Imágenes de páginas

brated personages in the Old Testament, typified prophetically Jesus Christ and his church. Abel, assassinated by his brother, was a prophetic figure of Jesus, put to death by the Jews. The sacrifice of Isaac, which was not accomplished, was the image of that accomplished on the cross. The relations or predictions which obviously had for their object Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, Jeremiah, Zorobabel, or other ancient personages, were applied to Christ. His death was represented by the blood of he goats and of bulls. By aid of these allegories, the ancient history of the Jews served only to announce the events in the life of Jesus, and the history of the establishment of his religion... In this manner it is easy to find in the scriptures whata ever we desire.

It would be useless to investigate the famous prophecy of the seventy weeks of Daniel, in which the Christian doctors believe they see the coming of Christ clearly announced. It is true, that if Daniel, or his editors, had taken the trouble to specify the nature of these weeks, they would have prevented much trouble to interpreters : this prediction might then have been a very great resource to Christianity. The ablest critics, however, declare, that they are very much embarrassed, when attempting to fix the commencement and the end of these seventy weeks. On this they are never unanimous, nor can they agree on a precise date, which hitherto is wanting to the great event of the coming of the Messiah. We know the Jews made use of weeks of days, weeks of weeks, and weeks of years. It is by a conjecture, merely hazarded, they advance in the Bible of Louvain, that the weeks mentioned in Daniel are weeks of years. Yet that supposition thropre light'on nothing, for the chronological table, which the doctors of Louvain have published, gives us only three hundred and forty-three years, intervening between the time when they make the weeks to commence, and the death of Jesus. Many critics have believed, that this prediction had been added afterwards to the text of Daniel, in favour of Jonathan Maccabeus. We may judge of the little credit that can be given to this prophecy of Daniel, from the prodigious number of commentaries that have been made on it. *

After this statement, and without dwelling longer on prophecies unintelligible even to those who adduce them as proofs, let us proceed to the life of Christ, and see if it is better adapted to confirm a Christian in his religion.

* The celebrated Anthony Collins composed two curious and profound works, wherein he demonstrates that none of the prophecies of the Old Testament can be literally applied to Jesus. On this subject we have also several able works by Jews, one of which has this title, Liber Nizzachon Vetus; another Munimen Fidei, which are to be found in the collection entitled Tela Ignea Satanæ, published by Wagenseil, in-4to. Altorf, 1681. The natural meaning of the Jewish prophecies may be found in a cu. rious work of the Jew Isaac Orobio, the manuscript of which still exists : it is entitled “ Israel Vindicated; or, the Natural Exposition of the Prophecies which Christians apply to Jesus."

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ALL the prophecies related in the sacred books, or spread abroad amongst the Jews, coincide in making them hope for the return of the favour of the Almighty. God bad promised them a deliverer, a messenger, a Messiah, who should restore the

of Israel. That deliverer was to be of the seed of David, the prince according to God's own heart, so submissive to the priests, and so zealous for religion. It was, doubtless, to recompense the devotion and docility of this holy usurper, that the prophets and the priests, loaded with his kindness, promised him, in the name of heaven, that his family should reign for ever. If that famous prediction was clearly belied, during the Babylonish captivity, and the subsequent period, the Jews at this time, no less credulous than their ancestors, rested in expectation, and persuaded themselves, that it was impossible their prophets and diviners could, or intended to deceive them. They imagined that their oracles, sooner or later, would be accomplished, and that they should see a descendant of David restore the honour of their nation.


It was to conform themselves to these predictions and popular notions, that the writers of the Gospels took care to give Christ a genealogy, by which they pretended to prove that he was descended in a direct line from David, and consequently, had a right, in virtue of his birth, to arrogate the character of Messiah. Nevertheless, criticism has exhausted itself on this genealogy. Such as are not possessed of faith, have been surprised to find, that the Holy Ghost has dictata ed it differently to the two evangelists who have dea tailed it: for, as has been so frequently remarked, the genealogy given by St. Matthew is not the same with that of St. Luke: a disparity which has thrown Christian interpreters into embarrassments, from which all their subtilty has hitherto been unable to rescue them. They tell us, that one of these genealogies is that of Joseph ; but supposing Joseph to be of the race of David-a Christian cannot believe that he was the real father of Jesus, because his religion enjoins him tơ believe steadfastly, that Christ is the Son of God. Again, supposing these two discordant genealogies to be Mary's, in that case the Holy Ghost has blundered in one of them, and unbelievers will always have reason to lament the want of exactness in the writers he has deigned to inspire. In whatever way we consider them, one of the genealogies in the Gospel will always appear faulty and incomplete, and the extraction of Jesus will be very weakly established. It was, however, a point that merited some attention, seeing; in so far as concerns the Jews, it was evidently on his illustrious birth that the Messiah was to found his claims.

But whatever may be in this, let us examine the


particulars which preceded and accompanied the birth of Christ. One evangelist alone has narrated them; all the others have superficially passed over circumstances as marvellous as they are important. St. Matthew, content with his genealogy, speaks but in few words of the preternatural manner wherein Jesus was formed in the womb of his mother. The speech of an angel, seen in a dream, suffices to convince Joseph of the virtue of his wife, and he adopts her child without any hesitation. St. Mark makes no mention of this memorable incident. St. John, who, by the assistance of his mystic and Platonic theology, could embellish that fact, or rather confound it, so as to shelter himself from the attacks of criticism, has not said one word about it. We are, therefore, constrained to satisfy ourselves with the materials St. Luke has transmitted


According to this evangelist, Elizabeth, kinswoman of Mary, and wife of a priest named Zachariah,* was in the sixth month of her pregnancy,

66 when the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women. And when she saw hirn, she was troubled at his say.

* Some critics have drawn from this relationship of Elizabeth with Mary, a proof that the latter was not of the race of David. To espouse a priest, Elizabeth ought to have been of the tribe of Levi, and not of Judah, to which David belonged. St. Augustine says that, in his time, several works which he terms apocryphal, asserted that Mary was of the tribe of Levi. See lib. 23, contra Fraustum, chap. 9.

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