« AnteriorContinuar »
Isaiah's son to be a type of Jesus, or with barely contending for an accommodation of phrases, made use of here by the Evangelist.
But as neither of these inventions are of weight, or prove any thing, it makes others, (who are not at all pleased with the aforesaid methods of accounting for the Evangelist's saying a thing was fulfilled when in fact it was not,) endeavour by various shifts and wretched evasions, to extend this passage of Isaiah to the miraculous conception of a virgin, and birth of Jesus. These always take for granted, that the term Almnh means a virgin. At all this you must not be surprised—for on such occasions, let the passage be ever so plain, they must endeavour to fix on some other meaning, and make it out some way or other: This they will always do rather than give up a point so essential, and on which they place the very foundation of the ian religion.
The authors of the Universal History furnish you with a very remarkable instance, who having put their own sense on the prophecy, that the sceptre should not depart from Judah, till Shiloh come to put an end to the kingdom.* They tell you that the desponding king (Ahaz) could not be ignorant of it; as if the wise authors knew, and were certain, that Ahaz believed this prophecy of Jacob in the sense given that passage by ians, after the establishment of ianity. When on the contrary, it very evidently and plainly appears, that the sense of the whole Jewish church and nation, (not excepting even Jesus himself, the Evangelist, and Apostles,) who never made use of, or applied that prophecy in any sense whatever, (a plain proof that they never understood it in the sense, since giving it,) must even have been against any such application or explanation: For they did always ardently wish for, and expect the Messiah, as the greatest blessing and happiness that could befall them—Consequently they either did not believe Shiloh to be the Messiah; or if they did believe the Messiah to be thereby meant, it must have been in a very different sense, since the restoring of the kingdom and nation was that which they expected at his coming; otherwise, instead of joyfully expecting him as the greatest blessing, they would have had cause to dread his coming. Therefore Ahaz's fears could never have proceeded from that passage; for if he knew any thing of that passage, he must have considered it in a different sense; and it is much more probable, that he had but little faith in prediction, to which he seems to have paid but little regard, as appears from the whole history of his life.
* Universal History, vol. ir. p. 153.
It is surprising therefore, that the learned authors should explain this passage by building on so inconsistent and so false a foundation; asserting as they do, " that this Shiloh promised to Judah and David, who was to forerun the total excision of the Jewish polity, was to be born in a miraculous manner, and with a divine character, and other remarkable circumstances." But all this is a mere ramble of the author's own invention, and has no foundation at all, nor any connections with Isaiah's prophecy ; for the authors speak of matters which could not be given for signs, neither to Ahaz nor to any other persons: no, not even to those who should live in the time of this pretended miraculous birth.
Therefore such signs must have been useless, and consequently could answer no purpose at all; for how could that be given for a sign, which according to the nature and frame of things, could never be made manifest, it being impracticable to evidence the virginity of any woman :—take me right, I am not here speaking against the possibility of the thing, that not being the question at present; but what I uge is, the uselessness of such a sign; because it was of that nature, as made it impracticable to be wrought in a manner capable to answer the purpose for which a sign was given—that is, conviction.
I am therefore only clearing and defending the prophet from having any such design; for such a sign and miracle, being by the nature of things invisible, could never have been intended as a proof of that which should come to pass; the same being actually contrary to the manner of God's performing his miracles on all other occasions. For unless they were manifest and public, how could they be attended to, or how could the people be convinced by them?
The same objections may also be urged against the conception nf a woman without the concurrence of a man: the possibility of the thing is not here the question; but the impossibility of the same being made manifest, or evident, is all I contend for, and which is sufficient for my purpose. I need not urge the different accounts given hy Matthew and Luke; from which many objections might be made: but there are some expressions, such as, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee,"* which I should be glad to have explained according to the rules of language; for as they stand, they may possibly introduce into unwary and ignorant minds, ideas very unbecoming God, or the Holy Ghost: at least it may be thought to give too great a sanction to stories, feigned and invented by the Heathens, concerning the amours of their gods; with which their poets sometimes diverted themselves: Homer in particular, very agreeably exposes Mars and Venus, when Vulcan caught them in his net.f
But whether this be so or not, let us now return to the author's of Universal History. They say, "as for that part of the prophecy, which is commonly urged on the other side, namely, before this wonderful child shall know good from evil, the land which thou abhorest shall be forsaken of both her kings." They think that by this ought to be understood, (not the land of Syria and Israel, the land which Ahaz abhorred, and which was to be forsaken of both her kings, viz. Rezin and Pekah, his two grand enemies,) but the land of Judah and Israel, which should be forsaken of both her kings before the coming of the Messiah: this they pretend to make out by a new version of the text. How stupid must the commentators of so many centuries have been, not to have found this? But facts are stubborn things, and the destruction of Rezin and Pekah, by violent deaths, within the time limited by the prophet, puts it beyond dispute what kings they were which the prophet meant.
