Guil. Lancaster.

The Divine Authority of the Scriptures. A SERMON Preached at St. Martin's in the Fields, May 4. 1695. BEING THE Fifth of the LECTURE For this present YEAR, Founded by the Honourable ROBERT BOYLE, Esquire.

By JOHN WILLIAMS, D. D. Chaplain in Ordinary to His Majesty.

LONDON: Printed for Ri. Chiswell, and Tho. Cockerill, Senr & Junr: At the Rose and Crown in St. Paul's Church-Yard; and at the Three Legs in the Poultrey. MDCXCV.

HEB. I. 1, 2.‘God who at sundry times, and in divers manners spake in time past unto the Fa­thers by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, &c.

IN these words, there is contained (as I have before shewed)

1. A description of Revela­tion, 'tis God's speaking.

2. The Certainty of it, 'tis by way of declaration, God who at sundry times, &c. 'Tis taken for granted.

3. The Order observed in delivering this Re­velation, it was at sundry times, and in divers man­ners, &c.

4. The Perfection and Conclusion of all, 'tis in these last days by his Son.

Under the Second I have shewed,

1. That God has actually revealed his Will at sundry times, and in divers manners.

[Page 2] 2. What are the Characters of true Reve­lation.

3. I am now in order to prove that the Scrip­tures of the Old and New Testament do contain the Matter of Divine Revelation, and have upon them the Characters belonging to it.

In which there are two things to be consi­dered.

1. The Matter contained in Scripture.

2. The Books containing that Matter.

Which two will admit of a distinct Considera­tion. For,

(1.) These two, the Matter and the Books, were originally distinct; for the Matter was re­vealed before it was written, and would have been of the same Authority, if unwritten, as written. The writing not being essential to the Authority, but only made use of as a fit means for the conveyance and preservation of the Matter.

(2.) These two are capable of a different proof: For the matter of Scripture was confirmed by Mi­racles, and had a Divine Attestation given to it: But we don't find the like Testimony given to the Books. There were Miracles upon Miracles, to confirm the truth, suppose, contained in the [Page 3] Four Evangelists; but none to prove those Four Gospels to be wrote by Persons inspired, or that these were the Books wrote by them. For that has another sort of Evidence, to be hereafter inquired into.

2. 'Tis fit these two should be considered apart. For,

(1.) If we were to discourse with a professed In­fidel, we must begin with the Truth of the Mat­ter, and then proceed to the Authority of the Books: And we may make Converts (as the Apo­stles and others in those primitive times did) from the proof we are able to make of the Truth and Authority of our Religion, though at the present we have not the Books.

(2.) It's of no little advantage. For by hand­ling the Matter apart from the Books, we need not for the present concern our selves in the Doubts and Objections about the Books; such as the supposed Inconsistencies in Scripture; the va­rious Readings; the uncertainty of the Authors; the Subject of Inspiration, whether words as well as matter, &c.

These being laid aside for the present, by this distinct consideration of the Matter and the Books, will shorten our Work; and if we prove [Page 4] the matter to be of Divine original, we also gain a great point toward the proof of the Books themselves.

I am to begin with the Matter contained in Scripture.

Now that is of a diverse nature, and therefore according to the nature of it, so is its Authority. For there is matter of Fact, and Historical Rela­tions of things; and when we say these are of Divine Authority, we thereby mean they were recorded and committed to writing by the Ap­pointment, Direction or Command of God. Again, there are Matters of a moral nature, which might be found out by, and are the Dictates of pure Reason; and when we say these are of Divine Authority, we thereby understand that they are authorised by the Divine Command, as well as in their own nature obligatory. In which cases holy men of God spake, and wrote, as they were moved, incited, by the Holy Ghost, 2 Pet. 1. 21.

But the more especial way was when the Mat­ter was purely of Divine Revelation, and wholly proceeding from it; and though this were not to be learned, and found out by Reason (as has been before shewed) yet 'tis agreeable to it; as I shall now proceed to prove; and that I shall do in this order.

[Page 5] 1. I shall consider, The Claim which the Matter of Scripture hath to Revelation and In­spiration.

2. The Characters upon which that Claim is grounded.

3. The Proof by which that Claim to Revela­tion is made good.

1. I shall consider the Claim, &c. And that is, if the Matter contained in the Scripture be not a Revelation from God, and the True Reve­lation, then there neither is, nor ever was, nor can be such a Revelation.

1. If That be not a Divine Revelation, there is no Revelation; for as That denies and rejects all Revelation besides it self, so there is none other that can produce such Evidence for it: And con­sequently, if notwithstanding the Evidence pro­ducible for Scripture, That is not to be admitted for Divine, then there is no Revelation existent in the World, since no other has the Evidence which That appears to have. This we may leave to any indifferent person to judge of, by com­paring the Alcoran with the Bible; and the Chinese Divinity of a Confutius, with that of Christianity.

