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of Jerusalem ; an undertaking, which, notwithstanding the opposition of faction, and of surrounding, enemies, was at length effected. At this time it appears Ezra devoted his attention wholly to religious concerns, and to the collection and revisal of the canonical books of the Scriptures of the Old Testament. The Jewish people now deliberately renewed their covenant with God, and, from that period to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, they faithfully abstained from every species of idolatrous worship. The Jewish history is exhibited, with little B..C.
430. intermission, in a regular and uninterrupted chronological series; it is confirmed by the observance of festivals in commemoration of extraordinary events, and it is connected with circumstances recorded of other nations, particularly of the Babylonians and Egyptians, which afford indubitable evidence of its authenticity.
The scripture history ends with Malachi, the last of the prophets under the Old Testament, whom we find reproving both priests and people severely, though not for jdolatry, yet for their scandalous lives, and gross corruptions.
The cessation of prophecy had been previously threatened as a mark of Divine displeasure ; and we may presume it was designed to increase the
desire and expectation of the Messiah at the appointed period.
For the continuation of the Jewish history, we shall, in a subsequent part of the work, have recourse to the Apocryphal writings, and to Josephus. The blood-stained records of antiquity have not been pressed into the service of this work, any further than was necessary to introduce and connect events which have a peculiar relation to the people and church of God, which were intended to be typical of its militant state, and glorious deliverances, under the gospel dispensation.
The superior light which hath been diffused by that last and best gift to mankind, has discovered to us new duties and relations ; has developed those dispositions which conduce to the refinement of the human beart, and are most adapted to perfect our nature. These are so opposite to contention, violence, frauds, and massacres, that we must regard the most splendid descriptions of military prowess, the most brilliant exploits and achievements of heroes and conquerors, only as an addition to the catalogue of human crimes and miseries, and marking the degradation and debasement both of our moral and intellectual powers.
It is an extraordinary trait which history
records of that barbarous nation, the Goths, when they embraced christianity, and the bible was translating into their language, that they proposed the rejection of the books of Kings and Chronicles ; lest the recital of the wars of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, should awaken and renew the military ardour and spirit, to which their former habits and maxims had but too much disposed them.
After tracing scripture history through a period of nearly 4000 years, are there any of the hasty, superficial, short sighted sons of men, disposed to call in question the Omnipotence of a Supreme Being, because the apparatus for his work has taken thousands of years to construct it?
This might be expected from the narrow and limited conceptions of finite and imperfect beings, instead of reflecting that the vastness of the scale on which the plans of Omniscience have been conducted, exhibits grandeur in the design, and comprehensiveness in the views of the mighty Architect of the universe ; of Him, who, having endued his creature, man, with freedom of will, doth not force him into action; but nevertheless beholds the germinant springings, the progress through successive ages and generations, as well as the maturity, of those
events which will be subservient to the accomplishment of his gracious designs. Here is a prescience and intelligence, worthy of Him who seeth the end from the beginning; who calleth by name the things which are not, as though they were present, of which we have had a memorable instance in the literal fulfilment of the prophecy concerning Cyrus.
“On the face of the prophetic scriptures,” says Hurd, “it appears that one ultimate purpose is in the contemplation of all the prophets. This purpose is unfolded by successive predictions, delivered at distant times, under different circumstances, and by persons who cannot be suspected of acting in concert with each other. It does not appear that the later prophets always understood the drift of the more ancient, or that either of them clearly apprehended the whole scope and purpose of their own predictions. Yet on comparing these numerous prophecies with each other, and with the events in which it is now presumed they have had their accomplishment, we find a perfect harmony and consistency between them.
Nothing is advanced by one prophet that is contradicted by another. A unity of design is conspicuous in them all ; yet without the least appearance of collusion : since each prophet hath his own peculiar views, and enlarges on facts and circumstances unnoticed by others. These various and successive prophecies are so intimately connected, and also incorporated with each other, that the credit of all depends on the truth of each. For the accomplishments of them falling in different times, every preceding prophecy becomes surety as it were for those that follow; and the fallacy of any one must bring disgrace and ruin upon all.
“ The prophetic spirit which kept operating so uniformly and prophetically in what is called the former age, ceased at that very time when the great object it had in view appeared.
“ Now put all these things together, that is, the long duration of the prophetic system, the mutual dependance, and close connexion of its several parts; the consistency and uniformity of its views, all terminating in one point ; and the final suppression of it, as was likewise foretold at the very time when those views were accomplished. Consider all these, I say, and see if there be not good ground for advocating the divinity of such a system.See if there is any instance on record of prophecies so numerous, so long continued, and intimately related to each other, and to one common end, so apparently