ChristianityMiscellanies by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
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Evidence and Facts Concerning Christianity
w. Tone. A sad tone is to be avoided in public, either in prayer or preaching, because it generally is distasteful, and a whining tone that some use is truly very ridiculous. But a melancholy, musical tone does really help in private, whether it is private prayer, reading, or soliloquy, not because religion is a melancholy thing, for it is far from it, but because it stills the animal spirits and calms the mind, and fits it for the most sedate thought, the clearest ideas, the brightest apprehension, and strongest reasonings, which are inconsistent with an unsteady motion of the animal spirits. Wherefore this may be a rational account why a melancholy air does really help religious thoughts, because the mind is not fit for such high, refined, and exalted contemplation of religion, except it be first reduced to the utmost calmness.
x. Pleasantness of Religion. It is no argument against true pleasantness of religion that it has no tendency to raise laughter, and rather to discourage it, for that pleasure which is raised by laughter is never great. Everyone knows this by his own experience. And besides it is fleeting, external, and not lasting. The greater part of true pleasure does not raise laughter, as the joy of the light and enjoyment of most dear friends sincerely, but only raises a smile and not shaking laughter, which always rises from a mixture of pleasure and sorrow, and never from pure pleasure [Two or three words are illegible] A thing is never ridiculous except there be something in it that is deformed and contrary to the universal law, therefore disagreeable to the soul. But that pleasure which is raised from the apprehension of something purely agreeable never laughs at it. *1* The pleasure of religion raises one clear above laughter, and rather tends to make the face to shine than to screw into a grimace; though, when it is at its height, it begets a sweet, inexpressibly joyful sense and we have only smiles, as so often by the great pleasure of a dear friend’s society. The reason why the pleasures of religion be not always attended with such a smile is because we have so many sins and have so much offended God, and almost all our religious thoughts are unavoidably attended with repentance and a sense of our own misery. It is the pleasure of repentance alone that does not tend to a smile. The reason why religious thoughts will cause one to sigh sometimes is not from the melancholiness of religion, but because religious thoughts are of such an high moral and spiritual nature as very much abstracts the soul from the body, and so the operations of the body are deadened. Hence arises a sigh to renew it, as a sigh will arise from weariness of body, whether by sickness or labor, whether one is melancholy or no. It is this abstraction of the soul as it might leave the body of men dead, and then the soul is in a trance.
gg. Religion. Purpose for Creation. It is certain that God did not create the world for nothing. It is most certain that if there were no intelligent beings in the world, all the world would be without any good at all. For senseless matter, in whatever excellent order it is placed, would be useless if there were no intelligent beings at all, neither God nor others. For what would it be good for? So, certainly, senseless matter would be altogether useless if there was no intelligent being but God, for God could neither receive good himself nor communicate good. What could this vast universe of matter, placed in such excellent order and governed by such excellent law, be good for if there was no intelligence that could know anything of it? Wherefore, it necessarily follows that intelligent beings are the end of the creation, and that their end must be to behold and admire the doings of God and magnify him for them, and to contemplate his glories in them. Wherefore, religion must be the end of the creation, the great end, the very end. If it were not for this, all those vast bodies we see ordered with such excellency, that are made in nicest rules of proportion, according to such laws of gravity and motion, would be all vanity or good for nothing and to no purpose at all. But religion is the very business, the noble business, of intelligent beings. And for this end God has placed us on this earth. If it were not for intelligence, it would be altogether in vain, with all the curious workmanship and accouterments about it. It follows from this that we must be immortal. The world had as good have been without us as for us to be a few minutes and then be annihilated — if we are to own God’s works, to his glory, and only glorify him a few minutes and then be annihilated, and it shall after that be all one to eternity as if we never had been, and be in vain, after we are dead, that we have been once. And then, after the earth shall be destroyed, it shall be for the future entirely in vain that either the earth or mankind had ever been.
kk. Religion. Contemplating the Creator. (corollary on the former on this subject). Since the world would be altogether good for nothing without intelligent beings, so intelligent beings would be altogether good for nothing except to contemplate the Creator. Hence we learn that devotion and not mutual love, charity, justice, beneficence, etc. is the highest end of man, and devotion is his principal holiness. For all justice, beneficence, etc. are good for nothing without it and to no purpose at all. For those duties are only for the advancement of the great business, and assist mutually each other to it.
ll. Religion: The Very Business of Men. It may be said, if religion be really the very business of men for which God made them, it is a wonder it is no more natural to them. The world in general, learned and unlearned, say little about it. They are very awkward at it as if it were contrary to their natures. I answer, it is no wonder, because sin has brought them down nearer to the beast, a sort of animal incapable of religion at all.
42. Religion: Harmony of the World [Illegible words] the imagination and the blood would be chilled with the great idea, but this being [Illegible words] the greatness, distance, and motion, etc. of this great universe has almost an omnipotent power upon the imagination; by it will man be chilled with the vast idea. But the greatness of vast expanse, immense distances, prodigious bulk, and rapid motion is but a little, trivial, and childish greatness in comparison of the noble, refined, exalted, divine, spiritual greatness. Yea, those are but the shadows of greatness and are worthless except as they conduce to true and real greatness and excellency, and manifest the power and wisdom of God. When we think of the sweet harmony of the parts of the corporeal world, it fills us with such astonishment that the soul is ready to break. Yet take all that infinite variety of sweet proportions, harmonious motions, and delightful correspondencies that are in this whole company of bodies, and they are all but shadows of excellency in comparison of those beauties and harmonies that may be in our finite spirits. That harmony of the world is indeed a very true picture and shadow of the real glories of religion. This great world contains many millions of millions of little worlds vastly greater than it. The glories of astronomy and natural philosophy consist in the harmony of the parts of the corporeal shadow of a world. The glories of religion consist in the sweet harmony of the greater and more real world within themselves, with one another, and with the infinite fountain and original of them.
152. Christian Religion. Evidence for Christ’s Death. That Christ was really dead appears, inasmuch, as it is not to be imagined that in such a death as is caused merely by pain, all the exercise of life and vital action should be gone, before life itself, as may be in convulsions and some stupefying diseases: especially considering how leisurely his death was effected. And if he was not dead when they came to him, he was doubtless almost dead, and the piercing of his side would undoubtedly have quit destroyed his life. It is very unreasonable to imagine that he feigned himself dead, for what reason had he to think that he should have success, if he did? Or to expect they would take him down before he was quite dead? Or if he had had such a design, such an intolerable condition would have banished all intrigues out of his mind. Or if he had them still in his thoughts, it was not possible that he should have the power of himself so well, when he was so weakened by pain, and the loss of blood, and every nerve in his body was so racked with torment, and he almost dead: life struggling with death. I say it was impossible that he should act his part so accurately, as not to be discovered or suspected. Besides, if he was not dead when they took him down from the cross, he was very near it, and no doubt but his grievous wounds, the loss of blood, and fasting so long, would have extinguished his life before the third day. And if he only rose out of a swoon, how came he perfectly sound at once? Where did he get his blood again so suddenly, as to be strong and hearty as ever. Surely one would have thought that his feet were so lame that he could not walk on them. Doubtless, his hands and feet were much torn by bearing his weight so long on iron spikes driven through them. And if he rose from the dead in no supernatural sense, whither did he go when he rose? What became of him? We have no account of his dying again, nor was he yet to be found after a few weeks.
167. Christian Religion. Christianity Is Rational. If Christianity was not true, it would never afford so much matter for rational and penetrating minds to be exercised upon. If it were false, such minds would find it empty, and it would be a force upon the intellect to be set upon meditating upon that which has no other order, foundation, and mutual dependence to be discovered in its parts, than what is accidental. A strong and piercing mind would feel itself exceedingly bound and hindered. But in fact, there is the like liberty in the study of Christianity, and as much improvement of the mind, as in the study of natural philosophy, or any study whatsoever: yes, a great deal more. And whatever may be said about Mahometan divinity, I cannot be convinced but that a mind that has the faculty and habit of clear and distinct reasoning, would find nothing but chains, fetters, and confusion, if it should pretend to fix its reason upon it.
190. Christian Religion: None Have Proved It False. It is a convincing argument for the truth of the Christian religion, and that it stands upon a most sure basis, that none have ever yet been able to prove it false, though there have been many men of all sorts, many fine wits and men of great learning, that have spent themselves and ransacked the world for arguments against it, and this for many ages.
196. Christian Religion. The Apostle John’s Revelation. It is exceedingly improbable that it should ever enter into the head of any mortal, to invent such a strange system of visions, as that of the Revelation of St. John, of which he himself could give no account of the meaning or design, and did not pretend to it. What design could he have in it? But if he had a design, the frame and make of the visions is not a whit like a random invention, without any view or design as to interpretation.
203. Christian History: Agreeable to Nature. It does not seem to me at all likely that any person among the Jews, so long ago, should have so perfect a knowledge of nature and the secret springs of human affections, as to be able to feign anything so perfectly and exquisitely agreeable to nature, as the incidents in Joseph’s history, and the other histories of the Bible: particularly the history of Genesis.
266. Christian Religion. Universal Law. It seems much the most rational to suppose that the universal law by which mankind are to be governed should be a written law. For if that rule, by which God intends the world shall be regulated and kept in decent and happy order, be not expressed in words that can be resorted to and be supposed to be expressed no other way than by nature, man’s prejudices will render it, in innumerable circumstances, a most uncertain thing. For though “it must be granted that men who are willing to transgress, may abuse written as well as unwritten laws, and expound them so as may best serve their turn upon occasion, yet it must be allowed that in the nature of the thing, revelation is a better guard than a bare scheme of principles without it. For men must take more pains to conquer the sense of a standing, written law, which is ready to confront them upon all occasions. They must more industriously tamper with their passions and blind their understandings, before they can bring themselves to believe what they have a mind to believe, in contradiction to the words of an express and formal declaration of God Almighty’s will, than there can be any pretense or occasion for, when they have no more than their own thoughts and ideas to manage. These are flexible things, and a man may much more easily turn and wind them as he pleases, than he can evade a plain and positive law, which determines the kinds and measures of his duty and threatens disobedience in such terms as require long practice and experience to make handsome salvos and distinctions to get over.” [Ditton on The Resurrection] And upon this account also, that it is fit in every case, when the law is made known, that also the sanctions, the rewards and punishments, should be known at the same time. But nature could never have determined these with any certainty.
