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SEVERAL OCCASIONAL REFLECTIONS;
IN ANSWER TO THE
REV. DRS. STEBBING & SYKES:
Serving to explain and justify the two Dissertations in
"THE DIVINE LEGATION,"
THE COMMAND TO ABRAHAM TO OFFER UP HIS SON,
Quid immérentes hospites vexas, Canis,
Nam, qualis aut Molossus, aut fulvus Lacon,
Agam per altas aure sublata nives,
Quæcunque præcedet Fera.
Tu quum timenda voce complesti Nemus,
REMARKS ON OCCASIONAL REFLECTIONS;
THE two SUBJECTS here debated will deserve the attention of every serious Believer; especially, those of my own Order. For the sake of such, I shall just hazard a few observations, which I thought rather too good to be thrown away upon those whom the following sheets more immediately concerned.
I. The Reader finds here, what the learned Dr. Stebbing has been able to object to my interpretation of the COMMAND TO ABRAHAM: Which, I presume, when fairly attended to, will be no light confirmation of its truth. But, as I have no notions to advance, not founded in a sincere desire to demonstrate the divinity of our holy religion, I would by no means take the advantage of a weak Adversary, to recommend them to the public acceptance. I hold it not honest, therefore, to conceal an objection to my interpretation, by far more plausible than any that zealous Gentleman has urged against it; which is this, "That it is difficult to conceive how a "eircumstance of so much importance to Revelation, "as the removing one of the strongest infidel objections
against its truth, and proving a real connexion between "the two dispensations of it, should never be clearly "explained and insisted on by the Writers of the New Testament, though the Historian of the Old might have had sufficient reasons for concealing it." To which I beg leave to reply, that it is very certain, that many truths of great importance, for the support of religion against infidelity, were taught by Jesus to his disciples (amongst which, I reckon this interpretation to
be one) which never came down, by their conveyance, to the church. But being, by the assistance of God's Holy Spirit, discoverable by those who devote themselves to the study of the Scriptures with a pure mind, have, for the wise ends of Providence, inscrutable to us, been left for the industry of man to find out, that, as occasion required, every age might supply new evidence of God's truth, to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; and that, in proportion as the power of darkness thickened, so might the splendour of the Gospel light; that light which was ordained, at last, entirely to disperse it. In support of what is here said, I beg the reader to reflect on what is told us by the Evangelist, of the conversation between Jesus (after his resurrection) and the two disciples journeying to Emmaus; where their Master says unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded unto them the things concerning himself *. Now who can doubt but that many things were here revealed, which would have greatly contributed to the demonstration of the Gospel truth? Yet hath it pleased Providence that this discourse should never be recorded. that the apostles used, and made a good use too, of those instructions, we have the plainest evidence from their amazing success in the conversion of the world, by this application of the writings of Moses and the prophets. And if I be not greatly deceived, amongst truths inforced on those occasions, that, which I presume to have discovered in the Command to Abraham, was not forgotten. Let the unprejudiced reader judge. St. Paul, making his apology before king Agrippa, recapitulates his defence in these words: Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the. prophets, and MOSES, DID SAY SHOULD COME: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead. The Greek is rather stronger, in predicating this circumstance of Moses—w τὲ ὁ προφῆται ἐλάλησαν μελλόντων γίνεσθαι ΚΑΙ ΜΩΣΗΣ, *St. Luke xxiv. 26, 27, +Acts xxvi. 22, 23.
Now where, let me ask, in all his writings, except in the Command to Abraham, is there the least trace of any such circumstance, as that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead? Or in that command either, if not understood according to our interpretation?
But further, as the apostles did not convey several illustrious truths taught them by their Master to the churches which they founded: so neither (and doubtless for the same wise ends of Providence) did the churches convey down to posterity several truths revealed to them by the apostles. An instance of which we have in St. Paul's second Epistle to the Thessalonians, where, speaking of Antichrist, or the Man of Sin, he reminds the church of what it was he told them yet let or hindered his coming-Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now you know, what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. But the knowledge of this let or hindrance the Church of God hath long lost. And yet it is a matter of very high concernment. I have ever thought, the prophecies relating to Antichrist, interspersed up and down the New and Old Testament, the most convincing proof of the truth of the Christian religion that any moral matter is capable of receiving. That a Roman power is meant, is so exceeding evident, that it is that point in which all parties are agreed. But to fix it to the individual power (a determination highly interesting both the truth and purity of religion) it must first be known whether the power spoken of be civil or ecclesiastical. Protestants, in general, think they see all the marks of the latter. The Catholics, as they are called, contend of necessity for the former: and they have many great names even among us on their side (by what odd concurrence of circumstances, may be considered in another place). This has long embarrasssed a question, on the right determination of which alone, I am fully persuaded, one might rest the whole truth of the Christian cause., Now the knowledge of what it was that let or hindered the appearance of Antichrist, which St. Paul communicated to the church of Thessalonica, would at once determiné the question. But this is the state in which it hath