HotFreeBooks.com
Fables of Infidelity and Facts of Faith - Being an Examination of the Evidences of Infidelity
by Robert Patterson
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

After relating the burning of the city, and Nero's attempt to transfer the odium of it to the sect "commonly known by the name of Christians," he says:

"The author of that name was Christ, who, in the reign of Tiberius, was put to death as a criminal, under the procurator, Pontius Pilate. But this pestilent superstition, checked for a while, broke out afresh, and spread not only over Judea, where the evil originated, but also in Rome, where all that is evil on the earth finds its way, and is practiced. At first, those only were apprehended who confessed themselves of that sect; afterward, a vast multitude discovered by them; all of whom were condemned, not so much for the crime of burning the city, as for their enmity to mankind. Their executions were so contrived, as to expose them to derision and contempt. Some were covered over with the skins of wild beasts, that they might be torn to pieces by dogs; some were crucified; while others, having been daubed over with combustible materials, were set up for lights in the night time, and thus burned to death. For these spectacles Nero gave his own gardens, and, at the same time, exhibited there the diversions of the circus; sometimes standing in the crowd as a spectator, in the habit of a charioteer; and, at other times, driving a chariot himself; until at length these men, though really criminal, and deserving of exemplary punishment, began to be commiserated, as people who were destroyed, not out of regard to the public welfare, but only to gratify the cruelty of one man."

We add no comment on this remarkable passage. Take up your New Testament and read the contemporary history—Acts xxii. to the end of the book—and the letters of Paul from Rome, to Philemon, Titus, the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and the Second to Timothy, written when the aged prisoner was ready to be offered, and the time of his departure, amidst such scenes and sufferings, was at hand. Then form your own opinion as to the origin and nature of that faith in Jesus which enabled him to say: "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me, that I may finish my course with joy, and the testimony which I have received of the Lord Jesus." "I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day."

Whatever may be your opinion of the apostle's hope for the future, you must acknowledge that we have ascertained, beyond contradiction, these four facts of the past:

1. That without the power of force, or the help of governments, and in spite of them, the apostles did convert vast multitudes of idolaters from a senseless worship of stocks and stones, to the worship of the one living and true God; a thing never done by the preachers of any other religion before or since.

2. That without the help of power or civil law, and solely by moral and spiritual means, they did persuade multitudes of licentious heathens to give up their vices, and obey the pure precepts of the morality contained in their Epistles; a thing never done by the preachers of any other religion before or since.

3. That these converts were so firmly persuaded of the truth of their new religion, that, with the choice of life and worldly honor, or a death of infamy and torture before them, multitudes deliberately chose to suffer torture and death rather than renounce the belief in one God, obedience to his laws, and the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ, which they had learned from the sermons and letters of these apostles; a thing never done by the professors of any other religion before or since.[79]

4. The faith which produced such an illumination of their minds; which caused such a blessed change in their lives; which filled them with joy and hope, and enabled them even to despise torture and death, was briefly this: "That Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that he ascended up into heaven, and will come again to judge the world, and reward every man according to his works; and that whosoever believes these things in his heart, and confesses them with his mouth, shall be saved; and he that believeth them not shall be damned."

It is a fact, then, indisputably proven by history, that the New Testament does teach a religion which can enlighten men's minds, reform their lives, give peace to their consciences, and enable them to meet death with a joyful hope of life eternal. It has done these things in times past, and is doing them now. These are its undoubted fruits. Reader, this faith may be yours. It will work the same results in you as it has done in others. Like causes ever produce like effects. Jesus waits to deliver you from your sins, to fill you with joy and peace in believing, and make you abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Ghost. He has promised, if you will ask it, "I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord."

FOOTNOTES:

[73] Lardner VII. page 18, et seq.

[74] Pronounced Laar Owen—John's Book.

[75] Lib. X. Ep. 97, Lardner VII. 22.

[76] Lib. X. Ep. 98, Lardner VII. 24.

[77] Decline and Fall, Vol. II. page 407.

[78] Lib. XV. chap. 44.

[79] The sufferings of the Jews, under Antiochus, are no exception. They suffered for their faith in the true God, the Messiah to come, and a resurrection to life eternal.



CHAPTER VII.

CAN WE BELIEVE CHRIST AND HIS APOSTLES?

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life * * * that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you."—1 John i. 1.

We have seen that the companions of Jesus wrote the books of the New Testament; that their statements of the existence, worship, morals, and faith of the Christian Church are confirmed by their enemies, and that multitudes of heathens were turned from vice to virtue by the belief of the testimony of these men. They testified that Jesus Christ did many wonderful miracles, died for our sins, and rose again from the dead; that they saw, and felt his body, and ate, and drank, and conversed with him for forty days after his resurrection; that he ascended up to heaven in their sight; that he sent them to tell the world that he will come again in the clouds of heaven, with his mighty angels, to judge the living and the dead; that he who believes these things and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned. This is their statement. The question is, Can we believe them?

1. The first thing which strikes us in their testimony is, that it stands out utterly different from all other religions. There is nothing in the world like it, not even its counterfeits. The great central fact of Christianity—that Christ died for our sins, and rose again from the dead—stands absolutely alone in the history of religions. The priests of Baal, Brahma, or Jupiter, never dreamed of such a thing. The prophets of Mohammedanism, Mormonism, or Pantheism, have never attempted to imitate it. The great object of all counterfeit Christianity is to deny it.

There is no instance in the whole world's history of any other religion ever producing the same effects. We demand an instance of men destitute of wealth, arms, power, and learning, converting multitudes of lying, lustful, murdering idolaters, into honest, peaceable, virtuous men simply by prayer and preaching. When the Infidel tells us of the rapid spread of Mohammedanism and Mormonism—impostures which enlist disciples by promising free license to lust, robbery, and murder, and retain them by the terror of the scimeter and the rifle ball; which reduce mankind to the most abject servitude, and womanhood to the most debasing concubinage; which have turned the fairest regions of the earth to a wilderness, and under whose blighting influence commerce, arts, science, industry, comfort, and the human race itself, have withered away—he simply insults our common sense, by ignoring the difference between backgoing vice and ongoing virtue; or acknowledges that he knows as little about Mohammedanism, as he does about Christianity. The gospel stands alone in its doctrines, singular in its operation, unequaled in its success.

2. The next important point for consideration is, that the Christianity preached by Christ and his apostles is a whole—a single system, which we must either take or leave—believe entirely, or entirely reject it as an imposture. There is no middle ground for you to occupy. It is all true, or all false. For instance, you can not take one of Paul's Epistles and say, "this is true," and take another of the same man's letters, containing the very same religion, and say, "this is false." If you accept the very briefest of Paul's Letters, that to Philemon, containing only thirteen sentences on private business, you accept eleven distinct assertions of the authority, grace, love, and divinity of our Lord. Nor can you say you will accept Peter's Letters and reject Paul's; for you will find the very same facts asserted by the one as by the other; and moreover, Peter indorses "all the epistles of our beloved brother Paul" as on the same pedestal of authority with the other Scriptures. You can not say, "I will accept the letters and reject the history," for the letters have no meaning without the history. They are founded upon it, and assume or allege its facts on every page. Were the gospels lost, we could collect a good account of the birth, teaching, death, resurrection, ascension, and almighty power of the Lord Christ from Paul's Epistles; and these letters are just as confident in alleging the miraculous part of the history as the gospels themselves. Neither can you gain any advantage by saying, "I accept the gospels, but reject the letters," for there is not a doctrine of the New Testament which is not taught in the very first of them, the Gospel by Matthew. Further, the gospels contain the most solemn authentication of the commissions of the apostles, so that whoever rejects their teaching, brings upon himself guilt equal to that of rejecting Christ himself. "Lo, I am with you alway"—"He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me"—"Whosoever will not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city."

It is, if possible, more absurd to attempt to dissect the morality of the gospel from its history, and to say, "We are willing to receive the Christian code of morals as a very excellent rule of life, and to regard Jesus as a rare example of almost superhuman virtue, but we must consider the narrative of supernatural events interwoven with it as mythological," i. e., false. Which is much the same as to say, "We will be very happy to receive your friend if he will only cut his head off." Of what possible use would the Christian code of morals be without the authority of Christ, the lawgiver? If he possessed no divine authority, what right has he to control your inclination or mine? And if he will never return to inquire whether men obey or disobey his law, who will regard it? Do you suppose the world will be turned upside down, and reformed, by a little good advice? Nay, verily, the world has had trial of that vanity long enough. "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men."

