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T is an unquestionable fact, and one which has hardly
received the consideration it deserves, that the volume which claims to be a supernatural revelation-the inspired word of God-clearly and boldly commits itself even from its opening pages to A PROPHETIC PROGRAMME OF THE WORLD'S HISTORY. It is daring enough to present on its forefront an orderly chart of the events of ages lying at the time far in the future—a distinct and detailed map of the untrodden shores and untraversed oceans of time, to inform men beforehand of the main outline of all that should befall their race.
The course thus taken in Scripture is a bold one. suming the possession of knowledge so entirely superhuman, the Bible necessarily exposes itself to the perpetual danger of being demonstrated to be erroneous in its predictions, and consequently false in its pretensions. A definite programme published at the beginning of any series of events, and professing to give their nature and order, must inevitably be either verified or falsified by the result.
The things predicted either come to pass or fail to do so, and experience decides the worth of the programme. Would any spurious or pretended Divine revelation dare to risk its own future rejection by exposing itself to such a test as this ? The Bible alone does so, and this fact is a strong à priori proof of its Divine origin. It is a book which presents itself to mankind saying: “I am from God, and in order that you may sce that I am so I tell you beforehand things that are to happen on the earth; I sketch out to you the whole course
of future events, together with their order and their times. I reveal the end from the beginning. Prove me herewith ! Let every age as it rolls past bear its witness to my truth or to my falsehood. I am content to stand or fall by this test.”
We propose to accept this virtual challenge, and to test the Bible in these pages in the very way in which God commanded that those who professed to be prophets of old should be tested. " 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.” If the Bible has foretold, as regards the past, things that have never been fulfilled, then it is not of God, and we need not reverence it in the slightest degree. But, on the other hand, “when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him.” If the predictions of Scripture have been fulfilled, not once or twice, but in a thousand particulars; if the programme has been acted out, exactly as given in advance, all through the past ages of history and up to our own day ; if not one point has failed to be fulfilled in its due season ;-then we are bound to believe that the book which contains it is inspired, and to reverence it as the very word of God.
Christ Himself submitted His claims to this test among others. "Now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe” (John xiv. 29). And Jehovah in the Old Testament challenges idolaters to demonstrate the worth of their idols in the same way. “Let them
show us what shall happen; clare us things for to come"; and again, "Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods” (Isa. xli. 22, 23). A test thus recognised and applied by God Himself must needs be a good and sufficient one. If we can prove that the Bible stands this test, we demon
strate its Divine origin, perhaps more clearly than in any
Three thousand five hundred years of history have rolled away since the days of Moses, when its earliest books were published, and eighteen centuries have elapsed since its latest “Revelation” was given to John in Patmos. Apart therefore from the history of the earliest centuries, which it alone contains, the predictions of Scripture can now be compared with the events of at least thirty centuries recorded by profane historians, as well as with the events transpiring in our own day. What a magnificent opportunity is thus afforded of testing the true character of the book! How easy to prove its claim to inspiration false, if false it be! and if true and valid, what abundant evidence must exist of the fact! If the general history of the world throughout all these ages has been foreseen and foretold, then clearly the records which embody the revelation must in some way or other owe their authorship, not to saint or seer, to prophet, priest, or king merely, but to the only wise God, who alone knows the end from the beginning.
We live in days when inspiration is more than ever doubted and denied, and this not by Gentile professors of Christianity only, but by the Jews themselves. The very custodians both of the Old and of the New Testaments are now calling in question their Divine authority
It is therefore more than ever incumbent on those who adhere to the faith once delivered to the saints, and still believe that all Scripture was given by inspiration of God, to give a reason for the hope that is in them-for their belief that though heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle
1 The following quotation from a work published recently in Boston, and entitled “Messianic Expectations and Modern Judaism,” amply supports the statement as regards the rationalistic Jews : “I do not believe in a Divine authorship of any book whatsoever, be it called the Old or the New Testament.
The Jew of to-day is no longer the Jew of one thousand nine hundred years ago.
of the word of God can fail. “If the foundations be de. stroyed, what can the righteous do?” The present generation of Christian believers has had to withstand many a deadly onslaught from the hosts of unbelief, and has withstood them. But the rising generation will have a still harder conflict to endure, for faith is failing on every hand, and the treachery of unbelief has crept into the very citadel itself. The standard bearers are one by one deserting to the enemy; nor can we wonder that it is so, since this too was foretold as feature of the days in which we live.
which we live. Our Lord asked the question, "When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” But all the more because of this state of things, and because we see the day approaching, must we exhort and encourage one another to "hold fast the pro• fession of our faith without wavering," and earnestly seek its confirmation and support.
We have reached what is emphatically “a dark place” in the history of the Church. A lamp has however been put into our hands to illuminate the gloom—the lamp of fulfilled and ever-fulfilling prophecy—a light shining in a dark place, “whereunto we do well that we take heed.” In the following pages we shall endeavour so to hold forth this lamp that its beams may fall on the path we are treading; and though they may be insufficient to remove all mystery or to lighten the darkness that shrouds the providential government of God, they will nevertheless give us light enough to perceive and avoid the dangers of the way.
There are many things which a traveller journeying by night would like to see—the winding valley, the distant view, the mountain tops; and he will see them all clearly by-and-by, when the clouds have cleared away and the sun rises in the morning. But, in the meantime, the important thing for him is to see his way in the pitchy darkness, to see the path before him if only for a few steps at a time, so that he may avoid the pitfall and the precipice, and distinguish between the road and the by-path. This much at any rate his lantern enables him to do, and he values it accordingly, and although it be not bright as the sun, refuses to allow it to be extinguished. May Christian pilgrims similarly refuse to be robbed of that “sure word of prophecy ” which is “a light unto their feet and a lamp unto their path ”! and may the following pages help to enhance their sense of its inestimable value !
Before entering on our investigation, we must recall the fact that different historians regard history from different standpoints, and select from the mass of events those which have a bearing on their own special theme, passing by hosts of facts less directly related to it. In writing, for instance, the history of the Christian Church, Mosheim did not feel it needful or desirable to enter fully into the political or military history of the various nations in which the Christian Church from age to age took root. It was needful to glance more or less briefly at these subjects and similar ones in order to the exposition and comprehension of the main theme, but only as subordinate to it. So Gibbon, in tracing the decline and fall of the Roman empire, had to glance at the height from which it fell, and at the fragments into which it was broken by its fall ; but the causes and the stages of the decline and fall itself being the theme of his work, all beyond is merely subsidiary. The question arises, From what standpoint does the Bible regard the world's history? Either in narratives of the past or in predictions of the future it tells the entire story, and much of it in both ways. It carries us right through from paradise lost to paradise regained, from the rise of the earliest empire—that of Nimrod, the mighty hunter-to the fall of the last form of the empire of Rome and the full establishment of the kingdom of God on earth-that kingdom which is to succeed all earthly monarchies and to subsist for ever. But Scripture tells this long story in brief compass, and omits much more than it records. What principle underlies its selection of facts ? From what standpoint does it consider