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they should be so applied. These applications SERMON would not be equally justifiable in other works of fancy, written in that time; but the knowledge, we have of the author's general purpose in writing, makes them reasonable in this.

It may appear from these examples “, that, whenever a general scheme is known to be pursued by a writer, whose real or assumed character gives him a right to deal in secondary senses and prophetic anticipations, that scheme becomes the true key, in the hands of his reader, for unlocking the meaning of particular parts; of many parts, which would otherwise not be seen clearly and distinctly to refer to such scheme. The observation applies to the inspired writers, in all its force. We understand, that they had one common and predominant scheme in view, which was to bear testimony to Jesus. Their writings are, then, to be interpreted in conformity to that scheme. Not only the more direct prophecies require this interpretation ; but, if we will judge in this, as we do in other similar instances, whatever passages occur in those writings, which bear an apt and easy resemblance to the history

- I take these examples to be more in point, than those given by Bishop Butler in his Analogy, P. II, c. vii. p. 386. Lond. 1740: not but those, too, have their weight: VOL. V.


SERMON of Jesus, may, or rather must, in all reaso17

able construction, be applied to him.

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Whence we see (to mention it by the way) that, if no prophecy in the Old Testament had applied to Christ directly in its primary sense, Christianity might, yet, support itself on the evidence of prophecy. For the evidence, arising from a secondary sense of prophecies, is real evidence; and was certainly admitted, as such, by that great man, whose mistakes on this subject have afforded the occasion of so much vain triumph to infidelity.

Fancy, no doubt, may grow wanton in this sort of applications. It may find, in the prophet or poet, what was never designed by either: but, in the circumstances supposed, the severest reader will not deny, that much was probably designed by both. It is impossible to lay down general rules, that shall prevent all abuse in the interpretation of such writings. But good sense will easily see, in particular cases, where this liberty of interpreting is, in fact, abused.

It is obvious to remark, that this use of prophecy doth not commence, till the correspond

s Grotius.


ing facts can be produced ; that is, till the prophecies are seen to be fulfilled. But this circumstance is no discredit to the prophetic system ; which pretends not to give immediate conviction, but to lay in, beforehand, the means of conviction to such as shall be in a condition to compare, in due time, the prediction with the event. Till then, prophecy serves only to raise a general expectation of the event predicted; that is, it serves to make men attentive and inquisitive, and to prepare them for that full conviction, which it finally hath in view. And this service, the prophecies of the Old Testament actually did the Jews, who were led by them to expect the Messiah, when he, in fact, appeared among them. And, had they pursued this reasonable method of interpreting the prophecies, not by their prejudices, but by corresponding events, they must have been further led to acknowledge his mission, as being evidently attested by predictions, so fulfilled. But their capital mistake lay in supposing, that their prophecies were sufficiently clear, without the help of any comment from succeeding events; and thus, what they could not see beforehand, they would not acknowledge, when these events came to pass.



It follows from 'what hath been said, that the obscurity of the Jewish prophecies concludes nothing against the use of those writings, or against the application of them, which Christians now make. Their declared use is posterior to the facts they adumbrate; whence the intervening obscurity of those writings is no just ground of complaint: and the application of them to Jesus, now that history hath taught us to understand them better, is made on principles to which no sober man can object.

On the whole, the general evidence for the truth of Christianity, as resulting from the seriptural prophecies, though possibly not that which some may wish or expect, is yet apparently very considerable. Some coincidencies might fall out, by accident; and more, might be imagined. But when so many, and such prophecies are brought together, and compared with their corresponding events, it becomes ridiculous (because the effect is, in no degree, proportioned to the cause) to say of such coincideneies, that they are the creatures of fancy, or could have been the work of chance.


The text supplies the only just account of SERMON such a phænomenon : and the spirit of God, methinks, calls aloud to us, in the language of his Son - These things have I told you

before they come, that when they come to pass, ye may believe, that I am He.

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