Images de page
PDF
ePub

lead us to Him in a thousand passages, where He was before unobserved. It harmonizes the two dispensations ; investing the Judaism of the Old with the Evangelical character of the New Testament. It brings more into view, than any other study, the tokens of a God in the construction of that machine, of which the remote parts correspond so well; and it establishes a strong and practical sense of religion in the heart of the inquirer.

Let me recommend you first to read all those Prophecies which have been fulfilled ; together with the account of their fulfilment, whether in the Bible itself, or in other history. You will find a list of such Prophecies in Horne's "Introduction to the Scriptures." The study is not usually begun thus : but the advantages of so beginning it, are incalculable. By proceeding in that way, you not only receive knowledge at first hand, but

you likewise become habituated to the prophetic style and manner. The subject has a habit and a nomenclature of its own; and, before reading its symbolical language, we would have you to be well acquainted with the prophecies themselves. In the work of comparing one prophecy with another, and each prophecy with its fulfilment, many have received a strong impulse to the further prosecution of the subject; and how much better that this impulse should be imparted by the ipsissima verba of Scripture, than by the plausibilities of any human interpreter; or by the fondness and fascination of any theory. This previous acquaintance with the clearer Prophecies, will give you a mighty advantage for studying the obscurer Prophecies. It will put into your hands the cipher, not for unlocking all the secrets of Prophecy, but for guiding you a certain way amidst those intricacies, which look to your unpractised eye altogether hopeless and inexplicable. Thus the study of the book of Daniel, is an excellent preparation for the study of the book of Revelations.

Thus prepared, you will be better able to study the books recommended by Horne, on the symbolical language of Prophecy. This, as observed by Dr. Van Mildert, is almost a study in itself. The symbol is not always founded on resemblance, but has much in it of a conventional or arbitrary nature. In this way, “water" is made to signify

[ocr errors]

the Holy Spirit: “the temple" is used for the human body; "a beast” for a kingdom ; "heat," for persecution ; “heaven,” for the political status of society; "a star," for a potentate ; the “sun” and “moon,” for the civil and political state of Judea ; a woman,” for the body politic;

briars,” for the wicked; a “ bridegroom,” for our Saviour; a “candlestick,” (or, rather a lamp,) for the Christian Church ; a “ day,” for a year; a “dragon,” for Satan; a “horn," for regal power"; " Jerusalem,” for heaven; “Jezebel," for a seducer; "keys," for the power of imprisonment; and a " vine,” or “vineyard,” for the Israel. itish Church. In all these instances, the resemblance is obscure. They are analogous to arbitrary characters, rather than to types.

There may appear to be something imaginary or fanciful about all this ; but we can only recommend you to make the trial. A cipher might be received incredulously; but if you found that it drew out a consistent meaning from the Egyptian hieroglyphics, your opinion of it would change. So it is with the cipher of Prophecy. If you find it apply to fulfilled Prophecies, you will proceed with confidence to apply it to the unfulfilled; and if, at last, these should break forth into real history, what a mass of evidence may still be awaiting us.

But before founding on these prospects any persuasion to this study, let us see what may be made of the double meaning of Prophecy. There is an air of exaggeration about the symbolical Prophecies (such, for instance, as those which relate to the destruction of Jerusalem), that does lead us to expect a double meaning. But we reduce it to a single meaning, it is said, if we reduce the symbolical to the ordinary language. The only way to meet this argument is by the actual study.

We recommend you, at first, to read those Prophecies mentioned by Horne; in which it will be difficult to escape the persuasion, that many anterior events in Scripture, are typical of posterior events; and so that, when both the anterior and posterior events were predicted by one who lived prior to them both, we have an instance of a prophecy with a double sense. I will not employ any generalities of argument; but simply invite you to come and see.” Samuel Horsley set out

[ocr errors]

with a strong antipathy to a style that opened the door to caprice and fancy; but he gave way to the evidence which met him in his path, and became a strong advocate for the double sense, -not of all, but of some of the Prophecies. He, as well as Davison after him, saw that the double sense made the Prophecy more difficult of accomplishment, and thus doubled the strength of evidence to be derived from it :-first, from the harmony between the Prophecy and the two events; and, secondly, from the harmony of the two events with each other.

