Imatges de pàgina

of men.' He adds, the rise of Christ's kingdom, and the fall of Satan's, being thus carried on together, it would be strange, could we find in this history no marks of the rage

of his expiring tyranny, amidst all the falutary blessings of the rifing empire of Christ. We see them in abundance. We see this enemy of our salvation mad with despair, invoking all the powers of hell to his assistance, to blait that peace and good-will towards men, proclaimed by angels on the gracious birth night of the Son of God. For when he understood, from his bafiled attempts upon his lord and master, that the souls. of men had escaped his wilcs, he turned the exercise of his cruelty on their bodies, in the inolt humbling circumstances of pain and oppreflion that could dishonour and disgrace humanity : permitted, no doubt, to greater licence at this arduous juncture, than at any time before or since, in order to manifest the triumphs and glories of his conqueror.'

It is allowed on all hands, that our Saviour had an absolute power over natural evil.

He evinced this power by curing all kinds of diseases, and rising from death. But our author thinks, that his sovereignty over moral evil could not be sensibly manififted, as it was over natural evil, but by a visible victory over Satan, through whose temptation moral evil was brought into the world; and by whose wiles and malice it was sustained and increased. • Hence it was, says he, that, among the amazing . works of fanity and salvation which our Saviour performed, the casting out of devils is so much insisted on by the historians of his life and actions. For he had informed them that this was one of the essential operations in the erection of his spiritual kit gdom. If, said he, I cast out devils by the spirit of God, THEN the kingdom of God is come unto you.'

His lordship proceeds to shew, that Jesus and his disciples in their manner of working, and in their mode of recording what they wrought, did every thing which might best display a v.Etory over Satan.

It is clear, he says, that the evil spirit was neither absent nor inactive when the evangelical mission was first opened. Iefus was forty days tempted of the devil. When he commanded the devils, whom he cast out, not to discover him, the order, if there was no devil in the case, was only suitable

* If all the powers of hell were employed in possessing the bodies of a small number of unhappy wretches in Judea, they must have been invoked for a moft infignificant purpose ! His lordship seeins to intimate, that the souls of men had escaped the wiles of the devil : but quite another doctrine is taught us by the generality of divines,


to the character of an impostor. When the torinentors of a demoniac had obtained leave to go into a herd of swine, what other reason, can be given, or what better can be conceived, of this extracrdinary request, than that it was to afford a certain mark of distinction between a real and an imaginary poffeffion.

He farther observes, that in St. Matthew iv. 24. " the diforder of those who were said to be possessed with devils is precisely distinguished, not only from natural diseases and torments in general, but likewise from lunacy in particular ; that very disorder which the anti-demonianist is so desirous of confounding with supernatural agitations. The remaining part of this discourse is employed in answering the arguments which Dr. Mead and others have alleged, in opposition to the common opinion of real poleffions.--

Dr. Mead says, Certum est, opinionem ifam, quæ jam per multa fæcula invaluit, de potentiâ ad corpora mentesque humanas vexandas dæmonibus adhuc permiffâ, variis aftutorum hominum præligiis, cum maximo rei Chriftianæ damno et OPPROBR LO ansam præbuisse.

His lordship replies: There is a real con!equence of this anti-demoniac system, more fatal to the truth of the Gospel than that pretended one. It is an unquestioned fact, that the evangelic history of the demoniacs hath given occafion to the most scandalous frauds, and fottish superstitions, through: out almost every age of the church'; the whole trade of exorcisms, accompanied with all the mummery of frantic and fanatic agitations, having arisen from hence.

• Now, were the Gospel demoniacs really poffefied, the honour of religion is safe ; and no more affected by these ingrafted frauds and follies of the church of Rome, than is the law ef Moses by their inquisitorial murders, committed under cover of God's penal statutes against Jewish idolators. If men will turn the truths of God to the support of their crimes and follies; the sacred, oracles will receive no attaint from such malice and perversity.

• But were the poffefsions recorded in the Gospel imaginary ; and demoniacs only a name for the naturally diseased ; and that yet Jesus and his apostles, instead of rectifying the people's follies and superstitions on this head, chose rather to inflame them, by afsuring certain of the distempered that they were really polesed by evil spirits, over whom the name of Christ had power and authority; if this, I say, were the case, I should tremble for the consequence: for then, would Jesus and his disciples, who were sent to propagate the truth, appear to be answerable for all the mischief, which the rivetting of this superstition in the minds of men, produced in after ages : for


O 4

there is not a clearer conclusion in mcral science, than that he who commits a premeditated fraud, is answerable for the evil which necessarily or naturally proceedeth from it. So little did the learned physician, with whom we have to do, see into the casuistry of this question, when he took it for granted, that our contending for the reality of demoniacal poffeffions, makes the Gospel, and us, who thus interpret it, answerable for all the tricks of the church of Rome, which rise upon the avowal of it.

« On the contrary, from what hath been here said, it evidently appears, that the opinion of the accommodators, (who suppose Jesus and his disciples took advantage of a favourable superstition) and not the opinion of those divines who hold gospel-demonianisın to be real, is the very thing which brings this opprobrium on the first propagators of our holy faith.

Nor can that reason which is sometimes given for permitting fuperftitious errors, (were this, which it is not, of the number of such as might be suffered to hold their course) have any weight in this case ; namely, the difficulty or danger in eradicating #bern.

