Page images
PDF
EPUB

Ess. 111.]
Julian.

49 the work was constantly impeded, and was finally relinquished in despair, in consequence of vehement and repeated eruptions of fire from the once consecrated mountain of Moriah. This fact is recorded by Ambrose, Chrysostom, and Gregory Nazianzen, three cotemporary Christian writers, whom Gibbon himself allows to be "respectable witnesses ;” and it is fully confirmed by the explicit and perfectly-unexceptionable testimony of Ammianus Marcellinus, an historian of acknowledged learning and veracity, a cool philosopher, a personal friend of Julian, and a pagan: lib. xxiii, cap. 1. See Warburton's Julian - Gibbon's Rom. Emp. ch. xxiii. Thus was the site of the ancient temple of God, notwithstanding the most powerful human efforts, left to its appointed desolation. Now, whether the phenomenon which then occurred can be justly traced to any second or physical cause, or whether (under circumstances which rendered a miracle highly probable) it is to be regarded as entirely supernatural, it is in either case impossible not to perceive in this well authenticated fact, a wonderful display of the wisdom and power of the Deityin support of the revealed designs of his own providence, and in confirmation of the predictions of the greatest of prophets.

T" Et licèt accidentium varietatem sollicita mente præcipiens; multiplicatos expeditionis apparatus flagranti studio perurgeret: diligentiam tamen ubique dividens, [Julianus] imperiique sui memoriam magnitudine operum gestiens propagare, ambitiosum quondam apud Hierosolymam templum, quod post multa et interneciva certamina obsidente Vespasiano posteáque Tito ægrè est expugnatum, instaurare sumptibus cogitabat immodicis: negotiúmque maturandum Alypio dederat Antiochensi, qui olim Britannias curaverat pro Præfectis. Cùm itaque rei idem fortiter instaret Alypius juvarétque provinciæ rector, metuendi globi fiammarum prope fundamenta crebris assultibus erumpentes, fecere locum exustis aliquoties operantibus inaccessum : hocque modo elemento destinatiùs repellente, cessavit inceptum.”..

D

50

Hebrew Scriptures. (Ess. III. Having thus considered some of the most remarkable predictions uttered by Jesus Christ, it will be desirable for us, in the second place, to take a view of those still more ancient prophecies, which are recorded in the Old Testament–in the sacred books of the Hebrews. Before, however, we can properly enter on this branch of our subject, I must premise a few general observations on that important part of Holy Writ.

When Ezra had returned with the people from captivity, and had settled with them in their own land, he employed himself, as is generally supposed, in arranging and determining the canon of Scripture ; and the few books which were afterwards written are considered to have been added to the canon by Simon the Just, one of his divinely-authorized successors. Whether, however, the work be rightly attributed to these individuals or not, it is certain that the canon of Hebrew Scripture was formed long before the coming of Christ, and that the sacred books, thus collected together, were classed by the ancient Jews in three divisions—the law, the prophets, and the psalms, or hagiographa. The Law” consisted of the first five books of the Bible, which contain the history of the creation, and of the Lord's servants for the first 2500 years after it, as well as a detailed account of the whole Mosaic institution; and which, during the successive ages of the Jewish church, appear to have been uniformly attributed to Moses himself. Prophets" embraced the book of Job and all the more ancient historical books, as well as those writings which bear the names of these inspired penmen; for the whole of the works now mentioned were ascribed by the Jews to the Prophets who rose up in succession during the several stages of the Israelitish history. The Psalms,lastly, was the general name

66 The

Ess. 111.] Hebrew Scriptures.

51 given to the sacred songs of David, Asaph and others, and to the Proverbs, the Ecclesiastes, and the canticles of Solomon : and to these were added by the Jews, under the general name of Cetubim, or holy writings, the Books of Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, and Chronicles; see Prideaux Conn., fol. edit. vol. i, pp. 261, 262, 452.

