« AnteriorContinuar »
On the other hand, some hastily conclude, because a few students of prophecy may have betrayed too much of conceit, arrogance, and acrimony in debate, that their views of this portion of Scripture cannot be correct; on the ground that God is not likely to have first revealed the truth to men, who are deficient in christian graces. We stay not to examine the truth of the charge against these students; neither to insist that there are many other students of prophecy, who have adorned the doctrine by an exhibition of great meekness, patience, and humility, considering their great provocations. We rather deprecate the conclusion in itself which to us appears highly pernicious. For, first, it makes the criterion of divine truth to be the sincere piety or christian attainments of the individual who propounds it; instead of simply referring it to the oracles of God. Secondly, it must necessarily betray christians into evil surmisings, or set them on suring themselves by themselves, which is not wise." And thirdly, it is also contradicted by scripture history: for though the most holy men, as Daniel and John, have undoubtedly enjoyed the most of revelation; yet it would appear, that God has frequently inspired men, and used them as prophets, whose characters in some instances we cannot but stand in doubt of: perhaps to prevent others from presuming themselves special favourites of heaven, because
they are able to perceive the truth. Thus Balaam was gifted with a very copious and remarkable revelation of things future. Thus Caiaphas was permitted to prophesy, that it was expedient for Jesus to die as an atonement for sins the disciples being unable to perceive this truth!t And the thirteenth chapter of Corinthians plainly teaches, that we may have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and yet be destitute of divine love. Whatever therefore is put forth by a man professing serious religion deserves at least to be weighed and proved; or we may fatally miss of that good to which we are exhorted to hold fast.u
But to return to the objection made against discussion, on the ground of these contentions: the offences complained of are not the necessary consequences or adjuncts of discussion; but adventitious accompaniments or excrescences, arising from the weakness of human nature. We do not find that holy men of old were deterred by these circumstances from pressing and maintaining their point, when that point appeared to them to involve the integrity of divine truth, or the interests of real religion. We need but point to one chapter of Scripture, (Acts xv,) in which we have two distinct and remarkable instances. The beginning of the chapter informs us,
Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation" with those of the circumcision who believed; and afterwards they had "much disputing" in the council of the apostles and elders on the same subject. The latter end of the chapter exhibits the same Paul and Barnabas having between themselves a contention so sharp, that they departed asunder one from the other."w
Ephes. i, 15—18; Phil. iii, 15. s John xi, 50. t Mark ix, 30-32. u 1 Thess. v, 20, 21. v Acts xv, 2, 7. w Ibid. v. 39.
Now we conceive the question at present at issue between the students
of prophecy and their opponents, of sufficient importance to justify their pressing the discussion. To retire from the contest would at least be virtually to admit, that the page of prophecy is after all of so little comparative importance, that it may be closed whenever its investigation appears to endanger mutual charity; whereby a copious portion of God's Word would be comparatively neglected, and rendered useless to the great majority of the Church. It It is true St. Paul prefers charity before faith and hope; but St. Paul never meant us to follow after charity to the exclusion of either of the others; and hope is a principle so entirely connected with futurity, that the instant the page of prophetic promise is removed, it ceases to have an object on which it can be legitimately exercised. Faith is, in a measure, deprived of its food yet faith, though engaged entirely on unseen things, regards the past as well as the future; for it is " through faith we understand, that the worlds were framed by the word of God:" but Hope never can be called into action except by things future; and therefore, we must repeat, it ceases to be an active principle, so soon as futurity is withdrawn from its contemplation.
We waive in this place any observations as to the profitableness or practical utility of prophetic Scripture, forasmuch as that subject is touched upon in the essays which follow next to this article. We conclude this point therefore by reminding our readers, that it needs must offences will come;" and doubtless he who is guilty of yielding to an uncharitable spirit, even though truth be on his side, will have to bear his own rebuke:
but we hold it to be quite contrary to the principle and practice of the Gospel to surrender any truth given to the saints, merely because it may be abused; or because it appears in the first instance to bring a sword instead of peace. At the same time we do believe, that much of the mis-apprehension which at present exists among brethren, in regard to each others views, may, by candid discussion, be removed; and that they may be brought, under the blessing of God, to a more perfect agreement in Christ Jesus.
