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

Let Infidels read the fulfillment of these predictions, as described by Infidels: "Such is the state of Egypt. Deprived twenty-three centuries ago of her natural proprietors, she has seen her fertile fields successively a prey to the Persians, the Macedonians, the Romans, the Greeks, the Arabs, the Georgians, and at length the race of Tartars distinguished by the name of the Ottoman Turks. The Mamelukes, purchased as slaves and introduced as soldiers, soon usurped the power and selected a leader. If their first establishment was a singular event, their continuance is not less extraordinary; they are replaced by slaves brought from their original country."[87] Says Gibbon: "A more unjust and absurd constitution can not be devised than that which condemns the natives of the country to perpetual servitude under the arbitrary dominion of strangers and slaves. Yet such has been the state of Egypt about five hundred years. The most illustrious sultans of the Baharite and Beyite dynasties were themselves promoted from the Tartar and Circassian bands; and the four and twenty beys, or military chiefs, have ever been succeeded, not by their sons, but by their servants."[88] Mehemet Ali cut off the Mamelukes, but still Egypt is ruled by the Turks, and the present ruler (Ibrahim Pasha) is a foreigner. It is needless to remind the reader that the idols are cut off. Neither the nominal Christians of Egypt, nor the iconoclastic Moslem, allow images to appear among them. The rivers, too, are drying up. In one day's travel forty dry water-courses will be crossed in the Delta; and water-skins are needed now around the ruined cities whose walls were blockaded by Greek and Roman navies.

"It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more bear rule over the nations."[89] Every traveler will attest the truth of this prediction. The wretched peasantry are rejoiced to labor for any who will pay them five cents a day, and eager to hide the treasure in the ground from the rapacious tax-gatherer. I have seen British horses refuse to eat the meal ground from the mixture of wheat, barley, oats, lentiles, millet, and a hundred unknown seeds of weeds and collections of filth, which forms the produce of their fields. For poverty, vermin, and disease, Egypt is proverbial. Let us hear a scoffer's testimony, however: "In Egypt there is no middle class, neither nobility, clergy, merchants, nor landholders. A universal air of misery in all the traveler meets points out to him the rapacity of oppression, and the distrust attendant upon slavery. The profound ignorance of the inhabitants equally prevents them from perceiving the causes of their evils, or applying the necessary remedies. Ignorance, diffused through every class, extends its effects to every species of moral and physical knowledge. Nothing is talked of but intestine troubles, the public misery, pecuniary extortions, and bastinadoes."[90]

The objector perhaps will allege in extenuation the modern improvements now in progress, the Suez Canal, the railroads, the steamboats on the Nile, the bridge across the Nile at Cairo, and the sugar and cotton plantations.

But if these were as evident tokens of progress in Egypt, as they would be in America, they would not in the least invalidate the facts of the past degradation of Egypt for centuries. But these speculations of the Khedive are of no advantage to the people; rather, on the contrary, do they afford him additional opportunities of exacting forced labor from the miserable peasants. I have seen the population of several villages, forced to leave their own fields in the spring, to march down to an old, filthy canal, near Cairo, and almost within sight of the gate of the palace, men, and women, and little boys, and girls, like those of our Sabbath-schools, scooping up the stinking mud and water with their hands, into baskets, carrying them on their heads up the steep bank, beaten with long sticks by the taskmasters to hasten their steps; while steam dredges lay unused within sight. Egypt is still the basest of the nations.

Here, then, we have conclusive proof of the fulfillment at this day of four distinct, specific, and improbable Bible predictions: concerning the country, the rulers, the religion, and the people of Egypt.

Let us note now a distinct and totally different judgment pronounced against the transgressors of another land. Pre-eminent in inflicting destruction on others, her retribution was to be extreme. Degradation and slavery were to be the portion of the learned Egyptians, but utter extinction is the doom of mighty Babylon. It is written in the Bible concerning the land where the farmer was accustomed to reap two hundred-fold: "Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest. * * * Every purpose of the Lord shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant. * * * Behold the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert. * * * Because of the wrath of the Lord it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate."[91]

Proofs in abundance of the fulfillment of these predictions present themselves in every volume of travels in Assyria and Chaldea. "Those splendid accounts of the Babylonian lands yielding crops of grain of two and three hundred fold, compared with the modern face of the country, afford a remarkable proof of the singular desolation to which it has been subjected. The canals at present can only be traced by their decayed banks. The soil of this desert consists of a hard clay, mixed with mud, which at noon becomes so heated with the sun's rays, that I found it too hot to walk over it with any degree of comfort."[92] "That it was at some former period in a far different state is evident from the number of canals by which it is traversed, now dry and neglected; and the quantity of heaps of earth, covered with fragments of brick and broken tiles, which are seen in every direction—the indisputable traces of former cultivation."[93] "The abundance of the country has vanished as clean away as if the besom of desolation had swept it from north to south; the whole land, from the outskirts of Babylon to the farthest stretch of sight, lying a melancholy waste. Not a habitable spot appears for countless miles."[94]

As the desolation of the country was to be extraordinary, so the desolation of the city of Babylon was to be remarkable. When the prophet wrote, its walls had been raised to the height of three hundred and fifty feet, and made broad enough for six chariots to drive upon them abreast. From its hundred brazen gates issued the armies which trampled under foot the liberties of mankind, and presented their lives to the nod of a despot, who slew whom he would, and whom he would allowed to live. Twenty years' provisions were collected within its walls, and the world would not believe that an enemy could enter its gates. Nevertheless, the prophets of God pronounced against it a doom of destruction as extraordinary as the pride and wickedness which procured it. Tyre, the London of Asia, was to become a place for the spreading of nets,[95] and the Infidel Volney tells us its commerce had declined to a trifling fishery; but even that implies some few resident inhabitants. Rabbah, of Ammon, was to become a stable for camels and a couching place for flocks.[96] Lord Lindsay reports that "he could not sleep amidst its ruins for the bleating of sheep, that the dung of camels covers the ruins of its palaces, and that the only building left entire in its Acropolis is used as a sheepfold."[97] Yet sheepfolds imply that the tents of their Arab owners are near, and that some human beings would occasionally reside near its ruins. But desolation, solitude, and utter abandonment to the wild beasts of the desert is the specific and clearly predicted doom of the world's proud capital. The most expressive symbols are selected from the desert to portray its desertion.

"Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there: but wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces."[98]

Every traveler attests the fulfillment of this strange prediction. "It is a tenantless and desolate metropolis," says Mignon; who, though fully armed, and attended by six Arabs, could not induce them by any reward to pass the night among its ruins, from the apprehension of evil spirits. So completely fulfilled is the prophecy, "The Arabian shall not pitch his tent there." The same voice which called camels and flocks to the palaces of Rabbah, summoned a very different class of tenants for the palaces of Babylon. Rabbah was to be a sheepfold, Babylon a menagerie of wild beasts; a very specific difference, and very improbable. One of the later Persian kings, however, after it was destroyed and deserted, repaired its walls, converted it into a vast hunting-ground, and stocked it with all manner of wild beasts; and to this day the apes of the Spice Islands, and the lions of the African deserts, meet in its palaces, and howl their testimony to the truth of God's Word. Sir R. K. Porter saw two majestic lions in the Mujelibe (the ruins of the palace), and Fraser thus describes the chambers of fallen Babylon: "There were dens of wild beasts in various places, and Mr. Rich perceived in some a strong smell, like that of a lion. Bones of sheep and other animals were seen in the cavities, with numbers of bats and owls."

Various destructions were predicted for Babylon. "I will make it a habitation for the bittern, and pools of water,"[99] says one prophecy. "Her cities are a desolation, a dry land, and a wilderness,"[100] says another. How can such contradictions be true? says the scoffer.

