« PreviousContinue »
when diseased, were a proper and good evidence of a divine mission.*
§ 5. Moses tells Pharaoh, Exodus viii. 10, “ The frogs shall be removed, that thou mayest know that there is none like the Lord our God.” The magicians could bring up frogs but not remove them. They brought plagues, but took away none. But if the driving out the frogs was such an evidence of the distinguishing power of the Almighty; how much more the driving out devils from the bodies and souls of men, silencing their oracles, turning them out of their temples, and out of those who used curious arts, as at Ephesus, and afterward abolishing their worship through the Roman empire? For the gods that were worshipped in the heathen world, were devils, Psal. cvi. 37. Deut. xxxii. 17. Lev. xvii. 7. Christ by the prevailing of the Christian religion, cast out those devils out of ihe very land of Egypt. And which was the greatest work, to drive the frogs out of Egypt, or to drive out the impure spirits that were the gods of Egypt! It is spoken of, Isa. xix. 1, as a glorious manifestation of the majesty of God, that he should ride on a swift cloud, and should come into Egypt, and the idols of Egypt should be moved at his presence. See also Jeremiah xliii. 12. But when Christ came into Egypt, in the preaching of his gospel, he moved, dispossessed, and banished the idols of Egypt, and abolished them out of the world. And not only did Christ thus drive away the devils, the false gods out of Egypt, but out of all the nations round about Canaan, that were known by the Israelites, cven to the utmost extent of the then known heathen world. These gods were by Christ dispossessed of their ancient tenements, which they had holden age after age, time out of mind. They were utterly abolished; so that they have had no worshippers now for a great many ages, no temples, no sacrifices, no honours done them. They are old, obsolete things now, utterly disregarded in the world. It is abundantly spoken of in the Old Testament as a future glorious work of God, greatly manifesting his power and majesty, and that he should prevail against, and destroy the gods of the heathens, and abolish their worship. But our Jesus has the honour of this glorious work.
$ 6. Again, when Korah and his company charged Moses and Aaron with taking too much upon them, Moses says, Numbers xvi. 5, “Tomorrow, the Lord will show who are his, and who is holy, and will cause him to come near unto him; even him whom he hath chosen, will he cause to come near unto him." And again, ver. 28, 29, 30 : “ Hereby ye shall know, that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of my own mind: if these men die the common death of all men,” &c. If the miraculous taking
* See Kidder's Demonstration, part ij. p. 5.
away of men's lives, be so great an evidence of Moses and Aaron's divine mission, and of their being holy, and chosen and appointed of God, how much more is raising men from the dead an evidence of the same work? Which is the greatest work-to take away men's lives, or to restore them to life after they are dead; or, indeed, miraculously to save them from death, when they are sick with mortal diseases? Again ; God's causing the earth to open and swallow up those wicked men, is no more an evidence of a divine hand, than Christ's preventing the sea from swallowing up those that were in the ship, by immediately quieting the winds and sea by speaking a word, when the ship was even covered with waves, through the violence of the tempest: At another time, upholding Peter from siuking, and being swallowed up by the tempestuous sea, when walking on the water. Elisha's causing iron to swim, is mentioned, in the Old Testament, as a great miracle. But this was not greater than Christ's walking on the water, and causing Peter to walk upon it. When Elijah had restored to life the widow's son, she says, 1 Kings xvii. 24, “ By this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth, is truth.” But this sort of miracles Christ wrought, besides rising from the dead himself.
$ 7. Moses speaks of God's stilling the tempest in Egypt, and causing the thunder and hail to cease, as that which will convince Pharaoh, that the earth was the Lord's, Exodus ix. 29. Then, by parity of reason, Christ's stilling the tempest, and causing the winds and seas to obey him, is an evidence, that the seas and earth were his. Moses, to convince the people of his divine mission, took some of the water of the river, and poured it out on the dry land, and it was turned to blood; Exod. vii. 17-20. But this was not a greater work, nor so glorious, as Christ's turning water into wine.
§ 8. Abraham's conquering the four kings and their armies, with his armed servants and confederates, greatly affected Melchizedec, king of Salem, and convinced him, that Abraham was God's chosen friend; chosen, that he and his posterity might be blessed as God's people. But what is this to Jesus's conquering the world in its greatest strength ; and, when united under that, which by the prophet Daniel is represented as the greatest, and by far the strongest monarchy, by his handful of poor, weak, illiterate disciples?
§ 9. Christ's victory over the false gods of the nations, in this conquest, was far more conspicuous, as the opposition was to them; the strife was more directly with them; the thing professedly sought and aimed at by Christ in the conflict, was the utter destruction of these false gods, the entire rooting of them out, and the abolition of their worship out of the world ; and such a victory was obtained; those false gods were forsaken, their oracles silenced, their temples destroyed, their images every where burnt, and their remembrance made to cease; so that now, for many ages, they have not been remembered, any otherwise, than as instances of the great blind. ness and folly of their votaries.
$ 10. How often are the miracles wrought in Egypt, spoken of as clear evidences, that he that wrought them, was the supreme God, and the only true God; Exodus vii. 3, 4,5; chapter viii. 10, 19, 22.
§ 11. The work of Gideon, in conquering the Midianites, and the multitudes that were joined with them, by three hun. dred men, with the light of lamps, and sound of trumpets, is celebrated as a great work of God's power, Judges vi. 14. and vii. 2. 7. But this is but a mere type of Christ's conquering the world by the preaching of the gospel. This victory over Midian, is spoken of in the scripture, as representing the conquests of the Messiah, Isaiah ix. 4.
