« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
The prophecies which we find recorded in holy writ, were not, like those of the ancient Oracles and Sybils, couched in such darkand obscure terms as would admit of any double or fallacious meaning, but pronounced with all the plainness and perfpicuity imaginable; nor were the Jews at any time an over-credulous people, as the greater part of the Heathens were, but on the contrary, very obstinate, and very hard to be convinced; and this is fully evident from that exclamation of the prophet Isaiah, “Lord, " who hath believed our report ?"-It was for this very reason, that they demanded a sign of our Saviour :-And the woman of Samaria had never acknowledged him as such, had he not given her sufficient proof of his being endowed with more than human knowledge. In short, when we take a survey of a few of the inost known prophecies, and find, by sufficient testimonies, that they were accomplished long after the decease of those who pronounced them, we must certainly entertain a most venerable idea of those holy men, and set a high value on their writings, which have been miraculously transmitted to posterity for the conviction and advantage of these latter ages.
We thall begin with the promise delivered unto Abraham ;
Thy feed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and “ shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years ; * and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and “ in the fourth generation they shall come hither again :"-What oracle did ever foretel any thing in such direct terms, so manifestly, and so long before it came to pass ? And yet was in every respect fulfilled at the appointed time : and who can fairly charge it with the least fallacy or deceit? fince Moses, in his pilgrimages with the children of Israel, wholly relied on this promise, it highly behoved him, doubtless, to speak of a prediction, that was common among them, and handed down by uninterrupted tradition from father to son.-And moreover, as it was
received by Abraham, so was it believed by Moses, and actually put in execution by Joshua.
Jacob made his last testament in Egypt, in which there are as many prophecies as there are words ; not in regard to his own children only, but to the tribes likewise, that should owe their rise to them. One instance, we presume, will be fufficient.
Judah, thou art he, whom thy brethren shall praise : thy father's “ children shall bow down before thee. The sceptre shall not
depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until “ Shiloh come."-The true and genuine meaning of which prophecy was ever held by the Hebrews to be this; that the sceptre was to remain in the possession of Judah, and that the sovereign jurisdiction was to be lodged in him, until the coming of the MessiAH.-Now Reuben, Simeon, and Levi were the eldest brethren of Jacob's house ; and therefore this remarkable passage was directly repugnant to the order of nature. -Moreover, Moses, who led the people of Israel out of Egypt, was of the tribe of Levi, and Joshua, who brought them into the land of Canaan, of the tribe of Ephraim.-The judges were sometimes of one tribe and sometimes of another. And Saul, the first king that was elected by the people, was of the tribe of Benjamin, which was the youngest of them all.—These circumstances, doubtless, gave a cruel shock to the prophecy. The sceptre, however, in a short time, passed from Saul to David ; from a king to a young shepherd of Judah, where it was firmly fixed, notwithstanding the heavy murmurs and complaints of the other tribes against it.
If it should here be demanded how shall we be assured that these were the words of Jacob?-Is it not natural, as well as rational to reply, that the same credit ought to be given to this history, as to any other ; and who presumes to dispute the authority of that writer, who has maintained his character unspotted, through a long series of ages ?-This, however, hath further Vol. III.
evidence. --For it is Moses, who records this prophecy; and what end could he propose to answer by so doing, as he was of the tribe of Levi. If he did this out of favour to Judah, why was he not afraid of disobliging, not only Reuben, but Simeon and Levi? -Or, what reason can be assigned why he did not rather chule to make the prophecy fall on the tribe of Levi, since that would have added weight to his authority? Nay, what gratification could this be even to Judah, since that tribe was then excluded, and had no share in it till a thousand years afterwards ? When all these circumstances shall be duly considered, this prophecy has most assuredly all the evidence of the spirit of God, that can reasonably be desired.