But the scoffer's contradiction is a fact. God can cause the most discordant agencies to agree in effecting his purpose. Babylon is alternately an overflowed swamp, from the inundations of the obstructed Euphrates, and an arid desert, under the scorching rays of an Eastern sun. Says Mignon: "Morasses and ponds tracked the ground in various places. For a long time after the subsiding of the Euphrates great part of this place is little better than a swamp." At another season it was "a dry waste and burning plain." Even at the same period, "one part on the western side is low and marshy, and another an arid desert."[101]

Another, and widely different agent, to be employed in the destruction of the great center of tyranny and idolatry, is thus specifically and definitely indicated in the prediction: "Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the Lord, which destroyest all the earth: and I will stretch out my hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain. And they shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations; but thou shalt be desolate forever, saith the Lord."[102]

"There is one fact," says Fraser, "in connection with the most remarkable of these relics (the Birs Nimrod), which we can not dismiss without a few more observations. All travelers who have ascended the Birs have taken notice of the singular heaps of brick-work scattered on the summit of this mound, at the foot of the remnant of the wall still standing. To the writer they appeared the most striking of all the ruins. That they have undergone the most violent action of fire is evident from the complete vitrification which has taken place in many of the masses. Yet how a heat sufficient to produce such an effect could have been applied at such a height from the ground is unaccountable. They now lie on a spot elevated two hundred feet above the plain, and must have fallen from some much more lofty position, for the structure which still remains, and of which they may be supposed originally to have formed a part, bears no marks of fire. The building originally can not have contained any great proportion of combustible materials, and to produce so intense a heat by substances carried to such an elevation would have been almost impossible, for want of space to pile them on. Nothing, we should be inclined to say, short of the most powerful action of electric fire, could have produced the complete, yet circumscribed, fusion which is here observed. Although fused into a solid mass, the courses of bricks are still visible, identifying them with the standing pile above, but so hardened by the power of heat, that it is almost impossible to break off the smallest piece; and, though porous in texture, and full of air-holes and cavities, like other bricks, they require, on being submitted to the stone-cutter's lathe, the same machinery as is used to dress the hardest pebbles."[103]

The doom of Nineveh, the great rival and predecessor of Babylon, was also predicted as the result of two apparently contradictory agencies—an overrunning flood and a consuming fire. But both these antagonistic elements conspired to devour her. The river, with an overrunning flood, swept away a large portion of the walls. The besiegers entered through the breach, and set the city on fire. The charcoal, burnt beans, and slabs of half-calcined alabaster, in the British Museum, demonstrate the fulfillment of the prediction.

Egypt was to be reduced to slavery and degradation. Babylonia to utter barrenness and desolation; but a different and still more incredible doom is pronounced in the Bible upon Judea and its people. The land was to be emptied of its people, and remain uncultivated, retaining all its former fertility, while the people were to be scattered over all the earth, yet never to lose their distinct nationality, nor be amalgamated with their neighbors: "I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savor of your sweet odors. And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it. And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her Sabbaths."[104] "Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil-tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves."[105] "The generation to come, of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, * * * Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? What meaneth the heat of this great anger?"[106]

It is superfluous to adduce proof of the undeniable and acknowledged fulfillment of these predictions, but as an example of the way in which God causes scoffers to fulfill the prophecies, let us again hear Volney: "I journeyed in the empire of the Ottomans, and traversed the provinces which were formerly the kingdoms of Egypt and Syria. I enumerated the kingdoms of Damascus and Idumea, of Jerusalem and Samaria. This Syria, said I to myself, now almost depopulated, then contained a hundred flourishing cities, and abounded with towns, villages, and hamlets. What has become of so many productions of the hand of man? What has become of those ages of abundance and of life? Great God! from whence proceed such melancholy revolutions? For what cause is the fortune of these countries so strikingly changed? Why are so many cities destroyed? Why is not that ancient population reproduced and perpetuated? A mysterious God exercises his incomprehensible judgments. He has doubtless pronounced a secret malediction against the earth. He has struck with a curse the present race of men in revenge of past generations."[107] The malediction is no secret to any who will read the twenty ninth chapter of Deuteronomy; nor is the avenging of the quarrel of God's covenant confined to the sins of past generations. The philosopher who would understand the fates of cities and empires should read the prophecies.

The Word of God specifies no less distinctly and definitely the destiny of the Jewish than of the Babylonian capital, but fixes on a widely different kind of destruction. Babylon was never to be built again, but devoted to solitude; busy Tyre to become a place for spreading nets; the caravans, which once brought the wealth of India through Petra, were to cease, and the doom was to "cut off him that passeth by and him that returneth." But Jerusalem, it was predicted, should long feel the miseries of a multitude of oppressors, should never enjoy the luxury of a solitary woe, but "be trodden down of the Gentiles."[108] Saracens, Tartars, Turks, and Crusaders, Gentiles from every nation of the earth, fulfilled the prediction of old, even as hosts of pilgrims from all parts of the earth do at this day.

So minute and specific are the predictions of Scripture, that the fate of particular buildings is accurately defined. One temple to the living God, and only one, raised its walls in this world, which he had made for his worship. Its frequenters perverted it from its proper use of leading them to confess their sinfulness, to seek pardon through the promised Savior to whom its ceremonies pointed, and to learn to be holy, as the God of that temple was holy. They hoped that the holiness of the place would screen them in the indulgence of pride, formality, and wickedness. The temple of the Lord, instead of the Lord of the temple, was the object of their veneration. But the doom went forth. "Therefore for your sakes shall Zion be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become as heaps, and the mountain of the house like the high places of the forest." History has preserved, and the Jews to this day curse the name of the soldier, Terentius Rufus, who plowed up the foundations of the temple. It long continued in this state. But the Emperor Julian the Apostate conceived the idea of falsifying the prediction of Jesus, "Behold your house is left unto you desolate,"[109] and sent his friend Alypius, with a Roman army, and abundant treasure, to rebuild it. The Jews flocked from all parts to assist in the work. Spades and pickaxes of silver were provided by the vanity of the rich, and the rubbish was transported in mantles of silk and purple. But they were obliged to desist from the attempt, for "horrible balls of fire breaking out from the foundations with repeated attacks, rendered the place inaccessible to the scorched workmen, and the element driving them to a distance from time to time, the enterprise was dropped."[110] Such is the testimony of a heathen, confirmed by Jews and Christians. The inclosures of the mosque of Omar, forbidding them all access to the spot on which it stood, leave it desolate to the Jews to this day. I have seen them (in 1872) kissing a few large stones, supposed to belong to its foundations or sub-structures, from the outside; for which miserable privilege they were obliged to pay their oppressors. On approaching the spot from the Zion gate, right across Mount Zion to the temple ruins, our way lay through a plowed field of young barley, and gardens of cauliflowers hedged with enormous rows of cactus. To this day Zion is plowed as a field.

4. No sane man can believe that such minute and accurate predictions of various and improbable events could be the result of human calculations; yet there is another feature of the Bible prophesies still farther removed beyond the reach of human sagacity, and that is, remarkable and unaccountable preservation amidst the general ruin. If, as skeptics allege, destruction is the natural and inevitable doom, then preservation is supernatural and miraculous—a miracle of divine power controlling nature; and its prediction is a miracle of divine wisdom. Now the prophecies of the Bible contain several very definite, and widely different predictions of the preservation of people and cities from the general destruction. We shall refer in this case also to those of whose fulfillment there can be no manner of doubt, for the facts are palpable and undeniable at the present day.