Observations on the Scriptures ;—their Authority-and
$ 1. Some may ask, why the scripture expresses things so unintelligibly? It tells us of Christ's living in us, of our being united to him, of being the same spirit, and uses many other such like expressions. Why doth it not call directly by their intelligible names, those things that lie hid under these expressions? I answer, Then we should have an hundred pages to express what is implied in these words, “ Ye are the temple of the holy Ghost;” neither would it after all be understood by the one-fourth part of mankind. Whereas, as it is expressed, it serves as well to practice, if we will believe what God says, that, some way or other, we are inhabited by the Holy Ghost as a temple, and therefore we ought to keep ourselves holy and pure. And we are united to Christ as much as members are to the head ; and therefore ought to rejoice, seeing we know that this union proceeds from his love to us; and that the effects of it are, joy, happiness, spiritual and eternal life, &c. By such similitudes a vast volume is represented to our minds in three words ; and things that we are not able to behold directly, are presented before us in lively pictures.
$ 2. There is a strange and unaccountable kind of enchantment, if I may so speak, in scripture history, which although it is destitute of all rhetorical ornaments, makes it vastly more pleasant, agreeable, easy and natural, than any other history whatever. It shines bright with the amiable simplicity of truth.
There is something in the relation, that, at the same time, very much pleases and engages the reader, and evidences the truth of the fact. It is impossible to tell fully what I mean, to any that have not taken notice of it before. One reason doubtless is this: the scripture sets forth things just as they happened, with the minute circumstances of time, place, situation, gesture, habit, &c. in such a natural method, that we seem to be actually present, and we insensibly fancy, not that we are readers, but spectators, yea, actors in the business. These litile circumstances wonderfully help to brighten the ideas of the more principal parts of the history. And although the scripture goes beyond other histories, in mentioning such circumstances; yet no circumstances are mentioned, but those that wonderfully brighten the whole. So the story is told very fully, and without in the least crowding things together, before one has fully taken up what was last related ; and yet told in much less room, than any one else could tell it. Notwithstanding the minute circumstances mentioned, which other historians leave out, it leads along our ideas so naturally and easily, that they seem to go neither too fast nor too slow. One seems to know as exactly how it is from the relation, as if we saw it. The mind is so led on, that sometimes we seem to have a full, large, and particular history of a long time : so that if we should shut the book immediately, without taking particular notice, we should not suppose the story had been told in half so little room; and yet a long train of ideas is communicated. The story is so narrated, that our mind, although some facts are not mentioned, yet naturally traces the whole transaction. And although it be thus skilfully contrived, yet things are told in such a simple, plain manner, that the least child can understand them. This is a perfection in the sacred writers, which no other authors can equal,
§ 3. It is an argument with me, that the world is not yet very near its end, that the church has made no greater progress in understanding the mysteries of the scriptures. The scriptures, in all their parts, were made for the use of the church here on earth; and seems reasonable to suppose, that God will, by degrees, unvail their meaning to his church. It was made mysterious, in many places having great difficulties, that his people might have exercise for their pious wisdom and study, and that his church might make progress in the understanding of it as the philosophical world makes progress in the understanding of the book of nature, and in unfolding its mysteries. A divine wisdom appears in ordering it thus. Hov much better is it to have divine truth and light break forth in this way, than it would have been, to have had it shine at once to every one, without any labour or industry of the understanding? It would be less delightful, and less prized and admired, and would have had vastly less influence on men's hearts, and would have been less to the glory of God.
§ 4. It seems to be evident, that the church is not as yet arrived to that perfection in understanding the scripture, which we can imagine is the highest that God ever intended the church should come to. There are a multitude of things in the Old Testament, which the church then did not understand, but were reserved to be unfolded in the Christian church, such as most of their types, and shadows and prophecies, which make up the greatest part of the Old Testament. So I believe there are now many truths that remain to be discovered by the church, in the glorious times that are approaching.
$ 5. Another thing, from which we may draw the same conclusion, is, that it is the manner of God, to keep his church on earth in hope of a still more glorious state; and so their prayers are enlivened, when they pray that the interest of religion may be promoted, and God's kingdom may come. God kept the church, under the Old Testament, in hope of the times of the Messiah. The disciples of Christ were kept in hope of the conversion of the Roman empire, which was effected about three hundred years after. But it seems to me, not likely, that the church, from that time, should have no more to hope for from God's word, no higher advancement, till the consummation of all things. Indeed, there will be a great, but short apostacy, a little before the end of the world. But then, it is probable, the thing that the church will hope and long for, will be Christ's last coming, to advance his church to its highest and its everlasting glory; for that will then appear to be the only remedy; for the church will expect no more from the clear light and truth which will have been so gloriously displayed already, under the millennium. Another end of thus keeping his church in hope, is, to quicken and enliven their endeavours to propagate religion, and to advance the kingdom of Jesus. It is a great encouragement to such endeavours, to think, that such times are coming, wherein Christianity shall prevail over all enemies. And it would be a great discouragement to the labours of nations, or pious magistrates and divines, to endeavour to advance Christ's kingdom, if they understood that it was not to be advanced. And, indeed, the keeping alive such hopes in the church, has a tendency to enliven all piety and religion in the general, amongst God's people.
$ 6. When we inquire, whether or no we have scripture grounds for any doctrine, the question is, whether or no the scripture exhibits it in any way to the eye of the mind, or to the eye of reason? We have no grounds to assert, that it was God's intent, by the scripture, in so many terms, to declare every doctrine that he would have us believe. There are many