« הקודםהמשך »
him, unless it be the naked circumstance of his claiming to be a prophet sent from God. This, however, according to any just principles of reasoning, cannot be legitimately brought forward as evidence: because, in truth, it is a complete begging of the question. If, indeed, Christ were not sent from God; then doubtless his claim of a divine commission, made under a full impression of its propriety, would be a most ample proof of enthusiasm : but, on the other hand, if he were truly sent from God; then such a claim would be no proof whatsoever. Hence it is obvious, that the claim in question cannot be legitimately adduced as a proof of enthusiasm, until it be first shewn, that Christ was not sent from God: for it is either a strong proof, or no proof at all, exactly according to the character which he really sustained.
3. But so singularly was the appearance of Christ mingled with other circumstances, that, in order fully to prosecute the inquiry whether he was either an impostor or an enthusiast, we stand compelled to do much more than merely study his recorded character, whether exemplified in words or displayed in actions.
Various matters, very difficult to be accounted for by an infidel, stand immediately connected with the appearance of Christ: matters, wholly independent upon him, on the supposition of his being either an impostor or an enthusiast; mat
ters, over which he could not possibly have had the slightest degree of controul.
In the sacred writings of the Jews ; writings, which on the fullest evidence we maintain to have been in existence long anterior to the birth of Christ : we have numerous documents, which claim to be divinely inspired prophecies. Now these predictions announce and minutely describe a remarkable character, whom the Jews have ever been accustomed to denominate the Messiah, and whom from a numerical prophecy of Daniel they were actually expecting immediately before and about the very time when Christ made his appearance. The prophecies in question teach, among numerous other particulars, that he should be born in Bethlehem ; that he should be a descendant of the tribe of Judah and the house of David ; that he should appear during the continuance of the second temple; that the times of his manifestation might be known by computing seventy prophetic weeks or 490 calendar years from an edict of one of the Persian kings to restore and build Jerusalem at the close of the Babylonian captivity; that, shortly after the end of those 490 years, the city and the sanctuary of the Jews should be destroyed; that one of his familiar friends should betray him ; that he should be sold for thirty pieces of silver; that his hands and his feet should be pierced ; that his garments should be divided among his oppressors, and that they should cast lots on his vesture; that he should be taken off by an unjust judgment; that his grave should be appointed with the wicked, but that nevertheless his tomb should be with the rich man * ; that he should be despised and rejected of men, but yet that his portion should be the many and that the mighty people he should share for his spoil t; that he should be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, but that in him all the nations of the earth should be blessed 1.
Such are some of the many predictions, which the Jews in all ages have believed to relate to their expected Messiah: and I have specially selected these rather than others which might have been adduced, because their peculiar nature is such, that their accomplishment or non-accomplishment is wholly out of the controul of any person, whether an impostor or an enthusiast, who might think fit to apply them to himself. Thus (that the drift and force of the present argument may be understood) it is readily allowed, that either an impostor or an enthusiast might have affected to accomplish a prophecy of Zecha
See Bp. Lowth on Isaiah liji. 9. + See Bp. Lowth on Isaiah liii. 12. # Micah v. 2.
Gen. xlix. 10. Isaiah xi. 1, 2. Jerem. xxiii. 5, 6. xxxiii. 15. Haggai ii, 6–9. Malach. iii. 1. Dan. ix. 24-27. Psalm xli. 9. Zechar. xi. 12. Psalm xxii. 16 -18. Isaiah liji. 3—12. Isaiah viii. 13, 14. compared with Rom. ix. 33. 1 Peter ii. 8 : whence it appears, that Christ is the person spoken of by Isaiah. Gen. xxii. 18. xxvi. 4. ·
riah by riding into Jerusalem on an ass; becausean action of this sort would plainly be altogether in his own power : whence no such action, standing in an insulated form or joined with other actions of a similar description, would be any valid proof that the rider was the promised Messiah. But then it is contended, that neither an impostor nor an enthusiast could have had any controul over the accomplishment of a prediction, which set forth the various circumstances (for instance) of the death of the Messiah ; because no person can certainly determine the several contingencies of his own dissolution : whence it follows, that the exact accomplishment of a prophecy of this nature, in the case of one who during his life-time had claimed to be the promised Messiah, has a strong tendency to establish the validity of his claim; and it is obvious, that the greater number there is of such independent coincidences, the stronger is the presumption in favour of the claimant.
On this very intelligible principle then, let us consider the case of Jesus Christ and the Jewish Messiahship.
In his person, it cannot be denied or dissembled (for, in truth, it is a mere question of matter of fact), that an amazing number of descriptions, purporting to be prophecies, have been exactly verified : nor can it be denied or dissembled, that a large proportion of these descriptions, whether they should or should not be verified, are, from the very necessity of their nature, placed wholly out of the controul of
interested adventurer who might choose to assume the character of the predicted Saviour.
What then are we to think of the case before us? It is quite clear, that neither an enthusiast nor an impostor could so controul independent events, that he should be born in Bethlehem, rather than in any other place; that one of his intimate friends should betray him ; that he should be sold for the precise sum of thirty pieces of silver ; that his death should be attended by the piercing of his hands and his feet; that his garments should be divided, but that his vesture should be assigned by lot; that he should be destined to be buried with malefactors, but yet that his tomb should be with a rich man; that he should be despised and rejected by the Jews, but that he should receive as his spiritual spoil the mighty nations of the pagan world ; that not only should his appearance coincide with a remarkable numerical prophecy, but that shortly after his death the metropolis and temple of his native country should be utterly destroyed by the Romans. Yet did every one of these independent particulars, over which Christ, on the supposition of his being either an impostor or an enthusiast, could plainly have had no sort of controul, meet with fatal exactness in his single person. Of his riding into Jerusalem on an ass, I make small account, as an argument: for