« PreviousContinue »
any solution whatever of the difficulty proposed k, " . . .
Not that reason is to be wholly silenced on the argument of prophecy: for then every species of imposture would be ready to flow in upon us. The use, we should make both of that faculty, and of these preliminary considerations on the subject, the end, and the dispensation of prophecy is, briefly, this, To inquire, whether any prophecies have been given —in what sense they are reasonably to be interpreted—and how far, and whether in any proper sense, they have been fulfilled: to examine them, in a word, by their own claims, and on the footing of their own pretensions; that is, to argue on the supposition that they
may be divine, till they can be evidently shewn
to be otherwise.
This is clearly to act suitably to our own faculties; to keep within the sphere of our duty;
k Quod est enim criminis genus, aut rei esse alicujus ignarum, aut ipsum, quod mescias, sine aliquà profiteri dissimulatione nescire? aututer magis videtur irrisione esse digmissimus vobis, quisibi scientiam nullam tenebrosae rei alicujus assumit, an ille, qui retur se ex se apertissime. scire id, quod humanam transiliat notionem, et quod sit
caecis obscuritatibus involutum 2 Arnobius, adv. Gen. ), ii.
* and to reap the proper benefit, whatever it be, of a sober inquiry into the authority, and cha
racter, and accomplishment of the prophetic scriptures. -
All the rest is idle cavil, and miserable presumption; equally repugnant to the clearest dictates of right reason, and to that respect which every serious man will think due to the subject, and to himself.
IT is very clear in what manner common sense instructs us to prosecute all inquiries into the divine conduct. Wise men collect, from what they see done in the system of nature, so far as they are able to collect it, the intention of its author. They will conclude, in like manner, from what they find delivered in the system of revelation, what the views and purposes of the revealer were.
Prophecy, which makes so considerable a part of that system, must, therefore, be its
own interpreter. My meaning is, that, setting
aside all presumptuous imaginations of our own, we are to take our ideas of what prophecy should be, from what, in fact, we find it to have been. If it be true (as the Apostle says, and as the thing itself speaks) that the things of God knoweth no man but the spirit of God", there cannot possibly be any way of acquiring right notions of prophecy, but by attending to what the spirit of prophecy hath revealed of itself. They, who admit the divine original of those scriptures, which attest the reality, and alone, as they suppose, contain the records, of this extraordinary dispensation, are more than absurd, are impious, if they desert this principle. And they, who reject or controvert their claim to such original, cannot, on any other principle, argue pertinently against that dispensation, - - * . .
In short, believers and unbelievers, whether they would support, or overturn, the system of prophecy, must be equally governed by the representation given of it in soripture. The former must not presume, on any other grounds, to assert the wisdom and fitness of that system : and the latter will then take a ' ' ' ' ' ' . . . . . . . . J.;. * . . .
* : * * * * * 1 Cor. ii. 11,
reasonable method of discrediting, if by such means they can discredit, the pretensions of it. For, as to vindicate prophecy on any principles but its own, can do it no honour; so, to oppose it on any other, can neither prejudice the cause itself, nor serve any reasonable end of the opposer.
To scripture then we must go for all the information we would have concerning the use and intent of prophecy: and the text, to look no farther, will clearly reveal this great secret to us.
But, before we proceed to reason from the text, in which, as it is pretended, this discovery is made, it will be necessary to explain its true meaning.
St. John, in this chapter of the Revelations, from which the text is taken, had been shewn the downfall of Babylon, and the consequent exaltation of the church, in its closest union with Christ, prefigured under the Jewish idea of a marriage. To so delightful a vision, the Angel, in whose presence, and by whose ministry, this scene of glory had been disclosed, subjoins this triumphant admonition—Write, says he ; Blessed are they which are called to