George Richards.

The divine origin of prophecy illustrated and defended : in a course of sermons preached before the University of Oxford in the year MDCCC .. online

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SERMON III. 131

or to unite with the Infidel in reprefent-
ing them either as the effufions of wild
vifionaries, or the frauds of artful impof-
tors.



K 3



SERMON IV.



DEUTERONOMY Iv. 32.

ASK NOW OF THE DAYS THAT ARE PAST^
WHICH WERE BEFORE THEE, SINCE THE
DAY THAT GOD CREATED MAN UPON
THE EARTH ; AND ASK FROM THE ONE
SIDE OF HEAVEN UNTO THE OTHER,
WHETHER THERE HATH BEEN ANY SUCH
THING, AS THIS GREAT THING IS, OR
HATH BEEN HEARD LIKE IT,

IN exhibiting the proofs of a divine in-
terpofition in the inftance of Prophecy, it
appears to be in the higheft degree ufeful,
if not abfolutely neceflary, to eftabUfh and
enforce the pofitions advanced by multi-
pUed examples. From the operation of
phyfical caufes, or from pecuHar habits of
refledion, or from favourite modes of re-
K ^ fearch^



134 SERMON IV.

fearch, different minds are attracted and
influenced by different illuflrations. Be-
•fides, the very circumffance of numbers
and variety in the inftances adduced is
productive of a powerful effeCl, and effen-
tially contributes to the firm eftabhfhment
of our faith. And let it be remembered,
that the defender of Chriffianity is not oc-
cupied, on thefe occafions, upon cold and
abftrad; reafonings, nor does h& labour
merely to arrive at a knowledge of truth :
he ftrenuouily endeavours, upon the moft
momentous fubjed, which can engage the
attention or intereft the feelings of a rea-
fonable and immortal being, to overpower
with conviction the mind, w^hich may
anxioufly defire to be fatisfied ; but, from
the extraordinary nature of the cafe, may
be juftly fearful of affording a precipitate
affent.

Though the predictions confidered in a
former LeCture are eminently ftriking, and
ought to fatisfy the moft fcrupulous en-
quirer; yet they are unqueftionably ex-
ceeded, in many important characteriftics,
by a Prophecy perhaps the moff wonder-
ful, which was delivered in the long courfe



S E R M O N IV. 135

oi* divine Revelation. As, in the material
world, different degrees of fplendour and
magnificence are imparted to different pro-
dudions of the almighty Creator : fo, in the
courfe of the awful manifeftation of his
Omnifcience, he has afforded a ftronger
appearance of divinity to particular parts
'of his Revelation, though all are undoubt-
edly raifed above human ability, and are
equally worthy of God.

The clrcumfiiance to which I allude is
the prefent aftonifliing condition of the
Jewifli people. As it is fubmitted to our
daily obfervation, and is fmgularly calcu-
lated both to excite curiofity and to pro-
duce convidiion, I have referved it for
the fubjed of a feparate Difcourfe, and
lliall now confider it at large as forcibly
illuflrative of the principle, which I have
advanced^ refpeding the frequent impro-
bability of the events foretold by the
ancient Prophets.

In reprefenting with fidelity the prefent

condition of the Jews, for the purpofe

of flrongly illuflrating and confirming the

truth of Prophecy, it is impoflible not to

K. 4 adinit



136 S E R M O N IV.

admit fuch fentimcnts and defcriptions, as
muft give pain to that unfortunate nation.
Let it not, however, be fuppofed, that
this duty is performed by the advocate of
Chriftianity, without a confiderable degree of
relu6lance. No'iincere Chriftian can wan-
tonly wound the feehngs or aggravate the
miferies of an afflicted people^. Pcrfecution,