2. If this be not a Revelation from God▪ then there never has been such a Revelation; and [Page 6] that for the Reason before given, viz. That there is no other Revelation extant save this. But if there ever had been a Revelation, and a Revela­tion design'd for all Mankind (as that of the Go­spel apparently is), what was once, would al­ways and for ever afterwards have been existent; since the same reason there was once for a Reve­lation to Mankind, the same would have been for the Continuance of it; and the same Divine Goodness that took care there should be a Reve­lation, would certainly have taken the like care for the preserving of it. But if there be no Re­velation, (as there is not, if the Scripture be not that Revelation) then there never was a Reve­lation; and so all that has been before said upon this Argument, about the Existence, Usefulness, and Necessity of a Revelation, must go for no­thing.

3. If the Scripture be not of Divine Revela­tion, then there never can be a Revelation, or at least, such a Revelation as shall oblige us to re­ceive and believe it: Since there can be no stronger Evidence produced for the Proof of it, than there is for that of Scripture. And therefore he that will▪ pretend not to believe the Scripture-Revelation for want of sufficient Evidence, can never be convinced of the Truth of any Revela­tion. [Page 7] For what better Evidence can be given, as to the Matter, the Persons Inspired, the Super­natural Proofs of Miracles and Prophecy, &c. than what we have for the Scripture?

Admit then that there is, or ever was, or may be a Divine Revelation, we may be certain that the Matter contained in Scripture is of that na­ture.

But though this must be allowed to be a good step toward the Proof of the Divine Authority of Scripture; yet it remains to consider what that Evidence is which is thus peculiar to Scri­pture-Revelation, and that none besides ever have or can have: And this is the Subject of the Second General:

Which is to consider,

2. The Characters belonging to Revelation, upon which that Claim is grounded.

That Revelation may be distinguished from Imposture and mere Pretence, there must be pro­per Characters that are essential to Revelation; without which Marks of distinction, we must do by it as few have done, and totally reject it; or else as the Romans did by the Deities of other Countries, that admitted all into their Calendar, we must refuse none. But since there has been [Page 8] a Revelation (as all Mankind have been inclined to believe), and several Pretences to it (as the experience of all Ages has shewed), we must follow the direction of Scripture,2 Pet. 2. 21. which not on­ly warns us of false Prophets, 1 Joh. 4. 1, &c. and exhorts us to try the Spirits; but doth also furnish us with such Characters, as will enable us to distinguish the true from the false.

And this direction, methinks, may pass for one Character, according to that of our Saviour, Joh. 3. 20, 21. Every one that doth evil, or speak­eth falsly, hateth the light, lest his deeds should be re­proved, and his Pretences discovered. But he that doeth and speaketh truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God; or that what he saith, may appear to be a Revelation from him.

Now when the Revelation so called doth thus offer it self to an impartial trial, and ex­horts and requires all persons to examine and make enquiry, and lays down such Rules, Prin­ciples, and Characters, as in the opinion of all men are sufficient to distinguish the true from the false, 'tis an undoubted sign that it is able to ju­stify it self, and to make out its Claim to a Di­vine Authority, by a correspondence to those Characters.

[Page 9] By this the Scripture is distinguished from all others; for though there were several among the Heathen Lawgivers that pretended to derive their Laws from the direction of their gods, yet it was rather to prevent Enquiry, than encourage it; and to oblige the people to an absolute sub­mission: For who might dispute that which the gods commanded? Or who durst so much as en­quire,Justin. Hist. l. 3. where the Fear of Religion restrained them?

But to expose it self to a trial, and to require that men examine before they receive and be­lieve, and to give them such signs as shall serve to describe the Truth, and detect Imposture, is peculiar to the Scripture. From thence therefore it is that I shall produce such Characters as will give that a Title to Divine Authority, and oblige us to a belief of it. And what are such, if these are not? viz. That it could come only from God, is worthy of him, and has a Divine and Supernatural Evidence to attest it. Where these are, there is a Divine Authority, there is a Revelation. And these I shall shew do belong to what the Scripture proposes as such.

1. It is a Character belonging to Revelation, and a sign of the Truth of it, when it apparent­ly has God for the Author, and can proceed from none but him. This is a Character, I presume, [Page 10] will upon examination be found to belong to Scripture.

As I shall now attempt to prove, by consider­ing that which is the chief subject of it; and that is the Revelation of God's Will to Mankind.

Here I shall premise and take for granted,

1. That God having created Man, created him in a state of Innocency and Purity; for being infinitely Good, it is not to be conceived that he made any thing evil in it self.

