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T HE Prophecies of the Old Testament
I seem to have been less studied, and more misunderstood, than any other part of the facred writings; and indeed this is nothing more than what might have been expected from the very nature of them. Prophecies, by which I here mean predi&tions of things future, are for the most part expressed in obscure terms, or set forth in an allegorical manner in vifions, by visible representations of beasts, birds, &c. It is no wonder therefore, that such Prophecies as relate to events yet future, should be either not understood at all, or misinterpreted.
In the first ages of Christianity, they who attempted any explication of the sacred Prow phecies, confined themselves chiefly to fuch as seemed to them to relate to the first coming of our Lord and Saviour, and to the calling of the Gentiles, which began to be accomA 3.
plished in those days. As to the rest of the
scripture, which had been long shut up from the people, was again laid open for the perufal of all Christians, the study of the prophetical parts began to revive, and some very considerable advances were made toward a right understanding of them. Many of them were with great judgment proved to be already accomplished, and the events to which they related pointed out, and also probable conjectures advanced concerning some of those which are yet future. Amongst those who have successfully laboured in this branch of theology, I know none who deferves more to be remembered than our countryman Joseph Męde, who was the first of English writers at least) who gave us any consistent or probable explications of the Prophecies. His many learned and judicious interpretations of the Prophecies, in the Revelations to St. John and Daniel, will make this evident to any one who shall consult his works, which I would recommend to every person who is desirous of making a progress in prophetic studies. Since his time we have had several learned and judicious expositors, who have, in some points, improved upon him; amongst whom I cannot forbear mentioning Dr. Newton, the present bishop of Bristol, whose Dissertations on the Prophecies are, upon the whole, perhaps not
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to be equalled by any thing that has hitherto been publiihed on that subject. But notwithstanding the very considerable improvements which have been made in the study of the prophetical parts of scripture, fince the time of the Reformation, yet almoft all the writers on this subject, that I have met with, seem to me to have run, more or less, into the following error : They have generally applied the Prophecies relating to the restoration of the
Jews and the ten tribes, and the consequent happy state of that nation, and also of the, whole Christian world, which is to happen in the latter times, (and which is frequently stiled in scripture, the reign or kingdom of Christ) to the church of Christ, as it has hitherto subsisted in the world ; applying the words Ifrael, the seed of Abraham and Jerusalem, in an allegorical sense to Christians, or the Christian church in general, whenever they meet with them with a promise of great happiness annexed; whereas the great happiness, which is the principal subject of all the Old Testament Prophets, appears to me to be no way applicable to any state of Christianity that has ever yet existed, but to relate to the converfion and restoration of the literal Israel, the
Fews and ten tribes, in the latter times, and to that reign of Christ when the church . 5