In the blessings which Jacob conferred on his posterity, he points. out the several parts that should be allotted to each of his children in the land of Canaan, as if he himself had been in the actual poffefsion of them: To one he assigns the sea-coalt; to another the corn-country, and to a third the vineyards, in the very fame manner as they were some hundred of years afterwards divided amongst them. Now, how could this be, but by the all-wise: direction of the sovereign Disposer of all things ?--But when we read, that Jacob, in blessing the children of Jofeph, preferred Ephraim, the younger son, before Manasses the elder; and that when he was warned thereof with some concern by the father, his answer was; “ I know it, my son, I know it; he also shall. « become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his.
younger brother will be greater than he, and his feed shall be“ come a multitude of nations.” What motive could induce Jacob; to say so, or Moses to record such prophecy ?
Again, Moses is continually reminding the people of the con. quest of Canaan, according to the promise, and therefore this
prophecy must needs be well known among them. Moreover, Moses portions out the land, as if they had been in actual poffeffion ;
nominates proper arbitrators to make the just partitions for them ; prescribeth laws for their establishment, and the regulation of their * future conduct ; lays them down a plan, or platform, of their several cities, suburbs, and houses which they hould erect; injoineth them the tilling of their grounds; their resting on the seventh year, their public festivals and other solemnities; and appointeth cities of refuge for such as should be guilty of casual man-laugh
This was dictating as if the country was already in their hands. And yet what likelihood was there that they should ever be masters of that land, when they burned bricks in Egypt, or when they lingered in the wilderness ? Or, indeed, at the return of the men that were sent to spy out the land, when they reported nothing but the beauty of the place and the intrepidity of the people? - Suppose a man should at this day portion out France or Spain, and assign to every one of us our respective share; would he not expose himself to the utmost contempt, and become the object of derision ? And yet Moses himself never entered into that land, and those who waited for it died in the way. At the time appointed, however, the Canaanites gave place. Now, is it reasonable to suppose, that the people would ever have followed Mofes, or that Moses, who might have been so well provided for in the court of Pharaoh, would ever have attempted to lead them through such a long series of wayward distresses, had they not been wellassured that the promise came from God himself? But Moses
proceedeth still further; for as he foresaw that they would become masters of Canaan, so he foreknew that they would offend the Almighty, by serving Baal after they were in possession. He forefaw that they would ungratefully forget their God; and that God, however, even in his wrath, would remember
He foresaw that they would be dispersed, and scattered over the face of the whole earth, and be trodden under the feet of strangers. In short, he foresaw that God would call the Gentiles, into his church in
their stead; yea, and all these future events were revealed to him fo clearly, that be enumerates them in his song, which he earnestly desired might be handed down to latest pofterity, as a witness against them, and a vindication of his own conduct. Though from the
top of mount Nebo he could take a furvey of the landi of Canaan, and give such a lively defcription of it; yet from what mountain could he discern the intentions of mens hearts, who were yet unborn ? In what book could he meet with such secrets as lay deep in the womb of time, but in the book of life; or, in other terms, but by divine revelation ? Let us add to this, that what was fo foretold hy Moses was punctually performed by Joshua, without the least addition or diminution ; which is a very strong presumption that Joshua did not fo much obey Moses, as the word of God, which was fpoken by him.
The curse which Joshua pronounced against the man that should build Jericho is too remarkable to be passed over in filence.
He shall lay the foundation thereof in his first-born, and in his
youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.”—That is to fayz he shall be punished with the sudden death of his children. “ Hiel of Bethel built up Jericho, he laid the foundation thereof in “ Abiram his first-born, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest " son Segub. And the book of Kings further faith, it was ac“ cording to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Joshua, " the son of Nun."
In the books of Joshua and Judges, we find the accomplishmend of those events which were foretold by Moses, and the promises. as well as denunciations, in every respect fulfilled. For, according as the people of Israel either turned away from, or fought the Lord, God raised up tyrants in Canaan, or deliverers in Israel. And the books of Samuel, Kings, and the prophets, were either predictions of what was to happen hereafter, or the effects of prophecies actually. part.-In Ahort, during the whole course of