Take away the miraculous and supernatural from the gospel history, and there is nothing left for you to accept. There is no political economy nor worldly morality in it. It is wholly the history of a supernatural person, and every precept of his morality comes with a divine sanction. Further, you know nothing of either his life or his morality but from the gospel history, and if the record of the miracles which occupy three-fourths of the gospels be false, what reason have you to give any credit to the remainder? For, as the German commentator, De Wette, well says, "The only means of acquaintance with a history is the narrative we possess concerning it, and beyond that narrative the interpreter can not go. In these Bible records, the narrative reports to us only a supernatural course of events, which we must either receive or reject. If we reject the narrative, we know nothing at all about the event, and we are not justified in allowing ourselves to invent a natural course of events of which the narrative is totally silent." So, you see, you can not make a Christ to suit your taste, but must just take the Christ of the gospel, or reject him.

If you reject the testimony of Christ and his apostles as false, and say you can not believe them in matters of fact, how can you respect their morality? Of all the absurdities of modern Infidelity, the respectful language generally used by its advocates in speaking of Christ and his apostles is the most inconsistent. He claimed to be a Divine Person, and professed to work miracles. The Infidel says he was not a Divine Person, and wrought no miracles. The consequence is unavoidable—such a pretender is a blasphemous impostor. And yet they speak of him as a "model man," an "exemplar of every virtue." What! an impostor a model man? A blasphemer and liar an exemplar of every virtue? Is that the Infidel's notion of virtue? Why, the devils were more consistent in their commendations of his character, "We know thee who thou art, THE HOLY ONE OF GOD." Let our modern enemies of Christ learn consistency from their ancient allies. We have also learned from our Master to refuse all hypocritical, half-way professions of respect for his character and teachings from those whose business is to prove him a deceiver, and whose object in speaking respectfully of such a One can only be to gain a larger audience, and a readier entrance for their blasphemy among his professed disciples. From every man who professes respect for Christ's character, and for the morality which he and his apostles taught, we demand a straightforward answer to the questions: "When he declared himself the Son of God, the Judge of the living and the dead, did he tell the truth, or did he lie? When he promised to attest his divine commission by rising from the dead on the third day, had he any such power, or did he only mean to play a juggling imposture? Is Jesus the Christ the Son of the Living God, or a deceiver?" There is no middle ground. He that is not with him is against him.

The case is just the same with regard to the witnesses of his miracles, death, and resurrection. They either give a true relation of these things, or they have manufactured a series of falsehoods. How can we believe anything from persons so habituated to lying as the narrators of the mighty works of Jesus must be, if those mighty works never were performed? How can we accept their code of morals if we refuse to believe them when they speak of matters of fact? Is it possible to respect men as moral teachers, whom we have convicted of forging stories of miracles that never occurred, and confederating together to impose a lying superstition on the world? For this is plainly the very point and center of the question about the truth of the Bible, and I am anxious you should see it clearly. A fair statement of this question is half the argument. The question then is simply this, Was Jesus really the Divine Person he claimed to be, or was he a blasphemous impostor? When the apostles unitedly and solemnly testified that they had seen him after he was risen from the dead, that they ate and drank with him, that their hands had handled his body, that they conversed with him for forty days, and that they saw him go up to heaven, did they tell the truth or were they a confederated band of liars? There is no reason for any other supposition. They could not possibly be deceived themselves in the matters they relate. They knew perfectly whether they were true or not. We are not talking about matters of dogma, about which there might be room for difference of opinion, but about matters of fact—about what men say they saw, and heard, and felt—about which no man of common sense could possibly be mistaken. "That which we have seen with our eyes, which we have heard, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life * * * that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you." Such is their language. We must either take it as truth, or reject it as falsehood. It is utter nonsense to talk of the intense subjectivity of the Jewish mind, and the belief of the apostles that the Messiah would do wonders when he came, and the powerful impressions produced by the teaching of Jesus on their minds. We are not talking about impressions on their minds, but about impressions produced on their eyes, and ears, and hands. Did these men tell the truth when they told the world that they did eat and drink with Jesus after he rose from the dead, or did they lie? That is the question.

3. It is a hard matter to lie well. A liar has need of a good memory, else he will contradict himself before he writes far. And he needs to be very well posted up in the matters of names, dates, places, manners and customs, else he will contradict some well-known facts, and so expose his forgery to the world. Therefore writers of forgeries avoid all such things as much as possible, and as surely as they venture on specifications of that sort they are detected. A man who is conscious of writing a book of falsehoods does not begin on this wise: "Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being Governor of Judea, and Herod being Tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip Tetrarch of Iturea and of the regions of Trachonitis, and Lysanias Tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiphas being high priests, the Word of God came unto John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness." Here in one sentence are twenty historical, geographical, political, and genealogical references, every one of which we can confirm by references to secular historians. The enemies of the Lord have utterly failed in their attempts to disprove one out of the hundreds of such statements in the New Testament. The only instance of any public political event recorded in the gospel, said not to be confirmed by the fragments of secular history we possess, is Luke's account of a census of the Roman Empire, ordered by Augustus Caesar. Were it so that Luke stood alone in his mention of this, surely his credit as a historian would be as good for this fact, as the credit of Tacitus, when he states matters of which Suetonius makes no mention, or of Pliny, when he relates things not recorded by Tacitus. But we can account for the want of corroborative history in this instance, when we know that all the history of Dion Cassius, from the consulships of Antistius and Balbus to those of Messala and Cinna—that is, for five years before and five years after the birth of Christ—is lost; as also Livy's history of the same period. It is certain that some one did record the fact, for Suidas, in his lexicon upon the word apographe, says, "that Augustus sent twenty select men into all the provinces of the empire to take a census, both of men and property, and commanded that a just proportion of the latter should be brought into the imperial treasury. And this was the first census."

To object to the gospel history, that everything contained in it of the doings of Christ and his apostles in Judea, is not recorded by the historians of Greece and Italy, is much the same as to say that there are a multitude of facts recorded in D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation in Germany, of which Hume and Macaulay make no mention in their histories of England. How should they?—treating of different countries, and for the most part of different periods, and writing civil and not church history? Does anybody go to Macaulay to look for the history of the Westminster Assembly, or to Bancroft for an account of the Great Revival in New England? Or is the veracity of Baillie, or Edwards suspected, because political history does not concern itself much about religion? It is enough that not a single statement of the gospel history has ever been disproved.

I might give you quotations from the enemies of the Christian faith, from Josephus the Jew, and Celsus, and Porphyry, heathen philosophers, and from the Emperor Julian, the apostate—who, having been raised a Christian, became a heathen, and used all his ingenuity to overturn the religion of Christ—expressly admitting the principal miracles recorded in the gospel. But I attach no such importance to the testimony of this class of persons as to suppose that it should be placed, for one moment, on a level with the testimony of the apostles, or that their testimony to the facts of the life and death of Christ needs any confirmation from such witnesses. We have such overwhelming evidence of the sincerity and truth of the witnesses chosen by God to bear testimony to the resurrection of Christ, as we never can have of the credibility of any secular historian whatever.

You will remember that these are the writers whose accounts of the existence, the faith and worship, the numbers and morals of the Christian Church, we have seen so strikingly confirmed by their enemies; and we now inquire, Can we believe the other part of their history to be as true? These are the men who taught the heathen a pure Christian morality, one principal article of which was, "Lie not one to another, seeing ye have put off the old man with his deeds"—"All liars shall have their portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone"—and we are to inquire if they themselves lied; lied publicly, lied repeatedly, if the very business of their lives was to propagate falsehood, and if they died with a lie in their right hands. You will remember that we proved conclusively that the belief of the death and resurrection of Jesus did turn immense multitudes of wicked men to a life of virtue, and now we are to inquire if the belief of a lie produced this blessed result, and whether, if so, there be any such thing as truth in the world, or any use in it?

4. Of no other series of events of ancient history do we possess the same number of records by contemporary historians, as of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. We have four direct systematic memoirs of him by four of his companions; and we have a collection of letters by four others, in which the events of the memoirs are continually referred to. At the mouth of two or three witnesses any man's property and life will be disposed of in a court of justice, but here we have the testimony of eight eye-witnesses of the facts they relate, and they refer to five hundred other persons, the greater part of whom were then alive, who had also seen and heard Christ after his resurrection. These eight persons give us their separate and independent statements of those things they deemed worthy of record in the life and death of Christ, and of the sayings and doings of several of his friends and enemies. Now every person knows that it is impossible to make two crooked boughs tally, or two false witnesses agree. You never saw two lying reports of any considerable number of transactions agree, unless the one was copied from the other.

