The Proof From Prophecy - Part 3
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Leslie, in his once famous Short and Easy Methods with the Deists, speaks of the impugners of the current evidences of Christianity as men who consider the Scripture histories and the Christian religion ' cheats and impositions of cunning and designing men upon the credulity of simple people.' Collins, and the whole array of writers at whom Leslie aims this, greatly need to be resurveyed from the point of view of our own age. Nevertheless, we may grant that some of them, at any rate, conduct their attacks on the current evidences for Christianity in such a manner as to give the notion that in their opinion Christianity itself, and religion, is a cheat and an imposture. But how far more prone will the mass of mankind be to hearken to this opinion, if they have been kept intent on predictions such as those of which we have just, given specimens; if they have been kept full of the great importance of this line of mechanical evidence, and then suddenly find that this line of evidence gives way at all points ? It can hardly be gainsaid, that, to a delicate and penetrating criticism, it has long been manifest that the chief literal fulfilment by Jesus Christ of things said by the prophets was the fulfilment such as would naturally be given by one who nourished his spirit on the prophets, and on living and acting their words. The great prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah are, critics can easily see, not strictly predictions at all; and predictions which are strictly meant as such, like those in the Book of Daniel, are an embarrassment to the Bible rather than a main element of it. The 'Zeit-Geist,' and the mere spread of what is called enlightenment, superficial and barren as this often is, will inevitably, before long, make this conviction of criticism a popular opinion, held far and wide. And then, what will be their case, who have been so long and sedulously taught to rely on supernatural predictions as a mainstay?
The same must be said of miracles. The substitution of some other proof of Christianity for this accustomed proof is now to be desired most by those who most think Christianity of importance. That old friend of ours on whom we have formerly commented,' who insists upon it that Christianity is and shall be nothing else but this, ` that Christ promised Paradise to the saint and threatened the worldly man with hell-fire, and proved his power to promise and to threaten by rising from the dead and ascending into heaven,' is certainly not the guide whom lovers of Christianity, if they could discern what it is that he really expects and aims at, and what it is which they themselves really desire, would think it wise to follow.
But the subject of miracles is a very great one ; it includes within itself, indeed, the whole question about ' supernatural prescience,' which meets us when we deal with prophecy. And this great subject requires, in order that we may deal with it properly, some little recapitulation of our original design in this essay, and of the circumstances in which the cause of religion and of the Bible seems to be at this moment placed.