« PreviousContinue »
USE AND INTENT OF PROPHECY
SEVERAL AGES OF THE WORLD.
IN SIX DISCOURSES,
DELIVERED AT THE TEMPLE CHURCH IN APRIL AND
PUBLISHED AT THE DESIRE OP, AND DEDICATED TO, THE MASTERS OF THE
TWO HONORABLE SOCIETIES OF THE TEMPLE.
That the reader may not be deceived, it is proper to tell him here that he is not to expect in the following Discourses an answer to a book lately published, intitled, Grounds and Reasons,' &c. : that work was undertaken, and has been discharged to the satisfaction of the public by a much abler hand. When I entered on the design of forming these Discourses, it was with a view of showing the use and intent of prophecy in the several
ages of the world, and the manifest connexion between the prophecies of every age. They who consider the prophecies under the Old Testament as so many predictions only, independent of each other, can never form a right judgment of the argument for the truth of Christianity drawn from this topic; nor be able to satisfy themselves, when they are confronted with the objections of unbelievers. It is an easy matter for men of leisure and tolerable parts to find difficulties in particular predictions, and in the application of them made by writers who lived many hundred years ago, and who had many ancient books and records of the Jewish church, from which they drew many passages, and perhaps some prophecies; which books and records we have not to enable us to understand and to justify their applications. But it is not so easy a matter to show, or to persuade the world to believe, that a chain of prophecies, reaching through several thousand years, delivered at different times, yet manifestly subservient to one and the same administration of Providence from beginning to end, is the effect of art and contrivance, and religious fraud ; that for so many ages successively proper persons should be found to carry on the cheat, and that none of them should have any interest to serve by betraying the secret, or so much bonesty and regard to truth as to discover it.