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Jows. Nor had they the effect, they are supposed to have been fitted to produce, among his immediate followers, and Disciples ; some of whom did not believe in him, but deserted him, and particularly had no faith in him when he spake of his sufferings, and thought that he could not be their Messiah when they saw him suffer, notwithstanding his miracles, and his declaration to them that he was the Messiah. And so rooted were the Jews in the notion of the Messiah's being a temporal Prince, a conquering Pacificator, and Deliverer, even after the death of Jesus, and the progress
of Christianity grounded on the belief of his being the Messiah, that they have in all times of distress, particularly in the apostolick æra, in great numbers followed impostors giving themselves out as the Messiah, with force, and arms, as the way to restore the kingdom of Israel. So that the Jews, who it seems mistook in this most important matter, and after the most egregious manner, the meaning of their own Books, might, till they were set right in their interpretation of the old Testament, and were convinced from thence that Jesus was the Messiah, might I say, as justly reject Jesus asserting his mission, and Doctrines with miracles, as they might reject any other person, who in virtue of miracles would lead them into Idolatry, or any other breach of their Jawa
In fine, the miracles said to have been wrought by Jesus, are, aecording to the Old Testament, the gospel scheme, and the words of Jesus himself, no absolute proof of his being the Messiah, or of the truth of Christianity; and Jesus laid no great stress upon them as proving doctrines, for he forewarned his disciples, that
signs and wonders" would be performed, so great and stupendous, as to deceive, if possible, the very elect, and bids them not to give any heed to them.*
* There are a great many persons who conceive that Christianity is sufficiently proved to be true, if the miracles of Jesus are troe;- eren without any regard to the prophecies, so often appealed to by him. But supposing the miracles to be true ; yet no miracles can prove that which is false in itself to be true. If therefore Jesus be not foretold as the Messiah in the Old Testament, no miracles can prove Jesus to be the Messiah foretold. Nay, 'tis a stronger argument to prove Jesns ea be a false pretender, that he appealed to prophecies as relating to
Having shewn from the New Testament, and proved from the nature of the case, that the whole credit and authority of the Christian religion, rests and depends upon Jesus' being the Messiah of the Jews; and, having stated the principles which ought to govern the de
him, when in fact they had no relation whaterer 10 him; and by that means imposed upon the ignorant people; than it is, that he came from God, merely because he worked miracles: for - False Christs and false prophet's may arise, and may show such great SIGNS AND WONDERS as to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect.” Matt. xxiv. 24. Yet no Christian would allow it to be argued from thence, that those fulse Christs were true ones: nor would any onc conclude, that a man came from God, (notwithstanding any miracles he might do) if he appealed to Scripture for that which is no where in it. In fine, if miracles would prove ihe Messiahship Jesus, so also they would prove the Messiahship of the false Christs, and false prophets spoken of above. Nay more, they would demonstrate the Divive mission of Antichrist himself; who, according to the epistle to the Thessalonians, [2 Thes, ch. ii 8, 9, 10.} and the Revelations, eh. xiij. 13, 14, was to perforın “great signs and wonders,” equal to any wrouglit by Jesus, for the same Greek words are used to express the wonderful works, or “great signs and wonders” of Antichrist, which are elsewhere used to express the miracles, or “ great signs and wonders” of Jesus himself:
It is a striking circumstance, that the earliest apologists for Christianity laid little stress upon the miracles of its founder:
Justin Martyr, in his apology, is very shy of appealing to the mira. cles of Jesus in confirmation of his pretensions; he lays no stress upon them, but relies entirely upon the prophecies he quotes as in his favor. Jerom, in his comment on the eighty-first Psalın, assures us, that the performance of miracles was no extraordinary thing: and that it was no more than what Appollonius, and Apulius, and innumerable impostors had done before."
Lactantius saw so little force in the miracles of Christ exclusive of the prophecies, that he does not hesitate to affirm their urter inability to support the Christian religion by themselves. [Lactan. Div. Inst. L. v. c. 3]
Celsus observing upon the words of Jesus, that “false prophets, and false Christs shall arise, and show great signs and wonders : sneeringly observes, “A fine thing truly ! ibat ruiracles done by him should prove him to be a Gnil, and when done by others should denonstrate ihem to be false prophets and impostors."
Tertullian, on the words of Jesus, here referred to by Celsus, says as follows: " Christ foretelling, that many impostors should cone and perform many wonders, shews, that our faith cannot without great temerity be founded op miracles, since they were so early wronghi by false Christians themselves.”
(Tertul. in Marc. L ii. 8. 3] Judced iniracles in the two first centuries were allowed very liide
cision of this question, and established the fact, that the pretensions of any claiming to be considered as this Messiah, must be tested solely by the coincidence of the charaeter, and circumstances of the pretender with the descriptions given by the prophets as the means by which he may be known to be so. It is proper, in order that we may be enabled to form a correct opinion, to lay before the reader those passages of the Old Testament which contain the promise of the appearing, and express the characteristics of this • hope of Israel, this beneficent Saviour, and august monarch, in whose time a suffering world, was, according to the Hebrew prophets, to become the abode of happy beings.