Now, that these various books of Hebrew Scripture are really of the antiquity which is usually attributed to them, and that those of them which are not anonymous were written by the rulers and prophets whose names they bear, we may safely conclude, for a variety of reasons. For, in the first place, they were universally esteemed as sacred, and of course also as genuine, by the Jews, at the Christian era; as we learn from very many passages of the New Testament, and from the express testimony of Josephus and Philo: Joseph. contra Apion. lib. i, cap. 8; Philo, passim. Secondly, both the historical and prophetical parts of the Jewish Scriptures are largely quoted by both these authors, and also by the Talmudic writers, as well as by Christ and his apostles, Thirdly, they were translated, as a complete canon, into Greek, nearly 300 years before the Christian era, and of this version (the well-known Septuagint) we are still in possession. Fourthly, the book of the law was deposited in the archives of the tabernacle and temple from the days of its author, and was on many occasions publicly read to the people; and to this sacred deposit appear to have been added, in succession, the writings of David, of Solomon, and of the prophets : see Gray's Key to the Old Test., p. 4. Fifthly, after the captivity, copies of the whole Hebrew Scriptures were multiplied, and both the law and the prophets weré regularly read in the Jewish synagogues. And lastly, in the language, in the circumstantiality of the narrative, in the reciprocal adaptation of its several

52
Their Genuineness.

[Ess. IIr. parts, and in various other particulars, we find, in the Old as well as in the New Testament, plain internal indications of a genuine origin; see Horne's Introd. to the New Test., vol. 1, chap. ii, sect. 1.

Nor have we any reason to doubt the general correctness of the text of the Hebrew Scriptures, as it has come down to us in the present day. On the contrary, we have sufficient warrants for that correctness, in the careful preservation of these divine writings by the Jews, before the Christian era; and afterwards in the labors of the textual doctors or Masorites, who elaborately employed themselves in ascertaining the readings, and even in numbering the letters of the several books, see Prideaux Con., vol. i, p. 278; in the ancient translations and paraphrases of the Old Testament; in the early multiplication of copies; and in the guard which the opposing sects of the Jews, before the coming of Christ, and the Jews and Christians after that era, must have reciprocally maintained, so as to prevent any wilful alteration of the common record.

Since the Hebrew Scriptures are thus indisputably genuine, and since, through a long series of ages, they have been so carefully preserved, we may proceed without further hesitation in making our appeal to their contents. Now, there is nothing which more distinguishes them, and more clearly indicates their sacred character, than the comprehensive and varied line of prophecy which runs in a rich vein through all their principal parts. In his dealings with Abraham and his descendants, (directed as those dealings were to the ultimatė advantage of mankind in general,) God was pleased to make himself manifest, not merely by the operation of his grace, but by the two undoubted and especial signs of miracles and prophecy; and it was by these extraordinary means that, notwithstanding the remarkable proneness of the Israelites to rebellion Ess. 111.] Prophecies respecting the Israelites, fc.

53 and idolatry, and the powerful opposition of the enemies of God, revealed religion was maintained in its appointed course, until the time arrived for its diffusion over the world at large.

In the promises of God addressed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that their seed should be multiplied as the stars of heaven, and should inherit the land of Palestine, Gen. xxii, 17, &c. &c.—and in those addressed to Moses and Joshua, respecting the success of Israel in war, and the expulsion of the Canaanitish nations, Exod. xxiii, 28, &c.-in the communications made by the dying Jacob to his twelve sons, respecting the future condition of the several tribes of which they were the fathers, Gen. xlix-in the predictions of many singular events which were afterwards to distinguish the history of God's chosen people ; such as the destruction of Baal's altar at Bethel, by Josiah, 1 Kings xiii, 2—the invasion of Judea by the Chaldeans, Hab. i, &c. &c.--the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, Jer. xxi, xxxii, 28, &c.—the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, Jer. xvii, 4, &c.—the cruel treatment, yet peaceable death, of Zedekiah, Jer. xxxiv, 2-5; Ezek. xii, 13-the continuance of a small gleaning or remnant in the land, Isa. xxiv, 13, 14—the deliverance of the Jews from their bondage after seventy years, Jer. xxv, 12-and the building of the city and temple under the auspices of Cyrus, Isa. xliv, 28-in the ancient curse pronounced against Canaan, Gen. ix, 25—in the threats of punishment and destruction issued many years, and sometimes even centuries, beforehand, against the idolatrous states which surrounded and oppressed the Israelites-in Daniel's description of the succession of the four great monarchies--in all these and many other propecies, and in the gradual yet exact fulfilment of them, the ancient Hebrews were furnished with so many distinct

« PreviousContinue »