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ON THE

INTERPRETATION OF PROPHECY.

2 Peter i. 19–21:

We have also the word of prophecy more confirmed ; whereunto ye do well that

ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arise in your hearts : acknowledging this as a first (principle), that no prophecy of the Scripture is of self-interpretation ; for prophecy has not at any time come by the will of man, but holy men of God spuke, being moved by the Holy Spirit.

The subject appointed for the lecture of this morning is one of unquestionable importance, though I cannot represent it as possessing the highest consequence and interest: for the great objects of personal religion in the Christian's faith, obedience, and consolation, are both more plain in their own nature and infinitely more important in their application, than any discussions can be upon the profound and difficult subject of inspired prophecy. Yet, most certainly, if studied with a modest and candid spirit, and in a due proportion to the other departments of sacred knowledge, the investigation of the prophecies is, in many respects, proper and advantageous. It serves to the illustration of God's universal providence ; it confirms, by the most decisive proof, the reality of revealed religion ; it is a part of the homage due to the records of that revelation ; it elicits and establishes many of the most important rules for the interpretation of the Bible generally; and it furnishes a rich abundance of the materials and motives for devotion. To those persons, therefore, who possess the requisite means and opportunities for this purpose, it is clearly a duty to employ a sufficient portion of their time and talents in the diligent search into the meaning and the fulfilment of the prophetic oracles.

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Yet, we cannot hold forth this as an easy occupation. We cannot promise success in it to indolent or partial inquirers, to those who have a previously-formed system for which they are only in quest of support, to those who are seeking the gratification of an indevout curiosity, or (though I cannot express this without reluctance) to any persons, however sincere and upright, who implicitly rely upon

the common translation in these, which, more than the other books of scripture, are generally remarkable for difficulty in the terms and obscurity in the matter. This difficulty and obscurity are intimated in various parts of the divine word. Striking instances we have in those passages of the last prophetic book of scripture, which expressly demand a mind endowed with a peculiar “wisdom," in order to understand its mysterious language.*

This fact is also plainly asserted in our text. The apostle Peter has been declaring the certainty of the Christian revelation, upon the ground of that sensible evidence which himself and his fellow-apostles James and John had enjoyed of “the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ,” when they were "eye-witnesses of his majesty." He pursues his course of argument, to shew that, by the miraculous proofs of our Lord's divine character and mission, " the word of prophecy,” the entire body of prophetic testimony concerning the Messiah, is made “ more sure,” that is, more abundantly confirmed in our understanding of its meaning and conviction of its accomplishment. To this prophetic word he exhorts believers to pay close attention ; for, though the declarations of prophecy at first resemble a feeble lamp glimmering in a gloomy place, a deep and unexplored wilderness, in which men have to travel by night, just enabling to find a way, but diffusing no light beyond a very narrow sphere; yet afterwards, when the predictions are illuminated by the event of fulfilment, the knowledge acquired will become like the resplendent morning-star, and that followed by the welcome dawn of day, dicovering every object in the whole of an extensive district. This illustra

* Rev. xiii. 18, xvii. 9.

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tion is applied to the subject, by the apostle's shewing that no instance of scripture-prophecy contains its “own solution," nor could in general be understood by even the prophets themselves; because prophecy was not a human invention, or a system of conjectures and anticipations, but was the result of a supernatural impulse upon the minds of the persons whom the Omniscient Spirit set apart to be the vehicles of his communications.

Sentiments coinciding with some part of these statements, Peter had adduced in his former epistle. “Concerning the salvation” of believers through the Lord Jesus Christ, “the prophets inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you; searching what or what manner of time the spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified before-hand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow; to whom it was revealed that, not unto themselves, but unto us, they ministered those things.

I therefore submit the following as a just paraphrase of the text:

“And thus, by the independent evidence of the divine mission of our Lord Jesus Christ, we possess the declararations uttered and written by the Hebrew prophets, rendered more sure to our apprehensions, and consequently more convincing to our judgment. To this collection of the ancient prophecies I exhort you to pay a diligent attention ; for, though it be at first like a lamp affording only a feeble light to a person travelling in the dark, yet, since the incarnation of the Messiah and the events connected with it have now taken place, the comparison of those events with the predictions of them will bring such information and conviction to your minds as will be like the bright and welcome dawn of day, after a gloomy and dreary night. For it is to be considered as a first principle in this department of divine knowledge, that no scripture prophecy explains itself, but must remain obscure till it is enlightened by its fulfilment : and even the prophets themselves, who delivered those de

* 1 Pet. i. 10-12.

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