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infernal serpent may be allowed, through the instrumentality of his agents, to bruise the heel or mortal part of an illustrious character to be born hereafter of woman alone without the coöperation of man: yet that divine personage shall attack not merely the extremities of the serpent's kingdom, but shall completely destroy his power; a circumstance expressed by the natural metaphor of bruising his head.
II. As the first prophecy, which relates to the Messiah, opens at the beginning of the old world; so is the second delivered immediately after the flood, and in the infancy of the new world.
Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem! God shall enlarge Japhet, and shall dwell in the tents of Shem."
This prediction was accomplished, partly by the visible manifestation of God in the Shechinah between the Cherubim in the tabernacle; and partly by the ministry of the second person of the Holy Trinity among the Jews, the descendants of Shem. I
may observe, that it contains the earliest limitation of the promise to a particular family. The house of Shem is specified to the exclusion of the other two great patriarchal houses.
III. When the children of Shem were multiplied upon the face of the earth, and when in common with the other descendants of Noah they
1 Gen. ix. 26, 27.
had lapsed into idolatry, a further limitation of the promise became necessary."
God therefore called Abraham from among the apostate fire-worshippers of Chaldea; and, by a frequent intercourse with him, in a supernatural manner, both proved his faith, and prevented him from degenerating into the corruptions of the surrounding nations. To this Patriarch God foretold, that in his seed should all nations of the earth be blessed.". So glorious a reward did his steady faith in the wisdom of God procure to him. He believed in the Lord, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
It will not be improper to take this opportunity of stating, how powerfully the separation of the Israelites from the rest of mankind has contributed to strengthen the evidence of divine revelation.
If we suppose, that an unrestrained intercourse had been permitted between the Israelites and their neighbours ; on such a supposition, they would soon have lost all knowledge of the only true God, and would have sunk into the base worship of the Canaanites. Along with this knowledge, the history of their own origin would have been forgotten, as was notoriously the case with the most celebrated nations of antiquity. Beyond a certain period in the annals of all profane authors, every thing is obscure, fabulous, and uncertain; so that, although there may be a considerable mixture of truth in the legends of the poets, yet it is so blended and incorporated with misrepresentation and error, that it is difficult to separate the one from the other.
" Josh. xxiv. 2, 3.
2 Gen. xii. 3. xxij. 18. 3 Gen, xv. 6.
Now, had the Jeirs lost the knowledge of their origin; along with it must have been lost all satisfactory recollection of the promise made to Adam, Shem, and Abraham, respecting the Messiah : and, if they had been confounded with the Gentiles ; their prophets could have claimed no greater degree of attention than the Heathen oracles, however true might be the predictions which they delivered. The reason of this is obvious : had the Jews been exactly in the same state of darkness with the Gentiles; though their prophets might really have had a divine commission, yet we could never have been certain that that was the
Profane auchors frequently mention the accomplishment of prophecies, said to be dictated by their false deities; and vet the credibility of them is never allowed to be sufficiently established. Consequently, if true prophets had been mingled with false ones; their predictions would have descended to us with a very unsatisfactory degree of authenticity, and might even have been entirely overlooked amidst a multitude of Heathen ahsurdities. It appears then, that, if the Jews had not been separated from the rest of the world, all that part of the proof of Christianity, which depends upon prophecy, would have been untenable.
Doubtless, the Almighty, at the time when he
revealed our religion, might also have revealed afresh the promises, which he had formerly made to the Patriarchs; but this would not have been equivalent to prophecy. And since, even now, though Christianity offers itself to mankind illuminated with such a constellation of predictions, infidelity is still very forward to charge it with being an imposture : what would have been the triumph of the sceptic, had the Apostles allowed, that no prophecies were extant even by tradition; but at the same time declared, that God had revealed to them certain promises long since made to the fathers of the human race, and long since forgotten by their posterity? Would it not have been much more satisfactory, that Christianity, like Judaism, should have been preached without any pretensions to the evidence of prophecy, than have rested part of the proof of its authenticity upon such prophecy as this?
Mohamnied, or any other impostor, had he been so disposed, might easily have produced whole volumes of this kind of prophecy."
IV. The Patriarch Abraham having two sons, Isaac and Ismael, one by a free-woman, and the other by a slave, God was pleased to make another limitation of the promised Seed, by which Ismael was excluded. Yet, excluded as he was, the piety of Abraham procured for him also favour before God; and it was predicted, that he too should become a great nation.
See this argument excellently pursued by Bp. Stillinge fleet. Orig. Sacr. book ii. c. 1. $ 11. p. 123, 124. Oxon.
The proinise was renewed to Isaac in the very same terms in which it had been already made to. Abraham : In thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed.'
V. The same circumstance of having two sons happened also to Isaac; and the promise of the Messiah became yet more confined and particular.
So accurate and consistent is the word of God with itself, and so careful is the inspired penman to prevent even the least possibility of error; that now, for the third time, the promise is vouchsafed to Jacob, in the self-same form in which it had formerly been to his father and his grandfather: In thee, and in thy seed, shall all the families of the earth be blessed.?
VI. The next limitation of the promise was made to Judah; God speaking through the mouth, of his father Jacob, as he lay upon his death-bed.
I conceive, that, by adopting an excellent reading of the Samaritan Pentateuch, the sacred oracle ought to be exhibited in the following terms.
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the Laugiver from the midst of his banners ; until he, whose it is, shall come : and unto him shall be the gathering of the nations.
In this celebrated prophecy, the sceptre, if I mistake not, is the sceptre of the Hebrew theocracy: and the Lawgiver is the divine monarch, who wields that sceptre. Now it is here predicted, that such a sceptre, which originally was com
i Gen. xxvi. 4.
2' Goi). xxviii. 14.
3 Gen. xlix. 10.