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had been persecutors of Christians, bearing the m6st positive
testimony to, what they had every opportunity of investiga-
ting, the reality of the miracles of Christ ; and sealing their
testimony in the renouncing of all that was dear to them by
bitth, habit, or education, and embracing Christianity at the
expense of the keenest reproach and the most painful death.
Testimony stronger or more undeniable than this, I cannot
imagine. If this be not sufficient to prove a plain matter of
feet, such for example as that Lazarus was seen alive after
he was known to have been dead ; then farewell all history



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LECTURE VI. 179

and all knowledge. Nothing can be reasonably believed,
except on evidence of sense, and hardly then, after reject-
ing this.

We have now arrayed as many of the materials of the
argument for the gospel miracles as our time would permit.
It only remains tliat we put them together into one view, so
as to enable you to appreciate their united strength. I know
not how to do this in a better way, than to take the supposi-
tion that all the miracles of Christ and of his apostles were
fictions, and consequently tlieir authors, deliberate deceivers ;
and then consider how far the supposition will carry us.
Let us do so. You understand the supposition. What must
be believed by those who will maintain it ?

They must believe that Jesus and his apostles, being
obscure, unlettered Jews, without a single circumstance to
give them influence, were so perfectly silly and mad as to
flatter themselves that they could set up a scheme of religion,
which, though in utter contradiction to the habits, passions,
prejudices, and institutions, of all the world, should succeed
in overturning the religious systems and institutions of the
most enlightened nations ; and yet that, with this unacounta-
ble infatuation, they were so singularly wise, as to maintain,
throughout all the miracles which they professed to work in
proof of their system, the most perfect consistency with the
dignity and disinterestedness of the office they assumed, and
with the majesty, holiness, and goodness of that God in
whose name they professed to come.

They must believe that Jesus and his apostles were so
wicked, as to attempt an imposture which involved not only
continual dishonesty, but downright blasphemy, and this
from motives of mere ambition or avarice ; and yet that
during the space of seventy years they kept up such an
invariable show of eminent goodness and disinterestedness,
as in all their works to manifest not the smallest appearance
of selfishness or any evil design ; but, on the contrary, the



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180 LECTURE VI.

Utmost evidence of self-denial, of self-humiliation, of punty,
of holiness, of the tenderest compassion, and the most labori-
ous benevolence; so that even their enemies never broujj^t
inconsistency to their charge.

They must believe the apostles to have been so strangely
in love, either with wealth, or honour, or power, or some-
thing else, to be willing, even out of their obscurity and
weakness, as to seek it by such a desperate scheme as that
of Christianity ; and yet that, when honours were offered,
they earnestly refused them; when they saw the triumph of
their enemies in the crucifixion of Christ, and that nothing
awaited his followers but disgrace, poverty, and persecution,
they persisted in advocating the cause of their fallen leader ;
and when the storms of persecution grew darker and darker,
and ruin and death were the certain consequences of perse-
verance, and one word of confession would have saved them,
such was their infatuated attachment to this scheme of im-
posture, such their singular devotion to self, to honour, or
wealth, or power, or something else, that they drove on from
suffering to suffering, from shame to shame, ending at last
their pursuit in a bitter death, with the fall belief, as Jews,
that in eternity they should be condemned to an awful retri-
bution for their whole career.

' They must believe that while the apostles were so utterly
destitute of common ingenuity that they selected precisely
that kind of credential which it was the most difficult to
forge, and instead of seeking, as other impostors would have
done, private, or confined, or solitary places, for their mira-
cles, chose those of the greatest resort and publicity, and then
placed and left their miracles directly under the senses of the
multitude; that while they had so little contrivance that
instead of selecting a few masked friends, or the most igno-
rant of the populace for witnesses, they seemed rather to
prefer having hardly any witnesses but enemies, and those
frequently of the highest, most literate, and powerful classes;



