Theological Institutes

Part First - Evidences of The Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures

By Richard Watson

Chapter 17


THE nature and force of the argument from prophecy have been already stated; (Vide chap. ix;) and it has been proved, that where real predictions are uttered,-not happy conjectures which shrewd and observing men may sometimes make, but predictions which imply fore. sight of events dependent upon the various contingencies of human affairs, and a knowledge of the characters, dispositions, and actions of persons yet unborn, so as to decide unerringly on the conduct which they will pursue-they can only be uttered by inspired men, and the author of such communications can be no other than the infinite and omniscient God, "showing to his servants the things which shall be hereafter," in order to authenticate their mission, and to affix the stamp of his own infallible authority upon their doctrine.

The authenticity and the antiquity of the records which contain these predictions, have been already established; and the only subject of inquiry proper to this chapter is, the prophetic character of the predictions said to be contained in the Old and New Testaments. A few general observations may however be previously allowed.

1.                The instances to be considered by those who would fully satisfy themselves on this point arc not few but many. The believer in the Divine authority of the Old and New Testaments, is ready to offer for examination great numbers of professed prophecies relative to individuals, cities, states, the person and offices of Messiah, and he Christian Church, which he alleges to have been unequivocally fulfilled independent of predictions which he believes to be now fulfilling ;' or which are hereafter to be fulfilled in the world.

2.                If as to the fulfilment of some particular prophecies, the opinions of men should differ, there is an abundance of others, the accomplishment of which has been so evident as to defy any rational interpretation which will not involve their fulfilment; while unbelievers are challenged to show any clear prediction of Holy Scripture which has been falsified by the event throughout the whole range of those ages which are comprehended by the Bible, from the Pentateuch to the Apocalypse.

3.                The predictions in Scripture have already been distinguished in their character from the oracles and divinations of the heathen.: (Vide chap. xvi;) and it may here be farther observed, that they are not, generally, separate and insulated predictions of the future, arising out of accidental circumstances, and connecting themselves with merely individual interests and temporary occasions. On the contrary, they chiefly relate to, and arise out of a grand scheme for the moral recovery of the human race from ignorance, vice, and wretchedness. They speak of the agents to be employed in it, and especially of the great agent, the REDEEMER himself; and of those mighty and awful proceedings of Providence as to the nations of the earth, by which judgment and mercy are exercised with reference both to the ordinary principles of moral government, and especially to this restoring economy, to its struggles, its oppositions, and its triumphs. They all meet in Christ, as in their proper centre, and in him only, however many of the single lines, when considered apart, may be imagined to have another direction, and though they may pass through intermediate events. "If we look," says Bishop Hurd, "into the prophetic writings, we find that prophecy is of a prodigious extent; that it commenced from the fall of man, and reaches to the consummation of all things; that for many ages it was delivered darkly, to a few persons, amid with large intervals from the date of one prophecy to that of another; but at length became more clear, more frequent, and was uniformly carried on in the line of One people, separated from the rest of the world-among other reasons assigned, for this principally, to be the repository of the Divine Oracles; that, with some intermission, the spirit of prophecy subsisted among that people to time coming of Christ, that he himself, and his apostles, exercised this power in the most conspicuous manner; and left behind them many predictions recorded in the books of the New Testament, which profess to respect very distant events, and even run out to the end of time, or in St. John's expression, to that period, 'when the mystery of God shall be perfected.' Farther, beside the extent of this prophetic scheme, the dignity of the person whom it concerns, deserves our consideration. He is described in terms which excite the most august and magnificent ideas. He is spoken of, indeed, sometimes as being the seed of the woman, and as the Son of man; yet so as being at the same time of more than mortal extraction. He is even represented to us as hem superior to men and angels; as far above all principality and power; above all that is ac­counted great, whether ill heaven or in earth; as lime Word and Wisdom of God; as the eternal Son of the Father; as the Heir of all things, by whom he made the worlds; as the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. We have no words to denote greater ideas than these: the mind of man cannot elevate itself to nobler con­ceptions. Of such transcendent worth and excellence is that Jesus said to be, to whom all the prophets bear witness!

"Lastly, the declared purpose, for which the Messiah, prefigured by so long a train of prophecy, came into the world, corresponds to all the rest of the representation. It was not to deliver an oppressed nation from civil tyranny, or to erect a great civil empire, that is, to achieve one of those acts which history accounts most heroic. No: it was not a mighty state, a victor people- Non res Romanae perituraque regna- that was worthy to enter into the contemplation of this Divine person.

It was another, and far sublimer purpose which he came to accomplish; a purpose, in comparison of which all our policies are poor and little, and all the performances of man as nothing. It was to deliver a world from ruin; to abolish sin and death; to purify and immortalize human nature; and thus, in the most exalted sense of the words, to be the Saviour of men and the blessing of all nations. There is no ex­aggeration in this account. I deliver the undoubted sense, if not always 'he very words of Scripture. Consider then to what this representation amounts. Let us unite the several parts of it, and bring them to a point. A spirit of prophecy pervading all time-characterizing one person, of the highest dignity-and proclaiming the accomplishment of one purpose, the most beneficent, the most Divine, the imagination itself can project. Such is the Scriptural delineation, whether we will receive it or no, of that economy which we call prophetic."

