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prophecies. Of smaller scruples and difficul- Sermox ties on this head, there is no end.

Men may ask, for instance, why the instruments employed in conveying these celestial notices to mankind, are frequently so mean and inconsiderable? The subject of a prediction is the downfall of some mighty state, or the fortune of its governours. Why then is this important revelation intrusted to an obr. scure priest, or sordid peasant, in preference to the great persons, more immediately concerned in it f?

Again; some momentous events have been signified in dreams: why not to. persons awake, and in the full possession of their best faculties & ?

And then, of those dreams, why are they

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518 veri.

i Utrum tandem, per deos atque homines, magis verisimile est, vesanum remigem, aut aliquem nostrum, qui ibi tum eramus, me, Catonem, Varronem, Coponium ipsum, concilia deorum immortalium perspicere potuisse ? Cic. Div. 1. ii. c. 55. · & Illud etiam requiro, cur, si deus ista visa nobis providendi causâ dat, non vigilantibus potius dat quam dør: mientibus ? 1. ü. c. 61.

VOL. V.

SERMON sometimes sent to one man, and the interpre

tation of them reserved for another ba.

Why--But I have done with these frivolous interrogatories ; which, though pressed with all the advantage of Cicero's rhetoric, have really no force against Pagan divination; and therefore surely none, against Scriptural prophecy ; I mean, in the opinion of those who respect it least. .. "

: In truth, they who put these questions (arguing, as they must do, on the supposition that prophecy is divinely inspired) cannot excuse their presumption, even to themselves : and they, to whom such questions are proposed, will not, if they be wise, so much as attempt to resolve them. For they have the nature of arguments addressed not only to the ignorance, as we say, of the disputant, but to an ignorance clearly invincible by all the powers of human reason. Now to arguments of this sort I know not i-is the answer of good sense, as well as of modesty, and, to a just reasoner, more satisfactory by far, than

h Jam verò quid opus est circuitione et amfractu, ut sit sit utendum interpretibus somniorum, potiùs quàm directo? Ibid. i Ou'x oid". {Q' os ydę pe ni Ogor W, 12v Qorão

Soph. Oedip. Tyran. ver. 577.

any solution whatever of the difficulty pro- SERMON

TON

posed 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 disa pensation 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 nescias, sine aliquâ profiteri dissimulatione nescire? aut uter magis videtur irrişione esse dignissimus vobis, qui sibi scientiam nullam tenebrosæ rei alicujus assumit, an ille, qui retur se ex se apertissime scire id, quod humanam transiliat notionem, et quod sit cæcis obscuritatibus involutum ?

Arnobius, adv. Gen. 1, ii.

SERMON and to reap the proper benefit, whatever it be,

of a sober inquiry into the authority, and character, 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.

SERMON II,

THE TRUE IDEA OF PROPHECY.

Rev. xix. 10. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of : : Prophecy.

IT is very clear in what manner common SERMON 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

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