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John ii. 11.
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee,
and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
THE services of our Church from advent till this time, naturally direct our minds to the consideration of the various prophecies, which had not only taught the Jews, but through them other surrounding nations also, to expect the appearance in the world of a very extraordinary person, who should effect a great change in human affairs, and particularly with regard to religion. Accordingly, I have lately dwelt
various topics, whose object has been to shew, that the argument in favour of Christianity from
prophecy, is valid and conclusive: and is not liable to those objections, which have been sometimes urged against it. We have since commemorated the birth of him, by whom we believe the predictions of the Old Testament were accomplished. And the Gospel for this day, from which I have taken my text, contains the ground upon which, and upon
which only, we can be justified in retaining that belief. For it would not have been sufficient, that the time and place and circumstances of his birth should have corresponded with the general expectation, had he not been himself able to give further and decisive proof of his Messiahship. For as the mission of our Saviour was foretold by numerous prophecies, so was it established by numerous miracles--nay more, some of those very predictions could not without miracles have been completed. How otherwise could he have opened the eyes of the blind, and the ears of the deaf ; and made the dumb to sing, and the lame to leap as an hart? If we ourselves were witnesses of such things as these, we must inevitably confess their Author to have superhuman power, and if they were done for a good purpose, we must also acknowledge that power to be divine, or at the least divinely commissioned.
our Lord's life and doctrines, is utterly inconsistent with the character of their own narratives, which bear upon the face of them no marks of art or contrivance whatever ; but are in every page of them conspicuous for qualities the very reverse of these. If then there remains no ground upon which the fidelity of the Evangelists as historians can be impeached, we must needs conclude that Jesus did (at the least) by the performance of miracles prove himself to have been divinely commissioned to reveal religious truth to mankind. Now this admission excludes all possibility of error being imputed to him. Whatever exposition therefore of the Scriptures of the Old Testament concerning himself he gave to his disciples, must have been infallibly true: whether we may be able at this time to ascertain what it was or not.
He may have shewn their application to himself in a primary and literal sense, from Hebrew copies which no longer exist. And he must have been acquainted with the meaning of the original writings with a degree of accuracy, which none of their translators have probably ever possessed : as the differences in their translations sufficiently evince. Or he may have
explained them in a secondary or allegorical sense, according to some certain rules with which we are not acquainted : for the Jews are said to have had such rules of interpretation. This is noticed by an able writer in the beginning of the last century, Dr. Jenkin. He
says, “ We may depend upon it, that the Apostles and other Disciples, who had such demonstrative evidence for the conviction of unbelievers, by a constant power of miracles, would never make use of any arguments to the Jews from the Old Testament but such as they well knew their adversaries could never be able to disprove or deny. For there were then certain methods of interpretation, as we learn from Josephus, which are now lost, and they disputed from acknowledged maxims and rules: the only difference and matter of dispute, was in the application of them to their particular case : however our ignorance of things, then generally known, may now make it difficult to reconcile some texts of the New Testament, with those of the Old from whence they were cited'.” One thing at
1 The Reasonableness and Certainty of the Christian Religion, vol. ii. p. 320.
least is clear, that Jesus expounded them in a manner that was satisfactory and convincing to his disciples, and ought not reasonably therefore to be otherwise to us. that exposition was beyond all doubt founded the assertion of the Evangelists, that the different prophecies of the Old Testament did relate to and were fulfilled by him'.
Still as we must deal with the Scriptures as we have them, it is desirable to clear up as far as possible, whatever difficulties they may present to us.
That the double sense of prophecy is one of them, cannot be dissembled. It appears not only to have furnished weapons to the enemies of Revelation : but even to have embarrassed some of its ablest defenders. Bishop Warburton censures Grotius in the strongest manner, for having 66 endeavoured throughout his whole comment on the Prophets, to find a double sense even in those direct prophecies which relate to Jesus: and to turn the primary sense upon the affairs of
1 “ The interpretations of obscure places of Scripture, which without question the Apostles taught the primitive Christians, are wholly lost; there remains no certainty scarce of any one.”—Chillingworth's Religion of Protestants, &c. p. 50.