Leaving out for the present the consideration of the Shiloh mentioned in Gen. xlix. the first prophecy we meet with, supposed to relate to this great character, is contained in Num. xxiv. 17, 19. “ There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy the children of Seth.” Geddes interprets the latter clause
“ shall destroy the sons of Sedition :" but it probably means, according to the common interpretation, that this monarch was to govern the whole race of men, i. e. the children of Seth, for Noah, according to the Old Testatament, was descended from him, and of the posweight in proving doctrines. Since the Christians did not deny, that the heathens performed miracles in behalf of their gods, and that the hereticks performed them as well as the orthodox. This aecouuts for the perfect indifference of the heathens to the miracles said to have been performed by tlie founders of Christianity: Hierdeles speaks with great contempt of what he calls “the little tricks of Jesus. And Origen, in his repli a felsus waves the consideration of the Christian miracles; “for, (says he) the very mention of these things sets you heathens upon the broad grin." Trideed that they laughed very heartily at what in the eighteenth century is read with a grave free, is evi.. dent troon the few fragments of their works written against Christianity which have escaped the turning zeal of the fathers, and ibe Chris sian emperors; wlio piously cought for,.Id burned op these mischievous v' lumes to prevent their dong mischief to posterity. This conduct of theirs is very suspicious Wly burn writings they could so triumphantly retuit, if they were ferraule? They should bave remenbered the just reflection of virnobius, their own a porcgist, against the heathens, who were for abolishing at once such writings as promoted Christianity.-"liter cipere scripta et publicatam. velle submergere lectionem, non est Deos deiendeie, sedi veritatis testificationen ti. Here.”
(Aruob. contra Gentes, Liber iji.]
terity of Noak, was the whole earth overspread. And in verse 19, it is added, “out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion."*
God says to David, 2 Sam. vii. 12. “ And when thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou shall sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of a man, and with the stripes of the children of men, but my mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee, and thy house, and thy kingdom shall be established before me, and thy throne shall be established for ever.” Mention is made of this promise in several of the Psalms, but it certainly suggests no idea of such a person as Jesus of Nazareth, but only that of a temporal prince of the posterity of David. It implies, that his family would never entirely fail, for though it might be severely punished, it would recover its lustre again. And connecting this promise with that of the glory of the nation in general, foretold in the books of Moses, it might be inferred by the Hebrews who believed them to be of Divine authority, that after long and great calamities (the consequences of their sins,) the people of Israel would be restored to their country, and attain the most distinguished felicity under a prince of the family of David. This is the subject of numberless prophecies throughout the Old Testament.
Passing over all those prophecies in which the national glory is spoken of without any mention of a prince or head; I shall recite, and remark upon the most emiment of those in whicli mention is made of any particular person, under whom, or by means of whom, the Israelitish nation, it is said, would enjoy the transcendent prosperity elsewhere foretold.
* Before going into the consideration of the following prophecies, the author would warn the reader t) bear in mind, that whether these prophecies ever will be fulfilled is a question of no import in the world to the qitestion under consideration, which is whether they have been fulfilled eightee hundred years ago, in the person of Jesus Christ, who is asserted by Christians to be the person foretold in tnese propheeies, and to have fulfiis:d their predictions. This question can be easily decided, ami onli, we think, by appealing to past history, and to the scenes passing around us, and comparing them with these pre. diccions.
The second Psalm is no doubt well known to my reader, and supposing it to refer to the Messiah, it is evident, that it describes him enthroned upon mount Zion, the favorite of God, and the resistless conqueror of his enemies.
The next prophecy of this distinguished individual is recorded in Isaiah ix. 6. 6 Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the governinent shall be upon his shoulder: and the Wonderful, the Counsellor,
the mighty God, the everlasting Father shall call his name, the Prince of Peace.” sFor thus it is pointed to be read in the original Hebrew, and this is the meaning of the passage,
and not as in the absurd translation of this verse in the English version.] • Of the increase of his gevernment there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and bis kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment, and with justice from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this." Here again we have a mighty monarch, sitting upon the throne of David, upon eart!; and not a spiritual king placed by idolatrous superstition in heaven, upon the Throne of the mighty God, the everlasting Father.".
The next passage which comes under notice, is in the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, in which a person is mentioned, under whom Israel, and the whole earth was to enjoy great prosperity and felicity. He is described as an upright prince, endued with the spirit of God, under whose reign there would be universal peace, which was to take place after the return of the Israelites from their dispersed state, when the whole nation would be united and happy.
“ There shall spring forth a rod from the trunk of Jesse, and a scion from his routs shall become fruitful and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; the spirit of wisdom, and understanding; the spirit of counsel, and strength; the spirit of knowledge, and the fear of the Lord ; and he shall be quick of discernineyt in the foar of the Lord ; so that not according to the sight