3. We shall notice only one other objection; viz. that too much prominency is given by discussion to the subject of prophecy, and to the doctrines necessarily involved in it. This objection divides itself into two particular considerations: for some persons consider, that prophecy ought never to be made so important, as to become the theme of pulpit exposition; however suitable it may be for the press or for private discussion and others conceive, that in regard to discussion, even in these latter modes, a very disproportionate attention has been given to the subject ;-to which circumstance they would attribute the evils which have arisen.
We will first reply to that part of the objection which respects the pulpit; and which to our apprehension does not indicate a correct view of ministerial responsibility. On what scripture ground can any suppose, that ministers are privileged to study and obtain a knowledge of prophecy themselves, and that they may keep it shut up within their own bosoms? We would not have men, before they have arrived at some conviction in regard to prophetic truth, utter their rash crudities before the Church; but the Lord commands, that every scribe instructed unto the kingdom of x 1 Cor. xiii, 13.
heaven should bring forth out of
seems a fearful circumstance, that, when this same book closes with a curse upon any man that shall take away from the words of this prophecy, some should be found who deem themselves called upon, as far as regards their ministry, virtually to suppress the whole !
statements, and to the unbelief prevailing in regard to them; which always have had the effect of magnifying a truth for a time beyond its just or relative proportions. The doctrines of grace cannot be too exclusively preached by the church as a body, when it is considered how large a number of its members do yet resist them and preach or speak contrary: nor can public attention be disproportionately drawn to prophecy, whilst there may exist a number of its ministering servants, who remain neglectful, indifferent, or uninformed concerning it.
In regard to both features of this objection we would observe, that they are formed upon the assumption, that the doctrines involved in the prophetical controversy are not important: which constitutes indeed another argument in favour of discussion; viz. that thereby the relative importance of these doctrines may if possible be ascertained. For there are some, and those men of sober piety and fervent devotion, who consider that the doctrines of the Redeemer's Advent and Kingdom are not made so prominent by preachers, as they ought to be. They view these truths as the centre of a system, round which all other truths revolve : so that the atonement even, lying as it does at the foundation, is nevertheless, according to them, subservient to "the salvation ready to be revealed in the last time;" and the Son of God, they insist, when he stooped down to suffering, had his eye fixed upon "the joy set before him," and on the glory that should follow" his travail. Is it not evident that both these opinions cannot be correct? Is it not the duty of persons on the one side to weigh the objections, which may be brought against their theory; and thus be led, in the only satisfactory manner, a 2 Pet. i, 20. b Rev. i, 3. e Rev. xxii, 19.
Astothe disproportionate attention given to the subject, we admit, that individuals may have been improperly excited by it, and too much absorbed in it; just as we are forced to allow, that other individuals have, in their general preaching, brought forward particular doctrines of grace disproportionately: but in neither instance is this the fault of the church, as a body. And as it concerns members, it has most commonly arisen from the opposition given to their
y Matt. xiii, 52. z Matt. x, 27.
to attach less importance to their opinions? Is it not a duty on the other side seriously to consider the arguments, by which this theory claims to be received;-arguments, which, if true, must materially affect the practical preaching of the day; and, by conforming it more to the apostolical mode of exhortation, render it, under God, more abundently fruitful than it now is.