what-

^ The fincere Chriftian cannot without reluctance de-
fcribe this humiliating condition of the Jews. The argu-
ment however required a true and moft forcible ftatement :
and I am juftified in making it, not by general opinion
alone, which may be erroneous from prejudice 5 not by
the fentimenfs of Voltaire, which fcepticifm may have
warped J but by the confeffion of fome of the politeft and
moft liberal writers, who have ever appeared among that
unfortunate people. I allude to the Letters of certain Jews ,
to M. de Voltaire. Though coming forward in defence of
their nation in general againft the virulent attack and ex-
aggerated reprefentations of the French Infidel, they feem
to defend only one particular feft of it. The)'- make a wide
diftinftion between the Spanifh and Portugueze Jews, and
all other Jews, mentioned under the general title of Polifh
and Germans. Thefe latter, according to a ftatement of
the Monthly Review, which was thought worthy of being
admitted by them in a fubfequent edition into the body of
their work, " fcattered over the whole Eaftern and Weftern
" empires, have always lived, fmce the time of Conftantine
^' the Great, In Greece and Aria,and fince that of Charlemagne
*' In the weft, in oppreffion and mifery, looked upon as flaves,
" and inhumanly treated as fuch. And they are treated much

" in



S E R M O N IV. 137

whatever form it may aiTume, is utterly
irrcconcileable with the pure and gentle
fpirit of our Religion. Though we know,
that the lengthened fufFerings of the Jews
were decreed in the councils of divine
Wifdom ; yet we alfo know, that the na-
tions, w^iofe evil paffions have at different
times been rendered inftrumental in their
punifhment, were frequently in their turn
rejected, when the dreadful office had been
fulfilled. We acknowledge, with fenfations
of grateful refped:, that from the Jews we
have derived the facred Oracles of God ;

*' In the fame manner now, even in Europe, almofl in every
" part of Germany, at Venice, and in ail tiie ecclefiaftical
'* ftates." From this paffage, it is evident, that the Jews
called German and Polilh muft conftitute far the moft
confiderable portion of the whole people. In thefe letters
the Portugueze and Spanilh Jews are reprefented as not
diftinguiilied, like the other defcendants of Abraham, from
the reft of mankind by deficiency in elegance, refinement,
and literature, but as elevated in mind above their * bre-
.threu of other nations, infomuch that,'even by the confef-
fK^n of thofe very brethren, it has been fometimes fcarcely
credited, that they were both of one common ftock. All
other Jews, it is allowed by thefe writers, " are defpifed and
" reviled on all fides, are often perfecuted, and alv/ays in-
" fulted : even human nature among them, it has been con-
'' fefled, is debafed and degraded f ."

* Letters of certain Jews, &c. vol. i. p. 66. f lb. p. 40.

that



■i^H S E R M O iV IV.

that among them arofe the holy Prophets,
and the glorious company of the Apoflles ;
and that from among their brethren, in the
fulnefs of time, the Son of God, the Sa-
\ iour of the world, was born ^. We are
induced, moreover, to exped, from the
ftrong affurance of Prophecy, that their
difperfion and calamities will be but for an
appointed time ; and that they will finally
be reftored to the favour of God. And
with fuicerity and earneftnefs we join in
the pious and charitable petition of our
Liturgy, that they may foon be brought
home to the flock of our bleffed Lord, and
become with us one fold under one Shep-
herd, Jefus Chrift, our common Saviour
and Redeemer.

On the prefent occafion, the argument
requires me to ftate in forcible terms the
fevere calamities, to which they have long
been fubje6t, and which they ftill continue
in fome degree to fuffer.

In an early age of the world, more than
three thoufand years ago, a few poor and

^ See Newton on the Prophecies. Difl": viii.

linim-



SERMON IV, 139

tinimportant tribes, delivered from a ftate
of bondage and oppreflion, were wander-
ing over a barren and dreary wildernefs.
Their leader, the acknowledged minifter
of Heaven, at the concluiion of long and
fuccefsful labours, and the clofe of a holy
life, prefented to their view an afFedling
pidure of their future condition, when
they fhould have incurred the juft difplea-
fure of their God. With a vigour of ex-
preffion, which has never been exceeded,
and with a minutenefs of detail, which has
feldom been equalled, even by the mofl
accurate hiftorian, he reprefented to them,
that they fliould be *^ fcattered among all
people from the one end of the earth even
unto the other ; that "^ among thefe na-
tions they fl^ould find no eafe, neither
Ihould the fole of their feet have reft ;
that they fiiould be fmitten ^ by the Lord
with madnefs, and blindnefs, and aftonifli-
ment of heart ; that they fliould have a
^ trembling of heart, and failing of eyes,
and forrow of mind 5 that they ^ fhould



' Deuteronomy xxviii. 64. '^ Id. xxvili. 65.