• Danger there could be none, from the nature of things. To expose the false terrors concerning this enemy of mankind, could never indispose men to embrace their Saviour and Redeemer.

• As little difficult had it been to remove so uncomfortable an error, how deeply soever rooted in the popular fuperftition, For when they saw Jesus cure all diseases with a word, and the pretended demoniac as easily as the rest, nothing could withstand the authority which informed them of their mistake ; and assured them that this demoniapism, like the rest, was altogether a natural distemper. On the contrary, many favourable prejudices would soon arise on the side of so authentic an inItructor.'

The subject of the eleventh discourse is, The rise of Antichrist. His lordship takes his text from the Second Epistle of St. Peter, chap. i. 16-21. We have not followed cunningly devised fables, &c.

• There are few places in the New Testament, says this learned writer, containing only matter of admonition and instruction, which are plainer than this : and yet none which have occafioned more conteft, or greater variety of interpretation.

This hath been chiefly owing to a common mistake of the apostle's subject'; which suppofes that he is here speaking of the personal character of Jesus; and consequently, that the more sure word of prophecy, with which he strengthens his argument, is the prophecies of the Old Testament, establishing that cha:



racter : whereas the subject, he is upon, is very different, viz. the general truth of the Gospel; and, consequently, the more fure word of prophecy is the prophecies of the New Testament.

Such a mistake was necessarily productive of another ; for if the personal character of Jesus were the subject of the discourse, it would follow, that the power and coming of our Lord is to be understood of his first coming ; and that the word of prophecy refers to a prophecy already fulfilled. But if here he be speaking of the second coming of Jesus, and that, consequently, the word of prophecy refers to a long series of predictions to be fulfilled in order, this puts a fair end to the controversy, and to all the absurd and embarassed reasonings of the controversialists.'

The author proceeds to explain the words of the text. --The nineteenth verse, he tells us, alludes to the predi&tions of St. Paul and St. John, concerning Antichrift: to be found in the Epistles of the one, and the Apocalypse of the other; and he says, This word of prophecy is with the greatest truth and strength of colouring, called a light shining in a dark place. Just so much was feen of the commencing event, as was fufficient to fix men's attention ; though the splendor of the light was surrounded with thick darkness.

• However, the apostle adds, for the encouragement of those whom he exhorts to give early attention to this ray of light, that a time would come when the darkness should be dispersed, and day pour in upen the present obscurities in this word of propbery : on which, in the mean time, they were patiently to wait, - until the day dawn, and the day-star poould arise. This long wish'd for day at length appeared, with reformation on its wings: a blessing, which redeemed reason and religion from the harpyclaws of monkish ignorance and superstition. — The restoration of science, which accompanied it, is well described by the day da:wning ; and the defecation of religion, by the day-ftar risingi in their hearts.

. At this important æra, the great mystery of iniquity was revealed ; Antichrist was fully laid open and exposed; and such evidence given by prophecy to the truth of the Christian faith, as must, while reason remains amongst men, strike conviction on the hearts of the unprejudiced. For what but the spirit of God was sufficient to foretel the usurpation of an antichristian tyranny which was to arise inany ages after, within the church of Christ itself; a species of blasphemous domination, which the world had never feen before, and of which, not the least conception could be formed either from example or fimilitude. But the apostle foreseeing that when this flood of light should break

in upon the palpable obscure, the imagination, when dazzled by excess of splendour, would be as apt to extravagate, as when bewildered amidst surrounding darkness, he thought proper to. add this important caution,-Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation; i. e. " When you sit down to study the Apocalypse, let it ever be under the guidance of this previous truth, That it is not in the department of man to interpret unfulfilled prophecies, by pretending to fix the natures and seasons of events, clearly indeed predicted but obscurely described. For the interpreter of prophecy is not man but God; the full completion being its only true interpretation.”

That this is the meaning of the apostle's words, so long wrested to absurd and licentious purposes, is evident from the reason he gives of his caution,- for the prophecy.came not in the dd time by the will of man; but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Gbost: i. e. For prophecy, under the old law, was not the effect of human conceit, but of divine in. fluence. Therefore both the prediction and the interpretation (which is the accomplishment of the prediction) are equally the work of God, and in the hands of Providence. Nor did the prophets themselves always understand the true import of what they delivered, being only the organs of God's holy spirit. Much less then can we suppose the common ministers of the word to be qualified for the office of interpreters of unfulfilled prophccies.” How necessary it was to give this caution, appears from what he himself observes in this very Epistle, of certain unlearned and unstable men who wrested those bard places in St. Paul, where the man of fin is mentioned, to their own destruction.'

In the subsequent part of this discourse the author endeavours to prove, that Antichrist and the scarlet whore are no other than the pope and church of Rome.

In the twelfth sermon he treats of miracles; particularly that of the resurrection. There are three cases, he says, in which a miracle demands the credit of every reasonable man.

I. When it is worked as the credential of a messenger coming from God, with some general revelation to man.

• II. When it is worked, to secure the veracity of God's revealed word, against an impious power employing its authority, with a declared or professed purpose to convict the divine declaration of fallhood.

· III. When the fubje&t of the miracle makes fo effential a part in the æconomy of the revealed dispensation, as that without This miracle, the whole must fall to the ground,

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