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and those of a general and standing nature. Of the former kind are the prophecies relating to individuals ; such, for instance, as the angelic annunciation respecting Samson, the message to Samuel concerning Eli, the prophetic denunciations of Elijah respecting Ahab, and the predictions relating to Cyrus, to Josiah, to Zerubbabel, and Joshua. To this class also we may refer the predictions respecting nations and communities, which were literally and finally fulfilled in the event; as those respecting the fall of Tyre and of Babylon, the conquest and degradation of Egypt, the punishment of Moab, Edom, and Damascus, and our Lord's prediction respecting the overthrow of Jerusalem. With regard to all these prophecies, it may be remarked, that, as their object was specific, so, their purport was unequivocal, and could not be mistaken. They concerned the present interests of the individuals to whom they were immediately addressed, and were obviously designed to excite and enable them to prepare themselves before-hand for the arrival of the events announced. The end of such predictions, instead of being 'twofold,' was multifold, varying infinitely, according to the more or less private nature and different bearing of the prophecy. But, generally speaking, they were intended to strengthen the faith of God's people in his almighty power and righteous government, as well as to excite repentance and fear of the predicted judgements, and to enable those who believed and heeded them to avoid the calamities announced. These purposes, they answered while unfulfilled. Subsequently to their accomplishment, they served sometimes as attestations of the veracity and Divine authority of the prophet who delivered the prediction, sometimes as sanctions of the Divine commands, or again, as standing monuments of the supremacy of the God of Israel, and evidences of the true religion. And, as recorded, together with their accomplishment, in the sacred writings, they still answer, in these respects, an important end. Their primary design, however, was, in connexion with the event following close upon the prediction, (sometimes only a few years or months, at other times a generation intervening,) to promote the same moral ends that the ordinary threatenings and promises of the Divine word, in conjunction with God's Providential dispensations, are intended to subserve now. Mr. Irving himself remarks, that
• Promise is nothing but prophecy, there being between these no difference, in the ends for which they are given, in the evidence upon wbich they rest, or in the fruits which the faith of them produceth in the soul. Or, if there be a distinction between the prophecies and promises, which are one in spirit, this is the only distinction; that the former bear the same relation to the Providence of God, which the latter bear to his Grace. Vol. I. p. 19.
The Jews, in fact, by virtue of their peculiar relation to Jehovah as a people, were placed under a Providential dispensation altogether extraordinary,-a dispensation of Prophecy and Miracle ; or, to speak more accurately, (prophecy being itself a miracle,) of miraculous communication and miraculous interposition. The prediction and the miracle were often of very private interest, as are many of the most remarkable interpositions of Divine Providence on behalf of individuals under the present economy. What would now pass for ordinary and private events in domestic history, (such as the birth of an extraordinary child or the recovery of the sick in answer to prayer,) then partook of the extraordinary and miraculous character of the general dispensation.
But, collaterally with these predictions of limited and temporary interest, and distinct from them, we find in the Old Testament Scriptures, a connected chain of Prophecy of a totally different character, marked by its unity of design, permanent interest, and at the same time obscure and indeterminate import. This line of prediction begins with the promise of a Redeemer made to our First Parents; a promise general, mysterious, and as to the mode and circumstances of its fullment, wholly indefinite. This revelation was subsequently enlarged from time to time, and its import became more and more clearly developed as the time of consummation drew on. Still, in all the varied reiterations of this grand promise, from Adam to Malachi, the absence of explicitness, a reserve which checked the presumption of curiosity, an enigmatical phraseology which renders it probable that even the inspired messenger did not understand its full import, are prominent features of the prophetic discovery. Indeed, as we had occasion to remark in a former article*, those predictions which, since their fulfilment, approach the nearest to historical records of past facts, must have been to a Jew the most obscure, and seem adapted to check and to correct, rather than to excite the national anticipations of the promised Messiah. Nor does it appear that these prophecies enabled the most attentive and pious expectant of their fulfilment to prepare for the actual: event. Ought not Christ to suffer," was a question which not the most enlightened Jew was able to answer or to comprehend, till the foretold event had taken place. It is true, the disciples of our Lord were reproached with slow-hearted
* Ecl. Rev. Vol. xix. p. 219. Art. Gisborne's Essays. Not having seen reason to change the opinions then expressed, we shall be excused for repeating in this place the tenor of some observations which few of our readers, probably, will have in recollection.
ness and blindness for not recognizing the accomplishment of the prediction in the event. But the very reserved manner in which our Lord himself referred to his approaching sufferings, proves that the design of such reference, as well as of the previous prophecies, was, that, after he had risen from the dead, they might remember “ that these things were written of him, “and that they had done these things unto him.". (John xii. 16.) With regard to those who were waiting for the Consolation of Israel, we are warranted in concluding, that a distinct knowledge of the import of the prophecies relating to our Lord's Advent, was not necessary, and we may therefore presume, was not intended ; since, without understanding some of the most important and explicit of those predictions, they embraced the general promise of a Redeemer, and recognized our Lord to be indeed the Son of God and the King of Israel. And that the obscurity of the predictions was intended to veil their meaning, prior to their fulfilment, from those who were instrumental in bringing about the event, seems clearly intimated by the Apostles. “ For, had they known it,” says St. Paul, speaking of the grand mystery, Christ crucified, “ they “ would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” (1 Cor. ii. 8.) “And now, brethren,” said St. Peter, “I wot that through ,
ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those “ things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all “ his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.” (Acts iii. 17, 18.) *
Surely it will not be said, that this whole series of prophetic revelations failed of its purpose. Yet, as they were not understood by any even of the pious Jews, they could not contribute to prepare their minds for the actual circumstances of the event.' They served, indeed, (and not the less by their obscurity,) to keep alive, and gradually to form and to direct the national anticipation. They were an important part of that system of means by which the faith of the devout Jew was confirmed amid the apparent ruin of his nation and the desolation of Zion. And it was one important design of the minor series of specific predictions and unequivocal fulfilments, running parallel with the line of prophetic testimony respecting Messiah, to assure the Church of the certain accomplishment of the grand promise made unto the Fathers. The unfulfilled prophecy was attested by those which were being verified before ibeir eyes ; and the whole series of miracles in the
* The prophetic sign of the prophet Jonah (Matt. xii. 39, 40.) may be cited as another instance of prediction not intended to be understood till after the event.