378. Christian Religion. Worship in the Old Testament. It seems to me an unaccountable dullness that when intelligent men read David’s Psalms and other prayers and songs of the Old Testament, they are not at once convinced that the Jews had the true worship and communion of the one great and holy God, and that no other nation upon earth had them. It seems as clear as the sun at noonday, and so indeed from all the histories and prophecies of the Old Testament.
600. Loving our Enemies. It was not allowed under the Old Testament, nor approved of by the Old Testament saints, to hate personal enemies, to wish for revenge, or pray for their hurt, except as speaking in the name of the Lord. So that there is no inconsistency between the religion of the Old Testament and New, in this respect. The apostle Paul himself does thus imprecate vengeance on his enemies; 2 Tim. 4:14, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil; the Lord reward him according to his works.” Revenge, or a desire of it, was forbidden by the law of Moses, Lev. 19:18. Yea, there the love of our enemy is implicitly commanded. For he that we are to love as ourselves, is the same that we are there forbidden to avenge ourselves upon, which is doubtless our enemy or he that injures us. Doing good to enemies is required by the law of Moses, Exo. 23:4, 5, “If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou seest the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldst forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.” And this was agreeable to the sense of the saints of those times, as appears from Job 31:29, “If I rejoice at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him.” Pro. 24:17, “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, nor let thine heart be glad when he stumbleth.” And Pro. 17:5, “He that is glad at calamities, shall not go unpunished.” We cannot think that those imprecations we find in the Psalms and Prophets, were out of their own hearts, for cursing is spoken of as a very dreadful sin in the Old Testament. And David, whom we hear oftener than any other praying for vengeance on his enemies, by the history of his life, was of a spirit very remote from a spiteful and revengeful spirit. Yea, we have no such instance in all the Old Testament, as appears by his behavior when persecuted by Saul, when he heard of his death, and upon occasion of the death of Ishbosheth and Abner, and Shimei cursing him, etc. He himself in the Psalms gives us an account of his wishing well to his enemies and doing good to them, Psa. 7:4, praying for them and grieving at their calamities, Psa. 35:13, 14. And when he prayed for those dreadful curses upon Ahitophel, he was especially far from a revengeful frame, as appears by his behavior when Shimei cursed him. And some of the most terrible imprecations that we find in all the Old Testament, are in the New spoken of as prophetical, even those in Psalm 109, as in Acts 1:20, Jer. 12:3. When we find passages of this kind in the Psalms or the Prophets, we are to look upon them as prophetical curses. They curse them in the name of the Lord, as Elisha did the children that mocked him, or as Noah cursed Canaan. We have instances of this kind even in the apostles and the disciples of the Lamb of God, as Paul curses Alexander the coppersmith, 2 Tim. 4:14, and Peter says to Simon Magus, “Thy money perish with thee.” They wish them ill, not as personal but as public enemies to the church of God. Sometimes what they say is in the name of the church. Mat. 1:19, “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.” This is a remarkable and eminent instance of a Christian spirit, and this verse is an evidence that that meekness, gentleness, forgiveness, and kindness to enemies which the gospel prescribes, were duties under the law and before Christ came.
708. Christian Religion. Apparent Difficulties and Inconsistencies. Some may be ready to object against the Christian religion, that there seem to be innumerable difficulties and inconsistencies attending it, which would appear to be insolvable, but only as a multitude of heads have been employed for many ages to find solutions for them. Innumerable attempts have been made, and multitudes have been rejected, one after another, as insufficient, for the sake of others that have been thought less liable to objection, till at length such solutions have been found out for many of them, as are in some measure plausible. But there is nothing (no history, nor scheme of doctrine, nor set of principles however inconsistent, absurd and confused), but what something plausible might be found out to color them over and hide them, by so much search and study, by a combination of such multitudes through so many ages.
To this I answer that as there has been a long time to answer objections, so there has been a long time to strengthen them. As there have been many ages to solve difficulties, so there have been as many to find out difficulties and inconsistencies. Besides, there has been all this time to make difficulties more plain and bring out inconsistencies more to the light, and by thorough and exact consideration to make them more manifest and apparent. Time wonderfully brings truth to light and wears off by degrees false colorings and disguises. The truth will always have most advantage by time. Appearing inconsistencies, being well founded, will grow plainer and plainer, and difficulties more and more evident. Time will discover more circumstances to strengthen and confirm them, and so pretenses of solution will appear more and more evidently absurd and ridiculous. When parties contend by argument and inquiry, time greatly helps that party which has truth on its side, and weakens the contrary. It gradually wears away the sandy foundation and rots away the building that is not made of substantial materials. The Christian religion has evermore, in all ages, had its enemies, and that among learned men. Yea, it is observable, that there have commonly been some of the most subtle of men to scan the Christian scheme, and to discover the objections that lie against it, and have done it with a good will to overthrow it. — Thus it was in Judea, in the infancy of the church. The scribes and Pharisees, and wise men among the Jews, employed all their wisdom against it. Thus, in the first ages of the church, not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble were called. Christianity had the wisdom, learning, and subtlety of the world to oppose it. In latter ages, how many learned and subtle men have done their utmost against Christianity! So that the length of time for persons to strengthen their own side in this controversy, brought as an objection against Christianity, is much more an argument for it, than an objection against it.
983. Evidence Concerning Moses’s Life. “Many particulars of Moses’s life are related by several ancient writers: ‘The eminent piety of the most ancient Jews’ by Strabo and Justin, divers actions of David and Solomon in the Phoenician annals, some of the actions of Elijah by Menander and confessed by Julian himself, the history of Jonah under the name of Hercules by Lycophron, and the history of the following times by many more authors.” [Clark’s Evidences of Natural and Revealed Religion, page 192-193].
Diordorus says, in his 40th book, “That in Egypt there were formerly multitudes of strangers of several nations who used foreign rites and ceremonies in worshipping gods, for which they were expelled from Egypt But the greatest part of them came into Judea, not for from Egypt, a country then uninhabited and desert, being conducted thither by one Moses, a wise and valiant man, who after he had possessed himself of the country, among other things, built Jerusalem and the temple.” [Newton’s Chronology, p. 204] And Procopius, a Christian historian, tells us of two pillars in the west of Africa with inscriptions signifying that the people were Canaanites that fled from Joshua. [Newton’s Chronology, p. 198.]
“Many things concerning Joseph, his character, conduct and management of Egypt, are mentioned by Justin. Several particulars relating to the Israelites of old occur in ancient authors: their going into Egypt and their coming out again, attested by Manetho, Berosus, Strabo, Justin and others, the dividing of the Red Sea for a passage to them, by Artapanus and Diordorus Siculus, their traveling in the desert of Arabia and coming to Mount Sinai, by Justin, and their being fed with manna in the wilderness, by Artapanus, who says they lived there upon ‘a certain snow which God rained from heaven.’ As to Moses himself, his history is witnessed to and recorded by Egyptian, Phoenician, Chaldean and Grecian writers There are diverse other facts related in the Old Testament, the memory whereof seems to have been preserved among the heathens and which were probably referred to in their fables, as the story of Jephtha’s daughter under the name of Iphigenia.” [Latham’s marginal notes to Bennet’s Inspiration of the Scriptures, page 96, 97]
984. Footsteps of the First People. In Greece, before the Phoenicians introduced the deifying of dead men, the Greeks had a council of elders in every town for the government thereof and a place where the elders and people worshipped their god with sacrifices. And when many of these towns, for their common safety, united under a common council, they erected a prytaneum or court in one of the towns, where the council and people met at certain times, to consult their common safety and worship their common god with sacrifices and to buy and sell And when these councils made war upon their neighbors, they had a general commander to lead their armies, and he became their king But when Theseus, prudent and potent man, obtained the kingdom, he took away the courts and magistrates of the other cities and made them all meet at one council and prytaneum at Athens
The original of the kingdom of Argives was much after the same manner. For Pausanias tells us that Pharoneus, the son of Inachus, was the first who gathered into one community the Argives, who till then were scattered and lived everywhere apart. The place where they were first assembled was called Pharonicum, the city of Pharoneus.
Pausanias tells us that the Arcadians accounted Pelasgus the first man, and that he was the first king and taught the ignorant people to build houses for defending themselves from heat, cold and rain, and to make themselves garments of skins, and instead of herbs and roots, which were sometimes noxious, to eat the acorns of the beech tree. His son, Lycaon, built the oldest city in all Greece. He tells us also that in the days of Lelex, the Spartans live in villages apart. The Greeks, therefore, began to build in the days of Pelasgus, the father of Lyacon. Till then, they lived in woods and caves of the earth. The first houses were of clay, till the brothers Euryalus and Hyperbius, taught them to harden the clay into bricks and to build therewith.
When natrius, the son of Lycaon, carried a colony into Italy, he found the country, for the most part, uninhabited, and where it was inhabited, [it was] peopled thinly. Seizing part of it, he built towns in the mountains, little and numerous, as above. These towns were without walls, but after this colony grew numerous and began to want room, they expelled the Siculi, compassed many cities with walls, and became possessed of all the territory between the two rivers Liris and Tiber. And it is to be understood that those cities had their councils and prytanea after the manner of the Greeks. For Dionysius tells us that the new kingdom of Rome, as Romulus left it, consisted of thirty courts or councils, in thirty towns, each with the sacred fire kept in the prytaneum of the court for the senators, who met there to perform sacred rites after the manner of the Greeks. But when Numa, the successor of Romulus, reigned, he, leaving the several fires in their own courts, instituted one common to them all at Rome. Whence Rome was not a complete city before the days of Numa.
