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We have frequent reason to regret that the cares of life and the objects of sense obscure a more vivid perception of the blessings and privileges of salvation, as offered us in the Gospel. Our apprehensions of sacred truth may be correct in essentials, but they are frequently cheerless, and unproductive of that peace and joy which should form an integral part of the Christian life and character. This observation, however, must be qualified according to our advancement in divine knowledge, our spiritual experience, and our habitual reliance on the dispensations of Providence. All unsettled or inconsistent views of the doctrines and precepts of Scripture, serve but to enfeeble our religious enjoyments; but when practically apprehended, are found indispensably united with a vigorous pursuit of holiness. With respect to ancient prophecy, many of the predictions relative to the Messiah were necessarily obscure, as involving doctrines of the greatest importance, and as such, could not be prematurely nor fully developed; but they obtained a diligent perusal from the people of God: for the promises which they contained were the foundation of their faith and hope; and, doubtless, their utmost efforts were excited to harmonize them in their several relations. We find that “the prophets inquired and searched diligently what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify when it testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” 1 Peter 1. 10, 11. Believers, at the first advent of the Redeemer, were thus enabled to receive and joyfully embrace the doctrines of salvation, and could observe the fulfilment of the predictions with which they had become familiar, as applicable to the whole course of his ministry,--his sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, and the events which immediately followed. “ So intimately was the advent of the Christ bound up with the important events which he was to accomplish, that it became difficult for the Jewish mind to separate the one from the other, and some of the very names which he familiarly bore among them when they spake of him, were indicative of the importance which they attached to that event, and the intensity with which they expected it, as 717 the one waited for, 827 and ó epxouevos, he that cometh.*" It is not for us, then, who have been familiarized with so many testimonies and proofs of their accomplishment, and with the history of the Christian church, to remain indifferent to those which respect his second advent. This would not only be at variance with the practice of these ancient saints, as particularly set forth in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, but in direct opposition to the assurance given in the Revelation of John, that “ blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein ;" and again, “ Blessed is he who keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” Rev. 1. 3; xx11. 7. The prophecy here signified, contains all that is preparatory to this momentous period, the second advent, as the chief object of
our faith, and it testifies beforehand of that “great day, for which all other days were made."*
Our design, in brief, is to arrange the predictions which precede, and are relative to Christ's second appearing,the important events which it involves, and the glory which shall follow in that order which the Sacred Oracles seem to indicate; endeavouring “ rightly to divide the word of truth,” and this with such undeviating sincerity as the transcendent nature of the subject demands.
We do not number ourselves with those who unreservedly fix the precise times or manner in which these predictions shall be fulfilled; because the very object of prophecy, together with its symbolic language, preclude the possibility of a clear and definite solution previous to its accomplishment, while rational conjecture will be profitably exercised in the effort to unfold those events, whose principal characteristics, at least, are expressly adapted to the understandings of God's people, as the analogy of faith fully warrants. They possess, therefore, sufficient perspicuity of language to awaken the most lively and serious attention, while their gradual fulfilment unceasingly demonstrates the wisdom and omniscience of the Eternal Mind; and tends to confirm us in the love and practice of truth and holiness.
“ Promise, the greater portion of which is unfulfilled prophecy, is declared in the New Testament to be a principal means whereby we are made partakers of the divine nature; which could not be were it entirely vague and undefinable: and under the Old Testament dispensation, the church was chiefly sustained and nourished by prophecy ; most of the burning and shining lights raised up in it being prophets. The very first promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent, was an unfulfilled prophecy, to which the church took heed for 4000 years. Noah prepared the ark, moved by the fear of an unfulfilled prophecy or promise: and Abraham saw afar off and rejoiced in the day of Christ by means of another. Joseph would not have directed his bones to be removed, had he not depended on prophecy for the going out of his people: to which prophecy the Lord afterwards referred Moses and Aaron, as the pledge that he would redeem them. The Israelites were encouraged to labour for their deliverance from captivity, by the prophecy concerning it: for as Jeremiah had prayed for, and obtained an understanding of the restoration of his people, when they were about to be led into cantivity, so Daniel understood the times from the study of the writings of Jeremiah ; just as the faithful were afterwards waiting for the consolation of Israel, from the study (as is presumed) of the Book of Daniel. It was through attention to unfulfilled prophecy, that the Christians left Jerusalem, and escaped to the mountain, when the city was besieged by the Romans: and the Lord hath, equally for our admonition, foretold the signs of that greater destruction, of which the overthrow of Jerusalem was but a type.
* “ The Book of Revelation, according to its name, is a revelation, not a secret."-Dr. Gill's Sermons.
“ St. Paul assumes of the Thessalonians that they had so much of acquaintance with the times and the seasons,' as to supersede the necessity of writing to them on that subject; insomuch, that though the day of the Lord would come upon the world as a thief in the night, it would not overtake them in like manner. The Scriptures teach us that there are prophecies, which were not intended to be known by the Christians of former ages, which nevertheless will be known by that generation for whom they are written; of which Ps. cii. 18; Dan. xii. 4, 9; 1 Peter 1. 10–12, are remarkable instances. See Rom. xv. 4. Let us bear in remembrance, therefore, that it is declared to be one of the special offices of the Holy Spirit, to guide us into all truth, and to show us things to come.'
“ On the other hand there were men who neglected the prophets, and were rebuked by our Saviour because they knew not the signs of the times ; and the burden of his lamentation over Jerusalem was, that they knew not the time of their visitation."*
The features of the present period afford a prominent evidence that “ the great and terrible day of the Lord” is not far distant; while the assurances contained in these prophecies, and the sublime imagery with which they are clothed, are fully calculated to excite our attention and regard. “We have,” says the apostle Peter, " a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.” One would imagine, that this assurance alone would be sufficient to produce the conviction, that a studied acquaintance with it is most necessary and important. We conclude, therefore, that research of prophecy is not merely edifying as a branch of religious knowledge, or, as desirable among many departments in the study of the word of God, but is requisite to the perfection of vital religion,exciting our best hopes and earnest expectation, and producing that watchful preparation, which “ the great God even our Saviour oft" so expressly enjoins. It further re
* Abdiel's Essays.
| Toū upyalov OkoŨ kai owrñpos nuov Ingoũ Xplotoū. Tit. ii. 13; 2 Pet. i. 1.