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to whom the prophetic oracles had been largely opened before, though now they were withholden? The reason, and the congruity, may I think be very clearly discerned.
For it will be seen that during the same space of time there is a kind of rest in the history of the Israelites, by the absence of any change permanently or deeply affecting their public condition. Their state is not a tranquil one; but, after the intervening interruptions, it returns still within the same limits. It is a succession of various fortune, afflictions and deliverances alternating, according to their public sin, or their repentance. The first generation of men, who had in their mind, and almost in their eyes, the mighty works which God had done for his people, are said to have lived under suitable impressions, in obedience to their law. The next ages degenerated: their offence of idolatry, or other sin, was visibly punished; the chastisement recalled to duty, or the divine mercy spared: and deliverers were at hand, raised up, and especially sent, to reinstate them in peace and safety.
These were vicissitudes which did not shake the frame of their polity, their priesthood, or their law. They were no more than exemplifications of the issue of obedience or disobedience to a fixed duty. The wounds inflicted were healed again, the blessings which were imparted only restored an interrupted security. There was no shock given to their Institutions, nor any thing of lasting importance,
in respect of their Covenant, put upon a new footing.
Accordingly the pause of Prophecy, which holds on through the interval of these partial and temporary fluctuations, seems to have been related to it. May we not say, that no change occurred of magnitude enough to demand the prophetic interposition? So much may be said with a strong colour of reason, when we compare the failure of prophecy, and the results of the history, together. And yet if predictions had been indiscriminately given, or indiscriminately pretended, there was movement and variety of fortune enough within the compass of this period to have exercised the Prophet's tongue. But no commission was given to speak; and the suspension of Prophecy, as well as its renewal, may lead us to trace in it the directing wisdom of Him who orders his works "in number and in measure," and adapts and limits his word in the same way. For what were the changes and calamities which took place, whilst Prophecy thus remained silent? They were the proper sentence of the Law put in force. The Law, with its past comments, could perfectly explain them. And since those mutations were not lasting or subversive, it is consistent to suppose that men had the sufficient information before them of the purposes of Providence, without the further extraordinary aid of Prophecy to predict or interpret them. So much concerning the intermission of prophecy subsequent to the Law; and
the seeming reasons afforded to explain that intermission.
II. From the age of Samuel begins a different order of things, and the disparity is striking. From that date the commonwealth of Israel wears a far more disturbed appearance. It is pregnant with scenes of innovation; of extraordinary transient success; of long confusion and overwhelming calamity; the priesthood transferred; the regal government set up; the kingdom broken and divided; idolatry publicly established; thence a series of afflictions ending in subjugation, captivity, and removal from their land: in many cases the divine Covenant placed under such dubious and questionable circumstances as to render the word of prophecy highly expedient to the elucidation of the passing events, and to the instruction of men's hopes and inquiries concerning the future course and result of the divine proceedings.
Corresponding to such a disturbed state of their history is the revival, and afterwards the enlargement, of the prophetic revelation. Prophecy takes its station at the commencement of the whole. As Moses is the prophet of the age of the Law, so is Samuel of the first age of the monarchy of Israel. But Prophecy does not stop with Samuel; it is continuous and progressive; it proceeds without any one material chasm or suspension of its revelations, through the succeeding line of complex history,
down to the days of Malachi, the last of the prophetic order, when it came to a close for a long season again, and interposed its other great cessation prior to the Gospel advent.
This then is the reign of predictive revelation, and the proper age of the Prophets. It is the middle period of the first dispensation, standing equally removed, in time, and in some of its characters, from the Law, and from the Gospel, and the service of Prophecy during this period forms a great connecting link of divine information between the two. It is moreover a period fully occupied by Prophecy throughout; I mean to say, it had its succession of inspired messengers following each other in order from first to last; and it had its predictions embracing every remarkable change affecting the chosen people, and included within the limits of the time in question; as well as a continuation of predictive Prophecy carried forward, and reaching to the Gospel age. Such is the continuity of the prophetic scheme in this body of its predictions.
Meanwhile the matter of the enlarged communications so made equally demands our attention. Branching out in different directions, it enters into the Jewish, Christian, and Pagan subjects. The simple restricted Jewish subject comes first, as in the predictions of Samuel. The Jewish and Christian are next combined, as in the prophecies of David and Isaiah. Afterwards the Christian and Pagan are clearly and formally connected in the
prophecies of Daniel. Whilst all these subjects, either apart or in union, are filled up from time to time, with various accessions of prediction extending on every side the range of the revelation.
But in this train and series of prophetic disclosure one subject there is pre-eminent above the rest, the Christian. It is, of all others, the most frequently introduced, and the most copiously enlarged upon. It furnishes the proper topic of many great and perspicuous predictions; in others a transition is made to it, as though it were constantly in view. For to "Christ give all the Prophets witness." And whatever other matters they may treat of, to Him and his religion they direct our attention, some by express oracles, some by intelligible intimation, but all with a remarkable concurrence and agreement. The consummation of the designs and the promises of God in his particular covenant with the house of Israel is referred to the days of the Messiah. And the succession of the kingdoms of the earth is equally deduced to the Messiah's kingdom. So that nothing more certainly true can be said of Prophecy and of its scope than this: that effect, as well as by the very form and structure of its records, the Redeemer and his everlasting kingdom are presented to the eye as the centre of Prophecy, and the end of the revelations of God.
Such being the enlarged scheme of Prophecy in its one principal age, I shall endeavour to explore it in part according to the plan I have prescribed to