Page images

yet to pretend that the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, and our Saviour's admirable predictions there concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the calamities that were coming on the Jewish nation, is plainly a transcript out of the second book of Esdras, will appear to any one that carefully compares them, to be so wild and extravagant an assertion, that few but this writer would have ventured upon it. The compiler of the second book of Esdras has indeed manifest allusions to several passages in the New Testament, not only in the Evangelists, but in St. Paul's epistles, and in the Revelations of St. John ; and it is evident to any one that reads that book, that it was forged after the time of our Saviour, see particularly chap. vii. 28, 29. And this apocryphal piece, which is of no authority, which never was known or acknowledged among the Jews, as it must have been if it had been the genuine work of Esdras; which has several absurdities and falsehoods in it, and is

; rejected by all the learned as spurious ; this is what our author, in his great kindness to Christianity, would put upon the world as an original, from whence the gospel-doctrines taught by our Saviour concerning the resurrection, a future judgment, &c. are taken.

But to return to the account he gives us of Zoroaster, he observes, that he thought the punishment of the wicked would only be between death and the resurrection ; at which time he supposed, that being thoroughly purged and cleansed from their sins, they would be restored to happiness, pp. 2, 14. I do not know any occasion he has to mention this here, but that he may vent his spleen against Christianity with respect to the endless punishment of the wicked in a future state. This is a doctrine taught by our Saviour, who has expressly declared that the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment But this writer thinks fit to represent this doctrine as a piece of diabolism, and as owing to the malice of the Jews, who it seems invented this eternal, implacable, and inexorable revenge, and herein worshipped the devil more effectually than ever the Persians did.' And he calls it an' establishing the eternal dominion of the devil in hell over the far greater part of God's creatures.' An odd way this of establishing the devil's dominion, to say, that he shall be eternally punished, and be distinguished above others by the greatness of his punishment, as he is by his crimes. But we are never to expect a fair representation from this writer of any fact or any doctrine where revelation is concerned. I do not wonder at the aversion some people show to the doctrine of the perpetual punishment of the wicked, which is what no good man needs to be afraid of. But this we may plainly see, that our author's pretended zeal for the doctrine of a judgment to come, and a state of future retributions with which he makes a mighty parade when it is for his purpose to do so, come to very little ; since he takes care to reduce the punishment of the wicked within such narrow bounds, as if generally believed, would tend in a great measure to free them from their terrors ; in which, what real advantage he can propose to mankind or to the cause of virtue, is hard to see.


[ocr errors]

Celsus himself, as I had occasion to observe,* was so sensible of the usefulness and importance of that doctrine which our author sets himself to expose, that he was loth Christianity should have the honour of it, but asserted it as a common notion that obtained almost among all mankind. Nor is it true that Zoroaster himself absolutely denied the everlasting torments of the wicked. He taught, as Dr. Prideaux informs us from the Persian writers, that at the end of the world after the judgment, the angel of darkness and his disciples should go into a world of their own, where they shall suffer in everlasting darkness the punishment of their evil deeds.f And this writer himself, though here he thinks fit to give it as the doctrine of Zoroaster, that the punishment of the wicked would only be between death and the resurrection; at which time they would be restored to happiness; yet in his letter to Eusebius, he represents it as the doctrine of Zoroaster, from whom the Jews and Mohammed received it, that sonie of the wicked at least would be punished in hell for ever, or to all eternity.' See Let. to Euseb. pp. 43,

