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(p. 16.)

[Bishop Horsley on the double sense of Prophecy.]

“I SHALL not wonder, if, to those who have not sifted this question to the bottom, (which few, I am persuaded, have done,) the evidence of a Providence, arising from prophecies of this sort644644   Gen. ix. 25-7., should appear to be very slender, or none at all. Nor shall I scruple to confess, that time was when I was myself in this opinion, and was therefore much inclined to Join with those who think that every prophecy, were it rightly understood, would be found to carry a precise and single meaning; and that, wherever the double sense appears, it is because the one true sense hath not yet been detected. I said,—‘Either the images of the prophetic style have constant and proper relations to the events of the world, as the words of common speech have proper and constant meanings, or they have not. If they have, then it seems no less difficult to conceive that many events should be shadowed under the images of one and the same prophecy, than that several likenesses should be expressed in a single portrait. But, if the prophetic images have no such appropriate relations to things, but that the same image may stand for many things, and various events be included in a single prediction, then it should seem that prophecy, thus indefinite in its meaning, can afford no proof of Providence: for it should seem possible, that a prophecy of this sort, by whatever principle the world were governed, whether by Providence, Nature, or Necessity, might owe a seeming completion to mere accident.’ And since it were absurd to suppose that the Holy Spirit of God should frame prophecies by which the end of Prophecy might so ill be answered, it seemed a just and fair conclusion, that no prophecy of holy writ might carry a double meaning.

“Thus I reasoned, till a patient investigation of the subject brought me, by God’s blessing, to a better mind. I stand clearly and unanswerably confuted, by the instance of Noah’s prophecy concerning the family of Japheth; which hath actually received various accomplishments, in events of various kinds, in various ages of the world,—in the settlements of European and Tartarian conquerors in the Lower 258Asia; in the settlements of European traders on the coasts of India; and in the early and plentiful conversion of the families of Japheth’s stock to the faith of Christ. The application of the prophecy to any one of these events bears all the characteristics of a true interpretation,—consistence with the terms of the prophecy, consistence with the truth of history, consistence with the prophetic system. Every one of these events must therefore pass, with every believer, for a true completion.”

Bp. Horsley’s Sermons, No. xvii. Vol. ii. pp. 73-4.

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