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Mark this point; for it is one of immense importance. I say that prophecy is a discovery of the true character of passing events : gives a true representation of the nature of things present, such as, out of the Bible, is not to be had : yea, is a faithful commentary on all the events of the world and of the church, as they come on, pass us by, and go off into the distance. Tell me not that history is the key to prophecy. Say, rather, that prophecy is the key to history. Prophecy teaches me to understand history, far more than history ever taught me to understand prophecy. Prophecy enables me to view the course of events in its true character; sometimes, to tell what comes next in the cycle. Nay, I must come to prophecy, to gain a knowledge of the world, to understand the existing state of things, to acquire a just view of society as it is, to become acquainted with human nature. Some, to acquire a knowledge of human nature, study celebrated authors. But I get more of this knowledge in its true foundations, more insight into society in its real characteristics, strong lines of division,
present state, immediate prospects, and final destinies, from the prophecies of the Apocalypse, than from all of them together.
But if objectors take alarm, from dreading a too exclusive study of prophecy, let them beware of a danger on the other side. They may fall into the opposite extreme, of neglecting part of the Divine word. There is reason to think, that objectors to the study of prophecy run very generally into this error. Unhappy indeed are they, whose objections arise from a feeling of distaste. What do they, when they come to the prophecies in reading their Bibles ? Pass them by? or run them over ?
We read in the Holy Gospels, that the Lord Jesus Christ did many things, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. Yea, even from the cradle to the cross, he appears to have had this for a prevailing motive of action. While yet a young child, he was taken down into Egypt, " that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet, Out of Egypt have I called my Son :" and when he hung suspended between earth and heaven, “ Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst."--Now this at first sight appears extraordinary. Here we see the Eternal Word bringing himself into conformity with the written word, and shaping his actions according to it, with the
express purpose of fulfilling it.
But why? The written word is the exact transcript of the mind of God: and hence He who, in counsel as well as essence, is one with the Father, in complying with it, only complies with his own eternal purposes.
" In the volume of the book
it is written of me: I delight to do TAY WILL, O my
God." Hence is it that we so often find the Lord acting and shaping his conduct with this view, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
Nor have we reason to think that it is otherwise now, when he sits administering all things, both in the world and in the church, at the right hand of God. Still may we regard him as so directing the course of time, that the Scriptures may be fulfilled.
Hence the importance of prophecy. Nay, further. In this grand scheme, all creatures are made to bear and to act their parts. The only difference is, that some do this blindly, some intelligently: some in ignorance, not knowing what they do; like his enemies, who fulfilled the Scriptures by condemning him : some as his happy, obedient, and willing agents, rejoicing, like the holy angels, to do his will, hearkening to the voice of his words. The more, then, every part of his word is known to us, and cordially treasured in our bosoms, the less likely are we to resemble those who accomplish it as blind rebels, completing the accomplishment in their own destruction; the more to resemble Him, who himself did all things while on earth, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. Is it not Pascal, who makes an observation to the following effect ? Prophecy in a great measure consists of promises and threatenings. In respect to one or the other, we must all accomplish prophecy ! Happy are they, in whom the threatenings are not fulfilled, and who receive the promises !
On the whole, the writer of these pages, though a decided advocate for the study of the prophetic parts of Scripture
, hopes that his advocacy will not be found of an extravagant kind. His own plan, in reading the Scriptures, has for the most part been, simply to take the prophetic writings as they come before him, in their turn. This method may admit of some little variation ; but if the Scriptures be read with assiduity, it will probably be found the best : and a more exclusive attention to the prophecies is liable to some objections. For example, it may lead to a neglect of other parts of Scripture
. For the fact is, it is to be feared we read no part of Scripture enough ; and consequently, if we give more than a due portion of our time to any one part, the rest may
very neglected indeed. Add to this, that by a partial reading, run the risk of neglecting some portions of prophecy itself
, For prophecy is interwoven throughout Scripture ; and indeed all Scripture, from its general application, may be called prophetic, and that in a very important sense. Nay, by reading
only a part, we may lose the benefit of light, coming from the parts which we omit, on those which we read. For all Scripture is mutually interpretative ; and by taking only a part, or by chiefly attending to only a part, and neglecting the rest, we are in danger of acquiring contracted and partial views, on prophecy, as on every other subject.
