« PreviousContinue »
“ no man too hastily despair of the cause, we are now pleading. When we stand
up in its defence, there are those who “ will lend an ear to us. For, whatever 4 the vain, or the vicious may pretend, “ the prophetic writings are not fallen fo « low in the esteem of mankind, but that “ there are numberless persons of good sense “ and serious dispositions, who wish to see “ the truth of the Gospel confirmed by “ them; and are ready to embrace that s truth, when fairly set before them, and
supported by the clear evidence of histo“ rical testimony and well-interpreted “ scripture."
Such is the language, which I am not afraid to hold to the desponding party among us.
But should my confidence, or my candour, transport me too far, should even their apprehensions be ever so well founded, the zeal of those, who preach the Gospel, is not to abate, but to exert itself with new vigour under so discouraging a prospect. If there be a way left to
strike conviction into the hearts of unbelievers, it must, probably, be, by pressing this great point of prophetic infpiration, and by turning their attention on a miracle, now wrought, or ready to be wrought before their eyes. Or, let the event be what it will, our duty is, to illustrate the word of prophecy, and to enforce it ; to with." stand the torrent of infidelity with what success we may, and, if it should prevail over all our efforts, to make full proof, at least, of our sincerity and good will.
In the mean time, it becomes all others to retain and cultiyate in themselves a respect for the prophetic writings; which either are, or, for any thing that has yet appeared, may be divine. To treat them, without the fullest conviction of their falshood, with neglect and scorn, is plainly indecent, and may be highly criminal and dangerous,
Josephus tells us, that, in the last dreadful ruin of his unhappy countrymen, it
was familiar with them, to make a jeft of divine things, and to deride, as so many senseless tales and juggling impoftures, the sacred oracles of their prophets [w]; though they were then fulfilling before their eyes, and cven upon themselves.
But the case, perhaps, is different; and we have no concern, in the prophecies concerning Papal Rome.
What! Have we no concern in those prophecies (supposing, I mean, that they are prophecies at all, and, that there is reason for applying them to the church of Papal Rome) We, who have but just been delivered from the more than Egyptian bondage, which they predict; and are, therefore, bound by every tye of interest, of gratitude, and of charity, to affert to ourselves, and to communicate to others, as far as we are able, the blessings of that
w] Έγελάτο δε τα θεία, και τες των προφηλών θεσμες ώσπερ αγυρλικάς λογοποιίας, έχλεύαζον.
Fl. Joseph. B. J. 1. iv. 6.
liberty, wherewith Christ has made us free [x]? Have we no concern in the several ufes, mentioned in this discourse ; and in many others, which I have not mentioned; it being well known, that all inspired scripture (of which prophecy is so eminent a part) is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousnefs [y]:
Qr, supposing that we had no dire&t conćern in these prophecies, and fupposing, farther, that the divine authority of them was even problematical; still it may deferve to be considered, I mean, by men the most libertine, who have not yet convinced themfelves, by an exact and critical inquiry, of their utter falshood and insignificancy; I say, it merits the reflexion of all such, That the contempt of the prophecies, under these circumstances, has a natural tendency to corrupt the temper and harden the heart. And is there no room to question, whe
[x] Gal. x. I,
 2 Tim, iji. 164 Q2
ther this conduct, plainly an immoral conduct, be adviseable or safe?
Let us then, on a principle of self-love, if not of piety, keep the sayings of this book, concerning the MAN OF SIN. appearances, the appointed time for the full completion of them may not be very remote.
And it becomes our prudence to take heed that we be not found in the number of thofe, to whom that awful question is proposed --How is it, that ye do not discern the signs of this time?
Nay, there are prophecies, which, in that case, may concern us more nearly, than we think. St. Paul applied one of these, to the unbelieving Jews; of whose mockery, and of whose fate, ye have heared what their own historian witnesseth: And, if we equal their obdurate spirit, that prophecy may clearly be applied, and no man can fay, that it was not intended to be
applied, to ourselves.