When navigation was so far improved that the Phoenicians began to leave the seashore and sail the Mediterranean by the help of the stars, it may be presumed they began to discover the islands of the Mediterranean, and for the sake of traffic to sail as far as Greece. This was not long before they carried away Io, the daughter of Inochus, from Argos. The Cares first infested the Grecian seas with piracy, and then Minos, the son of Europa, got up a potent fleet and sent out colonies. For Diodorus tells us that the Cyclades islands, those near Crete, were at first desolate and uninhabited. But Minos having a potent fleet, sent many colonies out of Crete and peopled many of them Diodorus tells us also that the seven islands called Æolides, between Italy and Sicily, were desert and uninhabited till Liparus and Æolus, a little before the Trojan war, went thither from Italy and peopled them, and that Malta and Ganlus, or Gandus, on the other side of Sicily, were first peopled by Phoenicians. Homer writes that Ulysses found the island of Ogygia covered with wood and uninhabited, except by Calypso and her maids, who lived in a cave without houses.
The Sycareans were reputed the first inhabitants of Sicily, and they built little villages or town upon hills. Every town had its own king, and by this means they spread over the country, before they formed themselves into larger governments with a common king. The first inhabitants of Crete, according to Diodorus, were called Eteocretans, but whence they were and how they and how they came hither is not said in history. Then failed thither a colony of Pelasgians from Greece. Soon after, Teutamus, the grandfather of Minos, carried thither a colony of Dorians from Laconia and from the territory of Olympia in Peloponnesus. These several colonies spoke several languages and fed on the spontaneous fruits of the earth and lived quietly in caves and huts till the invention of iron tools in the days of Asterius, the son of Teutamus. They, at length, were reduced into one kingdom and one people, by Minos, who was their first lawgiver and built many towns and ships and introduced plowing and sowing. The island of Cyprus was discovered by the Phoenicians, for Eratostenes tells us that “Cyprus was at first so overgrown with wood that it could not be tilled and that they first cut down the wood for the melting of the copper and silver. Afterwards, when they began to sail freely on the Mediterranean, that is presently after the Trojan war, they built ships and even navies of it” So also Europe, at first, abounded very much with woods, one of which called the Hercynian, took up a great part of Germany, being full nine days journey broad and above forty long, in Julius Caesar’s days. And yet the Europeans had been cutting down their woods to make room for mankind ever since the invention of iron tools in the days of Asterius and Minos.
All these footsteps there are of the first peopling of Europe and its islands. Before those days, it seems to have been but thinly peopled by those who wandered without houses, sheltering themselves from rain and wild beasts in thickets and caves of the earth. Such as were the caves in Mount Ida in Crete, in which Minos was educated and buried, the cave of Cacus, and the catacombs in Italy near Rome and Naples (afterwards turned into burying places), the Syringes and many other caves in the sides of the mountains of Egypt, the caves of the Troglodytes between Egypt and the Red Sea, those of the Pharusii in Africa mentioned by Strabo, and the caves, thickets, rocks, high places, and pits in which the Israelites hid themselves from the Philistines in the days of Saul, 1 Sam. 13:6.
As to the people of Lybia in Africa, Diodorus tells us that “Uranus, the father of Hyperion and grandfather of Helius and Selene, was their first common king and caused the people, who till then wandered up and down, to dwell in towns.” And Herodotus tells us that all Media was peopled by towns without walls, till they revolted from the Assyrians, which was about two hundred and sixty-seven years after the death of Solomon. After that revolt, they set up a king over them and built Eebatane with walls for his seat, the first town which they walled about. And about seventy-two years after the death of Solomon, Benhadad, king of Syria, had thirty-two kings in his army against Ahab. And when Joshua conquered the land of Canaan, every city of the Canaanites had its own king, like the cities of Europe, before they conquered one another. And one of those kings, Adonibezek, the king of Bezek, had conquered seventy other kings a little before, Jdg. 1:7. And therefore towns began to be built in that land not many ages before the days of Joshua. For the patriarchs wandered there in tents and fed their flocks wherever they pleased, the field of Phoenicia not being yet fully appropriated for want of people.
These footsteps there are of the first peopling of the earth by mankind, not long before the days of Abraham, and of the overspreading it with villages, towns and cities, and their growing into kingdoms, first smaller and then greater, until the rise of the monarchies of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Media, Persia, Greece and Rome, the first great empires on this side of India. Abraham was the fifth from Peleg. So long were they of one language, one society and one religion. Then they divided the earth, being perhaps disturbed by the rebellion of Nimrod and forced to leave off building the tower of Babel. From thence they spread themselves into the several countries which fell to their snares, carrying with them the laws, customs and religion, under which they had till then been educated and governed by Noah and his sons and grandsons. And these laws were handed down to Abraham, Melchizedek, Job and their contemporaries and were for some time observed by the judges of the eastern country. So Job tells us that “adultery was an heinous crime, yea an iniquity to be punished by the judges.” Job 31:11. And of idolatry, he says, “If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand; this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge, for I should have denied the God that is above.” Job 31:26-28.
The worship of false gods seems to have been practiced in Chaldea and afterward to have spread every way from thence.
Several of the laws and precepts, of which the primitive religion consisted, are mentioned in the book of Job, which was the morality and religion of the first ages. This was the religion of Moses and the prophets, comprehended in the two great commandments, of loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves. This was the religion enjoined by Moses on the circumcised stranger within the gates of Israel. This is the primitive religion of both Jews and Christians and ought to be the standing religion of all nations: it being for the honor of God and good of mankind. The belief that the world was framed by one Supreme God and is governed by him and the love and worship of him, the honoring of our parents, the love of our neighbor as ourselves, and mercy even to brute beasts, is the oldest of all religions.
The things that have been observed above, of so late an original, of letters, agriculture, navigation, music, arts, and sciences, metals, smiths and carpenters, town and houses, etc., and that the earth so lately was so thinly peopled and so overgrown with woods, is an evidence that mankind could not be much older than is represented in the Scriptures. —See Newton’s Chronology, from pages 174-190.
That we can trace the state of the world of mankind in so many things to their beginning, is an argument that the beginning of the world of mankind itself is not very far off. — The falling out into the ocean in large ships by the stars may be traced to its beginning. Also the beginning of letters in Europe, the beginning of astronomy, the first calculation of eclipses, the first formation of the sphere, the finding of the length of the year to a greater and greater perfection, the beginning of philosophy, the first discovery of the bigger part of the face of the earth, the invention of the mariner’s compass, the invention of printing, the invention of telescopes, microscopes, gun powder, and innumerable other inventions and improvements of latter ages, may be pointed out. It may be shown that all former ages of the world were totally destitute of them.
hap. x, that Eupolemus wrote a book concerning Elijah’s prophecy, and in the 39th chapter of the same book, Eusebius quotes a place of his, concerning Jeremiah’s prophecy.
The history of Jonah’s being three days in the whale’s belly is in Lycophron and Æneas Gazaeus, only under the name of Hercules. There verses in Lycophron are these:
Of that three-nighted lion whom, of old,
Triton’s fierce dog with furious jaws devoured;
Within whose bowels, tearing of his liver,
He rolled, burning with heat, though without fire; His head with drops of sweat bedew’d all o’er.
Upon which place, Tzetzes says, “Because he was three days within the whale.” And Æneas Gazaeus, in Theophrastus, has these words: “According to the story of Hercules, who was saved by a whale swallowing him up, when the ship wherein he failed was wrecked.”
Menander, in his Phoenician history, mentions that great drought that happened in the time of Elias, that is when Ithobalus reigned amonst the Tyrians. See Josephus in his Ancient History, book viii, chap. vii. — These things from Grotius De Verit. Lib. i, sect. 16.
There is a remarkable place concerning David, quoted by Josephus, book vii, chap. vi of his ancient history, out of the 4th of Damascenus’s history: “A long while after this, there was a certain man of that country who was very powerful. His name was Adadus, who reigned in Damaseus and other parts of Syria, except Phoenicia. He waged war with David king of Judea, and having fought many battles, the last was at Euphrates, where he was overcome. He was accounted one of the best of kings for strength and valor. After his death, his children reigned for ten generations, each of them continuing his father’s government and name, in the same manner as the Egyptians kings are called Ptolemies. The third being the most potent of them all, and being willing to recover the victory his grandfather had lost, made war upon the Jews and laid waste that which is now called Samaria.” The first part of this history we have, 2 Sam. 8:5; 1 Chr. 18, and the latter part of 1 Kings 20. Grotius De Verit. Lib. iii, sect. 16.
1020. Evidence Concerning Old Testament Events. This Adadus is called by Josephus, Ader, and Adores by Justin, out of Tragus. Eusebius, in his Gospel Preparation, book iv, chap. xxx, tells us more things concerning David out of Eupolemus. And the forementioned Josephus, in the same chapter, and in his first against Appian, brings this place out of Dius’s Phoenician history. “After Abibalus’s death his son Hiram reigned. This man increased the eastern part of the city, and much enlarged the city, and he joined Jupiter Olympius’s temple to the city, which before stood by itself on an island, by filling up the space between, and he adorned it with gifts of gold offered to the gods. He also went up to Libanus and cut down timber to adorn the temple with. And they say that Solomon, who reigned in Jerusalem, sent riddles to Hiram and received some from him. He that could not resolve the riddles was to pay a large sum of money. Afterward, Abdemonus, a man of Tyre, resolved the riddles that were proposed and sent others, which Solomon not resolving, paid a large sum of money to Hiram.”.
The memory of Hazael, King of Syria, whose name is in 1 Kin. 19:15; 2 Kin. 8:12-13, and 12:17, and 2 Kin. 13:3, 24, is preserved at Damascus with divine worship, as Josephus relates, book 9, chap. ii of his Ancient History. The same name is in Justin, out of Tragus. Concerning Salmaneser, who carried the ten tribes into captivity, as is related in 2 Kings 18:3, etc., and who took Samaria, 2 Kin. 18:9, there is a place of Menander Ephesius, we before spoke of, in Josephus, book 9, chap. xiv, as follows: “Elulaeus reigned thirty-six years. This man, with a fleet, reduced the Citteans, who revolted from him. But the king of Assyria sent against them and brought war upon all Phoenicia, and having made peace with them all, returned back again. But Sidon, Arce, Palaetyrus, and many other cities, who had yielded themselves to the king of Assyria, revolted from the Tyrian government. Yet the Tyrians not submitting, the king of Assyria returned upon them again, after he had received from the Pheonicians sixty ships and eight hundred rowers, against the Tyrians coming out with twelve ships. [The Assyrians] broke their enemies ships in pieces and took five hundred men prisoners. Hereupon, the price of everything was raised in Tyre. Then the king of Assyria departed and placed guards upon the rivers and upon the water pipes, that they might hinder the Tyrians from drawing any water. And this they did for five years, and they were forced to drink out of wells which they digged.”
