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of chance. It is conceivable that a prediction, uttered at a venture, confining its terms to but one event, and expressing that in a general way, may happen to result so plausibly as to seem like a genuine prophecy. But only let it descend to the minutiae of time, place, and incidents, and it is evident that the possibility of its success, by a fortuitous concurrence of events, will become extremely desperate. Hence, the oracles of heathen antiquity always took good care to confine their predictions to one or two particulars, and to express them in the most general and ambiguous terms. Hence, in the whole range of history, except the prophecies of the Scriptures, there is not a single instance of a prediction, expressed in unequivocal language and descending to any minuteness, which bears the slightest claim to the praise of fulfilment. But to set this in a more impressive light, I will quote a few sentences from one of the most scientific laymen of the present day. "Suppose," says Olinthus Gregory, "that instead of the spirit of prophecy, breathing more or less in every book of Scripture, predicting events relative to a great variety of general topics, and delivering besides almost innumerable characteristics of the Messiah, all meeting in the person of Jesus, there had been only ten men in ancient times who pretended to be prophets, each of whom exhibited only five independent criteria as to place, government, concomitant events, doctrine taught, effects of doctrine, character, sufferings, or death, the meeting of all which in one person should prove the reality of their calling as prophets, and of
his mission in the character they have assigned him; suppose, moreover, that all events were left to chance merely, and we were to compute, from the principles employed by mathematicians in the investigation of such subjects, the probability of these fifty independent circumstances happening at all: assume that there is, according to the technical phrase, an equal chance for the happening or the failure of any one of the specified particulars; then the probability against the occurrence of all the particulars in any way, is that of the fiftieth power of two to unity; that is, the probability is greater than eleven hundred and twentyfive millions of millions to one, that all these circumstances do not turn up even at distinct periods.' But this calculation, you must observe, specifies no particular period for these things to take place, but allows from the time of uttering the predictions to the end of the world for all the fifty particulars to occur. But if a time be fixed, at or near which they must happen, the immense improbability that they will take place exceeds all the power of numbers to express. This, moreover, is on the supposition of every thing being under the disposal of that fiction of unbelief, a blind chance. How infinite does the improbability appear when it is remembered that "all events are under the control of a Being of matchless wisdom, power, and goodness, who hates fraud and deception, who must especially hate it when attempted under his name and authority." This is enough, one would think, to silence for ever all pleas of chance, as fur
nishing an unbeliever the least opportunity of escape from the evidence of prophecy. What then is the conclusion to which, by the considerations presented in this lecture, we are authorized to come?
First, that in the Bible there is a great variety of prophecy relative to the Messiah, which has been so remarkably fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and so entirely unfulfilled in any other individual of whom we have any history, that the correspondence necessarily proves the predictions to have been given by inspiration of God, and Jesus Christ to be the person to whom that inspiration, in the uttering of those predictions, referred.
Secondly, that the Bible, in thus containing genuine prophecies scattered through its several books, contains a revelation from God, and exhibits numerous and wide-spread impressions of the seal of divine authority.
Lastly, that Jesus Christ, being thus pointed out and honored by the Spirit of God breathing on the lips of holy men, who, in various centuries before his coming, concurred in rendering him their testimony as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, was and is to come, no other than what he said, the Son of God; the Saviour of sinners; "King of kings, and Lord of lords."
"Behold," saith He, "I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book." "He that confesseth me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven." But "how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
OUR blessed Lord was a prophet, as well as the grand subject of prophecy. Not only did he possess omnipotence to call up the dead from the sepulchre, but omniscience also to bring forth from the darkness of the future what to uninspired man lies as secret as the mysteries of death. By prophecy, as well as miracles, he established the divinity of his mission. In the latter, his appeal was to the senses of eye-witnesses: "The works that I do they bear witness of me." In the former, it was to the testimony of subsequent history: "Now I tell you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass ye may believe that I am he." He predicted not only his own sufferings and death and resurrection, but the manner and circumstances attending them; the treachery of Judas; the denial of Peter; the particulars of his ignominious treatment in the council of the Jews, and under the hands of Pilate and his soldiers. He foretold the rapid spread of the gospel, the persecutions of his disciples, the precise manner of Peter's martyrdom, the continuance of John till after the destruction of Jerusalem, the rejection of the Jews, and the bringing of the Gentiles into the church of God.
But none of our Saviour's prophecies are more impressive than those concerning THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM, contained in the gospels of Mark and Luke, but most at large in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew. These we select as the subject of our consideration at present, believing we shall be enabled to show, by most impressive evidence, that Jesus did indeed possess the spirit of prophecy, and consequently was divinely commissioned in setting up the faith of the gospel.
There is but one preliminary question to be answered at the commencement of this investigation, Is it well ascertained that these prophecies were published before the destruction of Jerusalem?
This has been already settled in our lecture on the subject of authenticity; in which it was shown that the several books of the New Testament were written in the age to which they are referred, and by the men whose names they bear. It will be sufficient to state in this place, that of the three evangelists who have related these prophecies, Matthew and Mark are well ascertained to have died, and there is good reason to suppose that Luke also was dead, before the destruction of Jerusalem.
The gospel of Matthew, which contains the most complete account of the predictions in question, is commonly acknowledged to have been written first. Its date is about the eighth year after the death of Christ. The destruction of Jerusalem being in the seventieth year of the Christian era, the prophecies in relation to it were published by Matthew about thirty