2. That Man fell from this happy state; of innocent he became guilty; of a pure, he became a depraved creature, as the experience of all Ages shews him now to be.

3. That Almighty God was disposed to par­don and admit him again to favour.

Upon this state of things the Scripture pro­ceeds: And because it was impossible for Man to find out of himself the way and means by which he might be restored, there needed a Re­velation to inform him in it.

I grant there is a Natural Means, and what the reason of the thing supposes to be necessary to our Reconciliation, and that is Repentance.

But that this is of it self a Means sufficient, and upon which alone God will be reconciled to the Offenders, has been always doubted of; as is [Page 11] evident from the several ways of Atonement, and especially of Sacrifices, practised in all parts of the world. For since God is the Governor of the world, it seems no more reconcilable with his Justice, and consistent with that Authority he is to maintain, to pardon all Offenders upon Re­pentance, than it is consistent with the ends of Government among men, to accept of the Offenders Penitence as a full Satisfaction to the Law, and to remit the Penalty threatned.

We have an Instance to the contrary, in this very case; when notwithstanding a supposed Re­pentance in Mankind, God inflicted the Penalty threatned, In the day thou eatest therof, thou shalt dye. Now therefore, since the natural Means of propitiating Almighty God was not sufficient, there is somewhat further in reserve; and what that is, none could tell, but he who had it in his own power what to accept, and what to refuse; it was for him to reveal, that was to institute.

And if we take a view of the Scheme of what the Scripture sets before us as to this matter, it will abundantly confirm what I have proposed as a Character of Revelation, and that is, That it is from God, and only from him.

The Sum of which is, That since Mankind had thus lapsed into a Preternatural State, in which [Page 12] through the Infirmity and Corruption of their Na­ture, they themselves neither were, nor could do what was acceptable to God in order to a Restitu­tion and Reconciliation, it was designed that the Son of God himself should become a Mediator by a present Stipulation, and in a prefixed time, by an actual Undertaking to dye for us. That according­ly, in testimony of God's acceptance of the Atone­ment, and of his Reconciliation, the Son rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, is there our Intercessor, and the Dispenser of all those Gifts, and that supervenient Grace which is necessary to the reforming Mankind, and the fitting them for that state he is now invested in, and has promised to bestow upon such as are qualified for it.

Now who is there, that upon a Review of these several Particulars that do constitute the Christian Religion, and make up the chief Sub­ject of Scriptural Revelation, can pretend that this was to be found out by Human Considera­tion and Enquiry; or rather, that must not grant it proceeded from God? Especially if it be observed what a wonderful Intermixture there is in this Scheme, of the Divine Mercy and Ju­stice; of his Mercy in pardoning the Sinner, and of his Justice in requiring an Atonement. [Page 13] What a representation of his Hatred to Sin on one hand, when God established so valuable an Atonement as the Blood of his own Son; and of his Favour and Love to Mankind, when he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all? What a foundation for our Hope on one hand, when he accepted of the Propitiation; and what a dread of offending is there on the other, when he that knew no sin, was made a sin offering for us?

All which laid together, do confirm the Truth of this Character, and the Title that the Scri­pture-Revelation hath to it.

But there is somewhat further to be added in Proof of this Point. That it was a Revelation from God; and that is, The many Prophecies that are interwoven with it in Scripture; which could proceed from none but Him who alone has all Causes and Events in his Power, and so alone could foretell how those Causes would operate, and what should be the Events of such Operation. These being the chief part of the Revelation concerning the whole Scheme of Man's Salvation, confirm what I have before said, That it was from God, and from Him alone. But this must be reserved to its proper place, under the Third General Head.

[Page 14] To go on,

II. A Character necessarily belonging to Di­vine Revelation, is, That it be worthy of God, and what becomes the Majesty of Heaven to make known to Mankind.

When we say it is to be worthy of him, there­by is meant, that it is suitable to the Perfections of his Nature, to his Holiness and Justice, his Goodness and Mercy, his Wisdom and Pow­er, &c. To which, and all of which, a Revela­tion truly so, can no more be repugnant, than God himself can be other than he is, and desti­tute of those Perfections which are essential to him.

In discoursing upon which, we may observe,

1. That it cannot be denied, but the Revela­tion of himself to Mankind is worthy of God, though it be an Infinite Condescension.

It was an Infinite Condescension in the Deity, that had all in himself, to make such a Creature as Man; and it is no more unworthy of God to reveal himself to him, than it was to make him. For what other reason▪ was there for the making such a Creature, and the enduing him with the Light of Reason, but that he might own, honour, and serve the Author of his Being? And since to know and acknowledge God, is the [Page 15] chief end for which Man was made, it is as much becoming Almighty God to reveal himself to him, as it was to make him for the knowledge of himself.

