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GOSPEL ITS OWN WITNESS, &c.
IN WHICH THE HARMONY OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION IS CONSIDERED AS AN EVIDENCE OF ITS DIVINITY.
IF Christianity be an imposture, it may, like all other impostures, be detected. Falsehood may always be proved to clash with fact, with reason, or with itself; and often with them all. If, on the contrary, its origin be divine, it may be expected to bear the character of consistency, which distinguishes every other divine production. If the scriptures can be proved to harmonize with historic fact, with truth, with themselves, and with sober reason; they must, considering what they profess, be divinely inspired, and Christianity must be of God.
THE HARMONY OF SCRIPTURE WITH HISTORIC FACT, EVINCED BY THE FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY.
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 conciusion, 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
Age of Reasor, Part I. pp. 53. 44. 47.