aforetime were written for our learning." How invaluable this Divine comment on passing events, which comes down to all the particulars of our own case, yea, to all the inward history of our own hearts : this sentence of God upon all occurrences, as they come on and pass, so that we may know how to view, how to meet, and how to handle them : this standing rule of judgment, by which we learn how we ought to think of every person, every event, and every thing! Nor, in acquiring the habit of thus viewing all Scripture as prophetical, are we without the best scriptural authority. For many passages of the Old Testament are quoted as prophetical in the New, which we might never have guessed to have been prophetical, had we seen them in the Old Testament alone, without knowing of such quotation; but which we now clearly see to be so. They so fit in, and adapt themselves to the New Testament Person or transaction, on application being made, as to shew self-evidently, and with great power of conviction, that they were written before, through Divine prescience and pre-ordinance, in order that they might be so applied : and therefore, if this be so with a part of Scripture, why may it not be with the rest ? and, in particular, why need we doubt that it is so, in whatever cases we discern the application ?

According to these views, it will be clear also, that one prophetic Scripture may have more than one fulfilment. Therefore, when it is said in the New Testament, that then, on a certain occasion, such or such a prophecy was “ fulfilled,” we are not always to understand that it was fulfilled and done with ; but rather, that this was a fulfilment of the prophecy, not precluding other fulfilments, previous, or to come. Thus, when our Lord was teaching his disciples that other men had laboured, but that they entered into their labours, he said, “ Herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.” It was true in that particular case, but it is also true in many others. Thus our Lord applies a passage of Isaiah to the people of Palestine, as being fulfilled in them: “ In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias,” &c. (Matt. xiii. 14, 15): and St. Paul applies it, many years after, to the Jews at Rome, in whom it was equally fulfilled (Acts xxviii. 25—27.) We may make the same remark concerning direct prophecies. For instance, that of Joel (“I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,” &c.); of which we have a fulfilment, some fulfilment, on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended (Acts ii. 16-21): yet not surely the only fulfilment; for, taking the whole of the passage cited, we look for its complete accomplishment as yet to come. What can be more unreasonable than to say of such passages

in the Prophets, that, once accomplished, they are done with ? What can be more lame with regard to the Jews, than to say, because we see some partial fulfilment of the promises of their restoration, that therefore no more complete fulfilment awaits them hereafter? Objectors imagine, that if they can prove the fulfilment of a prophecy, they get rid of it. But by no means: it may have been fulfilled, and yet stand over, to be fulfilled again: or its fulfilment may have commenced, and yet stand over to be accomplished.

Our Lord is spoken of in the Old Testament, as one who should open the eyes of the blind. He did so literally : he did so spiritually, while present on earth : he does so now by his Holy Spirit, while absent in heaven: and he will do so, we trust, more wonderfully, on the complete establishment of his kingdom. Here, then, are four fulfilments. Yet which of them interferes with the other ?

Many things prophetically spoken of Christ under the type of Solomon, had a partial or inferior fulfilment in Solomon himself; but not so as to set aside, or to stand in the way of, the more complete fulfilment in Christ. See, for instance, the seventy-second Psalm.

Or take the messages to the seven churches, in the second and third chapters of the Revelations. That these messages were, in their primary meaning, intended for the churches to which they are addressed by name, seems evident. But many reasons might be assigned, for giving them also a spiritual application: for instance, the admonition so often recurring, “ He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Thus the warnings are made general: add to which, that unless such a general meaning be intended, the Lord Jesus is represented in the first chapter, only as being the spiritual head of the seven churches of Asia; not of the church at large. We may apply the admonitions in these messages, then, to any church, so far as we see in it the circumstances to which the admonitions are addressed : we may apply them to the same church at different times : we may apply them to different departments of a church at the same time. In doing so, we shall be only applying them where they are intended to apply; and, so applied,

they will be truly prophecies. In the English version of the cxith Psalm, we find this clause: “ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.' In the ixth chapter of the Book of Proverbs we find the same. In each instance the clause has a parallel line. The former couplet runs thus:

“ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, A good understanding have all they that do his commandments.”

The latter, thus : “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,

And the knowledge of the Holy Ones is understanding Thus the second line is parallel, or corresponds to the first, in each instance : and other parallel lines might be imagined, producing other couplets; the first line being the same in each. Now this will serve to illustrate what may be termed the parallelism of prophecy. The first line, or prediction, may be the same in each case, while the fulfilments, or second lines, shall be various; and each of these second lines shall correspond with the first, though no two of them be identical.

By one other text I am yet desirous to confirm these views. The Pharisees begin by asking the Lord, when the kingdom of

should come (Luke xvii. 20): he answers, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation.” This, however, is not the passage on which I at present wish to dwell. They afterwards ask him, “Where, Lord?” And he then answers, “Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” That is, the Lord foretels a certain state of things, and certain accompanying circumstances. They ask him, Where? wishing, in a manner, to locate the prediction, to tie it to a certain spot. But no. Wherever the state of things is such, the accompanying circumstances shall there be found. Wherever the body is, thither the eagles will be sure to assemble : as, addressing Job, he says, speaking of the same bird, “Where the slain are, there is she.” In the xxiv th chapter of St. Matthew, we find nearly the same words as in St. Luke. Whatever then, in this chapter, belongs to the destruction of Jerusalem, let it be given to Jerusalem: whatever to the Lord's coming and to the end of the world, let it be referred to these events. But in whatever degree we discover an application to other circumstances, let us, without taking any thing away from the two former subjects, apply it accordingly, without fear; remembering that, in so doing, we are not distorting or forcing the prediction, but following the obvious leading of those words of our Lord above cited.

