Page images

§ 5. Christ not only foretold things future, as having ability in himself to accomplish them, but he promised to give others ability to foretel future events by his Spirit, and hereby should honour him, as having, in his foreknowledge of future things, the same honour with the Father. John xvi. 7.

“ If I go not away, the Comforter will not come. But if I depart I will send him unto you." Verse 13, 14, 15. “ When the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth. For he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine. Therefore, said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you."

$6. It is observable, that never any prophet gave such great and manifold opportunity for proof and trial, whether he was a true prophet or not, in the multitude of predictions of events to be fulfilled in his life-time, and during that generation after his death ; and also in the plainness of his predictions ; most of them being delivered, not in visionary, mystical representations, but in a manner intelligible to all.

$ 7. Therefore, the supposition, that if Christ were an impostor, God would so order it, that all these predictions-many of them so strange and wonderful, and in themselves so exceedingly unlikely-should exactly come to pass; and that God's providence should so wonderfully confirm his words, beyond those of any other prophet that ever had been in the world is extremely unreasonable ; especially considering the following things :

$ 8. Ist. That God had of old given this as a sign, by which his people might know a true prophet: viz. the coming to pass of the things foretold by him. And this rule is annexed by Moses to that great promise, which God gave of the Messiah, Deut. xviii. 15, &c. " The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren like unto me; unto lim ye shall hearken. According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb, in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God; neither let me see this great fire any more that I die not. And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods; even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, how shall we know the which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet

[ocr errors]

speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing tollow not, nor come to pass ; that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken; but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously. Thou shalt not be afraid of him.”-Now, therefore, since Jesus professed to be the Messiah, and the great Prophet foretold and promised by God in this place, and uttered so many great and wonderful prophecies ; it might be expected, if he was a mere pretender, and spake presumptuously, and uttered what the Lord had not spoken, that God should not have confirmed his prophecies, in his providence; but, in that case, would have given his people opportunity to refute, by this rule, his pretences.

§ 9. 2d. That foretelling future events, is spoken of by God, as one great thing wherein the Messiah should differ from the false gods and fals prophets, and vain pretenders of the Heathens. In that great prophecy of the kingdom of the Messiah, beginning with the fortieth chapter of Isaiah to the end of the book, the foretelling of future events, in such a manner as to show, that the person who foretels, does foresee, and has a view of futurity, is often mentioned as a divine prerogative, and therefore as a good evidence, that he that does so is a divine person, or speaks by divine authority. Therefore the prophets and gods of the Heathens, are often challenged on this head, and the proof of their authority often put upon this issue ; Isaiah xli, 21-28; xlii. 8,9; xlvi. 9-12 ; xliv. 6–8; xlv, 3. and 21 ; xlvi. 10 ; xlviii. 14.-In this prophecy it is declared, that herein the Messiah should differ from all vain pretenders; (see chap. xli. 27 ; and xlii. at the beginning ; compared with chap. xli. 21 -29.) Now, therefore, is it credible, that God would so order it, that one who falsely pretended to be the Messiah, should, in so high a degree, have this honour, which God had mentioned as the great and distinguishing honour which he would put on the true Messiah, as his Elect, in whom his soul delighted ?

§ 10. 3d. That the foretelling of future events, as by his own knowledge, and as events that are to be accomplished by his own power, is spoken of by God, as his great prerogative, and as a good and sure evidence of the divinity of the person who can do thus ; and God speaks thus, in those very places in which he is foretelling the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah .xli. 21-23. “ Produce your cause, saith the Lord ; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring forth, and show us what shall happen : Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are Gods." Verse 26. “ Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know, and before time, that we may say, he is righteous ? 'Yea, there is none that showeth ; yea, there is none that declareth ; yea, there is none that heareth your words." Then, in the next words, God promises the Messiah.

And es

" He

Verse 27: “ The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them; and I will give to Jerusalem, one that bringeth good tidings;" i. e. that foreshows glorious future things which God is about to do for his people.

§ 11. Therefore, since God mentions the foretelling of future events in this manner, as a certain note of divinity, and a distinguishing honour that he would put on the Messiah, his elect in whom his soul delighteth; is it credible, that God would put this honour, in so great a degree, on one who falsely pretended to be the Messiah, and the beloved of God? pecially, when he pretended, in this respect, to have the same honour which belongs to God; as John xvi. 13--15. will show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath, are mine: Therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.” He, also, speaks of his knowledge of divine secrets, and future events, as the effect of the peculiar love that God had to him ; John v. 20. - The Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth."