2. That is a thing worthy of God to reveal, which is a thing worthy of God to do: And such is the Recovery and Restoration of Man to the like condition he was created in, and unhappily fell from; for that is a kind of Re-making him, and giving him a New Being: And since a New Being is to a Depraved Being, what Being was to No Being, it is as much becoming Almighty God from a depraved state to raise him to a state of Purity and Holiness, as it was at the first to give Him a Being that before had none.

And this is the great Subject of what we call Divine Revelation; which as it respects Man, may come under a Twofold Consideration; and that is, the Perfection of Human Nature, and the Happiness of Mankind.

It will be a needless undertaking, to prove that these Ends are worthy of God; but that which rather becomes us is to shew, That as it is the great design of the Scriptural Revelation to represent this, and to acquaint us with the Me­thod that the Almighty Wisdom and Goodness thought fit to observe; so the Method as there [Page 16] laid down, is worthy of such Wisdom and Good­ness, as I shall now proceed to shew in the two Instances given.

1st. The Method Almighty God is in Scripture said to take for the purifying and the perfecting Human Nature, is highly worthy of so glorious a Being; and that is Threefold, Cautionary, Moral, and Supernatural.

(1.) That which I call Cautionary, is the way Almighty God was pleased to take for the representing his Displeasure against Sin, and to make Mankind cautious of offending. The Means made use of before the Fall was a Penalty threatned, In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt dye. But because that had proved of so lit­tle force to restrain mankind, and for fear lest when God had received them into Favour after such a Threatning, his Mercy and Indulgence might be abused, and become an Encourage­ment to Sin, God added thereunto an Expiation (as has been before said), and that to be made by his own Son; who from the Dignity of his Person, and the voluntary Oblation of himself, should be reputed as a Representative of the whole, and the whole be esteemed to suffer with him. By which means, as God's Mercy would be abundantly testified in a design for redeeming [Page 17] them; so his Justice would be exemplified, when he that had no sin of his own, should yet be made a Sin-offering, and suffer for them. For how could they presume after this to offend the Almighty Father, when rather than suffer his Laws to be violated, his Authority slighted, his Holiness and Justice disparaged, or leave Man­kind under a temptation so to do, he would ex­press his hatred against sin, and his resolution to punish it, by requiring and substituting such a Sacrifice as that of his Son in their stead? This is the apparent Reason of such an Institution; and both the Institution and Reason of it are worthy of the Divine Counsel; since there is no way in which these things can be represented to greater advantage, than by the Scripture-Scheme of Man's Redemption.

(2.) There is the Moral Means, that serves the same end, viz. the purifying and perfecting Human Nature, to which Revelation gave the last and finishing hand. It is true, these Moral Principles are no other than Natural Maxims, and which were Nature, unassisted, sufficient for, might have been extracted out of it. But Mankind were no more able to attain to that skill of themselves, than an unexperienced per­son, and unacquainted with the Art of Chymi­stry, [Page 18] can extract such Exalted and Generous Spi­rits out of the Bodies of Plants and Animals, as upon trial we find they are endued with. It is another Light we view Nature by since the com­municating of the Evangelical Revelation to the world. Nature and Reason now, are not the Nature and the Reason they were before, or are still where that Revelation has not been known: And therefore if we would know what the force of those Principles are, and how far they operated by their own power, and of them­selves, the way is not to judge of it as it appears to us, where the Gospel-Revelation is, but as it was in the state of pure Heathenism, not except­ing the finer part of it (as it flourished in Greece it self) and as it is now in some of the remote parts of the world, as in the West-Indies, &c. For Gentilism it self apparently mended upon the Publication of the Gospel; and then their Mo­ralists wrote with another strein, than those of their own Sect did before that time.

For in the Scripture there is such an entire and compleat System of all things requisite to the per­fection of Human Nature (as far as in this state it is capable of it) that nothing is wanting for direction and obligation.

There we find the most Natural Characters [Page 19] of Good and Evil traced along from the first rise in all their tendencies, and the just bounds of both described. There we have on one hand the most enforcing Encouragements to Virtue and Goodness, and on the other the most necessary Cautions and Admonitions against Sin; and both fortified with proper Instances and Examples.

There we find the noblest Principles, and ex­actest Rules; and the great Lines of our Duty plainly set forth in their utmost extent; and that as well for the Regulation of the Thoughts and Desires, as the Government of our Actions.

There we find that Duty enforced by the high­est Obligation, by no less Authority than that of God himself, whose Precepts and Injunctions they are declared to be, and not the mere re­sults of our own Nature and Reason.

