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ticularly fulfilled-fulfilled in a manner which no human sagacity could have foreseen, which no human power could have brought to pass, and consequently that the authors of these prophecies were inspired men, and the religion they taught was the word of God. In these and various other examples which might be adduced, of the present and visible fulfilment of prophecy, the miracles of the Jewish and Christian dispensations are in fact continued among us. "Men are sometimes disposed to think that if they could see a miracle wrought in their own sight, they would believe the gospel without delay, and obey it unreservedly. They know not their own hearts. If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.' But in the whole range of prophecy now fulfilling before their eyes, they have in fact a series of divine interpositions, not precisely of the nature of miracles, in the sense of brief and instant and visible suspensions of the laws of nature, but evidently so in the sense of supernatural interference in the rise and fall of cities and nations and empires; in the arrangement of times and circumstances; in that wonderful display of infinite foreknowledge and infinite power, apparent in the control of the wills of unnumbered free and accountable agents to a certain result."*
In our last lecture we stated that the religion of the Bible is the only one which, on its first introduction, appealed to miracles in evidence of the divine
authority of its teachers. We make a similar remark, with still more evident truth, in regard to prophecy. The sublimity of men professing to be the commissioned and inspired messengers of God, making their appeal to a series of future events for a thousand years as the sure attestation of the divine authority of their embassy; the moral grandeur of that appeal, which, after having deposited in the hands of nations a prediction of minute transactions which the innumerable contingencies of a long retinue of centuries are to bring out, stakes its whole causc upon a perfect fulfilment, thus resting itself singly upon the omniscience and omnipotence of God, and separating to an infinite distance all possibility of human support this is a dignity to which nothing but the inspiration of the Scriptures can pretend, a noble daring on which nothing else was ever known to venture. The corruptions of Christianity, as existing in the church of Rome, have attempted to prop up their feeble foundations on the credit of miracles, easily refuted indeed, but widely boasted of. But prophecy, even the effrontery of that "man of sin," "whose coming," saith St. Paul, "is with all deceivableness of unrighteousness," has never pretended to. Although Mohammed did not profess to support his pretensions by miracles, and the Koran expressly concedes that miraculous power was not given him, yet his followers, hundreds of years after his death, related many miracles as having been performed under his hand. But that Mohammed, though styled the prophet of God, ever declared a prophecy, on the ful
filment of which he rested his claims to inspiration, none ever asserted.
The history of pagan nations indeed abounds with stories of auguries and oracles and detached predictions; but it was with no reference the establishment of paganism that they were uttered. On the contrary, the fact that paganism was established already gave them all their reverence. But what an immeasurable distance separates all the pretended oracles of paganism from the dignity of the prophecies in the Bible. The avowed end of the former was to satisfy some trivial curiosity, or aid the designs of some military or political leader. The influence of intimidation or of bribery produced them. They were never spontaneous. The oracles were careful to take advantage of the security of silence, until obliged to speak in answer to a direct appeal. Then they never uttered a syllable without getting time for preparation. Inquiries were rendered as difficult and as expensive as possible, in order not only to enrich the oracles, but to diminish the occasions of exposure. Every inquiry must be attended with numerous and minute ceremonies on the part of the applicant as well as the prophet, in order that omissions or mismanagements might afford frequent excuses for the failure of the response, without implicating the inspiration of its author. The god was not always in a humor to be consulted. "Either he was talking, or he was pursuing, or he was in a journey, or peradventure he was sleeping, and must be awakened." This afforded a very convenient op
portunity of putting off a difficult case. were to be taken, and auguries examined, which, if unfavorable in any particular, either precluded the inquiry for the present, or required further lustrations, ceremonies, and sacrifices-to purify the person who had consulted, and render him fit to receive an answer from the gods, or to bring their wayward deities to a temper suitable to the inquiry." When no means of evasion remained, the answers given, were either so ambiguous as to suit any alternative, or so obscure as to require a second oracle to explain them. When the prediction failed there was no want of subterfuges by which to maintain the credit of the oracle. It was conveniently discovered, either that the gods were averse to the inquirer, or that he had not been in a proper state for the consultation, or that some indispensable ceremony had been omitted or mismanaged. But all these precautions and artifices were not sufficient to prevent those oracles from falling into utter contempt with the more enlightened heathens.+ Who could think of comparing such pitiful mockeries of divine omniscience with the dignified and sublime and holy prophecies which are spread out so openly and widely in the Scriptures? To point out the particulars in which the prophets of the Bible were distinguished above all the oracles of the pagans, were to suppose a measure of ignorance among my hearers, as to the most conspicuous features of the Scriptures, with which I cannot believe
*Nare's View of Prophecy.
t Stillingfleet's Orig. Sacræ, 1. 2, ch. 8, p. 221.
them chargeable. But our assertion remains, and deserves to be repeated, that neither in the rise, nor in the progressive advancement of any religion but that of the Bible, have prophecies been professed or appealed to in evidence of its truth. This single fact, that all other religions have shrunk from attempting such dangerous ground; that notwithstanding the boldness with which other descriptions of evidence have been counterfeited among pagans and Mohammedans, and in support of the corruptions of popery, all have kept aloof from this; and yet, that this very evidence, so extremely hazardous, so certain of ultimate exposure in case of imposition, is everywhere professed in the Bible, and forms the golden chain that holds all its parts together, and by which it spans the world, touching at once its beginning and ending, the first and the last: this, I say, independently of the question of fulfilment, is a strong presumptive argument that the Bible contains something of great importance which no other religion possessed-something to warrant it in venturing where nothing but divine Omniscience is able to tread; in other words, that its writers were holy men, who 'spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
The overpowering weight of the evidence from prophecy, and the moral grandeur with which it attests the inspiration of God and the Messiahship of Christ, can only be appreciated by a full view of the . immense scheme and the vast extent of the prophecies in the Bible. Their record occupies a large portion of the Scriptures. In the third chapter it begins;