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unadulterated and mandatory propositions of Divine reve. lation, about which it would be impiety to reason, and infidelity to expect any rational evidence in their support: and it can fulminate all the comminations of the Bible against the man who would dare to doubt whether such conclusions could be composed of any fair and legitimate deductions from the word of God.
No man will dare to assert that every speculative error has already been detected, and expelled from the christian world:
: nor is there a man on the face of the earth, who is able to shew that the doctrine of eternal prescience is either founded in reason, or in the unconstrained and obvious meaning of the holy Scriptures.
Infinite existence must of necessity imply an infinite duration, and an infinite expansion of being; but it is no more possible to reduce an infinite duration of being to a chronological point, than it is to reduce an infinite expansion of being into a geometrical point: and therefore everlasting existence at one fixed and indivisible point of duration, must be quite as contradictory as universal existence in one fixed and indivisible point of expansion.
The obvious and real design of Scripture prophecy, not that of asserting
the popular doctrine of an eternal prescience, but that of demonstrating the infinite agency of God in the government of the world.
It is a truth, which is too obvious, and too notorious to be overlooked, by any reflecting and observant mind, that human beings, in their present degenerate and guilty condition, do need a special revelation of the will of their great Creator, and particularly, in relation to his forfeited favour, and whether his approbation be recoverable, and by what means it may be possibly retrieved.
It is highly probable that in their state of innocence and primitive integrity, Adam and his wife, were sufficiently instructed on the character and purposes of God, by the visible phenomena of creation, and the intuitive illuminations of the Holy Spirit on their understandings and their consciences; and that they needed no miraculous teaching to inform them of the origin of their being, or the design of their existence.
But human beings in their present fallen condition, stand in need of a special revelation from heaven, a revelation of the will of God, attested and supported by a miraculous interposition of His infinite agency, and the making bare of his almighty arm in the sight of apostate men; and they need such a revelation of the Divine agency and purposes, not so much on account of their ignorance, as on account of their guilt and their moral depravity.
We are informed by the holy Scriptures, that ignorance was originally the consequence, and not the cause of human depravity; although the property of producing each
other is now become notorious and uniformly reciprocal. “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful : but they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Rom. i. 21. The object therefore of a revelation of the will of God, if that revelation be indeed such as our guilt and depravity require, must evidently consist in the disclosure of a system of moral renovation, and must be adapted, not so much to the communication of instruction, as to enforce an obedience to the authority of God, by the disclosure of those infinite sanctions and obligations by which the duties of religion are imposed on the human mind.
God has been pleased to bestow upon the human race, a revelation of his will and his purposes ;--a revelation that as highly becomes the character of the Deity, as it is exactly adapted to the nature and the exigencies of guilty man;--a revelation of the possibility and the means of retrieving the forfeited favour of God ;-a system of paternal mercy and moral regeneration ; -a revelation that has been attested by every form of miraculous interposition ;-a revelation that brings life and immortality to light ;-a revelation of the infinite agency of that Being “Who will render to every man according to his deeds : to them, who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, to every soul of man that doeth evil.” Rom. i. 6, &c.
Divine Revelation has been attested to us by two species of evidence, one of which is internal, and the other is external; the former is addressed to our reason and conscience, and the other is addressed to our hopes and our fears ; one of them is contained in the character of the matter revealed, and the other in the sensible and miraculous interpositions of the agency of God. If the human mind had only retained the integrity and purity in which it was created, and if human beings did but rigidly and uniformly obey the dictates of their understandings and their consciences, then the obvious congruity of truth, although it should not be attested by miracles, would nevertheless be every way adequate to their conviction and instruction, and their personal happiness; but a sys
tem of moral renovation, revealed to creatures in a guilty and degenerate condition, must of necessity be unwelcome to their disordered passions, even though it should commend itself fully to their understandings and their consciences; and therefore, a revelation made to creatures in a lapsed and guilty condition, must contain authority as well as instruction; and it must support the pure
and obvious dictates of truth and reason by sanctions and obligations, by hopes and by fears of an infinite magnitude and of an eternal duration.
Scripture prophecy is one of those miraculous interpositions by which the Creator and governor of the world, has been pleased to attest the truth and the origin of Divine Revelation; and the design of scripture prophecy is not merely to communicate the knowledge of those facts and truths which compose the matter of the scripture predictions, but to demonstrate the infinite agency of God in the government of the world, his knowledge of all things visible and invisible, and especially his perfect knowledge of the human heart; and his infinite ability to protect and reward the righteous, and to restrain and punish the disobedient.
It is not to be wondered at, if the father of lies, the great enemy of mankind, should endeavour to counterfeit so splendid and mandatory an interposition of the agency of God, and should proudly aspire to this perogative of an infinite and absolute authority; and if his agents on earth, the priests of idolatry, should be ambitious of rivaling the prophets of the living God. But although the righteous government of the world would not require a forcible prevention of all attempts to counterfeit a Divine agency, yet in all such cases it would certainly require, that we should be furnished with means to detect the fallacy of the one, and identify the truth and divinity of the other. This, however, could not be done so easily and certainly by detecting the fraudulent practices of the heathen oracles, as by exposing the unsoundness of the theological systems which they propagated. It is sufficiently notorious, that such was the deceitful ingenuity of the pagan oracles, that they easily escaped detection by those persons who were not acquainted with the doctrine of scripture prophecy : for by delivering their answers in obscure
and equivocal terms, their pretended predictions would commonly admit of dissimilar and opposite interpretations. But however difficult it might be to expose the vanity of their pretensions, by detecting any obvious discrepancies between their pretended predictions and their pretended fulfilments, the doctrines which were propagated by these heathen oracles, might be easily distinguished from those of scripture prophecy. The heathens had no idea of any proper divinity, they had no conception of any real and positive creation, they had no knowledge of an almighty and universal agency; and least of all, had they any notion that the agency of God, in the government of the world, could be compatible with the moral freedom of human actions. They were aware that the schemes of men would frequently prove abortive, that certain adverse consequences would often ensue, notwithstanding the utmost power of human contrivance should be employed to contravene a disastrous issue; and therefore, they ignorantly concluded that the succession of all human events, was concatenated by a regular, and unbroken, and interminable chain, and they had no hope whatever, either of escaping, or of commuting any single issue. But although the hopes of the heathens were quenched, their curiosity was by no means extinguished ; and their credulity being as insatiable as their curiosity, they became an easy prey to designing men, and the insidious machinations of the father of lies. Oracles were set up that pretended to be acquainted with the future, and all the arts of ventriloquism and juggling, and every species of deception were employed to persuade the vulgar that these pretenders to eternal foresight, were under the inspirations of certain gods or demons; and some apparent, or fancied coincidence, between the predictions of these reputed oracles, and subsequent occurrences, served to establish their authority in the minds of the ignorant and the credulous, and to undermine the authority of the prophets of the living God.
But did the heathen oracles inculcate the same theological doctrines as did the prophets of the living God? and was the great object of both heathen oracles and scripture prophecy that of inculcating the doctrine of an unoriginated, infinite, and eternal prescience? And did the predictions of both the one and the other consist of quotations