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Cut off at once miraculous supply;
Such strange delusion if a man embrace,
Help Lightfoot's comment, or his own designs!
Since, by his present citer here, you see
The text," he says, "had, in St. Peter's views, No ref'rence to himself- but to the Jews 7," 250
Not, in his haste, aware that what he said
What he himself was most persuaded by;
Do but observe the point in question, sir,
When a comparison was judg'd absurd,
Of ev'ry circumstance that past; he might
7 P. 53. "Yet St. Peter's words, after all, as they are expounded by the freethinking author above mentioned, do not necessarily imply him to mean, that prophecy was a surer argument to himself, than the voice from Heaven, but to the Jewish converts in general, who did not hear that voice, but received it only from the reports of others. It was not his view in this epistle to declare what sort of arguments was the most convincing to himself, but to propose such as were most worthy of the attention of those to whom he was writing."-P. 54. "When St. Peter therefore says, we have a more sure word of prophecy:
Than could the vision which his words relate."
The use of reason has, I apprehend,
the occasion of his words oblige us to interpret them, as spoken, not with any particular reference to himself, but to the general body of the Jewish converts."
P. 62. And thus the apostle's sense, as it is expounded by the author, (Collins) is clear and consistent, not liable to any exception but what flows from that perplexity, in which his lordship has involved it by his use of equivocal terms, and perpetual change of the point in question."
P. 52. "Let Peter be as perfectly assured, as we can suppose him to be of every circumstance, which passed in the Mount, he might still take prophecy, considered as a standing evidence, always lying open to the cool and deliberate examination of reason to be a firmer argument on the whole, and to carry a more permanent conviction with it to the sober senses of men, than the vision with which he here compares it,"
What can examination teach, or learn? By what criterion, sir, shall we discern, When reason comes to be so deadly cool, The sage deliberator from the fool?
Conceive St. Peter, if you can, entic'd (Eye-witness of the majesty of Christ; Of what the Father, in the Mount, had done By showing forth the glory of the Son) To disbelieve his senses, and to pore Some ancient standing evidences o'er; To see if that, which, on the holy spot, He saw and heard, was seen and heard, or not: Would such a cool deliberating plan Have made him pass for a more sober man? If so, then Middleton has hit the white; Sherlock, if not, is thus far in the right; And well may say that no man, in his wits, Could be attack'd by such cold reas'ning fits.
But thus the frigid argument is brought, Why Peter might, in full persuaded thought, Prefer predictions in the ancient law To what himself most surely heard, and saw: "For, after all the full convincing scene, Which he had witness'd, how did he demean?— With faith infirm, he shamefully deny'd His Master, seen so greatly glorify'd1."
Yes; so he did-and gave an humbling stroke To human confidence in reason's cloak: Enough to lay all syllogizing trust In bare conclusions only in the dust; An ample proof that, in a trying hour, Ev'n demonstration loses all its pow'r; That, without grace, and God's assisting hand, In time of need, no evidence can stand. Suppose a person of the clearest head, In logic arts well grounded, and well read; If, with a selfish love to truth, alone, He arm himself with weapons ail his own, When a temptation comes-alas! how soon The valiant reas'ner turns a mere poltroon! Peter, tho' void of learning, and of art, Had a courageous, had an honest heart; Had natural abilities, beyond
All those of which the critics are so fond: Had hidden qualities, beyond their ken; They fish for words he was to fish for men. His faith, in outward evidence, was such That Peter trusted to himself too much: When his denial plainly was foretold, [bold: What should have humbled made him grow more "Tho' all should be offended—yet not I— Not death itself shall tempt me to deny." We see in him, sir, what the utmost height Of boasted reason, evidence, and light, Of courage, honesty, and even love Could do, without assistance from above: It could to humbler thoughts resist the call; It proudly could prefer itself to all: It could, in short, upon conclusions true, Do all that numbers upon false ones do ; Rest on itself, be confident and bounce; And, when the call to suff'ring came-renounce. As human resolution, courage, skill, Conviction, evidence, or what you will,
'P. 56. "For after all the convictions which he himself had received from it, we know, that his faith was still so infirm, as to betray him into a shameful denial of his Master, whom he had seen to wonderfully glorified,”
Can, in their nature, only reach so far As things are subject to an human bar; All these, tho' actuating Peter's zeal, To Christian doctrine could not set the seal. God-like humility-the sacred root Whence ev'ry virtue branches into fruit, Lays the foundation of the Christian life; As reason governs that of human strife. And, I appeal, sir, setting grace aside, How oft is human reason human pride? Human desire of victory, or fame? A Babel tow'ring to procure a name? A self assurance? an untutor'd boast? That can but form intention, at the most; Which, tho' directed right, must humbly ask Divine assistance to perform its task.
