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answer some beneficial purpose at least; thus enabling us to form a judgment of the future. There may be other, and perhaps stronger, reasons for God's adhering, if we may say so, to general rules ; and who can say how far general rules extend? May we not refer to them, for example, diseases of body and weakness of mind ? for these have their causes, and follow their causes as much as the tide does the moon.
God can, no doubt, remove these causes, or hinder them from operating ; but it is by the same power that he can hinder the tide from flowing, or the moon from drawing it; a power, which, in this latter instance, we do not expect he should exert often, nor perhaps without good cause, in either case. Upon the whole, even a single person, one out of many millions, an atom, compared with the universe, can he wonder that he should be suffered to labor under difficulties and inconveniences, rather than break in upon those general rules, upon the operation of which the happiness of the rest, of the whole, may in a great degree depend? Thus it appears to be in the natural world, and the same respect to regularity in the effects and consequences of things may hold probably in the moral world ; that is, the actions and behaviour of men to one another. Thus one man, by luxury or extravagance, reduces himself to beggary; his poverty involves others in distress who are connected with him; and yet it is still both fitting and necessary that luxury and extravagance should be followed by poverty, and that there should subsist those intercourses and communications between one man and another that make their fortunes dependent upon one another. This is the natural constitution of the world, and is not to be departed from, because it will now and then produce inconveniences to those who do not deserve to suffer them. In short, what we call the course of nature, that is, the ordinary train of cause and effect, is all we have to direct us in the conduct of life ; and though the upholding it often presses hard upon innocent individuals, yet it is necessary for the good of the whole, and therefore perfectly consistent with divine wisdom and goodness, that it should, in general, however, be maintained and upheld.
But thirdly; part of our difficulties are owing to this ; to our expecting too much ; more than we have any reason or authority to expect.
If we find in ourselves any merit or virtue more than in others, we instantly count upon being rewarded by Providence with riches, and grandeur, and honor, and high station. Now this is nowhere promised. Our Saviour indeed says, “If ye seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, these things shall be added unto you. But what things ? Not wealth, or power, or advancement, or such like, but food and raiment ; wbat Christ had been speaking of, and what your Father," he says,
• knoweth that you have need of. The scripture nowhere bids us look for such things as riches or honors, or to pray for them. We are directed to the right use of them, when we have them, and to moderation in the pursuit of them ; and that is all that is said about them. Certainly those received them not who were most in God's favor, the apostles and true followers of Jesus Christ; but quite the contrary. The truth is, the scriptures seem to consider them as hardly of any account or importance; hardly deserving attention, in comparison with the great and glorious objects it sets before us. Or the case may have been this ; riches, and grandeur, &c. may be a blessing or a curse, and are as often one as the other ; therefore for the scriptures to have proposed them absolutely as either, would not have been just or proper. The established course of the world, and the overruling hand of Providence, are both, we trust, in favor of the virtuous and good; but neither seems to promise or even permit that riches and honor should always be their portion. Riches, for example, are generally the earnings of industry, activity, or ingenuity; and should be so ; for how else should there be any encouragement for these qualities? Who, if it were not so, would be industrious, active, or ingenious ? Thus the world, and the business of it, might stand still. But though industry, activity, and ingenuity are sometimes accompanied with virtue, and sometimes not, the persons who possess these qualities will obtain, and from what has been said it seems proper they should do so, those wordly advantages which the good and pious would engross to themselves.
But fourthly and lastly; a principal key to this subject of providence, and the difficulties we are under about it, is contained, in my opinion, in the words of the text, which you will now observe. We know,' says St Paul, that all things work together for good to them that love God;' which I understand to be indirectly telling us, that even the best of us are not 10 look for each event, separately and singly considered, being either pleasant or useful to us; but that, be they what they will in themselves or for the present, they will work together for good; they will so far fall in with, and qualify one another, as that together the amount and issue of them at last will promote our happiness and interest.
This, in the nature of things, is just as possible as that a bitter medicine should mend our health, or a severe discipline or tedious education should be upon the whole beneficial or even necessary. So that it is possible enough, and St Paul, you hear, speaks confidently, that it would be so ; . We know, says he, that all things work together for good.'
Thus it was of old with the good and virtuous. They were taught to expect and endure the chastisement of the Lord; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth ;' and consequently for their good and happiness at last. They suffered afflictions ; many that we should think grievous ; but what then? Their light afflictions, which were but for a moment, worked a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Such is the sound and solid consolation the holy scriptures administer.