Josephus adds in the same place that Salmaneser, the name of this king, remained till his time in the Tyrian records. Senacherub, who subdued almost all Judea, except Jerusalem, as is related in 2 Kin. 18; 2 Chr. 32, his name and expeditions into Asia and Egypt, are found in Berosus’s Chaldaics, as the same Josephus testifies, book 10, chap. i. And Heroditus, in his second book, mentions the same Senacherub and calls him king of the Arabians and Assyrians. Baladan, king of Babylon, is mentioned in 2 Kin. 20:12, and Isa. 39. The same name is in Berosus’s Babylonics, as Josephus testifies in his ancient history, book 10, chap. iii. Heroditus mentions the battle in Megiddo, in which Necho, king of Egypt, overcame the Jews (which history is in 2 Chr. 35:22; Zec. 12:1), in the foresaid second book in these words: “And Necho encountered the Syrians (for Heroditus always calls the Jews, as do others also), in a land fight and overcame them in Magdolus.” — These things from Grotius De Verit. Book iii, sect. 16.
The things which Grotius there quotes from heathen histories about Nebuchadnezzar, and other things relating to the captivity of the Jews and the destruction of Babylon, etc. are too many and large to be transcribed. But this which Grotius there says is especially worthy of note. Eusebius, both in his Chronicon and in the end of the ninth of his Preparation, tells us that Nebuchadonasar is mentioned also by Abydenus, who wrote of the Assyrians Here several things related in Daniel seem to be confounded and jumbled together, as particularly, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about the four empires that should destroy one another, Dan. 2, particularly that part of it that relates to the Persian empire’s destroying the Babylonian and what we have an account of, Dan. 4:1, 4, 5, 28 to the end of the chapter.
1300. The Law of Moses. It is an argument that Moses spoke and acted, not of himself, but as being divinely led and instructed, that the doctrine that he taught, so far excelled the doctrine even of the wisest of the heathens. It is not credible that a man born and educated in the midst of Egyptian superstition, should know and teach those things of himself.
He clearly taught those things, which to the Gentiles appeared as things attended with the greatest uncertainty and perplexity, and which were most remote from their hypotheses. For he shows that the origin of the world was from one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, concerning which the Gentiles inquired with great anxiety, but never could find where so set their foot.
The things which he taught concerning God were perfectly agreeable to reason, yet exceedingly remote from the notions even of the most learned and polite of other nations, who taught things concerning God so mean and vile, that they were altogether unworthy of the Supreme Being. This is the singular nature of the Jewish doctrine, and a truly divine character: that it wholly tends to God, it everywhere favors of God, it magnifies and exalts God, and in one word, it wholly, in everything that appertains to it, is fitted for and tends to the glory of God. And by this note, this doctrine is evidently distinguished from all human doctrines. For in all the doctrines of men, you may see them seeking their own glory. You may see that they accommodate the doctrines they deliver, to the dispositions and manners of great men, and men in power. But this has entirely respect to God. God is the scope and end of all things. God is concerned in all things, sees all things, directs all things, works all. All things are directed to his glory alone.
Who is there that would assert him to be an impostor, who refers everything, not to himself, but to God alone?
And if Moses did not receive his doctrine from God, which way in the world should it come to pass, that a people, noted for their rule and uncultivated state, and despised very much by other nations, as remarkably inferior for ingenious arts, politeness of manners, and ignorant of philosophy and the sciences, should, nevertheless, so vastly excel all nations in their notions of divine subjects, and alone should have right sentiments in questions of the most sublime and exalted nature? And with respect to the law of Moses, they were by no means formed in such a manner as was to be expected, if what Moses aimed at was to found a republic by fraud, and thereby thoroughly to subject the Jewish people to himself. For they that make use of impostors, are wont to accommodate themselves to the dispositions of the people, or, at least, not to militate against those dispositions of theirs, that are strongest of all, and which have possessed their minds from their youth, and by long custom. So Mahomet, when he founded a new religion, patched it with such precepts, as were agreeable to the genius of most people in his time, and was careful to indulge even the carnal affections and passions of men, that the effeminate Asiatics might find such things in the religion he established, as might satisfy their lusts.
But the people of Israel were so propense to idolatry, as abundantly appears from the whole Mosaic history, and their other ancient monuments, that it appears to have been next to impossible for him to restrain them from it, by the strict laws, and most severe punishments.
Yet Moses alone, though he himself was educated in idolatry, undertakes so great a work, as entirely to banish idolatry from a people so exceedingly given to it, and encompassed round on ever side with idolaters. But who can persuade himself, that he ever had power to do this of himself, of his own head, and by his own power, without any divine direction, command, or assistance? If he was an impostor, why did not he indulge the people in that matter, that he might get their favor? Or why did he not at least content himself with changing the idolatry into another form, that he might, in some degree, gratify the disposition of the Hebrews? The other moral precepts of the laws of Moses are so formed, that they everywhere inculcate the most sincere love and fear of God, and most strictly require every duty towards our neighbor. And not only fornication and other sins of that kind (which were looked upon as mere trifles among the nations), were proscribed by the most severe threatenings, but also all internal concupiscence, which does not so much as attempt to break forth into act, is condemned by the most sacred precepts.
And this law requires even the circumcision of the heart, or an entire extirpation of evil actions, and does not so much as allow any gratification of evil desires, even in the least things.
And Moses’s laws, from the beginning, were so perfect, that they never needed to be changed for the better, but were contrived with such wisdom from the beginning, although it was in times of the greatest rudeness, that they were brought at once to the utmost height of their perfection, which never happens in human law. And for this reason, those laws were never changed, which yet is very frequently wont to happen to all laws merely human.
All these things do abundantly show that Moses had the character, not of an impostor, but of a divine messenger.
These things from Alphonsus Turretine (Stapferus).
1309. The Book of Daniel. Porphyry would have it that the book of Daniel was forged after the times of Antiochus Epiphanes. Against this the following things do argue.
1. Alphonsus Turretinus, quoted by Stapferus, observes, “That among the whole nation of the Jews, there never was any controversy concerning this matter.” This would be exceedingly strange, if the book had been written so late as the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, which was about four hundred years after the captivity, especially when this book has been received among them, not only as a book written by Daniel, but also as a genuine writing of his, universally received into the Jewish canon as part of the Holy Scriptures, and as such read in their synagogues as their canon, and has been delivered down from generation to generation. It does not appear that after Malachi’s death, ever any pretended to have the spirit of prophecy among them, or to palm any writing of his own on the people as of divine inspiration. There seems to have been prevailing among them no humor of forgery of any such kind. And if there had been any such fictitious pretense started after several hundred years entire cessation, it is in the highest degree incredible that it should be received by all the people, and this too at once, without any great controversy about the matter, and allowed to be a divine writing. People are apt to be started and alarmed at new things, to which they have been very much used, and which are above all that any of them have long pretended to, claiming an honor far above all that any have laid claim to, for some ages.
And especially, it is unlikely that they would, without much controversy, all agree to give this new book a place in the canon of their Scriptures, so long after their canon had been settled, and had remained unaltered and without addition, as being supposed to be finished and sealed up. The canon of holy and divine writings, among them, was a very sacred thing, that to which they paid a vast regard. And so great an addition, so new made, so long after all the rest, must needs have made a great noise.
It is also to be observed that so late as this, there were among them a set of men who made it their business to study and teach the Word of God contained in the canon of their Scriptures, containing what they called the Law and the Prophets. And they had synagogues everywhere, all over the land, and in all parts of the world, and everywhere it was the established custom to read the Law and the Prophets in their synagogues. Now who can think that a book forged after the times of Antiochus Epiphanes could have been introduced into their sacred canon, as a divine book, one of the books of their holy prophets, to be kept and read in their synagogues, by the whole people, through the land of Canaan, and through the whole world, without any remarkable controversy, or any memorable noise or ado?
It is farther to be considered that this book appears with an assertion of its being written by the prophet Daniel, in the time of the captivity. In it Daniel speaks of himself as the writer, Dan. 8:1, etc.; Dan. 9:2, and Dan. 10:11-12. We are told expressly that he wrote his visions, Dan. 7:1, 2, and that he was commanded to write his prophecies in a book, chap. 12:4 (see Witsius’s Miscellan. P. 254), and the book is received and put into the Jewish canon under his name.
But if this book appeared first under Daniel’s name, after the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, the whole Jewish nation must know that it was a new book to them, and that they had never heard of any such book before. Therefore, great doubts would most naturally immediately arise in their minds [about] how it should come to pass, if this book were written at the time of the captivity, by so great a prophet of such exceeding fame, that it should now first appear, and never be heard of till now. It would be strange indeed, if under these circumstances, it should be received universally all over the world, with such high credit, as to be added to the sacred canon by all, without any remarkable controversy.
Surely many strange things must be supposed in the people to make this credible, i.e. a fondness for adding to their canon, and an aptitude to receive any new writing as of sacred authority. But nothing of this appears from any other instance. No other new writing was thus received among them. It is true that fabulous writings were forged among them, as many strange stories in their Apocrypha, but were never received among them, or any part of them, as part of the canon of their Scriptures.
It is farther to be considered that the Jews were divided into opposite contending sects, who differed greatly among themselves, and had great controversy one with another, and among others, about their canon. The Saducees differed greatly from the Pharisees: the former admitted only the five books of Moses into their canon, though they did not deny the other writings to be really written by those whose names they bore. Surely these would have made a great noise, if the rest of the Jews had so easily received and made so much of a writing so lately forged, especially seeing that Dan. 12:2 is so expressly against their most favorite tenet as to a resurrection. This sect, at least, would have kept alive the remembrance of the folly of the rest of the Jews. The Samaritans also, who lived in the midst of the country, and were such bitter enemies of the Jews, and disliked the writings of the prophets, would have been forward to expose such a folly of the Jews.