The prediction of the character and fate of the Arabs stands out a remarkable contrast to the predictions of the destruction of the surrounding nations. Of their ancestor, Ishmael, it was predicted: "He will be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren."[111] The nomad and warlike habits of the sons of Ishmael are here distinctly predicted; and the singular anomaly which exempts them alone, of all the people of the earth, from the law, "They that take the sword, shall perish by the sword." The unconquered Arab laughs alike at the Persian, Greek, Roman, Turkish, and French invaders of his deserts, levies tribute on all who enter his territory, and dwells to-day, a free man, in the presence of all his brethren, as God foretold.

Of the Israelitish nation God predicted, that it should be a peculiar, distinct people, separate from the other nations of the world: "Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations."[112] In apparent contradiction to this separation, he further threatened to punish them for their sins, by dispersing them over the world: "I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you."[113] "For lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the last grain fall upon the earth."[114] It was further threatened, as if to make sure of their national destruction: "And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shall have none assurance of thy life."[115] Contrary to all appearances, and in spite of all this dispersion and persecution, it is predicted that Israel shall still exist as a nation, and be restored to the favor of God, and that prosperity which ever accompanies it: "And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the Lord their God."[116]

Here are four distinct predictions, of national peculiarity, universal dispersion, grievous oppression, and remarkable preservation. The fulfillment is obvious, and undeniable. You need no commentary to explain it. Go into any clothing-store on Western Row, or into the synagogue in Broadway, and you will see it. The Infidel is sorely perplexed to give any account of this great phenomenon. How does it happen that this singular people is dispersed over all the earth, and yet distinct and unamalgamated with any other? How does it happen that for eighteen hundred years they have resisted all the influences of nature, and all the customs of society, and all the powers of persecution, driving them toward amalgamation, and irresistible in all other instances? In the face of the power of the Chinese Empire, in spite of the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition, amid the chaos of African nationalities, and the fusion of American democracy, in the plains of Australia, and in the streets of San Francisco, the religion, customs, and physiognomy of the children of Israel are as distinct this day as they were three thousand years ago, when Moses wrote them in the Pentateuch, and Shishak painted them on the tombs of Medinet Abou. How does the Infidel account for it? It will not do to allege the favorite story about purity of blood and Caucasian race; for the question is, How does it happen that this people, and this people alone, have kept the blood pure; while all other races are so mingled that no other race can be found pure on earth? Besides, lest any should suppose such a cause sufficient for their preservation, another nation, descended from the same father and the same mother—the children of Jacob's twin brother—has utterly perished, and there is not any remaining of the house of Esau.

Human sagacity, with all the facts before its face, can not give any rational account of the causes of this anomaly. It can not tell to-day why this people exists separate from, and scattered through all nations, from Kamschatka to New Zealand; how, then, could it foretell, three thousand years ago, this singular exception to all the laws of national existence? While the sun and moon endure, the nation of Israel shall exist as God's witness to God's word, an undeniable proof that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

A very peculiar feature of the desolation of Israel was the desolation, but not the destruction of the cities. In most cases of the desolations of war, the cities have been burned and the buildings destroyed. There is no shelter for man or beast in the mounds of rubbish which cover the ruined cities of Assyria. Where the buildings have not been destroyed, or have been rebuilt, they have again been inhabited; as we see in the cases of Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and many others. But on the cities of Israel it was written that God's curse should go forth "till the cities should be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be left utterly desolate." But for a long time the literal fulfillment of this prediction was not witnessed, as the cities on this side the Jordan had been mostly reduced to ruins. The richest and most populous part of the land, however, was the land of Bashan; where, in a territory of about thirty miles by twenty, sixty cities still remain standing to attest the wonderful fertility of the soil and industry of the people. "And though the vast majority of them are deserted, they are not ruined. * * * Many of the houses in the ancient cities of Bashan are perfect, as if only finished yesterday. The walls are sound, the roofs unbroken, the doors, and even the window shutters in their places."[117] From two hundred to five hundred houses have been found perfect in some of these cities; and from the roof of the Castle of Salcah, Dr. Porter counted thirty towns and villages dotting the plain, many of them perfect as when first built; "yet for more than five centuries there has not been an inhabitant in one of them." So sure is every word of God.

Take another instance of preservation, so remarkable amid the surrounding destruction, that it arrested the attention and admiration of the author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, skeptic and scoffer though he was.

The seven churches of seven of the most considerable cities of Asia were then, as the churches of Christ still are, the salt of the earth. Ten righteous men would have averted God's judgments from Sodom. Jesus pronounced the sentences of these churches seventeen hundred and sixty years ago, and the present condition of the cities attests the divine authority of the record containing them. They are various and specific. Three were to be utterly destroyed. Against two no special threatening is denounced. To the remaining two promises of life and blessing are given.

Ephesus, famous for its magnificence, the busy avenue of travel, the seat of the temple of Diana, long the residence of an apostle, and afterward of Christian bishops—"one of the eyes of Asia"—as it stood first on the roll of cities, first receives the doom of abused privileges: "I will remove thy candlestick out of its place, unless thou repent."

Says Gibbon: "The captivity and ruin of the seven churches of Asia was consummated (by the Ottomans) A. D. 1312; and the barbarous lords of Ionia and Lydia still trample on the monuments of classic and Christian antiquity. In the loss of Ephesus the Christians deplored the fall of the first angel, and the extinction of the first candlestick of the Revelation. The desolation is complete, and the temple of Diana or the church of Mary will equally elude the search of the curious traveler."[118]

Since Gibbon's day the foundations of the temple have been discovered twelve to fourteen feet below the soil; but no church of Christ remains to illuminate the minds of the few squalid and lazy dwellers in the village of Aisayalouk. One cobbler's stall represented the whole manufacturing industry of Ephesus; and four boys playing a game like drafts, with pebbles, in front of it seemed the only public likely to patronize its theater, as I took note of its people and their occupations, in 1872. Then leaving the storks in their nests, on the top of the ruined arches of its great aqueduct, to proceed toward the ruins of the great theater, we tried in vain to procure horses or asses for the ladies; found the only road so filled with water from the recent rains as to be impassable, and were fain to plunge on foot through the plowed fields till we reached the elevation on which it was erected. Here we surveyed its rock-hewn seats, capable of accommodating an audience larger than that of all the theaters of New York; but there was no longer a voice to cry, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" The sea has forsaken the harbor, which is now a pestilential morass. We passed through the ruins of the custom-house, now miles inland, and found a single Turkish soldier on guard. The peasants who cultivate some parts of the plain come from distant villages, and fever, filth, and beggary reign in Ephesus.

Had the twenty thousand patrons of the drama, in the thirty-one theaters of New York, honored the theater of Laodicea with their presence, its polite citizens would have accommodated them all on the reserved seats, retiring themselves to ten thousand less commodious sittings, and to two less gigantic theaters. While yet busy in the erection of their splendid places of public amusement, Jesus said, "I will spew thee out of my mouth." "The circus, and three stately theaters of Laodicea, are peopled with wolves and foxes," says Gibbon.

The church was spewed out of Christ's mouth, and the city too. It has been overturned by earthquakes, and is now nothing but a series of magnificent ruins, from which, however, ample evidence may be collected of its former magnificence. Those of the aqueduct, the theater, and the amphitheater, are remarkable; in the latter an inscription has been found showing that it was in course of erection when the Lord dictated the warning to its people. But the warning was unheeded, and now the whole space inside the city walls is strewn with fragments of columns and pedestals.

A Lydian capitalist once deposited in the vaults of Sardis more specie than is now in circulation in this whole continent. But Jesus said, "Thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead. If, therefore, thou shalt not watch, I will come upon thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee."

