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PREFACE TO THE SIXTH EDITION.
The original design of this work (first published in 1823, under the title of “Practical Remarks on the Prophecies,”), was to answer objections made to missionary exertions from particular views of prophecy, and to show that all Christians had a clear title to the spiritual promises of the Old Testament. As subsequent editions have been called for, the Author has been led on to a more extensive study of the subject of Prophecy than he anticipated, and has endeavoured to take a general view of the whole of that important part of divine truth.
The earnestness of the prophets, enquiring and searching diligently what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ signified, 1 Pet. i. 10, 11; and the weeping much of the favoured apostle when no man was found worthy to open the sealed book, Rev. v. 4, reprove that neglect and indifference with which too many Christians have hitherto regarded this truly scriptural and edifying subject. The Author cannot but hope that this neglect is passing away, and giving place to an increased attention.
He has read as far as he had opportunity, and considered what has been published on prophecy since the former edi. tions of this work, and especially has sought to weigh any remarks on the side opposed to his own views.
The result, without weakening his assurance of the piety of those from whom he differs, has been an increasing conviction, with slight modifications, of the substantial truth of his own views. The signs of the times are indeed so remarkable, as powerfully to call all to earnest attention to this subject, and to give increasing evidence of the very important character of the events before us.
Farther research has convinced the Author that but a small part of the full scripture testimony to the præ-millennial advent has yet been brought out from the sacred volume, and but a small part of the full historical proofs of prophecy already fulfilled, has yet been brought to illustrate, by the providence of God, in past events, the predictions which had been previously given. In many of the additions made, the author has been much indebted to the suggestions of a dear friend with whom he has the happiness of being intimate. Believing the views
which he has here set forth to be God's truth, it is to him a subject of thankfulness to find that Christian ministers, in continually increasing numbers, through our country, acknowledge and testify that blessed hope, “the glorious appearance of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
It is cheering also to think that in these eventful times God is reviving old truths: the heart of the children is turning to their fathers. Mal. iv. 6. The author's conviction was expressed many years since, that we had too much neglected, in modern times, the fathers of the church, and while sensible of their serious defects, and how they may be overvalued, to the disparagement of the fulness and sufficiency of scripture, yet the conviction of their real use and value, as witnesses of God's truth, has increased by the farther search into them, to which he has been led by this subject. How full and beautiful, for instance, is the following simple statement, or summary, of divine truth, as given in an early creed by Irenæus! (Lib. i. ch. 2.) “The church, though scattered over the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, receive from the apostles and from their disciples that belief which is in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and the seas and all things in them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Ghost, who proclaimed by the prophets the dispensations of God, the advent, birth of a virgin, passion, resurrection from the dead, and bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Jesus Christ our Lord, and his coming again from heaven in the glory of the Father, to restore all things, and to raise up all flesh of all mankind: that to Jesus Christ our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the pleasure of the invisible Father, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess him, and that he should do just judgment upon all, and consign to everlasting fire the spirits of wickedness, the angels who transgressed and became apostates; and amongst men the impious, and unjust, and lawless, and blasphemer; and that to the just and holy, and to such as kept his commandments and remained in his love, some from the beginning, but others after repentance, he should give freely life and immortality, and bring everlasting glory.” He then, in a following chapter, speaks of this as the one voice of the church over the whole earth, whether in Germany, Spain, Gaul, the East, Egypt, Libya, or in the middle of the world; comparing the unity of the truth, enlightening all who come to it for knowledge, to one and the same light of the sun over the world.
The author cannot but entertain the hope that the attempting to break up everything, ancient and established, in the present day, though meant by the enemy for destruction, and bringing judgment on those engaged in evil works, will in the result be overruled of God, through the zeal of the church of Christ, to the spreading of truth in an unity of doctrine, and the spreading of love in an union of heart, far beyond what Irenæus mentions, or the church has ever yet seen: and with that to a general oneness of real Christians before all men, (John xvii. 21.) that may be eminently blessed in the day of the world's tribulation. (Isaiah xxvi. 9.) When we look at what both providence and prophecy now manifest to be before us, how infinitely to be desired is that union! truth alone is to be sought before it; and, blessed be God, his truth is the very way to it, provided it be spoken in love. If any word contrary to that love should, through his infirmity, have escaped from the Author in this work, it is perfectly contrary to his better feelings; for he desires to breathe only love to every human being, and especially to the household of faith, his beloved brethren in Jesus. While testifying what he believes to be God's own truth, he would wish also to do it with the conşciousness of being himself encompassed with infirmity, and through ignorance, sin, and unbelief, through negligence and carelessness, liable constantly both to error in his views and statements, and wrong feelings in his heart. Let everything then be searched with prayer to God, and everything tried to the utmost by that sure standard, the infallible word of God. THE GRAND FOUNDATION OF PROTESTANTISM, eminently opposed to uncertainty and doubtfulness, both of Popery, mere formal churchmanship, liberalism, neology, infidelity, and every other false system, is not the right of private judgment, but THE CERTAINTY of God's WORD. In the language of Luther, "it ought to be a principle most firmly maintained among Christians, that the holy scriptures are a spiritual light far brighter than the sun, especially in those things which relate to salvation, or are necessary.
