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Sermon ing the kingdom of the Messiah; that it never
lost sight of that future æconomy; and only produced it into clearer view, as the season approached for the introduction of it.
Thus Much concerning the order and method of the Jewish prophecies ; in which one cannot but adore the profound wisdom of their author. The civil prophecies are, at once, the vehicle, and the credentials, of the spiritual, concerning the first coming of Jesus; and these last, in their turn, support the credit of others, which point still further at his second coming: a subject, more than intimated by
: the legal prophets, but resumed and amply displayed by the evangelical. Whence we see, that the prophetic system is so constructed, as, in the progress and various evolutions of it, to illustrate itself, and to afford an internal evidence of its divinity. One great purpose pervades the whole: and the parts, of which it consists, gradually prepare and mutually sustain each other.
But this subject, so curious and important, is not yet to be dismissed. It remains to be considered, whether chance, or imposture, can in any degree account for so extensive, so connected, and so intricate a system.
On the very face of the prophetic scriptures Sermon it appears, that one ultimate
is in the contemplation of all the prophets. This
purpose is unfolded by successive predictions, delivered in distant times, under different circumstances, and by persons, who caạnot be suspected of acting in concert with each other. It does not appear, that the later prophets always understood the drift of the more ancient; or, that either of them clearly apprehended the whole scope and purpose of their own predictions. Yet, on comparing all their numerous prophecies with each other, and with the events, in which it is now presumed they have had their completion, we find a perfect harmony and consistency between them. Nothing is advanced by one prophet, that is contradicted by another. An unity of design is conspicuous in them all; yet without the least appearance of collusion, since each prophet hath his own peculiar views, and enlarges on facts and circumstances, unnoticed by any other.
Further still, these various and successive prophecies are so intimately blended, and, as we may say, incorporated with each other, that the credit of all depends on the truth of each. For, the accomplishment of them fall
SERMON ing in different times, every preceding pro
phecy becomes surety, as it were, for those that follow; and the failure of any one must bring disgrace and ruin on all the rest.
Then, again, consider that the prophetic spirit, which kept operating so uniformly and perpetually in what is called the former age, ceased at that very time, when the great object, it had in view, was disclosed; when that future economy, which it first and last
predicted, was introduced: a time, too, which was precisely determined by the old prophets themselves. Could they answer for what design or chance might be able to bring about? Is it credible, that this perennial fount of prophecy, which ran so copiously from Adam to
Christ, and watered all the ages of the Jewish church, should stop, at once, in so critical a season ; and should never flow again in any future
age; if fortune, or fraud, or fanaticism, had dispensed its streams, if any thing indeed, but the hand of God, had opened its source, and directed its current?
Nor let it be objected that a succession of prophets was interrupted for some ages before the coming of Christ. It was so: but not, till preceding prophets had marked out the precise
time of his coming 5; not, till Malachi, with SERMON whom the word of prophecy ceased for a time, had foretold that this interrupted series should be resumed and finally closed by Elijah, the last Jewish prophet and precursor of the Messiah b; and not, till it had been expressly declared, that this eclipsed light of prophecy should break forth again with redoubled lustre, in the days of the Messiahi. Who would not conclude, then, from this very intermission, that prophecy was given, or withheld, as the wisdom of God ordained, and not as the caprice or policy of man directed?
It may not be pretended, that the
in which prophecy finally ceased among the Jews, will account for the suppression of this faculty, * for that it was an age of the greatest turbúlency and disorder, and that their ruin and dispersion soon after followed.” This pretence, I say, is altogether frivolous. For it was precisely in those circumstances, that their ancient prophets were most numerous, and their inspirations most abundant. It was during the calamitous season of their captivities, that the
g Isaiah vii. 16. Daniel ix. 24.
SERMON prophetic power had been most signally exer
cised among the Jews. And now, when they were carried captive into all lands, not a single prophet arose, or hath arisen to this day, either for their reproof, or consolation k.
If it be said, " that the
oracles ceased, too, about the same time, and that the same cause, namely, the diffused light and knowledge of the Augustan age, was fatal to both ;" besides, that this diffusion of light, for obvious reasons, was not likely to affect the Jewish prophecies, and did not, as we certainly know, in any degree diminish the credit of them, with that people, the fact itself, assumed in the objection, is plainly false. For the pagan oracles continued for several ages after that of Augustus ; they became less frequent, only, as Christianity gained ground; and were silenced, but among the last struggles of ex
k İs not their case exactly delineated by the prophet Ezekiel - Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumour shall be upon rumour ; then shall they SEEK A VISION OF THE PROPHET; i. e, they shall seek what they shall not find, for the Law shall perish from the priest, and COUNCIL from the ancients ; i. e. their ecclesiastical and civil polity, to which prophecy was annexed, shall be utterly abolishei. See Ezekiel vii. 26. and compare Isaiah iii. 1, 2.