It is evident that the gospels were not copied from each other, for they often relate different events, and when they relate the same occurrence, each man relates those parts of it which he saw himself, and which impressed him most. Yet the utmost ingenuity of infidelity has utterly failed to make them contradict each other in any particular. Here are eight witnesses to the truth of the same story, four of whom in their letters make occasional allusions to the facts of the history as being perfectly well known, and therefore needing only to be alluded to, yet these cursory references fit into the history with every mark of truthfulness. Does the history of Matthew, written at Jerusalem, tell us that Jesus took Peter, and James, and John up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them? Peter, in his letter, written from Babylon, says, "We were eye-witnesses of his majesty. We were with him in the holy mount."—2 Peter ii. 10. If the history tells how Paul was beaten and cast into prison at Philippi, and his feet made fast in the stocks, and that, nevertheless, he manfully defended his birthright as a Roman citizen, and made the tyrannical magistrates humble themselves, and apologize for their illegal conduct, we find Paul himself, in a letter to a neighboring church, appealing to their knowledge of the facts, "that after we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak for covetousness."—1 Thessalonians ii. 2. Hundreds of such undesigned coincidences may be found in the New Testament, confirming the veracity of the several historians and letter writers, and giving that impression of the naturalness and truth of the story, which can neither be described nor disputed. The reader who desires to prosecute this interesting branch of the evidences of Christianity will find an ample collection of these coincidences in Paley's Horae Paulinae.

This agreement of independent writers is the more remarkable, as the writers were persons of very various degrees of education, of different professions and ranks of life, born in different countries, and writing from various places in Italy, Greece, Palestine, and Assyria, without any communication with each other. Matthew was an officer of customs in Galilee; Mark a Hebrew citizen of Jerusalem; Luke a Greek physician of Antioch; James and John owned and sailed a fishing smack on Lake Tiberias; Jude left his thirty-nine acres of land, worth nine thousand denarii, to be farmed by his children when he went forth to preach the gospel; and college-bred Paul carried his sturdy independence in his breast, and his sail needles in his pocket, and dictated epistles, and cut out marquees and lug-sails in the tent factory of Aquila, Paul & Co., at Corinth. Several of his letters were written in a dungeon in Rome; the last of Peter's is dated at Babylon; Matthew's Gospel was penned at Jerusalem, and John's Gospel and Epistles were written at Ephesus. The agreement of eight such witnesses, of such different pursuits, and so scattered over the world, in the relation of the same story, in all its leading particulars, together with their variety of style and manner, and their various relations of minor incidents, yet without a single contradiction, are most convincing proofs that they all tell truth. Nothing but truth could be thus told without contradiction.

The fact that some considerable difficulties and many minor obscurities in these brief though pregnant narratives, prevent the combination of eight accounts so independent in their sources, and various in their style, and design, and auditors, into a flowing historical novel, a homogeneous mass, rounded and squared to our ideas of mathematical precision, is only an additional proof of their truth to nature, which abhors mathematical, as much as truth does rhetorical figures. Like the variety of expression used by American, German, French, and Polish witnesses in our courts of justice, testifying the same facts in their native idioms, though in English words, the apparent discrepancy, but actual harmony, becomes the most decisive test of the absence of any collusion, and consequently of the verity of the facts which such various witnesses unite in testifying. Especially will any such apparent discrepancy resolve itself into our own unskillfulness or ignorance, when we remember that the mists of ages, and the drapery of a strange language, and world-wide removal of residence, and the turning of the world upside down by the progress of Christian civilization, and our consequent ignorance of the thousand little details of every-day life, well known to the writer and his immediate readers, and of the force of expressive idioms, perfectly familiar to them—have rendered us not near so capable of detecting inaccuracies, as those contemporary writers and opponents, who allowed them—if they existed—to pass unchallenged. Like those antique coins, whose rust-dimmed and abbreviated inscriptions exercise the patience and historic lore of the antiquarian, though neither are needed to declare the precious material, this very rust of antiquity, through which his patience has penetrated, becomes one of the inimitable marks of historic verity. Every year throws some new light on texts difficult to us from our ignorance of those manners, customs, names, and places, which Infidel malice and Christian piety have combined to explore; and from the ruins of Nineveh and the sepulchers of Egypt we receive unlooked-for testimonies to the minute accuracy of the penmen of the Bible.

5. The manner in which the apostles published their testimony to the world bears every mark of truthfulness. Deception and forgery skulk, and try to spread themselves at first in holes and corners, but he that doeth truth cometh to the light. Had the apostles been conscious of falsehood, would they have dared to assert that Jesus was risen from the dead in the very streets of the city where he was crucified? in the temple, the most public place of resort of the Jews who saw him crucified? and to the teeth of the very men who put him to death? If conscious of falsehood, would they have dared, before the chief priests, and the council, and all the senate of Israel, to assert that "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things, and so is also the Holy Ghost which God hath given to them that obey him."—Acts v. 30. Would Paul, had he been conscious that he was relating falsehood, have dared to appeal to the judge, before whom he was on trial for his life, as to one who knew the notoriety of these facts, "For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely; for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him: for this thing was not done in a corner."—Acts xxvi. 26. Would such appeals have been suffered to pass uncontradicted had the statements of the apostles been false?

The boldness of their manner, however, of telling their story, is little, compared with the boldness of the design which they had in view in telling it; which was nothing less than to convert the world. Now the idea of proselyting other nations to a new religion was absolutely unknown to the world at that time. The Greeks and Romans never dreamed of any such thing. They would sometimes add a new god to their old Pantheon, but the idea of turning a nation to the worship of new deities was never before heard of. The Jews were so indignant at the project, that when Paul hinted it to them, they cried, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live." And this new and strange idea, of conquering the world for a crucified man, is taken up by a few private citizens, who resolve to overturn the craft by which priests have their wealth, and to bring the kingdoms of the world to become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.

Impostors would never have appealed to their power of working miracles as the apostles did; nor could enthusiasts have done so without instant exposure. It is remarkable, that while in addressing those who believed their divine commission, they rarely allude to it (fourteen of the epistles make no allusion to apostolic miracles), but dwell on a subject of far greater importance—a holy life—they never hesitate to confront a Simon Magus, or a schismatical church at Corinth, or a persecuting high priest and sanhedrim with this power of the Holy Ghost. "Tongues," says Paul, "are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not;" and this is true of all other miracles. This marks the difference between real miracles and those of pretenders; who have never attempted to establish a new religion by them, or to convert unbelievers hostile to their claims and able to examine them, without immediate exposure. But you never heard of an impostor standing up before the tribunal of his judges and alleging the miraculous cure of a well-known public beggar, lame from his mother's womb, whom they had seen at the church gate every Sabbath for forty years, and bringing the man into court after such a fashion as this, "If we this day be examined of the good deed done unto the impotent man, by what means he is made whole, be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand before you whole." Such an appeal was unanswerable. "Beholding the man that was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it." Nay, they were compelled to acknowledge "that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem—we can not deny it."—Acts iv.

The denial of the miracles of the gospel is a modern invention of the enemy. The scribes, and priests, emperors, and philosophers of the first centuries, who had the best opportunity of proving their falsehood, were unable to do so. The persecutors and apostates, whose malice against the Church knew no bounds, never dared to utter a charge of deception against the apostles. Why, then, you ask, did they not all become Christians? Because miracles can not convert any man against his will. Christianity is not merely a belief in miracles, but the love of Christ, and a life of holiness. There are many readers of this book who would not turn from their sins if all the dead in Spring Grove Cemetery would rise to-morrow to warn them from hell. God does not intend to force any man to become a Christian. He just gives evidence enough to try you, whether you will deal honestly and fairly with your own soul and your God, and if you are determined to hate Christ and his holy religion, you shall never want a plausible excuse for unbelief; as it is written, "Unto them which are disobedient, Christ is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense." These ancient enemies of Christ acknowledged the reality of his miracles, but attributed them to magical power, or the help of Satan. The Jews said that he had acquired the power of miracles by learning to pronounce the incommunicable name of God. Modern Infidels deny all his miracles save the greatest—the turning of men from their sins. They can not deny that; they can not ascribe it to the power of Satan or of magic, for they do not believe in either; but they follow as nearly in the footsteps of their fathers as possible, when they tell us that multitudes of men, in every age, and in every land, have been turned from falsehood to truth by the belief of a lie, and from vice to virtue by the example of an impostor!

6. But the strongest proof of the truth of the facts of the gospel is the existence, the labors and sufferings of the apostles themselves. Nobody denies that such men lived, and preached, and were persecuted on account of their preaching that Jesus died and rose again. Now, if this was a falsehood, what motive had they to tell it? It was very displeasing to their rulers who had crucified him, and who had every inclination to give them the same treatment. To preach another king, one Jesus, to the Romans, was to bring down the power of the empire upon them. Nothing could be more absurd in the eyes of the Grecian philosophers than to speak of the resurrection of the body. Nor could any plan be devised more certain to arouse the fury of the pagan priesthood, than to denounce the craft by which they had their wealth, and to preach that they are no gods which are made by hands. The most degraded wretch, who perishes by the hand of the hangman is not so contemptible in our eyes, as the crucified malefactor was in the eyes of the Roman people; nor could anything more disagreeable to the Jewish nation be invented than the declaration, that the Gentiles should become partakers of the kingdom of God. What then should induce any man in his senses to provoke such an opposition to a new religion, and to make it so contemptible and disagreeable to those whom he sought to convert, if he were manufacturing a lie to gain power and popularity?