According to these views, also, we may safely apply any single prophecy, or portion of a prophecy, wherever we see its application, without being obliged to shew the application of the context. We make the application so far as it is evident, and we do not wish to press it further. For example: In the prophecy against Babylon, in the fiftieth and fifty-first chapters of Jeremiah, I discern a clear application to the church of Rome : I therefore so apply it, nothing doubting that the application was intended. “But then," an objector asks, “what do you make of the prophecies against Ammon, against Damascus, against Kedar, just before, in the forty-ninth chapter ? How are we to apply these ?” Perhaps I answer as I am able; prehaps I answer-it is no heresy—“'I cannot tell." Yet still we may see a part, though we cannot see the whole; and still the prophecy against Rome, under the name of Babylon, may stand good.

To conclude. The views here advanced go not in any way to set aside the evangelical application of prophecy : for instance, of Isaiah's prophecies relating to the Gospel ; of his fifty-third chapter, so evidently foreshewing the sufferings of Christ, both as to their particulars and to their atoning efficacy. Here the application is too clear to be missed. Nor do they take away the meaning of those prophecies, which point so distinctly to the grand features in the history both of the church and of the world, to the end of time. Nor, above all, do they at all take from the force of prophecy, as exhibiting and denouncing the Papal Antichrist. Popery I must still regard as a chief scope of prophecy.

Perhaps we may be able to discover that the spirit of Popery was in being, long before the Church of Rome existed. Perhaps it may with the utmost truth be alleged, that the same spirit prevails where none suspect it. But the Popery of Rome, Tridentine Popery, Popery now disguised under the mitigated title of Catholicism,—this, prophecy singles out, detects, pourtrays, sets up in a definite form, exhibits before the eyes of men in all its horrors, and stabs to the heart. B.

On false Christs and Antichrists. Having laid down certain principles in the last essay, my design in this is to apply them to a particular subject.

We read, in the New Testament, of false Christs, and of antichrists. The two ideas are evidently distinct. The term False Christ implies imitation, attempted resemblance of the True : the term Antichrist not merely means this, but also implies opposition. Thus the terms mark a difference; and we may observe a somewhat corresponding distinction in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelations. We have first the beast of blasphemy (ver. 1—10); then the beast of deception (11—18). The beast of blasphemy makes war with the saints-an open, furious enemy and opponent, answering to the antichrist. The beast of deception, on the contrary, works wonders, and deceives : and, in these two points, he corresponds exactly to the



-NO. IV.

3 L

false Christs described by our Lord himself. For, as it is said of this beast of deception, 1st, that he "doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men;" and 2dly, that he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth” (ver. 13, 14); so does our Lord say of the false Christs, Ist, that they “ shall shew great signs and wonders, 2dly, " insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matt. xxiv. 24). Nevertheless, I do not point out this correspondence, at present, with any view to joint interpretation, but only to illustrate the distinction between antichrists, or opponents, and false Christs, or counterfeits and deceivers.

Now, in attempting further to illustrate this subject of false Christs and antichrists, I beg it may be observed in the first place, that nothing here to be offered is intended to set aside the literal application of the terms. By literal antichrists, I understand all who are openly opposed to Christ and his Gospel : and in what manner the title so justly belongs to the Pope of Rome, I may perhaps attempt to shew hereafter. By false Christs, literally so called, I understand all those impostors who have appeared in different ages of the world, especially amongst the Jews, saying that they were Christ; assuming the title which properly belonged to Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, alone. And on this latter subject I have only one observation now to make; namely, that, if we would not at any time be deceived by these false Christs, we must pay particular attention to our Lord's injunction, neither to believe nor to follow, if any man shall say to us, Lo, here is Christ, or there. When our Lord shall indeed appear the second time, it is to be altogether a coming” on his part : he will come to us all : every eye shall see him: and the idea of any going on our part is derogatory to this glorious purpose; and is connected by himself with the appearing of the false Christs, not with his own. Consequently, though one were to come to us to-morrow, and and were to say, “ Lo, the Lord whom we expect is at Jerusalem,” I am not to go to Jerusalem. No. I am to wait for his coming; which, wherever I am, between the two ends of heaven, will be a coming to me. And, whithersoever his elect are to be gathered together, he himself will “ send his angels, with a great sound of a trumpet,” for that purpose.

But—to return from this digression-while I hold the literal fulfilment of the predictions, that there should be false Christs and antichrists, I also hold a latent, substantial, and essential fulfilment, of a different kind. For instance, what is said respecting antichrists (which subject I dispose of first, as being that concerning which I have the least at present to offer),

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »