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Had the purpose of prophecy been to shew, merely, that a predicted event was foreseen, then the end had been best answered by throwing all possible evidence into the completion. But its concern being to shew this to such only as should be disposed to admit a reasonable de gree of evidence, it was not necessary, or rather it was plainly not fit, that the completion should be seen in that strong and irresistible light.
For all the reasons, now given, (and doubt. less, for many more) it was to be expected, that prophecy would not be one cloudless emanation of light and glory. If it be clear enough to serve the ends, for which it was designed ; if through all its obscurities, we be able to trace the hand and intention of its divine author; what more would we have? How improvidently, indeed, do we ask more of that great Being, who, for the sake of the natural world, clothes the heavens with blackness [Is, 1. 3.); and in equal mercy to the moral world, veils his nature and providence in thick clouds, and makes darkness his pavilion [Ps. xviii. 11]?
n Le dessein de Dieu est plus de perfectionner la volonté, que l'esprit. Or, la clarté parfaite ne serviroit qu'à l'esprit, & nuiroit à la volonté. Pascal.
TO THESE deductions from the text, more SERMON might be added. For I believe it will be found that if the end of prophecy, as here delivered, be steddily kept in view and diligently pursued, it will go a great way towards leading us to a prosperous issue in most of those inquiries, which are thought to perplex this subject. But I mean to reason from it no farther than just to shew, in the way of specimen, the method in which it becomes us to speculate on the prophetic system. We are not to imagine principles, at pleasure, and then apply them to that system. But we are, first, to find out what the principles are, on which prophecy is founded, and by which it claims to be tried'; and then to see whether they will hold, that is, whether they will aptly and properly apply to the particulars, of which it is compounded. If they will, the systern itself is thus far clearly justified. All that remains is to compare the prophecies with their corresponding events, in order to assure ourselves that there is real evidence of their completion.
The use of this method has been shewn in FOUR capital instances. It is objected to the scriptural prophecies, that they are obscurethat they abound in double senses-that they were delivered to one people--that, after all,
SERMON there is sometimes difficulty in making out the
completion — all of them, it is said, very suspicious circumstances; and which rather indicate a scheme of human contriyance, than of divine inspiration.
To these objections it is replied, that, from the very idea which the scriptures themselves give of prophecy, these circumstances must needs be found in it; and further still, that these circumstances, when fairly considered, do honour to that idea : for that the obscurity, complained of, results, from the immensity of the scheme--the double senses, from the intimate connection of its parts--the partial and confined delivery, from the wisdom and neces, sity of selecting a peculiar people to be the vehicle and repository of the sacred oracles And lastly, the incomplete evidence, from the nature of the subject, and from the moral genius of that dispensation, to which the scheme of prophecy itself belongs.
In conclusion, it is now seen to what purpose these preliminary discourses serve, and in what method they have been conducted.
The FIRST, shewed the vanity and folly of reasoning on the subject of scriptural prophecy
from our preconceived fancies and arbitrary assuniptions. The SECOND, shewed the only true way of reasoning upon it to be from scriptural principles, and then opened and explained one such principle. In this last, I have shewn that, by prosecuting this way of reasoning from the principle assigned, some of the more specious objections to the scriptural prophecies are easily obviated.
Taken together, these three discourses serve to illustrate the general idea of prophecy, considered as one great scheme of testimony to the religion of Jesus ; and consequently open a way for the fair and equitable consideration of particular prophecies, the more immediate subject of this Lecture.
Now I tell you before it come, that when it is
come to pass, ye may believe, that I am He. SERMON IT hath been concluded (not on the slight
grounds of hypothesis, but on the express authority of scripture,) that prophecy was given TO ATTEST THE MISSION OF JESUS: to afford a reasonable evidence, that the scheme of redemption, of which he was the great instrument and minister, was, in truth, of divine appointment; and was carried on under the immediate cognizance and direction of the Supreme Being, whose prerogative it is to see