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The two classes you mentioned are indeed those to whom they were more directly addressed; but it appears clear that they were intended also for the use of the other two, very nearly if not altogether, to as great an extent. It is not merely in the very words of the prediction itself that we perceive the spirit of prophecy; in the very fact of its being given at all, we may sometimes trace the divine Mind, foreseeing what would be necessary for the comfort and support of his people in_after times, when the prophet slumbered in the dust. This also became in some measure necessary, in consequence of limits having been put to the duration of their heavenly communications. Several of the admonitions and cautions of the apostles seem decidedly of a prospective nature; and in other cases, where some ground for express precepts may have existed, it is by no means improbable that they were given more with reference to the future than the present need of the church.
Maria. This also ought to be the character of a revelation of this nature, that it should foresee and provide for contingencies.
Edward. It is from the want of this knowledge, among other things, that we infer the falsity of Mahometanism; for the proof depended upon continued success, and success involved the impossibility of the observance of some of its precepts.
Maria. Yet if that had not been the case, we could not have inferred the truth of the religion, since human foresight, unaided by divine inspiration, could have guarded against such a conclusion.
Mr. B. But human foresight alone could not have suggested the predictions of St. Paul, in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians; and the precepts in that to the Colossians appear of a nature so interesting to the universal church in after ages, that it is not unreasonable to suppose St. Paul must have foreseen the univer
47 How are we able to perceive the spirit of prophecy?–48 What is said of several of the admonitions and cautions of the apostles?-19 How do we infer the falsity of Mahometanism?-50 What is said of the predictions of St. Paul, in his second epistle to the Thessalonians--also of his precepts to the Colossians?
sal circulation of that Epistle, and had respect to the errors of much larger bodies of professing Christians than were likely at that time to disturb the little community at Colosse. It is also important to observe,
that the predictions which relate to future corruptions in the church, and the precepts which appear to have reference to them, could never be the occasion of their own fulfilment. No one would willingly take upon himself the apostolic anathema; no body of men could desire to render themselves liable to it, or so act as to compel others to fulfil predictions of so fatal a nature.
Edward. Are not many of the prophecies supposed to have double fulfilments?
Mr. B. The existence of a secondary fulfilment of prophecy is a point of great difficulty to decide with certainty. That two events may possibly fulfil the same prediction (particularly if couched in general terms) may be granted; but that it was intended that both should fulfil it, can only be established by strong evidence; and though many circumstances may render this probable, I am not aware of such evidence having actually been adduced. In some cases it is also not improbable, that the writers of the New Testament quoted the words of a prophecy, which was known to have been fulfilled at an earlier period, only as an illustration of a later event, as they appear occasionally to use other parts of the sacred writings in a similar way. In so doing, they could not be misunderstood by those to whom they wrote; and we must not therefore hastily deem them “inconclusive reasoners” for adopting the method of argument most popular with those whom they thus addressed.
Maria. No conclusive argument,'then, can be drawn from their quotations of this nature in favour of the double sense ?
Mr. B. I think not; but upon this point I would speak with diffidence. The consideration of it is not essential
51 What is important to be observed in relation to these predictions?52 What does Mr. B. say of a secondary fulfilment to prophecy?–53 How is it not improbable that the writers of the New Testament, in some cases, quoted the words of a prophecy?-54 How does Mr. B. think that we should speak of this mode of reasoning by the sacred writers?
to the argument as to the truth of Christianity; and as such, I shall only refer you to the works of Warburton and Marsh,—the former in defence of the secondary sense, and the latter against it. “For, let the result of an inquiry into secondary senses be what it will, the prophecies which testify of Christ, according to their primary sense, are sufficiently numerous to supply us with arguments for the truth of our religion.”—Marsh's Lectures, xxii. p. 61.
Having mentioned the name of Warburton, it would be very negligent in me were I not to press upon you, if your minds are in any respect unsatisfied as to the subject, by no means to omit the perusal of the sermons preached at the lecture founded by that great scholar expressly for this subject. Perhaps few institutions have been more fortunate in a succession of able men; and you will find in their works not less learning than strong argument blended with piety.