« Id. xxvili. 28. i Id. xxviii. 65.

s Id. xxviii, 37,

becoma



HO SERMON IV.

become an aflonirtimcnt, a proverb, and a
bye-word ; that they ^' fhould be oppreffed
evermore, and that no man fhould fave
them. It is added, that their ' life fhould
hang in doubt, and that they fhould fear
night and day, and fliould have none affur-
ance of their life ; that, in the bitternefs
of anguilli, in the morning they fliould fay,
^ Would God it were even ! and at even
they fhould fay. Would God it were morn-
ing ! Furthermore, it is declared, that
though they fliould be difperfed and af-
-ili6led in this fevere and awful manner,
yet that God ^ would not caft them away,
nor abhor them to deftroy them utterly ;
but that, as their "^ plagues were great
and w^onderful, fo fliould they be of long
continuance ; and that " they 'fliould be
upon them for a fign, and for a wonder,
and upon their feed for ever.

From the defcription of the Prophet let
us turn to the annals of the Hillorian. When
the holy city of David had yielded to the vic-

^> Deut. xxvili. ag, 31. ' Id. xxvlii. 66.

^ Id. xxviii. 67. ' Levit. xxvi. 44.

^ Deut. xxviii. 59, " Deut. xxviii. 46,'

torious



SERMON IV. 141

tox'ious arms of Rome, the inhabitants were
€?:pelled from their native territory, and fcat-
t€red through all the kingdoms of the world.
Since the time of that calamitous event,
they have wandered over every portion of
the globe, without national poiTeffions, an
acknowledged conftitution, or independent
Jaws. They were reprefented by the Ro-
man hiftorian, as actuated, previoufly to
their difperfion, by a fpirit of hatred to-
wards the whole human race. Since that
dreadful calamity, they have lived almoft
.conftantly in a flate of reciprocal hatred
with mankind. Though generally fub-
miffive to the laws, and flrangers to poli-
tical intrigue, they have frequently been
expofed to perfecution and plunder, even
with the connivance of governments, which,
in ajl other inftances, have guarded as far
cred the property of individuals. Though
abundantly poflelTed of riches, which ufually
command the refped of mankind, and en-
noble even ignorance and folly, they have
been generally treated with contempt by
the powerful, and fometimes even followed
with infult by the populace. They have
been driven from city to city, from coun-
try



142 S E R M O N ly.

try to country : even their children ° hav©
fometimes been forcibly taken from their
parental protection, and educated in a re-
ligion, which is the obje6l of their heredi-
tary averiion. Their lives have not unfre-
quently been eflimated without any re-
gard to the high importance ufually an-
nexed to the exiftence of "human beings.
In Chrlftian countries, and under regular
governments, they have in fome inftances
been facrificed to a wanton and unrelent-
ing fpirit of cruelty, in violation of all
laws human and divine, and in oppofition
to the feelings of our nature. They feem,
as it were, to have loft their rank in the
creation, and to have funk nearly below
humanity. Their fellow- creatures appear
in many countries to have refufed to them
alone the juftice due to all, and the com-
paffion inherent in man.

Such is the faithful though melancholy
pidlure of a people, once diftinguilhed bj



* In Roman Catholic countries, particularly in Spain
and Portugal. See Newton on the Prophecies, and Pa-
trick's Commentary on Deuteronomy xxviii. 52,

the



SERMON IV. 143

the peculiar favour of the Almighty ; for
whom the fea was divided in Egypt, and
the fun ftood ilill upon Gibeon ; whofe
laws were brought down from heaven, and
whofe anceftors walked with God.

