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ACTS xxvi. 27.
The divine inspiration of the prophets, has been believed and defended by the Jews, without any intermission, from the days of Moses, till the period of our Saviour's ministry; and by Jews and Christians from the days of Christ and his Apostles, down to the present generation. A prophet is one who foretels events by means of supernatural instruction, which no human foresight could embrace or unfold. When we speak of a true prophet, therefore, we mean to exhibit a character to whom the Deity has revealed something which is to transpire at a period or periods after such a revelation is made. The act of prophecying, is nothing more nor less than simply declaring such truths as God has revealed.
Two kinds of evidence are afforded, by which a real prophet may be infallibly known. The one is, the accurate fulfilment of his predictions; and the other, that he should openly perform such miracles as to demonstrate that the power of God resides with him, to shield him from all just suspicion of falsehood or fraud.
That kind of evidence to which there appears to be the least objection in the judgment of a majority of mankind, is the literal fulfilment of the prediction. We have already produced an abundance of this kind of evidence, to prove that Moses was a true prophet of God. Predictions of the most astonishing character which he uttered, have been fulfilling from the memorable period of his death, to the present hour. It is not always the case, however, that a prophecy is immediately fulfilled hence a true prophet might be the subject of unwelcome suspicion for a long time, unless a different kind of evidence were afforded.
But the prophet whose writings we have been considering, was evidently gifted with miraculous powers.
The miracles which he performed in Egypt, by which the haughty oppressors of the house of Israel were punished, and the deliverance of the Jewish nation was effected, are a standing monument of his inspiration: For we have before seen (as was proved in the fourth Lecture of this course) that the Jewish account of the plagues of Egypt is corroborated by the testimony of heathen historians. These miracles were of a most astonishing character, and such as to humble the heart of a most oppressive and haughty tyrant, who had proudly defied the power and authority of the Most High.
But I shall doubtless be reminded that the magicians of Egypt performed some of these wonders of the recorded plagues, which are set down as miracles, and that this fact is sufficient to expose the whole account as a mere fiction. I can see no force, however, in this conclusion; for as it was the avowed purpose of God to harden Pharaoh's heart, as a means of displaying his own power, and of bringing this monarch into a condition to receive the full measure of punishment which he intended to inflict; it must be obvious to every reflecting mind, that no method could have been so effectual in securing the end, as that of permitting these magicians to produce a few of the same effects which were produced by the instrumentality of Moses. circumstance gave occasion for still greater displays of divine power, till even the magicians were constrained to confess the hand of God in what they beheld, as well as to acknowledge their own inability to perform such wonders. Thus the purpose of God was accomplished in the punishment of the Egyptians, and the triumphant departure of the children of Israel rendered an evidence of infinite importance to establish the conviction of unchanging faithfulness in all the promises of God.
Many of the miracles which these plagues afforded, are altogether unlike any others which have ever been performed in any age of the world: Such as turning the waters of Egypt into blood; the lice, the flies, the mortal pestilence; the tremendous storms; the three days of thick darkness, and the death of all the first born of the Egyp
tians on the same night! And what rendered them still more striking and worthy of credit, was, that Moses, when entreated by Pharaoh, marked the precise time in which they should be removed. So evidently was the hand of God in these miracles, that all doubt was removed from the minds of the Egyptians, and the children of Israel were urged to depart in the utmost haste, through fear that the whole Egyptian people would be consumed, as a punishment for their detention. Nor does it appear that the Israelites ever doubted the power of God in the wonders which were there performed. Indeed, so thoroughly impressed were that people with a conviction of the miraculous interposition of Heaven, in these plagues, for their deliverance from the house of bondage, that one, and the last, which preceded their departure from Egypt, gave rise to one of the principal festivals, which has been celebrated by the Jews from that period to the present day.
The feast of the passover, which has always been celebrated by the Jewish nation with the greatest solemnity, on each returning year, by sprinkling the blood of the paschal lamb upon the posts and lintels of their doors, was instituted in commemoration of the miraculous preservation of all their tribes and families, on the memorable night in which all the first born of the Egyptians was slain by the destroying angel. Upon the event of this same miraculous deliverance, the redemption of the first born of all the Jews has also been observed through every succeeding age, Thus we see that the Jews were continually reminded of their degraded condition, as bond-men and bondwomen, in Egyptian slavery, and the interposition of divine power for their emancipation.
I will advert to one, and only one more of those miracles which confirm and establish the divine inspiration of this prophet Fifty days after the memorable era of their departure out of Egypt, they were permitted to witness the demonstrations of the inspiration of their leader — Moses had informed them that the glory of God would be displayed in a most astonishing manner, in delivering to them the statutes and commandments of his wisdom: He had received the assurance of such a manifestation, in the following language-" And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo,
I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever.' Exod. xix. 9.
The fulfilment of this promise was an event so wonderful, and afforded so clear a demonstration of his divine mission, that Moses exclaimed, "Ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it? Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?" Deut. iv. 32, 33. The acknowledged fulfilment of this promise is recorded in the 5th chap. 24th, 25th and 26th verses: "And they said, Behold, the Lord our God hath showed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth. Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh that hath heard the voice of the living God, speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived ?" They therefore, earnestly entreated Moses, saying, verse 27th, "Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it."
Here I beg leave to remark, that the feast of Pentecost was instituted in commemoration of this wonderful event; and the anniversary festival of that astonishing revelation of the law of God, was punctually observed through all ages, till the final overthrow of both the nation and government of the Jews. Now let us ask the opposers of revelation, who demand a reason for our belief, what reason they can offer to justify themselves in rejecting the facts here laid down? They cannot pretend the want of a sufficient number of witnesses to establish its credibility; for it appears that the number who witnessed this glorious display, was about 600,000 men, besides women and children! And pray, was the whole nation composed of knaves, or rather the most stupid idiots, that they should become the dupes
of a most barefaced imposture? Or if it were all no more than a mere artifice and a sham, is there the least reason to suppose, that out of more than a million of adults, there was not so much as one honest and independent man to expose so ridiculous and wicked a falsehood? And how can our opposers reconcile the fact, that a whole nation, from that memorable period, received and acknowledged the law of Moses as divine authority, without the least apparent variation, and were ready on all occasions to die in its defence? From such an absurd conclusion, reason turns away in disgust, and common sense blushes to record the weakness of such inconsistency. We can scarcely believe it possible that any intelligent man ever perused the history of these wonderful events, and weighed in his own mind, the evidences of their truth, without feeling a secret and irresistible conviction that the prophet Moses was divinely commissioned and inspired by the Creator. And I frankly confess my astonishment at the weak credulity of those, who, in opposition to all rational and historical evidence, can have the temerity to assert, that they believe the whole account to be fabulous: for this is nothing less than believing, not only without evidence, but against all the evidence which appears so conclusive to every well-informed and unprejudiced mind. As christians, we are not at liberty to believe any proposition without evidence; but in this respect, skeptics have gone far beyond our limits; for they profess to believe the Bible untrue, not only without, but in direct opposition to the strongest evidence which history has recorded! We shall, however, be justified, if we express our doubts, either of their sincerity, or the soundness of their judgment. we challenge any man to produce such clear and substantial proof of any ancient historical fact, as that which has been adduced in support of the divine legation of Moses.
Having, as we believe, produced sufficient evidence to establish the truth and divine authority of the writings of Moses, which have been the subject of several Lectures, I shall pass, briefly to show, that the prophetical writings of the Old Testament are so identified with the history of the Jews, that they cannot be overthrown, without destroying their history.