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I know, indeed, that, unless we suppose the SERMON inspiration of the prophets, some passages, des livered by them, will not so probably be thought to intend Christ, as they will be, if we acknowledge that principle: and, on the other hand, that there are some circumstances in the history of Jesus, which will not be so readily seen to refer to preceding prophecies, if the inspiration of Jesus and his Apostles be not previously admitted. But I do not argue, at present, from either of these topics. There are passages enough, clearly predictive of the Messiah, and clearly accomplished in him, to afford a solid foundation for the argument from prophecy, as here instituted, without looking out for any other of more nice and ambiguous interpretation.
Hence we see the dangerous mistake of those, who contend that the argument from prophecy hath not, of itself, the nature of a direct positive proof of our religion. Prophecies fulfilled, I mean such prophecies as those in question, prove invincibly the divine inspiration of the prophets. But, if the prophets. were inspired, the divine mission of him, in whom the predicted marks of the Messiah meet, must needs be acknowledged. And what more. is required to prove the truth of Chtistianity?
ŠERMON 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 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 explained, 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
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 fortunes 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 cireumstances 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 ara known all his works from the beginning
So that, in respect of the fortunes, which were to befall the Christian chụrch, 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
not understood from the foundation of the earth b?
a Acts xv, 18.
b Isaiah xl. 21.