« VorigeDoorgaan »
I have deemed it important to bestow a greater share of labor on the five first books of the Bible, on account of the remote period in which they were written, and because all the later writers of scripture appeal to them as the original authority for their religious faith: And I cannot but esteem it as an evidence of great importance to the authenticity of these books, that all the Jews of every sect, besides the Samaritans, together with Mahometans and christians, have, in every age since their existence, united in the most undoubted belief of their truth and di vine authority. Indeed, it appears utterly impossible to account for the conduct of the Jewish nation in submitting to the laws and ordinances of the Pentateuch, unless they were accompanied with the clearest demonstrations of divine power. Pagan writers of the highest antiquity have also preserved many of the great and interesting facts recorded in the Pentateuch, and handed them down to posterity and notwithstanding they have often disguised and blended them with extravagant fables, still enough remains to convince the careful and intelligent reader they must have been drawn from the writings of Moses. Nay, we have seen that several of them have acknowledg ed the authorship of Moses, and have quoted both the law and historical facts which he recorded, in many important particulars. I shall therefore submit the question to the decision of your sober reason, whether it does not require the most astonishing and unreasonable credulity, for any man to believe that an ample code of the most rigid laws, requiring numerous expensive sacrifices and ceremonies; all claiming to be founded upon the open display of miraculous power, in the presence of millions, was received and credited in such a manner as to become the standing law of a whole nation through all ages, if no such miracles were ever performed? And whether those who affect to believe that the writings of Moses are made up of fabulous imposture, do not in reality exceed the most shameful examples of ignorant credulity to which they can point us in all the pages of Jewish and christian history!
I must here pass to notice some of the most important predictions of other prophets, whose names are handed down to us by the scriptures of the Old Testament: But
in doing this, it will be unnecessary to speak of any except such as hold a conspicuous place in the historical records of the Jews. Before we proceed to any particular designation, it is expedient to remind you, my hearers, that it was a crime, for which the Jewish law ordained the punishment of death, for any man to pretend to the gift of prophecy, if he was detected as a false prophet: Therefore, every one who pretended to such inspiration, must either openly perform a miracle, or wait till the event of his prophecy had fully and clearly tested his claim to that high and honorable office.
It may be proper here to give the names of such prophets as were principally esteemed, and recorded in Jewit history, with the periods of their death, by which it will appear that they were raised up in that nation at the very time when their eminent services were most needed to check the ambition of kings, and to prevent the universal corruption of divine truth and divine worship. The catalogue which I shall present to you, commenced about the period when the Jews began to be dissatisfied with the government of the Judges, and discovered an unconquerable propensity to imitate the neighboring nations, by setting apart a king to reign over them.
The prophet who was then raised up, admonished them of the danger to which they would be exposed, and predicted that the kingdom would soon be rent from Saul, and transferred to David. This prophet was Samuel, who died about 1057 years before Christ. The next was David, king of Israel, who died 1015-Elijah, 895-Elisha, 830 Amos, 785-Jonah, 784-Hosea, 725-Micah, 699
Isaiah and Nahum, 698-Joel, 660-Zephaniah, 609Habakkuk, 598-Jeremiah, 586-Obadiah, 583-Ezekiel, 536-Daniel, 534-Haggai and Zechariah, 518Malachi, 420.
It is worthy of special notice, that from the time of the Judges, to the close of the Babylonish captivity, when the Jews were effectually weaned from the sin of idolatry, the number of prophets far exceeded that of any other period of equal length; and it clearly displays the wisdom of God, in providing such guards, and effectual barriers, against the wide spread corruptions and idolatries which
marked the reign of many of their kings. Previous to the time of these kings, the names of Joshua, Gideon, Barack, Sampson, and Jephthah, are mentioned as persons to whom divine communications were made from time to time, and who occasionally officiated in the character of prophets. Indeed, the acts and predictions of these prophets, together with the fulfilment of what they foretold, is so interwoven with, and occupies so large a portion of the Jewish history, from the days of Moses, till about four hundred years before the birth of Christ, that it would be impossible to make a separation, without destroying, or at least, without rendering that history entirely useless.
The prophecies of the Old Testament were totally dif ferent from all the oracles of the heathen: They were delivered without solicitation, and publicly pronounced before multitudes; not in doubtful and ambiguous terms, but generally in a plain and explicit manner, so as to be easily understood by all classes. Nay, more; they were generally written at length, and exposed to the inspection of all such as had the curiosity to examine what they foretold. By this means, all frauds could readily be detected, and every man could judge of them by their fulfilment. Not so with pagan oracles: Questions had to be proposed, their answers demanded, and these responses were always conveyed in language highly ambiguous; so that let the event prove as it might, there was always left ample room for evasion, should the charge of falsehood be preferred. In addition to this, the responses were always given in secret, and the books containing the mysteries of their religion were always concealed from the multitude.