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LECTUHE VI. 181

that while so utterly wanting in the common cunnmg of
impostbrs, that instead of keeping their doings to one or a
few; plcuies, they performed them any where, upon any sub-
jects, however suddenly or confusedly presented, and, instead
of ceasing when they had done a few with success, continued
the hazard for many years, in innumerable instances, and
while they were widely separated from one another ; I say
it must be believed, that Christ and his aposdes, with all
these evidences of extraordinary idiocy or limacy, were yet
so wonderfully ingenious, wary, and wise ; so singularly
skilled in imposture ; so learned in human nature and the
world ; such a marvellous match for the combined efforts of
the wise, and mighty, and diligent, of Judea, and Greece,
and Rome ; laid their plans so deeply ; concerted their move
ments so skilfiilly ; kept their secrets so closely ; carried on
the whole complicated plot for many years so consistently, that
though overwatched while together and while separated; con-
tinually scrutinized by all sorts of witnesses and of enemies ;
none could ever detect the least flaw in their pretensions ;
none could discover that the blind did not see ; the lame did
not walk ; the dead did not rise. On the contrary, the peo-
ple of Bethany were so deceived as actually to believe that
they daily saw one of their townsmen, whom they knew to
have died, living and eating among them. The people of
Jerusalem were so deceived as to believe, that they saw a
4Han whom they Jgaew to have been lame from his birth,
daily walking among them perfectly well. The five thousand
were fully persuaded that they did all eat and were filled with
a few loaves and fishes. The people of Syria were sc
iricked as really to beUeve that their multitudes of sick with
divers diseases and torments, whom they had brought tc
Jesus, went home with them perfectly well, without an ex-
ception. Yea, the whole Jewish and Heathen world was so
imposed upon by these unlettered, simple, despised, persecu-
ted Jews, as tacitly to confess the genuineness of their mira-

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182 LECTURE VI.

bles. Pliilosophers and rabbies, when they attacked Chris-
tianity, did not deny it ; several of them positively, in their
books, acknowledged it ; and hundreds of thousands in the
age of the apostles, out of the most polished cities and ma^
respectable classes, were so entirely taken captive and spell-
bound by the magic scheme of these weak men, that they
forsook all and took jo3rfully the spoiling of their goods, and
yielded themselves to fire and sword and wild beasts, rather
than not confess and follow Christ.

Such are the wonderfiil things ; such the violations of the
laws of nature and of common sense ; such the wicked and
contradictory miracles which necessarily follow as true, as
soon as the miracles of Christianity are rejected as false.
Now, tell me on which side the charge of credulity lies with
the greatest weight. Now, give the reason why our modem
unbelievers, instead of meeting the testimony of the gospel
miracles in front, are so conscientiously scrupulous never to
know any thing about it, and always expend their ingenuity
in ridiculing the dignity, or in picking out what they would
represent as inconsistencies in the books, of scripture. Now
explain the singular phenomenon that the grand high-priest
of modem infidelity should havo invented the convenient
principle which sceptical philosophy had ever before so
painfully sighed after, that no testimony can prove a -miracle.
Ah! yes. It was his only hope. The testimony of the
christian miracles is perfect. It is so overwhleming, that if
there be any difficulty about them, it arises from the very
brightness of their evidence itself. It is almost inconceiva-
ble that such works, wrought so publicly and frequently, and
with such incontrovertible marks of a divine hand, should
not have made more converts ; that all who beheld them did
not 3rield at once to the great Teacher whom they attested,
and espouse his cause. But the explanation is not difficult.
The human heart is depraved enough for the most desperate
rejection of such a master as the Lord Jesus. Men will go



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LECTURE VI. 183

to the greatest lengths of folly and unbelief to gratify their
passions^ foster their pride, retain their prejudices, and escape
the necessity of making sacrifices for conscience's sake. The
truth that so many Jews and Heathens, with this blaze of
testimony before them, did not submit to the gospel, is not so
astonishing as what is seen every day among ourselves :
persons beUeving the New Testament, and that Christ is the
only Saviour of sinners — ^that eternal blessedness awaits
those who follow him, and eternal wo those who neglect his
salvation — ^and yet, for all practical ends, as immoved by
these truths as if tliey were fables — ^as little engaged in the
service of Christ as if they had never heard his name.