Edward. There have been a great number of publications on the book of Revelation; but I believe there is little agreement. Do you consider this as a serious objection?
Mr. B. It has been considered by Michaelis as an objection against the book itself ; but if you read his remarks upon it, you should also examine the arguments of Dr. Woodhouse in its defence. It is not at all surprising that difference of opinion should exist upon this subject, when the figurative language in which it is couched, together with great part of it being yet unfulfilled, is duly considered. It is confessedly the most difficult portion of the prophetical records, and has had in consequence the greatest number of commentators. That out of so many, much nonsense should have been produced, is not at all surprising to any who remember, that
“Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread:”
55 What is said of it by Marsh?-56 What does Mr. B. say of Marsh's sermons on this subject?-57 What writer is named, who objects to the book of Revelation on the grounds here mentioned?—58 What author is also recommended as baving written in its defence?-59 What confession is made among commentators respecting this book?
but it would be no great proof of wisdom on that account to discard from consideration the works of sober and learned men, more anxious to follow the guidance of Scripture, than to claim an office not much lower than that of the prophet himself, as some have done, in expanding obscure intimations into detailed predictions of events yet in the womb of time.
Edward. The Apocalypse carries on the declarations of prophecy to the end of the world; so that we have now a complete chain of evidence of this nature, from the fall of man to his final judgment. It surely is a strong argument for Christianity, that not one link of this chain should have been broken.
Maria. When I consider the chances that must have happened in every age, the number of particulars in which it was exposed to danger, and the number of enemies who would gladly have detected a failure, it appears to me that a special providence has watched over it.
Mr. B. I feel confident, that the more you examine this subject, the firmer will be your conviction upon it. I have generally observed that those who have had the least confidence in it, argued from theory rather than examination. Now there are few subjects in which theory, unaccompanied by examination, is more apt to mislead; and it never surprises me, therefore, to find such persons speaking of it as unsatisfactory. It is very much to be wished, that those who doubt upon the subject should seriously account for the facts of the case, go into the detail, and trace up the phenomena to some other cause, if they have not a divine origin. When the probabilities come to be compared between the believer's account and that of the sceptic, I have no doubt the latter would not be very ambitious to transmit them to posterity side by side.
60 What does Mr. B. say is not surprising in relation to it, and would be in us no proof of wisdom–61 How far are carried forward the declarations in the apocalypse?–62 of what does Mr. B. feel very confident?63 What does he say, in the conclusion of the conversation, as much to be desired?
Mr. B. In the evidence of miracles and prophecy, we have such strong attestations to the truth of Christianity, that it perhaps is not easy to add any thing which shall not appear weak in comparison; there are yct some considerations of great importance, as confirming their evidence, and as affording additional reason to believe, "we have not followed cunningly devised fables." That which I shall now bring before you is the evidence afforded that Christianity is the one dispensation for which all others were preparatory, and which shall last to the end of time.
Edward. That this may be the case is exceedingly probable from what we have already seen; but it will greatly strengthen my conviction if established, as overthrowing the infidel objection that a revelation should be
for all ages.
Mr. B. That the Bible clearly states the dependence of each dispensation of Divine Providence upon that which preceded it, must be admitted by every one who reads it; and he who does not read it can have no claim for an answer to an objection founded upon wilful ignorance. It may, however, be useful to recall to your minds some of the leading facts.
Of the first dispensation under which man was placed we know little; nor is it of importance to the proof of the truth of Christianity that we should know more, since the necessity for that revelation only arose from the abrupt termination of the happiness of our first parents in Paradise, by the fall.
From the fall to the time of Abraham, we find no especial provision made for the securing the continuance of religion upon the earth, beyond the occasional exertions of some zealous servants of God. Man appears to have been left in a great measure to develope his own
1 What does Mr. B. say it is not easy to do?-2 But what does he now propose doing?-3 What does the Bible clearly state?–4 What does he say of the knowledge we possess of the first dispensation ?-5 What were the provisions for religion from the fall to the time of Abraham?