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great skill in prophetic language, viz. that they have shewn themselves to be greatly mistaken, which most certainly it is; then, surely, little trust is to be put to men skilled in prophetic language, for ascertaining the true sense of prophecy. Indeed, some men have maintained, that the sense of prophecy can only be discovered by partaking of the same spirit by which the prophecy was delivered; that the stirit of the prophets, and consequently, the sense of prophecy is only subject to and discoverable by the prophets ; that is, by men who partake of the prophetic spirit. And, in this view of the case, as it is a matter of indifference in what language any prophecy is delivered fo hereby men are discharged from all obligation to seek after it's trae sense; because all seeking is in vain. For, as the fense of the prophecy cannot be discerned but by the spirit of prophecy; so, when the prophetic spirit comes upon a man, the sense of prophecy will be discerned of course. But then, supposing this to be the case, no man can be certain what is the sense of any prophecy, excepting those who partake of the prophetic spirit; and secing I have not the prophetic spirit, therefore, to me, the fenfe of all prophecy must be uncertain,
nor can it have the nature of evidence to me. Suppose a man should declare to me, that he is endowed with the prophetick, spirit, and, in consequence of such endowment, should take upon him to ascertain the sense of a particular prophecy ; this could not possibly ascertain that sense to be the true sense to me; because, as I could not be certain of the former, so I could not be certain of the latter ; that is, as I could not be certain that this man has the prophetic spirit; fo,consequently, I could not be cestain that the sense he has given of the prophecy is the true sense, and so it could not have been an evidence to me. Besides, as prophecy must be transmitted to posterity, either through oral or written tradition, or both; so it is liable to suffer by passing through such a medium; and therefore, if it has been of long-standing, and has passed thro? many hands in it's conveyance to us, this will render it uncertain whether it has been fairly delivered down, and is the very same now as at it's first promulgation. If, when prophecy was first given, the language it had been given in bad been so infiired to the world, and to posterity (could such a thing be) as effe&tually to prevent it's being burt or injured, thro' the ignorance, weakness, carelefrness,or wickedness of after-promulgers, tran
cribers, and translators; then it's true sense would be secured, so far as that would go towards it; but that does not appear to have been done, in any instance, and therefore, the true sense of prophecy must of necessity, from the nature of the thing, be very uncertain. What I have observed above, I apprehend to be the state of the case as to prophecy in general, when considered as evidence to prove the divine original of a revelation.
As to the prophecies that are offered as evidences of the divine original of the Chrifian revelation, they, I think, are to be considered as prophecies fulfilled in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. So that prophecy, in this case, is not so much an evidence of the divinity of the Christian revelation, as it is an evidence of the divine character of it's original and primary promulger ; the divine character of it's principal revealer being supposed to be abetted and sufficiently supported by the completion of those prophecies. For as to the divinity of the revelation itself, it is not alike supported by such completion; because the revealer, as a free being, must have been at liberty whether he would have faithfully executed the trust reposed in him, or not;
that is, whether he would bave faithfully delivered those truths to the world, that had been delivered to him by his principal ; and this must of necessity be the case of all divine revelation, great confidence must be placed in the promulger, seeing he has it in his power to abuse his trust. So that the completion of prophecy, in the present case, serves principally to support the divine character of Jesus Christ; and as to what was promulged by him, great confidence must be placed in him, that he faithfully delivered to the world, what he had received from his father, as he stiled the supreme Deity. But then, the argument, in this view, appears so dark and uncertain to me, that I can draw no rational conclufion from it. If those prophecies, in the right understanding of which mankind are greatly interested, had been delivered in plain and express terms, that were not liable to be misunderstood, which, considering their importance, it may well be expected they would have been; and had the application of them appeared to have been most just and natural; then, indeed, an argument drawn
from them, or grounded upon them, might I have been of weight, as to the divine cha
racter of Jesus Christ ; though even then what had been received as delivered by kim, must have been taken upon truft from him; but this is not the case and as it now ftands it feems to me to be weak and infirm. For example, Hofea xi. 1. When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my for out of Egypt. This sentence seems plainly to relate to a past fact, in which God had shewed his kindness to the people of Israel, in the time of their childhood, as a nation, by þringing them out of Egypt; and does not in the least appear to refer to any thing to, come, much less does it appear to refer to the founder of the Christian religion ; and therefore, such application' must needs be arbitrary. And though there does not appear to be the least pretence for such application as aforesaid ; yet the author of the gofpel according to St. Matthew, and the generality of Christians from him, have considered it to be a prophecy of, and to be applicable to Jesus Christ, as he, when a child, was carried down into Egypt, and brought out of it again. This seems to me to make a mean appearance in the argument drawn from prophecy; and rather weakens, than Prengthens the cause it is brought to support.