I must not pass in silence the art which the before-mentioned historians make use of to prejudice and blind their readers, by inserting the word WONDERFUL, cited as if it was in the text, which only says, " For before the child shall know how to refuse
* Luke, chap. i. v. 35. t See the Eighth Book of the Odessy.
the evil arid choose the good."* By this means they endeavour to make Jesus to be this wonderful child. But supposing the prophet had said this wonderful child, how could he be proved to be so? since it is impossible to do it, either from the conception of a woman without the concurrence of man, or from the nature of virginity; both these being hidden and invisible. Had his birth any thing wonderful, or was his person so? As for his birth, for any thing that appears, it seems to have been the same as that of other babes; being formed in his mother's womb, in the due course of time, and brought forth into the world in the common manner. He does not appear to have been endowed with any thing superior to other babes, and he required the same nourishment and nursing; and as to his person, no doubt it was fashioned like other babes; nothing is recorded of any thing extraordinary in his body, be that as handsome or perfect as they please. So that in all things he appeared like other children that were begat in the common way, and he grew in like manner as other children did—no person, from his fashion or make, ever thought otherwise: From all which particulars, one with certainty may draw a very fair and'natural inference, and that is, as he appeared in his birth, shape and growth, like other men; so nothing which can be alledged, will be sufficient to prove that be was not got by the same usual means as others are.
This natural inference being founded on facts and occular demonstration, no evidence can be superior to it, since it must always outweigh any other proof, unless it could be made as demonstrable and visible to our senses: for this reason some ians believe
that he was Joseph's son; but be that as it may, they can not pretend to impose him upon us as a wonderful child. One may indeed, with Doctor Echait, admire, and "see the profound humility orour blessed Saviour, who chose not to descend from Heaven with the glories of a triumphant monarch and deliverer, but privately to enter into the womb of a mean virgin; from thence to be brought forth as an infant; and then to appear in the world in the form of the lowest rank of mankind."f
I produce not this passage to make any observations., but only
> * Isatab, ehap-vii. v. 16. t Introclac. to Eccl. History, p. 42.
to strengthen what I have asserted, viz. that nothing wonderful, as is pretended, appeared, or was visible in him: and that consequently these historians misrepresent the whole transaction which coneerns the birth of Isaiah's child, (as appears from the history of those times,) given as a sign to Ahaz, which was accomplished in those days: Therefore the Evangelist's saying, that it might be fulfilled, ike. citing this passage, is at most but an accommodation of phrases, and not that any thing thereby was fulfilled.
In like manner we shall find, (as we proceed farther in this examination,) many other citations, made and accommodated to things which the places from whence cited could have no reference to, according to their plain sense and meaning; so that not being literally applied, they can not, therefore, be proof of any thing.
I must beg pardon for having troubled you with so long a letter, and have no other excuse but that it was required from the importance of the subject, which drew me to this length, notwithstanding I forbore saying and remarking many things, as you may easily guess I might have done, on so copious a subject. But I shall conclude with one, and that is, that no use was ever made by Jesus of his being wonderfully conceived or born, nor offered by him as any proof of his being the Messiah—which shows that these transactions could not be intended as any proof of him, or his office, and consequently useless.
(To he continued.)
EXAMINATION OF ST. MATTHEW.
Continued from page 297.
CHAP. XII. Verse 7.—" But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemed the guiltless."
"I will have mercy, and not sacrifice;" meaning sacrifice is not necessary in order to the getting mercy. Under the law sacrifice was necesssary, but now the law is abrogated, and God does no longer require sacrifice, but, will have mercy without sacrifice. It is however very unfortunate for this abrogating position, that the premises are not correct; because these words "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice," are no