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SERMON VII. The authenticity of the facred Scriptures demonftrated from Prophecy.
2 PETER I. 19.
WE HAVE ALSO A MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY; WHEREUNTO YE DO WELL THAT YE TAKE HEED, AS UNTO A LIGHT THAT SHINETH IN A DARK PLACE, UNTIL THE DAY DAWN, AND THE DAY STAR ARISE IN YOUR HEARTS.
HE late Bishop Sherlock's paraphrafe on our text runs thus. The time will come when the things you hope. " for fhall be placed in a clear light, when ye fhall fee " all your expectations fully justified in the accomplishment; in "the mean while ye do well to attend to PROPHECY, though but
fmall glimmering light, and fhining at a distance in a dark place, yet the best you have or can have at prefent. In another "part of his book he has this obfervation.-It is no commendation "of prophecy to fay, that it is very dark and obfcure; nor yet "can it be a reproach, provided it anfwers all the ends defigned "by Providence." To enable ourselves therefore to judge of the importance of proofs derived from prophecy, we fhall felect certain inftances which have been as accurately registered as they were wonderfully fulfilled...
The prophecies which we find recorded in holy writ, were not, like thofe of the ancient Oracles and Sybils, couched in fuch darkand obfcure terms as would admit of any double or fallacious meaning, but pronounced with all the plainnefs and perfpicuity imaginable; nor were the Jews at any time an over-credulous people, as the greater part of the Heathens were, but on the contrary, very obftinate, and very hard to be convinced; and this is fully evident from that exclamation of the prophet Ifaiah, "Lord, "who hath believed our report?"It was for this very reason, that they demanded a fign of our Saviour:-And the woman of Samaria had never acknowledged him as fuch, had he not given her fufficient proof of his being endowed with more than human knowledge. In fhort, when we take a furvey of a few of the inost known prophecies, and find, by fufficient teftimonies, that they were accomplished long after the decease of those who pro-· nounced them, we must certainly entertain a moft venerable idea of those holy men, and set a high value on their writings, which have been miraculously transmitted to pofterity for the conviction and advantage of thefe latter ages.
We shall begin with the promise delivered unto Abraham ; "Thy feed shall be a ftranger in a land that is not theirs, and "shall serve them, and they fhall afflict them four hundred years §
and alfo that nation, whom they fhall ferve, will I judge: and "in the fourth generation they fhall come hither again:"What oracle did ever foretel any thing in fuch direct terms, fo manifeftly, and fo long before it came to pafs? And yet that prophecy was in every refpect fulfilled at the appointed time: and who can fairly charge it with the leaft fallacy or deceit? fince Mofes, in his pilgrimages with the children of Ifrael, wholly relied on this promife, it highly behoved him, doubtlefs, to fpeak of a prediction, that was common among them, and handed down by uninterrupted tradition from father to fon. And moreover, as it was
received by Abraham, fo was it believed by Mofes, and actually put in execution by Joshua.
Jacob made his last testament in Egypt, in which there are as many prophecies as there are words; not in regard to his own children only, but to the tribes likewife, that should owe their rife to them.-One inftance, we prefume, will be fufficient.—
Judah, thou art he, whom thy brethren shall praife: thy father's "children fhall bow down before thee. The fceptre shall not "depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until "SHILOH Come."-The true and genuine meaning of which prophecy was ever held by the Hebrews to be this; that the sceptre was to remain in the poffeffion of Judah, and that the fovereign jurisdiction was to be lodged in him, until the coming of the MESSIAH.-Now Reuben, Simeon, and Levi were the eldest brethren of Jacob's house; and therefore this remarkable paffage was directly repugnant to the order of nature. Moreover, Mofes, who led the people of Ifrael out of Egypt, was of the tribe of Levi, and Joshua, who brought them into the land of Canaan, of the tribe of Ephraim.-The judges were fometimes of one tribe and fometimes of another. And Saul, the first king that was elected by the people, was of the tribe of Benjamin, which was the youngest of them all.-These circumftances, doubtless, gave a cruel shock to the prophecy. The fceptre, however, in a short time, paffed from Saul to David; from a king to a young fhepherd of Judah, where it was firmly fixed, notwithstanding the heavy murmurs and complaints of the other tribes against it.
If it should here be demanded how fhall we be affured that these were the words of Jacob?-Is it not natural, as well as rational to reply, that the fame credit ought to be given to this history, as to any other; and who prefumes to difpute the authority of that writer, who has maintained his character unspotted, through a long feries of ages? This, however, hath further VOL. III.