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the Prophetic Volume. We may consider it either in its structure, or in the verification of its predictions. In the last, we must select single prophecies, or concurrent prophecies relating to one and the same event: a comparison of them with their completion will shew the evidence attaching to them and an extension of the like comparison to other parts of Prophecy will collect the evidence of the whole. But with respect to its structure, the points to be observed will be, What were the subjects on which Prophecy was given, what its order, in relation to seasons and purposes. It is this examination of its Structure which it will be expedient to pursue in the first instance, as preparatory to the examination of it under the second head, in the accomplishment of its Predictions.
In tracing the course of Prophecy as contained in its own records, we may presume, that, if it be a gift of divine wisdom, we shall discover in its very structure some indications of the wisdom by which it was given. We may expect to find, upon the face of its apparent character, proofs of fitness and design; because such proofs are seen in all the other works which we know to come from the same wisdom. Moreover, this survey of the order of Prophecy will best open to us the uses which it was intended to serve in the several periods of its dispensation. Lastly, after its general frame has been ascertained, single predictions comprehended in it will be ready to be examined with more advantage,
inasmuch as we shall see what place they hold in the entire range of Prophecy; whether they are among the greater or the less articles of it, and how far their particular evidence upholds, or affects, the authority of the whole prophetic book.
My intention is, therefore, to treat of the structure of Prophecy in the present and three following Discourses; and, when some idea of its Form and Use shall have been first established, to treat of the direct proof of its Inspiration.
In the earlier inquiry, however, it is to be observed, that the general truth of Revelation will be assumed. The argument will be, Admitting the presumed origin of prophecy, what notices does it supply of wisdom, fitness, and design; what illumination did it afford, in reference to the times when it was given, or the times to which it was to be applied? Upon this ground I shall be allowed, for a time, to speak in the person of a believer, who would follow Prophecy by its own light as it illustrates the divine economy. Incidental proofs of its inspiration will be suggested by the way. But the formal discussion of those proofs will be reserved to its place hereafter, when the Order of Prophecy shall be confronted with its Truth, and its predictions put to a test in their completion.
This survey of ancient prophecy will include its greater documents, wherever they may be found. Books not avowedly prophetical, at least not com
monly so named, contain the recorded text of predictions, as the Pentateuch, the Psalms, and others, which therefore must contribute their information to the inquiry in hand. For though Prophecy had its one principal age subsequent to the Mosaic Law, when it spoke with a fuller voice and clearer communications, and so the Law and the Prophets are sometimes taken for the divided oracles of Holy Writ; yet it has never been silent in any period of the world, but has been the herald and messenger of Divine Truth, from the first fall of man, to his redemption under the Gospel, and there it continues to speak, if we will hear it, "with the voice of the "archangel, and with the trump of God," through futurity, to the final consummation of all things.
I. The date and origin of the predictions of prophecy are with the earliest history of man. The earliest history of man, when he had come from his Maker's hands, and passed into his own, is that of his Sin and his Fall. But no sooner had he lost his original ground of acceptance with his Maker, than prophecy began to intimate the hope of his recovery and restoration. The first prediction was given in mercy: it was given in a promise adapted to man's forfeited condition-the promise of a Redeemer, who, in some way not then explained, was appointed "to bruise the Serpent's head," that is, to take away the Tempter's triumph, which could only be by repairing the loss suffered by transgression, and
cancelling or mitigating, the interdict of the divine sentence laid upon it.-This original promise of mercy is the dawn and dayspring of prophecy. Man was not excluded from Paradise, till Prophecy had sent him forth with some pledge of hope and consolation.
But this First Prediction may serve to point out something of the general aim and design of all the rest. At the least it opens to us one comprehensive subject, in which the whole human race was concerned, and their concern in it not less than their state of relation with God. And since this subject was the first that introduced the revelations of Prophecy, we may reasonably suppose it was a principal one always in view; and also that other predictions, when they did not specifically relate, might yet be subservient, to it by promoting nearer purposes, which purposes, however, centred in that chief design. For Prophecy having begun with the prospect of man's redemption, could be directed in its after course to nothing greater.
And such the fact will appear to be, when we draw to a point the dispersed and multiplied predictions of the Old Testament. The intimation of a scheme of divine mercy given at the Fall, is the prelude to further and more precise discoveries of it, through every subsequent age and æra of revelation. Intermediate predictions there are, and of another kind, interposed from time to time. But the original subject is resumed and prosecuted through the
whole body of ancient prophecy: in the Patriarchal, in the Mosaic, in the later age, it is still kept in sight. The frequency of its presence, in union with other subjects, indicates its paramount plan in the order of prophecy.
I would not here apply the technical name of a system to the course of these combined predictions, lest I should seem to measure by conceptions taken from the standard of human works, the order and method of any part of the divine dispensations. Howbeit, it is no more than a strict account of the fact to say, that the nature and objects of the Redemption, as well as the advent, and character of the Person by whom it was to be wrought, were revealed further and further in numerous predictions; the word of promise grew in force and clearness, as it approached to its close; and it was successively enriched with new particulars of information; till at last they embodied within them all the chief lineaments of the dispensation which was subsequently made known in the actual accomplishment of it, and the Advent of the Redeemer was but the visible appearance of the divine light with which the radiant cloud of Prophecy had long been ready to break forth.
The limits and range of Prophecy were indeed as extensive at the first as they were afterwards. To Adam was given a hope of the Redemption of his This was the primitive promise; and the last of the Prophets cannot go beyond it. For man's redemption, begun in his present state of being,