. 44.1

He had expressly affirmed in his former book, that from the days of Moses to the time of Ezra, which was a period of about eleven hundred years, the whole nation of the Jews had been deistical materialists or Sadducees;' and that they never embraced the doctrines of the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, a final judgment, and a future state of rewards and punishments, till they received them from the Persians after the captivity. I showed the contrary from several testimonies in the sacred writings. He has not thought proper to consider any one of those testimonies, but pronounces very magisterially, that all that I have offered on this subject is such a run of poor systematical stuff, that it deserves no notice, p. 215. But I doubt not he had a much better reason for taking no notice of it, and that is, that he found himself not able to answer the evidence that was brought. It will be easily acknowledged, that the immortality of the soul and a future state is not so clearly and expressly revealed and inculcated in the Old Testament, as it is under the New; but it does not follow that therefore it was not known or believed at all; which yet seems to be the course of this writer's argument. And as to what he adds, that David would not have been at such a loss to account for the prosperity of the wicked and the sufferings of good men in this life, had he known any thing of a future state of retribution, this is not a necessary consequence. For even allowing a future state of retributions, there will still be a great and real difficulty in accounting for the present dispensations of divine providence. The grievous calamities that often befal good men, and the prosperity of tyrants and unjust oppressors, have often puzzled contemplative persons that have firmly believed future retributions. And under the Mosaical economy, where there were more express promises of temporal blessings to the righteous, the difficulty was considerably heightened. But that David did believe a future state, and comfort himself with the prospect of it, appears from the testimonies I produced, and to which this writer has nothing to reply. With respect to the celebrated passage in Job, which he mentions, it cannot, without the utmost constraint, be interpreted of a mere restoration to his former temporal prosperity. The expressions are as strong to signify a resurrection of the body as can well be supposed; nor do I see any expressions he could have made use of to signify this, but what might have been as easily evaded as these.*

See Divine Authority, p. 282.

+ Prid. Connect. part I. book iv. pp. 21, 4. # Dr. Hyde, in his preface to his book, 'de Relig. vet. Pers.' speaking of the book Sadder, which he represents as a book of great authority, extracted out of the works of Zerdusht or Zoroaster, and containing an authentic account of his doctrines, observes,

that it appoints hell and eternal damnation as the punishment for all sins. See also to the same purpose, cap. xxxiii. pp. 402, 439, where the reader may find a passage in the book Sadder, in which those who have done evil works are represented as kept in a 'state of confinement and punishment to all eternity.'

Our author concludes this section with telling us what mighty things he could do if he pleased, to destroy the authority of the book of Daniel. But it seems

'the errors of that book are too many and too gross to be insisted on ;' and therefore he passes them over in his tenderness, as it is to be supposed, to the authority of the sacred writings. Only he gives us a hint, that the Daniel that was taken captive the first of Nebuchadnezzar, could not be the same person with that Daniel who decided the case between Susannah and the elders seventy-seven years after. Those that stand up for the authority of that story, suppose it happened at the very time of the Babylonish captivity, many years before the time this writer is pleased to fix for it. But if that story of Susannah be inconsistent with what is said in the book of Daniel, it proves nothing against the authority of that book ; it only proves that that story is not to be depended on, which is of small authority, and never was acknowledged by the Jews as belonging to the book of Daniel.

See concerning this, Bishop Sherlock’s Use and Intent of Prophecy, dissert. 2, and Alb. Schulten's late very learned commentary on Job.



The restoring the kingdom to Israel in a temporal sense, and the bringing all nations

into subjection to the Jews, not an essential character of the Messiah according to the prophets. What he offers to prove that the apostles were not under an infallible guidance examined. His account of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, and especially the strange and absurd representation he makes of the gifts of tongues, considered and exposed. Concerning the power of working miracles in the apostolical age. It did not depend upon those that had this power, to make use of it as they themselves pleased for the propagation of error as well as truth,

