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have alluded, that my opinions have been formed almost entirely upon a careful and independent study of the Scriptures.
In referring to the works of contemporary writers, I have occasionally felt it a duty to the reader to speak of their works, or of particular points in their works, in the language of animadversion. But I nevertheless most freely acknowledge, that I by no means consider myself entitled to act the censor; and there is scarcely one of those, whose writings may fall under observation, to whom I am not disposed to acknowledge my inferiority.
I ought likewise to apologize for some inadvertencies and repetitions which will be found in the work. These must be placed to the account of the large demands which have been made upon my time from other quarters during its progress, and which have frequently not only distracted my attention, but drawn largely, I fear, upon your patience and that of the much respected publishers of the work. And after all, my dear friend, I cannot but feel, that you have entrusted this important work to very feeble hands; and that the reader will not only speedily discover this, but marvel that you have not rather undertaken it yourself. Had I been aware, indeed, before I was well advanced in it, that your “Practical Remarks on the Prophecies” would have been so greatly enlarged as they have been subsequently in your “Practical Guide,” I should altogether have declined the undertaking, and have urged you instead to have still more largely extended that publication; which I am persuaded would have been far more acceptable and instructive to the religious public, than any thing that can be advanced by me.
Such, however, as the work is, I now send it forth to the Christian Church, humbly thanking our blessed Master who has enabled me to bring it to a conclusion. It is an encouraging circumstance to me to know, that the little volume published under the title of Abdiel's Essays, of which you have first betrayed me to be the Author, has been owned of the Lord in directing serious attention to the solemn truths of prophecy;* and it is still farther encouraging to find the numbers daily increasing of able and pious ministers, who, from your writings and those of others, are becoming sensible of the duty of investigating this important branch of Scripture, and are beginning to be persuaded of the pre-millennial advent of our Lord. I earnestly beseech him still more abundantly to bless our mutual labours, to the setting forth of his glory, and to the leading many of his children, who are now slumbering in respect to his approach, to arise and trim their lamps, “and to stand with their loins girt and their lights burning, and themselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh they may open unto him immediately. BLESSED are those servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching!” (Luke xii.)
* One or two sections of the above mentioned work have necessarily been repeated, with some alteration, in this volume.
Believe me to be, my dear Christian Friend and Brother in the Lord, yours affectionately in the faith and hope of Christ's speedy appearing,
J. W. BROOKS. Retford, October, 1836.
ON THE USE AND IMPORTANCE OF PROPHECY.
It excites a painful feeling in the writer of this volume, when he reflects, that circumstances render it necessary, that a work on Prophecy, intended more especially for the use of Christian readers, needs to be commenced with arguments on the importance and advantage of taking heed thereto. One would suppose it were enough for any who acknowledge the Bible to be a revelation from JEHOVAH, merely to remind them of the Apostle's declaration—"ALL Scripture is profitable;" and that then, without caring for the obloquy cast upon the study, and the seeming obscurity in which prophecy is involved, they would, like Mary, “diligently keep” all these sayings of the Spirit, “and ponder them in their hearts.” Such, however, is the prejudice and misapprehension which Satan has contrived to raise up against this portion of the word of God, that, like those who in the early ages pleaded for Christianity itself, we must now adopt the tone and language of apologists.