Jewish bistory, as well as the whole system of types, and the spirit of prophecy, pointed to the coming Saviour, by confirming the truth of the progressive, yet undeveloped and still mysterious revelation.
But the ultimate object of the prophetic testimony was not answered till it had been fulfilled in the manifestation and work of the Son of God in the flesh. Then, and not till then, was it clearly understood, and came into full operation, as furnishing the credentials of our Lord's mission, the identification of his person, the explanation of that grand stumbling-block his sufferings, and an irrefragable evidence of the truth of Christianity to the end of time.
We may now proceed to inquire, what is the character of those prophecies which yet remain unfulfilled ? Mysterious, enigmatical, they confessedly are ; adapted, Mr. Irving says, only for the wise and learned, which is not the usual character of Divine Revelation. Judging from analogy, we might presume that their obscurity was designed to repress curiosity, rather than to excite speculation. Sir Isaac Newton thought, that these prophecies were given, ‘not to gratify men's curio•sity by enabling them to foreknow things, but that, after they • were fulfilled, they might be interpreted by the event.' Mr. Irving tells us, that then they will be of little or no use. • It .is,' he says,
that the cask was not to . be opened till the liquor was all evaporated. And so he would, as it were, bore a hole for his quill in the cask! Again, waxing wroth, he adds :
A very silly and shallow-minded thing it is, therefore, and no less wicked than vain, for lazy and incurious ignorance to seal the book which with such strength the Lion of the tribe of Judah prevailed to unloose, and which was forbidden to be ever sealed again. A'thing it is most stupid and preposterous, to study the prophecy with reference only to the part which is fulfilled, which hath become history, and is no longer prophecy, and remains but as an empty vessel, in which the odour of the rich contents may yet remain, but from which the sluggard and tasteless owners have allowed the spirit to escape. And if they would but give diligent and faithful study to the part fulfilled, they could not hinder themselves from passing onward into the unfulfilled, which is written in the same language, and by the same rules to be interpreted. So that whoso affirms that he useth prophecy only with application to the past, doth merely confess that he useth no part of it in the way in which it ought to be used. Vol. I. p. 30.
When a writer thus deals about his hard words and petulant sarcasms, he should be a little careful on whom they may light. A little reverence for such names as Calvin, Howe, and New, ton, would not have been discreditable to our worthy Seer.
The great Reformer was, we apprehend, neither lazy, nor ignorant, nor incurious, and he night even be supposed to have known the use of prophecy : yet, Scaliger observes, that he was wise in not writing on the Apocalypse. Howe considers the attempt to decipher unfulfilled predictions as the symptom of a carnal and a sickly mind; and without meaning to intimate that Mr. Irving is chargeable with this, we must say that one of his arguments goes strongly to confirm the truth of the remark as regards the tendency of such prophetical studies. He contends, that otherwise the Christianis obliged to look out, * by the help of bis own natural foresight, and to calculate by
the rules of political sagacity, those things which are to hap'pen to the Church.' Every man,' he adds,“ must be a pro• phet to himself, or God must be his prophet.' And again, he speaks of the knowledge and faith of future events as necessary in order to redeem us from the bondage to worldly poli• ties, and to form the rule of our conduct.
• And if,' he says, ' any individual member of Christ remain in the dark with respect to the future condition of the Church, he must be the prey of a thousand fears and false apprehensions, of a thousand hopes and false anticipations, from which a little light would altoge. ther have delivered him; and if he have any thing in hand or in mind towards the advancement of the Church, he may, in his ignorance, be working or designing against the purposes of God: which are revealed for this very end, to give a rigiit direction to our hopes, and thereby a right scope to our undertakings.' p. 31.
This, we must take the liberty to say, is bad reasoning, and worse theology: It is, in effect, making the Divine decrees the rule of man's duty; one of the most pernicious tenets of the Antinomian heresy. Why must the Christian turn prophet, to escape being a politician? Why must he study the Apocalypse in order to lay asleep his visionary hopes and fantastic fears, when the word of Christ points out" a more excellent “ way?"-"Secret things belong unto God, but the things " which are revealed, to us and to our children.” A man liable to become a prey to such false apprehensions and anticipa-' tions, would be the last person to derive benefit from brooding over the mystic rolls of prophecy; and his political sagacity would only become less barmless by running into fanaticism. It appears to us, that the proper cure for such a morbid desire to penetrate into the future, would be the study of the practical parts of the sacred volume; and that it was precisely such a temper that our Lord wished to discountenanee, when he answered a question put to him just before his Ascension by saying: “ It is not for you to know the times or the seasons. “ which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts i. 7.) Vol. XXVII. N.S.