Page images
[ocr errors][merged small]

understood by the unlearned as well as by the learned. And in this I try to cultivate a good taste and to please all men for their good to edification.

The plan of these Discourses is to treat the prophecies in accordance with the analogy of faith ; and show in the prophetical records the unfoldings of the eternal purpose of God in the salvation of mankind by Jesus Christ. It is observable that those who have written on the prophecies have in general so far lost sight of their connexion with the scheme of Redemption, that one would scarcely suppose from the perusal of their works that there was any such connexion, or if any, that it was a very intimate one. Prophecies are commonly considered as detached subjects, which, for all that appears to the contrary, might possibly have been omitted in the Divine Revelation without injury to the main design. Hence many ministers of the gospel excuse their inattention to this subject as if it were a distinct branch of Biblical science, unimportant to a proper understanding of Theology, and unnecessary to the qualification and work of a Christian minister. And some seem to despise it, as if it were the very essence of fanaticism, and unworthy of investigation, in comparison with a sort of spiritual knowledge which they affect. It is my aim to present such a view of the prophecies, as will remove this erroneous impression, wipe off the stigma imputed to the subject, and make it not only an interesting and profitable, but also an indispensable study to the minister of the word of God, and indeed to every one who wishes to understand what is the mystery of the kingdom of God. If I fall short of this object, the failure must be attributed to the want of skill in the writer, and not to any lack of merit and importance in the subject.

Writers on prophecy, with a few exceptions, may be classified as either Literalists, Spiritualists, or Millerites, who agree in the simple facts of a second personal advent of the Son of God, and a period of great blessedness on earth, called the Millennium ; but differ in regard to the relative bearing of these anticipated events and their consequent results. Literalists believe that Christ will come personally before the Millennium, and with his saints reign over the nations during that period, and are hence termed Personal reign Millennarians. Spiritualists think that Christ

[blocks in formation]

will not come personally until after the Millennium, but that an abundant outpouring of the Spirit will subdue all nations to the obedience of faith during that period, and are hence styled Spiritual reign Millennarians. Millerites agree with the Literalists in the fact of the Pre-Millennial advent, but spiritualize the predictions respecting the return of the Jews to their own land, and maintain that all unbelieving Jews and gentiles will be destroyed with the earth in a general conflagration at the time of the advent, and so an end will be put to the work of mediation and salvation, and the earth reformed and beautified will become the abode of the saints for ever. They may consequently be designated as Anti-mediatorial Millennarians. But the Literalisis believe that the Jews, or natural seed of Abraham according to promise, will be restored to their own land at the coming of Christ, and that the Millennium will be a mediatorial dispensation, exceeding all others before it, in the excellency of its provisions, the efficiency of its administration, and the extent of its influence. And hence they may be denominated Mediatorial Millennarians. It is unnecessary to extend these remarks further on these differences. What is said will indicate sufficiently the relative position of each class of writers.

The views presented in these Discourses will be found to accord with the Literalists on these leading points, and it is with pleasure I acknowledge how greatly their writings have contributed to confirm my mind in their truthfulness : and no work has been of such essential service to me in this respect as “ The Theological and Literary Journal,” by David N. Lord of New York, and his “ Exposition of the Apocalypse,” both of which are invaluable to the Bible student. There are, however, many particulars in the scheme to be presented in these Discourses, which, although fully sustained by the same rules of Scriptural exegesis, may, perhaps, appear to be novel to most if not all who may read them. And it is due to the reader as well as to the writer to state that they have been attained by a diligent and prayerful reading of the Word of God, in humble dependence upon Him for wisdom, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not. Nearly twelve years ago I was prompted under peculiar circumstances to read the Bible, and the Bible alone, until I had perused it several times, for the

purpose of making myself acquainted with its divine revealings, without respect to creeds or confessions of faith. The result was the detection of errors I had previously regarded as truth, and the discovery of truths which had previously been unobserved by me. My mind was cast into a new mould. Years of study since have but tended to confirm my mind in the views then presented to my understanding, by making me more familiar with the details of the scheme, and furnishing me with arguments in its support. I do therefore confidently propose these views to the candid and prayerful consideration of all inquirers after truth, with the humble hope and fervent prayer that their perusal may at least endear the Bible to their hearts, and lead to such an acquaintance with that precious Book, that they may no longer have any need of my writings.




We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.

2 Pet. i. 19.

The prophetic word, comprising the sacred scriptures is very beautifully and appropriately compared to a light which shineth in a dark place. Like the sun on the

equator, irradiating the globe from pole to pole, it pours its brightest beams indeed upon the present, but extends its penetrating rays into the regions of the past and the future. It illuminates the whole track of time, and sheds its effulgence on the revolving dispensations of God. Without it the origin of our race would be left to wild conjecture; the primeval condition of the world would be wholly unknown; the mysteries of the present insolvable, and the future veiled in impenetrable shades. Without it the nature, character, and perfections of the Supreme Being could not be understood, and man's wisdom had filled his place with naught but phantom forms. But this sacred volume is the Encyclopedia of heavenly philosophy, embracing the whole circle of Divine wisdom and knowledge; and illustrating the principles of natural science and moral government in the universe of God.

Many persons entertain the opinion that Prophecy is a very vague and uncertain science, which is of little or no importance to us, until after the events predicted have


transpired. On this hypothesis the utility of fulfilled prophecy is admitted, but the rest is regarded as useless, and even dangerous. This prevents them from giving due attention to the subject, yea more, induces them to regard with suspicion and distrust the efforts of others to explain and illustrate the unfulfilled prophecies. It is painful to be sensible of such a sentiment among Christians, and of the necessity of defending our subject from the objections urged against it in the house of its professed friends. To any one who receives the Bible as the Word of God, it should be enough that we are assured by the apostle that “ All scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for doctrinc, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” This should silence all objections, and engage our serious and prayerful attention to the teachings of the Divine Word. To vindicate the subject of our discourses from the obloquy cast upon it, and show its practical use is no unpleasant duty; and I therefore invite your attention to what seems proper to be noticed,

1.--Its INTRINSIC CHARACTER.-Prophecy is a revelation whereby future events are made known. Its birthplace is the infinite and eternal mind, as none but Jehovah can foretell things to come. By unerring prescience he seeth the end from the beginning, and calleth the things that are not as though they were. It is certain that he knows the past, the present, and the future, and can, if he sees proper to do so, reveal that knowledge to other minds, or reserve it in his own power. But he has seen proper to reveal to man the grand outlines of his purposes of grace, and make known his future operations so far as necessary for our good.

Revelation is chiefly prophetical. “ The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Rev. xix. 10. Ethics form but a small portion of the sacred oracles, as they are in themselves necessarily few, while prophecy is uttered

« PreviousContinue »