"Sardis," says Gibbon, "is a miserable village." A later writer (Durbin) tells us that the Turks say, "Every one who builds a house in Sardis dies soon, and avoid the spot." Arundell, in his account of his visit to the seven churches, says: "If I were asked what impresses the mind most strongly on beholding Sardis, I should say, its indescribable solitude, like the darkness of Egypt, that could be felt. So deep the solitude of the spot, once the lady of kingdoms, produces a feeling of desolate abandonment in the mind which can never be forgotten." Connect this feeling with the message of the Apocalypse to the church of Sardis, "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead, and then look around and ask, Where are the churches? Where are the Christians of Sardis? The tumuli beyond the Hermus reply, 'All dead!'—suffering the infliction of the threatened judgment of God for the abuse of their privileges. Let the unbeliever, then, be asked, Is there no truth in prophecy?—no reality in religion?"

Only twenty-seven miles north of this desolate metropolis, the manufactories of Thyatira dispatch weekly to Smyrna, cloths, as famous over Asia for the brilliancy and durability of their hues as those which Lydia displayed to the admiration of the ladies of Philippi. Two thousand two hundred Greek Christians, two hundred Armenian, and a Protestant Church under the care of the missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, assemble every Sabbath to commemorate the resurrection of Him who said to the church of Thyatira: "I will put upon you no other burden; but that which ye have already hold fast till I come."

The fragrant citron (Bergamot) still flourishes around the birthplace of Galen; but the ruins of the famous library of 200,000 manuscripts are far less durable memorials of the city of booksellers than those beautifully dressed skins, which, taking their name (Pergamena) from the place of their manufacture, will preserve the name and fame of Pergamos as long as parchment can preserve man's memorials, or God's predictions. Though famous for fragrance, physic, and philosophy, Pergamos was infamous for idolatry, licentiousness, and persecution; yet still endeared to Jesus as the scene of the martyrdom of faithful Antipas, and the dwelling-place of a hidden church; and widely different sentences are recorded against those opposite classes. The public memorials are to perish, but the hidden word to endure. "The fanes of Jupiter and Diana, and Venus and Esculapius (worshiped under the symbol of a live snake), were prostrate in the dust, and where they had not been carried away by the Turks to cut up into tombstones or pounded into mortar, the Corinthian columns and the Ionic, the splendid capitals, the cornices and the pediments, all in the highest ornament, were thrown in unsightly heaps,"[119] is the comment on the threatening of Jesus, "I will fight against them—the idolaters—with the sword of my mouth." The 3,000 Greek and 300 Armenian Christians, and even the 10,000 Turkish inhabitants of the modern Pergamos, have received hundreds of copies of the promise, "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it." But whether the hidden church of Pergamos shine forth or not, Gibbon was inaccurate in stating, in the face of facts, that "the god of Mohammed without a rival is invoked in the mosques of Pergamos and Thyatira." God's providence is as discriminating as his prophecy, though unbelief may overlook both.

We have noted here instances of the prediction of remarkable destruction to Sardis, Ephesus, and Laodicea; of continued existence to Pergamos and Thyatira; let us now note a prediction of remarkable escape and preservation from the universal doom. If it requires no inspiration to prophecy destruction—the universal fate of humanity, according to the Infidel—surely it requires more than human skill to say that any city shall escape this universal fate, and more than human power to avert this destruction. Of Philadelphia, but twenty-five miles distant from the ruins of Sardis, Jesus said, and the Bible records the prophecy: "I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God; and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name."

"Philadelphia alone," says Gibbon, "has been saved by prophecy, or courage. At a distance from the sea, forgotten by the emperors, encompassed on all sides by the Turks, her valiant sons defended their religion and their freedom alone for fourscore years, and at length capitulated with the proudest of the Ottomans. Among the Greek colonies and churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect—a column in a scene of ruins—a pleasing example that the paths of honor and safety may be the same."

In the pages of this eloquent writer it would be hard to discover another instance of unqualified hearty commendation of soldiers or sufferers for Christianity and liberty, such as Gibbon here bestows on Philadelphia's valiant sons. But it was written, "I will make them come and worship before thy feet," and the skeptic and scoffer must fulfill the word of Jesus; even as the unbelieving Mohammedan also does, when he writes upon it the modern name, Allah Sehr—The City of God. A majestic solitary pillar, of high antiquity, arrests the eye of the traveler, and reminds the worshipers in the six modern churches of Philadelphia of the beauty and faithfulness of the prophetic symbol. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but Jesus' word shall not pass away.

Improbable to human sagacity as this preservation must have seemed, the resurrection of a fallen city is more utterly beyond man's vision. In the Bible, however, tribulation and recovery were foretold to Smyrna: "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." "The populousness of Smyrna is owing to the foreign trade of the Franks and Armenians," says the scoffer. No matter to what it is owing, he who dictated the Bible foresaw it, and made no mistake in foretelling it. Says Arundell: This, the other eye of Asia, is still a very flourishing commercial city, one of the very first in the present Turkish empire in wealth and population, containing 130,000 inhabitants. The continued importance of Smyrna may be estimated from the fact that it is the seat of a consul from every nation in Europe. The prosperity of Smyrna is now rather on the increase than the decline, and the houses of painted wood, which were most unworthy of its ancient fame and present importance, are rapidly giving way to palaces of stone rising in all directions; and, probably, ere many years have passed, the modern town may not unworthily represent the ancient city, which the ancients delighted to call the crown of Ionia. Commercial activity and architectural beauty, however, are but a small part of the glorious destiny of the community to which Jesus says, "I will give thee a crown of life."

Mark Twain suggests that the prophecy refers to the church, rather than to the city; but forgets to remind us that the Church of Christ is well represented and crowned with life in Smyrna. God's predictions regard the vital part of communities, the spiritual forces; these, vigorous and outspreading, secure the material progress. Close the Bible House, printing presses, and schools of America, and real estate would not be worth much more than in Asia. The Lord Christ rules this world. His blessing has revived both the church and the city of Smyrna, according to his promise. In 1872 I found its harbor busy with coasting craft and ocean steamers, and its railroad doing a brisk business. Smyrna is a live city.

Deliverance from the curse of sin, and communion with the Lord of Life, alone can secure either a nation's or an individual's immortality. Smyrna possesses the gospel of salvation. Several devoted English and American missionaries proclaim salvation to its citizens. From its printing presses thousands of copies of the Word of Life issue to all the various populations of the Turkish Empire. A living Church of Christ in Smyrna holds forth, for the acceptance of the dying nations around her, that crown of life promised and granted by the Word of God, not to her only, but to all who love his appearing and his kingdom.

5. This is the grand distinction of God's word of prophecy, that it is the Word of Life. It is the only word which promises life, the only word which bestows it on fallen humanity. Recognizing no inevitable law of destruction but the sentence of God, no invariable law of nature superior to the counsel of Jehovah, nor any progress of events which his Almighty arm can not arrest and reverse, it points a despairing world to sin as the cause of all destruction, to Satan as the author of sin, to ungodly men in league with him as the foes of God and man, and to Christ pledged to perpetual warfare with such until the last enemy be destroyed. This word of prophecy tells us, that the battle-fields Messiah has won are earnests of that great victory; points to the columns which he has preserved erect amid scenes of ruin, as assurances that he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him; goes to the graveyards where fallen Smyrnas, idolatrous Saxons, debased Sandwich Islanders, and cannibal New Zealanders have buried the image of the living God, and in Jesus' name proclaims, "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;" and, amid the very ruins of destroyed cities, and the crumbling heaps of their perished memorials, beholds the assurances that Satan's rule of ruin shall not be perpetual, anticipates the day when the course of sin and misery shall be reversed, and teaches Adam's sons to face the foe, and chant forth that heaven-born note of victorious faith, "Oh, thou enemy! destructions are come to a perpetual end."

