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piety of the priests and the sins of the people. “The child Samuel ministered unto the Lord, before Eli: and the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no enlarged vision.--Samuel
and the Lord was with him and suffered none of all his words to fall to the ground : and all Israel-knew that Samuel was accredited as a prophet of the Lord.”* So John the Baptist was expressly marked out as the forerunner of the Messiah ; by the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi, and by the announcement of the angel to his father.f But the greatest exemplification of this design of prophecy occurs in the case of the Lord Jesus himself. The angel of God who announced his birth to the highly-favoured Mary, referred to the ancient prophecies which described the person and work of the Messiah :1 and Christ appealed, repeatedly and in the most solemn manner, to the declarations of the holy prophets as fulfilled in himself and declaring him to be the long-expected Saviour of mankind. In the synagogue at Nazareth, he read an illustrious passage from the prophecies of Isaiah, and said, “To-day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." He commanded his hearers to “search the Scriptures” as the repository of testimonies concerning himself.ll. He protested against the unbelief of his enemies, as a violation of their own professed reverence for the ancient revelation : “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me.” And, as a summary of the numerous arguments from prophecy which he had employed during his general ministry, he said to his disciples on the day of his resurrection, “ These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you; that all things must be fulfilled which have been written in the law of Moses and in the prophets and in the psalms, concerning me.
iii. To be a grand evidence of the reality of divine revelation.
We can conceive no higher proof of an interposition from
* 1 Sam. iii. 1, 19, 20.
+ Is. xl. 3; Mal. iii. 1, iv, 5.
God, than that which inevitably follows from the predictions in the Bible and their historical fulfilment. Every single instance is an independent argument: but the Prophetical System, a connected body of moral and physical occurrences subsisting in an unbroken chain, from its beginning to its completion, through more than four thousand years of time, is such an evidence of the determinate counsel, the all-wise direction, and the omnipotent efficiency, of the Deity, that imagination cannot conceive any higher. It is no wonder, therefore, that against this bulwark infidelity has directed its utmost virulence and its mightiest efforts. But it stands impregnable. The state of the Jews, from the earliest times down to this hour, the history of the Christian Church, and numerous circumstances in the ancient and modern condition of various nations, have been so graphically portrayed in the rolls of Scripture Prophecy, that no eye, not blinded by the most determined and irrational prejudice, can fail to recognize them. On this interesting topic I need not enlarge; but I would again refer to Mr. Henry Burder's Discourse on the “Evidence for Revelation arising from Prophecy."
iv. To console the people of God, under all their afflictions and sufferings, with the assurance of support and deliverance, and with the prospect of the future prosperity of religion in the world.
In reviewing the train of prophecies, we find that many of them referred to occurrences which took place during the life of the persons to whom they were addressed, or at•least of many among their contemporaries. Such were the predictions which foretold the universal deluge; others which referred to facts in the history of Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph; the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt; their wanderings in the deserts of Arabia; their occupancy of Palestine with many connected circumstances; numerous events mentioned in the histories of Israel and Judah ; various events referring to the neighbouring nations, particularly Moab, Ammon, Edom, Philistia, and Tyre, of which we read both the prediction and the historical fulfilment in the books of the Prophets; the ruin of Israel by the Assyrians, and of Judah by the Babylonians; the captivity ; the the gradual incorporation with the Jews of scattered individuals and families out of the Ten Tribes; the return from the captivity; the re-building of Jerusalem and its temple ; and not a few events, recorded in the Gospels and Acts, relating to our Lord and his 'disciples. In all these and other similar cases, the indubitable knowledge of both the predictions and the facts which fulfilled them, must have had an effect upon the minds of pious persons, in the highest degree strengthening to their faith, determining their obedience, and effectually supporting them under the many tribulations which they had to endure.
