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INTRODUCTORY REMARKS ON THE STUDY OF
It is painful to contemplate the inconsistencies of even pious minds concerning Divine Revelation. Many who formally assent to the truth, “ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," do in effect deny it. Some are not ashamed to assert, that the rule of Christian conduct is contained in the New Testament alone; and, acting on the principle they avow, altogether neglect the Old. Yet it was this very portion of revelation which Christ enjoined the Jews to search, as testifying of Him, and which he commends to our careful consideration by his frequent quotations from it.
Convinced that such utter neglect of any part of God's word must be criminal, others obey in form the Saviour's injunction, while they forget its spirit. They read without seeking sufficiently to understand ; they search not for its meaning as for hid treasure. Thus, much of Heaven's precious gift is regarded as of little value, and many of its unfulfilled prophecies, especially, have become in a great measure a dead letter. Indeed, the opinion had long and almost universally prevailed, that it was alike useless and impious to attempt to withdraw the veil of mystery which overhangs the revelation of events still future; and although more correct ideas now partially obtain, exhortations to the obvious duty of prophetic inquiry are still occasionally met by the undutiful evasion, “ It is presumptuous to pry into the secrets of God." There are, doubtless, mysteries,
the full knowledge of which is far beyond the reach of human ken, and into which it would be sinful curiously to pry. But never can presumption attach to our endeavour to know and understand what God himself has revealed, and to the investigation of which He has promised his special blessing. “ Secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those which are revealed ong to us and to our children for ever.” Deut. xxix. 29. If, then, we would not be found chargeable with neglect of a large portion of that Book which bears the impress of its divine original—which is the record of God's doings, and the revelation of His unfulfilled designs—it becomes us reverently to inquire, with prayerful diligence, what He has been pleased to declare, and to seek to know “what Israel ought to do.”
It is a common objection to the study of Prophecy, that it is dark, and that its meaning is not designed to be understood till after its accomplishment. It is, indeed, essential to the very nature of certain prophecies, that their import should not be known to all, nor perceived by any at a glance. But it ought not to be forgotten, that while we are informed these very mysteries shall be hid from the wieked, the promise is to the wise that they shall understand. Dan. xii. 10. And although the fulfilment of Prophecy does effectually serve to attest the truth of Christianity, and gives a glorious display of the omniscience of God, yet the opinion that it is not designed to be at all understood till fulfilled, is refuted alike by the express declaration of Heaven, and the past experience of the Church. This is neither the only end it was designed to serve, nor the only approved use to which it has been applied. “We have,” says an inspired apostle," a more sure word of Prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as to a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts.” 2 Pet. i. 19. And so it has ever been regarded by the saints of God in other days. It was not while in listlessness about the fulfilment of former predictions, that new communications were vouchsafed to the beloved Daniel; but when, having“ understood by books the number of the years” of Jerusalem's desolation, he besought God " by prayer and supplication." Dan. ix. 2. The Saviour reproved with much severity the Pharisees of old, because they perceived not the reality of
his Messiahship by “ discerning the signs of the times;" and, by the parable of the fig-tree, he inculcates upon his disciples the duty of watching for the indications of His Return. Matt. xvi. 3. xxiv. 32. The whole history of the Church indeed, in former ages, furnishes abundant refutation of the opinion that prophetic times and circumstances cannot be ascertained.* The Christians who dwelt in Jerusalem at the period immediately preceding its destruction, clearly saw the time of the Saviour's prophetic warning, when, in obedience to his injunction, they escaped and fled. It was by faith in the truth of the divine prediction, and by attention to its times and circumstances, that, in the awful calamities which overtook the unbelieving and devoted city, not a hair of their heads did perish. Was not the period of Daniel's “ seventy weeks” recognized by the devout and waiting Israelites who received the Saviour as their promised Messiah ? Nay, is it not a fact recorded by His and known to all, that the Jews, as a nation, did expect their Messiah at the very time of Christ's appearance in the world ? and through them did not the expectation of some wonderful Personage extend to the nations around? The fact of his rejection argues nothing against the sufficiency of the prediction. More anxious to obtain immediate deliverance from servitude to an earthly conqueror, than to receive emancipation from the thraldom of Satan,--and with hearts more intent on temporal power and worldly pomp, than with desires after that holiness which is the basis of Christ's kingdom, they beheld, in the anticipated Messiah, only the glory which is revealed, and refused to look upon, or receive as literal, the explicit predictions of his sufferings and death. By attention to the Prophetic Scriptures, we can easily see, that although they introduce more frequently, and speak more at large, of the Millennial glory, they also predict, neither seldom nor ambiguously, the humiliation of Messiah which has preceded it. His rejection was occasioned neither by a lack of evidence, nor by their ignorance of the time assigned in Prophecy for his appearance. Men may shut their eyes upon the light, but this is no proof the sun has ceased to shine.
* It is in mercy to His people, although it will add to the condemnation of the wicked, that God has given such clear and deter. minate intimations of " the things that are to come hereafter;" and any attempt to throw unnecessary doubt upon the certainty of the 6 times” revealed, calls for severe reprehension. To this charge there is reason to fear the Examinator of Mr. Irving's Opinions, in the Edinburgh Christian Instructor for 1828, (p. 476) has exposed himself, when, in order to strengthen his argument for the impossibility of determining the commencement of * the mighty year of God's glory,” he fixes upon a misprint of one of the dates in our version of the Septuagint. 66 In regard to the long period of Daniel,'' there is, in reality, no reason for its being "disputed, whether we should read with the Hebrew 2300, or with the Septuagint 2400 years." Although all our common editions of the Septuagint have this typographical error, being printed from an edition into which it had crept, yet the Manuscript in the Vatican, from which that very edition was printed, has 2300, and not 2400. And of all the principal standard editions of the Septuagint, that alone from which ours are taken has this error. Let not, then, the carelessness of men be charged upon the Most High, nor the errors of copyists on the Spirit of inspiration.-For a full statement on this subject, see “ The Scheme of Prophetic Arrangement of the Rev. Edward Irving and Mr. Frere critically examined, by William Cunninghame, Esq. of Lainshaw."
Great ignorance of the meaning and design of the Prophetic Scriptures has, however, prevailed in the Christian Church; and even yet, the predictions concerning the glory of the Latter Day, few study with care or seek fully to understand. By a most anomalous system of interpretation, which rests not satisfied with present accommodation and the anticipation of future fulfilment, some have imagined that all the promises of holiness and happiness and peace, under the reign of Him who is emphatically styled, ** The King of Israel,” mean nothing more than the presence of the Comforter with the Church since the ascension of our blessed Lord, and individual enjoyment of peace in believing. But, in the present day, the great proportion of Christians who have given any attention to the Prophecies, believe that they predict a period of purest bliss as yet to be enjoyed upon the earth; to which, from the term of its duration, has been given the name of THE MILLENNIUM. Many, however, who not only anticipate this glorious era as still to be realized, but who, from calculation of prophetic dates, believe it to be near at hand, are yet of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” con, cerning it. They are ready to admit, in general, the literal fulfilment of prophecy; but, from preconceived ideas of the nature of Christ's reign and presence, they suppose that all the predictions in which these are declared, mean only the