In conclusion,—whether we consider the propriety of investigating or discussing prophecy in the abstract, or look around us at the signs of the times, we must confess that our minds are deeply convinced of the great importance of the subject; and that it is our bounden duty, feeling as we do, to pursue the course we have thus adopted. The times are such as men of all parties and all opinions allow to be awfully portentous, and to bespeak some crisis to be impending; and all christians will confess, that prophecy alone is the only source from which we are likely to obtain light as to the result. It is not to the purpose seriously to refute the objection, that many talented and pious men have been mistaken in their endeavours to elucidate the signs of the times from prophecy for this again is an argument in favour of such an investigation of the subject, as shall lead us to a more correct method of interpretation. From the very nature of the subject, much of our knowledge in
regard to it must be progressive; for in nothing is that Scripture more true, than when applied to the church and prophecy,-"The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth. more and more unto the perfect day." Whilst pursuing our way across this ocean, we may derive advantage both from the errors and discoveries of formers navigators. Their errors we shall mark down in our chart, as shoals and rocks to be avoided; and those rays of truth, which shine forth in their works, will serve us as beacons by which to direct our course. We may indeed expect so great an increase of light on some of the prophecies, and that immediately before their fulfilment,d that it may require a periodical work to keep pace with the rapid but gradual approximation to a clearer vision.
With these views of the duty and importance of our work we commit it to the church, earnestly desiring the guidance of the Spirit, and beseeching for it the prayers of our Readers. We trust we shall always be found candid and impartial in regard to the conflicting opinions of others; teachable as repects our own views; willing to retract what appears to be wrong; and even to submit to rebuke when it appears deserved. Let the righteous smite us; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove
d Daniel xii, 4 and 9.
e Psalm cxli, 5.
us; it shall be an excellent oil,
which shall not break our head.e"
ON THE ADVENT AND KINGDOM OF CHRIST,
AND THE EVENTS CONNECTED THEREWITH.
I enter upon the discussion to which I am called with mingled feelings. Looking at my subject, I have a pleasing confidence, that my heart is inditing a good matter; since I am about to write of the things which are made touching THE KING : but when I consider, on the other hand, (what it were disingenuous to conceal,) that there are excellent and learned men, followers of the Lord Jesus, who are decidedly opposed to the views which I have adopted, I cannot but be diffident in myself; and am led, with increased conviction of its need, to seek the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Not however that I would for a moment give place to the notion, entertained by some, that because there are eminent ministers of the Gospel, who have not cordially embraced these views, therefore they cannot be important, nor even true: the case of Peter and Barnabas in respect to the circumcision of the Gentiles, a in which was involved the vital doctrine of justification by faith, plainly shews, that men of the highest attainments in piety, who have been pillars in the church, and ordinarily under the influence of inspiration, have nevertheless been slow of heart and vacillating in regard to truths of infinite
These circumstances however induce me to commence the series of essays, which I purpose to bring forward in the Investigator, with the notice of two or three serious objections, directed against the subject in general. Other objections, which affect particular points only, I shall endeavour to meet as those points
come to be considered; but these, I repeat, affect the whole subject; and are of that character, that, if the mind be under their influence, it will be predisposed against the clearest and most scriptural statement, and thus prevented from properly weighing that which may be advanced.
The impropriety of studying and of discussing prophecy, especially unfulfilled prophecy, is one of those objections, which must be met in the outset; but as this objection is encountered in the introductory article of the Investigator, I therefore abstain from it. And I do so the more readily, because the duty of studying and investigating the subject is now becoming so generally acknowledged, as almost to supersede the necessity of insisting upon it. It is indeed encouraging to observe what progress these doctrines have made, since they were first revived: how many objections are now altogether abandoned, which in the beginning of the controversy were pressed with vehemence;-how many are now induced to study prophecy, who were before regardless of it; how much light has been thrown upon the subject by various instruments, whom God hath raised up ; how many christians have embraced these views; how many are almost persuaded; and how many, at the least, have ceased to contradict.
I. Passing by this objection therefore, the first which I shall notice is, that the doctrines of modern millennarians are a novelty;-that they were not entertained by the early christians, nor inserted by the orthodox church in any creed or confession of faith. a Gal. ii, 10-16.