4.                Prophecy, in this peculiar sense, and on this ample scale, is pecu­liar to the religious system of the Holy Scriptures. Nothing like it is found any where beside; and it accords perfectly with that system, that nothing similar should be found elsewhere. The prophecies of Scripture," says that accomplished scholar, Sir W. Jones, "bear no resem­blance in form or style to any that can be produced from the stores of Grecian, Indian, Persian, or even Arabian learning. The antiquity of those compositions, no man of learning doubts; and the unrestrained application of them to events long subsequent to their publication, is a solid ground of belief that they were genuine predictions, and consequently inspired." The advantage of this species of' evidence belongs then exclusively to our revelation. Heathenism never made army clear and well-founded pretensions to it. Mohammedanism, though it stands itself as a proof of the truth of Scripture prophecy, is unsupported by a single prediction of its own. " To the Christian only belongs this testimony of his faith; this growing evidence gathering strength by length of time, and affording, from age to age, fresh proofs of its Divine origin: As a majestic river expands itself more and more the farther it removes from its source, so prophecy, issuing from the first promise in paradise as its fountain head, acquired additional strength and fulness as it rolled down successive ages, and will still go on increasing in extent and grandeur, until it shall finally lose itself in the ocean of eternity."

5.                      The objection which has been raised to Scripture prophecy from its supposed obscurity, has no solid foundation. There is, it is true, a prophetic language of symbol and emblem; but it is a language which is definite and not equivocal in its meaning, and as easily mastered as the language of poetry, by attentive persons. This, however, is not always used. The style of the prophecies of Scripture very often differs in nothing from the ordinary style of the Hebrew poets; and, in not a few cases, and those too on which the Christian builds most in the argument, it sinks into the plainness of historical narrative. Some de­gree of obscurity is essential to prophecy: for the end of it was not to gratify human curiosity, by a detail of future events and circumstances; and too great clearness and speciality might have led to many artful attempts to fulfil the predictions, and so far the evidence of their accomplishment would have been weakened. The two great ends of' prophecy are, to excite expectation before the event, and then to confirm the truth by a striking and unequivocal fulfilment; and it is a sufficient answer to the allegation of the obscurity of the prophecies of Scripture, that they have abundantly accomplished those objects, among the most intelligent and investigating, as well as among the simple and unlearned in all ages. It cannot be denied, for instance, leaving out particular cases which might be given, that by means of these predictions the expectation of the incarnation amid appearance of a Divine Restorer was kept up among the people to whom they were given, and spread even to the neighbouring nations; that as these prophecies multiplied, the hope became more intense; and that at the time of our Lord's coming, the expectation of the birth of a very extraordinary person prevailed, not only among the Jews, but among other nations. This purpose was then sufficiently answered, arid an answer is given to the objection. In like manner prophecy serves as the basis of our hope in things yet to come; in the final triumph of truth and righteousness on earth, the universal establishment of' the kingdom of our Lord, and the rewards of eternal life to be bestowed at his second appearing. In these all true Christians agree; and their hope could not have been so uniformly supported in all ages, and under all circumstances, had not the prophecies and predictive promises conveyed with sufficient clearness the general knowledge of the good for which they looked, though many of its particulars be un­revealed. The second end of prophecy is, to confirm time truth by the subsequent event; and here the question of' the actual fufilment of Scripture prophecy is involved, to which we shall immediately advert. We only now observe, that it is no argument against the unequivocal fulfilment of several prophecies, that many have doubted or denied what the believers in revelation have on this subject so strenuously contended for. How few of mankind have read the Scriptures with serious attention, or been at the pains to compare their prophecies with the statements in history! How few, especially of' the objectors to the Bible, have read it in this manner! How many of them have confessed, un blushingly, their unacquaintance with its contents, or have proved what they have not confessed by the mistakes and misrepresentations into which they have fallen. As for the Jews, the evident dominion of their prejudices; their general averseness to discussion; and the extravagant principles of interpretation they have adopted for many ages, which set all sober criticism at defiance, render nugatory any authority which might be ascribed to their denial of the fulfilment of certain prophecies in the sense adopted by Christians. We may add to this, that among Christian critics themselves there may be much disagreement. Eccentricities and absurdities are found among the learned in every depart­ment of knowledge, and much of this waywardness and affectation of singularity has infected interpreters of Scripture. But, after all, there is a truth and reason in every subject which tine understandings of the generality of amen will apprehend and acknowledge, whenever it is fully understood and impartially considered; to this, in all such cases, the appeal can only be made, and here it may be made with confidence.

6.                For want of a right apprehension of the meaning of somewhat an unfortunate term which has obtained in theology, the "double sense" of many prophecies, an objection of another kind has been raised, as though no definite meaning could be assigned to the prophecies of Scripture. Nothing can be more unfounded.  The double sense of many prophecies in the Old Testament," says an able writer, "has been made a pretext by ill-disposed men, for representing them as of uncertain meaning, and resembling the ambiguity of the pagan oracles. But whoever considers the subject with due attention, will perceive how little ground there is for such aim accusation. The equivocations of the heathen ora­cles manifestly arose from their ignorance of future events, and from their endeavours to conceal that ignorance, by such indefinite expressions, as might be equally applicable to two or more events of a contrary description. But the double sense of the Scripture prophecies, far from originating in any doubt or uncertainty, as to the fulfilment of them in either sense, springs front a foreknowledge of their accomplishment in both; whence the prediction is purposely so framed as to include both events, which, so far from being contrary to each other, are typical the one of the other, and are thus connected together by a mutual dependency or relation. This has often been satisfactorily proved, with respect to those prophecies which referred, in their primary sense, to the events of the Old Testament, and, jam their fartimer and more complex signification, to those of the New: and on this double accomplishment of some prophecies is grounded our firm expectation of the completion of others which remain yet unfulfilled in their secondary sense, but which we justly consider as equally certain in their issue, as those which am-c already past. So far, then, from any valid objection lying against the credibility of the Scripture prophecies, from these seeming ambiguities of meaning, we may urge them as additional proofs of their coming from God. For, who but the Being, who is infinite in knowledge and in counsel, could so construct predictions as to give them a two fold application, to events distant from, and to human foresight) unconnected with, each other? What power less them Divine could so frame them, as to make the accomplishment of them, in one instance, a solemn pledge and assurance of their completion in another instance, of still higher and more universal importance? Where will the scoffer find any thing like this in the artifices of heathen oracles, to conceal their ignorance, and to impose on the credulity of mankind?"

We now proceed to the enumeration of a few out of the great number of predictions contained in the Scriptures, which most unequivocally show a perfect knowledge of future contingent events, and which, therefore, according to our argument, as certainly prove that they who uttered them "spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," by the Spirit of the omniscient and infinitely prescient GOD.[1]

The very first promise made to man is a prediction which none could have uttered but he whose eye looks through the depths of future ages, and knows the result as well as the beginning of all things. "I will put enmity between thee and he woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." In vain is it attempt­ed to resolve the whole of the transaction with which this prediction stands connected, into allegory. Such criticism, if applied to any other ancient historical book, bearing marks of authentic narration as unequivocal as the book of Genesis, would not be tolerated by the advocates of this absurd conception themselves, whether they are open or disguised infidels. In vain is it alleged, that a mere fact of natural history is stated for if the words are understood to express no more than the enmity between the human race and serpents, it would require to be proved, in order to establish a special punishment of tire serpent, that man has a greater hostility to serpents than to other clangorous animals, which Ire extirpates whenever he can master them by force or stratagem ; and that serpents have a stronger disposition to do injury to men, than to those animals which they make their daily prey, or to others which thc\! never fail to strike when within their reach. As this was obviously false in fact, Moses could not assert it; and, if it had been true in natural his­tory, to have said this and nothing more, to have confined himself to the mere literal fact, a fact of no importance, would have been far below the character of Moses as a writer-a lofty and sublime character, to which the heathens and sometimes infidels themselves have done justice... In no intelligible sense can these celebrated words be understood, but in that in which they are fixed by innumerable references and allusions of other parts of tire sacred volume, and which ought, in all good criti­cism, to determine their meaning. The serpent, and the seed of the. woman, are the representatives of two invisible and mighty powers; the uric good, the other evil; the one Divine, though incarnate of the woman. the other diabolic; between whom an enmity was placed, which was to express itself in a long and fearful struggle, in the course of which the seed of the woman should sustain a temporary wound and suffering, but which should issue in the bruising of the head, tire inflict­ing a fatal blow upon the power, of his adversary. The scene of this contest was to be our globe, and generally the visible agents of it men. under their respective leaders, the serpent on the one side, and tire seed of the woman on the other, practising, and advocating, and endeavour­ing to render dominant truth or error, virtue or vice, obedience to God or rebellion against his authority. We ask then, has such a contest of principles and powers taken place in the world, or not? The answer must be in the affirmative; for every age bears witness to it. We see it commencing in Cain and Abel-in the resistance of tire antediluvians to the righteousness taught by Noah ;-in their punishment ;-in the rise of idolatry, and the struggles of the truth in opposition to it -in the inflictions of singular judgments upon nations, for the punishment and exposure of idolatry, as in. the plagues of Egypt, tire destruction of the nations of Canaan, &c. We trace tire contest throughout the whole history of the Jewish nation down to tire coming of our Lord; and occa­sionally we see it extending into tire neighbouring pagan nations, although they were generally, as a part of their punishment, "suffered to walk in their own ways," and Satan as to them was permitted to "keep his goods in peace," till the time of gracious visitation should arrive. We see the incarnate Redeemer, for a time suffering, and at length dying. Thou was "the hour and power of darkness ;" then was his heel bruised: but he died only to revive again, more visibly and powerfully to establish his kingdom and to commence his spiritual conquests. In every direction were tire regions, where Satan "had his seat," penetrated by the hea­venly light of the doctrine of Christ; and every where the most tremen­dous persecutions were excited against its unarmed and unprotected preachers and their converts. But the gates of hell prevailed not against the Church founded on a rock, and "Satan fell as lightning from heaven,"-from the thrones, and temples, and judgment seats, amid schools of the ancient civilized world; tire idolatry of ages was renounced; Christ was adored through the vast extent of the Roman empire, and in many of the countries beyond even its ample sweep. Under other forms tire enemy revived, and the contest was renewed ; but inn every age it has been maintained. The principles of pure evangelical truth were never extinguished ; and the " children of the kingdom," were diminished and brought low," only to render the renewal of the assault by unexpected agents, singularly raised up, more marked arid more eminently of God. We need not run over even the heads of the History of the Church : what is the present state of things ? The contest still continues, but with increasing zeal on the part of Christians, wino are carrying on offensive operations against the most distant parts of the long-undisturbed kingdom of darkness; placing there the principles of truth ; commencing war upon idolatry and superstition ; amid establishing the institutions of tire Christian Church with a success which warrants tine hope that the time is not far distant, when the " head of the serpent will be bruised" in all idolatrous countries, and the idols of modern heathen states, like those of old, lie displaced, to introduce tine worship of the universal Saviour "GOD over all, blessed forever."

May we not ask, whether all this was not infinitely above human foresight? Who could confidently state that a contest of this peculiar ­nature would continue through successive ages; that men would trot all go over to one on other of the opposing parties ; nay, who could confidently conjecture in the age of Moses, (when the tendency to idolatry had become SO strong, that the chosen seed themselves, under the constant demonstration of miracles, visibly blessed while they remained faithful to tire worship of God, and as eminently and visibly punished when they departed from it, could not be preserved from the infection,) that idolatry should one day be abolished throughout the earth? Past experience anti all probabilities were opposed to the hope that the cause of the seed of the woman should prevail, and yet it stands recorded, "it [rather HE,] shall braise thy head." Infidels may scoff at a Redeemer, and deride the notion of a tempter; but they cannot deny that such a contest between opposite parties and principles as is here foretold has actually taken place, and still continues; that contest, so extended, so continued, and so terminated, human foresight could not foretell; and the fact established, therefore, is an accomplishment of a prophecy, which could originate only in Divine prescience.

The celebrated prediction of Jacob at the close of his life respecting the time of the appearing of " "Shiloh," may next be considered.

The word signifies, "He who is to be sent," or "The Peace-maker." In either sense, the application to that great Person, to whom all the patriarchs looked forward, and the prophets gave witness, is obvious. Those wino doubt this, are bound to give us a better interpretation.-Before a certain event, a certain person was to come, to whom the people should be gathered. The event has certainly arrived, but who is the person? The application of the prophecy to Messiah is not an invention of Christians. The ancient Jews, as appears from their commentators, so understood it: and the modem ones are unable to resist the evidence drawn from it, in favour of the claims of our Lord. That it is a prediction, is proved from its form, and the circumstances under which it was delivered; that it has received a singular accomplishment in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, is also certain; and it is equally certain, that no individual beside can be produced, in whom it has been in any sense whatever accomplished. For the ample illustration of the prophecy the reader is referred to commentators, and to Bishop Newton's well known work on the prophecies. It is sufficient here to allege, that Judah, as a tribe, remained till after the advent of Jesus Christ, which' cannot be said of the long dispersed tern tribes, and scarcely of Benjamin, which was merged in the tribe of Judah.-Chubb asks where the supremacy of Judah was, when Nebuchadnezzar carried the whole nation captive to Babylon; when Alexander subdued Palestine; and when it was a tributary province to the Roman empire? The prediction, how­ever, does rot convey the idea either of independent or supreme power. This no one tribe had when all were united in one state, and each had its sceptre and its princes or chiefs. It is therefore enough to show, that under all its various fortunes, the tribe of Judah retained its ensigns, and its chiefs, and its tribeship, until Shiloh came. It is no uncommon thing for a country to be conquered, and for its ancient princes and government to remain, through as tributary.

With respect to the tribe of Judah during the captivity in Babylon, Cyrus, as we learn from Ezra i, 8, ordered tire vessels of tire temple to he restored to "tine prince of Judah." This shows that the tribe was kept distinct, amid that it had its own internal government anti chief. Under the dominion of the Asmonean kings, the Jews had their rulers, their elders, and their council, and so under the Romans. But soon after the death of Christ, all this was abolished, the nation dispersed, and the tribes utterly confounded. Till our Lord came, and had accomplished his work on earth, the tribe of Judah continued. This is matter of unquestionable historic fact. In a short time afterward it was dispersed and mingled with the common mass of Jews of all tribes and countries: this is equally unquestionable. Now again we ask, could either human fore­sight determine this, or is the application of the event to the prophecy fanciful? The prediction was uttered in the very infancy of the state of Israel, by the father of the fathers of the tribes of that people. Ages passed away; the mightiest empires were annihilated; ten of the chosen tribes themselves were utterly dispersed into unknown countries; ano­ther became so insignificant as to lose its designation; one only remained which imposed its very name upon the nation at large, the object of public observation until the Messiah came, and that tribe was Judah, the tribe spoken of in the prediction, and it remained as it were only to make the fulfilment manifest, and was then confounded with the relics of the rest. What prescience of countless contingencies, occurring in the intervening ages, does this imply?-A prescience truly, which can only belong to God.

The predictions respecting the Jewish nation, commencing with those of Moses, and running through all their prophets, are too numerous to be adduced. One of the most instructive and convincing exercises to those who have any doubt of the inspiration of the Scriptures, would be, seriously and candidly to peruse them, and by the aid of those authors who have expressly and largely written on this subject, to compare the prophecies with their alleged fulfilment. Three topics are prominent in the predictions of Moses and the prophets generally,-the frequent and gross departures of the Jews from their own law; their signal punishment in invasions, captivities, dispersions, oppressions, and persecutions ; and their final restoration to their own land. All these have taken place. Even tire last was accomplished by the return from Babylon, though, in its eminent sense, it is still future. In pursuance of tine argument, we shall show, that each of these was above human foresight and con­jecture.

The apostacies and idolatries of this people were foretold by Moses before his death. "I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I hare commanded you, and evil will befall you in the latter days," Deut. xxxi, 29; and he accord­ingly prophetically declares their punishment. It is, perhaps, scarcely possible to fix upon a stronger circumstance than this prediction, to prove that Moses was truly commissioned by God, amid did not pretend a Divine sanction in order to give weight to his laws arid to his personal authority. The rebellious race whom he had first led into the desert, had died there; and the new generation was much more disposed to obey their leader. At the moment he wrote these words, appearances had a favourable aspect on the future obedience of the people. If this had not been the case, the last thought a merely political man would have been disposed to indulge was, that his own favourite institutions should fall into desuetude and contempt; and much less would he finish his public life by openly telling the people that lie foresaw that event even if he feared it. It may, indeed, be said, that he uttered this conviction for tine purpose of giving a colour to the threatenings, which he pronounces against disobedience to Iris law, and that the object of the fearful menaces was to dieter the people from departing from custom and rules which he was anxious, for tine sake of his own fame, that they should observe. To this we answer, that Noses could not expect any weight to be attached by the Israelites to His threat, that the Divine judgments would be inflicted upon them for riot obeying his laws, unless their former rebellious had been immediately and signally marked by such visitations. Without this to support him, ire would have appeared inn a ridiculous, rather than inn an impressive and sublime attitude before the people assembled to hear his last commands. For forty years his institutions had been often disobeyed, and if no inflictions of tine Divine displeasure followed, what reason had these to credit the menaces of Moses as to the future? But it such inflictions had resulted from their disobedience, every thing is rational and consistent in this pant of the conduct of their leader. Let the infidel choose which of these positions he pleases. If he think that Moses aimed to deter them from departing from his institutions by empty threats, he ascribes an incredible ab­surdity to air unquestionably wise, and, as infidels themselves contend,. a very politic man; but if Inns predictive threats were grounded upon for­mer marked and acknowledged interpositions of Divine Providence, the only circumstance which could give them weight, he was God's commissioned leader, and, as he professed, an inspired prophet.

It is a circumstance of great weight in the predictions of Moses respecting the punishment of the Jews, that these famines, pestilences, invasions, subjugations to foreign enemies, captivities, &c, are represented solely as the consequences of their vicious departures from God, and from his laws. Now, who could foresee, except an inspired man, that such evils would in no instance take place,-that no famine, no blight, no invasion would occur in Judea, except in obvious punishment of their offences against their law? What was there in the common course of things to prevent a small state, through observant of the precepts of its own religion, from falling under the dominion of more powerful neigh­bouring nations, except the special protection of God? and what but this could guard them from the plagues and famines to which their neigh hours were liable ? If tire predictions of Moses were not inspired, they assume a principle which mere human wisdom and policy never takes into its caluclations,-that of the connection of tire national prosperity of a people, inseparably and infallibly, with obedience to their holy writings; and because they assume that singular principle, the conclusion is in favour of their inspiration. For let us turn to the facts of the case. The sacred books of the Jews are historical as well as prophetic. The history too is distinct from the prophecy; it is often written by other authors arid there is no mark at all of any designed accommodation of tine one to the other. The singular simplicity of the historic narrative disproves this, as well as the circumstance, that a great part of it as recorded in the Old Testament is a transcript of their public records. Consult then this history, and in every instance of singular calamity we see a previous departure from the law of Moses; the one following the other, almost with the regularity amid certainty of natural effects and causes in this tine predictions of Moses and time prophets are strikingly accomplished; and a more than human foresight is proved.

Let us look farther into tine detail of these threatened punishments. Beside the ordinary inflictions of failing harvests, arid severe diseases, in their own country, they were, according to tine prophecies of Moses., Deut. xxviii, to be " scattered among all people, from the one end of the earth even to the other ;" and where is the trading nation in which they are riot, in Asia, Africa, amid Europe? Many are even to be found in the West Indies, and in tire commercial parts of America. Who could foresee this but God; especially when their singular preservation as a distinct people, a solitary instance in the history of nations, is also im­plied?[2] They were to find "no case" among these nations ; and the almost constant and long-continued persecutions, robberies, and murder of Jews, not only in ancient nations, but especially among Christian nations of the middle ages, and in tine Mohammedan states to this day, are in wonderful accomplishment of this. They were to lie " a proverb and a bye-ward among all nations," which has been in every place ful­filled, but was surely above e human intelligence to foresee ; and "the stranger that is within thee shall get above thee very high, and thou shalt come very low." For a comment on this, let the conduct of the "stranger," Turks and others, who inhabit Palestine, toward tine Jews who remain there, be recollected,-the one party is indeed "very high," and he other "very low." Other parts of this singular chapter present equally striking predictions, uttered more than three thousand years ago, as remarkably accomplished; but there are some passages in it, which refer in terms so particular to a then distant event, the utter sub­version of their polity and nation by the Romans, as to demonstrate in the most unequivocal manner the prescience of Him to whom all events, the most contingent, minute, and distant, are known with absolute certainty. That the Romans are intended, in verse 49, by the nation brought from "the end of tine earth," distinguished by their well-known ensign the eagle," and by their fierce and cruel disposition, is exceedingly probable: and it is remarkable, that the account which Moses gives of the horrors of the "siege" of which Ire speaks, is exactly paralleled by those well known passages in Josephus, in which be describes the siege of Jerusalem by tine Roman army. The last verse of the chapter seems indeed to fix the reference of the foregoing passages to the final destruction of the nation by the Romans, and at the same time contains a prediction, the accomplishment of which cannot possible be ascribed to accident. "And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships. by tine way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your ememies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you." On this Dr. Hales remarks, on the authority of their own national historian, Josephus, "Of tire captives taken at the siege of Jerusalem, above seventeen years of age, some were sent to Egypt in chains, the greater part were distributed through the pro­vinces to be destroyed in the theatres, by the sword, and by wild beasts; the rest under seventeen were sold for slaves, and that for a trifling sum, on account of the numbers to be sold, and the scarcity of buyers: so that at length the prophecy of Moses was fulfilled-' and no man shall buy.' The part that were reserved to grace the triumph of Vespasian, were probably transported to Italy in 'ships' or by sea, to avoid a prodigious land journey thither through Asia and Greece,-a circumstance which distinguished this invasion and captivity from the preceding by the Assyrians and Babylonians. In the ensuing rebellion, a part of the captives were sent by sea to Egypt, and several of the ships were wrecked on the coast."

