Page images



If the pretence which the scriptures make to divine inspiration be unfounded, it can be no very difficult undertaking to prove it So. The sacred writers, besides abounding in history, doctrine, and morality, have dealt largely in prophecy: and this, not in the manner of the heathen priests, who made use of dark and dubious language. Their meaning, in general, is capable of being understood, even at this distance of time; and, in many instances, cannot be mistaken. The dispute, therefore, between believers and unbelievers, is reducible to a short issue. If scripture prophecy be divinely inspired, it will be accomplished: if it be imposture, it will not.

Let us suppose that, by digging in the earth, a chest were discovered, containing a number of ancient curiosities; and, among other things, a tablet inscribed with calculations of the most remarkable eclipses that should take place for a great while to come. These calculations are examined, and found to correspond with fact for more than two thousand years past. The inspectors cannot agree, perhaps, in deciding who was the author, whether it had not gone through several hands when it was deposited in the chest, and various other questions: but does this invalidate the truth of the calculations, or diminish the value of the tablet?

It cannot be objected, that events have been predicted from mere political foresight, which have actually come to pass; for, though this may have been the case in a few instances, wherein causes have already existed which afforded ground for the conclusion, yet it is impossible that the successive changes and revolutions of empires, some of which were more than a thousand years

distant, and depended on ten thousand unknown incidents, should be the objects of human speculation.

Mr. Paine seems to feel the difficulty attending his cause on this subject. His method of meeting it is not by soberly examining the agreement or disagreement of prophecy and history: that would not have suited his purpose. But, as though he had made a wonderful discovery, he in the first place goes about to prove that the prophets wrote poetry; and from hence would persuade us that a prophet was no other than an ancient Jewish bard. That the prophecies are what is now called poetic, Mr. Paine need not have given himself the trouble to prove, as no person of common understanding can doubt it: but the question is, Did not these writings, in whatever kind of language they were written, contain predictions of future events? yea, and of the most notorious and remarkable events, such as should form the grand outlines of history in the following ages? Mr. Paine will not deny this; nor will he soberly undertake to disprove that many of those events have already come to pass. He will, however, take a shorter method; a method more suited to his turn of mind. He will call the prophets "impostors and liars;" he will roundly assert, without a shadow of proof, and in defiance of historic evidence, that the prediction concerning Cyrus was written after the event took place: he will labor to pervert and explain away some few of the prophecies; and get rid of the rest by calling the writer "a false prophet," and his production "a book of falsehoods."* These are weapons worthy of Mr. Paine's warfare. But why all this rage against an ancient bard? Just now a prophet was only a poet, and the idea of a predictor of future events was not included in the meaning of the term. It seems, however, by this time, that Mr. Paine has found a number of predictions in the prophetic writings, to dismiss which he is obliged, as is usual with him in cases of emergency, to summon all his talents of misrepresentation and abuse.

I take no particular notice of this writer's attempts to explain away a few of the predictions of Isaiah, and other prophets. Those

[ocr errors][merged small]

who have undertaken to answer him, have performed this part of the business. I shall only notice that he has not dared to meet the great body of scripture prophecy, or fairly to look it in the face.

To say nothing of the predictions of the destruction of mankind by a flood; of that of Sodom and Gomorrha by fire; of the descendants of Abraham being put in possession of Canaan within a limited period; and of various other events, the history as well as the prophecy of which is confined to the scriptures; let us review those predictions, the fulfilment of which has been recorded by historians who knew nothing of them, and, consequently, could have no design in their favour.

It is worthy of notice, that sacred history ends where profane history, that part of it at least which is commonly reckoned authentic, begins. Prior to the Babylonish captivity, the scriptural writers were in the habit of narrating the leading events of their country, and of incidentally introducing those of the surrounding nations: but shortly after this time the great changes in the world began to be recorded by other hands, as Herodotus, Xenophon and others. From this period they dealt chiefly in prophecy, leaving it to common historians to record its fulfilment.

Mr. Paine says, the scripture prophecies are "a book of falsehoods." Let us examine this charge. Isaiah, above a hundred years before the captivity, predicted the destruction of the Babylonish empire by the Medes and Persians, and Judah's consequent deliverance. The plunderer is plundered, and the destroyer is destroyed: Go up, O Elam; beseige, O Media: all the crying thereof have I made to cease.* Ask Herodotus and Xenophon, Was this a falsehood?

Daniel, fourteen years before the establishment of the MedoPersian dominion by the taking of Babylon, described that dominion with its conquests, and the superiority of the Persian influence to that of the Median, under the symbol of a ram with two horns I lifted up mine eyes and saw, and, behold, there stood by the river

*Lowth's translation of Isaiah xxi. 2. may be seen in Isa. xiii. xiv. xxi. xliii. Jer. xxv. 12-26, 1. li. Hab. ii.


Other prophecies of the same event 14-17. xliv. 28. xlv. 1-4. xlvii,


a ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high; but the one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. I saw

the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand ; but he did according to his will, and became great. This is expounded as follows: The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.* Ask the afore-mentioned historians, Was this a falsehood?

The same Daniel, at the same time, two hundred and twentythree years before the event, predicted the overthrow of this Medo-Persian dominion, by the arms of Greece, under the command of Alexander; and described the latter government under the symbol of a he-goat, with a notable horn between his eyes. As I was considering, behold a he-goat came from the west, on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns ; and there was no power in the rum to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. The exposition of this vision follows: The rough goat is the king of Grecia ; and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.t Ask Diodorus Siculus, Plutarch, and other historians of those times, Was this a falsehood?


The same Daniel, at the same time, two hundred and thirty years before the event, predicted the death of Alexander, and the division of his empire among four of his principal commanders, each of whom had an extensive dominion. The he-goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken ; and for it came up four notable ones, towards the four winds of heaven. The interpretation of this was as follows: Now the great horn

* Dan. viii. 3, 4. 20.

See also Chap. vii. 5.

+ Dan. viii. 5-7. 21. See also Chap. xi. 2-4.

« PreviousContinue »