With these remarks concerning the character of Jewish prophecy, we shall hasten to notice a few of the predictions of some of the principal prophets of olden time, and their plain and literal fulfilment.
About 742 years before Christ, Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, king of Israel, entered into a confederacy against Ahaz, king of Judah: This monarch was greatly distressed, lest the kingdom of Judah should be absolutely destroyed. At this alarming crisis, the prophet Isaiah was sent to Ahaz, and in a public manner assured him
that the enterprise should be frustrated, and that these confederate kings should both die in a short time that before a child, which should be born in about ten months, should be able to say, "My father and my mother," the capitals of Syria and Israel, namely, Damascus and Samaria, should both be subjected to the king of Assyria.This prediction was literally fulfilled within the short space of three years; as may be seen by consulting Isaiah 7th and 8th chapters, and II. Kings xv. 29, 30. xvi. 29. The destruction of the army of Sennacherib was also accurately foretold by this prophet. Again, we are apprized, that after the departure of the ambassadors of the king of Babylon, to whom Hezekiah had disclosed his treasures, this same prophet was commissioned to assure the Jewish monarch, that all his treasures should be conveyed to Babylon; and that the princes descending from him, should become menial servants. Isa. xxxix. 5-7. II. Kings xx. At the time this prediction was uttered, the kings of Judah and Babylon were allies: Yet it was literally accomplished soon after, when the Jews were carried captive to Babylon.
The overthrow of the Babylonian monarch, and the name of the military chieftain, Cyrus, by whom it should be effected, were mentioned by Isaiah, more than one hundred years before he was born, as well as the return of the Jewish captivity. See Isaiah, 45th chapter. The entire destruction of the city of Babylon, was also foretold by this prophet, so that its ancient site should be lost; and that with such precision, that his character, as a true prophet of God, was never afterwards doubted by the Jews. For this prophecy, and its literal fulfilment, you are invited to consult Isa. 13th, 14th and 47th chapters, and the history of Josephus; with numerous other accounts of more modern travellers.
Another prophet predicted the reign of Josiah, calling him by name, more than three hundred years before his birth, and confirmed the prediction of what he should perform, by two astonishing miracles. This prediction was literally fulfilled, as may be seen by comparing the prophecy with the history-i. Kings, xiii. chap. and ii. of Kings, xxiii. chap.
Isaiah predicted the entire discontinuance of idolatry among the Jews, ii. chap. 18, 21, and which was literally effected within two hundred years, by the sufferings of the Babylonish captivity. This prophet also foretold the general distress and ruin that should be brought upon the Jews for their wickedness, which overtook them within two hundred years, as may be seen, Isa. iii. 1, 14, and ii. Chronicles, xxxvi. chap. In addition to all these predictions, Isaiah announced that a few of the poorer sort should be left to cultivate the land of Israel, during the Babylonish captivity, which was also fully accomplished.
Jeremiah anticipated by prophecy the conquests of Nebuchadnezzar, with the certain captivity of the Jews, in such a remarkable manner, that it became notorious to all the neighboring nations: For he accompanied his language by visible signs; and sent bonds and yokes "to the kings of Edom, Moab, the Amonites, Tyre and Zidon, by the hand of the messengers which came to Jerusalem (from these kings) unto Zedekiah, king of Judah ;" and distinctly foretold, "that all these nations should serve Nebuchadnezzar, and his son, and his son's son." See chap. xxvii. 3-7. For this pointed prophecy, the Jews cast him into prison, where he remained till Nebuchadnezzar took the city of Jerusalem and set him at liberty. See chap. xxxix. 11-14. Jeremiah was contradicted and opposed by several false prophets, whose flattering predictions and deceitful delusions persuaded the people that no evil should befal them. Upon this, Jeremiah prophesied that Hananiah, one of these false prophets, should die, that same year, and that Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah should be taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, and slain in sight of the_people of Judah, and their bodies roasted in the fire. For the fulfilment of these predictions, as to time, manner and place, you have only to consult chap. xxviii. 16, 17. xxix. 21, 22. By the exact and speedy fulfilment of these singular predictions, the prophetic inspiration of this venerable seer was so clearly and fully established, as never afterwards to be doubted by his countrymen.
One strange prediction of this prophet, and which for a time was thought to contradict the prophecy of Ezekiel,