And whereas Nature falls as short in its Sancti­ons (having only Conscience to enforce them) as its Authority; when these Moral Principles become God's Laws, they have Rewards and Punishments of another kind annexed to them, and as everlasting as our Souls, to bind them up­on us.

So that as far as Nature thus directed and exci­ted can go, we have the most effectual means in our power for the amendment and purification of it.

[Page 20] But because it is only so far in our own power, and that in the issue we prove too remiss in the exerting of it; and that after all, Nature flags and recoils, and is too much Nature still. There­fore,

(3.) There is a Supernatural Means to render the other effectual, and to give encouragement and success to our endeavours; and that is a Power as Divine as the Authority, which is the assistance of the Holy Spirit of God. Look we upon the Morality of the greatest Philosophers, how poor is that to the Doctrine of our Saviour and the Apostles? Look we upon the fruits of it, and there we shall find them short of their Principles; and that the case was much with them as with the Stoical Posidonius, that would not allow Pas­sions in Human Nature; that when invaded by the Gout, might chide both that and himself for his sensation of it; but the Disease and Nature, kept on their course, and would own no such Authority. So it was with them that had only Nature to correct Nature; that while they pre­tended to be the Physicians of it, could not cure themselves, nor alter so much as Custom, which had alter'd that.

The Instances they give of a Philosophical Cure, are as rare as the Miracles they pretend to [Page 21] have been wrought in the Temple of Aesculapius, or by a Vespasian, few and questionable; a Phoe­don, or a Polemon, to credit the Schools of a Socrates or a Xenocrates. But the Instances of such as were converted by our Saviour and Apostolical Persons, were like his Miracles, numberless, and not to be disputed. When the Gospel flew like Light­ning through the earth, and became as successful in reforming, as teaching the world; Nature by it was changed, and the Temper became subject to the Divine Power. So that the Doctrine of Christ did turn those that were immersed in wickedness, Contr. Cels. l. 1, & 2. to a life agreeable to Reason, and the practice of all Vir­tue; as Origen shews, and appeals to his Adver­sary in.

And what was then done, would always be done, if there were not some obstruction on our part, either as to asking that Assistance, or in the not improving it; according to that of our Saviour, Matth. 13. 12▪ Whosoever hath and useth it, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance.

2dly. It is worthy of God, and becoming the most Benevolent as well as the most powerful of Beings, to consult what may be for the happi­ness of the reasonable Nature, and to propound this as an encouragement to them in the Perform­ance of that Service he expects and requires of them.

[Page 22] And what can make them happy, if the Or­der and Method of Salvation revealed in Scri­pture be not sufficient for it? Whereby they are not only assured of the Protection and Blessing of Divine Providence in this Life, but also of a State of Immortality in the Life to come: Where they shall be taken into the Enjoyment of their Ever-blessed Creator; and be fitted both in Body and Soul, by the Divine Power, for such a Par­ticipation.

To which I may add, That it is as worthy of God to reveal the Way by which that Happiness is to be attained. I grant that by the use and power of Reason, and the sense we have of the difference between Good and Evil, we may learn, though obscurely and very imperfectly, what is acceptable to God: But yet without Revelation we are much in the dark, and can as little know what is on our part necessary toward the attain­ment of that Happiness, as we do what the Condition of the Future State is, and wherein the Happiness of it consists.

There is as much difference between what is only supposed, and what is necessary, as there is between what we hope for, and what is certain. And therefore, as there needs a Revelation to as­sure us of that which without Revelation we on­ly [Page 23] hoped for; so there is as much need of Reve­lation to inform us of what is necessary to our Acceptance with God, and to our Happiness in another world; and without which we are left to Conjecture only. So that as far as Certainty is to be preferr'd beyond Hope and Imagination; and the Knowledge of what is necessary, is be­yond Conjecture; so much is the Comfort of Revelation beyond that of Nature; and so much is it becoming Almighty God, who gave us our Nature and Being, to acquaint us with what may both make us happy, and lead us to it. Especi­ally was this necessary, considering how far the World had wandred out of the right way; and what superstitious and infamous Rites had been taken up; and what Practices dishonourable to the Deity and Human Nature, had been used. And this way to Happiness the Scripture has plainly reveal'd.