On this plan, followed indeed most imperfectly, of nearly impartial reading, the writer has slowly acquired and formed, he hopes not without a better teaching, those views on the subject of prophecy, which he purposes in the following papers, the Lord permitting and helping him, to develop. In some points he does not fully accord with the views which other students of prophecy have of late brought before the public. At once to state the main points of difference, he is considerably at variance with those, who think that religion has not spread extensively of late, that it is not so spreading at this time, and that it will not so continue to spread. If he may be permitted to use the expression without being suspected of any invidious meaning, he takes higher views than appear to be entertained by some of the present dispensation; the dispensation under which we live. He thinks, that while a part of the prophetic writings will not be fully accomplished till after the resurrection, as it is said, THEN shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death, is swallowed up in victory;" yet that much of prophecy mainly refers to the Gospel dispensation, and to the church in its present state. In a word, while he looks forward with confidence to the Millennial period, and to the manifested reign of Christ on earth, as clearly foretold in Scripture, he does not contemplate this state as a new dispensation, but as a continuation, further development, and consummation, of that under which we now are; which tends, he conceives, to what is promised, by an appointed progress; so that he looks for no dispensation above and beyond the present, as to its essential characteristics, on this side of eternity. Yet-if it be the opinion of some, that, as our Lord at his first coming ruled over his little flock in Person, the influences of his Spirit being less clearly manifested, and now guides his people by his Spirit, his Person being in heaven at the right hand of God, so a time shall come, when he shall rule in Spirit and in Person too it is not the design of the present observations to oppose this view. And, after having been not a little displeased and hurt with the treatment, which modern students of prophecy have experienced from some of their brethren and his, it certainly is the present writer's wish, even should he have to urge any
partial difference of sentiment, not to give them the same just cause of complaint against himself. B.
On the Fulfilment of Prophecy. In speaking of the fulfilment of prophecy, we may have two distinct ideas; or, in other words, prophecy may be fulfilled in two distinct ways. One is that, which accords with the more common idea upon the subject, and which takes place when the thing foretold is fulfilled to the letter. The other is, when events occur which in a remarkable manner correspond with the words spoken before. Thus, in one case, something is written down by the inspired penman, and the same thing takes place; and in the other, something is written down, and a corresponding thing takes place. Both, indeed, may happen to one prophecy. And in the latter case, even if we did not perceive the word written to be a prophecy before, we at once see it assume that character, when the correspondence is discovered.
I might in some measure, perhaps, illustrate this distinction, by the two words which we find used in the New Testament, each of which our translators render by the word “ fulfilled.” Or it may be suggested, that the terms literal fulfilment,” and “ spiritual fulfilment,” will express my meaning: But then I might seem to lean to that mode of spiritualizing prophecy, which in fact seems greatly in danger of spiritualizing it away.
of the first kind, or exact fulfilment of prophecy, many examples might be given. For example : when the children of Israel are told, that, if they adopt certain measures for the taking of Jericho, the city shall fall; follow the directions; and take the place: when a warning is given, that if any one rebuild that city a certain curse shall befal him, the city is rebuilt, and the curse comes upon the builder (Josh. vi. 26; 1 Kings xvi. 34): where, in the New Testament, our Lord tells his disciples to go to a certain spot, and they will find a colt tied ; or into the city, and they will see a man bearing a pitcher of water; and they go, and in each instance find it as he said: where, above all, our Lord foretels his own sufferings, death, and resurrection, which all take place.
With respect to the other, or corresponding fulfilment of prophecy, we may illustrate our meaning by various examples. Take, for instance, the types. The prophetic import of a type is fulfilled, not by another type like it, but by an antitype, by something corresponding to it. The typical import, for instance, of King Solomon's character, is not fulfilled by the appearing of a second king Solomon, but by the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Israel, the Son of David, the Prince of Peace, whom Solomon typified. The typical character of the lamb brought as a sacrifice is not fulfilled by bringing another lamb to the same place, but by the coming of " the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
This sort of fulfilment may be further illustrated, by our Lord's fulfilment of the law. This fulfilment does not appear to have consisted in his exact observance of the law, in all its ceremonial details (though I have no wish to dispute as to the degree of such observance that he may have actually rendered); but in his peculiarly faithful obedience, and perfect conformity, to its spirit. Thus, whatever was required by the ritual observances of the law, he fulfilled by his entire holiness and purity; whatever was pointed at by the minuteness and particularity of the precepts, he fulfilled by a minute and strict regard to his heavenly Father's will.-I am well aware that these remarks bring us upon debateable ground; and therefore beg that they may be here understood as offered only in illustration.
We may draw a further illustration from scriptural parallelism. A parallelism will often consist, to take a simple form, of two lines corresponding to each other: not the same line repeated, but two lines corresponding: For instance : « Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea :
His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.' Here the two lines correspond, and constitute what we call a parallelism: if the first line were given twice, then we should not call this parallelism, but repetition.
Such is the fulfilment which we sometimes discern in prophecy. The event corresponds to the words written before; fits to them, as one board of a tally fits to the other; and thus each verifies its fellow. The event verifies the word written before, as the word of God; the word written before verifies the event, as one not only foreknown, but peculiarly signified by him, and therefore to be peculiarly regarded by us. To fit a lock, we seek not another lock, but a key; and, when we have got the right one, the lock and key correspond, though they are different things.
Nor let it be said that this view is derogatory to the dignity of prophecy : and that these corresponding fulfilments of prophecy are less important or interesting than the exact ones. We must take these things as it pleases God to set them before us. And the fact is, that a correspondence of this kind will sometimes be found more striking than an exact fulfilment. It