« PreviousContinue »
an eye witness to them both: "For he faith not, the Lord will do, "the Lord will call,-the Lord will deftroy, &c." But he doth, -he calleth, he deftroyeth.-Nay, and oftentimes-" he hath "done, he hath called, he hath destroyed,”—and so forth; as though he fpake of facts rather than of things that were but only near their accomplishment.
However, if any should still cavil at those prophecies, we would afk by what spirit could Isaiah fay," I am the Lord that maketh "all things; that faith of CYRUS, he is my fhepherd, and shall
perform all my pleasure; even saying to Jerufalem, thou shalt be “built; and to the temple, thy foundation shall be laid.—And "again, thus faith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whofe right-hand I have holden, to fubdue nations before him; and I "will loose the loins of kings to open before him the two leaved
gates, and the gates shall not be shut: I will go before thee, and "make the crooked places ftraight: I will break in pieces the
gates of brafs, and cut in funder the bars of iron; and I will give "thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of fecret places; "that thou mayft know, that I the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Ifrael. For Jacob my fervant's fake, and "Ifrael mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have "furnamed thee; though thou haft not known me." How many wonders do these few words contain? In what lofty and remarkable terms are the actions which this great prince was to perform, and. the deliverance he was deftined to bring about in favour of the. people of Ifrael defcribed? And how punctually did the almighty perform his promife, by putting the mightiest kingdoms of the earth under his subjection?
The prophet Isaiah, with great exactness, foretels, not only the captivity of the people of Ifrael, the facking of the city, and the overthrow of the temple; but the deftruction of the Chaldeans by the Perfians, and the building up of Jerufalem and the temple by them
them again. Suppose we should allow it poffible for a man to have a tolerable forefight of events, the accomplishment whereof is near at hand; yet furely, with the deepest penetration, he cannot fee fome hundreds of years before him, nor pry into affairs; during the whole continuance of a mighty monarchy, as Ifaiah doth, who calleth Cyrus by his name, a hundred years before he was born, to deliver Ifrael. Let the greatest enemies of the truth confult their own confciences, and tell me what artful contrivance, what ftratagem there could be in those things? They cannot fay, these prophecies were forged upon the event. For by the removal of the Jews to Babylon, the laws, prophecies, and writings of Ifrael, which were common among that people, were conveyed into divers places of the world; among which, they had this prophecy before Cyrus was born. And as this was in divers men's hands, it was impoffible to be a forgery.
Moreover, the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, though they were in places far remote from each other; the one in Jerufalem, the other in captivity at Babylon, foretel the very fame events. Jeremiah, however, is the more wonderful in this particular; for he prophefieth exprefsly, that the people who were carried away captive should be brought home again at the end of threefcore and ten years, notwithstanding the improbability of fuch a revolution: and yet he afferts it with fuch confidence, that one might fay, he led them by the hand into Jerufalem. And the event was answerable; for at the expiration of that term, the people were carried home again, as if Cyrus had been fent on purpose to verify the prophet's prediction.
The prophecies of Daniel likewife cannot but be a very convincing' argument of the divine authority of the facred scriptures, fince they are so very plain, that he rather feemeth an historian, than a prophet; for he fpeaketh of the tyranny of Antiochus, the profanation of the temple, and feveral other important articles, which came to
pafs fome hundreds of years after his decease, as of transactions some time elapsed. And if there be any fo fcrupulous as to dispute the Jewish chronicles, wherein it is recorded, that the prophecy of Daniel was read to Alexander the great, when he first entered into Jerufalem, to fhew him what was foretold of him; yet it cannot be denied, but that, when Ptolemy caused the scriptures to be tranflated, the prophecy of Daniel was extant, and was tranflated with the refidue, long before the tyranny of Antiochus, which is as plain a proof of its validity as can be required.
We shall pass by a multitude of the prophecies of Daniel, to make room for the mention of one in particular, which was very furprising, and truly remarkable. In the very first year of the reign of Darius, Daniel faid unto him; "Behold, there fhall ftand up yet three kings in Perfia, and the fourth fhall be far richer than they all and by his ftrength, through his riches, he shall stir up "all against the realm of Grecia." These few fentences contain the history of near one hundred and threefcore years. How could the wisest man on earth foresee how many kings fhould fucceed him on the throne, and much lefs foretel the actions of the fourth.But hear him further:-" And a mighty king, faith he shall stand "" up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his "will." How plainly doth this point out Alexander's coming out of Greece against Darius ?" And when he shall ftand up, adds
he, his kingdom fhall be broken, and fhall be divided towards "the four winds of heaven, and not to his pofterity; for his king"dom shall be plucked up." What hiftorian could have painted the monarchy of Alexander in more lively colours, which was but as a flash of lightning that paffeth from the weft unto the east, and concluded in itself, fince it was divided into many kingdoms, to wit, Macedonia, Thrace, Syria and Egypt, and conferred on princes that were not of his race? Had any one been disposed to VOL. III.
have made an abstract of the hiftory of the monarchy of Greece, could he have done it in more proper words than the foregoing?
Since these things are beyond difpute, what manner of men muft they be, who oppose themselves to fuch full conviction; and will not allow those writings to come from God, which bear fuch an inconteftible stamp of their divine original; and record fuch things, as neither men nor angels could ever pry into, and nothing less than infinite knowledge could foretel?
We have purpofely declined fpeaking of the many prophecies. relating to the miffion of St. John the Baptift, or the life, paffion, death and refurrection of our bleffed Redeemer; because, as those momentous articles are fo well known, a repetition of them would be needless to thofe, who either attend the fervice of the church, or confult the facred fcriptures in their closets; and if any have been hitherto incurious in affairs of fo high a concern, they cannot fail of meeting with fufficient satisfaction, if they will but be perfuaded to make proper enquiries.
Having laid before you this inconteftible evidence of the divineauthority of the facred fcriptures, it will be needlefs, I prefume, to enlarge on this topick for its confirmation.-It will be no fmall fatisfaction, however, to the ferious believer, to confider the purity of the gospel doctrine; the forgiveness of injuries, which is there so. strongly infifted upon, and that brotherly love, which is there likewife fo pathetically recommended, as to be made the characteristic of our profeffion: fuch arguments as thefe muft, doubtlefs, have their proper weight; and upon a comparison of the chriftian system. with that of any other we must earnestly cry out with St, Peter,— "To whom shall we go?—Thou haft the words of eternal life.” To conclude, though we have brought a variety of other arguments to demonstrate the divine authority of the facred books; yet the PROPHECIES therein recorded, and the teftimony of prophane
authors concerning the completion of them, is, in our opinion; fo full a proof, that none but men of the most confummate obftinacy can withstand fuch ftrong conviction.
"Let us then, who have heard with our ears, what our fathers "have declared: to wit, the noble works that thou, O Lord of hofts, haft accomplished in their days, and in the old time before "them, be unfeignedly thankful for such ineftimable mercies, and "let us with heart and voice approach the throne of grace and say, "O Almighty God, who hast built thy church upon the founda"tion of the apostles and prophets, Jefus Chrift himself being the "head corner-stone; grant us fo to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple "acceptable unto thee, through Jefus Chrift our Lord. Amen."