Page images

fays, "Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have feen the end of the Lord." Notwithstanding this text, the reality of Job's hiftory, and even the exiftence of fuch a perfon, has been always deemed a fair fubject of enquiry and difcuffion amongst Christian divines. St. James's authority is confidered as good evidence of the existence of the book of Job at that time, and of its reception by the Jews, and of nothing more. St. Paul, in his second epiftle to Timothy*, has this fimilitude: "Now, as Jannes and Jambres withstood Mofes, fo do these also refift the truth." Thefe names are not found in the Old Teftament. And it is uncertain, whether St. Paul took them from fome apocryphal writing then extant, or from tradition. But no one ever imagined, that St. Paul is here afferting the authority of the writing, if it was a written account which he quoted, or making himself answerable for the authenticity of the tradition; much lefs, that he fo involves himself with either

[blocks in formation]

of these questions as that the credit of his own history and miffion fhould depend upon the fact, whether " Jannes and Jambres withstood Mofes, or not." For what reafon a more rigorous interpretation should be put upon other references, it is difficult to know. I do not mean, that other paffages of the Jewish history stand upon no better evidence than the hiftory of Job, or of Jannes and Jambres (I think much otherwife); but I mean, that a reference in the New Teftament, to a paffage in the Old, does not fo fix its authority, as to exclude all enquiry into its credibility, or into the feparate reasons upon which that credibility is founded; and that it is an unwarrantable, as well as unfafe rule to lay down concerning the Jewish hiftory, what was never laid down concerning any other, that either every particular of it must be true, or the whole falfe.

I have thought it neceffary to ftate this point explicitly, because a fashion revived by Voltaire, and purfued by the difciples of his


school, seems to have much prevailed of late, of attacking Chriftianity through the fides of Judaifm. Some objections of this clafs are founded in mifconftruction, fome in exaggeration; but all proceed upon a supposition, which has not been made out by argument, viz. that the atteftation, which the author and firft teachers of Christianity gave to the divine miffion of Mofes and the prophets, extends to every point and portion of the Jewish history; and fo extends, as to make Christianity refponsible in its own credibility, for the circumftantial truth, I had almost faid for the critical exactnefs, of every narrative contained in the Old Teftament.

[blocks in formation]


Rejection of Christianity. WE acknowledge that the Christian re

ligion, although it converted great numbers, did not produce an universal, or even a general conviction in the minds of men, of the age and countries in which it appeared. And this want of a more complete and extensive success, is called the rejection of the Christian history and miracles; and has been thought by fome, to form a strong objection to the reality of the facts which the history contains.

The matter of the objection divides itself into two parts, as it relates to the Jews, and as it relates to Heathen nations; because the minds of these two descriptions of men may have been, with respect to Chrif tianity, under the influence of very different causes. The cafe of the Jews, inasmuch as


our Saviour's miniftry was originally addreffed to them, offers itself first to our confideration.

Now, upon the fubject of the truth of the Christian religion, with us there is but one queftion, viz. whether the miracles were actually wrought? From acknowledging the miracles we pafs inftantaneously to the acknowledgment of the whole. No doubt lies between the premises and the conclufion. If we believe the works, or any one of them, we believe in Jefus. And this order of reasoning is become fo univerfal and familiar, that we do not readily apprehend how it could ever have been otherwife. Yet it appears to me perfectly certain, that the ftate of thought, in the mind of a Jew of our Saviour's age, was totally different from this. After allowing the reality of the miracle, he had a great deal to do to persuade himself that Jefus was the Meffiah. This is clearly intimated by vari ous paffages of the gospel hiftory. It appears that, in the apprehenfion of the writers

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »