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1.] Interpretation of Prophecy.

3 interest; and so would make us feel that we belong indeed to a vast body, of which “if one member suffer," however far removed in time or place, “all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it 5.”

The revival of a feeling such as this, and the investigation of the history of past times undertaken in such a spirit, would assuredly be a subject of unfeigned satisfaction and thankfulness to every true Christian heart. It were productive of great and substantial benefit, if it led men to solid study of the records of history, as well as of that inspired Word of which those records show the fulfilment; if it exposed ignorance and superficial thought, traditional prejudices, and mis-statements growing by continual repetition; if it restored the glow of charity by a rekindled love of truth. But as, in our present imperfect state, the good is never unaccompanied by the liability to evil, we must not close our eyes to the danger of a hasty rejection of views of history, and systems of interpretation, which perhaps had been by many overhastily, and without inquiry, acquiesced in; but which nevertheless had their own grounds of argument and plausibility, though we have perhaps never ourselves entered into them, and know after all but little respecting them, except that they are now regarded by high authorities as untenable. We may otherwise, ourselves, fall unconsciously into the very same superficial habit of mind which we condemn in others; dazzled, perhaps, in some measure by a love of novelty, and the excitement of a new and wider field of inquiry opening before us; and treating the judgments of men who were in their day great lights

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Revival of Historical Inquiry, [LECT. of the Christian Church, and of our own branch of it in particular, with a disrespect which has its origin in a temper of mind out of which a true reverence for earlier and better days will never spring. And to this, we must be conscious, we are more than ordinarily liable in an age which is certainly indisposed to deep and laborious thought ;-an age in which, upon every subject that is presented to it, a prompt and positive decision is expected; and the spirit which is fostered by our periodical criticism, too often hasty and flippant, is ever ready to pass its verdict,—the conclusion of a few hours or days,—on that which should rather have been the patient study of months and years 6.

But akin to the feeling of which I have spoken as revived of late towards past ages, is that which seems in the present day to be growing around us, of desire for a closer union and more free intercourse with our brethren in other portions and communions of Christendom. The facility of communication which has been effected in our own times, in the mysterious order of God's Providence, has, as it were, brought the ends of the earth near together; the distance has, if we may so say, been annihilated, which separated men one from another; the barriers which kept them apart have been to a great extent, and in a marvellous manner, broken down; and in different ways, for evil or for good, men seem to have awakened to the consciousness that “union is strength.” And such a feeling, revived in its purest and holiest form, within the Church of God, were doubtless, in itself, a sign full of hope for her most sacred interests: for unity is her essential

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o In the above paragraph, had then recently been put the Author alluded particularly forth, particularly in to the tone of a good deal that articles in Reviews.

some

1.]
and a Craving for Unity.

5 characteristic, and the last solemn prayer which her Divine Founder offered for His disciples on earth was, “ that they all” might "be one?.” My present purpose, however, in pointing to this particular, is to mark its influence specially on the interpretation of Prophecy.

It has been sometimes broadly laid down that Prophecy, from its nature and object, can take no cognizance of the internal divisions of Christendom; that its great end was to be an evidence for Christianity, and the Christian Church, in the face of the world; and, consequently, that any interpretation of a “controversial ” character, having reference to schisms or corruptions within the Churchi’s pale, is altogether inadmissible 8. Of the evils, indeed, resulting from the spirit of controversy in the interpretation of prophetic Scripture, it is scarcely possible to speak too strongly; but at the same time the maxim in question must be carefully guarded against determining too boldly, à priori, what are the ends and objects of this part of God's revelation. We are not at liberty to decide that the only purpose of Prophecy was to be an evidence to “them that are without;" it may have been intended also to be a guide and support to the Church herself in seasons of her greatest perplexity; "a light shining in a dark place until the day” should “dawn, and the day-star arise in the hearts 9” of her wayworn pilgrims; "a lantern unto her feet and a light unto her path,” when they on whose guidance she might have thought she could most securely depend, seemed

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? John xvii. 11, 21, 22.

8 Dr. Whitley, in his "Scheme and Completion of Prophecy,' (London, 1830,) strongly and

earnestly presses this view. See particularly Sections i. and ii.

9 2 Pet. i. 19.

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Does Prophecy take cognizance

[LECT.

to be following earthly meteors, and “the light” itself was “darkened in the heavens thereof." It may be, for aught we know, that, even regarded merely as an evidence to Divine Revelation, Prophecy was designed to meet the most plausible and insulting objection that Infidelity has ever dared to make. I allude to that which is drawn from the apparent obscuration, if so it were, of the light of Christianity through many ages, the unworthy practice of its professors; its grievous corruptions; the human passions, the secular policy, nay, even the imposture or deceit which have been enlisted in its service; the ignorance and superstition, or gross fanaticism and error, which have overspread the lands in which its dominion once seemed to be the most securely established. It may be that the triumphant answer

. to these and such-like cavils was to be found in the fact, that all this had been foretold; traced with no shrinking hand, and pourtrayed in no faint colours, on that roll of Prophecy, which thus was to be a living witness to Divine Wisdom accomplishing its purposes of love and mercy not only through the instrumentality of man's weakness, but even by overruling his wilfulness or wickedness. There would be, assuredly, in this nothing à priori inconceivable: the question whether there be, in point of fact, such scenes or not, delineated in the visions of Prophecy, is a matter for humble and patient inquiry to search out and discover. Even, however, as an Evidence to Christianity, it might be that the most striking proof of Divine Foreknowledge exhibited, in the face of an unbelieving world, was to be seen in the accomplishment of what might have appeared,

i Isa. v. 30.

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of Internal Divisions ?

7 (as a distinguished Lecturer on this Foundation has emphatically designated “ the prophecy of the great Apostacy”) “ a paradox of prediction, which must be allowed to surpass the ordinary limits of human observation, and almost to exceed the power which man has to corrupt the best gifts of God?" Or if it should appear, from a careful examination of the disclosures of prophetic Scripture, that, amidst all “the overflowings of ungodliness” in latter times, the powers of darkness have not yet put forth to the utmost their might and malice; if the full manifestation of the Spirit of evil be still future, and all that has hitherto reared its head in Christendom in the form of Antichrist has been (to use language sanctioned by Antiquity) rather the “precursor 3 than the actual impersonation of that which is to

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3 - In the second of the ambition and falsehood should Clementine Homilies, a false succeed ; that it should be prophet, or impostor, it is said, established with the submis- will precede Antichrist ; and, sion,and indeed with the deluded then, towards the time of the conviction, of men still holding end, Antichrist himself will the profession of Christianity, first appear, before the return which is the prophecy of St. of the true Christ. . . Paul, is a paradox of predic- * Irenæus, writing against tion, &c. ... The natural in- Marcus,a leader of the sect of the credibility of it is, not that such Colorbasei, quotes a passage in errors or abuses should be es- iambics from one of the elders, tablished in the world, but directed against him, which is that they should be grafted on to this effect: Marcus, thou the Christian Faith, in opposi- maker of idols, and interpreter tion to, and in outrage of, its of prodigies, ... having in thee genius and its commands, and a precursor of the subtlety take a bold possession of the which will take the place of Christian Church. There, how- God.'-Adv. Hær. i. 12. 76. 3. ever, they have been grafted; " In fact, Irenæus speaks and there they have had pos- of Marcus, as almost the actual session. And the strength of precursor of Antichrist, ' præthe improbable fact is the proof cursor quasi vere existens Anof the prophetic inspiration. tichristi.'”_Greswell on the Davison on Prophecy, p. 457 Parables, vol. i. p. 380. (3rd ed. Oxford, 1834).

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