Come forth, trembling skeptic, from the cave of thy dark invariable experience of death and destruction, and from the vain sparks of thy misgiving hopes of an ungodly eternity to come less miserable than the past, and lift thine eyes to this heavenly sunrising on the dark mountain tops of futurity, the like of which thou didst never dream of in all thy Pantheistic reveries. Search over all the religions of the world—the hieroglyphics of Egypt, the arrow-headed inscriptions of Assyria, the classic mythologies of graceful Greece and iron Rome, the monstrous shasters of thine Indian Pundits, or the more chaotic clouds of thy German philosophies—in none of them wilt thou ever find this divine thought, an end of destructions—a perpetual end. Cycles of ruin and renovation, and of renovation and ruin, vast cycles, if you will, but evermore ending in dire catastrophies to gods and men—an everlasting succession of death and destructions—is the fearful vista which all the religions of man, and thine own irreligion, present to thy terrified vision. But thou wast created in the image of the living God, and durst not rest satisfied with any such prospect. Now I come in the name of the Lord to tell thee, that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life;" and I demand of thee that thou acknowledge this promise of life everlasting to be the word of that living God, and to show cause, if any thou hast, why thou dost relinquish thy birthright, and spurn the gift of everlasting life which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?

But, if thou hast no sufficient cause why thou shouldest choose death rather than life, then hear, and your soul shall live, while I relate the promise which God hath made of old to our fathers, and hath fulfilled to us, their children, by raising up his Son, Jesus Christ, from the dead, and sending him to bless you, by turning away every one of you from your iniquities. For there can be no deliverance from misery and destruction but by means of delivery from sin and Satan.

It is quite in agreement with the manner of our deliverance from any of the evils of our fallen condition, that our deliverance from the power of sin and Satan be effected by the agency of a deliverer. Our ignorance is removed by the knowledge of a teacher, our sickness by the skill of a physician, the oppressed nation hails the advent of a patriotic leader, and oppressed humanity acknowledges the fitness and need of a divine Deliverer, even by the ready welcome it has given to pretenders to this character, and by the longing desire of the wisest and best of men for a divinely commissioned Savior; a desire implanted by the great prophecy, which stands at the portal of hope for mankind, in the very earliest period of our history, that "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head," and so leave man triumphant over the great destroyer.

The prophecies regarding the Messiah are so numerous, pointed, various, and improbable, as to set human sagacity utterly at defiance; while they are also connected so as to form a scheme of prophecy, which gradually unrolls before us the advent, the ministry, the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord, the progress of his gospel over all the world, and the blessed effects it should produce on individuals, families, and nations. It closes with a view of the second coming of Jesus to conquer the last of his enemies, and take possession of the earth as his inheritance. I can only lop off a twig or two from this blessed tree of life, in the hope that the fragrance of the leaves may allure you to take up the Bible, and eat abundantly of its life-giving promises. As I have in the previous chapters abundantly proved the veracity of the New Testament history, I shall now with all confidence refer to its account of the birth, life, and death of Jesus, as illustrating the prophecies.

The time, the place, the manner of his birth, his parentage and reception, were plainly declared, hundreds of years before he appeared.

When Herod had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born, and they said unto him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel." The first verse of this chapter records the fact, "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea."

The throne of Judah was to be occupied by strangers, and the line of native princes was to cease upon the coming of this Governor, and not till his coming: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh shall come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." On the day of his crucifixion the rulers of the Jews made this formal and public announcement of the fact, "We have no king but Caesar."

He was to address a class of people whom no other religious teacher had condescended to notice before, and very few save those sent by Him ever since: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek: he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." Hear Jesus' words: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me."

Yet, notwithstanding his feeding of thousands, and healing of multitudes, and teaching of the lowest of the people, it was foretold he should be unpopular: "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not." The brief records are: "Then all the disciples forsook him and fled." "Then began Peter to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man." "Pilate saith unto them, Ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber."

All the prophets agree in predicting that for the sins of his people, and to atone for their guilt, he should be put to death by a shameful public execution: "In the midst of the week Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. He was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. They pierced my hands and my feet." The record says: "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." "And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

The one grand unparalleled fact, one which demands the hope of dying men for a victory over the great destroyer, and a resurrection from the tomb—the fact that one man born of a woman died, and did not see corruption, but rose again from the dead and went up into heaven, and dieth no more—forms the theme of many a prophetic psalm of triumph: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor wilt thou give thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life. Thou wilt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Thou hast ascended on high. Thou hast led captivity captive." Often did Jesus predict this prodigy before friend and foe: "Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, when he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again." The last chapters of the gospels relate the proofs by which he convinced his incredulous disciples that the prophecy was fulfilled: "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he saith unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and of an honey comb. And he took it and did eat before them; and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And behold I send the promise of my Father upon you, but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And while he was blessing them he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven, as he went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel, which said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."

With your own eyes you shall see the fulfillment of this prophecy. Every eye shall see him. The clouds of heaven shall then reveal the vision now sketched on the page of revelation: "And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God, out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying: neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, WRITE, FOR THESE WORDS ARE TRUE AND FAITHFUL."

FOOTNOTES:

[81] Jewish Church, 463, 4. The Bible, 80.

[82] De Die Natali, c. 17, cited in Pusey on Daniel, 642.

[83] Isaiah, chap. xlvi. 8-11.

[84] Newton on the Prophecies, and Keith on the Prophecies, are to be found in all respectable libraries. The former contains valuable extracts from ancient historians; the latter from the journals and engravings of travelers.

[85] Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians, I. 169. Herodotus, II. 169.

[86] Ezekiel, chap. xxx.

[87] Volney's Travels, I. 74, 103.

[88] Decline and Fall, chap. lix.

[89] Ezekiel, chap. xxix.

[90] Volney, I. 190.

[91] Jeremiah, chaps. l. and li.

[92] Mignon's Travels, 31.

[93] Trans. Bombay Lit. Soc. I. 123.

[94] Porter's Babylonia, II. 285.

[95] Ezekiel, chap. xxvi.

[96] Ezekiel, chap. xxv.

[97] Lindsay's Travels, II. 78, 117.

[98] Isaiah, chap. xiii.

[99] Isaiah, chap. xiv.

[100] Jeremiah, chap. li.

[101] Mignon, 139.

[102] Jeremiah, chap. li.

[103] Fraser's Mesopotamia, page 145.

[104] Leviticus, chap. xxvi.

[105] Isaiah, chap. vi.

[106] Deuteronomy, chap. xxix.

[107] Volney's Ruins of Empires, Book I.

[108] Luke, chap. xxi.

[109] Micah, chap. iii. Matthew, chap. xxii.

[110] Ammianus Marcellus, 23d chap. I.

[111] Genesis, chap. xvi. 12.

[112] Numbers, chap. xxiii.

[113] Leviticus, chap. xxvi.

[114] Amos, chap. ix.

[115] Deuteronomy, chap. xxviii.

[116] Leviticus, chap. xxvi.

[117] Porter's Giant Cities of Bashan, passim.

[118] Decline and Fall, chap. lxiv.

[119] Macfarlane's Seven Apocalyptic Churches.



CHAPTER IX.

MOSES AND THE PROPHETS.

In the foregoing chapters we have found, that we have great need of God's teaching; that he has sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to show us the way of life; that the gospel preached by him and his apostles has proved itself the power of God, by saving men from their sins; and that this gospel is truly recorded in the New Testament. From these facts, already settled, we proceed, according to our plan of investigation, to examine those which may be more obscure; to examine the Old Testament by the light of the New.

The great majority of Jews and Christians have always believed, that the world was in as great need of God's teaching before the coming of Christ as it has been since; that God did put his words into the mouths of certain persons, called prophets; and that he caused them to tell them truly to their neighbors; that he enabled these prophets to make predictions of future events beyond the skill of man to calculate, and to do miracles which the power of man could not perform, as proofs that they spake the Word of God; that he caused them truly to record in writing a great many of these revelations, and so much of the history of the times in which, and of the people to whom, they were given, as was needful for a right understanding of them; that he has so managed matters since, as that these revelations and narratives have been faithfully preserved in the books of the Old Testament; that we are bound to believe these revelations to be true, not because we can otherwise demonstrate their truth, but because God, who can not lie, has declared it; and that we are bound to do the things they command, not merely because we see them to be right, but because God commands us.

