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In order to take a full view of this branch of evidence, we must be well acquainted with history, and with the present condition of various places and nations. The student of prophecy, for example, will of course be led to compare the predictions of the Lord Jesus respecting the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, with the relation which the historian Josephus has given of these events; and he will observe that complete agreement between the two, which clearly establishes the divine origin of the prophecy. Evidence equally strong, but still more extensive, arises from a comparison of the descriptions given by modern travellers of Babylon, Tyre, Arabia, Judæa, and many other cities and countries, with the prophecies respecting them contained in the Old Testament.* Again, in the scattered condition of the Jews themselves, and in the contempt and persecution to which they have been so long exposed, persons even of very limited information, may find a standing proof that Moses and other holy men of old, who foretold these things, “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
* The particulars of this comparison are admirably unfolded by Alexander Keith, in his little work, entitled " Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion derived from the literal Fulfilment of Prophecy." 1 vol. 12mo.
But, there are parts of the evidence derived from prophecy, which, independently of any extraneous source of information, stand complete in the Bible itself.
Thus the promise made to Abraham, that his seed should be like the stars of heaven for multitude, and should inherit the land of Canaan, was accomplished in the course of centuries, and the Bible contains a full account of the fact. To substantiate this proof, nothing is required but a comparison of parts of Genesis with the book of Joshua.
When Joshua had destroyed Jericho, he said, “ Cursed be the man before the Lord that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his first-born, and in his youngest son shall be set up the gates of it.” This prophecy was delivered about 1450 years before Christ; and the first book of Kings contains an account of its exact fulfilment more than 500 years afterwards. The reign under which the circumstance took place, and the names of all the parties concerned, are there faithfully recorded. *
* 1 Kings xvi. 34.-" In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his first-born, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun." * 2 Kings xxiii. 16.—There is a point in this example, which affords a striking evidence of its authenticity. The prophecy states that the priests were to be offered on the altar, and men's bones burnt thereon. The history inentions only the burning of the bones of the priests on the altar. The history unfolds the true meaning of the prediction, which was that the priests should * Compare Jer. i. 14, 15; vi. 1; xxxiv. 2 ; xxv. 8-11; xxx. 10; xxxiii. 7; with 2 Kings xxv.; 2 Chron. xxxvi. ; Ezra i. ; Dan | Isaiah xliv. 28; comp. xlv, 14.
When king Jeroboam was sacrificing to his idols in Bethel (B. c. 975,) a man of God came and "cried against the altar in the word of the Lord, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord ; Behold a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name, and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places, that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee.” That this prophecy was actually delivered according to this narration, we have no reason whatever to doubt. Of its fulfilment, about 350 years afterwards, the subsequent history of the Jews contains a clear account. There we read that Josiah was born of the seed of David according to the prophecy, and that he destroyed Jeroboam’s altar at Bethel ; “ and as Josiah turned himself he spied the sepulchres that were in the mount, and sent and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burnt them upon
the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.")*
Jeremiah's predictions of the invasion of Judea and the destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, of the captivity of the Jews in Babylon during seventy years, and of their peaceful return to their own land, were utterly disregarded by his hearers as improbable and absurd. Yet they were all accomplished in the course of a century, and subsequent historians or prophets who probably had no connexion with Jeremiah, give a clear account of the events by which they were fulfilled.*
Cyrus, king of Persia, the conqueror of Babylon and the deliverer of the Jews, was prophesied of by name nearly two centuries before his birth. In the counsels of God he was preordained to be the Lord's shepherd, to perform all his pleasure -"even saying to Jerusalem, , Thou shalt be built, and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.”+ Such were the words of the prophecy delivered by Isaiah ; and who can wish for a more satisfactory acbe offered on the altar by the burning of their skeletons upon it. Yet this apparent difference would surely have been avoided by a forger, had such an one either invented the history as a key to the prophecy, or composed the prophecy after the event had happened.
count of their accomplishment than we find in the book of Ezra ?
The genuineness of the books of the Old Testament and the general truth of its history being allowed (an allowance which no sound critic will refuse to make,) we have only to compare one part of that volume with another, in order to satisfy ourselves of the lucid character of these and many other prophecies, and of the exactness with which they have been fulfilled.
What could be more precise than the lan, guage in which our Lord foretold his own sufferings, death, and resurrection, the unfaithfulness of the Apostle Peter, and the sending of the Holy Ghost the Comforter? And who can deny that the simple and explicit narrative of these events, contained in the New Testament itself, affords a satisfactory proof that Jesus was a true prophet ?
These observations, however, apply with peculiar force to that wondrous line of prophecy which runs through the Old Testament, and which distinctly relates to the Messiah himself
—that seed of the woman, who should bruise the serpent's head.* Prophets who lived in
* Gen. iii, 15.