« VorigeDoorgaan »
How, otherwise, could he have been taken from prison and from judgment, or been cut off out of the land of the living? In this manner, alone, could he have made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death. It was in this way, it pleased the Lord to bruise him and put him to grief, that as he voluntarily made his soul an offering for sin, he should see his seed, prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hands. In this way, only, could he see the travail of his soul and be satis. fied.
If all this is said to be so unnatural, so unexpected, and contrary to all human reasoning, is it not a greater evidence of the divinity and the truth of the doctrines, that notwithstanding it should be foreseen and expressly foretold by mere men, who assumed no particular wisdom or knowledge of future events, but as they received an explicit revelation of them from the God of Israel, who thereby showed to his church what would take place for thousands of years to come, in order that when they did happen,
it should be known, that there was no other God beside him?
Let us then examine the life and declarations of Jesus Christ, who thus appears (to say no more in the present instance) to have come in fulfilment of these ancient prophecies, and to be clothed with a divine mission from the Father, and see if he has by himself and his Apostles, continued this well organ. ized system, this regular thread of predictions and events, pointing to the still greater object we have in view, his second coming in glory. Though the Old Testament is full to this purpose, yet if I have not greatly misapprehended it, the New Testament will furnish us with additional, if not clearer light on this interesting subject, and that from the many facts declared and foretold by Christ himself, by which this important end of his administration is to be accomplished.
If it is previously asked why so essential a doctrine of the christian faith, should not have been more explicitly taught and insisted upon by the great author of our holy religion and his apostles, without shadow or figure ? I answer, it would be sufficient with every humble and christian spirit, thus was the will of that God who ruleth over all, and giveth not an account of his conduct to any man. But I hope before we have finished, to show that this doctrine is as clearly and explicitly taught by Christ and his apostles, as any doctrine of the gospel, and is insisted on, as the great sum and end of the christian's hope, and the ultimate reward of all his sufferings for Christ's sake, in as full a manner, as the nature of man and the then state of the world would admit of.
Is it not also obvious to the serious enquirer, that our Lord and master treated all men as rational creatures and free agents, accountable for all their conduct? He laid constraint on no man's actions. Had he openly declared the full extent of his kingdom, all the circumstances of his second coming in glory, and the full meaning of all the intermediate events, so as to have been clearly understood by all men in their utmost consequences, in the first place, he would have left no opportunity to have proved the faith of his people and their reliance on his veracity and faithfulness—again, in all human probability, if we judge from what has already happened, he would have had no better success with an unbelieving world, than he already has had, with regard to those great principles and facts, which were necessary most explicitly to declare, that his divine mission and nature might be fully proved, so as to satisfy every one who was seriously desirous of knowing the truth.
Besides the natural consequences of unbelief and hardness of heart in men at large, he would have raised the whole opposition of the Roman government against his followers, as opposers of the then civil establishment of the empire, and would have unnecessarily increased the natural enmity of mankind against him and his doctrines; but even had it proved otherwise, and the greatest part of the world had been convinced by his more positive declarations, then opposers might have endeavored to avoid some things foretold by the prophets, and to have accomplished others, in a way destructive of the evidence provided by the whole plan and economy of revelation.-In short, the system established by divine prescience is in itself complete in all its parts from the beginning of the world, and will not admit of addition, or substraction, without overturning the whole design-And even when the great events had been accomplished, on the principles of the objection, their testimony and influence would have been greatly weakened, because justly exposed to the charge of having been performed with design, and for the express purpose of supporting the peculiar dogmas of a particular sect, by thus fulfilling the thing foretold.
It shall then be our present business to take a view, first of the declarations of Christ himself in corroboration of the ancient prophecies of the Old Testament, and then proceed to the belief and instructions of his apostles, and their immediate successors, who, as the world advanced towards the
appointed time, gave themselves more liberty on this subject, especially after the great proofs the world had met with in favor of revelation-by the destruction of Jerusalem-the dispersion of the Jews, and the various persecutions of the christian church. At the same time it will be necessary to keep in view the necessity there was to answer the end of these propbetic declarations, that while the faith of the true believer drew from them a divine consolation amidst all his sufferings, under the certainty of the final issue being thus revealed to him, yet they should be as a sealed book to those who obeyed not the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, until towards the end of the Roman government, they were to answer no farther present purpose to the church of Christ,
than to assure the professors beforehand, of their present sufferings and future glory; being persuaded that those who should hold out to the end, should come off more than conquerors through him who hath loved them, and given himself for them. That on the issue they should receive a glorious reward, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it ever entered into the heart of man to conceive of.