3dly. It is a Design worthy of God, to reveal Himself to the World, and to give Mankind a right Notion and Representation of his Nature. The Being of God, is what the whole Creation proclaims; and there are some Attributes of his lye open to all, and are conspicuous in their effects, such are his Wisdom and Power. But there are others that we rather know by Infe­rence, and need a farther and brighter Light to [Page 24] inform us in; and such are his Goodness and his Mercy. And since these are as essential Perfecti­ons of the Deity as the other, and exceed them in the influence they have upon mankind, as to our Love and Adoration of him; and yet are not so legible in the Frame of Nature, nor so ob­servable in the Course of his Providence as the other; we cannot conceive but that it is as be­coming our Creator to represent himself to be a God Gracious and Merciful in a Revelation to Mankind, as to be a God Great, Powerful, and Wise in the Creation. We see how confused the Gentile World was in their Notion of the Supreme Power; how inconsistently they thought, and how low their Representations were of the Deity: And at best they had a very imperfect Notion of those Divine Attributes of Love and Goodness, of Pity and Compassion, of Indul­gence and Condescension, of Patience and For­bearance, of Mercy and Forgiveness, which the Scripture represents with Life and Perspicuity

There it is that we find the Almighty Creator stooping to the Creature, condescending to their Condition, bearing with their Infirmities, pity­ing their Miseries, forgiving their Sins. There we find him reproving, arguing, following Sin­ners with importunity, and leaving nothing un­done, [Page 25] that was consistent with his Nature and Honour to do, toward the Salvation of Man­kind. And above all, In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him, 1 Joh. 4. 9.

So that if to reveal what was not otherwise to be known, concerning God's Reconciliation to Mankind, and the Terms upon which he is reconciled; if to restore Man to the state he is fallen from, and to promote him to a state of Purity, Perfection, and Happiness; if for God to reveal and to render himself acceptable to mankind by the most obliging Characters of Love and Favour, be worthy of him; lastly, If to reveal what is most worthy of God, be a Character of Revelation, Then the Scripture is such, and what is therein contained must be from God.

III. A Character necessarily belonging to Re­velation, and by which the True is to be distin­guished from the False and Pretended, is a Divine and Supernatural Evidence; which is the same with the Third General Head, viz. The Proof by which the Scripture's Claim to Divine Reve­lation is to be made good; and that is next to be considered.

[Page 26] Now there are Three Instances of this kind, viz. Prophecy, Miracles, and the wonderful Success of the Christian Religion, and the Preservation of it under the most Potent Opposition, and greatest Discouragements.

(1.) Prophecy. That is of it self a Revela­tion;Cic. de Divin. l. 1. and as it is what all Nations, as well Learn­ed as Barbarous, have acknowledged; so being an Instance of Revelation, it is a good Proof of that Revelation which it doth accompany, and is interwoven with. And this is the case before us; for the Scripture being composed of matters of a different kind, cannot have the same sort of Evi­dence: But Prophecy being self-evident (when the Event has apparently answer'd the Predicti­on) and a Supernatural Evidence, is a good Proof to what has no such Evidence; and which for the sake of that Proof is as much a Matter of Faith, and as credible, as the Prophecy it self; be­cause such a Testimony being a Testimony from God, cannot be applied to the support of a Falshood. So that where there is Prophecy truly so, we may conclude that to be true, and to come from God, to which that Testimony is given; for if the Testimony be Divine, the Do­ctrine confirmed by it must be Divine also.

[Page 27] In discoursing upon which, I premise,

1. That there is such a thing as Prophecy; that things future have been predicted: Tully saith, This all Nations have agreed in; as has been aforesaid.

2. That Prophecy is a good Testimony to what it is given (as I have proved already).

So that there is nothing remains, but to shew that the Revelation in Scripture hath had this Testimony.

And of this there are two sorts, Near, or Re­mote. Of both which we have an Instance in the Prophet sent to Jeroboam, 1 Kings 13. 2.

The Remote was, That a Child should be born, Josiah by name, about 330 years after, who should burn mens bones upon that Altar. The Proximate (which we may otherwise call a Sign) was, That at that time the altar should be rent, and the ashes poured out. If the Remote had been alone, it would have had little influence upon them who were most nearly concerned; and therefore there needed some present Sign to verify it. But otherwise, the Remote is the stronger, especial­ly when at such a vast distance of time, as shall render it impossible for Men or Angels to foresee, or by any practices of theirs to accomplish; when it depends upon Voluntary as Natural Agents, and is in the conclusion answered by a [Page 28] Parallel Event, it is to After-Ages a certain and indisputable Evidence.

To which if we add the Concurrence of both, when there is a Chain and Series of Prophecies near and remote, in a certain and continued or­der following each other, the first looking for­ward to others that are to succeed, and the latter having a retrospect to the former; there is no reasonable nor possible exception to be made against the matter thus testified, without except­ing against the Testimony of Prophecy, con­trary to the sense of all mankind.

As for Instance; if there be a Prophecy or Prophecies in several Ages, from which it plainly appears, that at such a precise time, in such an Age of the world, some Hundreds or Thousands of Years after, there should arise a certain Per­son, born at such a place, and in an extraordinary way, and descended from such and such Proge­nitors, who should come to reform Mankind; and in confirmation of his Doctrine, should per­form many astonishing Acts, and do many su­pernatural Works; that at a certain time, and in a certain determined year, he should be put to death by his own Nation, and upon it that Na­tion should be captivated and destroyed, and the Countrey desolate; it is a Testimony not to be disproved.

