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ISAIAH XLIII. 9.
“ Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people
be assembled : who among them can declare this, and show us former things ? Let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear and say, It is truth.”
In the days of Ahab, king of Israel, Elijah the Tishbite terminated a controversy, and proved the truth of his religion by an appeal to Omnipotence. He proposed that the worshippers of the Lord and the followers of Baal should severally prepare an altar and a victim, call upon the object of their adoration, and acknowledge him that should answer by fire as the true and living God. The challenge was accepted, the altars erected, the victims slain, and laid in order. The prophets of Baal cried all day long to their pretended master, and all day long
there was no answer. At length, at the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah drew near, and poured forth a simple petition to the God of his fathersan answer of fire from heaven was vouchsafed—the victim and the altar were consumed and the controversy decided: the people fell on their faces, and cried out, “ The Lord, he is the God.” Every doubt was silenced, and every doubter satisfied by the interposition of Omnipotence. All felt that there was no room for imposture—no possibility of delusion—and that nothing short of Divine Power could produce effects such as they had beheld.
To prove the truth of Christianity, a similar appeal is possible. God has not, indeed, commanded us to call for an exhibition of His Almighty Power, nor, whenever a doubter proposes an objection, to look for a display of omnipotence; but he has directed us to appeal to another attribute, as exclusively his own as that of omnipotence, and that is, His power of predicting the end from the beginning. To this the text refers, directing us to consider predictions delivered ages before the events; to compare them with their fulfilment, and thus to satisfy ourselves concerning the inspiration of their record, and the Deity of their author. *
* The prevailing idea of modern infidels is, not that the prophets were impostors, but that their prophecies are the mere natural offspring of the principles, circumstances, and history of their authors. Thus De Wette says, “ That they
The proof arising from this comparison is, to the full, as satisfactory as the other. For to fore
were based upon the Mosaic doctrine of retribution and faith in the unchangeableness of Jehovah's love to his people; that they were limited by the historic horizon of each respective period, for which reason Isaiah employed the Assyrians, Jeremiah the Chaldeans, when he wished to threaten ; and that the prophecies are in part to be regarded only as hopes and wishes, menaces and fears.” Einleitung in das Alte Testament, $ 204. Compare Gesenius Vorrede to the commentary on Isaiah, and § 5, of the Commentary itself. Fleck de regno divino, p. 31, and sqq. Especially Professor Höpfner's “Glaubwürdigkeit der Messianischen Weissagungen von Neuem in Schutz genommen,” Leipzig, 1831. G. B. Winer, in his Biblisches Realwörterbuch, thinks that, if the word were not usually taken in a bad sense, “ The prophets might appropriately have been called demagogues;” and in this, I am sorry to add, he is followed by an Israelite, M. Salvador, who not only denies the supernatural origin of the prophecies relating to the Messiah (liv. iv. c. 1), but of prophecy in general, calling a prophet an “Orateur populaire dans l'Intérêt de la Liberté Commune," and asserting that the prophetic character depended on individual assumption. “Tout homme d'un esprit assez élevé, et d'un caractère assez ferme pour defendre le droit public et la loi, peut le faire en Israel : tout homme, quelles que soient sa naissance sa tribu, sa fortune, peut s'écrier, "Je suis prophete,'” &c. (liv. ii. c. 2.) If M. Salvador be reminded that to be a prophet it is necessary to have the Spirit of God, he has an answer at hand. même qu'on accorde de nos jours un esprit plus au moins élevé à l'homme qui soit de la classe ordinaire, les Hebreux de leurs concitoyens doués de facultés superieures, de raison, d'imagination, de vertu, de genie, qu'ils possedaient l'esprit de Dieu, en d'autres termes, l'esprit par excellence ; car il faut
tell future events, dependent upon the unruly wills and affections of men, is as far beyond the highest effort of finite wisdom, as to change the course of nature is beyond the utmost exertion of human power. Man may calculate the motions savoir qu'une des manières d'exprimer grammaticalement le superlatif dans leur langue, consiste à ajouter au substantif un des noms de Dieu” (ibid.). To any one acquainted, however partially, with the Bible, it is unnecessary to say, that this attempt to get rid of all supranaturalism in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and inspiration, is as false as it is feeble and inadequate. It will not solve one of the thousand cases in which the Spirit of God is spoken of. Take, for example, 1 Sam. x. 6, the words which Samuel spake to Saul, “The Spirit of the Lord shall come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy.” Did Saul suddenly acquire genius, which he had not before, and as suddenly lose it? The mention of “ the superlative degree" here, is mere superlative nonsense. It is, however, only just to M. Salvador to add, that for the original of this idea he refers to Maimonides, (Moreh Nevuchim, part ii. c. 45,) who is in truth the father of every artificer in Rationalism and “ Aufklärung." He makes prophecy to depend partly upon natural conformation, partly
“ Si fuerit homo cujus cerebri substantia in decenti perfectione respectu materiæ, temperamenti, proportionis et locationis .... si postea studeat," &c. (ibid. c. 36). To such unwarranted assertions it might be sufficient to remark, that they are pure inventions. The Old Testament says nothing on the subject. The fulfilment, however, proves that the hypothesis is altogether untenable. Rabbi J. Albo teaches much sounder doctrine when he says, “That prophecy is not the offspring of the imagination, but of a divine influence.” (brow py, part iii. c. 8. Compare also, Hottinger Thesaur. Philol. p. 572.)
of the heavenly bodies, predict an eclipse of the sun, or the return of a comet, because these events are dependent upon known, fixed, and immutable laws, but where is the human being who can calculate the destinies of any one individual of the human race- who can determine beforehand the motions of his will, and the development of his intellect — who can point out the various disturbing powers, that will interpose to check their progress, or alter their direction - who can predict the changes to arise from variety of circumstance, from new and unexpected relations with his fellow-men—from sickness and health, from inward caprice or outward violence ? Thus to foretell the history of any one individual, it is necessary to know not only his physical constitution, and moral mechanism, but also the infinite variety of circumstances in which he may be placed, the never-ending succession of human beings with whom he may be brought in contact, and the varied effects to be produced and modified by these various causes. But this is clearly beyond the utmost powers of the human intellect. Attention to the natural capabilities of the child may enable the observer to conjecture, if he live, the greatness of the man, but there his power of presentiment finds its limit. Whether the child may live to fulfil the expectations of his friends he cannot determine, and still less can he predict the details of his history. The bystanders might