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Were the business of life, knowledge and speculation, not a particular demeanour, a course of piety and duty; were we born to be moralists, rather than men of virtue; that would make a difference. But as it is, "life is short, and science is slow," and we shall be learning, perhaps disputing, some of our gravest duties when we should be practising the habits of them, unless we are wise enough to sit at the feet of Apostles and Prophets, and take advantage of the Inspired Law, which will abridge our studies, only to promote our work.
The last reflexion I shall make is this, that when the divine origin of the prophetic, or any other part of Revelation, is argued from the nature of its very genius and doctrine, it is a kind of proof which cannot be expected to operate upon all men alike. It is granted that this internal evidence is not so strong and conspicuous in the prophetic volume, as in the New Testament: but whatever it may either, its force turns upon a certain exercise of the moral perceptions, which vary, and upon what men are in their own character. They in whom the sense of religion, the desire of holiness, integrity, and purity, are the highest, and their minds most alive to such objects, will see, by a real intuition, the excellence of a code of doctrine to which others will be feebly attracted by any sympathy of their judgment or feeling; or, it may be, will turn from it with the alienation and distaste of a mind opposed
to its whole spirit. It is no more than the admitted principle, that evidence in moral subjects is modified by the mind to which it is addressed.
If, therefore, unbelievers really study the Scripture with attention, and yet see nothing in its genuine character, its sublime or its didactic matter, to command their faith and reverence, this indifference and failure of conviction on their part ought to create no surprise, nor consequently any uneasiness or mistrust in others, who experience a different impression. We know not how far their temper and spirit may have taken the lead of their judgment. This is certain, that unless they are examples of sanctity and virtue in their own lives, their indifference to Revealed Religion on the head of its internal evidence must, by the nature of the case, be of no weight.
It has been justly observed, that Religion and its Evidence may serve equally to the ends of a moral probation to all to whom it is offered, however it may be received *. But, perhaps, it is by its internal evidence in particular that this trial is most distinctly made, that evidence having the nearest connexion with our personal habits: whereby, whilst we scan religion, its Author, it is plain, may be making his judgment of us. For it is a great and universal truth which is spoken by Christ, "If any "man will do his Will, he shall know of the doctrine "whether it be of God."
* Butler's Analogy.
† John vii. 17.
And this is a truth which is prior to the question of Revealed Religion, and will remain whether we admit that or no. Only it follows from the same truth, that, if that religion be of God, it cannot be deliberately rejected without a personal fault in some obliquity of will and temper.
OF PROPHECY IN ITS EARLIEST AGE, FROM THE FALL
GENESIS XVII. 7.
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
If the observations which have been laid together in the foregoing discourse should have recommended the authority of the prophetic volume on account of its moral doctrines, and the emphasis which it lays upon things of an eternal truth and obligation, viz., the principles of essential religion; it will be remembered that the direct and proper eviden of its inspired origin is still untouched, consisting in the series and the fulfilment of its predictions, by which medium it is that Prophecy bears its most effectual testimony to the truth of the Jewish and Christian revelations.
This evidence, constituted in the completion of Prophecy, is of a more coercive kind. It challenges the assent upon a clear and independent
For the prescience of futurity, in great and remote instances, is confessedly one of the divine attributes. The giver of Prophecy claims it for such, and our reason confesses the claim. Who, as I, shall call and declare it, and set it "in order for me, since I appointed the ancient "people? and the things that are coming, and shall 66 come, let them shew unto them *."
This is one proof whereby God asserts the prerogative of his name, in opposition to the vanities of idols, and the ignorance of men. His prophetic revelation He submits to us as the instrument of our conviction. If the prophetic revelation so submitted embrace not merely detached events, but a series and a combination of them, the proof of a divine foreknowledge dictating the whole, will be more conclusive. This is the case of scripture prophecy. It is not a collection of insulated predictions; but it is, in several parts, a connected order of predictive revelation carried on under distinct branches. Its evidence becomes thereby proportionably extensive; and also, which is a different quality of it, more closely combined: and on that account less open to the imputation of a fortuitous coincidence between its scheme, and the event of things corresponding with it.
But here again is a twofold view to be taken of
* Isaiah xliv. 7.