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of things necessarily require them to act—then it may without fear of contradiction be affirmed, that the Gospel history contains in it, every internal character of truth which the strictest scrutiny can require. This is so strongly exemplified, not only in the conduct of Jesus in the cases just mentioned, but in that of the Disciples likewise ; and it is so ably represented by Mr. Maltby, that it will require no apology for presenting it to the Reader in his own words.
" We should,” says he, “naturally expect at first to " meet the same sort of opinions and prejudices, in the Dis. “ ciples of Jesus, as in their countrymen. We should expect " that these opinions would occasionally appear, and these os prejudices, often start forth." We should expect to observe “ marks of disappointment, when their worldly and carnal 66 views of the Messiah were discountenanced, and their own 66 hopes, founded upon those wrong conceptions, baffled cs and crushed. We should expect to find these deeply 6. rooted prepossessions gradually and slowly worn out of " their minds, by the indubitable proofs which Jesus gave " of his being really the character which he professed to be 56 we should expect to see them often returning to the charge, 66 as it were, and then retiring, at some fresh exertion of " miraculous power; rising again into full strength, when 65 any event occurred, which might seem to confound their 66 expectations; and not completely subdued, till after a r series of divine agency, which no pre-conceived opinions " whatsoever could possibly withstand. In short, we should • expect to find them resembling the rest of their country. “ men, except in the opportunities they had of observing 66 more narrowly the character and works of Jesus, and in “ having dispositions not so inveterately hostile to every “ species of evidence. These, doubtless, would be our exor pectations; and if in the accounts, which are left of the 66 conduct of the more immediate followers of Jesus, we 56 meet with these marks of truth and nature, we are so bound in reason and in equity to receive their recorded of testimony.” Pages 118, 119, 120. ..
By attending to the Gospels as Histories, and particularly as Histories of the great Controversy concerning the true nature of the Messiah's character, it has appeared with great force of evi. ence in the preceding pages, that the Disciples of Jesus did conduct themselves precisely in the manner which was to have been
expected, and the more closely they are attended to as historiis -the more numerous will be the proofs of this, and conse. quently, the more irrefragable will be the evidences of their genuine authenticity, with all who are capable of judging of the nature of evidence. If they had been considered in this light, it would have been utterly impossible either for the friend or the enemy of Christianity to have conceived that Christ predicted his second coming in that generation ; for it would have been seen, with an evidence which is not to be resisted by any one who possesses the smallest pretensions. to candor, that the language upon which this opinion has been founded naturally arose out of the circumstances of the times, and of the difference of the character of the Messiah from that which the Jews had invariably affixed to it. It may confidently be affirmed, that if the Gospels be viewed in. this light, they will not only, in mariy important instances, be unintelligible, and half their beauties be concealed, but a thousand internal evidences of their authenticity must inevitably escape the Reader's notice. The instance of the charge brought against our Lord, by the Historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and but too much countenanced by Divines of all descriptions, of Christ's having predicted his second coming in the clouds to judge all mankind, is one of the most striking proofs of this; for, if the represntation which has, in the preceding pages been made of this matter, shall be found to be correct, it must now appear that the language which he made use of to describe his coming, is among the most decisive and authentic evidences of the truth of the History. And what renders this evidence the more valuable and important is, that no lapse of time can lessen its force, or render it less capable of producing conviction. The importance therefore of viewing the Gospels in this light must be particularly striking, and must be attended with the most beneficial effects in banishing Scepticism and Infidelity, and in shewing, in a strong point of view, that Christianity is worthy of all acceptation !
With respect to the Epistles--the view which has, in the preceding pages, been given of them, establishes such a de. lightful harmony between them and the Gospels, and so completely does away all suspicion of the Authors of them, having expected the end of the world in their time, that the mouth of infidelity must become dumb, and the credit of the Apostles
be established, as being well acquainted with the doctrine of their great Master with respect to his coming, and with the ex. tensive designs of Christianity with respect to future ages.
The xxivth of Matthew and the parallel chapters are of particular importance, in consequence of our Lord's having connected with his prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, the final proof of the true nature of his character, in opposition to the manner in which the Jewish Nation expected him to come. More attention, unquestionably, should have been given to these chapters, in this view, than has been given to them, as it would necessarily have pointed out the importance of ascertaining with precision their true meaning, and of keeping close to that meaning, in examining the Apostolic Epistles. Nothing can be more evident than that these chapters contain the true Key to the unlocking the genuine îneaning of many important parts of the Epistles. A better proof of this cannot be given, than that all Commentators have, in their explanation of these Epistles, referred to those chapters--but, not having understood them, have made the Apostles speak a language which never was intended by them, and subjected them to the charge of having predicted the near approach of the end of the world, when in reality they were only reminding those to whom they wrote, of the near approach of the destruction of Jerusalem. That awful calamity had not then taken place, and the noticing it, in the particular manner they have done, must, in the estimation of all good. judges of the nature of evidence, constitute a most striking proof of their authenticity. The earnestness with which our Lord pointed out the signs of its approach, and directed them to be particularly attentive to those signs, especially when connected with the declarations that the destručtion of Jeru-' salem, would be the crowning proof of the true nature of his character, rendered it absolutely impossible for the Apostles, if they were faithful to their trust, not to make it the subject of their particular attention! For what reason else did our Lord dwell so much upon it as he appears to have done ?