The religion they preached was not adapted to please sensual men, nor to allow its preachers in sensual gratifications. "Our exhortation," says Paul—and every reader of the New Testament knows that he says truth—"Our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor of guile." Infidels admit that they preached a pure morality. But it is a long time since men learned the proverb, "Physician, heal thyself." "Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?" It could not, then, be to obtain license for lust that these men preached holiness.

There is only one other conceivable motive which should induce men to confederate together for the propagation of falsehood—the design of making money by it. But their new religion made no provision for any such thing. One of their first acts was to desire the church to elect deacons who might manage its money matters, and allow them to give themselves wholly to prayer and to the ministry of the word. Twenty-five years after that they could appeal to the world that "Even to this present hour, we" (the Apostles) "both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place, and labor working with our hands; being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: we are counted as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things to this day." Their book opens with the story of their Master's birth in a stable, with the manger for his cradle, and one of its last pictures is that of his venerable apostle chained in a dungeon, and begging his friend to bring his old cloak from Troas, and to do his diligence to come before winter.

Unpopular, pure, and penniless, if the gospel story were not true, how could it have had preachers? They at least believed it.

The last and most convincing testimony which any man can give to the truth of a statement of fact is to suffer rather than deny it. Many have wondered why God allowed his dear servants to suffer so much persecution in the first ages of the Church. One principal reason was to give future ages an irresistible proof of the sincerity and faithfulness of the witnesses for Christ. The apostles lived lives of persecution and suffering for the name of Jesus; sufferings which they might have avoided if they had only abstained from preaching any more in this name. But, said they, "We can not but speak of the things which we have seen and heard." One who had no personal acquaintance with Jesus, and whose first interview with him was while he was breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, is converted and called to be an apostle; and behold the prospect Jesus presents to him, "I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name." "The Holy Ghost testifieth," says Paul, "that in every city bonds and afflictions abide me. Yet none of these things move me." That at least was a true prophecy. "Seven times," says Clement, "he was in bonds, he was whipt, he was stoned; he preached both in the East and West, leaving behind him the glorious report of his faith, and so having taught the whole world righteousness, and for that end traveled even to the utmost bounds of the West, he at last suffered martyrdom by the command of the governors, and went to his holy place, having become a most eminent pattern of patience to all ages."[80] Hear his own appeal to those who envied his authority in the church, "Are they ministers of Christ, I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep: in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness."—1 Corinthians ii. 23.

Man can give no higher proof of his veracity, than a life such as this, unless it is to seal it with his blood; and this crowning testimony to the truth the apostles gave. Save the aged disciple, who, after torments worse than death, survived to address the persecuted church as, "Your companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ," they all suffered martyrdom for the truth of the gospel history.

Let me again remind you that the gospel is not a collection of dogmas, but a relation of facts; that these twelve men did not preach the death and resurrection of Jesus, because they had read them in a creed, but because they had seen them with their own eyes; that they lived holy lives of toil, and hardship, and poverty, and suffering, in preaching these facts to the world; and that they died painful and shameful deaths as martyrs for their truth. You admit these things. Then I demand of you, "What more could either God or man do to convince you of their truthfulness?"

The faithful and true witness himself has given you this last, undeniable test of veracity. With the certainty of an ignominious death before him, he solemnly swears to the truth of this fact, and dies for it. "And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God? Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said. Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."

Unbeliever, are you prepared to meet him there, and prove him a perjured impostor?

FOOTNOTES:

[80] Wake's Trans. of Clement, Ep. ad Cor. v.



CHAPTER VIII.

PROPHECY.

"In fifty years all Europe will be either Cossack, or Republican." So prophesied the most sagacious of modern politicians, by the inspiration of genius, calculating the prospects of the future by the light of his past experience. This prediction of Napoleon's is a very fair specimen of the oracles of human sagacity; which always overlooks the most stupendous facts—such as the conversion of an empire—and the commonest experiences—such as the birth of a brace of conflicting twins from the womb of the Rachel of revolution, when history happens to predict the failure of the self-elected conquering savior. Man learns to believe whatever he fondly desires, to expect what he believes, and to predict what he expects. His predictions are the mirrors which photograph his own moods of mind, rather than views through a telescope directed to the distant cloud-capped mountains of futurity.

But it is confidently asserted that the science of party politics is simply the exercise of the gift of prophetic vision on the theater of civil life; and that a sagacious politician is, within his own sphere, a prophet. He applies the conditions of the past, so far as he knows them, to the calculation of the future. His success proves his sagacity, not his supernatural inspiration. Why should religious predictions be attributed to a different power?

For the very simple and satisfactory reason, that the great majority of the calculations of party politicians are failures, while the predictions of the Bible are verified by the event. Name a dozen leaders of American politics during the last half century, and you name half a score of disappointed presidential candidates, whose unfinished monuments prevent the kindly green sward of oblivion from vailing their disappointments, and check the prayer of the passing pilgrim that they may rest in peace; while of the last half dozen who have occupied the presidential chair, and guided the destinies of the most progressive half of the world, not a single man had been suggested by the political leaders even ten years before his election. No wonder politicians become shy of prediction.

But it is alleged, that while on a field so contracted as to become the arena of mere personal partialities it is confessedly difficult to predict the future, on the wider field of the world's great interests, the well-known uniformity of human passions and interests render their results calculable to the sagacious statesman.

Thus Draper argues, that nations, like the individuals composing them, have fixed periods of growth, manhood, decay, decrepitude, and death—more or less rapid, according to the stock and situation. Those who accept that dogma argue that all that is necessary in order to predict the fate of a nation is a correct calculation of its present age; whether of childhood, manhood, or senility.

It is wonderful how rashly men will risk their reputation for common sense on the sound of a plausible analogy, which, even were it valid, would not justify the inference drawn from it. For, suppose that there were as fixed laws of national as of individual life, can any man predict the period of the life of any individual, much less his destiny? May not the life of the nation be as liable to accidents and diseases as that of the individual?

But the claim has been actually made, that the skillful statesman, or philosophic observer, is able to foresee, and foretell, even such accidents. Dean Stanley quotes Mill as suggesting an ordinary sign of statesmanship in modern times: "To have made predictions often verified by the event, seldom or never falsified by it."

Others give a still wider range to prophetic inspiration. They tell us that all genius is prophetic, inasmuch as it grasps general laws, universal in their range, and unvariable in their operation, the application of which to particular events constitutes prediction. The Hebrew prophets were sagacious observers of human nature, and made very shrewd calculations of the future progress of events by a careful induction of the invariable laws of nature from the history of the past. But there was nothing supernatural in that. Every poet, philosopher, and statesman is more or less of a prophet. Indeed foresight, like insight, is common to all men: a superior degree of this common possession constitutes the prophet. Men of profound insight, or of extensive foresight, are equally rare in all departments of science. Ignorance ascribes to supernatural inspiration the sagacity derived from extensive observation of nature and history; while philosophy traces to the same source the inspiration of Moses and Mohammed, of Isaiah and Apollo, of the Principia, Paradise Lost, and the Apocalypse, of Rothschild, Napoleon, and Bismarck. Some geniuses expend themselves in poems, some in paintings, others in predictions. All are alike imperfect and fallible. Once in centuries, perhaps, we are astonished by the advent of a master, while occasional less perfect attempts and shrewd guesses keep the fires of ambition alive in the human breast.

But if this were a correct account of the case we should have our best prophets as the result of our widest observations of nature and history; the best should come last. The prophets of this nineteenth century should be far ahead of Moses in prophetic foresight, standing as they do on the summit of the observatory built by the experience of forty centuries. Whereas, as a matter of fact, the world knows nothing about these modern prophets, or their predictions. The instances alleged by Rationalists are contemptibly trivial when compared with the Bible predictions. Contrast, for instance, Cayotte's alleged prediction, that the fate of Charles would befall Louis XVI., and that the rabble would fill Paris with anarchy—with Daniel's grand historic outline of the four great empires; or with our Savior's detailed prediction of the siege of Jerusalem. Cayotte's guess commanded no respect, even while the coming event cast its shadow before it; nor did he profess to utter it in the name of the Great Disposer of all events as the seal and authentication of a revelation of moral duty to man; and so it was of no value to those threatened by the calamity. But our Lord's predictions were so authoritative in their tone, and so definite in their details, that they enabled his disciples to escape the impending destruction at that time; and their fulfillment has furnished a decisive proof of his divine foresight to all generations.

