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nature of that result, than concerning the result itself. Nor are they so great as in many of those sciences which men still pursue with the greatest ardour and with many beneficial consequences. If there were but the same earnestness in pursuing this heavenly science, as stimulates in pursuing earthly sciences, the difficulties and differences, instead of stumbling men and turning them aside, would only increase the zeal of investigation, and the ardent thirst for divine knowledge.

Whosoever considers duly how much of the whole Bible is of a prophetic character, and that our God did undoubtedly design that this part of his word should be studied, and be profitable to his church, cannot but be sensible that the right understanding of the prophecies is a valuable gift to the Christian, and greatly to be esteemed.' To understand not only the past, but the present, and the general character of the future according to the Divine Mind, raises [3] us above the petty scenes of this transient world and its little conflicts, into communion with the Divine Being; and our minds open to those larger views by which God would lead his people to the discovery of his wisdom, power, and love; and, while on earth, to have their conversation in heaven.

It is not to be supposed that prophecy is only useful as an evidence of inspiration; it is equally useful as a warning of evil to come, and a support under present trials. Thus Noah was preserved from the deluge, and Lot from the destruction of Sodom, and the first Christians from that of Jerusalem; and, had the Antediluvians, and the inhabitants of Sodom, and the Jews, attended to prophecy, they would have escaped destruction. Caleb and Joshua believed in the promised possession of Canaan, and entered in; while the children of Israel in general perished in the wilderness; Rahab regarded the prophecy (Josh. ii. 9; Heb. ii. 31.) and was saved, while the men of Jericho perished.

The preaching of prophetic truth is also an important duty, as we see in the cases of Noah, Daniel, and Jonah. The preaching of it to Nineveh was attended with a national blessing, and a considerable delay of judgment.

Nor must the revelation of prophecy be confounded with the secret things which belong to God, but rather placed among those things which are revealed and belong to us and our children. Deut. xxix. 29.

It is most desirable not only that ministers but that Christians in general should give serious attention to this subject. I would not have you to be ignorant concerning a most important future prophecy relating to the second advent of Christ, is the apostle's statement[4] to the Thessalonian Christians. i Thess.

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iv. 13. O how infinitely more worthy is this of our attention, than most of those works often of polluting fancy, or mere controversy, in which so much of modern literature consists; where the principles of this world, and the littleness of man's doings and glory, fill the page, and spread a debasing and earthly influence over our understanding and our affections: or the imagination and the feelings are excited without being brought out into really good actions, and so the best powers of men are deadened and stupified, when real cases of distress, and the self-denying work of the Christian life come before them. There is a willing ignorance (2 Peter iii. 5.) respecting the day of Christ which is much condemned by the Spirit of God.

Nor is there any obscurity in the subject that should hinder laymen, ignorant of the learned languages, from acquiring most profitable knowledge.

Bishop Horsley, well competent to speak on such a point, gives these two rules of exposition founded on 2 Peter i. 20, 21.

“(1.) Every single text of prophecy is to be considered as a part of an entire system, and to be understood in that sense which may best connect it with the whole. (2.) The sense of prophecy in general is to be sought in the events which have actually taken place."

Bishop Horsley then goes on to say, "To qualify the Christian to make a judicious application of these rules, no skill is requisite in verbal criticism-no proficiency in the subtleties of the logician's art-no acquisition of recondite learning. That degree of understanding with which serious minds are ordinarily [5] blessed—those general views of the schemes of Providence, and that general acquaintance with the prophetic language, which no Christian can be wanting in, who is constant, as every true Christian is, in his attendance on public worship, and gives that serious attention which every true Christian gives to the word of God, as it is read to him in our churches, and expounded from our pulpits;—these qualifications, accompanied with a certain strength of memory and quickness of recollection, which exercise and habit bring--and with a certain patience of attention in comparing parallel texts—these qualifications will enable the pious though unlearned Christian, to succeed in the application of the apostle's rules, so far at least as to derive much rational amusement-much real edification-much consolation-much confirmation of his faithmuch animation of his hopes—much joy and peace in believing, from that heedful meditation of the prophetic word which

all men would do well to remember, an inspired apostle has enjoined.”

It is a beautiful remark of Roos's—"By the study of the prophetic word, the heart is weaned from the world, placed upon celestial objects, and prepared for entering on the enjoyment of pure, uninterrupted, and eternal bliss.”

If the word of Christ be to dwell in us richly in all spiritual wisdom and understanding ;-(Col. iii. 16.) if we are not to despise prophesyings; (1 Thess. v. 20.) if we are to take heed to them as a more sure word; (2 Pet. i. 19.) if they tend to illustrate Providence in dangerous times, to confirm our faith, to stir up prayer, to excite hope, to make us patient in affliction, to bring consolation, and to beget in us the fear [6] of God,* then is diligent meditation in the prophetic scriptures a plain duty.

Taking heed to the sure word of prophecy being a duty required in the word of God, no man is justified in neglecting it. However there may be, and are, prior duties that require our first care and attention, this too must have its due share of regard. There may, indeed, be an exclusive and excessive attention to it, which is wrong. The study, when once the mind and heart are truly interested in it, is so attractive and engrossing, that persons in such circumstances, need a caution not to have their thoughts too much occupied with one part of divine truth, and to be told how very possible it is to have the mind wholly filled with the subject of prophecy, and the heart unconverted to God, and the whole man dead in trespasses and sins. Nothing can be more awful than for a man to have a clear view of judgments impending and glories ready to be revealed, and yet take no practical steps for his own personal escape from the wrath to come, and his own personal attainment of the promised blessedness.

