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witnesses, first of his just severity against sin, and then of his overflowing mercy and unchangeable goodness. The spell of Infidelity is thus broken, which would keep our earth separate from heaven ; and the golden links are seen already in being, which will shortly bind them together into perfect union. With a variety and fulness of truth, which opens a boundless field for hope, meditation, and prayer, there is in these predictions a simplicity which the meanest Christian may understand. The promise of God tempers itself to our feeble vision, and by the view of the blessedness of the earthly Jerusalem, would prepare our souls for the higher and fuller glory of the Jerusalem above.
When we turn from this view of prophecy, a view taught us by the Spirit of God himself, to the actual state of the Church, how painful is the contrast! The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness receives it not. The lamp which God has vouchsafed to us for our guidance is neglected, or even scorned, by the great body of those who bear the name of Christians. The calculations of their own worldly prudence eclipse the messages of the Infinite Wisdom. They boldly reverse the commandment of the Holy Ghost. While he charges us to take heed to the word of prophecy, they brand attention to it as enthusiastic folly, or the dreams of madness. Nay, many, even of the true followers of Christ, are entangled, though to a less degree, in the same grievous snare, and practically discourage that which the Spirit of God so earnestly commends. So that a part of the inspired oracles, nearly as large as the whole of the New Testament, comes to be entirely neglected; or furnishes, at most, only a few vague hopes and general lessons of warning; while its main purpose is overlooked, and the rich variety of Divine truth which it contains is uncared for and unexplored.
To what cause must we ascribe this neglect of Old Testament prophecy, which has been till of late, and we fear, still continues so marked a feature of the Gentile Church? In the great body of nominal Christians it arises, doubtless, from man's natural aversion to the Word of God, and his dislike to realize the presence of his Maker. Its source, in more spiritual Christians, is the selfishness which clings even to the regenerate soul, and which struggles mightily against the power of Divine grace. In the unbeliever, this selfishness reigns and triumphs; but where the work of faith is begun, the enemy puts on a spiritual garb, and tutors the soul to be selfish even in the things of God. Personal safety is then placed higher than the glory of the Saviour. The question becomes, how low a stage of grace will secure from danger, not how largely may Christ be honoured and served ;
how little truth is sufficient and essential, not how much may we hope to receive, and how much is the God of all grace willing to bestow. And since the effect of the Jewish prophecies on personal edification is less self-evident than in some other parts of Scripture, we doubt the wisdom of God, who pronounces every part to be profitable for our instruction in righteousness; and we thus remain under the blight of a spiritual selfishness, that withers and deadens all the strength of the soul.
But there is a further cause of this general neglect, in the wide-spread feeling of uncertainty and doubt as to the true sense of the Scripture prophecies. Many things have concurred in this effect;—the mysteriousness which must be admitted, in some few of the prophecies themselves, —the variations of numerous expositors,—the gross perversions of some,—the vague, uncertain allegories of others, and the currency of the false maxim, that all predictions, when fulfilled, are clear, and when unfulfilled, obscure and inexplicable. These causes, and such as these, have changed the faith of the Church into bewildering uncertainty. The vision, according to God's own warning, has become as the words of a book that is sealed. Divines have maintained, in the face of the clearest examples, and the plainest warnings, that the inspired predictions were not meant to be
understood till after their fulfilment. So that the metaphor of the apostle has been reversed. Christians have learnt to describe the word of prophecy, not as the beacon-light, but as the trackless and dangerous ocean. They have ventured to be wise above what is written, and have warned their brethren against that very study, on which the Holy Spirit has pronounced a solemn and repeated blessing.
What, then, in this state of the Church, is the duty of Christ's ministers, the appointed stewards of the mysteries of God? The text supplies us with an answer. The prophet had just given the Jews warning of the Chaldean invasion. The Spirit of God taught him to fear, that however plainly the message was given, they would in no wise believe it.”
He prepares himself for sceptical doubts and contentious opposition. He seeks for wisdom from above. my watch, and set me on my tower, and watch what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am argued with." And he receives a gracious answer.
He is to write the message in clearer characters, and expose it on tablets to the public view, that even the most careless might have no excuse for ignorance. 66 The Lord answered and said unto me, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.”
The spirit of this command applies clearly to
66 I will stand upon
the ministers of Christ in the present day. The importance of a knowledge of God's prophecies to the Church has not ceased, and cannot cease, till her Lord's return. The prophecy teaches this in the next verse, as explained by the apostle.
66 The vision,” we are told, “is for an appointed time,”
6 until he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry.” (Hab. ii. 3; Heb. x. 37). Till then the same duty rests on his messengers. If the word of prophecy have been covered with the mist of false glosses, or cankered by the rust of neglect, they must clear away the doubts that obscure it, they must restore the engraving in fuller and broader relief; and so present it to a careless world, with the stamp of God's veracity, and the bright and clear impress of heavenly and everlasting truth.
To fulfil this command, in humble dependence on the blessing of God, is our present aim. May the Holy Spirit himself open our eyes to understand his word. Our object is to make the vision plain, as on tablets, to the most casual observer; and with this view, first to EXPLAIN THE LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY, and then TO CONFIRM IT BY SCRIPTURAL ARGUMENTS. The subject may seem, at first, dry and abstract. But our attention will be amply repaid, if we are led to a simpler faith in the oracles of God, and to a closer and deeper search into their treasures of heavenly wisdom.