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Again, Deut. 13, “ If there arise among you a Prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and give you a sign or a wonder (i. e. a miracle,) and the sign or wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee saying, let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them : thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that Prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God proveth (or tryeth) you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul.” *. And now Christian reader, I ask you what you think of miracles, or 66 signs and wonder's," as proof of a divine mission, to teach doctrines novel and innovating after such clear and unequivocal language as this from such high authority? I am sure, that if you are a sincere lover of truth, you must certainly abandon that ground as unténable. For from these directions, the Jews were com-' manded these things. 1. That the Prophet who pre-' sumes to speak a word, as from God, which God hath not commanded him to speak, must be put to death. .2. That the test, or criterion by which they are to discern a false prophet from a true one, is' this : not his miracles, but the fulfillment of his words. If what he says comes to pass, he is a true prophet ; if the event foretold' does not take place, he has spoken presumptuously, and must die the death. 3. “If any man arise in Israel," and advise, or teach them to worship any other besides Jehovah; and in proof of the divinity of his mission pro. mise a sign, or a wonder, and in fact does bring to pass the sign or wonder promised, he is nevertheless, not to be hearkened to; but be put to death. And these criterions, given by God, or Moses, as the means whereby they might know a true Prophet from a false one, most exquisitely prove his wisdom and foresight. For if he had not expressly excluded miracles, or a signs and wonders,” from being a proof of the divinity of doctrines; the barriers which divided his religion from those of Idolaters, must have been broken down; since as we have seen, well attested miracles (meaning always by miracles, signs and wonders," brought to pass by human agency,) are related to have heen performed in proof of the divinity of every religion under Heaven.
But veritable prophecy is, and can be a proof proper only to a true Revelation, because none can know what is to come but God, and those sent by him. Accordingly, we find that the Jewish Prophets were not acknowledged as such, but on account of their foretelling the truth, or being supposed to do so.
Thus it is said, 1 Sam. iii. 20, 6 And all Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, knew, that Samuel was estab. lished to be a Prophet of the Lord.” Why? Because he performed miracles ? No! he performed none. But he was known as a Prophet because “ the Lord was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground," i. e. fail of their accomplishment. The same may be said of all the Hebrew Prophets, from Nathan to Malachi. For though Elijah, and Elisha performed miracles, yet it was not in proof of their mission, for that was established before ; but these miracles were occasional acts of beneficence, or protection, but were never considered, or offered by them as proofs of their being sent from God.
These things being by this time, it is hoped, made plain, and evident. Let us now test the character of Jesus as a true Prophet, by the criteria, by Christians, and by the Jews believed to be given by God. If his prophecies were fulfilled, and if he taught the worship of no other being besides Jehovah, he way, according to the Old Testament, a true Prophet. But if any of his prophecies were not fulfilled, or, if he taught the worship of any other Being besides Jehovah, he was not a true Prophet.
And here it must be recollected, that those prophecies of Jesus only, can be brought forward in this question, which were committed to writing, before the event foretold came to pass ; and therefore all Jesus' prophecies, concerning the manner, and circumstances of his death, &c. must be set aside, as all those events are allowed to have taken place before any of the Gospels were written; and of course it is not certain, that Jesus did actüally foretell them. This is acknowledged by Christians; and accordingly they confine themselves to bringing forward as conclusive evidence in their favour, his Prophecy of the Destruction of Jerusalem, and the e. vents following. Here it is. Luke xxi. 24. “ When ye: shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know, that the dessolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let them which are in the midst of it, departout, and let not them which are in the country, enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them which 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 times of the Gentiles he fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and waves roaring, man's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud, with power, and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake 'to them a parable, Behold the fig tree and all the trees. When they now shoot forth, ye see, and know of your own selves, that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
Such is the Prophecy, and on it I would remark, first, that what Jesus here foretells concerning Jerusalem did in fact come to pass. But that was not a fulfillment of his prophecy, but of Daniel's, who did, as is set down in the 7th ch. of this work, expressly foretell the utter de. struction of the city and the temple. And it was from Daniel that Jesus obtained his knowledge of the approach of that event. For he expressly cites Daniel, Mat. xxiv. 15; Mark xiii. 14; and you will please to observe reader, that he refers to him in this quotation from Luke in the words, these be the days of ven
geance that all things which are written may be fulfilled. so that in foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem he did no more than any Jew of that age, who attentively read their Scriptures, could have done, and been no prophet either.
