Proof of it in the Predictions concerning the Descendants of Ishmael, and the Succession of the Four Empires.

DANIEL II. 21, 22.

And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:

He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.

THE Conditions which have been laid down as being at once necessary, and sufficient, to establish the inspiration of any given prophecy, are the following:-That the prediction be known to have been promulgated before the event; that the event in question be such as could not have been foreseen, at the time when it was predicted, by any effort of human reason; and that the event and the prediction correspond together in a clear and adequate

accomplishment. Forged prophecies, late in their coming forth, will be excluded, by the first condition; probable anticipations, by the second; and the equivocal coincidences, by the last, from having any place in the argument.

Under such a view of single portions of prophecy, they are put strictly on their trial. Nothing is supposed of them, but that they are so many alleged predictions found in an ancient record. Afterwards, when we have examined into the time when they were delivered, and the nature of the things foretold, and verified their completion, we shall know what to think of the prescience which dictated them, and how far they are to be reckoned among the essential and original proofs of a prophetic inspiration.

But it should withal be borne in mind, that the principles here laid down admit of some latitude, within which there is room for a modified, but, at the same time, a real and effective evidence. This point is of so great importance to be clearly understood, that I shall crave your attention whilst I endeavour to place it in its true light.

The first condition is, "that the prediction be "known to have been promulgated before the cc event." If the pretended prophecy be known to have been published after the event, there is an end at once of its credit and pretensions. But there is a wide difference between knowing that any given

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prophecy was so uttered after the thing described in it had come to pass, and not knowing upon the highest and most incontrovertible evidence that it was uttered before. When it was delivered, is a fact to be examined; and though matters of fact are in themselves the most absolute and determinate of things, who knows not how many shades of certainty, or uncertainty, may be blended with our information of them? Circumstances of vagueness, or obscurity, attending the first promulgation of some of the prophecies, must, therefore, be allowed to qualify our conviction of their true antiquity, so long as we are inquirers into that particular point. But the less certainty of the fact will never amount to a disproof of it. And when the real grounds of belief are on one side, they may be weak, or they may be strong, probable or decisive; only such as they are, our belief must be governed by them, if we profess to inquire at all.

So of the second condition proposed; that "the



" event be such as could not have been foreseen by any efforts of human reason;" it will be seen that some things are so clearly beyond the reach of all human foresight, that the predicting of them compels us at once to admit a divine communication; whilst, in others, the supernatural prescience even of a real prophecy may not be so manifest and unequivocal. For the intelligence and forecast de-. rived from a well-studied experience, and the acuter efforts of a daring speculation, have enabled men at

times to predict considerable things without the gift of any supernatural illumination. But though a sagacious wisdom may calculate upon the future, and a felicitous ingenuity usurp upon it, there are limits to the greatest essays of this kind, and the question to be answered is, how far it is credible that such particular prophecies as we have before us in Scripture, could have been foretold or foreseen by man; even if they are not such, which many of them are, as clearly to exceed the range of his sagacity, and all the principles of his knowledge.

Again, "the correspondence between the event " and the prophecy" may vary in fulness and precision. For either the prophecy may not have been couched in terms definite and perspicuous, or it may have been fulfilled less rigorously, or history may fail to supply from its mutilated pages the information necessary to illustrate the fulfilment. Under any of these circumstances, the prophecy will fall short of a direct and indisputable illustration of a divine prescience, and yet may retain force enough to engage our attention, and incline our belief, and contribute, in its degree, to the general proof of Revelation. For God may have so tempered the evidence which he designed to give us, as to spare it in some points, and to shed it more fully in others; and in the texture of prophecy, though there are some of its predictions which neither now, nor perhaps ever, could be said to furnish an explicit proof

of their divine origin; yet, by their number, variety, and connexion, even these minor elements of the prophetic volume may serve to multiply the presumptions on its side, and corroborate our faith in that one system of Scripture in which they all inhere.

The statement, thus made, of the disparity of the prophetic evidence, which may be supposed, and which indeed exists, involves nothing illusory in the argument, or disadvantageous to Revelation. Disadvantageous to Revelation that statement cannot be; for this reason; if every separate part of the proof of religion were to be uniformly complete and decisive, there is no cause to think that so many various and connected attestations of it would have been given; the very appearance of which, a case not to be denied, leads us rather to expect that the parts of them would not be severally a perfect and final evidence.

With these reflections, which may have some bearing upon the sequel of my present discourse, I shall advert to two other examples of prediction; and these belonging, as the last which have been examined, to the Pagan branch of Prophecy. I concluded my foregoing discourse with some of the predictions which describe the state of Egypt. It is an adjoining country, that of Arabia; and there too Prophecy has pitched her tent, and given her oracle in the desert.

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