It is needful to consider the divine authority of the Old Testament distinctly from that of the New, not only because it is a distinct subject in itself, and because our plan of investigation leads us backward from the known and established fact of the divine authority of the New Testament to the discovery or disproof of the like character in the Old; but because a great many persons admit, in words at least, that Christ was a teacher sent from God, who, either in so many words, or in effect, deny the divine authority of the Old Testament. Some of the modern Rationalists have revived the creed of the Gnostics of the first century—that the Hebrew Jehovah was a being of very different character from the Deity revealed by Jesus Christ. They will extol to the skies the world-wide benevolence, compassion and kindness of the gospel of Christ, in contrast with the alleged national pride, bigotry, and exclusiveness of the Hebrew prophets. Others are desirous of appearing remarkably candid in bestowing on the Old Testament a liberal commendation as a collection of religious tracts of merely human origin, and of various degrees of merit; some of them of extraordinary literary excellence, well suited to the infancy of the human intellect, and highly useful in their time in raising men from fetichism and idolatry to the worship of one God; but which, containing many errors along with this grand truth, have been set aside by the more perfect teachings of Christ and his apostles, much in the same way as the old Ptolemaic astronomy was displaced by the discoveries of Newton. Others still are willing to acknowledge the Old Testament as inspired, provided we will allow Shakespeare and the Koran to be inspired also. Besides all these, there are several scores of scholars anxious to conceal its nakedness under theories of inspiration made and trimmed in a great many styles, but all cut from the same doctrine, to wit, that God revealed his truth aright to Moses and the prophets, but they went wrong in the telling of it. Now, all these notions are refuted by the fact, that God is the Author of the Bible.

When we say that God is the Author of the Bible, and that it carries with it a divine authority because it is the Word of God, we do not mean that God is the Author of every saying in it, and that every sentiment recorded in it is God's mind, any more than we mean to make D'Aubigne responsible for every sentiment of priests, popes and monks which he has faithfully recorded in his History of the Reformation. On the contrary, we find, in the very beginning of the Bible, a very full expression of the devil's sentiments recorded in the devil's own words—Ye shall not surely die—and they are not one whit less devilish and lying, though recorded in the Bible, than when expounded by any modern Universalist preacher. But we mean that it is very true that the devil was the preacher of that first Universalist sermon: and that God thought it needful to let mankind know the shape of the doctrine, the character of the preacher, and the consequences of listening to error; and therefore directed Moses to record it truly for the information of all whom it may concern. So there are many other sayings of wicked men, and even of good men, recorded in the Bible, which are very false; but the Bible gives a true record of them, by God's direction, that we may not be ignorant of Satan's devices.

Nor, when we say that God directed the prophets what to write, and how to write it, so that they did not go wrong in the writing of his word, do we mean that he also so guided every piece of their behavior, as that they never went wrong in doing their own actions; nor that the sins of the saints, recorded in the Bible, are anything the less sinful for being recorded there, or for being performed by men who ought to have known better. There is not a perfect man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. If the Bible had left the faults of its writers undiscovered it would not have been a true history. But these very writers of the Bible tell us their own transgressions, under the direction of the Spirit of God; a thing writers in general are very shy about. Moses tells us how he spake unadvisedly with his lips, and was punished for it. David's penitential psalms record the bitter tears he wept over his transgression; tears which could not wash out the sentence against the man after God's own heart—the sword shall never depart from thy house. An overburdened people, a rotten court, a falling empire, continual strife, a family of scolding women, and a foolish son—might have been considered sufficient marks of God's displeasure, without causing the wisest of men to pen, and publish to the world, such a minute record of his madness, folly and misery, as we find in Ecclesiastes. But these shipwrecked mariners were divinely directed to pile up the sad memorials of their errors on the reefs where they were wrecked, as beacons of warning to all inexperienced voyagers on life's treacherous sea. The light-house is built by the same authority as the custom-house, and is even more necessary.

Now let us take note of the objects of our investigation. We are not in search of the literary beauty or poetic inspiration of the Bible; but we inquire by what right does it command our obedience? Nor are we about to inquire whether, when we have tried the Bible at the tribunal of our reason, we shall give it a diploma to commend it to the patronage of other critics; but whether it comes to us attested by such evidence of being the Word of God, that our reason shall reverently bow down before it as a higher authority, and seek light from it by which to judge of all spiritual and moral matters.

Attempts are continually made to confuse these great questions, by concessions of the literary excellence of the Bible, on the part of those who deny its divine authority. For instance, one of the modern oracles of infidelity says, and his admirers incessantly repeat the grand discovery: "The writings of the Prophets contain nothing above the reach of the human faculties. Here are noble and spirit-stirring appeals to men's conscience, patriotism, honor and religion; beautiful poetic descriptions, odes, hymns, expressions of faith almost beyond praise. But the mark of human infirmity is on them all, and proofs or signs of miraculous inspiration are not found in them."[120]

But what do the toiling millions of earth care about beautiful poetic descriptions of a heaven and a hell that have no reality? Or what does it signify to you or me, reader, that the Bible raises its head far above the other cedars of earthly literature? If its top reaches not to heaven, can it make a ladder long enough to carry us there? The Bible contains predictions beyond the reach of the human faculties, as we have fully proved. These predictions at least are from God, and have no mark of human infirmity on them.

It does not at all meet this question to grant that the Bible is inspired, just as every work of genius is inspired; nor to profess that they believe the Bible to be from God, just as every pure and holy thought, and every good work, proceed from him. When the assertors of the divine authority of the Bible speak of it as inspired, they mean that it is so as no other book is; and when they speak of it as coming from God, they mean that it does not come simply as a gift of God's bounty, as the soldier's land-warrant comes from the government; but that it comes like the laws of Congress, carrying authority with it to command our obedience.

We feel no interest whatever in the discussion of an inspiration, "like God's omnipotence, not limited to the few writers claimed by the Jews, Christians and Mohammedans, but as extensive as the race;"[121] or perhaps as extensive as all creation, and leading us to regard even "the solemn notes of the screech owl" as inspired.[122] What manner of use could the Bible be to an ignorant soul groping its way to truth and holiness, or to a dying sinner hastening to the judgment seat of God, if it were true, that "the Bible's own teaching on the subject is that everything good in any book, person or thing, is inspired? Milton and Shakespeare, and Bacon and the Canticles, the Apocalypse and the Sermon on the Mount, and the Eighth Chapter of the Romans are all inspired. How much inspiration they respectively contain must be gathered from their results."[123]

This liberal grant of inspiration, alike to Moses and Mohammed, to Christ and to Shakespeare, is evidently a denial of divine authority to any of them. If Hamlet, and the Sermon on the Mount, and the Koran, are all of a like divine authority, or all alike without any, it is merely a matter of taste whether I worship at Niblo's or the Tabernacle, or keep a harem in my house or a prayer-meeting. Most men, however, find it hard to believe that Christ and Mohammed taught exactly the same religion, or that the church and the theater are precisely equal and alike in their influences on the heart and life; and so they reject several of these inspired men, and cleave to the one they like best. Whereas, if this theory be true, they ought not to act in such a disrespectful way toward any inspired man; but ought to attend the church, the theater and the harem with equal regularity, and serve God, Mammon and Belial with equal diligence.

"Oh," it is replied, "they are not all inspired in the same degree. It does not follow that because Byron, and Shakespeare, and Paul are all inspired, that their writings will produce exactly the same results, or that they are alike suitable for every constitution and temper. How much inspiration they severally possess must be determined by their results. The tree is known by its fruits; and experience is the price of truth."