Yet we must not, because of such a case, despise prophesyings. Nor must we do this, because we have seen another evil very distinctly in our days: many attending with eagerness to prophetical study, and running at the same time to excesses and wildness in things by no means necessarily connected with this study. Satan has never failed to join serious error [7] with revived truth. By this means he sought to discredit the early Protestants, and if men had yielded to this artifice, we should never have had the glorious Reformation. We must separate the precious from the vile, Jer. xv. 19; we must try all things, and hold fast that which is good. i Thess. v. 21.

* Scripturarum propheticarum diligens meditatio necessaria est, quia (1.) Sunt pars verbi Dei; Col. iii. 16. (2.) Sedulo nobis commendatur a Paulo. í Thess. v. 20, et a Petro, 2 Pet. i. 19. (3.) Conciliant Providentiam in temporibus periculosis, confirmant fidem. provocant preces, excitant spem, suadent patientiam, afferunt consolationem, gignunt numinis timorem. Ġurtleri Systema Theologiæ, 761.

Though the subject of Prophecy has recently, from the remarkable state of the world, and the rise and progress of Religious Societies, justly attracted much attention, yet, some think it attended with so many DIFFICULTIES, that it had better not be considered at all. But the sacred writers so urge us to this consideration, that St. John declares of the most difficult book of prophecy, Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein, for the time is at hand, Rev. i. 3. It is, however, very needful to study this subject with a holy awe on the mind, remembering, that we are considering that which was given by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

More or less obscurity attends all predictions previous to their fulfilment; and, even when they are fulfilled, and illustrated by the facts of history, it is allowed that the obscurity of the language in some degree remains. This has been sufficiently accounted for. Bishop Sherlock remarks, “No event can make a figurative or metaphorical expression to be a plain and literal one: to inquire why the ancient prophecies are not clearer, is like inquiring why God has not given us more reason, or made us as wise as angels. He has given us, in both cases, so much light as he thought proper, and enough to serve the ends which he intended.”

Besides, we are living in the dispensation, which, [8] considered as comprising the glory of the latter day, is the great theme of prophecy. As the predictions, then, are admitted to be more or less obscure, till after they are completed, and perhaps, in some cases, till some considerable time after their completion; the true explication of those which may have their incipient or commencing accomplishment in our own time, must be left to posterity. If the whole course of events belonging to any particular prophecy be not before us, we are not adequate judges of the subject.

There is a moral advantage in this obscurity, similar to that which there is in many of God's dealings with us, in a world where, in an important sense, we are in a state of probation. Light enough is afforded to guide and cheer, quicken and excite the humble and sincere; and darkness enough is left to check the pride of human speculation, and to try the spirit; so that the character of those who do not choose, from the love of sin, to see the truth, will be manifested. They will make this obscurity a plausible excuse for rejecting a system of divine truth which the upright mind gladly and gratefully wel

The minds of men are thus exercised, strengthened, and enlarged, by the necessity of studying this solemn subject in that frame of mind which can alone make it a source of genuine edification.


The scriptures frequently allude to the state of mind and heart, as greatly affecting our understanding of divine truth. Dan. xii. 10. Matt. xi. 25. To furnish a test of the moral state, seems to be one reason of the obscurity of scripture. Psalm xxy. 9. Isaiah xxviii. 9. Prov. xi. 2. i Cor. iii. 18.

Prophecy is not designed, then, to gratify mere [9] curiosity respecting futurity; but while it tries and exercises Christian graces in the view taken of it; it encourages the hopes, and refreshes the hearts of Christians; prepares them for times of suffering; and increases their patience and their zeal by the general assurances of the ultimate triumph of the Church of Christ over all its enemies. It is therefore written just in sufficient obscurity to answer these ends, without our becoming prophets, or perfectly comprehending the predictions previously to the occurrence of the predicted events; and yet it becomes adequately plain, immediately or more remotely after the events may have taken place, to every candid mind, that the God, revealed in the scriptures, had foreseen and foretold them. These things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. John xvi. 4.

Future things are not, however, to be pryed into, beyond what God has revealed; so far as he has revealed them, it is our duty and privilege to search into them: Secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but the things which he has revealed, unto us and to our children. Deut. xxix. 29. Many of those who have attempted particularly to describe future, or even passing events, have, in some particular or other, been found to fail; and have, if they have lived, had to retract their assertions, and re-state their views. These things have helped, though most unjustly, to bring the sacred subject of prophecy into contempt: there is no knowledge, human or divine, which may not be rejected, if such a ground of rejection were admitted; -the children of this world are much wiser in their studies. Still we should remember, that though the Apostles and sacred writers in the New (10] Testament, speak of passing events as then accomplishing prophecy, an inspired writer might with authority and propriety say, Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet, when the matter would require a far greater degree of circumspection in any but an inspired teacher. Let us be content to rest in such general statements as the word of God authorizes, till events have been so completed as to shew what God intended; and let us contemplate the future prospects of the church with that waiting spirit which leaves to God the unfolding of his own will and purpose.

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