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responding events whereby it hath been or is compleated, is a competent judge of the degree of proof it affords. · Prophecy, therefore, is by far the most satisfactory, and the only lasting, supernatural evidence of the truth of any Revelation. To this the Jewish, to this the Christian Reyelation both appeal, as the great criterion of their divine origin and authority. In the old Testament, God, by his prophet Isaiah,* declares this to be the proper distinguishing mark between false religions and the true. "Produce your cause, saith the Lord; bring “ forth your strong reasons, saith the King of “ Jacob. Let them bring them forth, and “ shew us what shall happen ; let them shew “ the former things what they be, that we “ may consider them, and know the latter end “ of them ; or declare us things for to come, “ shew the things that are to come hereafter, " that we may know that ye are gods.” And again,t “ Thus saith the Lord, I am the « first and I am the last, and besides me there “ is no God. And who, as I, shall call and « shall declare it, and set it in order for me, “ since I appointed the ancient People? And " the things that are coming and shall come, let
Is. xli, 21, &c. + Is. xlii. 6, &c.
6 them shew unto them," with many other passages of the like import. In Deuteronomy, * prophecy is particularly referred to as the only satisfactory proof of the divine mission of the mediator of the new covenant, who is there expressly promised to the Jewish nation. “ If 6 thou say in thine heart, how shall we know 6 the word which the Lord hath not spoken? 56 when a prophet speaketh in the name of “ the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come “ to pass, that is the thing which the Lord “ hath not spoken, but the prophet hath “ spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not “ be afraid of him.” And in the New Testament, in conformity to this criterion given us by Moses, we are assured upon the highest authority, that “the testimony of Jesus is “the spirit of prophecy." We are necessarily reduced to this alternative, either to admit that, therefore, those predictions contained in the New Testament, which relate to the present time and to times already past, have been fulfilled, or that the Gospel itself is an imposture and of no authority at all.
Now the obvious purport of almost all the prophecies of the Gospel, as they are dispersed in different scriptures of the New Tes
* S. xviii. 21 and 22. 1. † Apoc. xix. 10.
tament, is to predict the circumstances of a most unhappy corruption of the genuine religion of Jesus, which began to operate even in the days of the apostles themselves, and was to end in an entire apostasy from the truths of the Gospel, and the establishment of a false, fabulous, irrational, idolatrous, blasphemous superstition, first by the civil power of the Roman Empire, under some signal change in its circumstances, and afterwards by the civil power of all those separate western kingdoms, into which that Empire, at its dissolution, was to be divided. And the same prophecies' assure us, that the true religion of Christ would be no where generally received, till after the same civil powers which established it, shall have abolished and destroyed the Antichristian Church thus predicted. Unless therefore the testimony of these prophecies fail us entirely, and the Gospel itself be false, the orthodox Church established by Constantine, which is now and has been ever since his time, in some modification of it or other, the only religion establislied by the civil powers, of Europe, is the very object of these prophecies, the completion of the predicted apostasy: for no other is to be found.*
* If there be, let the zealous advocates of the doctrines of that Church, and her canonical scriptures, point it out to us ; or if that be
III. For this reason, to an impartial inves.' tigator of the truth of Christianity, the mere testimony of any writer whom the long established European Church hath denominated orthodox, is so far from affording satisfactory proof of the authenticity of the several books of the New Testament, that, unless it be confirmed by evidence of another kind, it even affords, not merely strong grounds of suspicion, but absolute proof, that they are not, either in the whole, or, at least, in some parts, the works of the apostles or primitive disciples of Jesus Christ: because part of the prophetic description of the antichristian Church is, that its members should* turn away their ears from the truth, and listen to fables, and believe falsehoods; circumstances of the prediction which, taken together, cannot hare been fulfilled, unless fables and falsehoods are, at least, intermixed with disregarded truth, in those writings to which the Church of Constantine hath, in all ages, appealed as containing the grounds and foundation of every doctrine shie hath taught. What renders this still more probable is, that before the invention of printing it was very easy for not in their power, let them honestly and candidiy yield to the force of arguments founded upon the infallible word of the God of truth.
: , * 2 Tim. iv. 4, and 1 Tim. iv. i, &c.
artful or superstitious copyists, not only to interpolate authentic writings with such alterations and additions as accorded with their own credulity or cunning, but even to produce entire pieces of their own or others' forgery under the name of any writer they pleased. And this practice was actually so common amongst several who called them selves Christians, in the second and succeeding centuries, that if what we call the scriptures of the New Testament were not so tampered with, they are almost the only writings upon the same subject of those early times, which have escaped free.
Archbishop Wake took the pains to collect all the writings extant, except those that have been received into the canon of the church, which are attributed to any christian writer, within the first half of the second century ; and every competent, impartial judge must agree with the truly learned and candid Professor Mosheim, that, of the whole collection, there is no satisfactory proof that any one piece worth notice, is really the work of the writer whose name it bears, except the first Epistle of Clemens the Roman : and even that hath been evidently corrupted by