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which could induce these persons, persons of good sense, in every walk of life, to abandon the religion of their ancestors, and thus, in the face of imperial power, to persist in their adherence to one who had suffered the death of a slave !
We might also refer to Celsus, and Lucian, and Epictetus, and the Emperor Marcus Antoninus, and Galen, and Porphyry, — who all throw light on the early history of Christianity, and all confirm, so far as they go, the accounts of our books.
There is a single species of evidence more, that I will just mention — that which is derived from ancient coins, medals, and inscriptions. The most striking of these relate to the credibility of the Old Testament; still, valuable confirmation to the New is not wanting, and I mention it because it shows how every possible line of evidence converges on this point.
Luke gives to Sergius Paulus a title belonging only to a man of proconsular dignity, and it had been doubted whether the governor of Cyprus had that dignity. A coin, however, has been found, struck in the reign of Claudius Cæsar, (the very reign in which Paul visited Cyprus,) and under Proclus, who succeeded Sergius Paulus, on which the very title applied by Luke is given to Proclus. Luke speaks of Philippi as a colony, and the word implies that it was a Roman colony. It was mentioned as such by no other historian, and hence the authority of Luke was questioned. But a medal has been discovered which shows that this dignity was conferred upon that city by Julius Cæsar. It is implied, in the nineteenth of
Acts, that there was great zeal at Ephesus for the worship of Diana ; and a long inscription has been found there, by which it appears that, at one time, a whole month was set apart to games and festivals in honor of her.
There have also been found, in the catacombs at Rome, inscriptions which show, in a touching manner, in opposition to the insinuations of Gibbon and of some later writers, the cruelty of the early persecutions, and the number of those who suffered martyrdom.* Much evidence of this kind might be added.
Thus have we every conceivable species of historical proof, both external and internal. Thus do the very stones cry out. And, my hearers, if there may be such a thing as a weak and obstinate credulity, may there not also be such a thing as a skepticism equally weak and obstinate ?
PROPHECY. NATURE OF THIS EVIDENCE. – THE GENERAL OBJECT OF PROPHECY.- THE FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY.
The subject of prophecy, upon which we now enter, is a great subject. It involves many questions of difficulty, and of deep and increasing interest; and I find myself embarrassed in the attempt to say any thing respecting it in a single lecture.
The term “prophet' meant, originally, one who spoke the words of God, not necessarily implying that he foretold future events; but, when I speak of prophecy as an evidence of revealed religion, I mean by it a foretelling of future events so contingent that they could not be foreseen by human sagacity, and so numerous and particular that they could not be produced by chance. To foretell such events, and bring them to pass, is among the most striking of all possible manifestations of the omniscience and omnipotence of God, “To declare a thing shall come to be, long before it is in being,” says Justin Martyr, “and then to bring about that very thing according to the same declaration — this, or nothing, is the work of God.” Hume was fully aware of the force of this kind of evidence, and justly, though for an obvious reason, classed prophecies with miracles, as furnishing proof of a revelation from
God. Indeed, a prophecy fulfilled before our eyes is a standing miracle. Let it once be made out that a religion is sustained by genuine prophecies, and I see not how it is possible that evidence should be more complete or satisfactory.
In claiming prophecy as a ground of evidence, Christianity again stands entirely by itself. Miracles and prophecy — those two grand pillars of Christian evidence — are neither of them even claimed by Mohammedanism, and are neither of them the ground on which it has been attempted to introduce any other religion. Impostors have pretended, and still do, to work miracles in support of systems of paganism and of superstition already established; and, in the same way, juggling oracles have been uttered, which seem to have resembled modern fortune-telling far more than Scripture prophecy. Indeed, the contrast is not greater between the Christian miracles and the ridiculous prodigies of paganism, than it is between the prophecies of the Scriptures and the heathen oracles. Those oracles were given for purposes of gain, on special application, to gratify curiosity, or to subserve the purposes of ambition, political or military; all the circumstances under which they were given favored imposture, and the responses were generally so ambiguous, that they would apply to either alternative. Thus when Crosus consulted the oracle at Delphi, relative to his intended war against the Persians, he was told that he would destroy a great empire. This he naturally interpreted of his overcoming the Persians, though the oracle was so framed as to admit of an opposite meaning. Cræsus inade war against the Persians, and was ruined, and
the oracle continued to maintain its credit."* But the prophecies of the Scriptures were generally uttered on no solicitation, and never for a selfish end. They relate sometimes to individuals and sometimes to nations, and present us with a comprehensive view of the kingdom of God in its rise and progress, and of those events most intimately associated with it till the end of time. They are one great and harmonious system, not one of which can be shown to have failed, commencing in the garden of Eden, uttered by persons of the greatest variety of character, and extending over the space of four thousand years. A system of deception like this could have been undertaken from no conceivable motive, and could have been executed by no human power.
This is a species of evidence which invests the Christian religion, and especially the coming of Christ, with a peculiar grandeur. As his coming is the great event to which the Christian world must always look back, so prophecy makes it the great event to which the ancient church constantly looked forward. It makes him the centre of the system, the great orb of moral day; and prophets and holy men of old it makes but as the stars and constellations that preceded and heralded the brightness of his coming.
The evidence of prophecy is also constantly growing. This results, not from the nature of prophecy, in itself considered, but from the number and nature of those unfulfilled prophecies of which there are so many, both in the Old and in the New Testament. If prophecy has laid down a map of time till the end, then