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gard to some of those prophecies in which the Messiah is directly foretold; and, therefore, the argument does not depend upon the clearness of any single prophecy, or upon the interpretation which may be given to this or that passage, but it arises from a connected view of the direct predictions, the secondary prophecies, and the types, as supporting and illustrating one another. Allow as much as any rational inquirer can allow to the shrewdness of conjecture, to accidental coincidence, and to human preparation, still the induction of particulars that cannot be accounted for by any of these means, is so complete and so striking, as to constitute a plain incontrovertible argument.
From the exact fulfilment of predictions extending through many centuries, uttered by different prophets, with different imagery, yet pointing to one train of events, and marking a variety of circumstances, in their nature the most contingent; from the aptness of all the parts of the intermediate dispensation to shadow forth the blessings and the character of that ultimate dispensation which it announced, and from the sublime literal exposition which the events of the ultimate dispensation give to all those prophecies under the preparatory dispensation, which are expressed in language too exalted for the objects to which they were then applied; from these things laid together, there arises, to any person who considers them with due care, the most satisfying conviction that the whole scheme of Christianity was foreseen and foretold under the Old Testament. If you admit this position, there are two consequences which you will admit as flowing from it. The first is, that the prophets under the Old Testament were divinely inspired. The very means, by which you attain a conviction that they prophesied of the gospel, render it manifest that the things foretold were beyond the reach of human sagacity; and there is thus presented to us in the fulfilment of their predictions, an evidence of the truth of the Mosaic dispensation as clear as that arising from the miracles performed by Moses before the children of Israel. The second consequence, and that which we are more immediately concerned in drawing, is this, that the scheme in which the predictions of these prophets were fulfilled is a divine revelation. In order to perceive how this consequence flows from the position which we have
been establishing, you will attend to the two uses of prophecy, its immediate use in the ages in which it was given, and that further use which extends to the latest ages of the world. It is certain that prophecy ministered to the comfort, the instruction, and the hope of those who lived in the days of the prophets; and we know, that the predictions respecting the Messiah were so far understood, as to excite in the whole nation of the Jews an expectation of the Messiah, and to cherish in just and devout men that state of mind, which is beautifully styled by Luke in the second chapter of his gospel," waiting for the consolation of Israel," and "looking for redemption in Jerusalem." But that this was not the whole intention of the prophecies concerning the Messiah, appears indisputably from hence, that, according to the account which has been given of these prophecies, they contain a further provision than was necessary for that end. There were many parts of them which were not understood at that time, but were left to be unfolded to the age which was to behold their fulfilment. As such parts were useless to the age which received the prophecy, we must believe that, if they had any use, they were designed for that future age, and that the prophets, as the apostle Peter speaks, "ministered not unto themselves, but unto us, the things which are now reported by them that have preached the gospel."*
Bishop Sherlock wrote his admirable discourses on the use and intent of prophecy in the several ages of the world, to show that prophecy was intended chiefly for the support of faith and religion in the old world, as faith and religion could not have existed in any age after the fall without this extraordinary support; and he has been led, by an attachment to his own system, to express himself in some places of his book to the disparagement of the further use of prophecy. Yet even Bishop Sherlock admits that prophecy may be of great advantage to future ages, and says that it was not unworthy of the wisdom of God to enclose, from the days of old in the words of prophecy, a secret evidence which he intended the world should one
day see. The Bishop has stated in these few words, with his wonted energy and facility of expression, that further
1 Peter i. 12.
use of prophecy of which I am speaking. It is merely a dispute about words, whether the laying up this secret evidence was the primary or the secondary intention of the Giver of prophecy. But it is plain, that when all the notices of the first coming of Christ, that were communicated to different nations, are brought together into our view, and explained by the event, they illustrate, in the most striking manner, both the truth and the importance of Christianity. The gospel appears to be not a solitary unrelated part of the divine economy, but the purpose which God purposed from the beginning; and Jesus comes according to the declared counsel of heaven to do the will of his Father. The miracles which he wrought derive a peculiar confirmation, from being the very works which ancient prophets had foretold as characteristical of the Messiah. Prophecy and miracle, in this way, lend their aid to one another, and give the most complete assurance which can be desired that there is no deception; for as miracles could not have justified the claim of Jesus to the character of Messiah, unless ancient predictions had been fulfilled in him, so the miracles which he wrought were an essential part of that fulfilment; and hence arises the pecular significancy and force of that answer which he made to the disciples of John, when they asked him, “ Art thou he that should come?" "Go," said he, " and show John again those things which ye do hear and see. receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." He refers to his miracles; but he mentions them in the very words of Isaiah, thus conjoining with that divine wisdom which shines in all his discourses, the two great arguments by which his disciples in all succeeding ages were to defend their faith. The internal evidence, too, arising from the nature of his undertaking, is very much heightened, when we see that that undertaking was the completion of the plan of Providence. We are often able to vindicate and explain the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, by referring to the manner in which they were sketched out by the preparatory dispensation; and the intimate connexion of the two systems, which enables us to give a satisfactory account of the peculiarities of the law, reflects much dig
nity upon the gospel. While the kingdoms of this world are spoken of only in so far as the kingdom of the Messiah was to be affected by their fate, we see the servants of the Almighty preparing the way for the Prince of Peace; the continued effusion of the divine Spirit does honour to Jesus; the prophets arise in long succession to bear witness to him; and our respect for the sundry intimations of the will of heaven is concentred in reverence for that scheme towards which all of them tend. In the magnificence of that provision which ushered in the Gospel, we recognise the majesty of God; in the continuity and nice adjustment of its parts, we trace his wisdom; and its increasing light is analogous to that gradual preparation, by which all the works of God advance to maturity.
Such is the support which the truth of Christianity derives from the predictions of the Old Testament respecting the Messiah. The argument from prophecy, therefore, was not, as Mr. Gibbon sarcastically and incorrectly says, merely addressed to the Jews as an argumentum ad hominem. To those to whom the books of the Old Testament are known chiefly if not entirely by the references made to them in the gospel, it affords much confirmation to their faith, and much enlargement of their views with regard to Christianity.
Prideaux-Hartley-Gray-Prettyman's Institutes - Stillingfleet's Orig. Sacræ Chandler-Hurd-Warburton-Newton-Law-Sykes-Kennicot-Randolph's Collation-Geddes's Prospectus -Lowth de Sacrâ Poesi-Horne's Preface to Commentary on the Psalms.
PREDICTIONS DELIVERED BY JESUS.
THE support of which we have hitherto spoken proceeds upon those prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the Messiah, which were fulfilled by his appearing in the flesh. But a due attention to the subject leads us much further, and we soon perceive that the birth of Christ, important and glorious as that event was, far from exhausting the significations given by the ancient prophets, only served to introduce other events most interesting to the human race, which were also foretold, which reach to the end of time, and which, as they arise in the order of Providence, are fitted to afford an increasing evidence of the truth of Christianity.
In entering upon this wide field of argument, which here opens to our view, I think it of importance to direct your attention to the admirable economy with which the prophecies of the Old Testament are disposed. They may be divided into two great classes, as they respect either the temporal condition of the Jews and their neighbours, or that future spiritual dispensation which was to arise in the latter days.
As the whole administration of the affairs of the Jews was for many ages conducted by prophecy, there are, in the Old Testament, numberless predictions concerning the temporal condition of themselves and their neighbours. Some of these predictions were to be fulfilled in a short time, so that the same person who heard the prophecy saw the event. This near fulfilment of some predictions procured credit for others respecting more distant events. "Behold," said the Almighty to the nation of the Jews,