But truth may be bought too dear. I am sick and need some medicine, but know not exactly what kind, or how much to take. "Here," says my Rationalist friend, "is a whole drug store for you. Every drawer, and pot, and bottle is full of medicine. Help yourself." But, my good sir, how am I to know what kind will suit me? There are poisons here, as well as medicines; and I can not tell the difference between arsenic and calomel. One of my neighbors died the other day from swallowing oxalic acid instead of Glauber's salts. Be kind enough to put the poisons on one shelf, and the medicines on the other, or, at least, to label them, so that I may know which to choose and which to refuse. "Oh," says my Rationalist friend, "this distinction between medicines and poisons is all an antiquated, vulgar prejudice. What you call poisons are really medicines. Medical virtue is not confined to the few specifics recognized by the Homeopathics, the Regular Faculty, or the Hydropathics, but is as extensive as the world. Everything on earth has a medical virtue; but how much, and of what sort, must be determined by experience. In fact, you must try for yourself whether any particular drug will kill you, or cure you. So here is the whole drug store to begin your cure with." A valuable gift, truly! "In the day we eat thereof, our eyes will be opened, and we shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." I think, reader, you and I will let somebody else try that experiment.

"Why should men throw away their common sense, and swallow everything as inspired?" says another friend of the Rationalistic school. "God has given us reason to discern between good and evil, and commanded us to use it. Prove the spirits, whether they be of God. I spake as to wise men. Judge ye what I say, is the language of Scripture. The right of private judgment is the inalienable inheritance of Protestants. I am for examining the Bible according to the principles of reason and truth. 'That only is to be regarded as true and valid which is matter of personal conviction.' The Old Testament is in many places contrary to my convictions of truth and reason. I find that it consists of a great variety of treatises of various degrees of merit. Even in the same book it presents often strange contrasts—sublime moral precepts on one page; on the next, solemn requirements of frivolous ceremonies, utterly unworthy of God; or solemn narrations of miraculous interferences with the established course of nature, which, taken literally, are absolutely incredible. The judicious reader must therefore discriminate between those divine precepts of morality which were infused into the minds of the Hebrew sages, and those Jewish prejudices which their education and character inclined them to regard as equally important; and he must divest the narrative of facts as they actually occurred, from the national legends and traditions which the compilers of the Pentateuch added to adorn the history."

This, it will be seen, at once raises another and very important question, namely: By what standard are the writings of the Old Testament to be judged? Or rather it settles the question by taking it for granted, that every inquirer is to judge them according to his own notions of reason and truth. But this does not help me out of my difficulty; for it supposes me already to possess the knowledge, and the virtue, which a revelation from God is needed to communicate. If I am able, by my own reason, to construct a perfect standard of morals to judge the Bible by, what need have I for the Bible revelation? And if I have the right to refuse obedience to any commands I may judge frivolous or unreasonable, before I know whether they came from God or not, and am bound to obey only those which agree with my notions of right, what authority has the law of God? A revelation from God which should submit its truths to be judged by the ignorance, and its commands by the inclinations, of sinful men, would by that very submission declare its worthlessness. The use of a divine revelation is either to tell us some truth of which we are ignorant, or to enjoin some duty to which we are disinclined.

Besides, it is not possible to make any such dissection of the moral precepts of the Bible, from the miraculous history which forms their skeleton, as will leave them either truth or authority. It is the miraculous history that gives sanction to the divine morality, and without it the ten commandments would have no more hold on any man's conscience than the wise saws which Poor Richard says. Take, for instance, one of the first and most important of the Bible moralities—the sacredness of marriage—which is wholly based upon a narrative of events utterly unparalleled; and, if judged by the usual course of nature, perfectly incredible. The original difference in the formation of man and woman, and God's making at first one man and one woman, and joining them together with his blessing, constitute the reasons, and consecrate the pledge of marriage. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother—although the claims of the parental relation are very strong—and cleave to his wife—with whom it may be he has but a few weeks' acquaintance—and they two shall be one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together let no man put asunder." But if the cause had no existence, save in the brain of some antediluvian novel-writer, and God did not so unite them, the consequence is only a notion also, and any man may leave his wife whenever he likes.

By far the most incredible narrative in the Bible is contained in the first verse: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." All the other miracles recorded in it sink into familiarity compared with this stupendous display of the supernatural. To the believer of this first great miracle none of its subsequent narratives can seem incredible. But it is precisely upon this unexampled and incredible narrative that the whole structure of Bible morality is built. If this extraordinary narrative be rejected as false, all the moral precepts of the Bible are not worth a feather. The morality of the Bible, then, stands or falls with its history of God's supernatural works among men.

It has been argued, that no amount of testimony can authenticate accounts of miracles; since a miracle, being a violation of the laws of nature, is contradicted by an unalterable experience, but only supported by fallible human testimony.

But every step of this sophism is in error. A miracle can not be proven to be any more a violation of the laws of nature, than the existence of the nature regulated by laws. It may be more unusual, but not more supernatural. The restoration of life to a dead man is no greater violation of the laws of nature than the first bestowal of life on dead matter. Were the resurrections as common as childbirths nobody would consider them violations of the laws of nature.

Moreover, our knowledge of the laws of nature is not based upon my experience, or yours, but upon the testimony of our teachers; which, so far from being uniform and invariable as to the supremacy of the commonplace in nature, is perfectly conclusive as to the repeated occurrence of the miraculous. The miracles of Scripture are better authenticated than the facts of science.

Scientific men talk a great deal of nonsense about the laws of nature, as if they were the only agents known in this world. But every man knows that he himself possesses the power to control the laws of nature, by bringing a higher law to arrest a lower; as when the power of vegetation arrests the law of gravitation, and sends the drop of rain which had trickled down the outside of the bark of the pine, climbing up again a hundred feet; or as when the power of animal life converts a hundred weight of grass into a leg of mutton; or as when the power of the human intellect transforms a pound of zinc into telegrams, or a ton of niter and sulphur into death and destruction. Now if man can thus control and use the laws of nature for human purposes, why can not the God who made him so cunning do as much? Aye, and as much more as God is greater than man?

But we are told that no testimony can prove that any wonderful work has been wrought by God. "No testimony can reach to the supernatural; testimony can apply only to apparent sensible facts; testimony can only prove an extraordinary, and perhaps inexplicable, phenomenon or occurrence; that it is due to supernatural causes is entirely dependent on the previous belief or assumption of the parties."[124]

But when Christ said, "If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you;" or when he said, at the grave of Lazarus, to Martha, "Said I not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe thou shouldest see the glory of God?" can we not believe our Lord's testimony, that he cast out devils, and raised the dead, by the direct intervention of God? He appeals to his miracles as evidences of his divine authority: "The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me." "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do though ye believe not me, believe the works; that ye may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him."[125] Now I demand to know whether this testimony of our Lord is not to be believed? And whether he does not directly claim to work miracles by the immediate power of God? The testimony of the man whom God authenticates, by enabling him to do such miracles as those of Moses and of Christ, is conclusive as to the power by which they are wrought. So you read in Exodus iii. that God commissioned Moses to work miracles as signs of his divine commission, and seals of his testimony recorded in the Bible.

