« AnteriorContinuar »
principle, in the manner in which the prophecies of the Old Testament are declared to have been fulfilled in the New Testament. Let us glance at a few examples. It was predicted that Elijah the prophet should be again sent by Jehovah to the Jewish people : but would any uninspired men, prior to the event, have supposed that this was to be fulfilled by another person's coming “in the spirit and power of Elijah”? The sufferings of the Messiah were described by the pencil of prophecy, with few strokes, indeed, but those clear and bold to a most remarkable degree; yet, till the facts really occurred, who could have formed a coherent idea of their precise nature and manner ? What human or angelic mind could have separated those minute features of the predictions which were to be accomplished in a visible and palpable manner, from those which would receive an internal, moral, and analogical fulfilment? The Jewish prophets foretold that the throne of David should be re-established, in splendour and power incomparably superior to all that it had possessed before ; and that its dominion should be extended over the whole earth : yet, were there any among those who were waiting for the consolation of Israel, that entertained an idea of the mode in which this copious body of predictions would appear in the actual existence destined for them? Our Lord's own disciples looked for a human, visible, and political reign; an earthly king with earthly riches and honours. Are we vain enough to think that we should have had more just expectations? Yet the facts which, in the proper time, fulfilled the prophecies, correspond to their elevated tone, their pure and heavenly spirit, in a way which no worldly empire could possibly have done. The throne of David is established for ever, and the religion of Abraham and Isaiah will be the religion of the world : yet it could not have been understood, before the moral triumphs of the gospel gave the explanation, what the precise nature of the fulfilment would be, and in what sense the original expressions must be understood.
Indeed, I must acknowledge, that so impressed is my own mind with this, as a divinely established principle in the system of prophecy, that, when I find professed interpreters chalking out specific events in God's providential dominion, assiguing fates and functions to kings, dynasties, and nations, raising up scenes of war and desolation, or of political power and pomp;—in a word, anticipating any thing from the prophetic futurity beyond general conceptions of Holiness triumphing and sin vanquished, mankind improved in all that constitutes true happiness, and the DIVINE PERFECTIONS glorified by the grace and power of Christ;-I feel myself compelled to reject all the former as the fugitive visions of men, but to cling to the latter as the sure mercies of David.”
This long discussion shall be closed with three short observations.
1. How much is it to be lamented that any persons should undertake to interpret the records of prophecy, who are evidently destitute of the requisite qualifications, and who have taken no pains to supply their own deficiencies !
2. I must express the conviction of my mind, that it is not the immediate duty of all Christians to engage in this branch of scriptural inquiry : and this conviction rests upon the plain reason, that God has not made that the duty of any persons for which he has not furnished them with the necessary neans. But the larger part of sincere and devout believers cannot command the time which those long and laborious disquisitions require, in order to pursue them advantageously : and, if they had sufficient leisure without neglecting plainly incumbent duties, they are not possessed of that acquaintance with philology and history which is manifestly indispensable to investigations of this nature. Let not such excellent persons regret their disability. They have other and more profitable objects to engage their attention and to fill their hearts. They need not occupy themselves with “ the light shining in a dark place," when they can walk under the brightness of the Sun of Righteousness; the clearly revealed doctrines and promises, the precepts, examples, warnings, devotional compositions, and historical illustrations of the divine word. Yet I am far from supposing that it is not incumbent upon those to whom Providence
has given the means and opportunities, to engage in this class of sacred studies; provided they do not allow it to infringe upon the more obvious and universally necessary duties of faith and obedience. But it should not be forgotten, that these pursuits are not a little ensnaring; and that, without sanctified wisdom and watchfulness, they are very liable to usurp an immoderate measure of attention and feeling. Such ill-proportioned “knowledge puffeth up.” If we embark in these inquiries, from a curious desire of prying into futurity, from an ambition to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power,” or from a wish to distinguish ourselves among our fellowchristians, we may be assured that we are in a sinful state of mind, and that the divine blessing will not descend upon our occupation. If even we had the very gift itself “ of prophecy, and understood all mysteries and all knowledge,and had not charity, we should be nothing” that is good and valuable in the divine estimation. “ Covet earnestly,” says the apostle, “the best gifts: and yet I shew unto you a more excellent way.” Let us, then, seek to combine all other studies with a holy, humble, and devout state of mind and action. Let us grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Let us strive to become more deeply acquainted with the doctrines, the practical applications, and the fulfilled prophecies, of the divine word, respecting his Person, his work, and his free salvation. Let us seek to have our hearts more enlarged and filled with the purest principles of faith and piety and active usefulness. These will be incomparably greater and more glorious attainments than the most profound study of unfulfilled prophecy, or the most correct acquaintance with the principles upon which it must be interpreted.
3. If we, who are set apart to the ministry of the gospel, should devote ourselves to these investigations, even with a command of the best means and aids, with a competent knowledge of terms and events, and with a judicious applieation of principles and rules; yet should allow such speculations to supersede the humble, holy, fervid application of our faculties to the grand purposes of our ministry ;-ah, what will it avail us ? --Admit that we succeed; that we elucidate dark places, that we bring forth wonderful discoveries, that we gratify the curiosity which we have excited, and that we attract the admiration of men ;-what benefits could accrue to ourselves or to the church of Christ, that would outweigh the injuries of a diminished regard to “godly edifying--and the end of the commandment, charity, out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned"?
“Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them : but the transgressors shall fall therein.” *
* Hos, xiv. 9.
Note A, page 4. Dan xii. 4: “ Many shall run to and fro.” The radical idea of this verb is that of a whip or scourge. Hence, in the Pihel form, it acquires metonymically the general meaning of rapid motion. We have the very same metaphor in familiar English, when we say of one who moves very swiftly that he whips along. Michaelis understands it here of such rapid and hasty movement as conveys the idea of rashness and mistake. I subjoin his Version and a part of his Annotation, in the hope that they may hint a salutary precaution to some who are disposed to precipitate methods of drawing conclusions from the prophecies.
Many will err; and knowledge will be great : i. e. Though all this is expressed so clearly, and though some (probably at the time of the fulfilment) will understand these prophecies with so much plainness and certainty; yet others will understand them very erroneously, or (for so the word might be translated) will despise them.”
I cannot but intreat my reader to observe, how expressly the divine vision declared to Daniel the grund principle pleaded for in this Discourse; that prophecy cannot be explained by mortals till after the event of fulfilment. “And I heard, but understood not. Then said I, () my lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel ; for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” Vers. 8, 9.
Note B, p. 8.
“ Vepient annis
Note C, p.
14. As several of the German critics of the Neological school have trod in the steps of Porphyry, and denied the genuineness of the Book of Daniel ; and as their objections are likely soon to become more extensively known in our country, I feel myself bound to take some notice of them. Neces.