That argument which he appli'd the most
This Peter fail'd in-and a servant maid
To curse, and swear, and did not know the man.
But how, sir, did his coward speech betray
'Tis urg'd that, " on the other hand, we find, With faith confirm'd, and with enlighten'd mind, After the mission of the Holy Ghost,
Who, from the heart, obey the Christian call:
2 P. 56. We know on the other hand, that after our Lord's ascension, when his faith was more fully confirmed, and his understanding enlightened by the mission of the Holy Ghost, the chief argument, which he applied in all his sermons, to evince the truth of the Gospel, was this more sure word of prophecy, as he calls it; from which he demonstrated to the Jews, how the character, doctrine, and mission of Jesus were foretold and described by the mouths of all their prophets.
Tho' not inspir'd, like Peter, and th' eleven;
Its author shows great spirit, and great art,
Fully resolv'd, and singly, to maintain
Trace the quotations, sir, that Peter made,
The first occasion, which th' apostle took
Were drawn to witness that which God design'd:
What does the share of it that Peter had
How gravely, sir, from fallacy so crude, He prompts th' amused reader to conclude "That any man, especially a Jew, (As Peter was) might think the pref'rence due! And what himself had heard th' Almighty speak, Might be esteem'd, comparatively, weak!"
Under this millstone, oft, the struggling page Bestirs itself, but cannot disengage. "At all events resolving to confute 5, (To use his logic) or at least dispute,
3 P. 60. "Yet all this pomp of words, this solemn appeal to the whole college of the apostles and evangelists, is nothing else but an empty strain of rhetoric, without any argument or significancy in it whatsoever."-P. 34. "One would be apt to suspect, that his lordship never chooses to see more of any subject, than what may serve that particular hypothesis which he comes prepared to support." P. 39. "It is this alone, which the nature of the subject required him to confute, and what he had undertaken to confute; but instead, he changes the question upon us, and when we were expecting reasons, &c."
P. 56. "I might now leave it to the reader to judge whether in contradiction to what the bishop maintains, a man in his wits, and especially a Jew, might not think prophecy a stronger argument in general, than a voice from Heaven, which he himself had heard."
5 P. 29. "This was the ground of his lordship's resolution to confute, or at all events to contradict
them, (the free-thinker's words); which last part he has performe with great spirit, but how far he has succeeded in the first, will be seen in the following remarks."
6P. 4. "Proper rather (speaking of the bishop's works) to perplex than to illustrate the notion of prophecy; and to amuse rather than instruct an inquisitive reader."
P. 153. “Instead of contriving any evasive expedients, or fanciful systems to elude the force of such objections, I thought it my duty to examine seriously and impartially, what solution of them the subject itself, when fairly stated, would supply."
Of days, then dawning, when he would impart
For this was what St. Peter, then inspir'd, Went on to show, and argument requir'd; The Jews all knew, Messiah was to coine; That this of all prediction gave the sum: The question was, if it had been fulfill'd In Jesus? whom their wicked hands had kill'd. Now, to prove this, th' apostle first applies The miracles, perform'd before their eyes; God's approbation of him, he defines, Was manifest by wonders, and by signs, Done in the midst of them-see here the ground Prepar'd, before he offer'd to expound, By arguments of such immediate force, So plain, so striking, that they must, of course, Make, secondly, to such as should take heed, The word of prophecy more sure indeed,
And then he shows how the prophetic word
To him, whose flesh should no corruption see. 560
On this, rejected by the builders' hands,
In vain, a council then, as well as now,
Nor charge, nor chains, nor meditated death
This, you may read, sir, was the real path
That all the preachers of the gospel trod,
Thus, sir-to come directly to the text,
8 P. 8. "But to say the truth, I have never observed a stranger instance of the public patience 580 and blind deference to the authority of a great name, than in the case of these very Discourses; which, though in all parts greatly exceptionable, and furnishing matter of offence in every page, have yet passed through many editions, not only without reproof, but with some degree even of approbation. And it was this experience perhaps of what the world would bear, which made his lordship resolve to withdraw his preface, and to treat us no longer with any ceremony; having seen that, notwithstanding the consciousness, which he had declared, of being in the wrong, the public was still disposed to think him in the right, and that his nonsense would go down with them, without giving him the trouble of making an excuse for it."
