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But Jesus and his Apostles, usually, applied the prophecies singly and independently on each other, as so many different arguments for the general truth of the Gospeln.
Could they do otherwise, when the occasions offered, in the course of their ministry, to which those prophecies were to be applied ? Or, could they do better, in their discourses to the people, to whom the argument from single prophecies would be more familiar, than that complicated one, arising from a whole system? Does it follow, because the prophecies were applied singly, that therefore they might not with good reason be applied systematically; or that they may not now be so applied, when we have to do with those, who are capable of entering into this sort of argumentation? Will it be said that, because the moral precepts of the Gospel are delivered singly, there is therefore no such thing as a system of morality, or that the subject may not be treated with propriety, and with advantage too, in that form ?
On the whole, the prophecies of the Old and New Testament, having clearly all the qualities of what we call a system, that is, con
u Dr. MIDDLETON, p. 139.
sisting of many particulars, dependent on each SERMON other, and intimately connected by their reference to a common end, there is no reason why they may not be considered in this light; and there is great reason why they should be so considered, since otherwise, on many occasions, we shall not do justice to the argument itself.
To return then to the text (which implies the existence and use of such a system) and to conclude with it. The spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. This angelic information presents, at first sight, an idea stupendous indeed, but, on such a subject, suitable enough to our expectations. It offers no violence to the natural sense of the human mind; but, on the contrary, hath every thing in it to engage pur belief and veneration.
Such is the idea of Prophecy, contemplated in itself. What conclusions (of importance, as we suppose, to the right apprehension and further vindication of prophecy) may be drawn from that idea, will be next considered.
The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of
This principle has been explained at large. It affirms that Jesus, whose person and cha
racter and history are sufficiently known from SERMON the books of scripture, is the end and object of the prophetic system, contained in those books.
We are now at liberty to reason from this principle. Whatever conclusions are fairly drawn from it, must to the believer appear, as certain truths ; must to the unbeliever
appear, as very proper illustrations of that principle.
In general, if difficulties can be removed by pursuing and applying scriptural principles, they are fairly removed : and the removal of every such difficulty, on these grounds, must be a presuñption in favour of that system, whether we call it of Prophecy, or Revelation, which is thus found to carry its own vindication with it.
From the principle of the text may, I think,
, be deduced, among others, the following conclusions; all of them tending to clear the subject of prophecy, and to obviate some or other of those objections, which prejudiced or hasty reasoners have been disposed to make to it.
I. My first conclusion is,“ That, on the idea of such a scheme of prophecy, as the text supposes, a considerable degree of obscurity
may be reasonably expected to attend the delivery of the divine predictions."
There are general reasons which shew that prophecy, as such, will most probably be thus delivered. For instance, it has been observed, that, as the completion of prophecy is left, for the most part, to the instrumentality of free agents, if the circumstances of the event were predicted with the utmost precision, either human liberty must be restrained ; or human obstinacy might be tempted to form, the absurd indeed, but criminal purpose, of counteracting the prediction. On the contrary, by throwing some part of the predicted event into shade, the moral faculties of the agent have their proper play, and the guilt of an intended opposition to the will of heaven is avoided. This reason seems to have its weight: and many others might still be mentioned. But I argue, at present, from the particular principle, under consideration.
An immense scheme of prophecy was ultimately designed to bear testimony to the
person and fortunes of Jesus. But Jesus was not himself to come, till what is called the last age of the world, nor all the purposes of his com