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The account given in the fourth Discourse, of the remission of the curse on the ground, by covenant with Noah and his posterity, may be treated perhaps as the effect of mere fancy and imagination ; for there are many prejudices which lie in its way. All that I shall say more on that subject is only this : if you allow the account, it carries on the series of God's dispensations towards mankind in a natural gradation, and opens a new scene of Providence, where there seems to be great reason to expect one, at the beginning of the new world : if you reject this account, there seems to be a great gap in the sacred history, and the new world sets out just where the old one left off; and yet who would not expect that so great a change should be attended with some new degree of light, to comfort and support the remains of mankind ? If the notion is not approved, it is at least an innocent one; and I am not so fond of it as to enter farther into the defence of it.
As to the Dissertations which I have added, the relation they have to the subject of the Discourses will appear to those who think them worth the reading; and there is no reason to trouble others with any account of them.
EVIDENT comparison in the text between the word of prophecy, and something before mentioned or intended. At the 16th verse the Apostle says, We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. And after thus disclaiming all art and deceit in setting forth the promises of the gospel, he declares on what evidence and authority he had raised such expectations in them: but (we) were eye-witnesses of his majesty, &c. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. Immediately follow the words of the text, We have also a more sure word of prophecy.
We see then on what foundation the inference of a sceptical writer stands, who asserts that “ prophecy is a stronger argument than a miracle, which depends on external evidence and testimony.” Interpreters differ much in expounding the pas
sage, bůt all agree in rejecting this sense, which gives to prophecy a superiority over other evidence by which the truth of the gospel is confirmed. It is shown that the text, so interpreted, not only contradicts the general sense of mankind on this subject, but is inconsistent with itself and many other places of Scripture. Consider, if any prophet can give greater proof of his divine mission than the power of working miracles. When Gideon is called by the angel of the Lord to the deliverance of Israel, and a prophecy is delivered to encourage him, he demands a miraculous sign : such a one is given him, and he undertakes the work, to which he is again encouraged by two miracles wrought at his request. In this case was the word of prophecy more sure before the miracles than after ? If so, why was a sign desired ? and when desired, why was it granted ? Does God work miracles to humor men in their folly, or to confirm their faith ? A still higher instance adduced in the case of Moses.
But farther; the comparison in the text is between the word of prophecy and the immediate word of God; accordingly St. Peter, by this interpreter, is made in his own persou to say, that the dark prophecies of the Old Testament were a surer evidence than the immediate voice of God. But let the account which St. Peter himself gives of this word of prophecy be considered. He compares it to a light shining in a dark place; and distinguishes it from day-light, and from that brightness which is ushered in by the day-star : it is but as the glimmering of a candle in a dark night seen at a distance, which, though it gives some direction, is nothing when compared to clear day-light. This is a choice account to give of the best evidence for that gospel which was to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of the people of Israel. Ask St. Paul what state Christians are in, and he will tell
that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, has shone unto them. Ask the Evangelists; and they will answer
that the day-spring from on high has visited us, &c.: this point enlarged on.
But let us go one step farther, and we shall find that St. Peter in the text is so far from speaking of the word of prophecy as of the best light or evidence to be had for the point in question, that he manifestly speaks of it as not the best, but as a light to be attended to only till a better comes; until the day dawn, and the day-star arise : this point enlarged on.
Such reasons as these probably prevailed with interpreters to quit the apparent sense of this text; but they are far from being agreed in the establishment of any other. The Greek expositors suppose that prophecy is now to Christians a more sure evidence than ever it was, having been verified and established by events; which interpretation preserves the force of the comparison, but places it where St. Peter has not placed it: this shown.
Others suppose that the comparative is here used in the sense of the positive, to denote the great certainty of the evidence; but this introduces a new use of language into the text without sufficient authority.
Others, preserving the natural signification of the words, and admitting the comparison, will not allow it to be absolute, but only relative, that is, to the opinions and prejudices of the Jews, to whom this epistle was directed : this shown not to be the Apostle's meaning.
These are the most considerable expositions of the text: it appears that every interpreter has been sensible of the absurdity of setting up prophecy as superior to all other gospel evidence, and to avoid this difficulty, has been driven to seek out another meaning. Yet the words do certainly import that the evidence of prophecy is a surer evidence than that before mentioned ; which was the Apostle's own testimony of the glory of Christ, which he had seen with his eyes; and of the voice of God declaring Christ to be his beloved Son, of which
St. Peter was an ear-witness on the mount. Yet we are not hence to conclude that prophecy is better than all other evidence of the mission of Christ and of the truth of the gospel ; since it is neither of these to which the text refers. To clear this matter, let us consider what the Apostle intended to prove.
The second epistle of St. Peter was written to support the hopes and expectations which he had raised in his first. The Christians to whom this was written were in a state of severe trial and persecution: (see ch. i. 6. ii. 12. ii. 16. iv. 4. 14. &c.) wherefore the Apostle administers suitable advice to them, and bids them account it a happiness that they were reproached for the name of Christ: (see ch. iv. 1. 13. 14.) He reminds them that this was no strange event, but what they had reason to expect; as it had been foretold, &c. (see ch. iv. 12. 17. v. 9.) Together with these admonitions he gives them assurance of a certain deliverance near at hand. He tells them that they were kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation, ready to be revealed : i. 5. He bids them have perfect hope and confidence in this deliverance (13.); and for the certainty of it he appeals to the ancient prophets, and the spirit of Christ in them, &c. (i. 11. 12.) The first scene, the sufferings of Christ, being over, (iv. 1.) his glory was ready to be revealed, which would bring to them exceeding joy, and to the ungodly, their persecutors, destruction, (iv. 13. 18.) All these hopes were founded in this ; that Christ had already received glory and power, and would return in that glory and power to save true believers. Now it is very probable that the persecuted Christians of those times looked daily for this deliverance; but when one year after another passed, and no deliverance came; when the scoffers began to mock them and ask, where is the promise of his coming ? (2 Ep. iii. 3. 4.) their hearts grew sick, and hope deferred became an additional grief; filling them with fear lest they had believed in vain :