Yet amidft multiplied inftances of op-
preffion, mifery, and contempt, they have
refolutely continued through feventeen hun-
dred years a feparate and diftindl people.
Their God hath p not caft them away, nor
abhorred them, to deftroy them utterly ;
their great "^ and wonderful plagues, which
were to be of long continuance, ftill re-
main; the curfes are yet upon them, which,
in the flrong language of Scripture', were
to be for a fign and for a wonder upon
them and their feed for ever. Not mingled
and loft among the kingdoms, over which
they have been fcattered, they retain the
means, upon their returning obedience, of
beholding their ^ captivity turned ; and of
being gathered from the nations, and rc-
ftored to the land of their fathers ^

This

r Levit. xxvi, 44. 'i Deut. xxviii. 59.

•■ Deut, xxviii, 46, 59. . * Id, xxx. i, 2, 3, 4.

* The paflages in ths Pentateuch, which we have quoted,

appear,



144 SERMON IV.

This is the part of the Prophecy, which
inconteftably places it far above the reach
of human wifdom, or the fufpicion of im-
pollure. If the claim to divine Revelation
be rejected, it will not be in the power of
the hiftorian or the philofopher to^ affign
any caufe, which will fatisfactorily explain
this extraordinary condition of an whole
people. Their continuance in fuch a £-
tuation is unexampled, and w^e may even
venture to pronounce it miraculous. It
* cannot therefore be fuppofed, that it could
have been anticipated, by the moft Higa-



appear, and are generally allowed, declfively to prove, that
Mofes forefaw this extraordinary circumftance in the pre^
lent fortunes of his countrymen. Our blefled Lord, (Luke
xxi. 22.) when he predifted the approaching calamities of
the Jews, exprefsly afl'erted, that thofe were the days of ven-
geance, that all things, which were written, might be ful-
filled. Jeremiah (xlvi. 28. xx;x. 11. xxiii. 3.) and many
other Prophets, (Ifaiah x. 21, 22. Ezekiel vi. 8, 9. Amos
ix. 9.) prediftcd it in the molt exprels language, which
cannot be interpreted in any other fenfe, nor referred to any
other times. The argument is here ftated as referring to the
Prophecy of Mofes } though, if the application of the paf-
fages from the Pentateuch fhould not be admitted, with fome
flight alteration of the manner, and with no diminution of
its force, it may be rendered equally applicable to the words
of the later Prophets, of the precife fenfe of which no doubt
can' be entertained.

cious



SERMON IV. 145

clous penetration, or the moft fortunate
conjecture.

If we reprefent to ourfelves an impof-
top, in the age of Mofes, defirous of ac-
quiring reputation by a pretended know-
ledge of futurity, every argument, which
could have fuggefted itfelf to his under-
ftanding, mull have difcovered the ab-
furdity of the prediction, which he ven-
tured to dehver ; and he may juftly be
charged with either madnefs, or unpardon-
able credulity,' if he fuppofed, that its pof-
fibility would either be admitted by his
hearers at the moment, or confirmed by
the event in future. If he had turned his
eyes around upon the nations, which were
then prefented to his view, the general ap-
pearance muft have forcibly dilTuaded him
from hazarding fo unreafonable a conjec-
ture. The predicted condition of his coun-
trymen was contrary to the lliate of all the
nations, which had previoufly exifted in
the world, or were at that period in being.
In the more refined ages of mankind, when
the intercourfe between countries is fre-
quent and extenfive, when commerce has
united by a common band the moft re-
L mote



