« VorigeDoorgaan »
distant cloud to another, as if every tree in the forest
times should not everywhere alike be a striking contrast to those of the past.
Man, whatever expectations he may form, knoweth not what a day may bring forth. And never was the truth of the short-sightedness of mortals more clearly exemplified than it is now, when changes, of which none could recently have formed the conception, pass as common things before the eyes of all. Human wisdom is not in any thing more speedily set at nought than when it counts the chances, and attempts to define the issue, of international wars and intestine commotions. But though, in the evolution of ordinary events, the sagacity of man were equal to the task of marking their character before their time, there is no experience or analogy by which he could now be guided to a certain or even probable conclusion. For all history presents not any scale of reckoning for such times as these, when unparalleled events, which indicate an universal crisis, and betoken a war of opinions throughout the wide world, such as never existed to be chronicled before, are crowded together, and seem but the incidents of an hour.
It is not by a light issuing from the earth, nor by the meteor gleam of high imaginations, that a page of future history can be read, or the dark recesses of futurity be disclosed. The Ruler among the nations, whose omniscient eye penetrates alike through space and through time, can alone show the things that are not as though they were. He hath the times and seasons in his own power: and the signs of them can be known only from his word. From ancient times he hath declared, by his servants the prophets, the things that are now passing, and that are yet to come. And to the magnifying of the divine word, but in utter disparagement of human arrogancy, it is to the most ancient of records, in the Old Testament, and to the more
recent, but still remote revelations of the New, that, with all submissiveness, and child-like docility, a pious application must be made, and a patient investigation must be devoted, if by any means the ultimate consequences and final results of those existing events which agitate the world, may be ascertained with infinitely greater security and truth than belong to the daily fluctuating conjectures, which all the powers of reason, though vainly calling universal history to its aid, can deduce, as the final effect of those causes, of which the partial operation is already seen.
These pages are addressed to professing Christians, and the inspiration of Scripture is here assumed as a certain and acknowledged truth. If it were doubted for a moment by any reader, we might not only refer him to the positive proofs which literal prophecies, already fulfilled, abundantly supply; but we might challenge him even now, at this late period, to the production of any such token of an insight into futurity, or any systematic view of the yet future history of the world, at all comparable to that which, of old, was unfolded by the prophets who testified of Jesus, and by the apostles who first preached the doctrine of the cross.
It is by reading and understanding what is written in the word of God, and by comparing things spiritual with spiritual, that, as the best means, scriptural truths may be known. And, while seeking carefully to avoid the darkening of counsel by words without knowledge, and the profanely mingling of any vain imagination with the oracles of the living God, the object aimed at in the following essay is to note, so far as they can as yet be traced, from a variety of historical prophecies, already fulfilled, the signs of these times.
That such is a legitimate object of inquiry, may be inferred, from an admonition and rebuke given
by the Lord Jesus Christ, to those Jews who sought of him a sign, but who did not discern the signs of the times. If they had believed in Moses, in whom they trusted, they would have believed in Christ, of whom he testified. And except it be first clearly shown that none of the words of any of the prophets, nor of Christ, nor of his apostles, have, or can have, the least possible reference to what is now passing, -or may speedily be brought to pass in the world, -which it would require a fearless hardihood unmatched by that of the boldest interpreter to maintain-it cannot of itself be an evil or unwise thing to endeavour to do what Jesus convicted the Jews of hypocrisy and folly for not doing; and if there be in the word of God any tokens of this critical era, or any indications of that to which it shall lead, it may still be asked of all-ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but can ye not discern the sign of these times? Surely, however often repeated by lips that ought never to be used to such mockery, the sneer of a blasphemer, who scoffed indiscriminately at all scripture, should never deter a believer from reverently inquiring from the written word, what is the mind of the Spirit; nor ought any man, who is not ashamed of Jesus and of his words, to quail before the scoff of the scorner, or to suffer so base a motive as that, the most contemptible of all, fear, to deter him from seeking to understand "the revelation of Jesus Christ," to which these words are prefixed, "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep these things that are written therein, for the time is at hand; and to which, also, these are added, And he said unto me, these sayings are faithful and true : and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold I come quickly blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this
book. What is all that man can utter in comparison of words like these?
No one who takes the most cursory, or even careless perusal of the Bible, can be ignorant that something is written there pertaining to the latter times. Not only does the Book of Daniel contain an explicit reference to that which should befall the Jews in the latter times, and repeated annunciations of the final and universal establishment of the kingdom of God; and not only does the Book of the Revelation also contain a systematic representation of "the things that shall be hereafter," but prophecy forms a large portion of the Sacred Scriptures, and, whatever part of them we peruse, we find it intermingled with the other dictates of inspiration. The Bible is full of prophecy. It contains the record of our race from the beginning to the end of time. The mystery of iniquity is there unfolded, as well as the mystery of godliness. And the inspired penman wrote with the artless facility and freedom of those to whom it was given to reveal to all ages the workings of an overruling Providence among the nations of the earth, as well as to make known to men the will of God and the way of salvation. Shall the Lord bring evil upon any nation, and not declare it unto his servants the prophets? The earth is the Lord's ; and his word vindicates his control over it. And as in the works of nature men may ever consider the operation of his hands, so from the Bible we may see his doings among the sons of men, and learn to know, that, though he permits the reign of sin for a season, he has marked its progress, limited its power, and decreed its final destruction. In the natural world "he hath placed the sand for the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass; and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail, though they roar, yet can they not pass over it." And were we