We are told by men who could not read one of Apollo's oracles to save their lives, nor recite one of Isaiah's prophecies to save their souls, that Apollo's oracles, no less than Isaiah's, were inspired. Could such persons be prevailed upon to read carefully any single prophetic book of Scripture, with the historic facts to which it refers, or even the briefest abridgment of these facts, such as that contained in The Comprehensive Commentary, they would not thus expose their ignorance alike of heathen and Christian oracles.

The differences between them are too numerous to be easily enumerated. The oracles of the heathen are always sources of gain to their prophets. The ancient Pythoness must have a hecatomb, the writing medium a dollar, and the modern Pythoness of the platform a dime. But under the inspiration of God even a Balaam becomes honest, and the leprosy of Naaman marks the sordid Gehazi and his seed forever.

The oracles of the heathen are always immoral in their tendency. From the first spiritual communication through the serpent medium in the tree of knowledge, down to the last spiritual marriage rapped out by the oracle, they are all in favor of pride, ambition, lying, lust, and murder. The oracles of God begin with a prohibition of curiosity, pride, covetousness, and theft: "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." And they are uniformly of the same tenor, forbidding, reproving, threatening vice, and encouraging virtue, down to the last: "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city; for without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."

This last mark—falsehood—belongs to all heathen oracles, from the first utterance by the serpent, down to the last response rapped out by the medium. Take any one heathen oracle of which we have any definite account—and the number is very small—and you will find that, if it is not "as equivocal as Apollo," it is false.

For instance, Dean Stanley very confidently refers to certain heathen oracles, "the fulfillment of which, according to Cicero, could not be denied without a perversion of all history. Such was the foreshadowing of the twelve centuries of Roman dominion, by the legend of the apparition of the twelve vultures to Romulus, which was so understood 400 years before its accomplishment." Comparing the prophetic predictions with such fables, he says: "It is not that they are more exact in particulars of time and place; none can be more so than that of the twelve centuries of the Roman Empire."[81]

The oracle thus exalted to a level with the predictions of our Lord and his apostles is quoted by Censorinus,[82] A. D. 238, from Varro, who died B. C. 28. Varro stated that he had heard Vettius, no common augur, of great genius in disputing, a match with any of the most learned, say, "If it was so, as the historians related, as to the auguries of the founding of the city of Romulus and the twelve vultures, since the Roman people had passed 120 years safe, it would reach 1,200."

Dean Stanley misquotes the oracle, and does injustice to the old heathen prophet. He spake no word whatever about dominion; all he dared conjecture for his city was safety. Even that is put in a highly hypothetical mood. The augury begins with an "if," regarding the apocryphal story of Romulus and the twelve vultures. But whether the fable of the vultures be true or not, the augury of twelve centuries of safety deduced from it is undeniably false, whether it refers to the material city, or to the political constitution then established. The city then built was burnt by Brennus, the Gaul. Its successor was taken and plundered by Alaric, in A. D. 410; again by Genseric, and the Vandals, in 455; and again by the Ostrogoths, in 546. Thus the material city was repeatedly taken and destroyed during the twelve centuries succeeding its founding. If the augury referred to the duration of the political constitution then instituted, every school-boy knows that half a dozen revolutions falsified the prediction. If, however, it be alleged that it referred to the ultimate fate of the city of Rome, that it should cease to exist after twelve centuries, it is self-evidently false; for now, after the lapse of twenty-six centuries, Rome is larger, its people more numerous, and its territory wider than it was for centuries after Romulus saw the twelve vultures. Thus God "frustrateth the tokens of the liars." Yet men who have read Roman history, and whose business it is to read their Bibles, continue to cite Vettius Valens as a prophet, and to compare his false auguries with the predictions of the Scriptures of truth!

This is only one of a number of such secular predictions confidently cited by the learned Dean as having been as minute and specific as those of Scripture, and undeniably fulfilled. But a scholar of his own church has examined his references and alleged facts, and the result is, that not a single instance remains of the fulfillment of any definite prediction given by the original writers; and where the transcriber and the Dean have helped them out to a more definite prediction, it has proved a false prophecy, as in the case of Sterling's and Spence's prediction of the year of the disruption of the Union of the United States. Dr. Pusey summarizes this discussion in his work on Daniel (p. 637), from which we extract and condense the following paragraphs on this subject:

"Dean Stanley produces a certain number of alleged predictions in secular history, as counterparts of the predictions of the political events of their own, and the surrounding nations," in the Hebrew prophets, i. e. (in religious language), "of God's judgments upon both for their sins against himself and their fellow-men." He says, "Every one knows instances, both in ancient and modern times, of predictions which have been uttered, and fulfilled, in regard to events of this kind. Sometimes such predictions have been the results of political foresight. Many instances will occur to students of history. Even within our own memory the great catastrophe of the disruption of the United States of America was foretold, even with the exact date, several years beforehand. Sometimes there has been an anticipation of some future epoch in the pregnant sayings of eminent philosophers and poets; as for example the intimation of the discovery of America by Seneca; or of Shakespeare by Plato; or the Reformation by Dante. Sometimes the result has been produced by the power of divination, granted in some inexplicable manner to ordinary men. Of such a kind were many of the ancient oracles, the fulfillment of which, according to Cicero, could not be denied without a perversion of history. Such was the foreshadowing of the twelve centuries of Roman dominion by the legend of the apparition of the twelve vultures to Romulus, which was so understood 400 years before its actual accomplishment. Such, but with less certainty, was the traditional prediction of the conquest of Constantinople by the Mussulmans; the alleged predictions by Archbishop Malachi, whether composed in the eleventh or sixteenth centuries, of the series of popes down to the present time; not to speak of the well-known instances which are recorded both in French and English history. But there are several points which at once place the prophetic predictions on a different level from any of these. It is not that they are more exact in particulars of time and place; none can be more so than that of the twelve centuries of the Roman Empire; and our Lord himself has excluded the precise knowledge of times and seasons from the widest and highest range of prophetic vision." (Jewish Church, 463. The Bible: its Form and Substance, pages 80, 82.)

"It might safely be admitted," says Dr. Pusey, "that the outward predictions of time and place are of the body, rather than of the soul of prophecy, yet as indications that he revealed himself, who alone could know long before what he willed to bring to pass by his Providence, the predictions of the Hebrew prophets are not to be paralleled by any human history.

"Definite predictions of the Hebrew prophets have been instanced above. Dr. Stanley's instances of secular fulfillment are unhappy." He then proceeds to examine in their turn the political, poetic, Popish, Mohammedan, and heathen oracles quoted by Dean Stanley.

I. The Political Predictions.

Sterling, as quoted by Mr. Spence, so far from predicting the great catastrophe of the disruption of the United States at the end of the four years, says that no wise man would predict anything even within those four years. "It appears to me that amid so many elements of uncertainty as to the future, both from the excited state of men's minds in the States themselves, and the complication of surrounding circumstances, no wise man would venture to foretell the probable issue of American affairs during the next four years." (On the American Union, page 14.) And this was written amid all the heavings which preceded the bursting of the volcano. It followed, after statesmen had, one after another, seen the elements of that disruption. The probability of the severance of the North and South has been a speculation to which the older of us have long been familiar. And now [1864] who would venture to predict the time of the close of that sad war? (First edition.) Now [1865] that it has come to an end Americans taunt Europeans with their want of foresight in their anticipations as to its issue. The Times correspondent retorts as to false anticipations of Americans—(1) that the issue would not interfere with slavery; (2) that there would be separation without bloodshed; (3) that the war would last only some ninety days; (4) that the United States would break up into fragments (Northern); (5) they contemplated that the interests of trade would suffice for the harmony of North and South when separated, etc., etc. June 6, 1865. Europeans almost universally anticipated the success of the South. So little did the human sagacity of men really sagacious, with intimate knowledge of the strength of the different parties, their numbers, resources, and all the calculations as to modern warfare, enable them to anticipate within half a year the result of a war, which, through the vivid description of it, and clear knowledge, was carried on almost under their eyes. And these men would have us to suppose that Hebrew prophets, living in the center of a small people, could, with mere human knowledge, foretell with absolute certainty the overthrow of flourishing empires, when at the acme of their power!

II. The So-called Prophecies of S. Malachi.

These have long been recognized to be a forgery, unmeaning except for the immediate purpose for which they were "forged by the partisans of the Cardinal Simoncelli, one of the candidates for the tiara, who was designated by the words 'de antiquitate orbis,' because he was of Orvieto, in Latin, 'orbs vetus.'" (Biog. Unv'l v. Wion.) Menestrier published a refutation of the pretended prophecies of S. Malachi, Paris, 1689, written with much solidity. Don Feijoo also refuted these pretended prophecies in his Teatro Critico. The Noveau Dictionnaire Historique, by MM. Chaudon and Delaudine, speaks of the "errors and anachronisms with which this impertinent list swarms." "The forgetfulness of common sense makes itself felt in a few pages. Those who have set themselves to explain these too noted insipidities, always find some allusion, forced or probable, in the country, name, arms, birth, talents of the popes, the cardinalatory dignities they had borne, etc.; e. g., the prophecy which related to Urban the Eighth was, Lilium et Rosae." It was fulfilled to the very letter, say these absurd interpreters, for that pope had in his coat of arms bees, which suck lilies and roses. (Art. Malachi and Wion.)