But we must conclude. I trust you will henceforth allow
me to consider the miracles of the gospel as proved to be
genuine. If so, we must consider the credentials of Christ
and his apostles as acknowledged. They were therefore
what they professed to be, divinely commissioned and in-
spired teachers. God was with tliem. What they published
as a revelation from God, we are consequently bound to
receive as a revelation from Grod. That pubhcation is con-
tained in the New Testament. We have already ascertained
the authenticity and credibility of the New Testament as
containing it. We cease, therefore, this evening, with the
conclusion that the religion published in the New Testament
is a revelation from Grod.

May the greatest and best of all the works of the Lord Jesus
be wrought in all of us ; even the blessed work of his grace,
awakening the sinner from spiritual death ; changing, exalt-
ing, purifying all the affections of his depraved nature ; open-
ing the eyes of his understanding to behold the glory of Grod ;
leading him, in repentance and faith, to the cross for pardon
and peace ; shedding abroad in his heart the spirit of divine
love ; and causing him to rejoice in the blessed assurance
of a crown of glory that fadeth not away !



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184 LECTURE VII.



LECTURE VIL

PROPHECY.

Having shown the genuineness of the miracles recorded
in the New Testament, in attestation of the divine mission,
of the Saviour and his apostles ; we are now to take up the
subject of prophecy. But while proceeding to this additional
source of evidence, it is important to be observed, that we
do so, not because we consider the reasoning in proof of
Christianity, as a divine revelation, to which you have
already listened, in any sense incomplete. Had our course
of lectures been terminated with the last, the argument
would have been brought to an incontrovertible issue. Hav-
ing made out the great point that genuine miracles were
wrought by the Saviour and his apostles, in attestation of
the divine authority of what they did and taught; we have
established, by necessary consequence, the great truth that
Jesus Christ was a teacher come from God, and that the
New Testament, as an authentic publication of the religion
taught by him, is to be received as containing a divine reve-
lation of truth and duty. One line of evidence, therefore-
one road leading to the scriptures, as the great central
£>untain of divine truth, we have travelled over; and it has
set us down beside the water of life. Now, if this were the
only road, it would be amply sufficient. The loftiest intel-
lect need not be ashamed ; the weakest need not fear to walk
therein.* But Grod has not only furnished us with the
plainest, but with the most various and abundant evidence.



* A celebrated infidel once acknowledged that even atheism would be
refuted by the proof of a single miracle of the gospel. Spinoza declared that



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LECTURE VII. 186

And since the object of these lectures is not only to prove
the divine authority of the gospel, but also to give you an
idea of the diversified character of the many ways by which
the proof may be established; we propose now to return
from the position we have reached by the argument of our
last lecture, and endeavour to arrive at it again by a route
entirely different. We take up the prophecies, recorded in
the scriptures, and shall endeavour to produce from them
satisfactory and impressive evidence that in the Bible we
have divine inspiration, and in Jesus Christ a teacher sent
of God.

What is a prophecy, according to the sense of scripture,
and as we are now about to consider it? It is a declaration
of future events, such as no human wisdom or forecast is
sufficient to make; depending on a knowledge of the innu-
merable contingencies of human affairs, which belongs
exclusively to the omniscience of God; so that, from its
very nature, prophecy must be divine revelation. " The
prophecy came not in old time by the will of man ; but holy
men of' God spake as they toere moved by the Holy Ghost J^
A prophecy, considered in itself, separately from its ftilfil-
ment, is no evidence of revelation. But as soon as fulfilled,
it is complete. The hand of God in it, is then attested.
The evidence that the person by whom it was uttered was
under the influence of the spirit of divine omniscience, is
finished. Then prophecy takes the place of miracle, and
becomes at once the highest and most unquestionable proof,
not only that the individual who declared it was the agent
of communicating, in that particular, a divine revelation ;
but also that a divine sanction is impressed upon that whole



he would have broken bis atbeistic system to pieces, and embraced without
repugnance the ordinary faith of Christians; could he have been persuaded
of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead ! Was it not a foresight of the
arguments that would necessarily result firom the proof of this miracle that
prevented him from being persuaded of its truth 1



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186 LECTURE VII.