Our author begins 'his eighth section, with assuring his reader that my 'twelfth chapter, and almost every thing that follows to the end of the book, is little more than one continued rant.' And he had better have contented himself with some such general answers as this to my whole book, which would have been very near as enlightening to the world, as the book he has now written. But after abusing me for near a page together, he comes to vindicate what he had said concerning Jesus's disclaiming his being the Jewish prophetic Messiah. He had expressly declared, that Jesus renounced his being the Messiah in the sense of the prophets, and that he died upon that renunciation. I shewed, on the contrary, that Jesus did all along, during the whole course of his personal ministry, on all proper occasions, declare himself to be the Christ or Messiah: that he commended the faith of those who owned him to be such : that at his death he avowed it in the most solemn manner before the high priest, and the whole Jewish council : that it was a truth which he sealed with his blood : that after his resurrection he inculcated this upon his disciples : and that whereas they were commissioned to preach the gospel to all nations, this was one great article of the gospel which they preached to the world, under the direction of his Spirit. There is nothing in all this but what every man knows to be true who has ever read the New Testament. And yet this writer still insists upon it, that not only Jesus was not the Messiah according to the prophets; (for if he had said no more than this, he had acted the part of an unbelieving Jew, which we should not have much wondered at) but would face the world down by dint of assurance, contrary to plain fact that Jesus himself disclaimed and renounced his being the Messiah foretold by the prophets. The only argument he brings for it is this, that the Messiah, according to the prophets, was to be a great temporal prince, and to restore the kingdom to the house of David; whereas our Saviour Jesus Christ disclaimed all such temporal power, and declared before Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world.' But it doth not follow from our Saviour's declaring, that ‘his kingdom was not of this world, that therefore he disclaimed his being the Messiah foretold by the prophets, when we have his own most express declarations that he was so. All that follows from it is this, that since it was manifest that he all along to his death, declared himself to be the Christ foretold by the prophets, and yet did also declare, that his kingdom was not of a worldly nature, and that he was not a temporal prince in opposition to Cæsar; and therefore, if our Saviour may be allowed to be a good judge of the true sense and intention of these prophecies, the Messiah there spoken of was not to be merely a temporal prince, nor his kingdom to be like the kingdoms of this world, established for secular worldly purposes. It is true, that the Jews did then generally understand the prophecies in a different sense. They expected a Messiah, that was to be a national deliverer of Israel, and to raise them to a mighty degree of power and dominion above the Gentiles. And our author in this takes the part of the Jews against our Saviour. In his language, to be the Messiah in the Jewish national sense, and in the prophetical sense, is the same thing. See Mor. Phil. Vol. I. p. 331. To be the Messiah, and to be the national Deliverer and Saviour of the Jews, and the restorer of the kingdom to Israel,' in a temporal sense, are with him terms of the same signification, pp. 349, 350. And accordingly he affirms over and over, that the Jewish Christians universally believed in Christ only as “their national restorer and deliverer,' p. 367, and as 'the hope and salvation of Israel only, or as the restorer of their kingdom.' p. 377. This was the idea he gave of the Messiah and his kingdom in his former book ; and he frequently repeats it in this. He expressly again and again declares it to be an essential character of the Messiah, according to the prophets, that he was to be a conquering prince of the house of David, and the founder of a glorious temporal kingdom; that he was to subdue all other nations, and bring them into subjection to the Jews to rebuild the temple in a more splendid magnificent manner than ever ; and to restore their ancient priesthood and sacrifices, and the whole legal economy, and to extend this to all nations.* And now it is easy to see what an idea this worthy writer intends, as far as it is in his power, to convey to the world of our Saviour Jesus Christ. It is incontestably evident, that he himself claimed to be the Messiah foretold by the prophets, and persisted in this declaration to his death; and that all the apostles that preached the gospel in his name, and the apostle Paul as much as any of them, taught the same thing. And yet our author denies, ihat Jesus was or could be the Messiah foretold by the prophets; for he expressly declares, and insists upon it, that he wanted an essential character of the Messiah. And if this be not to justify the Jews in condenining our Lord, for falsely assuming the character of the Messiah, Matt. xxvi. 63–66. Luke xxii, 70, 71, it is hard to know what can be accounted so.

But as to the main point this writer should have proved, this he passes over as so evident, that it needs no proof at all. That the Jewish Messiah,' says he, 'according to all the prophecies con

[ocr errors]

See pp. 225, 251, and Letter to Euseb. pp. 18, 23, 30, 31, 34, 36.

« PreviousContinue »