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The Gospel its own Witness:
IN WHICH THE HARMONY OF THE CHRISTIAN
RELIGION IS CONSIDERED AS AN EVIDENCE
I. Chriftianity be an impofture, it may
like all other impoftures, be detected. Falsehood may always be proved to clash with fact, with reafon or with itself, and often with them all. If on the contrary, its origin be divine, it may be expected to bear the character of consistency, which diftinguishes every other divine production. If the Scriptures can be proved to harmonize with historic fact, with truth, with themselves, and with sober reafon ; they must, confidering what they profess, be divinely infpired, and Christianity must be of God.
CH A P. I.
The harmony of Scripture with historic fact, evinced
by the fulfilment of prophecy.
F the pretence which the Scriptures make ta divine inspiration be unfounded, it can be no very difficult undertaking to prove it so. The facred writers, besides abounding in history, doctrine, and morality, have dealt largely in prophecy; and this not in the manner of the heathen priests, who made use of dark and dubious language. Their meaning in general is capable of being understood, even at this distance of time; and in many inItances cannot be miftaken. The dispute, therefore, between believers and unbelievers is reducible to a short issue. If Scripture prophecy be divinely inspired, it will be accomplikhed; but if it be imposture, it will not.
Let us suppose that, by digging in the earth, a chest were discovered, containing a number of ancient curiosities; and among other things a tablet, infcribed with calculations of the most remarkable eclipses that should take place for a great while to come. These calculations are examined, and found to correspond with fact for more than two thou. fand years past. The inspectors cannot agree perhaps în deciding who was the author, whether it had not gone through several hands when it was deposited in the chest, and various other questions: but does this invalidate the truth of the calcula. tions, or diminish the value of the tablet?
It cannot be objected that events have been pret. dicted from mere political forefight, which have actually come to pass : for though this may have been the case in a few instances, wherein caufes have already existed which afforded ground for the conclufion; yet it is impossible that the fucceffive changes. and revolutions of empires, some of which were more than a thousand years distant, and depended on ten thousand unknown incidents, should be the objects of human speculation.
Mr. Paine seems to feel the difficulty attending his cause on this subject. His method of meeting it is not by soberly examining the agreement or disagreement of prophecy and history: that would not have suited his purpose; but, as though he had made a wonderful discovery, he in the first place goes about to prove that the prophets wrote poetry; and from hence would persuade us that a prophet was no other than an ancient Jewish bard. That the prophecies are what is now called poetic, Mr. Paine need not have given himself the trouble to prove, as no person of common understanding can doubt it : but the question is, did not these writings, in whatever kind of language they were written, contain predictions of future events ; yea' and of the most notorious and remarkable events, such as Thould form the grand outlines of history in the following ages ? Mr. Paine will not deny this ; 'nor will he foberly undertake to difprove that many of those events have already come to pass. He will, however, take a shorter method ; a method more suited to his turn of mind. He will call the prophets
impostors and liars ;" he will roundly affert without a shadow of proof, and in defiance of historic evidence, that the prediction concerning Cyrus was written after the event took place; he will labour to pervert and explain away fome few of the prophecies, and get rid of the rest by calling the writer
a false prophet," and his production " a book of falsehoods.”* These are weapons worthy of Mr. Paine's warfare. But why all this rage against an ancient bard? Just now a prophet was only a poet, and the idea of a predictor of future events was not
Age of Reafon, Part II. p. 53, 44, 47,.
included in the meaning of the term. It seems, however, by this time, that Mr. Paine has found a number of predictions in the prophetic wrịtings, to get rid of which he is obliged, as is usual with him in cases of emergency, to fummon all his talents for misrepresentation and abuse.
I take no particular notice of this writer's atbempts to explain away a few of the predictions of Laiah, and other prophets. Those who have un dertaken to answer him have performed this part of the business. I shall only notice that he has not dared to meet the great body of feripture prophecy, or fairly to look it in the face.
To say nothing of the predictions of the destruction of mankind by a flood; of that of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire; of the descendants of Abraham being put in poffeffion of Canaan within a linnited period ; and of various other events, the history as well as the prophecy of which is confined to the Scriptures ; let us review those predictions the fulfilment of which has been recorded by historians who knew nothing of them, and consequently could have no design in their favour.
It is worthy of notice, that facred history ends where profane history, that part of it at least which is commonly reckoned authentic, begins. Prior to the Babylonith Captivity, the fcriptural writers were in the habit of narrating the leading events of their country, and of incidentally introducing those of the surrounding nations; but shortly after this time the great changes in the world began to be record ed by other hands, as Herodotus, Xenophon, and others. From this period they dealt chiefly in prophecy, leaving it to common historians to record its fulfilmente
Mr. Paine says the fcripture prophecies are "a -book of falsehoods." Let us examine this charge. Isaiah, abave a hundred years before the Captivity, predicted the destruction of the Babylonish empire by the Medes and Perfians, and Judah's consequent deliverance. The plunderer is plundered, and the def troyer is destroyed: Go up, O Elam; besiege, 0 Media: all the crying thereaf bave I made to ccafe.* Ask He. rodotus and Xenophon ; Was this a falsehood ?
Daniel, fourteen years before the establishment of the Medo-Perfian dominion by the taking of Babylon, described that dominion, with its conquests, and the fuperiority of the Persian influence to that of the Median, under the fymbol of a Ram with two horns. I lifted up mine eyes and far, and beholch there ftood by the river a ram, which had two horns ; and the two borns were high, and the higher came up last. I farw the ram pushing westward and northward, 'and fouthward ; fo that no beafts might stand before bim, neither was there
that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great. This is expounded as follows: The ram which thou fawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Perfa:t Ask the afore-mentioned historians ; Was this a falsehood ? • The fame Daniel, at the same time, two hundred and twenty-three years before the event, predicted the overthrow of this Medo-Persian doinis nion, by the arms of Greece, under the command of Alexander; and described the latter government
Lowth's tranflation of trai. xxi. 2. Other prophecies of the same event may be seen in Ifai. xiii. xiv. xxi. xliii. 14--17. xliv. 28. xlv. 1a-4. xlvii. Jer. XXV. 12-26. I. li. Hab.
+ Dan. vii. 3, 4, 30. See also on the fame fibject, Chap vii. 5.