« AnteriorContinuar »
a man of sorrows, and as made exceeding glad with the light of God's countenance ; as dying, and yet abolishing death ; as despised and rejected, and as honoured and followed.* These things are so contradictory, that it seems impossible, that they should be united in the same person. Accordingly the Jews, unable to reconcile the predicted humiliation of Christ, and the glory which necessarily belongs to his office, have invented, for the solution of the difficulty, the notions of two Messiahs, of whom the one is to suffer, and the other to reign. But this character, which is apparently made up of inconsistent qualities, was realized in Jesus Christ, who, though mean in respect of his manhood, is, in his divine person, the image of the invisible God, and the first-born of every creature ; who by dying conquered death, and by his sorrows obtained for him. self and his followers everlasting felicity ; who was contumeliously treated, and indignantly rejected, by the Jews, but was preached to the Gentiles, and believed on in the world. A character, in which the extremes of abasement and exaltation meet, in which the weakness of humanity is associated with the power of the godhead, it could not have entered into the mind of any man to conceive. He would have disjoined these extremes ; he would have described a mortal like ourselves, feeble and imperfect; or a God elevated above all created beings, by the infinitude of his attributes. When we see, therefore, this character not only drawn by the prophets, but exemplified in our Redeemer, we are convinced, that as, on the one hand, it could not be a creature of their own fancy, so, on the other, it must have been suggested to them by divine revelation. Were they not artists, endowed, like Aholiab and Bezaleel, with the spirit of wisdom, that they might paint the likeness of that singular personage, who, in the fulness of time, was to visit the earth ?
* Psal. xxii. 6. Ixxxix. 27. Isa. llii. 3. Psal. xxi. 6. Isa. liü. 10 12. xxv. 8. Psal. xxii. 27-31. lxxii. 15. 17.
As the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament in Jesus Christ, was a proof of his Messiahship, to which he appealed, and from which his apostles reasoned, in a most conclusive manner, with the Jews ; so it'is a proof of the divinity of their scriptures, or of those books, at least, in which the prophecies are inserted. Prophecy is founded on the foresight of futurity; and the knowledge of futurity is a prerogative of the true God, by which he is distinguished from the vanities of the Gentiles. “ They have no knowledge, that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. Tell ye, and bring them near, yea, let them take counsel together : who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord ? and there is no God beside me, a just God and a Saviour, there is none beside me."* The foretelling, therefore, of future events, of which it was not possible to acquire the previous knowledge by any natural means, is an evidence, that God hath spoken by the prophet ; and as the fulfilment of a prediction assures us, that the person who uttered it was divinely inspired, so it warrants us to receive as divine every other thing which he hath delivered to us in the name of God. A prophecy, like a miracle, attests in general the commission of the person by whom it was spoken.
* Isa. xlv. 20, 21.
The prophetical part of a book, therefore, not only proves itself to be inspired, but proves likewise the inspiration of the whole of the book ; for God would not allow a man, to whom he had given his Spirit, to mix his own sentiments with the revelation which he was empowered to make, and to impose his own ideas on the world, as of equal authority with those which had been supernaturally communicated to him. Hence, we infer, concerning some books of the Old Testament, that every part of them is inspired, because we observe that some of the parts consist of unequivocal predictions. A propliet would not lie to us in the name of God; nor though he were inclined, would he be suffered to deceive us. The power of God is certainly sufficient to overrule all the propensities of the human heart, and to suppress such of them as would interfere with his designs ; and we have the highest assurance from his holiness and goodness, that he would not permit a man to abuse a commission from himself, in order the more successfully to mislead others, in the most momentous of all concerns, those of the soul and eternity.
IV. I proposed to make some remarks on those books of the Old Testament, which have not been included under the preceding division.
Notwithstanding this imperfection, I adopted that division in preference to the Jewish, which comprehends all the books, because in consequence of the very injudicious manner in which they are arranged by the latter, the same arguments which apply to some of one class, are not applicable to others. Prophetical and historical books are jumbled together. In the Jewish division, the holy writings include the Psalms and the Chronicles. But the books of Chronicles are historical, and admit of a different kind of proof from that which is adapted to the Psalms : for though many of these are purely devotional, yet I hesitate not to rank them, as forming one collection among the prophetical books, not only because David, the principal writer, is termed a prophet,* but because they contain many predictions relative to the Messiah, his sufferings, his glory, and his kingdom. The attentive reader would observe, that agreeably to this view of them, several of the prophecies mentioned under the last head, were quoted from the Psalms. Şince, then, some books of the Old Testament have not yet been considered, it is necessary, before this chapter be close ed, to say something concerning them.
It would be highly unreasonable to demand, and difficult, if not impossible, to give, separate proofs of each particular book. Separate proofs of each indeed are not necessary. As they constitute one volume, one whole, one entire revelation, if some of them, and especially if the greater part of them be proved to be inspired, the inspiration of the rest, which are so closely connected with them, cannot be denied. On this ground we feel no hesitation in acknowledging the authority of the books of Esther, Ruth, Job, and the writings of Solomon. They have been always classed by the Jews with those books, of the inspiration of which we have undoubt. ed evidence ; and they are attested, in common with them, by Christ and his apostles.
Though, however, these considerations may suffice to remove any scruple in our minds, with regard to their divinity, it may be useful farther to observe, that on examining them, they appear to be equally worthy to be accounted inspired, as other books of the same nature with them, concerning which, after the arguments formerly advanced, there can be no dispute. The book of Esther records a signal instance of the care of providence over the church, and a deliverance not less wonderful than any of those related in the other historical books. It holds out a striking example of the unexpected methods, by which God defeats the purposes of the wicked, and saves his people, when standing on the brink of destruction. The book of Ruth will not seem undeserving of a place in the sacred volume, when we consider, that besides giving an example of the observance of a peculiar law, it takes occasion, from the marriage of that woman with Boaz, to trace the genealogy of his great-grandson David up to Judah by Pharez, and is introductory to the history of that eminent progenitor and type of the Messiah, Thus, what at first appears to be the simple story of a virtuous but obscure woman, rises into importance from its connexion with the royal family of the Jews, and the evidence which it supplies of the descent of Jesus Christ in the exact line pointed out by prophecy.t The sublimity of the book of Job equals that of any other portion of scripture, and leads us, therefore, to attribute the composition of it to a higher author than man ; not to mention the admirable and edifying example of patience and resignation which it sets before us, or the majestic and affecting representations which it gives of the great
* Acts. ii. 30.