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in their existence without much stronger evidence than (I suspect) will ever be produced, evinces a degree of abject credulity, which to men ignorant of the vagaries of Infidelity might well seem absolutely impossible.
2. The second conceivable mode of solving the difficulty is to ascribe, at once, the whole circumstance of the completion of the prophecy, to a lucky accident.
Singular coincidences, it may be argued by the infidel, sometimes occur : and a remarkable case even of a prophecy may be adduced, which, notwithstanding its accurate accomplishment, no one supposes to have been a revelation from heaven. If Moses has predicted the dispersion of the Jews, Seneca has foretold the discovery of America. Hence, if, in the one case, the completion of the prophecy demonstrates the inspiration of the prophet; it must equally do so, in the other case : or, conversely, if completion be deemed, in the one case, no proof of inspiration; then neither is it in the other. Give me, says Collins, a prophecy from your Bible, which
be as clearly predictive of any event, which you may choose to allege for the accomplishment, as the verses of Seneca have by mere accident proved to be, of the discovery of America by Christopher . Columbus. Give me such a prophecy from your Bible, as I have produced to you from a heathen poet, who yet was no prophet nor claimed the character; and I will turn believer.
Now, even if we allow the utmost praise of accuracy to the prediction of Seneca'; it still would have been no very difficult matter, to adduce a prophecy from the Bible quite as minutely fulfilled, and thence to claim from Collins. the ratification of his own voluntary promise: for, with whatever exactness the prophecy of Seneca may have been accomplished, it can scarcely be asserted that the prediction of Moses has experienced a less accurate fulfilment. But such a retort, whether satisfactory or unsatisfactory to the infidel, is by no means satisfactory to the Christian. Admitting the divine inspiration of Moses, and denying the divine inspiration of Seneca, he stands pledged, on his own principles, to give an adequate reason, why he draws two such different conclusions from two equally fulfilled prophecies. To perform this task is happily no very difficult matter.
(1.) We may begin with observing, that the characteristics of the two prophecies differ essentially in a point of prime importance.
The prophecy of the Hebrew lawgiver comprizes a very considerable number of distinct particulars ; each of which must be shewn to have been accurately fulfilled : otherwise, if there be a failure in any one article, the defence of the entire prophecy, as a revelation from God, is rendered untenable. In the case of a prophecy thus constructed, it is not enough to be able to say, that it has been fulfilled in this par
ticular or in that particular : we stand pledged, either to shew its completion in every particular, or to give up its divine inspiration. The prediction of Moses, had it been delivered as a mere random guess, might have been partly fulfilled, and partly unfulfilled. Thus the Jews might have been subdued, not by a distant nation with whose language they were unacquainted, but by a neighbouring nation whose speech was familiar to them: or they might have been subdued by a distant nation with whose language they were unacquainted, but not torn away from their own land and dispersed over the face of the whole earth : or they might have been torn away and scattered, but soon restored : or they might have continued long in a dispersed state, but treated all the while with great kindness and indulgence; or they might actually have become a proverb and a by-word, but still in the day of their desolation might have been sold as slaves into Italy and not into Egypt. All these and many more changes might be rung at pleasure upon the various particulars specified by Moses: and, if a failure of accomplishment could have been detected in any one point, the prophecy, viewed as a whole, would not have been accurately fulfilled; and therefore no argument, in favour of a divine revelation, could have been legitimately built upop it. Now, according to any fair and rational computation of what is called the doctrine of chances, how immense is the improbability, that the minute accomplishment of a prediction, in no less than seventeen distinct particulars (for such is their amount, as summed up article after article by Bp. Newton), should after all be a mere lucky accident *. It would be curious to calculate what are styled the odds. The result, I am persuaded, would be this : that he, who could contentedly ascribe the exact completion of such a complicated prophecy to absolute chance, would exhibit a much greater degree of credulity, than he who believed it to be a revelation from heaven. For let it be observed, that the present argument is founded, not upon the completion of a simple prophecy, but upon the completion of a highly complicated prophecy; of a prophecy comprehending seventeen distinct particulars, all of which, without a single exception, have been accurately and fully accomplished.
On the other hand, the prophecy of Seneca, if prophecy we must call it, sets forth a single solitary insulated matter. In late years ages shall arrive, when the ocean shall relax the bonds of the universe, and a mighty land shall be laid open, and Tiphys shall unveil new worlds, and Thulè shall no
* I have not noticed all the particulars marked out by Moses : for the sake of brevity, I have only discussed those which are most prominent. All the particulars, however, without a single exception, have come to pass: a matter, most copiously and fully demonstrated by Bp. Newton. See his Dissert. on the Prophecies. dissert. vii.
longer be the utmost extremity of the earth *. The naked fact of the discovery of a new continent is announced: and this is the whole that is foretold. Not a single particular is added. We are not taught, whether the discovery should be made in the east or in the west, in the north or in the south : nor, so far as the verbal precision of the oracle is concerned, can we be positive, whether America, or Greenland, or New Holland, is
specially designated; for the prediction is so vague, that it would have been equally fulfilled in the discovery of any one of them. We hear nothing of the opposition made to Columbus or of the ingratitude with which he was subsequently treated. We are left wholly in the dark, as to the productions of the new world, the character of its inhabitants, and the cruelty of the conquerors. We receive no information as to the people, by whom the discovery should be made. Not a hint is given of the peculiarities of Mexico and Peru. Nothing, in short, is told us, save that, at some time or another, a new world should be discovered. Hence it is clear, that the leading characteristics of the two prophecies before us are wholly different: the badge of the one being definite complicacy; the badge of the other, indefinite simplicity. Had Moses merely foretold, that, sooner or later, the Jews would be conquered by a nation more powerful than themselves ; his prophecy
* Senec. Med. ver. 375-330.