But there was also another class of prophecies, the acplishment of which was represented as belonging to a far distant age. Indeed, all that fall under this class may be justly considered as ONE PROPHECY, disclosed “in many parts and in many modes,"* but from the end to the beginning forming one symmetrical whole. This is the great promise, in successive unfoldings from Adam to Abraham, from Abraham to David, from David to Malachi, and from Malachi to John the Baptist, of a SPIRITUAL KINGDOM, founded upon an everlasting covenant, having the Divine Messian for its Head, and spreading holiness and happiness through the whole earth. From this heavenly source flowed a neverfailing stream of consolation to the faithful, under all the dark mysteries of providence in their own immediate situation. With what joy did Abraham look forwards to the day of Christ, when “he beheld it and exulted !” To David, this was “all his salvation and all his desire,” when overwhelmed with the moral and judicial consequences of his sins, the intestine criminalities and desolation of his house. It was this which spread the radiance of glory over the prophetic page, and formed so bright a contrast with the burdens of temporal woe which the prophets had to bring. The latter part of the Book of Isaiah, especially chapters xl. xlix. liv. and lx., is full of this topic of encouragement, drawn in the most glowing colours of prophetic vision, often interchanging with the promises of the return from the cap
* Πολυμερώς και πολυτρόπως. Ηeb. 1. 1.
tivity, but yet sufficiently discriminated by marks which the New Testament has illustrated and confirmed. How must the downcast hearts of the pious, in those gloomy times, have been cheered with these delightful pictures of that glorious future age, in which righteousness and love, the fruits of the Spirit in the Messiah's reign, should flourish through the earth!
Even in our own day, much use ought to be made of both this great prediction, the SHEET-ANCHOR OF THE WORLD, and of subordinate prophecies which remain yet to be fulfilled. We are assured that the reign of Antichristian ignorance and tyranny shall have an end. 66 The Lord Jesus will consume that wicked one, with the spirit of his mouth and the brightness of his coming." All false religions shall be overthrown, not by human violence or temporal allurements, which may make hypocrites, but cannot form believers; but by the moral force of truth, the efficacy of the pure and simple gospel in the hand of the Almighty Spirit. The remnant of Israel will turn to the Lord, whom they have so long rejected and crucified afresh. Idolatry and superstition, in all their forms of infamy and cruelty, shall “perish from the earth and from under these heavens."- What encouragement is hence afforded to Christian missions, and every scriptural effort, to diffuse the pure word and the religion of Jesus among all the nations of men !
v. The chief design of prophecy was to bear testimony to the great Redeemer and Saviour of our fallen world.
“ The testimony of Jesus is the spirit,” the very soul, “ of prophecy."* It is this which informs and animates the whole. This was the theme “ of which 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 of the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow.” The entire scheme of OldTestament prophecy began with him, and with him it closed; or rather it was absorbed in his brightness, who was about to "arise, as the sun of righteousness, with healing in his beams.” Nor less is the whole bearing of the New Testament prophecies to glorify him : for he is “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last ;' in the plan of providence, which commenced with his manifestation in the flesh; in the methods of grace, by which the souls of men are brought into holy and beatifying communion with him ; and in the closing visions of the scriptural canon, which hold him forth to his redeemed church as King of kings and Lord of lords, taking the book and opening the seals, gofag forth conquering and to conquer, conducting to fountains of living water those who were washed from their sins in his blood, and who, for his sake, loved not their own lives, subduing the idolatrous and impious power which has tyrannized over the nations, reigning in peace and joy over the rescued world, raising the dead, judging the small and the great, and giving to every one according to his work. " He who testifieth these things saith, SURELY I COME QUICKLY. Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus !"
* Rev. xix. 10.
Thus, “ unto Him give all the prophets witness.” All other topics of prophecy are subordinate to this, and derive their chief importance from their relation to it. The most beautiful, sublime, and enraptured portions of the whole
prophetic word” are those which describe this Blessed One; his person and his work, his offices, his character, his example, his doctrine, his sufferings and death as a sacrifice for sin, his righteousness and strength, his authority, his extending and triumphant reign, and the pouring out of his Spirit to make the wilderness rejoice and blossom as the rose.” In a word, the whole Christian Dispensation, in its origin, progress, and consummation, is but the fulfilment of prophecy.
These I have ventured to advance as the principal designs of the prophetic revelations. Great and momentous indeed they are : bright displays of the divine glory : rich provisions for the welfare of man; nourishing faith, conferring the sweetest consolations, encouraging prayer, and awakening to praise. To have our minds imbued with these De