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therefore, as far as he has revealed it, can be considered as among “the secret things belonging only to the Lord.” So far is it presumption to investigate, that it would be indolence, or negligence, or ingratitude, not to investigate. We are not, however, to imagine, either that all the subjects of prophecy, whether fulfilled or unfulfilled, are of equal importance; or, that it is alike the duty of all to attend to the subject. In these matters, individual obligation must be determined by faithful and impartial considerations of immediate claims and actual capability. That cannot be every one's duty, which only some are capable of discharging. The knowledge requisite for the successful prosecution of this department of inquiry, is not of small attainment; and those will be most ready to confess their comparative ignorance, who are most fitted to engage in the investigation. · A special argument in favour of the duty now under consideration, is derived from the fact of so large a portion of the New Testament as the Apocalypse, being almost exclusively devoted to subjects of prophecy—and of prophecy still unaccomplished. Most distinctly, however, does its divine Author pronounce a “ blessing” on him “ who readeth, and those that hear the words of the prophecies, and keep the things that are written therein." - Rev. i. 3. Much fewer would
be able, at that period, to read, than to hear these prophetic words. The small number of copies, and the difficulty and expense of procuring them, would necessarily limit the number of readers: but the blessing is pronounced, not only on him that readeth, but on those that hear; and if such as were indebted for their knowledge to hearing only, were thus encouraged to the study of prophecy, how much more is the obligation binding upon us. What facilities for reference and inquiry do we possess, not, only in the reading of this portion of revelation, but in the results of that deep and profound investigation, which men of the mightiest, and most penetrating intellect, have devoted to the subject! I refer to some of the illustrious dead, whose names will be in everlasting remembrance, as well as to some expositors of modern times. We must not, indeed, forget the claims of ascertained principles, and known truths; we must not confound opinion with knowledge, or conjecture with demonstration; we are not to imagine the decyphering of prophetic symbols is as important as the right understanding of scriptural doctrines; we are not to overlook the test of practical and spiritual utility, in our estimate of the relative claims of any branch of religious inquiry. Still, with all these admissions, there is an attention to this subject, unquestionably claimed by its intrinsic excellence, and the divine authority enforcing it. And if any of the servants of Christ, from peculiar circumstances, or an aptitude for such researches ; or, above all, a devout and commendable interest in the prosecution of the subject, devote even a large portion of their time to these investigations; far be it from us to look on them with the frown of disdain, or the smile of derision. Far be it from us to sympathize with the idle or the careless, who lose more time in the work of hasty censure, than ever they spent in the labour of honest research. If this portion of revealed truth had been more generally studied, and more of the resources of sober criticism and sound discretion had been applied to its elucidation, there would have been less of extravagant hypothesis and daring speculation; and unquestionably less of rash dogmatism on the one hand, and unwarrantable scepticism on the other. What might have been known, would in this case have been more profitably brought under public notice, with less of fiction to gratify the curious, and more of truth to edify the humble.
Some prejudices against the study of prophecies yet unaccomplished have been supported, not only by referring to the extravagances and absurdities of ancient and modern speculations, but because great obscurity attaches to all
prophetic representations ; and it is assumed that we cannot understand them, till the event explains them. If it were said, we cannot understand them fully, there would be more truth in the statement. But will not such an objection apply to the predictions fulfilled, as well as to those which are unfulfilled, and to some of the doctrines of Scripture, as well as to its predictions ? It has been said that God has "put the times and the seasons in his own power;" still, as far as he has given us intimations of their occurrence, it is not vain curiosity but commendable and legitimate research, to endeavour to ascertain the predicted periods. A seemingly oracular caution is sometimes cited, as if it were the language of Scripture itself-that we are “not to be wise above what is written.” This is granted : but then we ought to endeavour to be wise up to that which is written. “ Seal not the prophecy of this book," was the solemn injunction of the angel who disclosed the symbols of the Apocalyptic vision, to the mind of the venerable Apostle. It was, as if he had said, “ unroll the prophecy-open its hallowed contents to the view of the Church-place it not under any interdict -blessed is he that readeth.”
The ancient prophets “searched;" they employed all the powers they possessed in exploring the meaning of their predictions; they “ searched diligently and enquired,” seeking and deriving information from all accessible resources. “In the first year of the reign of Darius, I, Daniel, understood by the books, the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish the seventy years in the desolation of Jerusalem.”— Dan. ix. 2. We learn from this record, that the study of unfulfilled prophecy was productive of the most beneficial results. And how often, in the announcements of futurity by our Lord, both in his personal ministry, and in the revelations of Patmos, do we find it enjoined, “ Let him that readeth, understand.”—“ He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches."
To enforce the attention that is due to unfulfilled prophecies, I would also remind you of the advantages that result from such inquiries.
The properly conducted study of this subject, will tend to enlarge our conceptions of the great plans of the divine government.
Revelation discloses to our view the purposes of the infinite and eternal mind. Those purposes were at first faintly and obscurely intimated. The Gospel makes them known in all their evidence and certainty. We have “ the purpose and grace of God, before the foundation of the world made manifest by the appearing of Jesus Christ.” What was futurity to ancient believers, is history to us; and facts, in all their fulness