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upon it, whilst it fills the atmosphere around them; no, not even if in a higher strain of malice, they address the great luminary, only, as the apostate Spirit once did, "to tell it how they hate its beams." The fact is not to be denied; the Religion of Nature has had the opportunity of rekindling her faded taper by the Gospel light, whether furtively or unconsciously taken. Let her not dissemble the obligation and the conveyance, and make a boast of the splendour, as though it were originally her own, or had always in her hands been sufficient for the illumination of the World.
At the same time it ought to be understood, that when we venture to judge beforehand, by views of our own, concerning the probable conduct of the Deity in any instance, and to say what He may be expected to do, or not to do, as in the point of giving a Revelation, it is a question we are not equal to, for any very positive solution of it. Sobriety, and diffidence in the determination of our judgment, will here equally become the believer and the unbeliever. For where the justice and the righteousness of His administration are not interested, all our first ideas of it must be few and uncertain. When, therefore, I have pressed the opinion, that it is consistent with reason to look for a divine Revelation, I mean it is consistent with the best reason we can discern, with the obvious appearances of Man's condition, and the acknowledged ideas we hold of the Providence and
Moral Government of God. But in each of these respects enough may be seen to convince us, that the opposite opinion, which objects to Revelation as a thing strange and incredible, is the wrong, the untenable assumption. And herein is contained the view which I have wished to secure to the first consideration of Revealed Religion, viz., that its Evidences offer themselves to us unincumbered by any prejudice or suspicion, attaching to the bare idea of such a gift from God. If they are valid and legitimate Evidences, Evidences such as will bear the test in their proper character, they are adduced in an unexceptionable cause, and to a great end; that end being to cement, or restore, by the medium of a well-authenticated religion, the union between man and his Creator-a purpose of such a kind, that I should place the desire and the hope of finding it had been accomplished, in other words, of finding Revealed Religion to be true, among the first elements of moral wisdom and virtue; though we must take another rule, a more cool, dispassionate judgment along with us, when our object is to examine whether it has been.
The following Discourses treat of one branch of the Evidences of Revelation, the argument of Prophecy. Some investigation is offered of the state of this argument, which forms what may be considered the more complex subject of the Evidences of Religion; belonging at once to the Jewish
and the Christian Revelations; more than any other part of the proof, penetrating both; and opening a wide field of discussion in various directions.
Accordingly it has drawn to itself more of speculation and learned research, than the other topics which enter into the same comprehensive subject; not merely as to the interpretation of particular texts or portions of Prophecy; but as to the Use and Intent of the whole, the Principles by which it is to be interpreted, and the Mode in which it is to be applied. The field of inquiry has been rich in its produce, like "one which God had blessed;" for the produce has proved it was first sown and prepared by Him, and that He had "cast the good seed into the ground;" though the inferior cultivators have not always agreed well together; and some few of them, with too forward a zeal, have put in the sickle before the grain was ripe, and so far, by their unskilful husbandry, have discredited the harvest. But the result upon the whole has been, that their learned and successful labours have gathered in the stores, and made the interpretation and the real evidence of Prophecy, in most of its material subjects, sufficiently accessible to those who are intent on such information; and if much yet remains to be done in the same province of argument, enough has been done to vindicate most amply by this medium of proof the Truth of Revelation.
What I have endeavoured to do has been to investigate the mixt argument of Prophecy, and to state what it is, as derived from its own records, and submitted to be examined. In this general Inquiry, Two objects have been kept chiefly in view: the One, to consider the State of Prophecy in the several Periods of its dispensation; the Other, to reduce to some definite form the proof of its Inspiration and divine Prescience. The First object has led me to trace the history of prophecy, as it lies at large in the Scripture volume, and thence to propose some illustration of its method and order, and also of its use and design, in respect of the seasons at which it was given. The Second has led me to state in a simple, and, I hope, unexceptionable form, what kind of Predictions will answer to the character of divinely-inspired Prophecies, and consequently will possess a decisive and independent evidence of their Inspiration; thence to suggest some means of judging of the argumentative evidence of different parts of Prophecy; and to vindicate its perfect authority by examples of its predictions canvassed and examined: the demonstration of its Prescience being the true and appropriate Test of its divine origin.
But besides its Prescience, there are other notices and characters of the like origin, dispersed throughout its records, and these not the less satisfactory in being less formal and prominent. Some of these internal notices I have endeavoured to
illustrate and improve; and the inquirer, who will be at the pains of making the study for himself, with any degree of patient and connected attention, will easily add many observations to the same effect.
The method which I have followed may be thus stated:
The First of these Discourses is employed in treating of the Christian Evidences in general, and the Connexion of Prophecy with the rest.
The Second, in considering the Moral Contents of the Prophetic Volume, as distinguished from its Predictions.
In the Four next I have entered into the Structure of Prophecy, and the Course of its Dispen
In the Six last, its Inspiration and divine Prescience are examined.
It may be right to premise here, as I have again stated when I come to that part of my inquiry, that, in the Four Discourses allotted to the Structure of Prophecy, the subject is treated on the assumption of the general authority of the Prophetic Revelation being granted. For the question there to be discussed is this:-Supposing Prophecy to have been given, what was its use and intent? what the measure and kind of illumination which it afforded? The question is one for believers, wishing