III. Dr. Pusey proceeds to examine the process by which a prediction of the conquest of Constantinople has been manufactured for the false prophet, Mohammed.

"In the mosque of Sultan Mohammed the Second," says V. Hammer, "which was finished A. D. 1469, there stands, to the right of the main door, on a marble slab, on an azure field, in gold raised characters, the tradition of the prophet relating to Constantinople. 'They will conquer Constantinople; and blessed the prince, blessed the army which shall fulfill this.'" (Constant v. d. Bosporos I. 393.) Or (as he renders more exactly in Gesch d. Osm. Reich, p. 523), "the best prince is he who conquers it, and the best army, his army." This tradition, being above eight centuries after Mohammed, has, of course, no value. It reappears in a different form in Ockley, the conquest being presupposed, rather than prophesied. Ockley says (History of Saracens, II. 128), "Mohammed having said, 'The sins of the first army which takes the city of the Caesar are forgiven.'" Ockley referring only vaguely to Bokhari, who, early in the third century, after Mohammed selected 7,000 traditions which he held to be genuine, out of some 267,000, I applied to my friend, M. Reinaud, professor of Arabic at Paris, and member of the Institute, not doubting that with his large knowledge he would be able to point out to me the passage in the Sahih. This, with his well-known kindness, he has done, amid his many labors. It puts an end to all questions about prophecy. The passage is this: As Omm Heram has related to us that she heard the prophet say, "The first army of my people which shall war by sea will acquire merits with God, Omm Heram said, 'I said, O Apostle of God, I will be among them.' He said, 'Thou shalt be among them.' Then the prophet said, 'The first army of my people which shall attack the city of the Caesar, their sins shall be forgiven them.' Then I said, 'I will be with them, O Apostle of God.' He said, 'No!'" M. Reinaud adds, "There is no question but that Mohammed conceived the idea of the invasion of the Roman Empire, and of the kingdom of Persia by his disciples. He himself shortly before his death tried his strength against the Roman forces in Syria. But the passage does not say what Ockley makes him say. It does not say that Constantinople would be taken."

The other prophecy referred to by Von Hammer is as follows: "Have you heard of a city of which one side is land, the two others sea? They said, 'Yea, O Apostle of God.' He said, 'The last hour will not come without its being conquered by 70,000 sons of Isaac. When they come to it they will not fight against it with weapons and engines of war, but with the word, There is no god but God, and God is great!' Then will one side of the sea walls fall; and at the second time the second; and at the third time the wall on the land side; and they will enter in with gladness."

The framer of this prophesy expected the walls of Constantinople to fall like those of Jericho, which he must have had in mind. He expected it to fall before Arabs, "sons of Isaac," not before Turks. * * * Yet, contrary to the expectation, and the prophecy, it did fall before the Turks, after having been seven times besieged by the Arabs, and four times by the Turks; by whom it was taken A. D. 1453. The framer of the prediction anticipated that the representatives of the followers of the prophet would be Arabs to some indefinite period, near the last hour; he expected a miraculous destruction of Constantinople; it was besieged seven times by those before whose war-cry he expected it to fall. It did not fall before those before whom he said it would fall; it fell in an ordinary way, not in that predicted; it was besieged in the way in which he said it would not be besieged; lastly, it fell, but its walls fell not. Every detail of the prediction is contrary to the fact. As for the mere capture, it befalls all great cities in turn; so that a prediction of the capture of any great city would be the safest of all prophecies. But the prediction did not anticipate, what is now certain, that as soon as Christian jealousies permit, before the end of the world, it will be wrested from its captors.

IV. The legend of Romulus and the vultures, and the falsehood of the prediction based upon it, have been exposed on a previous page.

V. In regard to Seneca's alleged prediction of the discovery of America, it was exceedingly vague; and was wholly based on the undoubted knowledge of its existence by the ancient Egyptians, and by Plato, Proclus, Marcellus, Ammianus, Marcellinus, Diodorus, Aristotle, and Plutarch; whose assertions influenced Columbus to undertake the search for it. Nothing could be more certain than that such a continent would be rediscovered. But in the only indication which Seneca gives us of its location he erred; for Thule is still the utmost land northward, no new continent having been discovered, nor remaining to be discovered, toward the North Pole.

VI. As to the heathen oracles we have already spoken enough.

VII. "The anticipation of Shakespeare by Plato amounts to this, that he makes Socrates compel his friends to admit, 'that it belongs to the same man, how to compose comedy and tragedy, and that he who is by skill a composer of tragedies is also a composer of comedies.' (Sympos fin.) * * * But it is mere confusion to speak of this as anticipation. Plato does not say that there would be any greater combination of the two talents than there had been; he does not even say that the highest excellence in one involved excellence in the other; he simply says that the two faculties belonged to the same mind. According to his maxims, if true, it would be rather marvelous that they were not more frequently combined than that they were remarkably in one mind."

VIII. "Those best read in Dante are at a loss to find in him any trace of a prediction of the Reformation. Dante, with his firm faith in all Roman doctrine, could not have imagined or anticipated such a disruption as Luther's. Dean Stanley corrects an unimportant misprint or two in the second edition of his book, on the ground of the above statements. He does not even attempt to supply a passage from Dante. I have looked for one in vain."

Yet such a collection of errors, absurdities, falsehoods, and impostures is gravely presented, in this nineteenth century, by a learned clergyman, as comparable in regard to exact fulfillment with the oracles of God.

It is not intended here to discuss the question of the continuance of prophetic powers in the Church. If, as many believe, the promise in Joel ii. 28—"It shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, that your sons and your daughters shall prophesy," etc.—is a promise not yet exhausted, predictions given by the Holy Spirit may have been given through Christians in former times, and may still be given. But if such be the fact, these are not secular predictions; but spiritual and supernatural, and of the same class with those of Scripture; they are therefore not to be cited by Rationalists as examples of secular prediction.

But it is objected that "the prophecies of Scripture are as obscure as the oracles; are all wrapped up in symbolical language; that many of them have a double meaning; that no two interpreters are agreed as to the meaning of the unfulfilled predictions; and that no man can certainly foretell any future event by means of them."

The objection proceeds on a total mistake of the nature and design of prophecy, which is not to unvail the future for the gratification of your curiosity, but to give you direction in your present duty; precisely the reverse of the oracles referred to, which proposed to tell their votaries what should happen, but rarely condescended to direct them how to behave themselves so that things might happen well. The larger part of the prophecies of Scripture is taken up with directions to men how to regulate their conduct, rather than with information how God means to regulate his. There is just as much of the latter as is sufficient to show us that the God who gave the Bible governs the world, and even that always urges the same moral lesson: "Say ye to the righteous that it shall be well with him, for he shall eat the fruit of his doings." "Woe to the wicked; it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him." Whenever a vision relates to what God will do in the distant future, it is dark and mysterious; but whenever any directions are given necessary for our immediate duty, then the "vision is written and made plain on tables, that he may run that readeth it." The possessors of a clearly engrossed title-deed have surely no reason to complain that the president has chosen that his seal appended to it shall consist of a device, which, by reason of its being hard to read, and harder to imitate, secures both himself and them against forgery. The double meaning of some prophecies is a double check. So far from resembling the equivocations of heathen oracles, by taking either of two opposite events for a fulfillment, they require both of two corresponding ones; and some prophecies, like a master key, open several successive events, and thus show that the same mind planned both locks and key. When the prediction is fulfilled all mystery vanishes, and men see plainly that thus it was written; that is to say, men who look; for the man who will not open his eyes will never see anything that it concerns him to know. But the man who thinks that it concerns him so much to know what God will do with the world a hundred years after he is dead, that unless the prophecies of the Bible are all made plain to him, he will neither read God's word, nor obey his law, may go on his own way. We expound no mysteries to such persons; for it is written, "None of the wicked shall understand."