Now what is the conclusion from all these things? The works of God prove his kindness as demonstrably as his word assures us of his care and protection. Difficulties and disorders in the world there are; but they do not, when thoroughly considered, at all contradict these arguments and assurances; so that they should not shake either our hope or our trust in him.
Acts XXVIII. 23.
And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his
lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God; persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
There is one proof of Christianity as strong now as it ever was, and which may be made in a good degree intelligible to every capacity; I mean the proof fron prophecy.
Now, therefore, that we are assembled to commemorate the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, I know not how to engage your attention better than by laying before you, and explaining, some of the principal places of the Old Testament where that event is foretold, that you may be able to give one reason, at least, of the faith that is in you, and carry home one considerable argument of the truth and certainty of the religion we profess.
I shall confine myself, as the occasion points out, to the coming of Christ. There are other parts of this evidence, and one in particular, much the most explicit of all; but which, as they relate to the sufferings rather than the early history of our Saviour, I cannot so properly produce at this time. This I mention, that you may not think that what I now offer contains the whole argument, or the proof complete. I will also omit all such prophecies as are either of a more doubtful application, or more difficult to be interpreted.
Before I proceed to exhibit any particular passages, I must direct
your attention to one very essential observation which belongs to them all, which is this; that we are absolutely certain that the prophecies were written many hundred years before the event. I say we are absolutely certain of this, because the prophecies have always been, and are at this day, received and acknowledged by the Jews as genuine parts of the Old Testament. They are found in their bible as well as ours.
The Jews, we all know, are, and ever have been, the declared enemies of Christ and his religion ; we may, therefore, be sure they never forge themselves, nor suffer others to foist in their books, any thing that may favor a cause which they so much hated. Had the books of the Old Testament been in the hands of Christians, it might be suspected that they had found means, after the event, tò insert into them descriptions that suited with it, in order to impose their prophecies upon the world; but as the case stands, this was morally impossible, for the copies of these books being always in the hands of the Jews, any attempt to corrupt them must have been immediately detected and defeated by their enemies, as evidently, and unexceptionably, as things which come out of the custody of an enemy.
Now this being settled with certainty, viz. that the several places to be quoted by us were actually written long before the coming of Christ; the only question to be tried, and of which, as hinted above, any plain understanding can judge, is, whether these prophecies, thus compared with the events, do not suit and fall in with them, and prove that they must have been something more than the effect of guesswork. If, when you have the places read to you, and applied to the event, you think the application so distant or obscure, that these things might have happened by accident, then such passages must go for nothing. If on the contrary, you think there is in any or all of them put together, more than could reasonably be expected from random conjecture and accidental concurrence, then it will follow, that the persons who delivered these prophecies had some way of knowing they were then operated upon, that is, were imbued and inspired, by the spirit of God; and if it be once allowed that God in any way dictated the prophecies of Christ's coming, the consequence is plain that Christ came from him and that the religion he established in the world must be true.
In quoting the prophecies, I think it best to pursue the order of time in which they were written. The first, because the most ancient, that I shall mention, is that famous promise which God made to Abraham, in the twentysecond chapter of Genesis, and the eighteenth verse; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.' Now it has never yet been shown in what manner all the nations of the earth have been blessed in the seed of Abraham, except it be by the means of Jesus Christ, who was one of that seed. The seed of Abraham were the Jews, and sew I suppose will allow that the Jews have been a public or universal blessing to nations. Suppose then this prophecy to belong to Jesus Christ, it is true that in him and consequently in the seed of Abraham, as he was one of them, all the nations of the earth have been blessed. The blessing of his religion has been held out to most of them. Many have accepted it. The rest, in God's due time, we trust, will. The prophecy speaks thus much, that in the seed of Abraham,' that is, that through some one or other of his posterity, some blessing should be procured in which the rest of mankind, as well as his posterity, might partake. This may be applied with truth to Christ and his religion; and it does not appear to what else it can be applied at all.
The second prophecy I would propose to your consideration is to be found in the eighth chapter of Genesis, and the tenth verse. We have an account in this chapter of Jacob, upon his death bed, calling his twelve sons about him, and solemnly declaring to each what should befall them, in their respective tribes and families, in future times. When he comes to Judah, he uses these remarkable words, which you are now to take notice of; • The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto