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St Paul, though the apostle of the Gentiles, never cast off his care for his own brethren, and always expressed himself on that subject with the warmest aftection, and he alone of the writers of the New Testament, hath spoken clearly of the future restoration of the Jews : he earnestly wished for that happy day, and saw it afar off, and was glad,
St Paul was extremely zealous for the law, and a persecutor of the Christians: so were the Jews.
St Paul, for opposing Jesus Christ was struck blind, but upon his repentance he received his sight: so were the Jews for their rebellion smitten with spiritual blindness, which shall be removed when they are received again into favour.
St Paul was called miraculously, and by the glorious manifestation of Christ himself, and he was instructed by the same divine Master : such will perhaps be the conversion and the illumination of the Jews.
St Paul was called last of all the apostles: the Jews will certainly enter late into the church.
St Paul was the most active, laborious, and successful of all the disciples : such perhaps the Jews also shall be after their conversion. But these are rather conjectures of what may be, than discoveries of what must come to pass.
Our Saviour foretold that false Christs, and false prophets should arise and shew signs and wonders. This somewhat perplexed the ancient Christian writers; but if the objection had been made to the apostles when they first preached the gospel, they would perhaps have replied ;
As to the wonders which our Master says shall be done by false Christs and false prophets ;
Either, upon examination, some of those wonders will appear to be tricks and impostures;
Or, they will not be wrought publicly, and before proper witnesses, but will be attested by seditious ruffians, whose oath should not be admitted in any court of judicature;
Or, they will be wrought to defend something that is manifestly false, and therefore will be of no weight;
Or, they will be wrought to prove that God will protect and defend the Jews, which will be soon confuted by the destruction of Jerusalem ;
Or, they will not be such miracles as the ancient prophets declared that the Messias would perform, miracles beneficial to mankind;
Or, they will not be wrought with a declared purpose to disprove the truth of Christianity, or to establish any thing good and commendable, but only to amaze people, and excite them to rebellion ;
Or, they will be wrought at a time when the servants of Christ frequently, and openly perform miracles of a more noble and amiable kind; so that it will be impossible for an impartial man not to see on which side the advantage lies;
Or, they will be wrought by the permission of the divine providence, to infatuate and seduce the wicked, reprobate, unbelieving Jews; for though providence be concerned to take care that no honest person be misled by the miracles of a false prophet, yet God may by a just judgment permit evil men and evil spirits to delade those who are abandoned to all wickedness, and who have forfeited his favour and protection. Thus
you are forewarned ; take heed therefore that ye be not deceived.
Christ and his apostles foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, and many other events, and wrought a variety of miracles in confirmation of their own character and authority. False Christs were to arise shewing signs and wonders. Who were these false Christs ? Jews, without question. And whom would they deceive? Their own countrymen. And when were they to arise ? After the ascension of Christ, when his predictions began to be accomplished, and whilst his disciples were endued with miraculous powers. And what was to be the end of the wonders, real or fictitious, of the false Christs? To incite the Jews to sedition and rebellion, and to persuade them that God would never forsake them. But misery and ruin brake in upon the nation like a torrent, and shewed the folly of trusting in suchi liars. If for a time these impostors succeeded, and seduced some persons, yet the time was short, and the deluded
persons were men devoted to destruction, and so no harm arose from it, either to good men, or to the Gentile world, or to the gospel of Christ.
The destruction of Jerusalem therefore soon decided the controversy between the Christians and the false prophets, and shewed on which side the truth lay, and who had the Spirit of God.
Our Saviour says of those impostors, They shall shew wonders. It appears not evidently from these words that they should really work miracles. They shall shew them, that is, they shall pretend to it, and make people think so,-truly or falsely, it mattered not; and Christ forbad his followers to regard any thing that they should teach, or to take their
wonders into consideration, because the event would very soon
discover them to be false prophets and pernicious guides, and that was enough.
Concerning the miracles of the apostles, it is most probable that they could not be performed by them at their own discretion, but only when they had an impulse from the Holy Ghost, who alone knew the proper times and the just occasions. When St Paul was sent as a prisoner to appear before Cæsar at Rome, it seems to have been expedient for the honour of Christianity, that he should have the reputation of being a lioly man, favoured by heaven, who had the spirit of prophecy, and had performed wonderful works; or else Nero, and the courtiers, and the Prætorian guards would have despised him, as a setter forth of strange doctrines, and a fanatic. Therefore the Spirit of God so ordered it, that he foretold the loss of the ship, and the safe landing of all the passengers, and wrought several miracles at Malta, and that kind of miracles which will gain the love and favour of men, namely, healing the sick, and thence was highly respected by Julius the centurion who had the care of him, and who, when he delivered his prisoners to the captain of the guard at Rome, informed him, no doubt, of all that had happened in the voyage, which accounts for the good treatment St Paul received at court, and for the permission granted him of dwelling in his own hired house with only one soldier to guard him, and for the converts whom he seems to have made even in Cæsar's household.
Let us now sum up briefly, and in few words, the main evidences of the truth of our religion.
1. Christ was forctold by the prophets. Of the things predicted concerning him, some were miraculous, some improbable, some seemingly irreconcile
able, able, and all of them beyond the reach of human conjecture, and yet in him they all centered and were united and reconciled.
To this must be added the amazing harmony, analogy, and correspondence between the Old and New Testament, not only in the direct prophecies, but in the types, rites, ceremonies, and events contained in the former, and fulfilled in a sublimer sense in the latter, which upon the whole could never be the effect of blind chance,
The Old and New Testament confirm each other : the prophetic parts of the former support the gospel, and the miracles, and prophecies, and success of Christ and his apostles support the Old Testament *.
2. Christ knew the hearts of men, as he shewed upon all occasions ; a knowledge which Almighty God represents in Scripture as so peculiar to himself, that he cannot be supposed to suffer those to partake of it who are not sent by him.
* The authenticity of the books of the New Testament stands confirmed by many proofs internal and external, some of which we have represented in the first book; and the truth of the facts and doctrines contained in those books must be established by the same arguments which shew the truth of Christianity.
We know the Scriptures to be ibe word of God, say some persons, because ibe Spirit tells us so. But how will you convince us that you have the Spirit ? and what is the rule by which we may distin guish your pretensions from fanaticism?
When a man carefully examines the arguments for the divine authority of the Scriptures, and sees the force of them, and assents to them, he may reasonably conclude that the Holy Spirit has assisted him; but his belief, though thus assisted, is grounded upon evidence, upon inferences justly drawn from just premises; and faith must be founded upon reason, or it must be fanatical credulity. There is no medium.