« PreviousContinue »
SERMON Not even the evidence of miracles, performed
by Christ, if the prophecies had not made them one mark of his character. The truth is, Prophecies and Miracles are, in themselves, two distinct positive proofs. Either proof is direct, and would have been sufficient, if the other had not been given. But the divine goodness, for our more abundant satisfaction, and to leave infidelity without excuse, hath made the one proof dependent on the other: so that neither the argument from prophecy is complete, without the miracles ; nor the argument from miracles, as applied to Christ, unless he likewise appear to have fulfilled the prophecies. Can we desire a stronger proof, that neither they, who predicted the miracles, were false prophets, nor he, who claimed to himself the application of all the prophecies, was a false Messiah ?
These reflexions, on the method and order of the prophecies, of those especially concerning Christ's FIRST COMING'; together with what has been said on the independency of this argument on Jewish or Christian concessions ; may serve to convince us, That we shall do well to suspend our conclusions concerning the evidence of prophecy, till we have examined the whole subject. In the mean time, this
part of the subject, thus far opened and ex- SERMON plained, leads us, with advantage, to the consideration of that, which is yet behind and is the peculiar object of this Lecture, I mean the prophecies concerning CHRIST'S SECOND COMING.
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.
IT must strike the most careless reader of the prophecies to observe, that the general subject of them all was announced from the earliest time, and was only drawn out more distinctly by succeeding prophets : that, of the two ages, into which the world of God, I mean his religious world, is divided in holy scripture, the former, which abounds most in prophecy, was
plainly made subservient to the latter : that SERMON not only the events of that preceding age are 'foretold by its own prophets, but that the for-, tunes of the last, and very remote age, are occasionally revealed by them; and that the same oracles, which attest the first coming of Christ, as if impatient to be confined to so narrow bounds, overflow, as it were, into the future age, and expatiate on the principal facts and circumstances of his second coming.
By this divine artifice, if I may so speak, the two dispensations, the Jewish and Christian, are closely tied together, or rather compacted into one intire harmonious system ; such, as we might expect, if it were indeed formed, and conducted by him, to whom are known all his works from the beginning a.
So that, in respect of the fortunes, which were to befall the Christian church, even in the latter days, we may still ask, in the triumphant terms of the Jewish prophet — Have ye not known? Have ye not heard ? Hath it not been told you from the beginning ? Have ye not understood from the foundation of the earth b?
a Acts xv. 18.
b Isaiah xl. 21.
SERMON But, though this subject was opened by the
old prophets, so far as seemed expedient in that age, and clearly enough, to shew the integrity and continuity of the whole system, it was more illustriously, because more distinctly, displayed by the evangelical prophets.
And here, again, the same provision of wisdom and goodness meets us, as before. The Christian prophets, like the Jewish, bespeak our attention to what they reveal of the greater and more distant events in their dispensation, by other less momentous prophecies, which were speedily to be accomplished ; thus, impressing upon us an awful sense of their divine foresight, and procuring an easy credit from us to their subsequent predictions: while the events, which both these prophetic schemes point out, are so distributed through all time, as to furnish, successively, to the several ages of the world, the means of a fresh and still growing conviction d.
c We see this design very plamly, in the prophecies of Jesus concerning his own death and resurrection ; concerning the descent of the holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost ; concerning events, that were to befall his disciples ; and in other instances.
d La plus grande des preuves de Jesus Christ, ce sont les propheties. C'est aussi à quoi Dieu a la plus pourvu ;