The matter of first finding and receiving this remarkable book, and adding it to the canon, must have been a famous event, and have made a noise on several accounts, not only by controversies raised thereby, but as a great and remarkable event in the series of events attending the state of things amongst them. But that all should be without the least trace or footstep of history, or any remaining account of any such event, that the whole affair should presently sink into oblivion, and so universally pass among the people, as though this book had always been part of their canon, and universally receive as such even from the captivity, is quite incredible. But thus it is that no trace of any such event remains. though the book be spoken of particularly in every ancient writing, as in Josephus, who expressly speaks of this book as received and read among the Jews, as of the most certain and undoubted authority (Witsii Miscell. P. 254).
This book is spoken of in the evangelists as cited by Christ, as a part of the Jewish Scriptures, and by the apostle Paul, Heb. 11, and there is no appearance of any controversy about the book in this time. And before that, the book of Daniel is plainly referred to in the first book of the Maccabees, second chapter, 59 and 60 verses, where the glorious fruit of the faith of Ananias, Mishael and Azarias is spoken of, and of Daniel in his preservation from the mouths of the lions.
2. The book of Daniel is extant in the translation of the seventy, which was made into Greek before the times of Antiochus Epiphanes (See Pool’s Synopsis Prolegomena in hune librum).
3. Josephus gives an account of this book’s being show to Alexander the Great, by Jaddua the high priest. So Stapferus, Prideaux, and Witsii Miscell. P. 255.
4. Stapferus (tom. ii, p. 1081) observes as follows: “I add this, which seems to me to have the greatest weight, that if this book had been written after the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, its surreptitious insertion into the sacred canon, could not have been concealed, on account of the great length of time which intervened between the life of Daniel, and the publishing of this prophecy or book, and the reception of it into the canon (about four hundred years). Who therefore can persuade himself that, at such a late period, this book, containing prophecies, having the name of Daniel prefixed to it, and relating most important facts which had already taken place, crept in by fraud, and was by the common consent of the Jewish people (for otherwise it could not have come to pass), received into the canon of Scripture?”
5. The greater part of the book is written in genuine Hebrew (see Wits. Miscell. P. 255), and it is not likely that a book forged four hundred years after Hebrew had ceased to be spoken among the people, would have been so. Other fabulous books that were written among them after the captivity, were not written in that language.
6. Other things are foretold in this book, besides those which came to pass in the days of Antiochus, no less wonderful, and no less plainly and exactly agreeing with the events which came to pass in later times, as the prophecies concerning the Roman empire, and some of them have come to pass many ages since that time, yea many ages since Christ’s time.
7. The prophet Ezekiel makes mention of Daniel, as one of the most holy men, and as one of the greatest and most familiar friends of God, and also as one of the wisest men that ever existed in the world, Eze. 14:14, 20, and Eze. 28:3. These things may well lead us to suppose that he was a great prophet. If he was a great prophet, it would be strange that none of his prophecies were written in that age, when the prophets, especially all that were of great note, wrote their prophecies.
1334. Mahometanism. In what respect the propagation of Mahometanism is far from being parallel with the propagation of Christianity, will appear by these observations.
1. The revolution that was brought to pass in the world by the propagation of Mahometanism was not so great as that which happened by the propagation of Christianity. Yea, in this respect, was by no means worthy to be compared to it. Consider the state the world was in before Christianity was propagated; how dark, ignorant, barbarous, and wicked; how strongly these things were established by long universal immemorial custom; how fixed in men’s hearts; how established by all human authority, and power, and inclination; and how vast the alteration, when Christianity was introduced and established; how vast the overthrow of that which had been built up before, and stood from age to age; how great, how strong the building; how absolute its destruction. And also, how great the building that was erected in its room, and of how different and opposite a nature from that which had stood on the same ground before.
But as to the revolution brought to pass in the world by Mahometanism, it consisted either in the change made among the heathen — barbarous nations, which had their original from Arabia or Scythia — or among professing Christians. But with respect to neither of these was the revolution comparably so great as the other. As to the change made among those heathens, they long had entertained some obscure notions of the true God, and many of the great truths of what is called natural religion, they had obtained by those glimmerings of the light of the gospel which had been diffused over great part of the world, even that part of it that had not fully embraced Christianity. But Mahometanism carried them very little farther in these things, and was on occasion of but small advance of light and knowledge. As to the change made among Christians, there was no advance at all made in knowledge, or in anything that was good. And as to the change made among them as to religious customs, they had so degenerated before, and were become so superstitious that the alteration was not very perceptible.
2. The difference of the two revolutions was immensely great as to goodness. The change made in the world by the propagation of Christianity was a great change, indeed, with regard to light and knowledge. It was change from great darkness to glorious and marvelous light. By the preaching of the gospel in the world, the day-spring from on high visited the earth, and the sun arose after a long night of the grossest darkness.
But as to the change made in Christendom by the propagation of Mahometanism, there was no increase of light by it, but on the contrary, it was evidently a change from light to darkness. It was a propagation of ignorance, and not of knowledge. As to the change made among the heathens, as we observed before, there was but a small degree of increased light, and all that was added, was borrowed from Christianity. Any increase of knowledge that arose, proceeded only from Mahomet and his followers communicating what had before been communicated to them by Christian teaching. There can be no pretense of the least degree of addition in anything, beyond what they had before received from the gospel. And as to rules and precepts, examples, promises, or incitements to virtue of any kind, no addition at all was made. What alteration there existed, was only for the worse: the examples, histories, representations, and promises of the new Mahometan religion, only tended exceedingly to debase, debauch, and corrupt the minds of such as received it.
3. The revolution that was occasioned by the propagation of Christianity, was an infinitely greater and more wonderful effect, if we consider the opposition that was overcome in bringing it to pass. Christianity was propagated against all the opposition that could be made by man’s carnal dispositions, strengthened by inveterate general custom, principles, habits, and practice, prevailing like a mighty flood. Mahometanism was propagated, not in opposition to those inclinations, but by complying with them, and gratifying them, in examples, precepts, and promises, as Stapferus observes (Theol. Polem. tom. 3. p. 292). Speaking of Mahomet’s laws, he says, “The law which he published was, above all others, accommodated not only to the opinions of men, but also to the depraved nature, manners, and innate vices of those nations, among whom he propagated it; nor did it require much more than external exercises, which, to a carnal man, are much more easy to be performed, than those spiritual exercises which the sacred pages prescribe. He allowed of revenge for injuries; of discarding wives for the slightest causes; of the addition of wives to wives, which must have served only as so many new provocatives to lust. At the same time he indulged himself in the greatest excess of promiscuous and base lasciviousness. He placed the true worship of God in such external ceremonies, as have no tendency to promote true piety. In fine, the whole of that religion which he instituted, was adapted to no other end, than the shedding of human blood.”
This religion is particularly adapted to the luxurious and sensual disposition. Christianity was extremely contrary to the most established and darling notions of the world, whereas Mahomet accommodated his doctrines to all such notions as were most pleasing at that time, among the heathen Arabians, Jews, and the several most prevailing sects of Christians, as Stapferus observes:
“Mahomet retained many of the opinions of the ancient Arabians; he mixed his doctrine with the fables of the Jews, and retained many of the ceremonies of the other religions prevalent at that time. The religion of Mahomet favored the prejudices of the Jews and of the heathens; and was suited to the desires of the flesh, and to the allurements of the world. But the religion which Christ taught, did not, in the least instance, favor the depraved affections of men, and the indulgence of the flesh; but was diametrically opposed to them: nor was is suited to the prejudices of either Jews or Gentiles; but it was plainly contrary to the preconceived opinions of men. Whence the apostles, in preaching this religion, immediately opposed both the religion of the Jews and of the Gentiles.” (Theol. Polem. tom. 3. p. 340) Christianity was propagated under the most violent, universal, and cruel persecution of all the powers of the world. Mahometanism was not so: it never made its way any where, in any remarkable degree, against persecution.
4. The difference will appear great, if we consider the time when each of these were propagated. Christianity was propagated at a time when human learning and science was at its greatest height in the world. But Mahometanism was broached and propagated in ages of great darkness, after learning had exceedingly decayed, and was almost extinguished in the world.
5. The difference will farther appear, if we consider the places from whence these religions were propagated. — Christianity was first begun in a place of great light, the greatest light with regard to religious knowledge then known, and in a very public part of the globe, whither resorted innumerable multitudes of people three times every year, from almost all parts of the then known world. And beside the vast resort of Jews and proselytes thither, it was a country that was at that time under the inspection and government of the Romans, where they had a governor, and other public officers, constantly residing. It was propagated especially from Jerusalem, the chief city in that country, and one of the greatest and most public cities in the world, and, indeed, all things considered, was next to Rome itself, nay, in some respects, even far beyond Rome. And the nations among whom it was first propagated after the Jews, were not the more ignorant and barbarous, but the most knowing and learned in the world, as particularly the Greeks and Romans. And the cities where it was very early received, and from whence it was promulgated to other parts, were the greatest, most public, and polite, such as Antioch, Ephesus, Alexandria, Corinth, Athens, and Rome: and some of these were the greatest seats of learning and philosophy on earth. — Whereas Mahometanism was broached in a dark corner of the earth, Arabia. And the people among whom it first gained strength, who sent out armies to propagate it to the rest of the world, were an ignorant and barbarous sort of people, such as the Saracens and Turks, who originated from Scythia.
6. The difference appears in the means and method of propagation. Christianity was propagated by light, instruction and knowledge, reasoning and inquiry. These things were encouraged by the gospel; and by these means the gospel prevailed. But Mahometanism was not propagated by light and instruction, but by darkness; not by encouraging reasoning and search, but by discouraging knowledge and learning, by shutting out those things and forbidding inquiry, and so, in short, by blinding the eyes of mankind.
It was propagated by the power of the sword also: by potent sultans, absolute tyrants, and mighty armies. Christianity was propagated by the weakest of men, unarmed with anything but meekness, humility, love, miracles, clear evidence, most virtuous, holy, and amiable examples, and the power and favor of eminent virtue, joined with assured belief of the truth, with self-denial and suffering for truth and holiness. By such weapons as these was it propagated against the power, authority, wealth, and armor of the world: against the greatest potentates, most absolute and cruel tyrants, their most crafty counsels, and greatest strength, utmost rage and cruelty, and determined resolutions to put a stop to it. It was propagated against all the strength of the strongest empire that ever was in the world.