2. It would have been better for his reputation as a Prophet, if he had stopped short where Daniel stopped. For what he goes on to foretell has not been fulfilled. For he proceeds to say, that “ there shall be signs in the Sun, and the Moon, and the Stars," &c. All this is taken from the 2nd ch. of Joel, who says that such things shall take place; not however at the destruction of Jerusalem, but in the latter days," at the time of the restoration of Israel. So that here Jesus has been rather' unlucky. For, in truth, there were no signs in* the Sun, and the Moon, and the Stars,' at that time; neither was there upon earth any " great distress of nations,” except in Judea. Nor were “ the Powers of Heaven” shaken. Certainly, they did not see Jesus « coming in the clouds of Heaven, with power, and great glory;" and most assuredly, that generation did pass away, and many others since, and all these Things” have not been fulfilled.
I know very well, and have often smiled over the con. trivances by which learned Christians have endeavour.: ed to save the credit of this Prophecy. They say that -it is a figurative Prophecy relating entirely to the Destruction of Jerusalem, which did in fact take place in that generation ; that the expressions about the 66 distress of nations," and " the sea and waves 'roar.' ing," the 66 signs in Heaven," &c. are merely poetical ;* and that the shaking of 6 the powers of Heaven” was merely the shaking and pulling down the stones of the Temple, figuratively called Heaven!! and that the glo. rious coming of Jesus " in the clouds of Heaven, with power, and great glory," meant 'merely, that he sent Titus, and the Romans, to destroy Jerusalem, or perhaps might have been an invisible spectator himself.
The reader will easily see, that all this is nonsense. And the Commentator Grotius, after meddling a great while in this troublesome business, at length ventures to insinuate, that God might have suffered Jesus to be
in a mistake about the time of his second coming, and to tell the Apostles what he did, for the sake of keeping up their spirits !
But to annihilate the figurative Hypothesis of these well-meaning Commentators at once, it will be only necessary to bring forward the testimony following. 1. The other Evangelists make an express distinction be. tween the Destruction of Jerusalem, and the coming of Jesus : and not only so, but represent him as saying, that after that event, i. e. of the destruction of Jerusalem, “in those days," i. e, in the same æra in which that event took place, “ the Son of man shall come,” &c. Witness for me, Mark, ch. xiii. 24. 66 But in those days, after that tribulation, i. e.the destruction of Jerusalem] shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of Heaven shall fall, and the Powers that are in Heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds, with power and glory; and then shall he send his angels, and shall gather his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the Earth, to the uttermost part of Heaven.- Verily, I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, tilt all these things be accomplished.” This is decisive, and cannot be evaded.
2. The Apostles, and Primitive Christians believed, that Jesus would come in that generation, as is evident from many passages of the New Testament. Paul's. Epistles to the Thessalonians prove this, and contain an argument to them intended to allay their terrors, or their impatience. John says in his first Epistle, ch. ii. 18, “Little children, it is the last hour ; and as ye have heard that Antichrist should come, even now (or already) there are many Antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last hour." Many passages of similar import might be brought forward.* The meaning of it is this-It appears from Paul's 2nd Epistle to the Thessalonians, that just before the second coming of Jesus: there was a personage to appear who was to be called Antichrist, i. e, an Enemy to the Messiah. (This no. tion they got from the interpretation given by the angel of the vision of the 6 little horn,” in Daniel.) John, therefore, seeing many Antichrists, i. e. opposers of