Слике страница

yond the course of nature, or the natural powers of man.

But Mr. English says for the sake of argument, "suppose the prophecy to be obscure, hyperbolical, abounding in enigmas, and metaphors, full of abruptness and incoherency, can miracles make it simple and plain? Can miracles free it from enigmas, its abruptness, and incoherency. I apprehend not. After the most stupendous miracles, it must still retain its original character. It remains what it was when it fell from the lips of the prophet."* But neither this question nor this answer are pertinent. The simple question is this, will not a miraculous work afford us a sanction of the interpretation, which its worker gives of such obscure passages. God gave the prophecy by his servants, God works miracles by his servants. Are not the interpretation of these miraculously-assisted servants better than ours? Whether the prophecy be clear or obscure, figurative or plain, is not an exposition of it given by one, who establishes his intimacy with God, more credible than the expositions of fallible men, of ourselves? These are questions which answer themselves.

But it is urged by Mr. English, that the Old Testament expressly enjoined upon the

complishment of the prophecy as such, but the miracle which was the direct evidence," &c, p. 83. Though this be not strictly correct, yet practically it is an important remark, since the fulfilment of prophecy in things not miraculous, might always be exposed to the suspicion of coincidence.

Letter to Mr. Cary, p. 47.

[ocr errors]

Jews to judge of the miracle by the doctrine, and to give no heed to the former, if there were any thing false, unlawful, or forbidden in the latter. If this were true, it would imply a contradiction between two works of the same almighty Being, an inference to the last degree inadmissible; and to say that the Old Testament declares that miracles wrought in support of idolatry are to be disregarded, is to say that the Old Testament admits the possibility of such miracles, the possibility that God should lend his authority to a falsehood. A violent presumption therefore must arise in the mind of every one who believes with Mr. English, that the "moral precepts of the Old Testament are unexceptionable,” and that it teaches"theism,"* or the existence and government of God, against such an interpretation of any part of it. Mr. English however quotes Deut. xiii. 1, 2, 3, in the following manner, as a proof, that these views of miraculous testimony are actually exhibited in the Old Testament," If there arise among you a prophet, or dreamer of dreams, and give you a sign or a wonder, (that is, a miracle,) and the sign or wonder come to pass whereof he spake unto thee, saying, let us go after other gods, thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet or dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your

• Letter to Mr. Channing, p. 26.

heart, and with all your soul;" of which he soon after gives this paraphrase, and "If any man arise in Israel and advise or teach them to worship any other beside Jehovah, and in proof of the divinity of his mission promise a sign or wonder, and in fact does bring to pass the sign or wonder promised, he is nevertheless not to be hearkened to, but be put to death. And these criterions given by God or Moses, as the means whereby they might know a true prophet from a false one, most exquisitely prove his wisdom and foresight. For if he had not expressly excluded miracles, or signs and wonders from being a proof of the divinity of doctrines, the barriers which divided his religion from those of idolaters, must have been broken down, since as we have seen, well attested miracles (meaning always by miracles, signs, and wonders brought about by human agency,) are related to have been performed in proof of every religion under heaven. But veritable prophecy is and can be a proof proper only to a true revelation, because none can know what is to come but God and those who) sent him. Accordingly we find that the Jewish prophets were not acknowledged as such but on account of their foretelling the truth, or being supposed to do so."* The confusion of expression in this long extract, to which I beg the reader's attention, is evidence of the confusion of thought in the writer's mind. Mr. English, in search of proofs that miracles are an incompetent testi*Grounds of Christianity examined, p. 125..

mony, unfortunately adduces a text in which false prophecy is said to be incompetent ; viz. a sign or a wonder given by a false prophet,which comes to pass. Now it is plain that the sign, which is given, and which comes to pass, is prophetical testimony, in contradistinction to miraculous. A circumstance which not only makes this text extremely irrelevant to Mr. English's argument, but directly opposes his fundamental principle of the absolute sufficiency of prophetical, to the exclusion of miraculous testimony. To avoid this consequence he has interposed the words, "that is a miracle," after the words "sign or wonder," a resort which though sometimes convenient, has been called by logicians, begging the question. Moreover his point was to prove, in opposition to Christians, that miraculous testimony was excluded in the Old Testament; but he finds himself reduced to the making of a distinction between true and false prophecy; a distinction highly important indeed, but no ways connected with the subject. He concludes the paragraph however by asserting, that veritable prophecy is the proper proof of revelation, for that none can know what is to come, but God and his servants; a principle that follows not at all from the text, which sets forth that though one should tell what is to come, and the event should be accordingly, he must notwithstanding be rejected if he taught other gods. At any rate, if any real evidence be excluded by this text, it is clearly that, and that only, on which Mr. English rests, proph

ecy fulfilled. But the truth is, no real evidence is excluded by this text; the Iraelites are warned in it against the arts of impostors. In a multitude of random predictions, which such might utter, some must be verified by the event, and the history of the ancient ages gives examples of the coincidence of such predictions with the subsequent state of things. God forwarned his people against any such imposture, and told them to reject all enticements to idolatry, even should they appear to have this sanction. It is manifestly clear that no real prophecy could have been uttered, and no real miracle could have been wrought by an impostor, and that interpretation must be wrong, which supposes either. But why this laborious distinction? Be it prophecy or miracle. That which made prophecy an evidence makes miracles so too. "None can know the future," says Mr. English, "but God and those sent by him." So none can control nature but God and his servants; and the sole thing, which makes prophecy fulfilled a testimony of the prophet's veracity is, that it is a miraculous work.

If it be said too by Mr. English, that all false religions have had their alleged miracles, I reply, that they have had their alleged proph. ecies too, as numerous and as plausibly attested.* And if he will urge that veritable proph

* Mr. English will prize the authority of Celsus, even though it make against himself ; τι δει καταλεγειν στα εκ χρηστηρίων; Τέτο μεν ΠΡΟΦΗΤΑΙ και ΠΡΟΦΗΤΙΔΕΣ,

« ПретходнаНастави »