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PART THE SECOND.
OF THE AUXILIARY EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY,
Prophecy. Isa. lii. 13. liii. 66 BEHOLD, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: so shall he sprinkle many nations ; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them they shall see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid, as it were; our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in bis death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; hath put him to grief. When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong
his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will i divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death : and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made interces sion for the transgressors."
T'Hese words are extant in a book, purporting to contain the predictions of a writer who lived seven centuries before the Christian era.
That material part of every argument from prophecy, namely, that the words alleged were actually spoken or written before the fact, to which they are applied, took place, or could by any natural means be foreseen, is, in the present instance, incontestable. The record comes out of the custody of adversaries. The Jews, as an ancient father well observed, are our librarians. The passage is in their copies as well as in ours. With many attempts to explain it away, none has ever been made by them to discredit its authenticity.
And, what adds to the force of the quotation is, that it is taken from a writing declaredly prophetic ; a writing, prosessing to describe such future transactions and changes in the world, as were connected with the fate and interests of the Jewish nation. It is not a passage in an historical or devotional composition, which, because it turns out to be applicable to some future events, or some future situation of affairs, is presumed to have been oracular. The words of Isaiah were delivered by him in a prophetic character, with the solemnity belonging to that character; and what he so delivered, was all along understood by the Jewish reader to refer to something that was to take place after the time of the author. The public sentiments of the Jews, concerning the design of Isaiah's writings, are set forth in the book of Ecclesiasticus; “ He saw, by an excellent spirit, what should come to pass at the last, and he comforted them that mourned in Sion. He showed what should come to pass for ever, and secret things or ever they came.” (ch. xlviii. 24.)
It is also an advantage which this prophecy possesses, that it is intermixed with no other subject. It is entire, separate, and uninterruptedly directed to one scene of ohino's
The application of the prophecy to the evangelic history, is plain and appropriate. Here is no double sense. No figurative language but what is sufficiently intelligible to every reader of every country. The obscurities, by which I mean the expressions that require a knowledge of Jacal diction, and of local allusion, are few, and not of great importance. Nor have I found that varieties of reading, or a different construing of the original, produce any material alteration in the sense of the prophecy. Compare the common translation with that of bishop Lowth, and the difference is not considerable. So far as they do differ, bishop Lowth's corrections, which are the faithful result of an accurate examination, bring the description near to the New Testament history than it was before. In the fourth verse of the fifty third chapter, what our bible renders "stricken," he translates judicially stricken;" and the eighth verse, the clause "he was taken from prison and from judgment,” the bishop gives 6 by an oppressive judgment he was taken off.” The next words to these, 65 who shall declare his generation,” are much cleared up in their meaning by the bishop's version, 6 his manner of life who would declare," i. e. who would stand forth in his defence. The former part of the ninth verse, 6 and he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death," which inverts the circumstances of Christ's passion, the bishop brings out in an order perfectly agreeable to the event; 6 and his grave was appointed with the wicked, but with the rich man was his tomb." The words in the eleventh verse, "s by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many,” are in the bishop's version by the knowledge of him shall my righteous servant justify many."
It is natural to inquire what turn the Jews themselves give to this prophecy.* There is good proof that the ancient Rabins explained it of their expected Messiah ;t but their modern expositors concur, I think, in representing it, as a description of the calamitous state and intended restoration of the Jewish people, who are here, as they say, exbibited under the character of a single person. I have not discovered that their exposition rests upon any critical apguments, or upon these in any other than a very minute degree. The clause in the ninth verse, which we render 5 for the transgression of my people was he stricken," and
* “Vaticinium hoc Esaiæ est carnificina, Rabbinorumde quo aliqui Judæi mihi con fessi sunt, Rabbinos suos ex propheticis scripturis facile se extricare potuisse, módo Esajastacuissct." Hulse Theol bid. p.318, quoted by Poole in loc.
't Hulse Theol. Jud. p. 430,
great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences: and fearful sights, and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And
shall be betrayed both by parents and brethren, and kinsfolk and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls. And when ye shall see Je. rusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart cut; and let ru them that are the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But wo unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days; for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
In terms nearly similar, this discourse is related in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, and the thirteenth of Mark. The prospect of the same evils drew
from our Saviour, upon another occasion, the following affecting expressions of concern, wbich are preserved by St. Luke, (xix. 41.) 6 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes; for the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee, and shall not leave in thee one stone upon another, because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation." These passages are direct and explicit predictions. References to the same event, some plain,
some parabolical, or otherwise figurative, are found in divers other discourses of our Lord.*
The general agreement of the descriptions with the event, viz. with the ruin of the Jewish nation, and the capture of Jerusalem under Vespasian, thirty-six years after Christ's death, is most evident: and the accordancy in various articles of detail and circumstance has been shown by many learned writers. It is also an advantage to the inquiry, and to the argument built upon it, that we have received a copious account of the transaction from Josephus, a Jewish and contemporary historian. This part of the case is perfectly free from doubt. The only question which, in my opinion, can be raised upon the subject, is, whether the prophecy was really delivered before the event. I shall apply, therefore, my observations to this point solely.
1. The judgment of antiquity, though varying in the precise year of the publication of the three gospels, concurs in assigning them a date prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.
2. This judgment is confirmed by a strong probability, arising from the course of human life. The destruction of Jerusalem took place in the seventieth year after the birth of Christ. The three evangelists, one of whom was his immediate companion, and the other two associated with his companions, were, it is probable, not much younger than he was. They must, consequently, have been far advanced in life when Jerusalem was taken ; and no reason has been given why they should defer writing their bistories so long.
3.1 If the evangelists, at the time of writing the gospels,' had known of the destruction of Jerusalem, by which catastrophe the prophecies were plainly fulfilled, it is most probable, that, in recording the predictions, they would have dropped some word or other about the completion; in like manner as Luke, after relating the denunciation of a dearth by Agabus, adds, “which came to pass in the days of Claudius Cæsar:''$ whereas the prophecies are given distinctly in one chapter of each of the first gospels, and referred to in several different passages of each, and in none of all these places, does there appear the smallest intimation that the thing spoken of were come to pass. I do not admit that it would have been the part of an impostor, who wished his readers to believe that his book was written Mat, xxi. 33-46. xxii. 1-7. Mark xii, 1-12. Luke xiii. 1-9. XX. 9.-20. xxi. 5-13.
* Lardner, vol. XIII Le Clerc. Diss. III. de quat. ev. Num. VII. p. 541. Acts xi. 28.