Thus, at a distance of fifteen centuries, were these contingent circum­stances accurately recorded by the prophetic spirit of Moses-the taking of innumerable Jews captive-their transport to Egypt-their being sold till the markets for slaves were glutted, and no more buyers were found, and embarked on board vessels, either to grace tine triumph of their conqueror, or to find a market in different maritime ports. Is it possible that these numerous and minute circumstances can be referred to either happy conjectures or human foresight?

But Moses and other prophets agree, that, after all their captivities and dispersions, the Jews shall be again restored to their own laud. This was, as we have said, in one instance accomplished in their restor­ation by Cyrus and his successors; after which they again became a considerable state. But who could foretell that, but HE who determines the events of the world by his power and wisdom? Jeremiah fixes the duration of the captivity to seventy years; he did that so unequivocally, that the Jews in Babylon, when the time approached, began to prepare for tine event. But there was nothing in the circumstances of the Baby­lonian empire when the prediction was uttered, to warrant tire hope, much less to support a confident conjecture. Could tine subversion of that powerful empire by a then obscure people, the circumstance which broke the bondage of the Jews, have been foreseen by man? or when we consider the event as fulfilling so distinct a prophecy, can it be re­solved into imaginative interpretation? A future restoration however awaits this people, and will be to the world a glorious demonstration of the truth of prophecy. This being future, we cannot argue upon it. Three things are however certain :-the Jews themselves expect it; they are preserved by the providence of God a distinct people for their country; and their country, which in fact is possessed by no one, is pre­served for them.

Without noticing numerous prophecies respecting ancient nations and cities,[3] the wonderful and exact accomplishment of which has been pointed out by various writers, and which afford numerous eminent in. stances of the prescience of contingent and improbable events, whose evidence is so overwhelming, that, as in the case of the illustrious prophecies of Daniel, unbelievers have been obliged to resort to the subterfuge of asserting, in opposition to the most direct proofs, that the prophecies were written after the events, we shall close our instances by adverting to the prophecies respecting the Messiah,-the great and object of the prophetic dispensation. Of these not a solitary in. stance, or two, of an equivocal kind, and expressed only in figurative of symbolic language, are to be adduced; but upward of one hundred pre dictions, generally of very clear and explicit meaning, and each referring to some different circumstance connected with the appearing of Christ, his person, history, and his ministry, have been selected by divines, exclusive of typical and allusive predictions,[4] and those which in an ultimate and remote sense are believed to terminate in him. How are all these to be disposed of, if the inspiration of the Scriptures which contain them be denied? That these predictions are in books written many ages before the birth of our Saviour, is certain-the testimony of the Jews who reject Christ, amply proves this. That no interpolations have taken place to accommodate them to him, is proved, by the same predic­tions being found in the copies which are in the hands of the Jews, and which have descended to them from before the Christian era. On the other hand, the history of Jesus answers to these predictions, and exhi­bits their exact accomplishment. The Messiah was to be of the seed of David-born in Bethlehem-born of a virgin-an incarnation of Deity, God with us,-an eminent but unsuccessful teacher ;-he was to open the eyes of the blind, heal the lame and sick, and raise the dead he was to be despised and rejected by his own country men; to be arraigned on false charges, denied justice, and condemned to a violent death-he was to rise from the dead, ascend to the right hand of God, and there being invested with power and authority, he was to punish his enemies, and establish his own spiritual kingdom, which shall never end. We do not enter into more minute predictions, for the argument is irre­sistible when founded on these alone: and we may assert that no man, or number of men, could possibly have made such conjectures considered in themselves, this is impossible: What rational man, or number of rational men, could now be found to hazard a conjecture that an in­carnation of Deity would occur in any given place and time-that this Divine Person should teach wisdom, work miracles, be unjustly put to death, rise again, and establish his religion? These are thoughts which never enter into the minds of men, because they are suggested by no experience, and by no probability arising out of the usual course of hu­man affairs; and yet if the prophets were not inspired, it would have been as impossible for them to have conceived such expectations, as for us; and indeed much more so, seeing we are now familiar with a reli­gion which asserts that such events have once occurred. If then such events lay beyond not only human foresight, but even human thought, they can only be referred to inspiration. But the case does not close here. How shall we account, in the next place, for these circumstances all having met, strange as they are, in one person, and in one only among all the millions of men who have been born of woman,- and that person Jesus of Nazareth ? He was of the house and lineage of David-he was born, and that by a singular event, in Bethlehem-he professed to be" God with us," and wrought miracles to substantiate his claim. At his word or touch, the "eyes of the blind were opened," "the lame leaped as a hart," the dumb spake, the sick were healed, and the dead lived, as the prophets had foretold. Of the wisdom of his teaching, his recorded discourses bear witness. His rejection and unjust death by his countrymen, are matters of historic fact; his resurrection and ascension stand upon the lofty evidences which have been already adduced: the destruction of the Jewish nation, according to his own predictions, followed as the proof of the terror of his offended majesty; and his "king­dom" among men continues to this day. There is no possible means of evading the evidence of the fulfilment of these predictions in the person of our Lord, unless it could be shown that Jesus and his disciples, by some kind of concert, made the events of his life and death to correspond with the prophecies, in order to substantiate his claim to the Messiahship. No infidel has ever been so absurd as to hazard this opinion, except Lord Bolinbroke; and his observations ma be taken as a most triumphant proof of the force of this evidence from prophecy, when an hypothesis so extravagant was resorted to by an acute mind, in order to evade it. This noble writer asserts, that Jesus Christ brought on his own death by a series of wilful and preconcerted measures, merely to give his disciples the triumph of an appeal to the old prophecies! But his hypothesis does not reach the case; and to have succeeded, he might to have shown, that our Lord preconcerted his descent from David-his being born of a virgin-his birth at Bethlehem-and his wonderful endowments of eloquence and wisdom: that b some means or other he wilfully made the Jews ungrateful to him who healed their sick and cleansed their lepers ; and that he not only contrived his own death, but his resurrection, and his ascension also, and the spread of his religion in opposition to human opinion and human power, in order to give his disciples the triumph of an appeal to the prophecies! These Subterfuges of infidels concede the point, and show that the truth cannot be denied but by doing the utmost violence to the understanding.