7. One principal way wherein the propagation of Christianity is a proof of its truth, consists in its being an evidence of the facts that are the foundation of it. Christianity is built on certain great and wonderful visible facts, such as Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and the great and innumerable miracles wrought by him and his apostles, and other his followers in Judea and many parts of the world. — These facts were always referred to as the foundation of the whole, and Christianity always pretended to be built on them. That Christianity, which, in effect, is no other than the belief of these facts, should be extensively propagated in and near the places and time when the facts were said to be wrought, when and where there was so much opportunity and advantage to know the truth of the matter, is a great, standing, everlasting evidence of the truth of the facts. But as to Mahometanism, it pretends to no facts for its proof and foundation, but only Mahomet’s pretenses to intercourse with heaven, and his success in rapine, murder, and violence. — Belief of sensible miracles, or public attestations of heaven to Mahomet’s authority and doctrines, was no part of his religion and was not employed in its propagation.
8. If we consider the propagation of Christianity as a doctrine or belief of wonderful divine facts, Mahometanism is not set up in opposition to it, because the Mahometan religion itself acknowledges the principal facts of Christianity, though it has no facts of its own to urge. And so Mahometanism rather confirms than weakens Christianity, and the propagation of Mahometanism itself may be considered as one thing belonging to the propagation of Christianity, and as a part of that propagation, in as far as it consists in a propagation of a professed belief of those facts. It is so far an instance of the propagation of that which is the foundation of Christianity, that it proves all the rest. The Alcoran owns Jesus to be a great prophet; “the messenger of God,” (Surat. 5:84) that he wrought miracles, healing a man blind from his birth, and the leprous (Surat. 5:119), also raising the dead; and that Jesus as born of Mary was himself a miracle (Surat. 23:52). He often speaks of Jesus as the servant and messenger of God (Surat. 4:158; 3:152; 4:169, 170; 5:84). Now, owning this, is in effect owning the whole. This is the foundation of the whole, and proves all the rest. It owns that Jesus was miraculously conceived and born (Surat. 3:47; 19:20, 21); and without sin (Surat. 3:36; 19:19) — Mahomet owns Jesus, and ascribes the conception of Christ alone to the power of God, and the inflation of his Spirit. — In Surat. 21:19, are these words, as the words of God: “And Mary was a chaste virgin, and We inspired her with Our Spirit, and set up her and her son as a miracle to all ages.” — He owned Jesus to be the Messiah foretold in the law and the prophets (Surat. 3:45); “When the angels said, O Mary, certainly God declares to thee his own word; his name shall be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary:” (Surat. 19:29; Surat. 4) “Certainly Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, is the ambassador of God and his word.” He owned Christ’s ascension into heaven. “God raised him (Christ) to himself;” (Surat. 4:157). Concerning Christ’s miracles, Mahomet says (Surat. 3:45; 5:119). “God says, O Jesus, the son of Mary, I have strengthened thee by the Spirit of holiness; and thou shalt, by my leave, heal a man blind from his birth; and by my leave thou shalt raise the dead from their graves.”
9. In this respect the great propagation of the Mahometan religion is a confirmation of revealed religion — and so of the Christian in particular, which alone can have any pretext to be a religion revealed by God — as this is a great demonstration of the extreme darkness, blindness, weakness, childishness, folly, and madness of mankind in matters of religion, and shows how greatly they stand in need of a divine guide, and divine grace and strength for their help, such as the gospel reveals. And that this gross delusion has continued so long to so great an extent, shows how helpless mankind are, under ignorance and delusion in matters of religion, and what absolute need they have of extraordinary divine interposition for their relief. And besides, such a miserable, blind, helpless state of mankind, is also exactly agreeable to the representation made in the Christian revelation.
EVIDENCE OF CHRISTIANITY GIVEN TO THE JEWISH NATION
443. Christian Religion. It was often prophesied among the children of Israel, that the gods of the nations round about should perish from off the earth, and that they should cease to be acknowledged and worshipped. But [it as also prophesied] that the worship and acknowledgment of their God should remain forever and should, in due time, take place of those other gods and that the nations abroad in the world, which then worshipped other gods, should be brought to an acknowledgment of him as the only true God. Jer. 10:11, “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.” And so it came to pass. All those deities are exploded and the acknowledgment of the God of Israel, the only true God, takes place in all the known part of the world, and four times as much, and it holds still. This came to pass by means of the Christian religion. It is Christ’s appearing and the preaching of his doctrine in the world that has been the means of it all. It is by means of these that the Mahometan parts of the world came to acknowledge the One God, and it is by these means that even the deists came to it.
Again, it has been only by means of Jesus Christ’s appearing and teaching that the world ever came to have any clear, distinct, and rational notions about a future state: notions most agreeable to the obscure intimations of the Old Testament (though seen but through a veil), notions most agreeable to the divine nature and dispensations, and notions every way agreeable to reason.
It is a confirmation that God designed the Christian religion should succeed the Jewish: that speedily after the introduction of the Christian religion, God, in his providence, by the destruction of the temple and dispersion of the Jewish nation, made that religion impracticable. It was prophesied of old that God should be acknowledged and worshipped by other nations, and that other nations were to be God’s people. Therefore there was a religion to succeed the Jewish, very different as to external worship, because the Jewish religion was not fitted for more than a single nation, nor is it practicable by the world in general. But the Christian religion is exceedingly fitted for universal practice.
1312. The Infidel. The unreasonableness of infidelity is well represented in the following paragraph:
“What can be more unworthy of a man than to be ignorant and to be willing to be ignorant of what is the cause, what the order, and what is the end of this world, and by whose power it is moved? What can be more base than for a man willingly not to know who sent him into the world, whence he came, whither he is going, what conduct of his shall be followed with misery or with happiness, what are the wages of misery and of happiness, what are the remedies of evils, what is to be hoped, and what is to be feared, and in that manner to live in perpetual doubt and perpetual agitation, by hope and fear alternatively succeeding each other, so that the mind sometimes is precipitately inclined this way, sometimes that way, and is incapable of rest? Is it not the greatest madness for a man to endeavor to strengthen his mind against those things, to flee from himself, to choose a voluntary banishment, and being ignorant of his own character, which is too well known to others, to choose death? Nay, to glory in doubting concerning the immortality of the soul and future rewards and punishments, on the pretense that he is not touched with either hope or fear, like the incredulous multitude? He is certainly miserable and at the same time the worst and most abandoned of men, who against the remonstrances of his conscience, is unwilling to acknowledge what, whether willing or unwilling, he ought from experience to acknowledge that he stands or falls at the will of another.” Roellius, as quoted by Stapferus Theol. Polem. tom. i, p. 512.
1317. Christ No Impostor. That Jesus Christ was no impostor is well argued in the following passage: “What could the most merciful Savior have gained in this way but misery, punishment, and crucifixion? For all worldly conveniences were far from him, nor did he wish, like Mahomet, to establish an earthly kingdom. Neither was his doctrine adapted to the disposition of mankind, nor were his precepts and institutions such that he could expect to win by them the favor of men. Impostors are wont to accommodate themselves and their doctrine to the circumstances of time and place, to indulge the manners and constitutions of men. They give way where they perceive too great opposition. They do not directly oppose preconceived and deeply rooted opinions, but they adapt themselves to them. They change some things and add some things new, yet so that they retain the old ideas.
Christ plainly acted a very different part. His doctrine was directly opposite to the prejudices of the Jews. He insisted upon it, that all their external form of worship, instituted by Moses, according to the command of God, was abolished; a form of worship, which the greatest part of the Jews thought would continue to the end of the world, and on the observance of which they entirely depended for their salvation; a form of worship different from that of other nations, and in which the Jews gloried; a form of worship in the highest degree subserving the interest of the chief men among the Jews, as it made the people dependent on them. This form of worship, Christ insisted, was become obsolete, and as such to be laid aside. If he was an impostor, attached to a sect and sought many followers, why did he not, in this instance, favor the opinions of the Jews, which were most deeply rooted? Why did he insist on the abolition and removal of that which they were most fond, and in which they sought the highest glory? Why did he not rather profess himself to be a restorer of the Jewish government and public worship? He well knew what opinion the Jews entertained concerning the person and work of the Messiah. Why then since he wished to be received by them as the Messiah, did he not, if he were an impostor, accommodate himself to the utmost of his ability, to their opinion in this particular? Why did he, in all respects, exhibit himself directly the contrary to their opinion and expectation?
Whence came to pass that he so sharply reprehended the vices of their chief men, and thereby incurred their hatred? Why did he do it so publicly? Why did he not rather court their favor?
Nor did his doctrine coincide with the wisdom of the Gentiles. Therefore, it was not only a stumbling block to the Jews, but foolishness to the Greek. Thus, he introduced a new doctrine, or to speak more properly, a doctrine which plainly appeared to all people new. He retained nothing of the favorite principles of either Jews or Gentiles.
He gave not the least indulgence to the vices, to the carnal lusts, to the ambition or other wickedness most familiar to man in his present state of depravity. Yet this indulgence was granted by all the impostors and false teachers of our Lord’s time, and the times following. On the other hand, he enacted and published the most pure laws against all the allurements of the world. Whatever, says he, entices and incites to sin, is to be avoided and rejected, though it be more dear than an eye, and the other bodily members or organs. He not only forbids the overt actions of lust, but also lustful thoughts. He requires every member of the Christian church to lay aside every desire of revenge, and to exercise an universal love of even enemies. He condemns all hypocrisy in divine worship: nay, he makes the entrance into the kingdom of heaven, or the communion of his church, most difficult. Without doubt, it satisfies all impostors and false prophets, without one exception, that they have given to men the name of their sect and doctrine, but our Lord in the plainest terms asserts that a mere profession of Christianity is useless. Nor is he contented with the mere assent to his doctrine, but demands the most exact observance of his law. ‘Not everyone,’ says he, ‘who saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven.’ Nay, he proposes the divine perfections as the most perfect pattern of our life, and demands of his disciples the most entire denial of themselves. He promised even to his apostles no worldly advantage, but declared that hatred, stripes, persecutions, excommunication from the Jewish church, and death, were to be expected by the preachers of the gospel. Mat. 10:22, ‘Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: the time will come, when all that kill you shall think that they do God service.’ So far from encouraging ambition in his followers, he declared that unless they should be so changed as to become like little children, they should not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
All these are not only most remote from the characters of an impostor and false prophet, but are diametrically opposite to them, as will be acknowledged by every reader who is uninfluenced by preconceived opinions.