[Page 29] And yet setting aside the many Prophecies in Scripture relating to particular Persons and Fami­lies, to the Jews and other Nations, I shall on­ly instance in some of those concerning our Sa­viour; and others of our Saviour's himself: The former of which will appear to be exactly pa­rallel to the Case proposed.

The first of these is the Prediction immediate­ly after the Fall of Adam, and 4000 years before the actual Completion of it; That there should be one born of the seed of the woman, Gen. 2. 14. and supernatural­ly made of her alone (as Adam was out of the Earth without a Woman) that should bruise the ser­pent's head, Gal. 4. 4. who had beguiled Eve through his subtilty.

About 2000 years after which Prophecy, and so 2000 years before our Saviour, it was re­vealed to Abraham, Gal. 3. 16. That in his Seed, and by one who should descend from him,Gen. 12, 3, &c. all the families of the earth should be blessed; and which was afterward renewed to Isaac and Jacob.

Again; about 1700 years before Christ, it was prophesied by Jacob, That Shiloh, or the Messiah, Gen 49. 8. should descend from his Son Judah.

About 1000 years before our Saviour's Birth, David was exalted to the Throne, of whose Fa­mily the Messiah was to be a Branch; whence it [Page 30] was that he was commonly known among the Jews, Matth. 22. 42. by the Character of David's Son.

In the same Royal Prophet have we the Pre­diction of our Saviour's Death, Resurrection, and Glorification; and in very minute Circum­stances, as to the first of these, Vid. Psal. 16. 10. 22. 1, 7, 8, 14, 16, 18. 110, &c.

This is also the great Theme of Isaiah's Pro­phecy, 700 years before the Accomplishment, That there should be a root out of Jesse, the Mes­siah, who should dye for the Sins of the People, be rejected by his own Nation, but be believed in by the Gentiles. Isa. 11. 10. 42. 10, &c. 53.

In the same Age lived Micah, who foretells the very Place he should be born in,Mic. 5. 2. viz. Bethle­hem-Ephrata.

Lastly; About 500 years before our Lord's Incarnation, Daniel directly points to the Time and the Year the Messiah should suffer in,Dan. 9. 24, &c. which was to be in the midst of the Seventieth Prophe­tical Week,Lev. 25. 8. (each of which consists of Seven Years) that is, the 490th. Year, from the De­cree of Artaxerxes for the Rebuilding of Jerusalem. As may easily be computed by Ptolomy's Canon, and reckoning the Years backward from the Death of our Saviour, (which was in the Reign of Tiberius) to some fixed year of Artaxerxes.

[Page 31] In consequence of which, the City and San­ctuary were to be destroyed, and the whole Countrey laid desolate, as with a Flood.

This Conclusion leads us on to the Second Branch of Prophetical Observations, viz. our Sa­viour's own Predictions, which are very many; but a most remarkable one is his Prophecy of the Destruction of that People, City, and Countrey, foretold by Daniel as to the very time; and which our Saviour describes so particularly, as if he had it at that instant before his eyes, when he discour­sed of it to his Disciples.

There he foretells, * The preceding Signs, as Famines, and fearful Sights, &c. * that ma­ny False Prophets should arise. * That there should be barbarous Slaughters one of another. * That Jerusalem should be closely besieged; but withal, that at that time there should be an op­portunity for escaping; which he advises them to take, and to fly to the Mountains for present security. * That the Enemy should at last cast a Trench about it, and keep them that remained in on every side. * That he should finally take the City, and lay it even with the ground; and that not one stone of the stately Structure, the Temple, (which they then were admiring) should be left upon another. * That the sur­viving [Page 32] Jews should be led Captive into all Nati­ons, and never return again to that Land as Pro­prietors. * And that all this was because they knew not the time of their visitation. * And that this should happen in that very Age.

Never was any Prophecy more express, never any Sentence more terrible, nor more punctually fulfilled, as to all the Particulars before-recited; and for which we may appeal to Josephus the Jew, who was an Eye-witness of all, and as exactly describes it as to those Instances, as if he was wri­ting a Comment upon our Saviour's Prophecy▪ Joseph. de Bell. l. 4, 5, 6, 7.

And accordingly, as the Temple, though at­tempted by Julian the Apostate's Order, never could be built, (as the Heathen Historian Ammia­nus Marcellinus relates, Hist. l. 23.) so that Peo­ple to this day remain Vagabonds, without any certain place, dispersed over the world.

Having traced this Subject thus far, we may proceed.

