Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

him shall the gathering of the people be.' Now in this prophecy three things, I think, are plainly foretold ; first that the sceptre should depart from the other tribes sooner; secondly, that it should remain with the tribe of Judah until Shiloh came; thirdly, that it should then also depart from it. Now apply this prophecy to Christ, and observe how it answers in all these particulars.

First, the ten other tribes were extirpated in Assyria nine hundred years before Christ. Secondly, the tribe of Judah continued a nation, and in possession of their own country, till Christ came. Thirdly, they also were then destroyed, and their nation and government were utterly demolished by the Romans. It is said that the sceptre should not depart from Judah till Shiloh came; from this I infer, that it was to depart from the other tribes sooner, otherwise it would be saying little or nothing to Judah, and this is a promise made to Judah in particular above his other brethren. Now, how did the event answer to this? The event was, that ten out of the twelve tribes, which formed, upon the division, the kingdom of Israel, were carried away captive more than six hundred years before Christ, and were never afterwards heard of; so that the sceptre departed from them in every sense of the expresson. The tribe of Benjamin was upon the division so mixed and incorporated with the tribe of Judah, that the one, if I may so say, was lost in the other, and it was afterwards constantly called the land of Judah. The kingdom of Judah returned after the seventy years' captivity into their own land, and continued in possession of their country, of their laws and their religion, till Christ came. As it is evident that the sceptre did not depart from Judah until Shiloh came, so it is in the common use of speech or intimation, that when Shiloh did come it should depart; accordingly, about that time, shortly after Christ's coming, that is, within forty years after his death, the kingdom of Judah also was deprived of its sceptre ; that is, underwent a total destruction from the Roman armies; their city and ternple, as we all know, burnt to the ground, their government overthrown, their country laid waste, the people driven out to wander, as they do still, exiles and vagabonds upon the face of the earth. Now there is, as I said before, but one question ; whether this correspondence of the event and the prophecy could, reasonably speaking, be the effect of chance; and how small this chance is you may easily comprehend from hence. Suppose any of us to undertake to foretell what may be the fate or condition of a particular family a thousand years hence; what little probability is there, that in

[ocr errors]

so wild and wide a field of conjecture we should hit on even a single particular that turned out to be true, much less deliver a prediction, which in all circumstances admitted of a clear and reasonable application ; "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh come, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. I lay no other stress upon the name of Shiloh than just to observe that it must signify a person, and a person

a of great eminence and importance to the world, or the Jewish nation at least, which Christ undoubtedly was.

The description that is added, and unto him shall the gathering of the people be,' agrees well with the person and character of Christ, who, as the founder of a new religion, did actually gather together unto him an innumerable multitude of all nations and languages, paying adoration to his name, and professing obedience to his authority.

The passage I will next proceed to, omitting, as I said, many that are of a probable, though more obscure application, is the famous one of Isaiah, contained in the seventh chapter, and beginning with the thirteenth verse. Two neighbouring kings had conspired against Ahaz, king of Judah. The king of Judah and his people being exceedingly alarmed with this confederacy, Isaiah was sent to comfort and encourage them. Before the king, and in the presence, it must be supposed, of a great assembly of the people, Isaiah delivers these solemn words ; · Hear ye now, O house of David, is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also ? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign ; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel; butter and honey shall be eat, that he may know,' or till he knows, 'to refuse the evil, and choose the good; for before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.' Now that the former part of the prophecy, a virgin conceiving and bearing a son, and that son being called Immanuel, or God with us, is applicable in the strictest sense 10 Christ, and in the same sense to no other person ever heard of, all see upon the bare reading of it. But there is a difficulty in the latter part of the prophecy which we must endeavour to remove before we can justly lay so great a stress upon it. It is said that before the child should know how to refuse the evil, and choose the good,' that is, before he should come to years of discretion, the land which thou abhorrest, viz. the countries then in confederacy against Ahaz, should be forsaken of both her kings. Now this happened a few years after so

6

that the child here spoken of could not be Christ, who did not appear till many hundred years after this; and yet the child here spoken of seems, as the prophecy now stands, the same child which the virgin was to bear. This is the difficulty ; I will now give you the explanation. In the third verse you read that Isaiah, when he was sent upon this message, was commanded to take with him Shear-jashub his son, who was then a little child. This explanation is the key to the whole prophecy, and serves to explain it in this manner. Isaiah, in the presence and audience of the king and people of Judah, who were assembled to receive a message from God, announces this august prediction of the future birth and coming of the Saviour of the world; · The Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel ;' which means, as you are told by the prophet, God with us. The prophet then adds, butter and honey shall he eat, till he knows to refuse the evil and choose the good ;' that, although his birth be miraculous, yet shall he be supported by the ordinary means, till he comes to man's estate.