system of religion with which his prophecies may be coiif
nected.* " Future contingencies, such, for examjde, as those
which relate to the rise and fall of nations and states not y]^|
in existence, or to the minute concerns of individuals not y^
born, are secrets which it is evident no man or aqgel can
penetrate, their causes being indeterminate, their relations
with other things fluctuating and unknown. It follows,
therefore, that the prediction of such contingent events
cannot otherwise than proceed from God ; and farther, since
God cannot without a violation of His perfect holiness and
rectitude, visibly aid delusion and wickedness, the inference
is equally cogent and necessary, that the accomplishment
of predictions delivered by those who profess divine authority
amoimts to a full proof that they really possess the authority
they assume. Other arguments may be evaded; other evi-
dence may not convince. Strange effects (though not
miraculous ones) may be produced by other than divine
power."t But this can only be evaded by refusing to behold
it, and only counterfeited by him who is ingenious enough
to borrow omniscience in aid of imposture, " To declare a
thing shall come to be, long before it is in being (says Justin
Martyr); and then to bring about the accomplishment of
that very thing, according to the same declaration ; this, or
nothing, is the work of God."

There are considerations connected with this particular
source of evidence, which render it specially interesting and
valuable.

Prophecy furnishes an argument, the force of which is
cofitinuallt/ growing. The argument began, when first a
single prophecy was fulfilled. It increased more and more,
as predictions and fulfilments multq)lied. In the age of the



* "All prophecies (says Hume) are real miracles, and as such only, can
be admitted as proofs of any revelation." — Philosophical Essays,
t Gregory's Letters.



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LECTURE VII. 187

apostles, it was a powerfiil, as well as &vourite weapon in
proof of the gospel. But during that period, many new pre-
dictions were published, and many ancient ones remained to
be accomplished. The a^rgument consequently, was not yet
at its height. Tt has been growing ever since, as one Century
after anotfier has rolled out an additional fulfilment, or
completed and enlarged those akeady advanced. We, in
the present age, enjoy an expanse, and variety, and complete-
ness of prophetic evidence far exceeding those ndiich the
chart of history presented to St. Paul. There is to us, a
voice from llie silent solitudes where Babylon and Tyre once
stood in pride, and reigned in power ; from the modern his-
tory of the prostrate Egypt ; firom the wonderfiil annals and
present condition of the Jewidi race ; fi'om the desolate state
of the holy land and adjoining countries ; irom the rise and
present aspect of the mystic Babylon — ^which the primitive
christians had iiot the privilege of hearing. The forc^ of
this argument is yet to grow continually. A few years
hence, in all probability, will exhibit it invested with a bright-
ness and glory, coihpared with which, all present evidence
will seem but as morning twilight. The end of the world
will be its fiill maturity. Prophecy having begun witfi the
history of sin, extends to the completion of its tragedy ; and
not till the blazing of the great conflagration when " the
earth and all that is therein shall be burned up," will its
every prediction be fiilfilled ; or the fulness of glory with
which it was designed to show the truth of God in the gospd
of his Son, be made to appear.

Now it is this continual growing of prophetic evidence
that makes it so peculiarly valuable. The argum^t derived
from miracles, though it could never have been more con-
clusive than it is to us, was certainly more impressive to
those who saw the miracles, or who lived in the age in
which they were wrought. And it is very diflicult for most
persons to distinguish between the conclusiveness and the



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188 LECTURE VII.

impressiveness of evidence. Because the lapse of centunes,
by removing the christian miracles far from us, has dimin-
ished the sensible effect they would otherwise have had
upon our minds, it is very generally supposed that the same
cause has enfeebled the evidence on which their genuineness
is maintained. This idea, though unfounded entirely, is
too natural, to those who do not think deeply, to be easily
removed. But with regard to the evidence arising from
prophecy, it cannot exist. Predictions, now in progress
of ftdfilment, are miracles which centuries can only render
more certain and impressive. If there was a peculiar pri
vilege conferred on those who saw, in the miracles of Christ,
manifest to sense, the wonderftil works of God's omnipo-
tence ; there is also a similar privilege conferred on us, who,
in consequence of the ever increasing ftdfilment of prophecy,
may see in the scriptures, more brilliantly illuminated than
ev6r, the hand-writing of God's omniscience.

