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there is an island larger than all Europe *. And thus Avitus, in a work of Seneca himself, declares, that fertile lands lie in the ocean, and that beyond it there are other shores and another world f. • Under these circumstances, is it credible, er rather (when the testimony of Avitus is considered) is it possible, that Seneca could have been ignorant of the prevalent opinion relative to an immense island or continent, which was situated far westward of Africa, and which had been discovered and colonized by the Phenicians? What then becomes of the pretended prophecy, which Mr. Collins has brought forward with so much parade and confidence by way of stultifying the real prophecies of Holy Scripture ? Save as a poetical ornament, it neither claims nor possesses any one character of an oracle. Seneca was aware of the common belief, that a western continent had been discovered. He knew likewise, that, in the then imperfect state of navigation, all intercourse with it had ceased. But, deeming it highly probable that at some future period the science would be greatly improved, he announced, in the poetical form of a prophecy, that a complete and familiar discovery of this mysterious half-known region would be made after the lapse of many ages. In this obvious sense the passage is understood by the learned and ingenious Horn. He cites it, not, like Mr. Collins, as a prophecy; but as one out of many evidences, that the existence of America was not unknown to the ancients *
* Ammian. Marc. apud Horn. ut supra.
+ Avit. in Senec. Suasor. Ibid.
IV. The sum then of the whole matter may be briefly stated, as follows.
We have now extant a prophecy, indisputably penned many ages before the Christian era : and we have likewise before our very eyes a most full and perfect accomplishment of this prophecy.
Neither of these two points can be controverted by the infidel. Hence he is reduced to the necessity, either of admitting the divine inspiration of the prophecy; an admission, which immediately and necessarily draws after it the additional admission that the Law of Moses was a revelation from heaven: or of denying the divine inspiration of the prophecy; either on the utterly untenable ground that it was merely the result of sagacious political anticipation, or on the equally untenable ground that a prediction comprehending no less than seventeen distinct particulars was minutely fulfilled in every particular simply and solely by a lucky accident.
Such being the plain state of the case, the naked question to be considered and answered is this : whether, under the circumstances which have been set forth, the man who admits, or the man who denies, the divine inspiration of the prophecy of Moses, evinces the more blind and determined credulity.
* Horn. de origin. Americ. lib. i. c. 10. p. 57.
HITHERTO I have considered the difficulties attendant upon deistical Infidelity; chiefly in regard to the abstract question of revelation in general, but partly also (through the medium of an eminent accomplished prophecy) in regard to the Levitical Dispensation in particular: I shall now proceed, the way having been thus cleared, to note the difficulties, which equally wait upon it in regard to the facts and circumstances and character of the Christian Dispensation.
I. The fact of the bare existence of Christianity in the world at this present moment is obviously certain and indisputable: the sole question, therefore, between the believer and the unbeliever is, how it started into existence, and what are its pretensions to be received as a divine revelation.
1. Now the account of its origin and early progress is contained in four parallel histories and in a subsequent narrative attached to them, all which documents are still extant.
These are found to correspond with the testimonies of the pagan writers Tacitus and Suetonius: and they are so · repeatedly cited and referred to by an immense body of ecclesiastical writers, that we cannot reasonably doubt either their high antiquity or their general historical veracity in the relation of facts and circumstances. I say general: because, for the present, I am willing to throw out of the discussion all those claims to the performance of miracles, which they so repeatedly put forth. Hence, when I assert that we cannot reasonably doubt their general historical veracity in the relation of facts and circumstances, I mean only to assert, that they give an accurate account of the proceedings and conduct and character and principles and sayings of the founder of Christianity and his immediate followers, just as we never think of doubting the general accuracy of the writings of Plato and Xenophon in regard to their master Socrates or (if we descend to more modern times) the writings of Boswell in regard to Johnson. · 2. To dispute this reasonable assertion is, in fact, to unbinge all historical evidence: for, as to the actual existence of such a person as Christ during the reigns of the Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius, it is fully demonstrated by the positive testimony of Suetonius, Tacitus, Julian,