Now, let me repeat, that we do not rest the main evidence on the double Prophecies. There are some Prophecies clear of all ambiguity; followed up, at the interval of centuries, by a clear fulfilment. There are picturesque representations of cities, which, though drawn thousands of years ago, give a view of their present state, with all the particularity of a Flemish picture, such as the fishermen spreading their nets on the rocks of Tyre; and the doleful creatures which nestle among the ruins of Babylon and Nineveh. And even when the prediction is symbolical, it is clothed in a veil of sufficient transparency to allow us to see the accordance between the general strain of Prophecy, and the general progress of history. Who can resist the impression, that the state of modern Europe was prefigured, at a distance of twenty-five centuries, by the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar's image, or that the ten horns surmounted by crowns, which are represented in the Apocalypse to have taken the place of seven heads, mark the transference of power from imperial Rome to the separate monarchies which sprung up after its overthrow.

I want to convince you of the immense preparation necessary for him who would explore the secrets of the future. We would repress the temerity of him who, seduced by some one imagination of his own, would proceed to apply it as a general rule of interpretation. To lay an interdict on the study, would be to contravene the authority of Scripture. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this Prophecy : and keepeth those things which are written therein.” But the same authority that prescribes the study, has added an impressive warning on the danger of adding our own rash imaginations to the

[No. 6.]

H

realities of Scripture.

“If any man shall add to these things, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book.”

I so perfectly accord with the just and admirable sentiments expressed on this subject, by the author of the “ Natural History of Enthusiasm,” that I cannot refrain from indulging myself, and (I am sure) gratifying you, with a few extracts from his chapter on the “ Enthusiasm of Prophetical Interpretation.”

“A confident and dogmatical interpretation of those Prophecies, which are supposed to be on the eve of fulfilment, has manifestly a tendency to bring forth the wonders of the unseen world, and to connect them in sensible contact with the familiar objects and events of the present state. And such interpretations may be held with so full and overwhelming a persuasion of their truth, that heaven and its splendours may seem to stand at the door of our very homes : to-morrow, perhaps, the hastening crisis of the nations shall lift the veil, which so long has hidden the brightness of the eternal throne from mortal eyes : every turn of public affairs; a war-a truce-a conspiracy-a royal marriage—may be the immediate precursor of that new era, wherein it shall no longer be true, as heretofore, that 'the things eternal are unseen.'

That some peculiar danger haunts this region of biblical inquiry, is established by a double proof; for not only have men of exorbitant imaginations and feeble judgments rushed towards it instinctively, and with the eagerness of infatuation; but sometimes the soundest judgments have lost, in these inquiries, their wonted discretion. At several periods of church history, and again in our own times, multitudes have drunk to intoxication of the phial of prophetic interpretation ; and, amid imagined peals of mystic thunder, have become deaf to the voice both of common sense and of duty. The piety of such persons—if piety it may be called—has made them hunger and thirst, not for the bread and water of life,' but for the news of the political world. There was great use made, for example, a few years ago, of the King of Rome, (the son of Napoleon,) who was looked upon as the future captain-general of the forces at the battle of Armageddon." The death of this

person has put an end to all these anticipations ; but they were, at one time, very generally entertained.”

There is one remark of this inestimable author, on the inexpediency of introducing these matters into the pulpit, with which I most fully concur. One baneful effect we know to have resulted from these absorbing speculations. They not only occupy the place which would be more advantageously given to other subjects, but they produce the impression that all plain and practical preaching may now be given up, because of the judgment which is impending over a guilty world. It is thus that the incumbent duty of to-day is given up for some pictured speculation of tomorrow. Such people wait in mystic expectancy ; during which all duty is suspended; and some precarious imagination of their own is made to overbear the express injunctions of the New Testament.

EXTRACTS FROM THE

Orations

OF

THE LATE EDWARD IRVING, A. M.

8vo. (Hamilton & Co.)

On the Bible. When God uttereth his voice, says the Psalmist, coals of fire are kindled ; the hills melt down like wax, the earthquakes, and deep proclaims it unto hollow deep. This same voice, which the stubborn elements cannot withstand, the children of Israel having heard but once, prayed that it might not be spoken to them any more. These sensible images of the Creator have now vanished, and we are left alone in the deep recesses of the meditative mind to discern his comings forth. No trump of heaven now speaketh in the world's ear. No angelic conveyancer of Heaven's will taketh shape from the vacant air, and having done his

« PrécédentContinuer »