If we proceed now to examine the facts of this history, it is evident, that neither your reason or mine, nor our personal convictions, can be any rule of what is true and valid. The most that reason can say about history is, that the story seems probable; but so does any well-written novel; or that it is improbable; but truth is often stranger than fiction; and every genuine history relates wonderful events. Neither does our personal knowledge enable us to tell what was the original historical fact, how much was added by the Hebrew prejudices of Moses, and which are the legends with which it was afterward adorned; for neither you nor I were there to see. Nor can any two of those critics, who have undertaken to divide the facts from the fables according to their personal convictions of what is true and valid, agree upon any common principle of gleaning, or in gathering in their results. And if they could, the crop would not be worth barn-room; for the only conclusion in which they seem at all likely to agree is, that the story of creation in the beginning of the Book is a myth, like one of Ovid's Metamorphoses; and that the prophecy of the resurrection, at the end, is another; and that there are a great many legends in the middle. Now, if so, why winnow such chaff?

But while the Jewish people exist as a distinct race, it is impossible rationally to deny some extraordinary origin of their extraordinary character and customs; and the Bible is the only history which pretends to tell it. The utter failure of Rationalistic criticism to give any rational account of the facts which must be admitted to account for the existence of the Jews as a distinct people, is ludicrously apparent in the attempts generally made to explain the miraculous narratives of the Bible. The tree of good and evil was a poisonous plant, like the poison oak, or the machineal tree, under which our first parents fell asleep, and dreamed about the temptation, and the fall. The shining face of Moses was the natural effect of electricity. Zechariah's vision was the smoke of the lamps of the golden candlestick in the temple. The wise men of the East were some peddlers who presented toys to the child Jesus; and the star which went before, their servant carrying a torch. The angels who ministered to Christ in his temptation were a caravan bearing provisions. The transfiguration was an electric storm. The plagues of Egypt, the passage of the Red Sea, and the miracles of the desert, were merely natural phenomena, dextrously used by Moses and Aaron to suit their purpose.

It is alleged that these enthusiastic patriots, full of the superstitions of an early age, which attributed all prodigies to God, and placed all heroes under his guidance, succeeded by their fiery eloquence in inspiring their captive countrymen with the love of liberty; and had political dexterity enough to create a faction in their favor in the Egypt cabinet. Then taking advantage of a fortunate succession of calamities arising from natural causes—such as an extraordinary rising of the Nile, in consequence of which it was more deeply colored than usual with the red mud of Nubia, and overflowed the country to a greater extent than usual, leaving on its retreat numerous ponds, which, of course, bred swarms of frogs and gnats, and raised malaria, spreading various sicknesses over the land, both to man and beast; a devastating visit of locusts, the well-known scourge of Africa; a remarkable thunder-storm, accompanied with hail, causing great havoc of growing crops, as such hail-storms always do; followed by the chamsin, or dust-storm from the desert, darkening the air with clouds of dust and sand; and by an extraordinary mortality, the natural result of these various causes—they persuaded the superstitious Egyptians that these calamities were tokens of the displeasure of the God of the Hebrews, and improved the opportunity to escape, while the resources of the Egyptians were exhausted, and their minds confounded by these various misfortunes. Leading them to that part of the Red Sea south of Suez, where a succession of shoals stretch across from the Egyptian to the Arabian side, they crossed safely at low water, while the Egyptian army perished by the rising of the tide; and the Israelites betaking themselves to a wandering, pastoral life in the wilderness of Arabia, lived, as the Bedouins do at this day, on the milk of their flocks and the manna which was spontaneously produced by the tamarisk trees of Sinai; where they remained until they had framed a civil and religious code, and whence they prosecuted their conquests in various directions for fifty years, until their invasion of Palestine. This is the sum of what, with various modifications, Rationalist writers and preachers present us, as the genuine historic basis of the Mosaic narrative.

It really does seem to have been very fortunate for the Israelites that so many misfortunes should happen to fall upon their oppressors, all in one season, and just at the time that men of such cleverness as Moses and Aaron were among them; and that the Egyptians should luckily have imbibed the superstition, that all nature was under the direction of a Supreme Moral Governor, who was able and willing to wield all the elements for the punishment of oppressors.

It was also very lucky for these poor, overworked, and oppressed slaves—the class which in all other ages and countries suffers most from hard times—that they should have escaped unhurt by these calamities; for if they had suffered by them as well as the Egyptians, they could not have persuaded them that God favored Israel.

Here one can not but wonder that these learned Egyptians, whose colleges of priests were planted on the banks of the Nile, and who had made the climate, soil, and productions of their native land their constant study, should have been so ignorant of these natural causes of the plagues—so easily discovered nowadays by anybody who makes a summer trip to Egypt—as to be terrified into emancipating their slaves by a stormy season. Just imagine to yourself a couple of abolitionist lecturers proceeding to Lexington and commanding the slaveholders of Kentucky to liberate their slaves immediately, on pain of the Ohio being muddy during high water, and the swamps of the river-bottom being full of frogs and musquitoes! But this interpretation does not reach the climax of absurdity till our Rationalist Punch, by way of signalizing his deliverance from Egyptian bondage, makes Pharaoh and his army forget that the tide ebbs and flows in the Red Sea, raises the tide over a shoal faster than cavalry could gallop from it, gathers an annual crop of twenty millions of bushels of manna from the thorn-bushes of Sinai, and feeds three millions of men, women, and children for forty years upon purgative medicine!!!

"We must then give up the problem as insoluble; for if reason be insufficient to give authority to the Bible, and criticism fails to discover its truth, how are we to know that it possesses either?"

Just as you would discover the truth of any other history, or the authority of any other law. You do not say, "The tale of the successive swellings of the Catawba, the Yadkin, and the Dan—three times in a fortnight, in February, 1781, immediately after the American army had retreated across these rivers, preventing Cornwallis and the British forces from crossing till the little handful of weary and famished patriots had escaped—savors of the marvelous and leans so much toward the superstition of a special providence, that it must be rejected as not historical." You inquire if there be sufficient testimony to the fact. You do not say, "The Revised Statutes present internal evidence of being a collection of political tracts by various authors, written at different times, differing also in style, and of various degrees of merit, many of them contrary to my inmost personal convictions; therefore I can not acknowledge them as true and valid." You simply ask if this be a true copy of the laws passed by the legislature and signed by the governor? Our inquiry about the truth of the history, and the authority of the laws of the Bible, must be of the same kind—an inquiry after testimony. Is this Book genuine or a forgery? Is it a true history or a lying romance? Have we any testimony on the subject?

But it is alleged that the Book contains in itself evidence of having been written in an unscientific age, and in an unhistorical manner; and, particularly, that its statements of the creation of the world, and of mankind, only six thousand years ago, are refuted by the discoveries of geology; which show us, that the world is many millions of years old, and that man has been on this world at least one hundred thousand years. In support of this last assertion, geologists refer to the remains of the lake dwellings in Switzerland; to skeletons of men found in caves, with bones of animals now extinct; to flint tools and weapons found in gravel beds, said to be of remote antiquity; to bones found deep in the Mississippi bottom; and to the monuments of Egypt.

In replying to this objection, we have first to say that we have elsewhere, in this volume, shown that the Bible nowhere alleges that God created the earth only six thousand years ago, but in many places emphatically affirms the contrary.

In the second place, as to the antiquity of man, the Bible nowhere says, that Adam was the first human being whom God created; nor that he and his posterity were the only intelligent beings occupying this world before our tenancy of it; nor that we are even now the exclusive occupants. On the contrary, it makes very distinct allusions to other races, capable of assuming serpentine, swinish, and human bodies, and of meddling disastrously in earthly affairs in former times; though, as it does not profess to teach us truths which do not concern us, it gives us no narration of the creation or history of pre-Adamite animals or men. But there is no more ground of objection against the Bible for neglecting to give us a history of pre-Adamite men, if there were such men, than for neglecting to describe the pre-Adamite animals, or the coal measures, or the nebulae, or the climate, soil, population, and politics of Jupiter. The Bible has one great object—to teach men how to be holy and happy; and it can not be shown that the chronicles of the pre-Adamites, if they kept chronicles of their alleged savage state, would help us in the acquisition of holiness.

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