Peter makes no comparison between
"To try how far his nonsense would go down. 630 To say the truth, his pages indevout
Have furnish'd matter of offence throughout;
A thing, that shocks or plain, or critic wit;
Nor does St. Peter, as the learned gloze,
No true construction of the text can guide To such suspicion, sir, on either side.
His words import, directly, if you seek Their genuine meaning in the vulgate Greek, And mind the previously related scene; His words, I say, most evidently mean, "We saw the glory-heard the voice, and thus Have the prophetic word made sure to us;" Which ye do well to follow, as a spark That spreads a ray through places that are dark; 'Till ye, with us, enjoy the perfect light, And want no prophecies to set you right.
An English reader may be led, indeed, To think, that, as th' apostle's words proceed With "we have also"-it was something more, Some surer proof than what had gone before: 660 But "also," tho' without italics read, Is an addition to what Peter said:
It only shows how our translation fail'd,
A writer, whose freethinking schemes incite The bishop, and the doctor both to write; Who had, it seems, in prophecies, a rule First to extol, and then to ridicule, Took, sir, his stand on this corrupted place, From whence he both might heighten, and dis
One point the vulgar errour gain'd, alone;
In this mistake the bishop too has shar'd, "Asserting prophecy indeed compar'd, And, by St. Peter, to the voice preferr'd, Which he himself, upon the Mount, had heard: Yet not, says he, as that freethinker meant; The words relate but to that one event, That stands upon prophetical record, To wit, the glorious coming of our Lord. But, one or all, to make a surer word Than heav'nly demonstration is absurd;
9 P. 29. "His lordship's exposition of the text is this: that the word of prophecy is compared, indeed and preferred here by St. Peter to the evidence of that heavenly voice, which he himself had heard in the Mount,' yet not, as that freethinking author imagines, on the account of its being a surer proof, or better argument for the general truth of the gospel, but only for the particular article of Christ's coming again in glory, to which case alone the comparison relates; for with regard to the truth of the gospel, Peter is so far from speaking of prophecy in this place, as the best evidence, that he manifestly speaks of it as not the best."
And glaring, in the instance that he chose,
He contradicts, in splitting on the shelf
And of all gospel truths, that you can name, This glorious coming is the one great aim; The sum, and substance, with respect to man, Of heav'nly purpose, since the world began: Divine intention could no more have been For Christ to suffer, than for man to sin; Tho', since that fatal accident befell, Incarnate love would save him from a hell. Whereas his glorious reign amongst mankind Might, from their first existence, be design'd: And since his suff'ring, saving advent past, What sense of justice can deny the last? His reigning glory, were the prophets dumb, All things, in nature, cry aloud will come.
Besides, what better does the text afford, To any tolerable sense restor'd, Compare, prefer, or construe how you will, Than that divine appearance on the hill? That ascertaining, in a heav'nly light,
Our Saviour's glory, by a present sight; That record, which the Father, thereupon, Gave of his Son to Peter, James, and John: So full of proofs that, let what will be chief, Doubt is too near akin to disbelief.
The doctor says, "t is surely no offence
From one plain circumstance, and that is this;
Our Saviour charg'd them that they should not To any man, the vision that befell;
"Till he himself was risen from the dead:
In fine these comments, which the learned
'P. 54. "It is no offence surely, either to reason or religion, to imagine that this wonderful apparition," &c. before quoted, line 37.