There is another peculiarity in much of the evidence
from prophecy, which renders it peculiarly valuable. It is
evidence befot'e our eyes, addressed to our senses. By
this we do not mean that the evidence arising from the
miracles of Christ and his apostles would be any more
conclusive, however much it would be increased in its
impression on our minds, did we behold the miracles, instead
of reading of them in well attested history. We believe, on
the contrary, that this description of evidence, as addressed
to us, is perfect. But still there is, and perhaps ever will be,
a class of minds that, like the disciple Thomas, will require
to see before they will believe. Either their indifference or
sluggishness prevents them from pursuing a line of argu-
ment that would carry them back amidst the testimonies of
antiquity; or else their wiUing scepticism, by ingenious
sophistry, would shield them from all the evidence derived
from miraculous agency, by the assumption that no testimony
can prove a miracle. The utter fallacy of this position, we



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LECTURE vir. 189

trust, was satisfactorily shown iii a preceding lecture. But
here are evidences with which, were it tnie, it could have
no connexion. God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, has
provided for all classes of mind, and all descriptions of infideli
ty ; so that all unbeUevers may be without excuse. The argu-
ment from prophecy may be rendered brief enough for the
most sluggish — ^tangible enough for the most obstinate oppo-
sers of historical testimony. They have only to read in the
Bible the predictions with regard to the oace proud cities of
Babylon and Tyre, or the once powerful empire of Egypt, and
then to open their ears to the accounts which almost every
wind conveys, or go and see for themselves the obscure rem-
nants of the ruins of those cities, and of that once mighty
empire ; they have only to read in the books of Moses, what,
3300 years ago, was foretold of the history of the Jewish
people; and then to lift up their eyes, and behold the present
condition and the notorious peculiarities of that wonderfril
race; to see that the prophecies of the Bible have been
plainly and most particularly fiilfilled — ^fulfilled in a manner
which no human sagxtcity could have foreseen, which no
human power cx)uld have brought to pass ; and consequently
that the authors of those prophecies were inspired men, and
the religion they taught was the word of God. In these and
• various other examples, which might be adduced, of the
present and visible fulfilment of prophecy, the miracles of
the Jewish and Christian dispensations are in fact continued
among us. " Men are sometimes disposed to think that if
they could see a miracle wrought in their own sight, they
would beUeve the gospel without delay, and obey it unre-
servedly. They know not their own hearts. ' If they believe
not Moses and the prophets, iieither wotdd they believe
though one rose from the dead? But in the whole range of
prophecy now fulfilling before their eyes, they have in. fact a
series of di^dne interpositions, not precisely of the nature of
miracles, in the sense of brief, and instant, and visible siis

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190 LECTURE VII.

pensions of the laws of nature, but evidently so in the sense
of supematuml interference, in the rise and fall of cities, and
nations, and empires; in the arrangement of times and circum-
stances; in that wonderful display of infinite foreknowledge
and infinite power, apparent in the control of the wills of un~
numbered firee and accountable agents to a certain result."*

In our last lecture we stated that the religion o[ the Bible
is the only one which, on its first introduction, appealed to
miracles in evidence of the divine authority of its teach-
ers. We make a similar remark, with stUl more evident
truth, with regard to projrfiecy. The sublime appeal of men,
professing to be conmiissioned of God, to the events of
thousands of years thereafter, as witnesses of their truth ;
the moral grandeur of that appeal, which, after having
deposited in the hands of nations, a prediction of minute
transactions, which the innimierable contingencies of a
long retinue pf centuries are to bring out, stakes its whole
cause upon a perfect fiilfiknent, thus resting itself singly
upon the omniscience and omnipotence of God, and separa-
ting to an infinite distance all possibility of human support ;
this is a dignity to which nothing but the inspiration of the
scriptures can pretend; a noble daring on which nothing
else was ever known to venture. The corruptions of chris
tianity, as existing in the church of Rcnne, have attempted



Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriEvidences of Christianity, in their external, or historical, division ... → online text (page 16 of 36)