146 S E R M O N IV.

mote regions, and liberality of fentiment
has kindled a fpirit of toleration and uni-
verfal benevolence, the habits and cuftoms
of a foreign and diftant race of men are
not only endured, but are, in many in-
ftances, even courteoufly received by the
natives. It is not fo among the rude hordes
of primitive fociety. The favage looks
down with difdain, or rifes with indigna-
tion, upon all who are not of his tribe.
He hates the culloms w^hlch differ from
his own. The unknown intruders are ei-
ther exterminated at a blow, or gradually
exhaufted by unceafmg oppreffion. When
barbarians leave their native land, they are
either borne away by conquerors, or are
animated to relinquifli it by a fpirit of en-
terprize. In the former cafe, they are foon
reftored by the fortune of war to the coun-
try of their ancellors, or they impercepti-
bly melt into one common people with
their conquerors. In the latter, under the
condud; of a daring and fuccefsful chief,
they expel the natives from a favourite ter-
ritory, or they found an infant flate amidft
the waftes and folitude of nature. Such
was the condud of mankind from the ear-
iieft seras of the world, to a period fubfe-

quent



S E R M O N IV.



■47



quent to the times of Mofes. It was not,
therefore, from a fimilar fituation among
other people, into which, according to the
courfe of fociety, it was natural to ima-
gine, the defcendants of Ifrael .rnight fall,
that the Prophet was induced to utter this
prediction. The condition, as I have be-
fore afTerted, was contrary to every exam-
ple then prefented to his view, and un-
paralled in the annals of all preceding
ages.

Had the hiftory of the whole future
world been brought by anticipation within
the knowledge of Mofes, the uniform
courfe of focial life muft have convinced
him, that even the exiftence of fuch a
ftate of fociety as he defcribed, except un-
der an extraordinary and immediate inter-
pofition of God, was in the higheft degree
improbable. Foreign tribes, when admitted
into a country, gradually intermingle with
the natives, and, after the lapfe of a few
generations, are blended and loft among
the original inhabitants. Excited at once
by principles of intereft, and by a natural
fpirit of imitation, they foon poffefs in
common the fame government, the fame
L z laws.



148 S E R M O N IV.

laws, the lame religion, and, after a longer
courfe of years, even the fame national
chara<5ler, and the fame internal difpofition
of mind. The modern kingdoms of Eu-
rope were compofed, at their firft confti-
tution, of very different races of men. The
ferocious hordes of the north, defcending
into the fertile and deHghttul provinces of
the Roman empire, united themfelves with
the natives of the diftrids in which they
refpedively fettled, and foon formed w^ith
them common and independent ftates. In
what kingdom at this day can we diftin-
guiili between the defcendants of the
primitive inhabitants, and thofe of their
barbarous invaders ? Who can feparate in
France the race of the indigenous Gauls,
from the fucceflbrs of the Franks and Bur-
gundians } Where are the diftincl traces in
Spain between the ancient Iberi, and the
defcendants of their Gothic conquerors ?
If we look round among our own coun-
trymen, in vain fliall we endeavour to dif-
cover the diftinguifhing chara6teriftics of
the refpe6live families, w^hich are derived
from the Romans or the Saxons, from the
Danes or the Normans, or from the ori-
s;inai inhabitants of Britain.

If,



-SERMON IV. 149

h", withdrawing our attention from the
general cuftom of mankind, we confine it
to the particular charader of the Jewifli
people, we fliall difcover that there was no
peculiarity in their difpofition, which could
authorize their leader to predi6l fo won-
derful a deviation from the regular courfe
of human nature. When we examine the
moft remarkable features of their national
charader, as difplayed under the divine go-
vernment, we iliall find them to be of all
men the leafh likely to have experienced,
in thefe later times, fuch a ftriking fingu-
larity of fortune. In the early ages of
their hiftory, they were diftinguifhed by a
culpable, nay almoft an unnatural eagernefs
to forfake the worfhip of their God, and
to adopt the fuperftitions of the furround-
ing nations. While they were fupported
by the manifeft interpofition of the Deity ;
while his manna was falling from heaven
and the pillar of fire was yet burning be-
fore their armies, they bowed down to
other gods, and imitated the forbidden
rites of idolaters. TEven at the folemn
foundation of their polity, amidft the moft
awful manifeftations of the divine prefence
lipon the mountain, they ereded the mol-
L 3 ten



i^o SERMON IV.