2. Another way by which we prove the Claim that the Matter of Scripture hath to a Di­vine Authority, is Miracles; of which kind there is nothing wanting that can reasonably be desi­red; and that either as to the Judaical, or Chri­stian Dispensation.

[Page 33] As for Instance: If a Person should pretend that he comes from God with a Revelation, and which he requires us to hearken to, on peril of Damnation: What Satisfaction should we desire?

Surely if the Doctrine he teaches be in it self credible, and worthy of God, and what in the nature and tendency of it proves to be useful and beneficial to Mankind, we have as much Evi­dence as the nature of the thing will bear. And farther, if the Person upon whom we are to rely, doth openly and in the sight of all, even of Enemies that watch him, as well as Friends, and in the most Publick Assemblies, cure all manner of Diseases, though naturally incurable, by a Word, or a Touch, and even at a distance. If he com­mands the Winds and the Seas, the Good and the Evil Angels, feeds Thousands in a Desart with no more than what would satisfy a few, and raises the Dead. If he tells the most secret Thoughts, Inclinations, and Practices of his Enemies as well as Followers. Lastly, If when himself is put to a violent Death, he in a few days, according to his own Prediction, rises again, appears to, and converses with those that knew him when alive, and saw him dead: And afterwards in the view of many ascends bodily into Heaven; and within a few days, as a far­ther [Page 34] Testimony of his former Mission and present Glorification, confers the same or like Power up­on his Disciples: Who can reasonably doubt of the Truth of what he has taught?

I need not here draw the Parallel.

And if the Question should be put, as it was by those whom John the Baptist sent, Art thou he that should come? Our Saviour's Answer will serve for one here, Tell John what things ye have heard and seen, how that the blind see, &c. Luke 7. 19.

There needs no greater Evidence to convince Mankind.

3. Another Proof of the Divine Authority of the Matter of Scripture, is the Event and Success, correspondent to former Predictions. Such was that of the Israelites in Canaan▪ And much more, the wonderful and astonishing Pro­gress of the Gospel, without any of that Assi­stance and Force which that People had, and when it had the Force of Emperors and Kings to oppose it.

Could it be thought possible, that a few simple and timerous Persons, who had been bred up to a mean Employment, and had never been out of their own Countrey, should each by himself un­dertake perilous and remote Journeys, among People they had no knowledge of, and to whose [Page 35] Tempers, Customs, and Language, they were altogether strangers; and should prevail with them to change their gods and their Religion, their Customs and their Lives?

Could it be thought that Men of no Autho­rity nor Interest, of no Learning, Depth of Judgment, nor Subtilty in Arguing, should be able to maintain and propagate a Doctrine that seemed to be foolish and absurd, a Doctrine of a Crucified Saviour, a Doctrine opposite to the sensual Inclinations and Interests of Mankind, (as the state of the world then was) a Doctrine that obliged them that believed it, to profess it with the Hazard of all that was dear to them in this world, and upon no other Encouragement than a Reward in another?

And yet even this Doctrine, so meanly attend­ed, became so successful, that according to our Saviour's Prediction, Matth. 24. 14. before the Destruction of Jerusalem, and within Forty years after his Death, the sound of it went out into all the earth, Rom. 10. 18. Not to proceed further in this Argument than Scripture; in those early times we find Converts, if not Churches, in the most frequented Cities for Trade, Learning, and Dominion; in Corinth and Ephesus, Athens and Rome; in the Courts of Princes, even of a He­rod [Page 36] and a Nero: Acts 13. 3. Phil. 4. 22. And where not?

Now if there had not been Truth in the Do­ctrine; If it had not been a Doctrine worthy of God, suitable to the Desires and Expectations of Mankind; If it had not had a Supernatural Evi­dence and Testimony, and an Assistance as great as its Evidence, it could not in those Circumstan­ces have made its own way, nor have proved in the Event so powerful and successful. No, it was God that chose the foolish things of the world to con­found the wise, and the weak things of the world to con­found the things which were mighty: And it must be a Revelation from him alone, that had all these Testimonies on its side to confirm it. So that we may conclude as we began, That if ever there was a Revelation, the Revelation contained in Scripture is a Revelation, and the only True Revelation now in the World.

And if so it be, then what an Obligation is there upon us to observe it? When 'tis God speak­ing to us, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard from him, lest at any time we should let them slip, Heb. 2. 1.



In the License to this Sermon, for May 1. read May 4. P. 10. l. 5. r. Good-will. P. 12. l. 3. after God put a (;)

This keyboarded and encoded edition of the work described above is co-owned by the institutions providing financial support to the Text Creation Partnership. This Phase I text is available for reuse, according to the terms of Creative Commons 0 1.0 Universal. The text can be copied, modified, distributed and performed, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.