« PreviousContinue »
stian Church, would you not acknowledge these prophecies to be of divine Original, and the Pope and Roman Papacy to be the Antichrift therein predicted ? And would you not also live in certain expectation of all the other events, which are fore. told as consequences of this revolution ?-You cer: tainly would. And yet I must take the liberty to tell you, that there is a much brighter light shines upon the prophecies concerning our blessed Saviour, in their exact accomplishment, than this would prove, should all these circumstances concur, as is here supposed.
That the Lord may graciously grant both you and me a sincere faith in this blesed Saviour, and prepare us both for the great events, that are hastening upon us, is the prayer of,
LETTER IV. Wherein is considered the
Certainty of those Facts, upon which the
" ter has set the evidence of our Saviour's di. 56. vine mission, from the Old Testament prophe
cies, in the strongest light.”—There might be much stronger light brought from the prophetic writings, in confirmation of this blessed truth: And yet you must allow me the freedom to tell
yoni, that my letter justly demands of you a firmer assent, than you are pleased to express, to that fundamental article of our faith and hope. It reprefents to your
more than “ a strong probability, that Jesus Chrift so is the Son of God, and the Saviour of the “ world."-Confider, I beseech you, whether it is possible for any, or for all created intelligences, to foresee and fortel such future events as depend wholly upon the mere good pleasure of God: Such events as are altogether out of the way of God's ordinary dispensations of Providence; and such events as had not the least probability, from the known laws of nature, to have ever come to pass; and then to over-rule the various revolutions of na. ture and providence in such a way, as is utterly inconsistent with, and in many instances altogether contrary to the known ftated methods of God's
go. verning the world, in order that those predictions (even in every particular circumstance should be exactly accomplished.-I intreat you, Sir, to confi. der the affair in this view, (for in this view it ought to be considered), and then tell me, whether the evidence does not amount to more than a strong probability. And consider what evidence of this kind you yourself can possibly imagine, that would bring your mind into a full acquiescence in this truth, as certain and undoubted.
If there can be any reasonable doubt remaining, it must be for one of these following causes : Either,
1. It muft be supposed, that the Jewish Prophets had no such events in their eyes ; that the quoted predictions had a reference to something else; or perhaps no reference to any thing at all, but were the casual fallies of the several authors fruitful fancies or imaginations.
But then, if this be supposed, how comes it to pass, that they are all fo exactly verified ?-Certain it is, that the Jews supposed all these predi&tions to be divine inspirations, kept up stated memorials of them, and longed for their accomplishment.
And it is equally certain, that at the very time when they ought to be expected, they were all fulfilled, in every circumstance. This is an affair that de. mands your attention. -Here are predictions of most wonderful amazing events; such as no appearances, that ever had been in the world, could any way lead the minds of the Prophets to think of, or imagine.-These events were foretold as to time, place, and many other particular circumstances ; so that you fee a history of our Saviour's birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and future kingdom, could be made up out of these prophecies ;-and, to crown the whole, they have all been exactly ful. filled. Now then, I have a right to demand, were these from heaven, or of men? Can the most licen. tious imagination apprehend these very numerous and various predictions to be the effects of capricious fancies; and their fulfilment a matter of mere chance or casualty? Then may the Epicurean philosophy take place again ; and the world, in all its glory, order and symmetry, be reasonably believed to be the effect of a fortuitous concourse and jumble of atoms. I hope, this doubt is cleared out of your way, and I know of. but one more that can remain :: Which is
2. That there never were any such predictions: of these things in the Jewish Prophets : But that all of chem were written since the events.
But then, you must suppose, that this was done by the Christians, without the privity of the Jews and others, who had these books in their hands; or that it was done by a joint confederacy of Christians and Jews. If the former, you must imagine, that the whole nation of the Jews, and all the other nations who had the Greek translation of the Jewish Bible in their hands, must be persuaded to believe, that they always had, and always read those things in their Bible, which were never there; or else all of them to a man must be prevailed upon, out of complaisance to their greatest adversaries, to interpolate their Bibles, by inferting these predictions ; and not leave to pofterity a single copy unadulterated, to discover and correct the fraud.-But if you chuse the latter of these supposals, that these prophecies were added to the Jewish Bibles by a joint confederacy of Christians and Jews, you must ima. gine, that the whole Jewish nation, in all their most distant difperfions, united in a confederacy to furnish the world with armour against their own in. fidelity; and to represent themselves as the most unreasonable and wicked of all mankind.-Thefe ab. furdities are (I am sure) too gross for you to entertain ; and yet I may venture to challenge you to think of any other way, in which it is possible this could be done. But you tell
me, “ It yet appears the greatest « difficulty to you, to come at any certainty of the « truth of those facts, upon which the evidence of “ Christianity depends." And I readily acknowledge, that if these facts are not true, all our rea.. fonings from prophecy, and miracles too, will come to nothing. It is therefore proper to consider this cafe more particularly.--And in order that this may be brought into the closest view, and the conclufion necessarily force itfelf upon our minds ; let its consider what consequences must follow upon the fuppofal, that these facts are not true. You can have no rational doubt of these things, but upon one of these suppositions : Either,
1. That the Apostles, and other reporters of these facts, did themselves certainly know that their narratives of these miracles were all of them mere fictions and falsehoods; and that they never did in fact see any such miraculous works performed
by by Jesus Chrift; they never did fee and converse with him after his refurrection ; and that they ne. ver had those miraculous gifts and powers them. selves ; nor ever instrumentally conveyed them to others.--Or,
2. That the reporters of these facts, and many thousands of others, had their senses and imagina. tions imposed upon ; and were made to believe, that they did see, hear, and feel, fuch miraculous
operations, as were never performed. Or elfe,
3. That this whole history was an after.game, and a mere piece of forgery, obtruded upon the world after the facts were pretended to be done.
These are all the fuppofitions that can possibly be made in this case. And I have already, in my second letter, offered you fome proof, that they are all of thein unreasonable and absurd. However, for your satisfaction, I will endeavour to shew you, under each of these fuppofitions, some of those absurdities that will necessarily fol. low from them.
In the first place, if it be supposed, that the re. porters of these facts did themselves certainly know that they were false, then it will follow, that thou. fands of others, before whom those miracles were faid to be done, did alfo certainly know that they were made fictions and fables. For they were as capable of certainty, whether they had seen those multitudes of plain, open, visible facts, which are reported, as the Apostles were themselves.Upon this suppofal, all Judea and Jerusalem must certainly know, that they never saw any such de. scent of the Holy Ghost in cloven tongues upon the Apostles and company; and that they knew nothing of those gifts of languages, which were pretended. The several churches throughout the world, among whom the Apostles went, did cer.