ten image in the adjacent valley. In the
fubfequent periods of their hiftory, while
ftill bleffed with the peculiar favour of the
Almighty, they were frequently feduced to
defert his worfhip, even while they beheld
his repeated miracles, and were daily fup-
ported by his power. Though they were
invited, on the one hand, to a dutiful lub-
miffion, by the moft alluring profped: of
temporal rewards ; and were expofed, on
the other, to an immediate inflidlion of
the tremendous punifliments, with vrhich
their rebellion was threatened : and though,
in moft inftances, thefe rewards and punifh-
ments w^ere the certain confequences of
their piety, or of their difobedience ; yet
they conftantly relapfed into idolatry, and
polluted themfelves with the forbidden
rites of the Heathens. While the tops of
the hills were every where illuminated with
the fires kindled to the bafe and imaginary
deities of the nations, feven thoufand only
in Ifrael remained faithful to the God who
had conduced their fathers from the land
of bondage. Yet this very people, when
not only rejected by the Almighty, but
faffcring under his fcvere and vifible dif-
pleafiire, when fcattered over all the ha-
bitable



SERMON IV. 151

bitable globe, and expofed through their
whole exiftence to oppreffion, to forrow,
and to fhame, notwithftanding all thefe
ftrong and multiplied caufes for an union
•with the different nations of the world, were
inflexibly to continue in a diflind: ftate, in
manifeft contradiction to the uniform fpi-
rit of their anceftors, and to the common
propenfities of nature.

The hiftorian of the Decline and Fall
of the Roman Empire ", who has in many
inftances borne flrong though perhaps un-
willing teflimony to the truth of Pro-
phecy "", has noticed in a manner peculiarly
ftriking the ftrange inconfiftcncy in the
character of the Jews under the firft and
under the fecond Temple, and has thus un-
intentionally given additional force to the
miraculous nature of this extraordinary
predidion. For the inconfiftency of the
modern Jews, in their inflexible attach-
ment to the Law of Mofcs, is incompara-

" See Gibbon's Roman Hiftory, v. 1. c. xv. p. 539. 4*".

" See Whitaker's Pamphlet exprelsly written for the pur-
pofe of fliewing the numerous Inftances, in which the truth
of facred Prophecy may be confirmed upon the authority
of the Infidel hiftorlan,

L 4 bly



152 SERMON IV.

bly more extraordinary than that of the
inhabitants of Judea after the captivity,
at which the writer farcaftically expreffes
amazement. The inference, however, which
he infidioufly endeavours to draw from the
circumftance, is very different from that,
which the Chriftian may juftly derive from
it.

There could be no peculiarities in 'the
charadler of the Jews, or in the nature of
their various eftablifliments, fubje6t to ob-
fervation in the age of Mofes, which might
embolden an artful fpeculator to indulge
fo extraordinary and improbable a conjec-
ture refpediing their future condition. If
we examine their national character, with
a reference to this particular fubjc(5l, as
circumftances unfolded it in fucceeding
times, we fliall difcover the moft decifive
proofs in fupport of this alTertion. When
fettled upon the Eaftern fliores of the Me-
diterranean, they confifted of tw-elve tribes.
Of thefe, ten w ere difperfed in captivity
over the Eaft. And though individuals may
have returned in the reign of Cyrus with
the inhabitants of Judah to Jerufalem ; yet
the people at large, falling away by infen^

fible



SERMON IV.



15:



iible intermixture, at length totally difap-
peared among the natives of the countries,
into which they had been conveyed ; while
two alone have furvived a iimilar difper-
fion, perfevering in the religion and cuf-
toms of their anceftors, and exhibiting
a wonderful phenomenon in the moral
world. The government, the facred rites,
the manners, the difpofition of the twelve
tribes, were uniform in the age of Mofes.
And no poffible reafon can be affigned
why, while the greater number of them


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