As to the objection taken from the symbolical language of prophecy, and which seems to a number of our modern critics so weighty that they remove to the purely mythologic ground everything "couched in symbolical language," and account nothing to be prediction unless "literal history written in advance"—I would merely ask, How is it possible to reveal heavenly things to earth-born men but by earthly figures? Do you know a single word in your own, or any other language to express a spiritual state, or mental operation, that is not the name of some material state, or physical operation, used symbolically? Heart, soul, spirit, idea, memory, imagination, inclination, etc., every one of them a figure of speech—a symbol. Nay, is there a letter in your own, or in any other alphabet, that was not originally a picture of something? I demand to know in what way God or man could teach you to know anything you have never seen, but by either showing you a picture of it, or telling you what it is like? That is simply by type or symbol; these are the only possible media of conveying heavenly truth, or future history to our minds. When, therefore, the skeptic insists that prophecy be given literally, in the style of history written in advance, he simply requires that God would make it utterly unintelligible. We can gather clear and definite ideas from the significant hieroglyphics of symbolical language, but the literalities of history written in advance would be worse to decipher than the arrow-headed inscriptions of Nineveh. Just imagine to yourself Alexander the Great reading Guizot, instead of Daniel; or Hildreth, as being less mysterious than Ezekiel; and meeting, for instance, such a record as this: "In the year of Christ, 1847, the United States conquered Mexico and annexed California." "In the year of Christ—what new Olympiad may be that?" he would say. "The United States of course means the States of the Achaen League, but on what shore of the Euxine may Mexico and California be found?" What information could Aristotle gather from the record that, "In 1857, the Transatlantic Telegraph was in operation?" Could all the augurs in the seven-hilled city have expounded to Julius Caesar the famous dispatch, if intercepted in prophetic vision, "Sebastopol was evacuated last night, after enduring for three days an infernal fire of shot and shell?" Nay, to diminish the vista to even two or three centuries, what could Oliver Cromwell, aided by the whole Westminster Assembly, have made of a prophetic vision of a single newspaper paragraph of history written in advance, to inform them that, "Three companies of dragoons came down last night from Berwick to Southampton, by a special train, traveling 54-1/2 miles an hour, including stoppages, and embarked immediately on arrival. The fleet put to sea at noon, in the face of a full gale from the S. W.?" Why, the intelligible part of this single paragraph would seem to them more impossible, and the unintelligible part more absurd, than all the mysterious symbols of the Apocalypse.

The world has accepted God's symbols thousands of years ago, and it is too late in the day for our reformers to propose new laws of thought, and forms of speech, to the human race. David's prophetic lyrics, Christ's graphic parables, Isaiah's celestial anthems, Ezekiel's glorious symbols, and Solomon's terse proverbs, will be recited and admired, ages after the foggy abstractions of mystified metaphysicians have vanished from the earth. The Thirst of Passion, the Cup of Pleasure, the Fountain of the Water of Life, the Blood of Murder, the Rod of Chastisement, the Iron Scepter, the Fire of Wrath, the Balance of Righteousness, the Sword of Justice, the Wheels of Providence, the Conservative Mountains, the Raging Seas of Anarchy, and the Golden, Brazen, and Iron Ages, will reflect their images in truth's mirror, and photograph their lessons on memory's tablet, while the mists of the "positive philosophy," "the absolute," and "the conditioned," float past unheeded, to the land of forgetfulness. God's prophetic symbols are the glorious embodiments of living truths, while man's philosophic abstractions are the melancholy ghosts of expiring nonsense.

The prophetic symbols are sufficiently plain to be distinctly intelligible after the fulfillment, as we shall presently see; sufficiently obscure to baffle presumptuous curiosity before it. Had they been so written as to be fully intelligible beforehand, they must have interfered with man's free agency, by causing their own fulfillment. They hide the future sufficiently to make man feel his ignorance; they reveal enough to encourage faith in the God who rules futurity.

The revelation of future events, however, is not the principal design of the prophecies of the Bible; they bear witness to God's powerful present influence over the world now. For God's prophecy is not merely his foretelling something which will certainly happen at some future time, but over which he has no control—as an astronomer foretells an eclipse of the sun, but can neither hasten nor hinder it—but it is his revealing of a part of his plan of this world's affairs, to show that God, and not man, is the sovereign of this world. For this purpose he tells beforehand the actions which wicked men, of their own free will, will commit, contrary to his law, and the measures he will take to thwart their designs, and fulfill his own. Nay, he declares he will so manage matters that, without their knowledge, and even contrary to their intentions, heathen armies, and infidel scoffers shall serve his purposes, and show his power; while yet they are as perfectly voluntary in all their movements as if they, and not God, governed the world. Every fulfilled prophecy thus becomes an instance and evidence of a supernatural government; and is, to a thinking mind, a greater miracle than casting mountains into the sea. The style of prophecy corresponds to this design. It is not by any means apologetic, or supplicating; but, on the contrary, majestic, convincing, and terrifying to the ungodly.

"Remember this and show yourselves men. Bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. For I am God, and there is none else. I am God, and there is none like me. Declaring the end from the beginning, And from, ancient times the things that are not yet done, Saying, 'MY COUNSEL SHALL STAND, AND I WILL DO ALL MY PLEASURE.'"[83]

Infidels feel the power of this manifestation of God in his word; and are driven to every possible denial of the fact, and evasion of the argument drawn from it. They feel instinctively that Bible prophecies are far more than mere predictions. They would rather endow every human being on earth with the power of predicting the future than allow the God of heaven that power of ruling the present which these prophecies assert. Hence the attempt to admit their predictive truth, and yet deny their divine authority, by ascribing them to human sagacity.

Transatlantic steam navigation has produced a remarkable change in the tone of Infidel writers and speakers in regard to the prophecies of the Bible. You could not converse long with an Infidel on this subject, a few years ago, until he would assure you, with all confidence, that the prophecies were all written after their fulfillment, and so were not prophecies at all. But now that travelers of all classes, scoffers, sailors, and doctors in divinity, scientific expeditions, and correspondents of daily papers, have flooded the world with undeniable attestations that many of them are receiving their fulfillment at this day, none but the most grossly ignorant and stupid attempt to deny that the prophecies of the Bible were written thousands of years since, and that many of them have since been accomplished; and that so many have been fulfilled that their accomplishment can not be ascribed to chance. But the force of the argument for the divine inspiration of the prophets is met by the assertion, that there is nothing supernatural in prophecy, and that it is only one form of the inspiration of genius applying the general laws of nature.

Calculating securely on that profound ignorance of the Bible which characterizes their followers, modern writers inform them that "none of the prophets ever uttered any distinct, definite, unambiguous prediction of any future event which has since taken place, which a man without a miracle could not equally well predict." It is alleged that the prophecies, in predicting the overthrow of the nations of antiquity, predicted nothing beyond the ken of human sagacity, enlightened by a careful study of the experience of the past, and the invariable laws of nature; that it requires no inspiration to foretell the decay of perishing things; that the invariable progress of all things, empires as well as individuals, is first upward, through a period of youthful vigor and energy, then onward through a period of ripe maturity, and then downward, through a gradual decay, and final dissolution, to the inevitable grave. The world's history is but a history of the decline and fall of nations.

1. Now, if this be true, it is an awful truth for the Infidel, for it sweeps away the last vestige of a foundation of his hope for eternity. The only reason any unbeliever in Revelation could ever give, or that modern Rationalists do give, for their hope of a happy eternity, is the analogy of nature—the alleged constant progress of all things toward perfection in this world. It is an awkward truth that individually we must die, and the worms crawl over us; but then the wretched fate of the individual was to be compensated by the glorious progress of the race onward and ever onward and upward; from the fungus to the frog, and from the frog to the monkey, from the monkey to the man, from the noble savage wild in woods, to the pastoral tribe, thence to the empire and the federal republic, and finally to the reign of individual and passional attraction, and union with the sum of all the intelligences of the universe, through a constant progress toward infinite perfection.

But, alas! it seems it was a false analogy, an ill-observed fact, a delusion; the course of nature is all the other way. The tendency of all perishing things is not to perfection, but to perdition; and it needs no inspiration to tell that man's loftiest towers, and strongest cities, and proudest empires will come to ruin; or that the most polished, powerful, and populous nations of antiquity will dwindle down into Turks, Moors, and Egyptians. Here is a fact of awful omen. Death reigns in this world of ours; death moral, social, political, and physical, has ever trampled upon man, proud man, learned man, civilized man, over all the plans of man, over every man, and over every association of men, even the largest, the widest, the mightiest. And now the Infidel, having taken away our hope of help from heaven, comes with the serpent's hiss, and fiendish sneer, to taunt the perishing world with this miserable truism—that the tendency of everything on earth is to perdition, and that it needs no inspiration to tell it. Truly it does not. Were that all the prophets of God had to tell us—as it is all the prophets of Infidelity can prophecy—we had as little need for the one as for the other. Earthquake and hurricane, volcano and valley flood, autumn frosts and winter blasts, fever, consumption, war, and pestilence, the grave-yard and the charnel-house, the Parthenon and the Pyramids, the silent cities of Colorado, and the buried palaces of Assyria, unite to attest this awful doom.