It may not be without its use, perhaps, to observe the gradation of language made use of by the Apostles in describing the approach of this awful calamity, In the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, which has generally been supposed to have been written as early as the year fifty-two, the Apostle asserts, that the day of Christ shall not come except there be an LI2
apostasy * first, &c. i. e. that certain signs would intervene which had not yet appeared. The Epistle to the Philippians is supposed to have been written ten years later, and there St. Paul declares that it was at hand. In that to the Hebrews, which was written at a still later period, the Writer's language is---The day is approaching -- Yet a little while and he that shall come will come, and shall not tarry. St. Peter, in his First Epistle, mentions particularly the day of visitation, and the fiery trial, and declares that the end of all things was at hand, and that the time was come when judgment must beginat the house of God. And St. John, in his First Epistle, intimates that it was still nearer, by saying, that it was the last hour, and that there were many Antichrists, whereby they knew that it was the last hour. These, the judicious and attentive Reader will consider, as decisive proofs of accuracy, and are, perhaps, among the best proofs of the time when the Epistles were severally written,
Of the accomplishment of this prediction no notice what. ever is taken in any part of the New Testament, from whence it has, very properly been inferred, that the Epistles and Gospels were all written before it had taken place. But the faithful page of history written by Josephus, an unbelieving Jew-an eye-witness of the fatal issue of the war, fills up the chasm, and declares, with an evidence not easily to be resisted, that all things which Jesus foretold of the destru&tion of Jerusalem, were truly and literally fulfilled.
The present Bishop of London, speaking upon this subject, says, “ we may safely consider this prophecy, as an
unquestionable proof of the divine fore-knowledge of our " Lord, and the divine authority of the Gospel ; and on this " ground only, (were it necessary), we might securely rest the « whole fábrick of our Religion. Indeed this remarkable pre"diction has always been considered, by every impartial per
son, as one of the most powerful arguments in favor of 64 Christianity; and in our own times more particularly, a man
* In mentioning the opinion of the present Bishop of Sț. Asaph, Dr. Horsley, upon the subject of the Man of Sin; it was omitted to be observed that speaking of the Apostasy, as applied to the Church of Rome, he says it was, “ a constructive Apostasy ; never understood to be such by those to “ whom the guilt has been imputed.” And in this he appears to be right ---but like most other Commentators, he understands the Apostasy in a religibus sense. The criticism upon this word as used in the New Testament, in pages 199, 200, of this Work, is earnestly recommended to his attention.
* of distinguished talents, and acknowledged eminence in his “ profession, and in the constant habit of weighing, sifting, 166 and scrutinizing evidence, with the minutest accuracy, in 6 courts of justice, has publickly declared, that he considered 66 this Prophecy, if there were nothing else, to support 66 Christianity, as absolutely irresistible." See the Bishop of London's Lectures, Vol. II. pages 180, 181. * And Mr. Erskine's Speech at the Trial of Williams, for publishing Paine's Age of Reason.
The prediction of Jesus concerning the destruction of Fe. yusalem being verified_not only his character as a true Prophet of God was established—but the great controversy concerning the true nature of the Messiah's character was finally settled; it being thereby proved that his coming as the Messiah, as he had told the Jewish Rulers upon his trial, would be in clouds—or in vengeance, instead of his coming to raise them to great worldly prosperity: Thus was the doctrine of the first coming of Christ fully established, and it may now be left to the judgment of the impartial part of mankind, whether the Historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was not entirely mistaken, when he asserted that “ the is near approach of the end of the world, had been predicted 66 by the Apostles, and that those who understood, in their .66 literal sense, the discourses of Christ himself, were obliged " to expect the second and glorious coming of the Son of Man “ in the clouds before that generation was totally extinguished, 66 which had beheld his humble condition upon earth.” He will see in the assertion of this Writer, that "6 for wise pur66 poses this error was permitted to subsist in the Church," nothing but a gross and ill founded libel on our holy religion, and that the doctrine of the second coming of Christ was emi.
#66 The fidelity the veracity, and probity of Josephus," says the Bishop of London, " are universally allowed: and Scaliger in particular 66 declares, that not only in the affairs of the Jews, but even of foreign na" tions, he deserves more credit than all the Greek and Roman Writers put 6 together. Certain at least it is, that he had that most essential qualification * of an historian, a perfect and accurate knowledge of all the transactions " which he relates; that he had no prejudices to mislead him in the repre, "í sentation of them; and that above all, he meant no favor to the Christian “ cause. For even allowing the so much controverted passage, in which he " is supposed to bear testimony to Christ, to be genuine, it does not appear " that he ever became a convert to his religion, but continued, probably, " a zealous Jew to the end of his life." See his Lectures, Vol. II. page 175.