1. It must surely be regarded as a most alarming symptom, connected with the signs of these alarming times, that professors of serious religion should require to have the practical use of any portion of SCRIPTURE demonstrated to them, before they will give it serious attention; if they will even do it then. For is it not affronting to the Deity to suppose, that he would reveal any thing to his church not calculated to edify it, or which individual members of it may wilfully neglect, without serious detriment to their souls? Let us only imagine, that the Lord were now personally to manifest himself in an assembly of Christians, and were to converse with them on those things revealed in the prophets: should we not be inclined to conclude of that man, who should make light of his discourse because he got upon the subject of prophecy, or who should even betray, by indifference or inattention, that he took not a lively interest in it,—that he was an unbeliever, and had not had the love of God shed abroad in his heart by that Holy Ghost who spake by the prophets? Now we might, possibly, be wrong in concluding to so great an extent as this; for marvellous indeed is the power of prejudice even in good men: but we could not avoid concluding of such a one, that he was under the influence of some strange delusion, and was obnoxious to the rebuke of being “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” The application must be obvious, to those at least who acknowledge the written word to be equally the word of God, as if he were now visible on earth declaring it. *
2. It may, however, be probably objected by some, that they do not question the authority and profitableness of all Scripture in the general; but they conceive prophecy to be comparatively of less importance and less profitable than other doctrines, which they therefore deem it better chiefly to regard. From the present circumstances of the church of Christ, there is a something which appears plausible in this objection; but it will be found, nevertheless, upon examination, opposed to that practical deference and subjection to the word of God, which the believer must avow it to be his duty to yield, and therefore mischievous in principle. Those who have any experimental acquaintance with divine things must be aware how impossible it is, in the first place, for any man to judge of the practical tendency of a doctrine, until he has first heartily embraced it, or experienced somewhat of its power. Till then, he either regards it with indifference, or is decidedly opposed to it, as dangerous and liable to abuse. Many conceive the doctrine of justification by faith without the preferable course is to keep it in the back ground, and the works of the law to be unfavourable to holiness, and that to insist on moral duties. Many imagine further, that to preach the need of the Holy Spirit's aid, for every good thought, and word, and work, is calculated to paralyze human
* As a proof that we might be wrong in concluding altogether against the riety of such, note the prejudice and unbelief exhibited in regard to truths of fundamental importance, by men whose election of God we cannot question. The necessity for the death of Jesus was not understood by any of his disciples before the event; and Peter in particular, is rebuked, as speaking after Satan, and not of God, in this matter (Matt. xiv. 23). Thomas was wonderfully sceptical, in regard to the resurrection from the dead. All the disciples, even after the outpouring of the Spirit, were prejudiced in some measure against the calling of the Gentiles; whilst numbers of sincere persons had their minds warped in regard to the important doctrine of justification by faith. These things ought at least to make us slow to judge our brethren.
esertion, and to weaken the motives to personal diligence. And how much greater a number cannot conceive of the doctrine of election, wthat it doth, in godly persons, greatly establish and confirm the faith of eternal salvation, and fervently kindle their love towards God.”* To admit the propriety, therefore, of ministers judging for themselves what is comparatively important in the case of prophecy, is to admit the principle in every other case; whereas numbers of those who have been disposed to think this in regard to prophecy, would contend, in the instances just enumerated, that it is a minister's duty to declare the whole counsel of God.”
There are circumstances, however, which appear not only to render the question of the practical utility and comparative, importance of prophecy in a measure capable of demonstration; but which even seem to bespeak its superior importance. First, may be instanced, the comparative bulk of the prophetic scriptures: for if we regard the number of books directly prophetical, together with the copious prophetical passages in other books, especially the Psalms, the declared typical character of much scripture history, (1 Cor. x. 11.) of the ceremonial law, of the tabernacle service, (Epistle to Hebrews, passim,) all which, as they were adumbrations of things to come, partook of a prophetical complexion; the natural and unprejudiced conclusion would be, that the subject is of very great importance. Secondly, we may notice, that as the prophets, under the Mosaical dispensation, interwove with their instructions continual warnings and admonitions of future events; so, under the New Testamet dispensation, the incidental reference to the future is of continual occurrence; and there is really no doctrine in the New Testament supported by so many independent passages practically applying it, as may be adduced from the gospels and epistles in behalf of those views, which form the great sum and substance of prophetical truth;t and perhaps there is no better mode of estimating the practical tendency of a doctrine, than by a reference to the frequency with which the Holy Ghost has himself practically applied it. Intimately connected with this latter circumstance is the manner in which we find, from the scriptures, the church has actually been sustained, in the midst of fiery trials, by the hope derived from prophecy: which is indeed one very important use and intent of it. For example: the whole cloud of witnesses, mentioned in Heb. xi., who at various periods bore testimony to the truth, were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might
* See Article xvii. of the Church of England.
* See this point proved at large, with the practical proofs adduced, in the lorestigator, or Monthly Expositor on Prophecy, vol. i. pages 21, 67, and 237.