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the rest, the power of the devil was always so limited and restrained, as to afford sufficient means to undeceive men, though many of his predictions might come to pass."-JENKINS's Reasonableness of Christianity.

"Many of the learned regard all the Heathen Oracles as the result of the grossest imposture. Some consider them as the work of evil spirits. Others are of opinion, that through these Oracles some real prophecies were occasionally vouchsafed to the Gentile world, for their instruction and consolation. But to whichsoever of these opinions we may incline, it will not be difficult to discover a radical difference between these and the Scripture prophecies.

"In the Heathen Oracles, we cannot discern any clear and unequivocal tokens of genuine prophecy. They were destitute of diguity and importance, had no connection with each other, tended to no object of general concern, and never looked into times remote from their own. We read only of some few predictions and prognostications, scattered among the writings of poets and philosophers, most of which (besides being very weakly authenticated) appear to have been answers to questions of merely local, personal, and temporary concern. relating to the issue of affairs then actually in hand, and to events speedily to be determined. Far from attempting to form any chain of prophecies, respecting things far distant as to time or place, or matters contrary to human probability, and requiring supernatural agency to effect them, the Heathen Priests and soothsayers did not even pretend to a systematic and connected plan. They hardly dared, indeed, to assume the prophetic character in its full force, but stood trembling, as it were, on the brink of futurity, conscious of their inability to venture beyond the depths of human conjecture. Hence their predictions became so fleeting, so futile, so uninteresting, that they were never collected together as worthy of preservation, but soon fell into disrepute and almost total oblivion.

"The Scripture prophecies, on the other hand, constitute a series of predictions, relating principally to one grand object, of universal importance, the work of man's redemption, and carried on in regular progression through the Patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian dispensations, with a harmony and uniformity of design, clearly indicating one and the same divine author, who alone could say, 'Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.' The genuine prophets of the Almighty beheld these things with a clear and stedfast eye; they declared them with authority and confidence; and they gave, moreover, signs from heaven for the conviction of others. Accordingly, their writings have been handed down from age to age: have been preserved with scrupulous fidelity; and have ever been regarded with reverence, from the many incontestible evidences of their accomplishment, and from their inseparable connection with the religious hopes and expectations of mankind."-Bishop of Llandaff.

CHAPTER XVII.

Prophecies of Scripture.

THE nature and force of the argument from prophecy have been already stated; (7) and it has been proved, that where real predictions are uttered,—not happy conjectures, which shrewd and observing men may sometimes make, but predictions which imply foresight of events dependent upon the various contingencies of human affairs, and a knowledge of the characters, dispositions, and actions of persons yet unborn, so as to decide unerringly on the conduct which they will pursue, they can only be uttered by inspired men, and the author of such communications can be no other than the Infinite and Omniscient God, "shewing to his servants the things which shall be hereafter," in order to authenticate their mission, and to affix the stamp of his own infallible authority upon their doctrine.

The authenticity and the antiquity of the Records which contain these predictions, have been already established; and the only subject of enquiry proper to this chapter is, the prophetic character of the predictions said to be contained in the Old and New Testaments. A few general observations may however be previously allowed.

1. The instances to be considered by those who would fully satisfy themselves on this point are not few but many. The believer in the Divine Authority of the Old and New Testaments is ready to offer for examination great numbers of professed prophecies relative to individuals, cities, states, the person and offices of Messiah, and the Christian Church, which he alleges to have been unequivocally fulfilled; independent of predictions which he believes to be now fulfilling, or which are hereafter to be fulfilled in the world.

2. If, as to the fulfilment of some particular prophecies, the opinions of men should differ, there is an abundance of others the accomplishment of which has been so evident as to defy any rational interpretation which will not involve their fulfilment ;

(7) Vide Chap. IX.

whilst unbelievers are challenged to shew any clear prediction of holy Scripture which has been falsified by the event, throughout the whole range of those ages which are comprehended by the Bible, from the Pentateuch to the Apocalypse.

3. The predictions in Scripture have already been distinguished in their character from the Oracles and Divinations of the heathen; (8) and it may here be further observed, that they are not, generally, separate and insulated predictions of the future, arising out of accidental circumstances and connecting themselves with merely individual interests and temporary occasions. On the contrary they chiefly relate to and arise out of a grand scheme for the moral recovery of the human race from ignorance, vice, and wretchedness. They speak of the agents to be employed in it, and especially of the great agent, the REDEEMER Himself; and of those mighty and awful proceedings of providence as to the nations of the earth, by which judgment and mercy are exercised with reference both to the ordinary principles of moral government, and especially to this restoring Economy, to its struggles, its oppositions, and its triumphs. They all meet in CHRIST, as in their proper centre, and in Him only, however many of the single lines, when considered apart, may be imagined to have another direction, and though they may pass through intermediate events. "If we look," says Bishop Hurd, "into the prophetic writings, we find, that prophecy is of a prodigious extent; that it commenced from the fall of man, and reaches to the consummation of all things; that for many ages it was delivered darkly, to few persons, and with large intervals from the date of one prophecy to that of another; but, at length, became more clear, more frequent, and was uniformly carried on in the line of one people, separated from the rest of the world—among other reasons assigned, for this principally, to be the repository of the Divine oracles; that, with some intermission, the spirit of prophecy subsisted among that people, to the coming of Christ; that He Himself and his Apostles exercised this power in the most conspicuous manner; and left behind them many predictions, recorded in the books of the New Testament, which profess to respect very distant events, and even run out to the end of time, or, in St. John's expression, to that period, when the mystery of God shall be perfected.' Further, besides the extent of this prophetic scheme, the dignity of the Person whom it concerns, deserves our consideration. He is described in