Our Lord confirmed the truth of his testimony, by patiently enduring the most reproachful mockery, and the most grievous tortures unto death. Hence his disciples have imitated their Master in this particular.
The opposers of Christianity say that all religious, even those which are most inconsistent with each other, agree in this: that they boast of their martyrs, and that therefore it is not wonderful that the apostles and their master underwent martyrdom to support their religion. But here we had a great difference. Others undergo death, because the falsehood which they profess is believed by them to be a real truth. But if Christ and his apostles were impostors and seducers, they suffered death for that which they themselves knew to be most false, which is plainly without any appearance of probability.” Stapferi Theol. Polem. tom. ii, p. 1132, etc.
1318. The Apostles: Wise Not Fanatical. “Who can persuade himself that men most unlearned, distracted or fanatical could, with the greatest concord among themselves, have exhibited and everywhere inculcated, both by their preaching and their writings, a doctrine which implies far more just and wise ideas concerning God than those of all the philosophers who have hitherto lived; that they should have prescribed a mode of worship plainly rational; that they, contrary to the common opinions of men, should have taught that God is to be worshipped, not in mere external ceremonies but in a spiritual manner, and that the mind, no less than the body, is to be composed to the worship of the Supreme God; and that they should have given such rules of living as the most bitter enemies of revealed religion are forced to approve? If these men had been fanatics or madmen, surely there would have been found some marks of it in their lives or in their writings. But let anyone peruse all the gospels and all the epistles, and he will find nothing of this sort there: no footsteps of madness or fanaticism.
It is also entirely incredible that the greatest part of men should suffer themselves to be imposed upon and deceived by fools and madmen, in an affair which was plainly opposite to their opinions, and in a doctrine which favored neither their temporal interest, nor their carnal gratification, but was manifestly contrary to all the attractive charms of the flesh. Yet this doctrine has taken root most deeply and extensively, and that not only for a short time, but for many ages, for almost two thousand years, has been continually propagated, and has been received at every period during that long time, by men of various descriptions; not only by the credulous multitude, but by princes and great men; not by the foolish and simple only, but by the wise and even by the greatest philosophers; and by the learned equally as by the unlearned. Is it probable that a system of new sentiments, invented and propagated by madmen and fanatics, would have obtained so great credit through all this time? The dreams of fanatics soon perish. Perhaps they obtain applause with the ignorant, while philosophers laugh at them. But the Christian doctrine is such that it commends itself to the most wise and the most virtuous. Who then can say that this is mere fanaticism? It was not propagated by force of arms. or by art and subtilty. It was protected by no human aid. Nor did the apostles preach the gospel chiefly in those places in which the people were unlearned, ignorant, and unimproved by arts and sciences, but at Jerusalem, in the cities of Greece, in which were the most acute philosophers, and at Rome, the seat of all the sciences. The first evangelists did not seek darkness, but came forth into the light, nor did they request of others that they should believe their words without explanation, but chose that whatever they advanced should be examined. 1 Thes. 5:21-22; 1 John 4:1. ‘But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestations of the truth, commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.’ 2 Cor. 4:2.” Stapferus, tom. ii, p. 1136, etc.
1321. The Apostles Not Impostors. That the apostles were not impostors, who knew that the miracles of Christ and his resurrection, of which they testified, were mere fictions of their own and told such falsehoods to acquire glory as the heads of a party, etc. is well argued in the following paragraphs:
“If the apostles meant to deceive and if they sought their own glory, why did they so ingeniously relate their own faults? Why did they secrete neither their own slowness to believe, nor their continual altercations, nor Peter’s denial of the Lord, nor the desertion of him by all the apostles? If they relate a mere fiction, why did they not write by agreement? The books of the New Testament were not written by one man but by many. These do not contradict themselves or each other, yet they so write that it easily appears that they did not act from agreement. But how could it come to pass if the whole affair was a mere fiction that in all things they so wonderfully agree among themselves.
The facts which the apostles relate are not said to have taken place in distant countries, in remote times, among unknown men, but in the very place in which the apostles related and wrote them; at that time in which all events were recorded in books; among those men, among whom the apostles preached and wrote, and who were under the best advantages to know whether those facts did really take place or not. They exhibit these facts not as unknown, but do, as it were, take for granted the general knowledge of them, and declare those things which make the sum of the affair, in the face of the rulers of the Jews, their chief enemies. Impostors and inventors of fables are not wont to act thus, but carefully to conceal their fictions from detection.
If those things which they related to the town were false, whence did it come to pass that they were not blamed on account of their most impudent and most audacious fraud. Why did not the sworn enemies of the Christian institution turn those state fables to their own advantage, and show that all things pretended by the apostles were mere fictions, and that the certainty of those works had no foundation? The Christian religion could in its beginning have been extinguished by nothing more easily than by demonstrating, at that very time, that the history on which it depended, was a falsehood. There was nothing by which the minds of men could more effectually have been called off from this religion, than clear proof given by the magistrates and chief men of the Jews, that the apostles were guilty of fraud, and that the story which they told, was a fable and an imposture. So great was the bitterness of these magistrates toward Paul and the other apostles, that they let slip no opportunity of reproaching them, and they eagerly laid hold of everything which could be turned to the disadvantage of the apostles, and of Christianity. But concerning the truth of the miracles and of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there is everywhere a deep silence, though the mere demonstration that these things were fictitious, would have been sufficient for the total subversion of the Christian religion. Why then did not the Jewish magistrates and other enemies of the Christians, exhibit, both in their declarations and writings, clear and public proof of the cheat, and thereby guard others from the delusion?”
The words of that most acute divine, Joh. Alph. Turretine, in his Disc. Concerning Miracles, are well worthy to be considered in this place. They are as follows: “The apostles conducted themselves in such a manner that it is manifest that they feared nothing of the kind, and that they feared nothing of the kind, and that they were fully and perfectly secure concerning the truth of their story. For they acted openly; they disguised nothing; they mentioned all circumstances, marked the places and times of all events; they named the persons, the priests, the magistrates, the private men, and all those who bore any part in the facts. They appealed to the witnesses then alive, and Paul appealed to five hundred witnesses of the resurrection of our Lord. They boldly published those facts before all Jews, Gentiles, philosophers, kings and magistrates. They related them, they inculcated them, they defended them on all occasions and in all places. They were not afraid, they were not anxious, lest they should not be believed. They told the most wonderful and stupendous events as simply and securely, as if no body could call them in question. No art, no caution, no reservation, no coloring, is to be found in any of them. — In this manner did the apostles speak and act. — But who can imagine that impostors would act in this manner? Who can imagine that unlearned men, ignorant mechanics, could so conceal all fraud, and so mimic the outward appearance of honest men, that not even the least sign of deception appears? The word of truth is simple. But where is there greater simplicity, greater candor, and more manifest signs of sincerity and truth, than in the manner in which the apostles relate the facts of the gospel?
No religion, no sect, had more enemies than Christianity. None had enemies more powerful or more learned. If there had been fictions and fables in the writings of the apostles, no doubt they would have detected them. If those most inveterate enemies of Christianity had known anything solid or certain against the accounts given by the apostles, most certainly they would not have kept it in silence. How does it come to pass, that in all the writings of the Jews, the frauds of Christ’s disciples are no where pointed out, and proved? Which profound silence, and the mere criminations, without support, they threw out against the apostles, are a strong confirmation of the apostolical narrations.” Stapferi Theol. Polem. tom. ii, p. 1143, etc.
1324. First Century Christianity. One evidence of the truth of the facts that were the ground of the Christian faith is that Christianity was propagated so far in all parts, so early, when there was so great and manifold opportunity to inquire into the truth of those facts without a possibility of failing to make a discovery of their falsehood if they had been false.
Pliny the younger, in the reign of the emperor Trajan, was governor of Bithynia and his epistle to the emperor is extant, lib. x, epist. 97, in which he writes, “That the number of the Christians was incredible so that the temples and altars were forsaken, that he, upon examination, could not assert that they were guilty of any crime, that they rendered divine worship to Jesus and that with so great perseverance that they would rather suffer even the most ignominious death than, in the denial of Christ, to sacrifice to the gods. That the number of those who were exposed to the laws by a profession of the Christian religion was so great that it included those of every age and rank, that not only the cities but the villages and country were infected with this plague,” as he was pleased to call Christianity. From all which it most clearly appears that the Christian religion toward the close of the first century was spread far and wide. Stapferi Theol. Polem. tom. ii, p. 1168, etc.
1335. The Resilience of the Jewish Nation. The Jewish nation has, from its very beginning, been a remarkable standing evidence of the truth of revealed religion. They have been so in two respects:
1. In being so distinguished from all the world in their religion, and having preserved it in so great distinction. When every other nation under heaven had forsaken the true God, and was overwhelmed in heathenish darkness, the Jews had among them the knowledge and worship of the true God, and rational and true notions of his being, attributes, and works; of his relation to mankind, our dependence upon him, and the worship and regards due to him. This was upheld among them alone, for so many ages, to the coming of Christ; while they were surrounded on every side with nations vastly differing from them, and the worst of idolaters.
The following things render this remarkable. First. The whole world beside themselves had forgotten the true God, and forsaken his worship, and were all the while involved in gross heathenism. Second. They lived in the midst of the most frequented and most populous parts of the world. Third. They did not live separated from the rest of the world, as in an island or a peninsula, nor yet as divided from others by vast deserts or impassable mountains, but on the continent, in the midst of the habitable world, with populous countries adjoining to them almost on every side. Fourth. Those nations, who were their next neighbors on every side, were steadfastly gross pagans, and some of the most barbarous idolaters.
Fifth. They were not a nation that studied philosophy. They had no schools among them under the care of philosophers, who instructed their pupils in human science, yet they had most apparently far better, more sublime, and purer notions of God and religion, and of man’s duty, and of divine things in general, than the best of the heathen philosophers.