That wonderful series of particular prophecies respecting our Lord, contained Isaiah liii, will illustrate the foregoing observations, and may property this chapter.

To this prophecy it cannot be objected, that its language is symbolic, or that in more than a few beautiful metaphors, easily understood, it is even figurative: its style is that of narrative; it is also entire in itself, and unmixed with any other subject; and it evidently refers to one single person. So the ancient Jews understood it, and applied it to Messiah; and though the modern Jews, in order to evade its force in the argument with Christians, allege that it describes the sufferings of their nation, and not of an individual, the objection is refuted by the terms of the prophecy itself. The Jewish people cannot be the suffered because he was to bear their griefs, to carry their sorrows, and to be wounded for their transgressions. "He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows," &c; so that the person of the sufferer is distinguished from the Jewish nation. Beside which, his death burial are spoken of, and his sufferings are represented (verse 12) as voluntary; which in no sense can apply to the Jews. "Of himself, or of some other man," therefore, as the Ethiopian eunuch rightly concieve the prophet must have spoken. To some individual it must be applied; to none but to our Lord can it be applied; and applied to him, the prophecy is converted into history itself. The prophet declares, that his advent and works would be a revealing of "the arm of the Lord, singular display of Divine power and goodness; and yet, that a blind and incredulous people would not believe "the report." Appearing in a low and humble condition, and not, as they expected their Messiah in the pomp of eastern monarchy, his want of "comeliness" and "desirableness" in the eyes of his countrymen, and his rejection by them, are explicitly stated-" He was despised, and we esteemed him not." He is farther described as "a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs;" yet his sufferings were considered by the Jews as judicial,-a legal punishment, as they contend to this day, for his endeavouring to seduce men from the law, and for which they had the warrant of God himself in his commands by Moses, that such seducers should be put to death. With what exactness are these sentiments of the Jews marked in the prophecy! We quote from the translation of Bishop Lowth.

"Yet we thought him Judicially stricken,

SMITTEN OF GOD, and afflicted."

Christ himself and his apostles uniformly represented his death as vicarious and propitiatory; and this is predicted and confirmed, so to speak, by the evidence of this prophecy.

"But he was wounded for our transgressions,

He was smitten for our iniquities;

The chastisement by which our peace is effected, was laid upon him;

And by his bruises we are healed.

We all of us like sheep have stray'd;

We have turn'd aside, every one to his own way;

And Jehovah bath made to light upon him the iniquity of us all.

It was exacted and he was made answerable."

Who can read the next passage without thinking of Jesus before the council of the Jews, and the judgment seat of Pilate?

"As a lamb that is led to the slaughtor,

And as a sheep before her shearers

Is dumb; so he opened not his mouth.

By an oppressive judgment he was taken off."

The very circumstances of his burial are given :-

"And his grave was appointed with the wicked

But with the rich man was his tomb."

Yet, though thus laid in the grave, the eye of the prophet beholds his resurrection, "the joy set before him," and into which he entered; the distribution of spiritual blessings to his people, and his spiritual conquest of the nations of the earth, notwithstanding the opposition of "the mighty ;" and he enumerates these particulars with a plainness so wonderful, that, by merely an alteration of the tenses of the verbs, the whole might be converted into an abridged view of what has occurred, and is now occurring under the Christian dispensation, in the furtherance of human salvation :-

"if his soul shall make a propitiatory sacrifice

he shall see a seed, which shall prolong their days,

And the gracious purpose of Jehovah shall prosper in his hands.

