« AnteriorContinuar »
ferent Exigences of the several Ages in which it was delivered, and the Measure of Support and Comfort that was necessary to be imparted to them: But He observes, that the second Purpose above-mentioned will be still farther assisted by taking in one entire View the whole Scheme of Prophecy, and that they who consider the Prophecies under the old Testament, as so many Predictions only, independent on each other, can never form a right Judgment of the Argument for the Truth of Christianity drawn from this Topic.
Now an entire View of the Prophecies may be taken in two different Lights: either succesfively, as they lie in Order of Time ; or collečtively, as they All together make up one compleat Set of Predictions relating to the same Person. These Views are manifestly distinct: The first of them is, I apprehend, chiefly to be attended to, when we speak of supporting the Faith of the Old World; as the latter of them is most subservient to the Proof of Christianity.
THAT the Prophecies of the Messiah recorded in the Old Testament are disposed in a regular and dependent Order, cannot be doubted by any one who seriously considers them: and that this Order was not fallen upon accidentally, and without Design, I think will admit of as little Dispute. The Giving Testimony to Christ's Mifion could not be the Design of Providence in disposing them in this Order. For it will
that a Set of Prophecies, if they only contained a full Description of the Messiah, would have given as
perfect an Evidence to the divine Mission of Jesus, in whatever Order they had been delivered, or delivered even without any Regard to Order, as they do when ranged in that Regularity in which they now appear,
No other Conditions could be requisite for this End than that the Prophecies should be, 1. so clear as to be easily applicable to the Meshah; 2. so numerous and particular, as to comprehend a View of the most material Actions of bis Life, and the Intention of bis Coming ; and, as to be necesarily restrained to him, and applicable to no one else. Now these Conditions might be obtained, without any Regard to the Order in which the Prophecies were delivered : and therefore the giving a more perfect Testimony to the Mission of Jesus, could not be the Design of Providence in giving that regular Arrangement to these Prophecies in which they are disposed. But then these Conditions could not both be obtained without a Regard to the second View of Prophecies which we have pointed out. For though the Prophecies might have been so plain as to be easily applicable to the Messiah (as in Fact all the Prophecies applied to him are) yet unless they did all together make up one compleat Set of Predi&tions relating to the same Person, they could not have been so numerous and particular as to comprehend a View of the most material of our Saviour's Actions, and the Intention of his Coming, nor as to be restrained to him alone, and applicable to no one else.
These Distinctions then, I apprehend, give a clear and easy Account how far Prophecies, diftinctly and independently considered, can go towards producing a perfect Testimony of the divine Mission of Jesus, and how far they must fail in doing this. We must easily see, that Prophecies, signly considered, might be so plain as to be applicable to our Saviour: but then under this View only they could go no farther. They might ftill be of such a Nature, (and in Fact many
of them are of that Nature,) as to be applicable to many more besides the Person of our Saviour. Thus that Prediction, which says the Meffiah should make his Grave with the Rich, is plainly applicable to our Lord, because it un, doubtedly happened to him ; but it happened to many more belides our Saviour, and therefore, if we consider it no otherwise than singly, the Evidence of this Prophecy is manifestly lost. It can no more, by its own single Force, prove Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah, than it can a Thousand others, to whom the same Thing happened in common with him. It only fets hiš Claim to that Title upon a Level with that of all those on whose Corpses, since the giving out of the Prophecy, the same distinguished Interment has been bestowed. But when we give it a Place amongst a Collection of Prophecies that were all given out concerning the same Messiah, then we see how, under this collected View, it is at once restrained, and assists in restraining others, to the Person of our Saviour ; since it can
then only be applicable to him in whom all the other. Circumstances concurred, nor can the rest be applied, but where this is also due. 'Tis true there are some of the Prophecies by their Nature more restrained. There are perhaps some of them which no one could, in strict Justice, pretend to have fulfilled but our Saviour alone. These are however far the smallest Number. Nay there are scarce any of them, which a cavilling Age would have allowed him a peaceable and incontested Right to: and, in by far the greatest Number, He would have had many Competitors. But if they fail here, much less can scattered, disjointed Predictions answer the other part of the second Condition. For it is a Contradiction, that a Prophecy of a single Event should comprehend a View of the most material Actions of the Messiah, and the Intention of his Coming. We fee how small a Part of that Evidence for the Truth of our Saviour's Mission, which Reason teaches us to expect from Prophecy, is obtainable from Prophecies singly and independently considered: and therefore how neceffary it is, in order to draw a conclusive Argument for the Truth of Christianity from this Topic, to take an entire View of the Prophecies of the Old Testament in the second Light, as they all together make up one compleat Set of Predictions relating to the same Person.
If we should attend only to one single Operation of Nature, or to one single Act of God's Dealings with his Creatures, we might perhaps
be tempted to deny a Providence. But if we take in at one comprehensive View the whole System of Nature, and run through the whole Scheme of God's Dispensations, then the Proofs of Power and Wisdom shine in so strongly upon Us, that We cannot help acknowledging the great and good Creator and Governour of the Universe. So here, when we attend only to one single Prophecy, so narrow and partial a View will at best leave the Mind clogged with great Uncertainties : but when We enlarge our View, and admit at once the whole System of Prophecies; then the Evidence for our Saviour's divine Million breaks in with a Force so irresistible as carries all Doubts before it, and pours strong Conviction and full Assurance over all the Mind.
I do not deny, but that the first View of Prophecy may contribute something towards strengthening, or at least beautifying, the Argument drawn from thence for the Truth of Christianity. For 'tis certain that the System of Prophecies cannot be ranged in a more beautiful Order than that wherein they stand. And besides ; having an Eye to the Occasions for which they were given, the Place they possess in the Series of Prophecies, and the Circumstances that attended their Delivery, cannot fail of giving Light to several particular Prophecies. There is some Reason to imagine, that our Saviour and his Difciples looked
this as the most commodious Order, in which to draw out these Prophecies, to give their Evidence to the Truth of his Mission.