Sixth. Nor do they seem to have been a people any way remarkably distinguished from other nations, by their genius and natural abilities.
Seventh. They were a comparatively small people, not a great empire, not a vast and potent commonwealth.
Eighth. Such changes and revolutions frequently came to pass in their nation, and such was their peculiar state from time to time, that they were exceedingly liable to be corrupted and overrun with heathenish notions, and the customs of idolatrous nations, and to grow into a conformity to the rest of the world in that respect. They were above two hundred years in Egypt, which may be looked upon as the second nation, if not the first, for being the fountain of idolatry. And they lived there under circumstances tending the most to their being corrupted with idolatry, and brought to a conformity with the Egyptians in that respect, of any that can be imagined, especially on these accounts: — They were there in the beginning and rise of their nation. There the nation had its birth. It grew from one family of about seventy persons, with the father of the whole family at the head of it, to be more than a million of people, yea probably (reckoning male and female) about two million. And they lived there, not separate and distinct from the Egyptians; but had continual intercourse with them. Yea, they dwelt there as inferiors, in subjection to the Egyptians, their slaves. And the Egyptians who had daily concern with them, were their masters.
After they came into the land of Canaan, they for several ages dwelt there with the remains of the ancient heathen inhabitants, who were so numerous and strong, as sometimes to overcome and keep them long in subjection, which also, from time to time, their idolatrous neighbors did.
And after they had lived long in the land ten of their tribes were carried away into final captivity, and heathen inhabitants planted in their stead: by which the religion of the remaining two tribes was the more exposed. At last these remaining two tribes, with the Levites, and all that were left of the ten tribes who had mixed with them, were carried away into Babylon, the chief city of Chaldea, the country that above all in the world (at least, excepting Egypt) was the fountain of idolatry. There they dwelt during the time of one generation. So that before any of them returned, the body of the people were a new generation, born and brought up in that land of darkness, amongst idolaters, their superiors and masters, and most of them the most honorable men that were then in the world, and a great part, perhaps the greater part, of the nation never returned, but continued dispersed in heathen countries till Christ’s coming. As to the nation in general, those in Canaan and those out of it were in subjection to the three successive heathen monarchies, the Persian, Grecian, and Roman, and heathen people belonging to each of those empires, often swarmed in their country.
Ninth. The people seemed to be, from their very beginning till the Babylonish captivity, exceedingly prone to idolatry, were fond, in that respect, of the customs of those heathen neighbors, and were apt to think it honorable to be like the rest of the nations and a disgrace to be singular. This appears in that,
Tenth. They actually oftentimes apostatized to idolatry, embraced the worship of the heathen gods, and neglected the worship of the true God, and continued sometimes for a long time in their conformity to their heathen neighbors. Yet they were wonderfully reclaimed from time to time, so that they were never suffered finally to apostatize, as all other nations in the world had done, nor were left in their apostasy for so long a space of time.
Eleventh. All is the more remarkable, in that not only the true God and his spiritual worship are so infinitely diverse from the gods and religion of the heathens, but the external institutions and rites of worship observed among the Jews, and the law of their worship and religion, were remarkably diverse and repugnant to the religious rites of their heathen neighbors. They were exceedingly opposite to the rights of the Egyptians, among whom they lived so long, and among whom they first became a nation. So were they also to the rites of the ancient inhabitants of Canaan, of the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, etc.
2. The Jews may be considered as a remarkable evidence of the truth of revealed religion, in that they were preserved so long a time a distinct nation from all others, even since their father Jacob’s time, till this day; being neither destroyed, nor abolished, nor lost by mixing with other nations.
Jacob himself was exposed to be destroyed by his brother Esau, before he was married. His family was greatly exposed to destruction, at least as to any permanent distinction from other people, when Laban pursued after him, with a design probably to kill him, and to bring back his wives and children into Padan-aram, and to keep them there, or at least, by some means to carry back his family, and to prevent their ever going to Canaan. He and his family were in imminent danger of being destroyed when Esau came out against him with four hundred men. His family were greatly exposed to danger by the inhabitants of Canaan, when provoked by his sons destroying the Shechemites. A series of wonderful and miraculous providences respecting Joseph, were the means of preserving the family, without which they would probably either have perished by the famine, or in the time of that famine, have wandered away from Canaan, in such obscurity, and under such disadvantages, that they would likely have never returned any more to Canaan, and so the family would have been broken up.
In Egypt they were greatly exposed to be destroyed, when Pharaoh set himself to effect their destruction by drowning all the males. When they had continued so long in Egypt, under such abject circumstances, it could be owning to nothing but a series of the greatest miracles that ever they were separated from that people and land, so as to return again to dwell by themselves, to be kept a distinct nation. They were in imminent danger of being swallowed up by Pharaoh and his host at the Red sea, or of receiving such a blow, as wholly to break up the design of their proceeding to Canaan to live there. They were exposed to suffer that which would have prevented their proceeding, when the Amalekites met them, and fought with them.
Nothing but a course of most astonishing miracles for forty years could have prevented their perishing in the wilderness, or being obliged to go back again into Egypt, and suffering captivity, dispersion, and ruin by the nations that dwelt around the wilderness. — They were greatly exposed to be ruined as a people, by the opposition of the Moabites, Midianites, Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan. — That ever they got the possession of Canaan, which was then held by many nations greater and stronger than they, was owing to a course of great miracles, without the intervention of which they must have perished as a people.
After they had obtained the possession of the land, they were often greatly exposed to be utterly ruined in the time of the judges, when their enemies in those parts, who seemed to have an exceeding great hatred of them, prevailed against and had the mastery of them. It could be owing to nothing but the special providence of God, that those enemies did not improve the advantages they had in their hands, utterly to destroy them, or at least to drive or carry them captive out of that land; particularly the provoked Canaanites, before the deliverance by Deborah and Barak; the Midianites and the people of the East, before the deliverance by Gideon; and after them the Philistines.
Afterwards, in the time of the kings, there were many efforts of the enemies of Israel utterly to destroy the whole nation, to cut them off from being a people, and to blot out their very name from under heaven, agreeably to Psa. 83:3-8, “They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. They have said, Come, let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. For they have consulted together with one consent. They are confederate against thee. The tabernacles of Edom and Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagarenes, Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek, the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre: Assur also is joined with them; they have holpen the children of Lot.”
In David’s time there was such a mighty combination of enemies against them, and so great a force was raised that one would think might have been sufficient to swallow up the nation. — After Solomon’s time, the nation was greatly weakened, and so much the more exposed to ruin, by their division into two kingdoms, often contending, and seldom in amity the one with the other. — The nation was greatly exposed in Rehoboam’s time to be swallowed up by Shishak king of Egypt; in Asa’s time, by the vast army of the Ethiopians; and again by the mighty army of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites in Jehoshaphat’s time, 2 Chr. 20. When the kings of Assyria overran and utterly destroyed the ten tribes, it was a wonder that the two tribes were spared, and the people were greatly exposed to be finally ruined by Sennacherib’s army, who intended nothing else.
When the people were carried captive into Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, and the whole land laid utterly waste, it was a wonder that this did not prove an entire end to them as a people. It was a wonder they were kept distinct in their captivity, that then they were delivered, and that after they had been in captivity so long, till those that had formerly lived in Canaan were generally dead and a new generation born in Chaldea was risen up, they should be brought back and again settled in their own land, and established as a people there. It was wonder that the land was vacant for them, and a wonder that they were not hindered in their design of resettling there, by the mighty opposition made to it by the Samaritans.
The people were marvelously preserved from being blotted out from under heaven by Haman, in the time of Esther and Mordecai. They were wonderfully preserved in Antiochus’s time, who was earnestly set on their utter destruction as a people, and it may be observed in general concerning them, during the time of the Old Testament, that there was no nation whatsoever against whom the nations in general were at such enmity, as the nation of the Jews. And they were, on this account, much more likely to be destroyed than any other nation.
They lived in a part of the world where they were more exposed to be overrun by other nations, and so to be by them either trodden down, or torn away and scattered abroad in the earth, than had they dwelt in any other part: living as it were in the midst of the earth, betwixt three great continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Their land lay in the very road or thoroughfare between Asia and Africa, and between Egypt and the great Eastern and Northern kingdoms, which for many ages were the greatest, most potent, and active kingdoms in the world. It seems the other nations thereabout were all destroyed from being a people, before Christ’s time: as the Midianites, the Moabites, Ammonites, Amalekites, the seven nations of Canaan, and the Philistines.
It is remarkable, concerning a great part of the time of the Old Testament, viz., from the Babylonish captivity till Christ, that a great part of the Jews lived dispersed amongst other nations. And both those who were thus dispersed, and those that lived in their own land, were all that time in the power of the heathen nations of the four monarchies.
With respect to the time since Christ, their preservation as a distinct nation has, in many respects, been still more remarkable. It was wonderful that what happened to them in the time of Titus Vespasian, when the greater part of the nation was destroyed, and the rest dispersed all over the world in such wretched circumstances, did not prove their utter destruction as a people. And the calamities that happened to the remnant soon afterwards, made their continuance as a distinct people yet more surprising. For within half a century after their destruction by Titus, in the reign of Trajan and Adrian, the nation in general every where rose in rebellion against the Romans and were finally every where beaten, so that in these wars the Jews had a thousand cities and fortresses destroyed, with the slaughter of about five hundred and eighty thousand men.
What are left of this people have ever since remained in a total dispersion over all the world, mixed every where with other people, without anything like a government or civil community of their own, and often extremely harassed by other nations: though still they remain a clear and perfectly distinct nation from all other people.
Consider the following two works by Edwards that have been updated and republished for easy reading:
Ripe for Damnation: Sermons on the Book of Revelation – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Are you hungry for more of Edwards’ sermons? On the book of Revelation? These new works are not found anywhere on A Puritan’s Mind, and there are new ones not found in his large 2 volume works. 4 deal with the plight of the wicked, and 2 deal with the bliss of saints in heaven. These sermons are powerful, practical, and biblical, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and contain 2 never before published sermons.
Justification by Faith Alone – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). In this classic work, Edwards covers the intricacies of how believers are made righteous only through Christ’s merits, and that this justifying righteousness is equally imputed to all elect believers. This is accomplished by the condition of faith as an instrument.