Of the travail of his soul he shall see (the fruit) and be satisfied;

By the knowledge of him shall my servant justify many;

For the punishment of their iniquities he shall bear.

Therefore will I distribute to him the many for his portion;

And the mighty people shall he share for his spoil;

Because he pour'd his soul out unto death;

And was number'd with the transgressors:

And he bore the sin of many,

And made intercession for the transgressors."

To all these predictions the words of a modern writer are applicable: "Let now the infidel, or the skeptical reader, meditate thoroughly and soberly upon these predictions. The priority of the records to the events admits of no question. The completion is obvious to every competant inquirer. Here then are facts. We are called upon to account for these facts on rational and adequate principles. Is human foresight equal to the task? Enthusiasm? Conjecture? Chance? Political contrivance? If none of these, neither can any other principle that may be devised by man's sagacity, account for the facts; then, true philosophy, as well as true religion, will ascribe them to the inspiration of the Almighty. Every effect must have a cause."[5]


[1] "The correspondences of types and antitypes, though they are not proper proofs of the truth of a doctrine, yet may be very reasonable confirmations of the foreknowledge of God; of the uniform view of Providence under different dispensations; of the analogy, harmony, amid agreement, between the Old Testa­ment and the New. The words of time law concerning one particular kind of death, He that is hanged is accused of God, can hardly be conceived to have been hunt in on any other account, than with a view and foresight to the applica­tion made of it by St. Paul. The analogies between the paschal lamb and time Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world; between the Egyptian bondage and the tyranny of sin; between the baptism of the Israelites in time sea and in the cloud, and the baptism of Christians; between the passage through the wilderness, and through the present world; between Joshua bringing time people into the promised land, and Jesus Christ being the Captain of salvation to believers; between the Sabbath of rest promised to the people of God in the earthly Canaan, and the eternal rest promised to the people of God in the heavenly Canaan; between the liberty granted them from the time of the death of the high priest, to him that had fled into a city of refuge, and the redemption pur­chased by the sleuth of Christ; between the high priest entering into the holy place every year with the blood of others, and Christ's once entering with his own blood into heaven itself, to appear in the shadows of things to come, of good things to come, the shadows of heavenly things, the presence of God for us. These, I say, and innumerable other analogies, between thee figures for the time then present, patterns of things in the heavens, amid the heavenly things themselves, cannot with­out the force of strong prejudice be conceived to have happened by mere chance, Without any foresight or design. There are no such analogies, much less such series of analogies, found in the hooks of more enthusiastic writers living in such remote ages from each other. It is much more credible and reasonable to sup­pose, what St. Paul affirms, that these things were our examples; and that in that uniform course of God's government of the world, all things happened unto them of old for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. And hence arises that aptness of similitude, in the application of several legal performances to tine morality of the Gospel, that it can Vary hardly be supposed not to have been originally intended." (DR. S. CLARKE'S Evidences of Natural and Revealed Religion, p. 263.)

[2] "They have been dispersed among all countries. They have a common tie of locality or government to keep thorn together. AU the ordinary principles of assimilation which make law, and religion, and manners, so much a matter of geography, are in their instance suspended. And in exception to every thing which history has recorded of the revolutions of the species, we see in this won­derful race a vigorous principle of identity, which has remained in undiminished force for nearly two thousand years, and still pervades every shred and fragment of their widely scattered population" (CHALMERS'S Evidences.)

[3] No work has exhibited in so pleasing and comprehensive a manner the fulfilment of the leading prophecies of Scripture, and especially of the Old Testament, as Bishop Newton's Dissertations on the Prophecies; and the perusal of it may be earnestly recommended, especially to the young. His illustrations of the prophecies respecting ancient Babylon are exceedingly interesting and satisfactory and still farther proofs of the wonderfully exact accomplishment of those prophecies may be seen in a highly interesting Memoir on the Ruins of Babylon, by Claudius J. Rich, published in 1815. Immense ruins were visited by him near the supposed site of ancient Babylon, which probably are, though the matter can­not be certainly ascertained, the remains of that astonishing city, now indeed "swept with the besom of destruction." He tells us too, that the neighbourhood is to the present a habitation only for birds and beasts of prey; that the dens of lions, with their slaughtered victims, are to be seen in many places; and that most of the cavities are occupied with bats and owls. It is therefore impossible to reflect without awe upon the passage of Isaiah, written during the prosperity of Babylon, wherein he says, "The wild beasts of the desert shall lie there, and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures, and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there." The present ruins of that city also demonstrate, that the course of the Euphrates has been changed, probably inn consequence of the channel formed by Cyrus; and the yielding nature of the soil demonstrates that such an operation could have been performed by a large army with great facility and despatch.

The ruins examined by Mr. Rich bear testimony to tine immense extent of tine City as described by ancient authors. Vast masses of masonry, of both burnt and unburnt brick amid bitumen, were observed in various excavations in these huge mountains of ruins, which are separated from each other by several miles. One ms called by the Arabs, Birs Nimrond; another the Kuer, or Palace; and a third, Which some have thought to be the ruins of the tower of Belus, is called by the natives Mugelib, OVERTURNED, which expressive term is also sometimes apprehend to the mounds of tine Kasr.

[4] See note, p.

[5] SIMPSON'S Key to the Prophecies. See also a large collection of prophecies with their fulfilment in the Appendix to vol. i, of Horne's Introduction to the Scriptures