Here ends, as we apprehend it, the prophecy concerning Christ, for the prophet then comes to a new subject, and turning himself to the king in particular, and pointing, we may suppose, at his little son who stood by, but before,' says he,

this child shall know how to refuse the evil and choose the good,' that is, before the child standing by you shall attain to years of discretion, the country which thou abhorrest,' the two nations that have conspired thy ruin, shall be forsaken of both its kings ;' which, we read, accordingly happened, and within the time limited by the prophecy. The whole passage therefore contains, if we explain it right, two distinct, independent prophecies; the one addressed to the whole nation at large, 'hear, O house of David,' and relating to the birth and coming of the Messiah, an event of the utmost importance to that whole nation; the other addressed to the king in particular,

1 and relating to the overthrow of the two armies, which then threatened him, and which was to take place in a few years.

Isaiah was introduced to the king and the assembly of Jerusalem, waiting with great expectations for a message from God. This surely was a fit opportunity to announce to this nation the future coming of the promised Messiah, and he describes him by a circumstance in which he was distinguished from the whole race of mankind,“ his being born of a virgin.' This, therefore, was the first and great prophecy. But as the king Ahaz was

6

6

а

then under apprehension from his combined enemies, who threatened him with immediate destruction, the prophet proceeds, before he leaves off speaking, to satisfy him with respect to them; and that the king might take no concern, and set himself at ease with respect to the danger which he dreaded, he assures him that in a very few years, before the child that stood near him came to years of discretion, he should get rid of them both.

There are two circumstances which confirm this interpretation, and so strong, that I cannot forbear mentioning them. Isaiah, as I told you, was commanded to take with him upon this message his young son Shear-jashub. Now this must have been for some purpose; yet unless he was the child meant as coming to man's estate, as we have explained it, it is impossible to say what business he had there, or for what purpose he was commanded to be taken. This is one most striking circumstance. Another is this. You read in the next chapter that Isaiah had a son born, and it was solemnly recorded, that before this son could speak, this same event, namely, the destruction of the two kingdoms, should take place. Now the second son coming to his speech, and the first to years of discretion, might very naturally be about the same time; and Isaiah is made to cry out, · Behold, I and my children are for signs and for wonders in Israel ; ' my children,' that is, not only the second child Maher-shalal-hash-baz, in the eighth chapter, but his former son Shear-jashub in the prophecy we have been explaining.

If you admit the explanation which thus goes upon so many circumstances of probability, the plain and simple fact is established, that six hundred years before the birth of Christ, it was foretold that a divine person, Immanuel, God with us, should be born, contrary to the course of nature, of a pure virgin. Is not this what we are told of Christ ? Is it believed, is it even seriously professed indeed, of any other person in the whole world? Let no one say that he is not qualified to comprehend or judge of the proofs of this. Thanks be to God, who hath given us the sure word of prophecy, which seems to require only a little attention to apprehend it, who hath vouchsafed us such means of conviction, as only ignorance could miss, or, what is worse, obstinacy could withstand !

6

LXIII.

PROPHECIES.

PART II.

Acts XXVIII. 23.

And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his

lodging, to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God; persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.

any

Many prophecies of the Old Testament which admit not of so clear, although of a probable, application to the coming of Christ, I take no notice of, notwithstanding it should be observed that these, from the number of them, and taken all together, constitute a very considerable proof of the truth of our religion. For throughout so large a volume as that of the Old Testament, there might occur here and there an expression which bore by accident an allusion to this great event, or was capable of some figurative application to it; yet that many of them should point the same way, that so great a number should admit of application at all, can hardly be accounted for without design.

There are also other prophecies which, was I to read them to you, would not appear to you to have that relation to Christ which there is reason to believe they have, and that for want of understanding the style and language of the ancient prophets, which is very singular; and this is a knowledge not to be expected from the generality of an audience, nor to be taught in the compass

of a sermon. Confining myself, therefore, as I proposed, to those prophecies which more apparently re: the coming of Christ, the first which I would offer to your consideration is that noted one of the prophet Micah, to be found in the fifth chapter and second verse of this book; But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.' •Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah ;' the kingdom of Judah was divided into districts, which were called thousands, as certain districts are nowadays with us called hundreds. Bethlehem was the capital town of one of these districts, though small and

[ocr errors]

6

« VorigeDoorgaan »