§ 12. Great changes in kingdoms and nations, coming to pass according to God's predictions, is often spoken of by God himself as a great evidence of his being the only true God. The foretelling of the destruction of Babylon by Cyrus, is greatly insisted on by God, as a great evidence of his being the true God, and as most clearly and greatly distinguishing him from all pretenders to divinity. See chap. xli. 21--27; see, also, chap. xliv. 25. to the end, and xlvi. 10. But Jesus was one that professed divinity, and foretold revolutions of nations as great and strange as this, yea, far more wonderful. He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, which had been the holy city, and of the nation of Jews, who had been God's own people, and whose protector he had in a special manner been, and towards whom he exercised a most peculiar providence. He also foretold the deliverance of the Christians who were in Jerusalem. It was a greater thing, and less to be expected, that such a city and such a nation should be destroyed, than that destruction should befal a nation of aliens. Therefore, to foretel this destruction, with the various circumstances of it, as they actually took place, is a greater evidence of divine foreknowledge, than to foretel the destruction of a nation of aliens.

§ 13. The turning of the wilderness into a fruitful field, is spoken of by God as a peculiar work of God, and a certain sign of a divine hand; Isaiah xli. 18, 19, 20. “I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the

Shittah-tree, and the myrtle, and the oil-tree. I will set in the desert the fir-tree, and the pine, and the box-tree together, that they may see and know, and consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this.” It is evident, this is not intended in a literal sense, but signifies the happy change in the state of mankind, from a state wherein men are represented as barren, as briars and thorns, and as wild beasts, to a morally excellent and happy state. This might be proved, by the frequent use of such figures in the prophecies of scripture, But it is manifest, that this, according to Christ's prediction, was effected, in a remarkable manner, by Christ himself, and his apostles and followers, in the turning of the world from heathenism, to the knowledge and worship of the true God, to just apprehensions of his moral government, and from all manner of vice to virtue.

$14. It is remarkable, that it is foretold, Isaiah xlii. that the Messiah should set judgment in the earth, and his law or religion among the nations, particularly the isles, or Europe, against strong opposition, and through great sufferings, under which his church should seem ready to be extinguished, or crushed, like smoking flax, or a bruised reed; but that, finally, judgment should be brought forth to victory.


The propriety of a general judgment, and a future stute.

§ 1. The doctrine taught in the scriptures, that at the end of the world all mankind shall stand together before the judgment-seat of the supreme Lawgiver and Judge, to have all things visibly set to rights—and justice made visibly to take place with respect to all the persons, actions, and affairs of the moral world, by the infinitely wise, holy, and just Head of itis a most reasonable doctrine, and much commends itself to our belief, from the reason of the thing, on the supposition of a moral government maintained over the world by Him who created it. For this implies, that he governs the world as its lawgiver and judge, and will treat men as accountable creatures. God's moral government not only requires, that there should be divine laws, and an execution of them in rewards and punishments, but, also, that both should be made visible. It is requisite, that the subject should have proper means of knowing what the laws are, by which he is obligated, and the grounds of the obligation; and that others, who are his fellowsubjects, should also know his obligations. For, as men are made to dwell in society, this cannot well be, without knowing cach other's obligations, and being able to judge of the good Vol. VII,


or evil of each other's actions. It is likewise requisite, that the subject of the laws, should have proper means of knowing the grounds of the rewards or punishments of which he is the subject, in the execution of the laws; and that it should be made manifest, to the conscience of him who is rewarded or punished, what he is rewarded or punished for, and the ground on which the Judge assigns such a retribution; and, if he see others punished or acquitted, that the ground of it should be manifested to him, that he may see the justice of it. That there should be some judicial proceeding in which that should take place, seems absolutely necessary, in order to a proper manifestation of the grounds of the subject's reward or punishment, and a display of the justice of his judge to his own conscience; which must be, if the subject be dealt with as a rational moral agent.

$ 2. Hence it is of necessity, that every one of mankind must be the subject of such a dispensation of God towards him, which may fitly be called an appearing before the jndgment-seat of God. And it is most reasonable to suppose, that this judicial proceeding will not be secret ; that each individual will not be judged so, that the transaction with respect to him will be out of the sight and knowledge of all others; but that truth and righteousness will be made visibly to take place, after a prevalence of wrong, wickedness, and confusion, in the violations of a divine law, which was public, and the law of their union and regulation in society: many of those violations are, of course, visible to others, and others are concerned in them, either in being united in the wickedness, and accessary to it, or a party concerned in suffering the injury done by that wickedness.

§ 3. Reasonable creatures are the eye of the world; they are capable of beholding the beauty and excellency of the Creator's workmanship, and those displays of himself, which he has made in his works; and, therefore, it is requisite, that the beauty and excellency of the world, as God hath constituted it, should not be hid or kept secret. But the beauty of God's constitution of the world, consists mainly, without doubt, in the intelligent part of the world, wbich is the head and end of all the rest, et instar cmnium. But the beauty and order of God's constitution of this, consists chiefly in his moral regulation of it. Now, therefore, since God has made the beauty and regularity of the natural world, so publicly visible to all; it is much more requisite, that the moral beauty and regularity of his disposals in the intelligent world, should be publicly visible. For the beauty of God's works, consists a thousand times more in this, than in the other. It is reasonable to suppose, that these will be as publicly visible as the brightness and vautiful order and motions of the heavenly bodies, and the

« PreviousContinue »