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will be reduced under three heads, in giving some account, First, Of the Structure, and the Contents, of Prophecy. Secondly, Of its Use and Design in reference to the several periods in which it was given. Thirdly, Of the Proofs which it bears of a distinct. Inspiration, manifested in the accomplishment of its Predictions.
It may be observed, however, that the view which I propose to take of it under the Two First of these heads, will be such as to combine with the argument of the Last of them. For Prophecy, in its Structure, and in its Use and Design, if I am able to represent it truly in these respects, contains much to exercise our attention. The fulfilment of its predictions, no doubt, is the one decisive test of its Inspiration. To this test it must be brought; and there the proof, if it hold good, is simple and direct. But yet, upon the use of so much reflexion as so great a question requires, and to persons who will take the pains of putting together the notices which there are of a singular wisdom pervading the volume of Prophecy, that wisdom seen, as well in its matter, as in its adaptation to the supposed course of the divine Economy, there is a satisfaction to be had of no small value; a satisfaction which is of the nature of a positive evidence, and which, though it will vary in its degree to different minds, according to their habits or their capacity of judging of things in this way, yet can be inconsiderable If therefore I can contribute to this kind
of conviction by some leading ideas, taken from a survey of Prophecy, they will tend, with the other proof, to one and the same result. Indications of design, of fitness, and wisdom, as well as of internal truth, will coalesce with the evidence of predictions fulfilled. Both will support the conclusion sought to be established, the Inspiration of Prophecy, or in the words of Scripture, that " Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."-The line of investigation thus described, it remains for me to pursue it.
But I must be permitted to clear my way for that purpose by some preliminary observations on one material point, the general state of the Christian Evidences. For Prophecy is but a single branch of them. We must look at them in a collective view, thereby to apprehend the connexion in which that one stands with the rest, and form a more discriminating judgment of the value, and the application to be made, of the results we may obtain from our particular inquiry. To these preliminary observations I shall devote the remainder of my present discourse.
It is possible that in treating of this, and perhaps some other parts of my subject, I shall pass into details of argument which may seem to convey less of the instruction, proper to course, than might be desired by
a Christian disthose of those of my au
dience who have made a progress in their religion beyond the scope of such considerations. To men already satisfied of the truth, and the importance, of the Gospel, few things are less acceptable than to be recalled from the career of their past conviction, to take up again the original proofs of their faith, and resume the principles of an inquiry which they have had happily answered in the effect of a well-persuaded reason and a regulated life. To such persons the debate with Scepticism is a tedious and worn out speculation. Their life has outrun the question. They enjoy what we are asking them to believe. But I know not how I should acquit myself to the duty of this Lecture, or to the intentions of the distinguished Founder of it, if I declined any kind of discussion likely to enforce a more correct estimate of the real extent of the whole evidences of our Religion, or of that one of them which we have more immediately before us. His designs would rather point to a track of discussion which the ordinary tenour of theological discourse would exclude. With some regard, therefore, to a special duty so understood, I shall proceed with what I have to offer upon the connected state of the Christian Evidences.
Whenever the truth of Christianity is examined, there is a certain body of evidence, which taken together constitutes the proper and adequate answer to that inquiry; which evidence, therefore,
ought not to be divided, so long as the inquiry is supposed to be still open. If it be asked, what are the constituent parts of this body of evidence, they include, among other topics, the following most commonly insisted on :-the Miracles of our Saviour and his Apostles; the series of Prophecy; the extraordinary perfection and sanctity of His Moral Doctrine; His own Character, as expressed in His Life upon earth; the rapid and triumphant Propagation of His Religion under the special circumstances of that event; the singular adaptation of the Religion itself to the nature and condition of man, both in its form and in its essential pro
These topics, prominent as they are when separately taken, compose only one subject of connected and harmonizing proof. However different the ground and principle of reason in each of them may be, the effect of them is to be united, and it bears upon one and the same point in combining to make up that moral evidence by which it has pleased the Almighty to ascertain His last revelation to us. And as each of these arguments, supposing the matter of them to be truly alleged, possesses some force in concluding upon the question at issue; so it may be observed of them, which indeed is only a modification of the same remark, that they are all of a kind which it comes within the power of our common reason to apprehend; and they are satisfactory, because they are so in
telligible, and answer entirely to the natural sense and judgment of our minds, independently of the accidents of previous study, or of any peculiar modes of thinking. Agreeably to the design of the religion itself, they carry with them an universality of application. Prophecy, verified in the accomplishment of its predictions, attests the authentic inspiration by which it was given. Miracles, public unequivocal miracles exhibited, bring home to the very senses of men the intervention of a divine power; competently witnessed and recorded, they transmit the conviction from age to age. Unexampled and perfect moral purity of doctrine seems to be, in fact, what it pretends to be, an emanation from the source of all Rectitude and Holiness. The life and character of the Founder of Christianity have no prototype in the examples of human virtue. The fitness of his Religion, in every part of it, to the exigencies of the Being to whom it is tendered, gives to it a compendious practical authority, which almost supersedes the labour of deduction, by an intimacy of use and relation, identifying the very nature of man in his greatest needs, his best hopes, and his most rational desires, with the resources of the dispensation tendered to his acceptance.
Such are the force and tenour of the evidences of Christianity, if, as I have said, the matter of them be trully alleged; that is, if we have well attested miracles and prophecies, and the other arguments