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SER MON 1.
FALSE IDEAS OF PROPHECY.
2 PETER, i. 21.
Prophecy came not in old time by the will of
man: but holy men of God spake, as they were moved by the Spirit of God.
argument from prophecy, in support Sermon of the Christian revelation, would be thought more conclusive, at least would be more distinctly apprehended, if men could be kept from mixing their own prejudices and preconceptions with it.
The general question may be expressed thus _" Whether the predictions in the Old and “New Testament do not appear to have been “So far, and in such sense, fulfilled, as to
afford a reasonable conviction, that they came « not, as the text speaks, by the will of man, “ but from the Spirit of God."
In examining this question, the predictions themselves cannot be too diligently studied, or too cautiously applied: But, while this work is carrying on, we are still to suppose, and should not for a moment forget, that they may be, what they manifestly claim to be, of divine suggestion ; I mean, we are to admit, not the truth indeed, but the possibility, of such suggestion, till we can fairly make it
that they are of human contrivance, only.
It will not be denied, that the tenour of Scripture, as well as the text, clearly asserts the divine original and direction of the prophecies. A just reasoner on the subject will, therefore, proceed on this supposition, and only try whether it be well founded. He will consider, whether the construction of the prophecies, and the application of them, be such, as may accord to those pretensions; and will not argue against them on other principles, which they do not admit, or suppose. All this is plainly nothing more than what may
be expected from a fair inquirer, and what the rules of good reasoning exact from him.
The use of this conduct would be, To pré- SERMON vent, or set aside, all those fancies and imaginations which too frequently mislead inquirers into the evidence of prophecy; which fill their minds with needless perplexities, and disgrace their books with frivolous and impertinent disquisitions. And, because I take it to be of principal moment, that this use be perfectly seen and understood, I shall, first, apply myself to justify and explain it.
It is true that prophecy, in the very idea of that term, at least in the scriptural idea of it, implies the divine agency; and that, exerted not merely in giving the faculty itself, but in directing all its operations,
Yet I know not how it is that, when men address themselves to the study of the prophetic scriptures, they are apt to let this so necessary idea slip out of their minds; and to discourse upon them just as they would or might do, on the supposition that the prophet was left at liberty to dispense this gift in all respects, as he should think proper. No wonder then, that they should misconceive of its character, and entertain very different notions about the exercise of this power from what the Scriptures give them of it. Nay it is no wonder