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variety of distant, or, at least, future events, SERMOR inscrutable to human sagacity, and respecting one person (whom we will call, Messiah) have been by different men, and at different times, predicted. These events have accordingly come to pass, in the history and fortunes of one person ; in such sort, that each is seen to be, in a proper sense, fulfilled in him, and all together in no other person whatsoever: There fore the prediction of these events was divinely inspired : or (which comes to the same thing) therefore the person, claiming under these predictions to be the Messiah, or person foretold, hath his claims confirmed and justified by the highest authority, that of God himself."

Such is the argument from prophecy : and

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c Yet hear in how decisive a tone a certain writer, of no small account with the infidel party, reprobates this, argument:~" Je dis de plus, qu'aucune prophétie ne “sauroit faire autorité pour moi.” [Rousseau, Euvres T. III. p. 156. La Haye, 1762.] “ I say," says Mr. Rous- . seau, that the argument from prophecy can have no

weight with me.” If you ask his reason, it follows. “Because, to give it any authority, three conditions are

required, the concurrence of which is impossible. First, “I must have been, myself, a witness of the prophecy, “ when delivered. Secondly, I must have been, myself, a “witness of the event: And lastly, I must have it demon

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on this foundation, Jesus assumes to be the Messiah; and his religion, to be DIVINE.

“ strated to me that the agreement between the prophecy “and the event could not have been fortuitous. For

though the prophecy were clearer, and more precise, “ than a geometrical axion, yet as the clearness of a pre« diction made at hazard, does not render the accom“plishment of it impossible, this accomplishment, allow« ing it to take place, proves nothing, strictly speaking, “ in favour of the person who foretold it.”

First, he says, He must himself have been a witness of the prophecy. But why so ? Is there no way of being reason. ably assured that a prophecy has been delivered, unless one has been actually present at the delivery of it? Does any one doubt, whether Socrates told his friend that he should die within three days' time, because he did not hear these words from the mouth of the philosopher ? But, there is less reason still to doubt whether Jesus uttered the prophecies, ascribed to him in the Gospel.

Next, Ile must have been, himself, a witness of the event. With just as good reason, as of the prophecy. However, it so happens that we are, or may be, if we please, witnesses of the events, foretold in many prophecies. What does he think of the dispersion of the Jews, for instance ? Is he not a witness of this event?

But lastly, He must have it demonstrated to him that the agreement between the prophecy and the event could not have been fortuitous.. What, will nothing less than demonstration satisfy him? Will not a high degree of probability serve him to form a conclusion upon, nay, and to regulate his conduct ? : And will he stand out against the strongest degree of evidence, short of mathematical, or a proof à la Il. Let us now see, what the amount of that SERMON

IV. evidence is, which results from this kind of proof.


Careless talkers may say, and sometimes

that prophecy is but an art of conjecturing shrewdly; that the sagacity of one man is seen to be vastly superior to that of another ; that, in some men, the natural faculty may be so improved by experience, as to look like divination; and that no precise bounds can be set to its powers.” Light or sceptical minds may,

I say, amuse themselves with such fancies: but serious men will readily acknowledge, That many future events, especially, if remote,

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rigueur, as he terms it, in a subject, where, from the nature of it, mathematical certainty is not to be had ?

Surely one needs be no great philosopher to see that all which is wanting to give authority to the argument from prophecy, is, That we have reason to admit the delivery of a prediction that we have reason to admit the completion of it and that we have reason to think the agreement between the prediction and the event not fortuitous. And where is the impossibility that these three reasons should concur? - It is plain that the only one of these three reasons that appears in any degree problematical is the last concerning the completion of a prophecy in its event, whether it be fortuitous or not. Have I not reason then to say, as I do below p. 81, 82, that the strength of the infidel cause lies in this last consideration. But what that strength is, we shall see as we go along.

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or extraordinaryd, or described with some degree of particularity, are not within the ability of the human mind to predict. And, to cut off all occasion of cavil, let it be owned, that the argument under consideration is, or ought to be, drawn from the completion of prophecies, so qualified.

To evade the force, which this argument apparently carries with it, it must then be said, · That the completion of any particular prophecy, alleged, was fortuitous, or, what we call, a lucky hit.

“ Coincidencies of this sort, we may be told, are very frequent. In the ceaseless revolution of human affairs, some event or other will be

d Socrates foretold that he should dye within three days : and the event followed. -- Est apud Platonem Socrates, cùm esset in custodiâ publicâ, dicens Critoni suo familiari, sibi post tertium diem esse moriendum -- quod, ut est dictum, sic scribitur contigisse [Cic. de Div. 1. i. c. 25.] Jesus forear. told that he should suffer death by crucifixion. [John iii. 14. viii. 28. xii. 32.] He, likewise, foretold that he should rise from the dead, within three days after his crucifixion. [John ii. 19. Matth.xii. 39, 40.) --The first of these predictions might be a sagacious conjecture. Can it be said of such, as the two-last, Augurium;! ratio est, et conjectura futuri ?

Ovid. Trist. 1. I. viii. 51..



turning up, which may give a countenance to the wildest and most hazardous conjecture. Hence it is, that every groundless fear; every dream, almost, has the appearance of being realized by some corresponding accident; which will not be long in occurring to those, who are upon the watch to make such discoveries. Upon these grounds, the superstition of omens hath, at all times, been able to sustain itself; and to acquire a degree of credit, even with wise men.

We see, then, that chance, in a good degree, supplies the place of inspiration: and that He, who sets up for a Prophet, is likely to drive a safe, as well as gainful trade ; especially, if he have but the discretion not to deal too freely in precise descriptions of times, and persons e: a consideration, of great moment to the men of this craftf; and which hath not been overlooked by those, whom we account true prophets.”



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e Hoc si est in libris, in quem hominem, et in quod tempus est? Callidè eniin, qui illa composuit, perfecit, ut, quodcunque accidisset, prædictum videretur, hominum et temporum definitione sublatd - said, in discredit of the Sibylline oracles [De Div. 1. ii. p. 295. fol. Lutet. 1565] : how far applicable to the scriptural prophecies, will be seen in its place.

f Διά το όλως είναι αμάρτημα έλαττον, δια των γενών τα πράγμαλος λέγεσιν οι μάνιες. And again -οι χρησμολόγοι, ε προσ

. oi , é ogízorlds wóts. Aristot. Rhet. I. üii. c. v.


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