Page images




The authenticity of the facred Scriptures demonftrated from Prophecy.

2 PETER I. 19.



" all

HE late Bishop Sherlock's paraphrafe on our text runs thus. "The time will come when the things you hope "for fhall be placed in a clear light, when ye shall fee your expectations fully juftified in the accomplishment; in "the mean while ye do well to attend to PROPHECY, though but fmall glimmering light, and shining at a distance in a dark place, yet the best you have or can have at prefent. In another

[ocr errors]


part of his book he has this obfervation.-It is no commendation "of prophecy to fay, that it is very dark and obfcure; nor yet "can it be a reproach, provided it answers all the ends defigned by Providence." To enable ourselves therefore to judge of the importance of proofs derived from prophecy, we fhall felect certain inftances which have been as accurately registered as they were wonderfully fulfilled,

[ocr errors]


The prophecies which we find recorded in holy writ, were not, like those of the ancient Oracles and Sybils, couched in fuch darkand obfcure terms as would admit of any double or fallacious meaning, but pronounced with all the plainnefs and perfpicuity imaginable; nor were the Jews at any time an over-credulous people, as the greater part of the Heathens were, but on the contrary, very obftinate, and very hard to be convinced; and this is fully evident from that exclamation of the prophet Ifaiah, "Lord, "who hath believed our report?"It was for this very reason, that they demanded a fign of our Saviour:-And the woman of Samaria had never acknowledged him as fuch, had he not given her fufficient proof of his being endowed with more than human knowledge. In fhort, when we take a furvey of a few of the most known prophecies, and find, by fufficient teftimonies, that they were accomplished long after the decease of those who pronounced them, we must certainly entertain a moft venerable idea of those holy men, and set a high value on their writings, which have been miraculously transmitted to pofterity for the conviction and advantage of these latter ages.

We shall begin with the promise delivered unto Abraham ; "Thy feed shall be a ftranger in a land that is not theirs, and "shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years *and also that nation, whom they fhall ferve, will I judge: and "in the fourth generation they fhall come hither again:"What oracle did ever foretel any thing in fuch direct terms, fo manifeftly, and fo long before it came to pafs? And yet that prophecy was in every refpect fulfilled at the appointed time: and who can fairly charge it with the leaft fallacy or deceit? fince Mofes, in his pilgrimages with the children of Ifrael, wholly relied on this promise, it highly behoved him, doubtless, to speak of a prediction, that was common among them, and handed down by uninterrupted tradition from father to fon. And moreover, as it was


received by Abraham, fo was it believed by Mofes, and actually put in execution by Joshua.

Jacob made his laft teftament in Egypt, in which there are as many prophecies as there are words; not in regard to his own children only, but to the tribes likewife, that should owe their rife to them.-One inftance, we prefume, will be fufficient.— 'Judah, thou art he, whom thy brethren shall praise: thy father's "children shall bow down before thee. The fceptre fhall not

[ocr errors]

depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until "SHILOH Come."-The true and genuine meaning of which prophecy was ever held by the Hebrews to be this; that the sceptre was to remain in the poffeffion of Judah, and that the fovereign jurifdiction was to be lodged in him, until the coming of the MESSIAH.-Now Reuben, Simeon, and Levi were the eldest brethren of Jacob's house; and therefore this remarkable paffage was directly repugnant to the order of nature. Moreover, Mofes, who led the people of Ifrael out of Egypt, was of the tribe of Levi, and Joshua, who brought them into the land of Canaan, of the tribe of Ephraim.-The judges were fometimes of one tribe and fometimes of another. And Saul, the first king that was elected by the people, was of the tribe of Benjamin, which was the youngest of them all.-Thefe circumstances, doubtless, gave a cruel fhock to the prophecy. The fceptre, however, in a fhort time, passed from Saul to David; from a king to a young shepherd of Judah, where it was firmly fixed, notwithstanding the heavy murmurs and complaints of the other tribes against it.

If it should here be demanded how fhall we be affured that these were the words of Jacob?-Is it not natural, as well as rational to reply, that the fame credit ought to be given to this history, as to any other; and who prefumes to difpute the authority of that writer, who has maintained his character unfpotted, through a long feries of ages?This, however, hath further evidence:



evidence. For it is Mofes, who records this prophecy; and what end could he propose to answer by fo doing, as he was of the tribe of Levi. If he did this out of favour to Judah, why was he not afraid of difobliging, not only Reuben, but Simeon and Levi? -Or, what reason can be affigned why he did not rather chuse to make the prophecy fall on the tribe of Levi, fince that would have added weight to his authority? Nay, what gratification could this be even to Judah, fince that tribe was then excluded, and had no share in it till a thousand years afterwards? When all these circumstances fhall be duly confidered, this prophecy has moft affuredly all the evidence of the spirit of God, that can reafonably be defired.

In the bleffings which Jacob conferred on his pofterity, he points. out the feveral parts that fhould be allotted to each of his children in the land of Canaan, as if he himself had been in the actual poffeffion of them: To one he affigns the fea-coast; to another the corn-country, and to a third the vineyards, in the very same manner as they were some hundred of years after wards divided amongst them. Now, how could this be, but by the all-wife direction of the fovereign Difpofer of all things?-But when we read, that Jacob, in bleffing the children of Jofeph, preferred Ephraim, the younger fon, before Manaffes the elder; and that when he was warned thereof with fome concern by the father, his anfwer was ;. "I know it, my fon, I know it; he also fhall. become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother will be greater than he, and his feed fhall be"come a multitude of nations." What motive could induce Jacob to fay fo, or Mofes to record fuch prophecy?.

Again, Mofes is continually reminding the people of the conqueft of Canaan, according to the promise, and therefore this prophecy muft needs be well known among them. Moreover, Mofes portions out the land, as if they had been in actual poffeffion ;;


our respective share; would he

nominates proper arbitrators to make the just partitions for them; prefcribeth laws for their establishment, and the regulation of their future conduct; lays them down a plan, or platform, of their several cities, fuburbs, and houses which they should erect; injoineth them the tilling of their grounds; their refting on the seventh year, their public feftivals and other folemnities; and appointeth cities of refuge for fuch as fhould be guilty of cafual man-flaughters. This was dictating as if the country was already in their hands. And yet what likelihood was there that they should ever be masters of that land, when they burned bricks in Egypt, or when they lingered in the wilderness? Or, indeed, at the return of the men that were fent to spy out the land, when they reported nothing but the beauty of the place and the intrepidity of the people?- Suppofe a man should at this day portion out France or Spain, and affign to every one of us not expofe himself to the utmost contempt, and become the object of derifion? And yet Mofes himself never entered into that land, and those who waited for it died in the way. At the time appointed, however, the Canaanites gave place. Now, is it reafonable to fuppofe, that the people would ever have followed Mofes, or that Mofes, who might have been fo well provided for in the court of Pharaoh, would ever have attempted to lead them through fuch a long feries of wayward diftreffes, had they not been wellaffured that the promise came from God himself? But Mofes proceedeth still further; for as he forefaw that they would become masters of Canaan, fo he foreknew that they would offend the Almighty, by ferving Baal after they were in poffeffion. He forefaw that they would ungratefully forget their God; and that God, however, even in his wrath, would remember mercy. He forefaw that they would be difperfed, and scattered over the face of the whole earth, and be trodden under the feet of strangers. In fhort, he forefaw that God would call the Gentiles into his church in T 2 their

« PreviousContinue »