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Our Saviour and his apostles often assure us that all the prophets, whose writings are contained in the Old Testament, have spoken of the coming of the Messias; and upon this, though not upon this either singly or chiefly, is founded the truth of our religion ; for it stands in need of no proofs of its divinity from the Old Testament, which seems to receive rather more confirmation from the gospel than the gospel receives thence, though they both mutually support and establish each other.
The prophecies in general were so delivered, that they should not be understood till the event explained them ; for which many reasons might be assigned. Hence it comes to pass, that after they have been all fulfilled in Christ, and, by being compared together, have given much light and strength to each other; still many of them, considered by themselves, are not so irresistibly evident as to force an assent from stubborn minds, and room is left for contradiction, doubt or cavil. Some of them are more obscure and ambiguous, some more clear and full. It is reasonable to suppose, that, as the time of Christ's coming drew nearer, the predictions concerning him should be more distinct and plain ; and so indeed they are,
Grotius d allows that there are texts in the prophets who lived after the captivity, which relate directly and solely to Jesus Christ. His acknowledgment of this is of the more weight, because he cannot be charged with wresting the Scriptures to that purpose, and hath been blamed for explaining away some prophecies which Christians apply to Christ.
d Christus,' says he, ut jam appropinquans, apertius a prophetis indicatus est.' Heb. viii. 8.
That Christ was foretold by the prophets, may be showed, I think, without an accurate discussion of single
There are, it may be, an hundred different passages in the Old Testament relating to some person, whosoever he be, one or more, and to certain considerable changes which should happen in the world. Christians say that they relate to Christ, and some of them are produced in these discourses . History, sacred and profane, antient and modern, will furnish us with a variety of heroes, kings, warriors, philosophers, and illustrious persons. If we endeavour to apply these passages in the Old Testament to any one of these great men, for example, to Judas Maccabæus, to Confucius, to Socrates, to Solon, to Numa, to Scipio Africanus, to Augustus Cæsar, &c., we immediately see that it is a vain attempt ; that three fourths of them are no ways suitable to his character and his deeds, and that it is easy to select many single ones amongst them which cannot possibly be adapted to him. If we apply them to Christ and to the religion established by him, a surprising correspondence immediately appears.
To ascribe these coincidences to chance, it is to give a very poor and unsatisfactory account of them. He who can believe that chance produced them, ought not to object credulity to Christians f.
Our Saviour, in his discourses with the Jews and with his disciples, made use of four proofs to show that he was sent from God.
The first, upon which he seems to lay the greatest stress, was taken from the miracles which he wrought. The works which I do, bear witness of me that the Father hath sent me.
If I had not done among them the works which no other man did, they had not had sin.'
The second was taken from the prophecies which were fulfilled in him. If
had believed Moses, ye would
* He who would see more may consult Fabricius, De Ver. Chr. Rel. p. 569. and Huetius, Dem. Ev. prop. vii.
See Remarks on Eccl. Hist. in this volume, where the subject is treated more fully.
have believed me, for he wrote of me. Search the Seriptures — for they testify of me.'
The third was his foreknowledge of future events. . Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.'
The fourth was the testimony of John the Baptist, concerning which our Saviour thus reasons with the Jews : • If I bear witness of myself,'--if I produce no proof of ·my divine mission besides a bare affirmation of it, my witness is not true,' and I deserve to be rejected.
There is another that beareth witness of me, namely John the Baptist ; and that he testified of me ye know; for
ye sent unto John, and he bare witness of the truth. But I receive not testimony from man.' I stand in no need of the witness of John, or of any other man. I
put you in mind of it, because he was a burning and a shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.' You used to acknowledge him to be a prophet and a righteous man; and therefore I insist upon his testimony, hoping that it may have some good effect upon you.
But I have greater witness than that of John ; for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me that the Father hath sent me,
This proof taken from the testimony of John, though our Lord speaks, in a manner, slightingły of it, when he compares it to the proof drawn from his own miracles, yet was an argument of particular force to the Jews, and could not fail to convince or to confound them : for, as we read in another place, they durst not openly speak against John, because the people generally had him in esteem, and thought him a prophet." A proof, therefore, from his testimony would either remove their doubts, or reduce them to silence.
But that the argument, considered in itself, is satis
& Eusebius seems to have written a book to show that all the predica tions of Jesus Christ had been accomplished.
But that work is lost: See Præp. Ev. i. 3. p. 8.
factory, I shall endeavour to show in the following man
I. I will produce the testimony which John bare of Jesus Christ.
II. I will give some account of the life and character of John.
III. I will thence show that he is an unexceptionable witness.
IV. I will endeavour to remove an objection which may be made to his testimony.
1. I will produce the testimony which John bare of Jesus Christ.
When John baptized the people, he exhorted them at the same time to believe in one who should come after him, whose servant or disciple he was not worthy to be : he told them that this person should baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire; which prediction was first accomplished at Pentecost, when Christ sent the Holy Ghost on his disciples.
When Jesus eame to be baptized, John knew him, and declined to perform that office, alleging that it became not SO considerable a person to receive baptism from him. After Christ was baptized, the Holy Ghost descended upon him, and God, by a voice from heaven, declared him to be his beloved Son. This John saw and testified; and added, that God had revealed to him that this was he who should baptize with the Holy Ghost.
When the priests and Levites came to ask John who he was, he declared that he was not the Messias, but his forerunner, and the person foretold by Isaias; and he told them that the Messias was at hand, and would soon manifest himself.
After this John took all opportunities of making Jesus known to his own disciples, and to the Jews. He calls him 'the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.' He
says of him, “This is he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me, for he was before me;' that is, though he was born after me, and enters into
his office after me, yet he is before me both in dignity and time.
Afterwards, when Jesus was baptizing the Jews by his disciples, and many resorted to him, the disciples of John, jealous of the honour of their master, complained to him that Jesus drew away the people to himself, and took upon him the office of baptizing them. Upon this John, with great sincerity and modesty, declared how much he was inferior to Christ: he reminded them how often he had said that he was not the Messias, but his forerunner ; he told them that his office would soon expire, and that Christ, who then began to appear, should obscure his glory; which was to him a cause of joy, not of envy: he told them that Christ was the beloved Son of God, sent by him, and receiving from him the Holy Spirit without measure, to reside upon him at all times, and to direct him in all things; that therefore whosoever believed on him should have everlasting life, and whosoever rejected him should not see life, but the wrath of God would abide upon him.
Thus is John the Baptist a witness of Christ, of his office and dignity; he calls Christ the Son of God, and the redeemer of the world'; he affirms that he had a being before he appeared on the earth, that he came from God to teach men the way to obtain eternal life; he asserts that he saw the Spirit descend upon him, and heard the voice from heaven, which declared him the Son of God. He says that God, who had sent him to baptize, had revealed to him that Jesus was the Messias, having told him by what signs he might distinguish and know him.
II. To show what opinion we ought to entertain of John, I proceed to give some account of his life and character.
The circumstances attending his birth are related at large by St. Luke. I shall not recite them at present, but only observe, that from them it manifestly appears that he was designed by Providence for great purposes. All men, as we are told, were astonished at those things, and expectations were raised concerning a child so favoured of heaven.