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It follows from what hath been said, that the obscurity of the Jewish prophecies concludes nothing against the use of those writings, or against the application of them, which Christians now make. Their declared use is posterior to the facts they adumbrate; whence the intervening obscurity of those writings is no just ground of complaint: and the application of them to Jesus, now that history hath taught us to understand them better, is made on principles to which no sober man can object.
. On the whole, the general evidence for the truth of Christianity, as resulting from the seriptural prophecies, though possibly not that which some may wish or expect, is yet apparently very considerable. Some coincidencies might fall out, by accident; and more, might be imagined. But when so many, and such prophecies are brought together, and compared with their corresponding events, it becomes ridiculous (because the effect is, in no degree, proportioned to the cause) to say of such coincidencies, that they are the creatures of fancy, or could have been the work of chance.
The text supplies the only just account of SERMON such a phænomenon : and the spirit of God, methinks, calls aloud to us, in the language of his Son — These things have I told you before they come, that when they come to pass, ye may believe, that I am HE.
Isaiah xlii. 9.
Behold, the former things are come to pass,
and new things do I declare: before they spring forth, I tell you of them.
THE preceding discourses were designed, to open the general idea of prophecy; and to enforce the general argument from it, in proof of our holy Religion. '
The way being thus far cleared, we now advance a step farther, and take a nearer view of THE PROPHECIES THEMSELVES.
These prophecies may be considered under two heads. They either respect, the person and character and office of the Messiah ; or, the fate and fortunes of that kingdom, which he came to establish in the world.
Divines call the former of these, Prophecies of his FIRST COMING: and the other, Prophecies of his SECOND. Only, it may be proper to observe, That the second advent of the Messiah is not, like the first, confined to one single and precise period, but is gradual and successive. This distinction is founded in the reason of the thing. He could only come, in person, at one limited time. He comes, in his power and his providence, through all ages of the church. His first coming was then over, when he expired on the cross. His second, commenced with his resurrection, and will continue to the end of the world. So that this last coming of Jesus is to be understood of his spiritual kingdom ; which is not one act of sovereignty, exerted at once; but a state or constitution of government, subsisting through a long tract of time, unfolding itself by just degrees, and coming, as oft, as the conductor of it thinks fit to interpose by any signal acts of his administration. And in this sense, we are directed to pray, that his kingdom, though
SERMON long since set up, may come ; that is, may ad
vance through all its stages, till it arrive at that full state of glory, in which it shall shine out in the great day, as it is called, the day of judgment.
It will be seen, as we advance in the present inquiry, to what use this distinction serves.
The former set of prophecies are presumed to have had their completion, in the history of Jesus; The latter set, have had, or are to find, their accomplishment, in the history of his Religion; And of THESE only, it is the purpose of this Lecture to speak.
But, though the prophecies of Christ's first coming' (so largely and accurately considered by many great writers) be not the immediate subject of our inquiry, yet they must not be wholly overlooked by us. It will contribute very much to rectify and enlarge our ideas of the divine conduct, in this whole dispensation of prophecy, and to make way for that conviction, which the prophecies of Christ's second coming were intended to give, if we stop a while to contemplate the method and economy of that prophetic system, by