(8) Vide Chap. XVI.

terms which excite the most august and magnificent ideas. He is spoken of, indeed, sometimes as being the seed of the woman, and as the Son of man; yet so as being at the same time of more than mortal extraction. He is even represented to us, as being superior to men and angels; as far above all principality and power; above all that is accounted great, whether in heaven or in earth; as the Word and Wisdom of God; as the Eternal Son of the Father; as the Heir of all things, by whom He made the worlds; as the brightness of His glory, and the express image of his person. We have no words to denote greater ideas than these: the mind of man cannot elevate itself to nobler conceptions. Of such transcendent worth and excellence is that Jesus said to be, to whom all the prophets bear witness!

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Lastly, the declared purpose for which the Messiah, prefigured by so long a train of prophecy, came into the world, corresponds to all the rest of the representation. It was not to deliver an oppressed nation from civil tyranny, or to erect a great civil empire, that is, to achieve one of those acts which history accounts most heroic. No: it was not a mighty state, a victor people

Non res Romanæ perituraque regna

that was worthy to enter into the, contemplation of this Divine Person: It was another and far sublimer purpose, which he came to accomplish; a purpose, in comparison of which all our policies are poor and little, and all the performances of man as nothing. It was to deliver a world from ruin; to abolish sin and death; to purify and immortalize human nature; and thus, in the most exalted sense of the words, to be the Saviour of men and the blessing of all nations. There is no exaggeration in this account. I deliver the undoubted sense, if not always the very words of Scripture. Consider then to what this representation amounts. Let us unite the several parts of it, and bring them to a point. A spirit of prophecy pervading all time-characterizing one person, of the highest dignity-and proclaiming the accomplishment of one purpose, the most beneficent, the most divine, the imagination itself can project. Such is the Scriptural delineation, whether we will receive it or no, of that economy which we call prophetic."

4. Prophecy in this peculiar sense, and on this ample scale, is peculiar to the Religious system of the Holy Scriptures. Nothing like it is found any where beside; and it accords perfectly with

that system, that nothing similar should be found elsewhere. "The prophecies of Scripture," says that accomplished scholar, Sir W. Jones, "bear no resemblance in form or style to any that can be produced from the stores of Grecian, Indian, Persian, or even Arabian learning. The antiquity of those compositions, no man of learning doubts; and the unstrained application of them to events long subsequent to their publication, is a solid ground of belief, that they were genuine predictions, and consequently inspired." The advantage of this species of evidence belongs then exclusively to our Revelation. Heathenism never made any clear and well founded pretensions to it. Mahometanism, though it stands itself as a proof of the truth of Scripture Prophecy, is unsupported by a single prediction of its own. "To the Christian only belongs this testimony of his faith; this growing evidence. gathering strength by length of time, and affording from age to age fresh proofs of its Divine origin. As a majestic river expands itself more and more the farther it removes from its source, so prophecy, issuing from the first promise in paradise as its fountain-head, acquired additional strength and fulness as it rolled down successive ages, and will still go on increasing in extent and grandeur, until it shall finally lose itself in the ocean of Eternity."

5. The objection which has been raised to Scripture Prophecy from its supposed obscurity, has no solid foundation. There is, it is true, a prophetic language of symbol, and emblem; but it is a language which is definite and not equivocal in its meaning, and as easily mastered as the language of poetry, by attentive persons. This, however, is not always used. The style of the prophecies of Scripture very often differs in nothing from the ordinary style of the Hebrew poets; and, in not a few cases, and those too on which the Christian builds most in the argument, it sinks into the plainness of historical narrative. Some degree of obscurity is essential to prophecy: for the end of it was not to gratify human curiosity, by a detail of future events and circumstances; and too great clearness and speciality might have led to many artful attempts to fulfil the predictions, and so far the evidence of their accomplishment would have been weakened. The two great ends of prophecy, are, to excite expectation before the event, and then to confirm the truth by a striking and unequivocal fulfilment; and it is a sufficient answer to the allegation of the obscurity of the prophecies of Scripture, that they have abundantly accomplished those objects, among the most intelligent and investigating, as well as among the simple and unlearned VOL. L.

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