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came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
A prophecy, considered in itself, separately from its fulfilment, is no evidence of revelation. But as soon as fulfilled, it is complete. The hand of God is then attested. The evidence that the person by whom it was uttered was under the influence of divine omniscience, is finished. Then prophecy takes the place of miracle, and becomes at once one of the highest and most unquestionable proofs, not only that the individual who declared it was the agent of com municating, in that particular, a divine revelation, but also that a divine sanction is impressed upon that whole system of religion with which his prophecies may be connected.* "Future contingencies, such, for example, as those which relate to the rise and fall of nations and states not yet in existence, or to the minute concerns of individuals not yet born, are secrets which it is evident no man or angel can penetrate, their causes being indeterminate, their relations with other things fluctuating and unknown. It follows therefore, that the prediction of such contingent events cannot otherwise than proceed from God; and further, since God cannot without a violation of his perfect holiness and rectitude visibly aid delusion and wickedness, the inference is equally cogent and necessary, that the accomplishment of predictions deliv
"All prophecies,” says Hume, “are real miracles, and as such only, can be admitted as proofs of any revelation." Philosophical Essays.
ered by those who profess divine authority amounts to a full proof that they really possess the authority they assume. Other arguments may be evadedother evidence may not convince. Strange effects, though not miraculous ones, may be produced by other than divine power."* But this can only be evaded by refusing to behold it, and only counterfeited by him who is ingenious enough to borrow omniscience in aid of imposture. "To declare a thing shall come to be, long before it is in being," says Justin Martyr, "and then to bring about the accomplishment of that very thing according to the same declaration, this, or nothing, is the work of God."
There are considerations connected with this particular source of evidence, which render it specially interesting and valuable.
Prophecy furnishes an argument, the force of which is continually growing. The argument began when first a single prophecy was fulfilled. It increased more and more, as predictions and fulfilments multiplied. In the age of the apostles, it was a powerful as well as favorite weapon in proof of the gospel. But during that period many new predictions were published, and many ancient ones remained to be accomplished. The argument consequently was not yet at its height. It has been growing ever since, as one century after another has exhibited an additional fulfilment, or completed and enlarged those already advanced. We, in the present age, enjoy an expanse and variety and completeness of prophetic * Gregory's Letters.
evidence far exceeding those which the chart of history presented to St. Paul. There is to us a voice from the silent solitudes where Babylon and Tyre once stood in pride and reigned in power; from the modern history of the prostrate Egypt; from the wonderful annals and present condition of the Jewish race; from the desolate state of the Holy Land and adjoining countries; from the rise and present aspect of the mystic Babylon-which the primitive Christians had not the privilege of hearing. The force of this argument is yet to grow more and more until the consummation of all things. A few years hence, in all probability, will exhibit it invested with a brightness and glory, compared with which all present evidence will seem but as morning twilight. At the end of the world will be its full maturity. Prophecy having begun with the history of sin, extends to the completion of its tragedy; and not till the blazing of the great conflagration when "the earth and all that is therein shall be burned up," will its every prediction be fulfilled, or the fulness of glory with which it was designed to show the truth of God in the gospel of his Son, be made to appear.
Now, it is this continual growing of prophetic evidence that makes it so peculiarly valuable. The argument derived from miracles, though it could never have been more conclusive than it is to us, was certainly more impressive to those who saw the miracles, or who lived in the age in which they were wrought. And it is very difficult for most persons to distinguish between the conclusiveness and the im
pressiveness of evidence. Because the lapse of centuries, by removing the Christian miracles far from us, has diminished the sensible effect they would otherwise have had upon our minds, it is very generally supposed that the same cause has enfeebled the evidence on which their genuineness is maintained. This idea, though entirely unfounded, is too natural, to those whose thoughts reach not beneath the surface of such subjects, to be easily removed. But with regard to the evidence arising from prophecy, it cannot exist. Predictions, now in progress of fulfilment, are miracles which centuries can only render more certain and impressive. If there was a peculiar privilege conferred on those who saw in the miracles of Christ, manifest to sense, the wonderful works of God's omnipotence, there is also a similar privilege conferred on us, who, in consequence of the ever-increasing fulfilment of prophecy, may see in the Scriptures, more brilliantly illuminated than ever, the handwriting of God's omniscience.
There is another peculiarity in much of the evidence from prophecy, which renders it peculiarly valuable. It is evidence before our eyes addressed to our senses. By this we do not mean that the evidence arising from the miracles of Christ and his apostles would be any more conclusive, however much it would be increased in its impression on our minds, did we behold the miracles instead of reading of them in well-attested history. We believe, on the contrary, that this description of evidence, as addressed to us, is perfect. But still there is, and per
haps ever will be, a class of persons who, like the disciple Thomas, will require to see before they will believe. Either their indifference or sluggishness prevents them from pursuing a line of argument that would carry them back amidst the testimonies of antiquity, or else their willing scepticism, by ingenious sophistry, would shield them from all the evidence derived from miraculous agency, by the assumption that no testimony can prove a miracle. The utter fallacy of this position, we trust, was satisfactorily shown in a preceding lecture. But here are evidences with which, were it true, it could have no connection. God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, has provided for all classes of minds, and all descriptions of infidelity, that all unbelievers may be without excuse. The argument from prophecy may be rendered brief enough for the most sluggish, tangible enough for the most obstinate opposers of historical testimony. They have only to read in the Bible the predictions with regard to the once proud cities of Babylon and Tyre, or the once powerful empire of Egypt, and then to open their ears to the accounts which almost every wind conveys, or go and see for themselves the obscure remnants of the ruins of those cities and of that once mighty empire; they have only to read in the books of Moses what, thirty-three hundred years ago, was foretold of the history of the Jewish people, and then to lift up their eyes and behold the present condition and the notorious peculiarities of that wonderful race, to see that the prophecies of the Bible have been plainly and most par