Page images

causing" the priests of Mahuzzim "to rule over many, and to divide the land for gain." We see the Turks


stretching forth her hand over the countries," and particularly "over the land of Egypt." We see the "Lybians at their steps;" and the Arabians still "escaping out of their hands." We see the Jews "led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem trodden down of the Gentiles," and likely to continue so, "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled;" as the Jews are, by a constant miracle preserved, a distinct people, for the completion of other prophecies relating to them.

We see one "who opposeth and exalteth himself above all" laws, both divine and human, "sitting as God in the church of God, and showing himself that he is God; whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness." We see a great Apostasy in the Christian Church; which consists chiefly in the worship of demons, angels, or departed saints; and is promoted "through the hypocrisy of liars, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats." We see the seven Churches of Asia lying in the same forlorn and desolate condition that the angel had signified to St. John ; their "candlestick removed out of its place;" their churches turned into mosques; their worship into superstition. In short, we see the characters of "the

Beast and the false Prophet," and "the Whore of Babylon," now exemplified in every particular; and that, too, in a city which is seated " upon seven mountains." So that a more striking portraiture of the Bishop of Rome could not possibly have been drawn.

We see the completion of many of the prophecies, in the actual state of men and things around us: and we have the prophecies themselves recorded in books, which books have been read in public assemblies these seventeen hundred or two thousand years,―have been dispersed into several countries,-have been translated into several languages, and quoted and commented upon by different authors of different ages and nations, -so that there is no room to suspect so much as a possibility of forgery or illusion.

The prophecies, too, though written by different men, in different ages, have yet a visible connexion and dependency,—an entire harmony and agreement, one with another. At the same time that there is such a perfect harmony, there is also great variety; and the same things are foretold by different prophets in a different manner, and with different circumstances; and the latter usually improve upon the former.

Obscurities there are, indeed, in the prophetic writings; because prophecies are designed more for the instruction of future ages, than of the times wherein

they are written. If the prophecies had been delivered in plainer terms, some persons might be for hastening or anticipating their accomplishment; as others might attempt to defeat it; men's actions would not appear so free, nor God's providence so conspicuous, in their completion. But though some parts are obscure, yet others are sufficiently clear; and the obscure parts, the more they are fulfilled, the better they are understood. Time, that detracts something from the evidence of other writers, is still adding something to the credit and authority of the prophets. Future ages will comprehend more than the present; as the present understands more than the past: and the perfect accomplishment will produce a perfect knowledge of all the prophecies.

We see what standing monuments the Jews are every where, of divine vengeance for their infidelity; and let us beware, therefore, of the like crime, lest the like punishment should follow; "for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee." (Rom. xi. 21.) Our infidelity would be worse even than that of the Jews; for they receive and own the prophecies, but do not see and acknowledge their completion in Jesus; whereas our modern infidels reject both the prophecy and the completion together.

Lying oracles have been in the world; but all the

wit and malice of men and devils cannot produce any such prophecies as are recorded in Scripture. What stronger attestations can be required to the truth and divinity of the doctrine? No man can bring with him more authentic credentials of his coming from God: and the more we shall consider and understand them, the more we shall be convinced that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy1." (Rev. xix. 10.)

Men are sometimes apt to think, that if they could but see a miracle wrought in favour of religion, they would readily resign all their scruples, believe without doubt, and obey without reserve. This very thing we have. We have the greatest and most striking of miracles in the series of Scripture prophecies accomplished; accomplished, as we see, in the present state of almost all nations;-the Africans, the Egyptians, the Arabians, the Turks, the Jews, the Papists, the Protestants;-Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre;-the seven Churches of Asia ;-Jerusalem, and Rome.


1 If to the prophecies we add the miracles, so salutary and benefi. cial, so publicly wrought, and so credibly attested, above any other matters of fact whatever, by those who were eye-witnesses of them, and sealed the truth of their testimony with their blood: if to these external confirmations, we add likewise the internal excellence of Christianity, the goodness of the doctrine itself, so moral, so perfect, so divine, and the purity and perfection of its motives and sanctions, above any other system of morality or religion in the world; if we seriously consider and compare all these things together, it is almost impossible not to feel conviction, and to cry out, as Thomas did after handling our Saviour, "My Lord and My God." (John xx. 28.)

[ocr errors]

this is not a transient miracle, ceasing almost as soon as performed; but is permanent, and protracted through the course of many generations. It is not a miracle delivered only upon the report of others, but is subject to our own inspection and examination. It is not a miracle exhibited only before a certain number of witnesses, but is open to the observation and contemplation of all mankind: and after so many ages, it is still growing, still improving to future ages. What stronger miracle, therefore, can be required for our conviction? or what will avail if this be found ineffectual? If men reject the evidence of prophecy, neither would they be persuaded, even though one should rise from the dead! What can be plainer? We see, with our own eyes, the Scripture prophecies accomplished; and if the Scripture prophecies are accomplished, the Scripture must be the Word of God; and if the Scripture is the Word of God, the CHRISTIAN RELIGION MUST BE TRUE.


« PreviousContinue »