaron. Had he not done this upon Divine authority, he must have run an obvious hazard of the downfall of the religious polity he was setting up, by the possible failure of male issue in Aaron's

family, who had only two sons, Eleazer and Ithamar. This part of the Mosaic constitution may therefore be considered as a prediction, that in the course of several thousand years, there should not be wanting male issue proceeding from one single family, at that time consisting only of two persons. Had this prediction failed; had these two persons, or their posterity, been cut off by natural death, or by an enemy, the whole Jewish economy must have sunk for want of a priesthood, and all the prophecies had been falsified, or had never been given.

In the book of Jeremiah, chap. i. and following, it is foretold that Babylon, the greatest city, and seat of the greatest empire at that time in the world, should not only be destroyed, but that it should never again be inhabited. Which last particular no man of prudence or judgment would have ventured his credit as a prophet upon, when he could have avoided giving any such prediction, unless he had been, by Divine inspiration, assured of what he affirmed. For nothing could well be imagined more improbable, than that the seat of the empire of the world should be destroyed; and still more unlikely was it, that it should never be rebuilt. But the event shows the truth of the prophecy. And this prediction is likewise one of those of which it cannot be pretended that it was written since the event.

In Ezek. xxx. 13, it is expressly foretold, that there should be "no more a prince of the land of Egypt." No man of judgment would have ventured, without authority, his credit upon such an asservation, as he could have been wholly silent on the head. For who could know, without inspiration, that there should never more a prince, a native of Egypt, sit on the throne of that kingdom? The event however has verified the prediction. For soon after the time when it was given, Egypt was made a province of the Persian empire, and has been governed ever since by foreigners, having been, since the fall of the Persian monarchy, subject successively to the Macedonians, the Saracens, the Mamelukes, and the Turks, who possess it at present. This is one of the prophecies against which it cannot be objected, that it is possible it may have been written since the event.

In the xxvi. chapter of Ezekiel, it is foretold, that the great and powerful city of Tyre, at that time the general resort of traders, and mart of the world, should be utterly desolate, so as to be a place for the spreading of nets, and should never more be rebuilt. This prediction, at the time it was given, so utterly improbable, has been literally fulfilled, as may be seen in Maundrell's Voyage. And Dr. Pocoke, late bishop of Ossory, says, in his travels in the east, that as he sailed by the place where it formerly stood, he saw the ruins of it covered with fishing nets.

The Scriptures of both Old and New Testament are full of predictions of the dispersion of the Jews for a long period of time, as a punishinent for their vices, and of their being at last restored to their own land in great triumph and happiness. So early as the days of Moses, whose æra profane history confirms to have been about the time we place it, viz. about three thousand years ago, we have predictions of the ruin which was to come upon that people, in case of their disobedience, (and which did come accordingly,) so clear and explicit, that no writer of our time, with the help of History, and particularly Josephus' account of the destruction of Jerusalem, and with the advantage of knowing the present unhappy condition of that people, almost in all the countries of the world, but our own, could in an imitation of the prophetic style, describe their case more exactly. In the xxviii. chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses threatens their disobedience with judgments and plagues of every kind; particularly, that they should "become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword in all countries;" that "an enemy should come upon them swiftly as eagles," probably alluding to their conquest by the Romans; that they should, in the severity of the siege, be reduced "to eat their very children;" that they should "be scattered through all countries of the world;" and that they should be forced "to serve other gods," as they accordingly are, in the countries where the inquisition is established, obliged to worship the host, which numbers of them comply with, though a gross violation of the second commandment, to avoid falling into the hands of that merciless court; and that among the nations where they should be scattered, they should "have no case nor

rest," but "a trembling heart," and "failing of eyes," and "sorrow," and "continual fear, for their lives," with many other threatenings to the same purpose.

It is also foretold by the following prophets, as well as by Moses, that notwithstanding this unexampled dispersion of the Jews into all nations, they should be still preserved a distinct people, that God "will not destroy them utterly," but that," when they shall call to mind among all the nations whither God has driven them, and shall return to the Lord, he will turn their Captivity, and gather them from all the nations-from the farthest parts of the earth-even in the LATTER days." That "though he makes a full end of all other nations," (by revolutions and mixtures of one people with another, which renders it impossible to distinguish their genuine descendants,) “yet he will not make a full end of them;" but "a remnant of them" shall be kept unmixed with any other people, and "shall return out of all countries whither God has driven 'them;" that he will" set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of ISRAEL," and "gather together the dispersed of Judah," (the posterity of the ten tribes, at present, according to Scripture prophecy, undistinguished, as well as of the two,) " from the four corners of the earth;" which shows that the return here spoken of, is not that from the Babylonish captivity; as is also evident from its being fixed to the " latter days," and from its being also spoken of by the prophet Hosea, who lived after the return from the seventy years captivity of Babylon, and by Ezekiel, who lived in the captivity itself.

And in the New Testament it is clearly foretold by Christ, that Jerusalem should be destroyed with such destruction, "as had not been since the beginning of the world, nor ever should be." And it is remarkable that he again expressly mentions the "eagles ;" in all probability to point out the Romans, (who bore eagles on their standards,) for the executioners of the Divine vengeance on that perverse people. Josephus' History of that tragical complication of events, corresponds exactly to our Saviour's prediction of it. He also foretells that the Jews should be carried "captive into all nations, and that Jerusalem should be trodden down of the Gentiles, till the times

« السابقةمتابعة »