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work near to that time (which, upon any even the lowest and most difadvantageous supposition, was the cafe with the gospels now in our hands), and addreffing his work to Jews and to Jewish converts (which Matthew certainly did), to ftate that the followers of Chrift had received admonitions, of which they made no ufe when the oceafion arrived, and of which, experience then recent proved, that thofe, who were most concerned to know and regard them, were ignorant or negligent. Even if the prophecies came to the hands of the evangelifts through no better vehicle than tradition, it must have been by tradition which subfifted prior to the event. And to fuppofe, that, without any authority whatever, without fo much as even any tradition to guide them, they had forged these paffages, is to impute to them a degree of fraud and impofture, from every appearance of which their compofitions are as far removed as poffible.
5. I think that, if the prophecies had been a 3
compofed after the event, there would have been more specification. The names or descriptions of the enemy, the general, the emperor, would have been found in them. The defignation of the time would have been more determinate. And I am fortified in this opinion by obferving, that the counterfeited prophecies of the Sybilline oracles, of the twelve patriarchs, and, I am inclined to believe, most others of the kind, are mere transcripts of the hiftory moulded into a prophetic form,
It is objected that the prophecy of the deftruction of Jerufalem is mixed, or connected, with expreffions which relate to the final judgement of the world; and fo connected, as to lead an ordinary reader to expect, that these two events would not be far diftant from each other. To which I anfwer, that the objection does not concern our prefent argument. If our Saviour actually foretold the deftruction of Jerufalem, it is fufficient; even although we should allow, that the narration of the prophecy had
had combined together what had been faid by him upon kindred fubjects, without accurately preferving the order, or always noticing the tranfition of the discourse.
The morality of the gospel.
IN ftating the morality of the gospel as an argument of its truth, I am willing to admit two points; firft, that the teaching of morality was not the primary defign of the miffion; fecondly, that morality, neither in the gofpel, nor in any other book, can be a fubject, properly speaking, of discovery,
If I were to describe in a very few words the scope of Christianity, as a revelation*, I should say, that it was to influence the
* Great and inestimably beneficial effects may accrue from the miffion of Chrift, and especially from his death, which do not belong to Christianity as a revelation; that is, they might have exifted, and they might have been accomplished, though we had never, in this life, been made acquainted with them. These effects may be very extenfive. They may be interesting even to other orders of intelligent beings. I think it is a general opinion, and one to which I have long come, that the beneficial effects of Chrift's death extend to the whole human fpecies. It was the redemption of the world. "He is the propitiation for our fins, and not for ours only, but for the whole world." 1 John, ii. 2. Probably the future happiness, perhaps the future existence of the species, and more gracious terms of acceptance extended
all, might depend upon it, or be procured by it. Now thefe effects, whatever they be, do not belong to Chriftianity as a revelation; because they exist with respect to thofe to whom it is not revealed.
conduct of human life, by establishing the proof of a future ftate of reward and punishment" to bring life and immortality to light." The direct object, therefore, of the defign is, to fupply motives, and not rules; sanctions, and not precepts. And these were what mankind ftood moft in need of. The members of civilized fociety can, in all ordinary cafes, judge tolerably well how they ought to act; but without a future ftate, or, which is the fame thing, without credited evidence of that ftate, they want a motive to their duty; they want at least strength of motive, fufficient to bear up against the force of paffion, and the temptation of prefent advantage. Their rules want authority. The most important fervice that can be rendered to human life, and that, confequently, which, one might expect beforehand, would be the great end and office of a revelation from God, is to convey to the world authorised affurances of the reality of a future existence. And although, in doing this, or by the ministry of the fame perfon by which this is done, moral precepts, or examples,