If we fail of what is true and right, it is not through the darkness of scripture, but through our loving darkness rather than light, because our deeds are evil; and we have all need, therefore, both diligently to search the holy scriptures, and earnestly to pray for the promised Spirit of Christ our Lord, by which alone we can be guarded from all error and sin, and guided into all truth and godliness.
Though prophetic interpretation may be despised by the world, and be neglected as a chaos by one part of the church, and perplex another part who may not now have light enough to rescue it out of its apparently chaotic state; yet there is solid ground to walk upon: and there is also light to show that ground; (2 Peter i. 19.) and to leave those inexcusable who do not take heed to that light till that fulness of time arrive, when the day will shine out, and the day-star arise in our hearts.
The bearing of prophecy on the present state of the world, and of our country; on the visible church of Christ, and the true church subsisting in that visible church, is deeply interesting to the Christian patriot.
Amidst the present shaking and rocking to and fro of the political heavens, every principle is trying to the very uttermost; nothing but what is divine will remain immoveable: our Lord's words must be fully realized, every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up. Matt. xv. 13. Nothing will stand the shock of these days, but that which is above nature, and has infallible truth, Almighty power, and divine grace for its origin and support. And surely the Christian, while conscious of all the evil which is abroad, and that it is often evil, overcome by the mercy of God, that produces good, must rejoice from the heart in every really good result. God has greatly honoured Religious Societies. A venerable friend, in his 87th year, wrote to the Author lately thus: “For my part, on the review of what God has wrought through their means within the last forty years, I am filled with grateful astonishment. Let us dread an impatient unthankfulness: He that believeth shall not make haste.” The abolition of slavery, the diminishing of systems of bribery and corruption, any beneficial reforms in jurisprudence, or in the outward. church, and the growing faith and devotedness of the church, must and will interest and gladden the Christian. He will be aware however, still, that all changes are not improvements; and how much bad principles may have been at work in accomplishing outward changes; and of the danger, amidst these things, of men crying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace, Jer. vi. 14; and of the growing wickedness of the wicked; and of the tendency of things [in Europe] in our day to give supreme power to the people at large.
If the wicked go on casting away all the restraints of divine and human laws, unaffected by all the increasing light and love of the gospel, manifested in the revival of the church, and hardening their hearts from the very forbearance of God; and, one side, high-minded and trusting in riches, and the other, lawless and ungodly, seeking only to overturn every thing established; the clashing of their opposing interests, and the growing zeal and piety of the church withstanding more and more all that is evil, and maintaining more and more boldly all that is true and righteous, and holy, must produce an en
ergy and intenseness of conflict, and bring out God's truth in a degree far beyond any thing yet witnessed; and call for that divine interposition prophecy so distinctly leads us to expect. We see all the preparations for those tumultuous last scenes in which every thing shall be shaken, (Psalm xlvi. 2, 3; Heb. xii. 27.) But in that day God is in the midst of his people; their city shall not be moved; and the chorus of their song shall be: The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm xlvi. 5, 11. The state of Britain is eminently such as to strengthen those holy directions which St. Paul gives to the Gentiles at large, Be not high-minded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, lake heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. Rom. xi. 20—22. To neglect prophecy is to neglect our surest light, and the provision which God's love has made for the wants of his church in these times.
Our clearest duty and interest is quietly, yet firmly and zealously, to promote to the utmost, every good work; be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless. 2 Peter iii. 14. We cannot be better employed, when our Master comes, than in doing his work; nor in a better state of mind than waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus, (1 Cor. i. 7.) Our enemy would, if possible, separate these things as inconsistent; but they are not only harmonious, but necessary also to each other's right attainment. The waiting expecting state of mind for such an event, should ever be accompanied by entire deadness to the world, the most diligent improvement of present talents, and the most zealous labours for meetness for the heavenly inheritance. And those who are the most actively engaged in the work of benevolence, and in the carrying forward of Religious Societies, so far from finding any real damper of the sacred flame of zeal, will obtain a most powerful reviver in the assured hope of our Lord's speedy return. It does indeed tend to check and quench all unholy fires of human applause, self-congratulations, magnifying human institutions, dependence on man, exalting the creature, and it takes away hopes that have no real foundation in scripture. But there is an ample return for all this, in giving motives and hopes of a far superior character, that strengthen the soul to persevere in the midst of all the difficulties of doing good, and save it from all the discouragements arising from disappointments in our fairest expectations; failure of our best laid plains, and the CERTAIN MORTIFICATION OF EVERY DESIRE AND HOPE THAT IS NOT ACCORDING TO THE WORD OF GOD: motives