But what reason has the skeptic to believe that this invariable law of nature shall ever be repealed, and this inevitable progress of all things to perdition be arrested? Why may not men be as selfish, and filthy, and grasping, and murderous in the other world, as they are in this? Why may not the course of nature be as fatal to the sinner's prosperity there as it is here? Why may not the progress of the proud empires and spheres of futurity be such as the skeptic declares the progress of the past to have been, so invariably toward dissolution and death, that it shall need no inspiration to predict its course downward, downward, ever downward, to endless perdition? Stand forward, skeptic, and point the world to an instance in which an ungodly nation has stemmed this all-destroying torrent of ruin; or acknowledge that all you can promise the nations of the world to come, from your experience of the invariable laws of nature, is perdition, endless perdition.

2. It is manifest, however, that this destruction of nations and desolation of empires must have had a beginning some time or other. Nations could not perish before they had grown, nor empires be destroyed till they had accumulated; and during all this period of their growth and vigor the experience of mankind would never lead them to predict their ruin. The sagacious observer, beholding Babylon, Nineveh, Damascus, and Tyre, growing and flourishing during a period of a thousand years past, could have had no reason from such an experience to expect anything else than a thousand years of prosperity to come. Especially impossible is it for human sagacity, enlightened by experience, to predict unexampled desolations, destructions such as the world had never witnessed.

Now the predictions of the Bible are predictions of unexampled desolations, and unparalleled ruin of empires. The desolation of any extensive region of the earth, or the overthrow of any great nation, was an event absolutely unknown to the world when the prophets of the Bible began to utter their predictions; unless the skeptic will allow the truth of the Bible record of the prediction and execution of the deluge, and the destruction of Sodom. War and conquest had indeed caused some provinces to change masters; one nation had made marauding invasions on others, and carried off cattle and slaves; but the result of the greatest military operation of which we have any record, at the commencement of the prophetic era—the conquest of Palestine by the Israelites—so far from desolating the region, or exterminating the people, had been merely to increase its productiveness, and to drive its former occupants to new settlements, where at that era they were fully able to cope with their former conquerors. Whatever the experience of thirty centuries may have since taught the nations concerning the certainty of the connection between national crime and national ruin, a long-suffering God had not then given any such signal examples of it, as those of which he gave warning by the prophets.

The course of the nations and cities founded after the deluge had been regularly onward and prosperous, and they were just rising to the maturity of their power and splendor when Jonah, Micah, Hosea, and Isaiah, began to pronounce their sentences. They denounced desolation and solitude against nations more populous than this continent, one of whose cities enumerated more citizens than some of our proud commonwealths, and displayed buildings, a sight of whose crumbling ruins is deemed sufficient recompense for the perils of a journey of six thousand miles. The hundred churches of Cincinnati could all have been conveniently arranged in the basement of the temple of Belus; on the first floor our hundred thousand non-church-going citizens might have assembled to listen to a lecture on spiritualism from some eloquent Chaldean soothsayer; and the remaining seven stories would have still been open for the accommodation of the natives of the original Queen City. Every product of earth was trafficked in the markets of Tyre; a single Jewish house imported annually more gold than all the banks of this continent possess; and the whole coinage of the United States since 1793 would want a hundred millions of dollars of the value of the golden furniture of a single temple in Babylon. In fact, in the suburbs of Babylon or Nineveh, Washington or Cincinnati would have been insignificant villages; and the stone-fronted brick palaces of Broadway and the Fifth Avenue would make passable stables and haylofts for the mansions of Thebes or Petra.

So far, therefore, from being the teaching of experience, there was nothing more utterly unexampled and unparalleled than the complete desolation of any nation at the time the prophets of Israel predicted such things. If the world has grown wiser since regarding the decline and fall of empires, it has gathered the best part of its sagacity from the prophecies.

The degradation of the seed of Ham, and the colonization of Asia by the descendants of Japhet, were however undeniably predicted by Noah long before any examples or experiences of such things had occurred. Centuries after the degradation of Canaan had been predicted, his descendants were powerful, prosperous, and colonizing the shores of the world. But God foresaw, and compelled their ancestor to foretell, the corruption of the blood which would reduce his descendants to be servants of servants to their brethren; and now the ruins of their cities, and of the people descended from Canaan, are proverbial alike in the libraries and slave markets of the world.

But on the other hand, the colonization of the world by the descendants of Japhet was as particularly predicted by Noah as the degradation of the Canaanites; and this can not be called a prediction of destruction, but rather of great prosperity: "God shall enlarge Japhet." Every emigrant ship which discharges its cargo at New York, and every new prairie farm in America, and every sheep ranch in Australia, and every new cattle kraal in South Africa fulfills the prediction: "He shall dwell in the tents of Shem." The various Greek, Roman, English, and Russian Empires of Asia attest the truth. From the Volga to the Amour, and from Hong Kong to Singapore, and from the Ganges to the Indus, Japhet to-day dwells in the tents of Shem.

3. The prophecies of the Bible are not vague general denunciations of natural decline and extinction to all the nations of the world, which, if they were merely the exposition of a universal natural law of national death, they would be; nor yet the application of any such natural and inevitable law to some particular nation, denouncing its destruction, without any specification of time, manner, instrument, or cause of its infliction. They are all the applications of moral law—sentences pronounced on account of national wickedness. In every case the prophecy charges the crimes, and specifies the punishment, selected by the Judge of all the earth. The nations selected as examples of divine justice are as various as their sentences are different; covering a space as long as from Eastport to San Francisco, and climes as various as those between Canada and Cuba; peopled by men of every shade of color and degree of capacity, from the negro servant of servants, to the builders of the Coliseum, and the Pyramids. They minutely describe, in their own expressive symbols, the nations yet unfounded, and kings unborn, who should ignorantly execute the judgments of the Lord. They predict the futures of over thirty States, no two of which are alike; each prediction embracing a large number of minute particulars, any one of which was utterly beyond the range of human sagacity. To predict that a man will die may require no great sagacity; but to tell the year of his death, that he will die as a criminal, allege the crime for which he will be sentenced, the time, place, and manner of his execution, and the name of the sheriff who will execute the sentence, is plainly beyond the skill of man. Such is the character of Bible predictions. Zedekiah's sentence was thus pronounced; and thus, too, the sentences of nations doomed to ruin for their crimes are recorded in the Bible, that men may know that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken them. If, for instance, a prophet should declare that New York should be overturned, and become a little fishing village, and that her stones and timber, and her very dust, should be scraped off and thrown into the East River; that Philadelphia should become a swamp, and never be inhabited, from generation to generation; that Columbus should be deserted, and become a hog-pen; that Louisville should become a dry, barren desert; and New Orleans be utterly consumed with fire, and never be built again; that learning should depart from Boston, and no travelers ever pass through it any more; that New England should become the basest of the nations, and no native American ever be President of the Union, but that it should be a spoil and a prey to the most savage tribes; and that the Russians should tread Washington under foot for a thousand years; but that God would preserve Pittsburg in the midst of destruction—and if all these things should come to pass, would any man dare to deny that the prophet spake not the dictates of human sagacity, or the calculations of genius, but the words of God?

To attempt to illustrate the divine wisdom displayed in a system of connected predictions, covering the destiny of the nations of the world, and extending from the dawn of history to the end of time, by presenting two or three instances of the fulfillment of specific predictions, would be something like exhibiting a fragment of a column as a monument of the skill of the architect of a temple; yet, as such a fragment may excite the curiosity of the traveler to visit the structure whence it was taken, I shall present two or three prophecies in which specific predictions are given, concerning the geographical, political, social, and religious condition of three of the great nations of antiquity—Egypt, Judea, and Babylon—the fulfillment of which is spread over the surface of empires and the ruins of cities, patent to all travelers at the present hour, and abundantly attested in many volumes.[84]

Could human sagacity have calculated that Egypt—the most defensible country in the world, bounded on the south by inaccessible mountains, on the east by the Red Sea, on the west by the trackless, burning desert; able to defend the mouths of her river with a powerful navy, and to drown an invading army every year by the inundation of the Nile; which had not only maintained her independence, but extended her conquests for a thousand years past, whose victorious king, Apries, had just sent an expedition against Cyprus, besieged and taken Gaza and Sidon, vanquished the Tyrians by sea, mastered Phoenicia and Palestine, and boasted that not even a god could deprive him of his possessions—Egypt, which had given arts, sciences, and idolatry to half the world, and which had not risen to the full height of its world-wide fame, or the extent of its influence for twenty-five years after the prediction[85]—that Egypt should be invaded, conquered, spoiled, become a prey to strangers and evermore to strangers, never have a native prince, sink into barbarism, renounce idolatry, and become famous for her desolations? Yet the Bible predictions are specific on all these matters: "I will make the rivers dry, and sell the land into the hand of the wicked: and I will make the land waste, and all that is therein, by the hand of strangers: I the Lord have spoken it. Thus saith the Lord God; I will also destroy the idols, and I will cause the images to cease out of Noph; and there shall be no more a prince of the land of Egypt."[86]

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12     Next Part
Home - Random Browse