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Apart from the operation of this command, and a due obedience to it, the mere opportunities afforded by the state of the world, for the extension of Christianity, could not excite any very serious hope of such an effect, however they may favour the possibility of it.
END OF DISCOURSE VIII.
ON THE INSPIRATION OF PROPHECY.
Proof of it in the Predictions concerning the Jewish People.
DEUTERONOMY XXVIII. 59.
Then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance.
It has been urged by the defenders of Revelation, and not by others generally denied, that any one unquestionable miracle would to the eye-witnesses of that miracle be sufficient to prove a revelation attested by it, a suitable moral end of both being supposed. The miracle granted, the inference from it could not be resisted. The acknowledgment of the supernatural agency must be followed by an admission of the doctrine. It is but the connexion which subsists between the lightning and the thunder; when we see the flash, we know the thunder, which follows, comes from the same cloud.
But miracles being to the use of the present age an evidence transmitted by testimony, it has been so ordered, as to this ground of our faith, that the number and variety of the original proofs by miracles, should come in compensation for the loss of force, which those proofs severally might be thought to suffer by transmission. If we have not the conviction which would result from seeing any miracle with our own eyes, we have the satisfaction which rests upon many competently authenticated and recorded. "We are encompassed by a cloud of witnesses," by whom, whatever is wanting in the intensity of the proof as addressed to the senses, is supplied in the extent and accumulation of the same proof addressed to our rational understanding.
Now the force which has been thus ascribed to single miracles, may be attributed also to single prophecies. It might be argued, if the defence of
* Single miracles are often said to have convinced eye-witnesses on the first publication of the Gospel. John vi. 14. "Then those men when they had seen the miracle which Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world." So Chap. ii. 11. &c.
The same Evangelist puts the miracles collectively, for the written evidence to the future faith of the world. Many "other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples "which are not written in this book. But these are written "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of "God." xx. 31.
Revelation required such a mode of argument, that single prophecies, taken alone, are sufficient, under certain conditions, to prove a revelation; and that there are scripture prophecies strictly satisfying such conditions. The conditions, which would confer this cogency of evidence on detached prophecies, are those which are included in the criterion which I have laid down, viz. the known promulgation of the prophecy prior to the event; the clear fulfilment of it; the remoteness of the event itself from all human prescience; conditions which joined together form the true conclusive standard of a prophetic Inspiration. Tried by this standard, the evidence of any particular prophecy, in its original and perfect force, may be either permanent, or temporary. It is permanent, so long as it can be shewn. to be conformable in each point to the test proposed. It declines, and loses something of its force, as an independent proof, when we want the mate rials of information necessary to evince that rigorous conformity of it.
One example of prophecy has been submitted to this test: and the next which I now take up to be examined in like manner, is that portion of the Prophetic Volume which relates to the degraded and exiled state of the Jewish people.
I. The publication of the prophecy in this instance was long anterior to the event. The substance, and the most characteristic circumstances of it, are
contained in the books of Moses, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, from the latter of which I shall hereafter quote a part of it. It is referred to in the book of Nehemiah*, as a prophecy which had been delivered by Moses. The same prophetic subject is resumed in the books of Amos, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, as well as other books of the Old Testament. If, with regard to some of these predictions, as those of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, which are among the latest of them, scepticism should object that they might be grounded upon the pregnant signs, or actual commencement, of the desolation and dispersion which they profess to foreshew: no such surmise can be thrown in the way to invalidate the antiquity of the records of the prophecy included in the books of Moses. For besides other proofs of the authentic æra of those books, and of the prophecies, which they contain, ascribed to Moses, their antiquity, so far as it is involved in the present question, is established by an evidence obvious and conclusive. The division of the monarchy of Israel, after the death of Solomon, placed the books of Moses under the custody of an hostile and acrimonious schism in religion between the two kingdoms of Judah and Samaria; and Samaria, acknowledging the Pentateuch as the basis of its religion, though with a very corrupted and heretical faith, bore a second, and yet more than indepen
* Chap. i. 8.