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mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake. And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians, an hundred and fourscore and five thousand. So Sennacherib, king of Assyria, departed, and went, and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.” 2 Kings xix. 32, &c.
The return of the Jews from their eaptivity in Babylon, at the end of seventy years, is repeatedly predicted, and is related with great particularity and precision. But these predictions are as far from countenancing the notion of prescience as those which we have already examined. “And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished in Babylon, I will visit you, and perform my good word towards
you, in causing you to return to this place," &c. Jer. xxix. 10. “ Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates. He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure : even saying unto Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” Whatever difficulty there may
be in reconciling the foregoing predictions with the freedom of the human mind, they afford no countenance to the doctrine of an eternal prescience, as both the predictions and their fulfilment are solely attributed to the purpose
and agency of God, which I presume the objector himself will not regard as being incompetent either to the one or the other. Even supposing the prediction to be anterior to the birth of Cyrus, a person must have but a very narrow conception of the Divine agency, who would suppose that such an event could not be brought about without interfering with the moral freedom of Cyrus, or any other human being. ?One of the preceding predictions glances at the taking of Babylon by Cyrus, and the manner in which the capture would be effected; and some persons have expressed their wonder and amazement, how the prophet should know any thing about the two-leaved gates. To such persons I would reply, Were not those very gates actually on their hinges at the time the prophet wrote the prediction? And were not those gates always before the eyes of that Being under whose inspiration the prophet committed to writing this purpose and determination of God to over
throw Babylon? But then it has been matter of astonishment, that the mode of their attack should be so exactly described. In reply, I would ask such persons, whether the Lord did not know their most vulnerable part, and the most practicable means of entering and taking the city? and whether any man who has been accustomed to read the pages of the Bible, and to recognise the agency of God in brightening the perspicacity of the human intellect, and strengthening the sinews of the human arm, can find any difficulty in recognising the Divine agency in the contrivance of Cyrus to divert the course of the river, and to enter the city at midnight, by the folding gates that were stretched across the river, rather than expend his strength in battering down the gigantic walls of Babylon ?
The prophet Daniel does not represent the fall of Babylon as an object of prescience, but as a matter of Divine determination, in consequence of its having been placed in the balances and found wanting. Dan. v. 27. The prophet Isaiah gives us a description of the desolation of Babylon, which contains many graphic excellencies of the very highest order. “And Babylon, the glory of the kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation : neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there, neither shall the shepherds make their fold there : but wild beasts of the desert shall be there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures : and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces : and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.” Is. xiii. 19-22.
A general review of those ancient scripture predictions, the fulfilment of
which is related in the pages of the New Testament.
We have already inquired into the purport and bearing of the most notable of those ancient scripture predictions, the fulfilment of which is recorded in the pages of the Old Testament; we shall now, therefore, proceed to examine the purport and bearing of those ancient scripture predictions, the fulfilment of which is recorded in the latter part of the sacred volume.
These predictions relate chiefly to the promised Messiah; and it must be confessed, that they are so very numerous, and are so diversified, and so minutely circumstantial, that under the reflected glory of the gospel, a tolerably consecutive narration of the gospel history might be collected from the pages of the ancient prophets.
The doctrine of these predictions is much more abstruse and complicated than that of scripture prophecy in general, and therefore it will require a careful and attentive inquiry to enable us to ascertain the precise nature of that Divine agency, which the delivery and fulfilment of such predictions would of necessity imply; and especially that we may be able to discover in those predictions, what is personal and what is impersonal, what is direct and what is accommodated; and what part of them must be regarded as certain, and what part as being contingent. But the great question that must be kept in mind, is that of eternal prescience, which it is generally assumed that these prophecies must of necessity imply; and the contrary of which will, I presume, be made fully and clearly to appear. We shall, however, in the first place, take a survey of the principal and most notorious of these particular cases, as they are predicted in the Old Testament, and are said to be fulfilled in
the pages of the New; and by that means, we shall afterwards be the better able to determine what kind of agency must of necessity be implied by this particular department of scripture prophecy.
When the disciples heard of the liberation of Peter and John from the common prison, “They lifted up their voices to God, with one accord, and said, The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For, of a truth, against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the people of Israel, were gathered together for to do whatsoever thy hand and counsel determined before to be done.” Acts iv. 24. In this notable passage of scripture, the hand and counsel, i.e. the agency and purpose of God, are clearly and distinctly recognised. Peter had already spoken to the same effect on the memorable day of Pentecost. “ Ye men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know; him being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands, have crucified and slain.” Acts ii. 2.
John Goodwin has very ably argued, “ It is no where said that the hand and counsel of God determined, that certain evil men, identifying their persons, or their names, should do certain evil actions ; but only that such things should be done. It is not said, that the hand or counsel of God had determined that Herod and Pontius Pilate, or other identified persons, should unite to crucify Christ; but the Scriptures only relate the facts, that these persons were actually gathered together, and that they united their endeavours to do whatsoever the hand and counsel of God had determined before to be done. It is not asserted that God himself gathered Pilate, and Herod, and others together; but, as it is sometimes rendered, they gathered themselves together. Thus Calvin translates it, convenerunt, enim, fc.
The discourses of our blessed Lord abound with references to the Old Testament prophecies, many of which are not fitted to the circumstances to which they are respectively applied, by mere coincidence, but are direct fulfil
ments of ancient prophecy; and the Holy Ghost, who inspired the predictions, must have been fully and certainly prescient of their intention and their issue. Let us now briefly notice a few of these particular cases :
“ Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord, by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son. Matt. i. 22. The miraculous conception of our Lord was matter of Divine purpose and determination, and it must therefore have been an object of a certain, but not of an eternal prescience. The Redeemer of mankind must have been an object of a certain and personal prescience, from the time of the original purpose of human redemption ; but the person of Mary, the virgin mother, could not have been an object, a certain anticipation, for so long a period. It was necessary that the Redeemer of the world should become incarnate; but it was not necessary that Mary should have been his mother. It was certain, from the time of the original promise and purpose of salvation, that the Redeemer would become incarnate; but it was not certain that he would be born of Mary, the espoused wife of Joseph, the carpenter.
“That it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant whom I have
chosen, my beloved in whom my soul is well pleased; I - will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.” Matt. xii. 17. The anointing of Christ, and the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, must of necessity have been the objects of the Divine prescience; since they were matters of Divine purpose and determination.
“ All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Żion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.” Matt. xxi. 4. As the event of our Lord's riding into Jerusalem on an ass was the subject of scripture prediction, it must, of necessity, from the time of its prediction, have been the object of a certain prescience in the Deity; but surely all the means by which it was ultimately brought about, could not have been the objects of a personal and certain prescience, any more than the objects of personal and direct