Page images
PDF
EPUB

pressed by the voice of one crying in the wilderness. For, as Lowth observes on Isaiah, p. 188. " The Jewish church to which “ John was sent to announce the coming of Messiah, was at " that time in a barren and desert condition ; unfit, without re“ formation, for the reception of her king. It was in this de« fert country, destitute at that time of all religious cultivation, “ in true piety and good works unfruitful, that John was sent “ to prepare the way of the Lord by preaching repentance."

Many other examples of prophecies might be mentioned, in which the return of the Jews from Babylon was foretold, and of which passages are applied, by the writers of the New Testament, to the redemption of mankind from the bondage of fin. But the one explained above, may suffice as a proof of what is called the double sense of prophecy, in which the obvious literal sense exhibits a second and higher meaning : So that these prophecies, properly speaking, are true allegories.

Thus it appears, That the high figurative expressions in the Jewish scriptures which are fo offensive to modern ears and to minute philosophers, were occasioned by the poverty of the first language of mankind : That the boldest of these figures were derived from the ancient picture-writing : That the symbols used in that kind of writing gave rise to the dark Egyptian allegory, which was held in great estimation at the time the scriptures were written: And that in the early ages mankind, whether barbarous or civilized, were accustomed to express their sentiments and feelings by significant actions as well as by fignificant sounds. These things considered, it cannot be matter either of surprise or of blame, that the Jewish prophets exhorted the people and foretold future events in such figurative language as to us moderns appears extravagant; or that they delivered their exhortations and predictions in dark allegories, formed on the qualities and circumstances of the symbois, by which the persons, and nations concerning whom they prophefied were denoted in picture writing ; or even, that on extraordinary occasions, they foretold things future by what may be -called a drama continued through a great length of time, in which they spake and acted things which excited the wonder of the spectators, and led them to inquire what the prophets meant by them, and, when explained, could not but make a strong impression upon their imagination. These things were all done suitably to the genius and manners of the times, and were easily understood by the people for whose instruction they were intended.–And with respect to the persons who, in the scriptures, are said in their natural characters and actions to have been types of future persons and events, that method of foretelling things future was of the same kind with allegorical prophecy: for surely it made no difference whether the allegory was formed on the qualities and actions of a symbol, or on the qualities and actions of a real person. In the symbolical or instituted allegory, it was thewed to be an allegory by the particulars of which it was composed. But in the natural allegory, the characters and events of which it was composed do not shew it to be an allegory. Wherefore, before these are confidered by us as allegories, or prefigurations of future persons and events, we ought to be assured by some one or other of the prophets or inspired persons who afterwards arole, that they are allegories, otherwise they ought not to be considered as such. - By this rule the futility of those allegorical meanings which some of the ancient fathers put on many passages of fcripture will clearly appear. And the humour of finding myftical fenses in the sacred oracles, which some of the modern commentators have too much indulged, will be effe&tually represieci.

meant

Upon the whole, the observation suggested in the beginning of this Essay may now be repeated with some confidence; namely, That the high figurative language by which the Jewish fcriptures are so strongly marked, together with the allegorical and typical senses with which they abound, and the extraordinary things done by the Jewish prophets, instead of being instances of absur.lity and signs of imposture, are proofs of their antiquity and authenticity; and even strong presumptions of the divine original of the revelations contained in these venerable writings.

A HISTORY

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

THE

L I F E

OF

.P P A U L,

THE APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST.

I
OFFER to the Public the history of the apostle Paul, com-

posed from materials furnished, partiy by himself in his epistles, and partly by the evangelist Luke in his book of the Acts. And I do this, in the persuasion that the better we are acquainted with Paul's character and actions, the more will we be disposed to acknowledge his authority as an apostle, and to respect his writings as the oracles of God. This, however, is not the only advantage to be derived from the knowledge of Paul's history. It will eitablille us in the faith, by thewing us in what manner the gospel was preached at the first, both to the Jews and to the Gentiles; what success it met with in the different countries where it was preached; what sufferings the first preachers and the first believers endured for the sake of the gospel ; and how amply it was confirmed by the Lord, who gave testimony to the word of his grace, by the signs and wonders which he granted to be wrought by the hands of the apostles, in all the countries where they preached. To these advantages we may add, the use which the knowledge of Paul's history will be of, in helping us to understand his writings which make fo considerable a part of the canon of scripture.

CHAP.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »