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If prophecies fulfilled bring before us the most important epochs and events in the past history of the world, and, guided retrospectively by the prophetic oracles, we find most important materials for the elucidation of some of those events, which, by receding from us into the distance of past ages, are involved in some measure of obscurity; prophecies unfulfilled, enable us to form brighter and more cheering expectations of the future than policy ever projected, or philosophy imagined. We see various and conflicting agencies at work in the collisions of interest and passion, and the operation of numberless causes, some hostile and some friendly to the great interests of pure religion. But we know that Jesus is “ the Head of the church, and the head over all things to the church.” “ He must reign till all his enemies are made his footstool.”
Thus the study of unfulfilled predictions elevates our conceptions of the great plan of Providence, and tends to confirm our confidence in the divine administration. It especially tends to strengthen our faith in the Redeemer.
It is impossible to study the book of the Revelation without perceiving that this is the direct and most important result of a devout investigation. The Apocalypse opens with a sublime vision of the glorified Redeemer, invested with mediatorial dominion. Clothed in the attributes of majesty, and embodying in his person the characteristics of Deity, with all the properties of glorified humanity, he sways the sceptre of government, dispenses the blessings of grace, and prepares his church in the successive scenes of its existence on earth, for its future beatification in his eternal kingdom. The Epistles to the seven churches, illustrate his omniscience, his faithfulness, and his love. The visions of the heavenly temple impress on our spirits the powers of the world to come, and the glory to be revealed. The sublime imagery of the Apocalypse exhibits the history of the church in all periods of time. The seals, the trumpets, and the vials are the symbols and illustrations of the successive states of prosperity and depression which the church was to undergo with the destinies of nations and communities, as far as their interests affect the interests of the church. Whatever theory of interpretation we apply to some of the symbols and announcements yet unfulfilled by facts, we
still perceive that in all things Jesus has the pre· eminence; that “all things were made by him
and for him;" that the throne of God is in his Church; that the mystic bow of the covenant surrounds that throne; and that the changes and revolutions of time are ultimately subservient to the final interests of truth and righteousness, and the glory of the Divine Redeemer !
The general bearing of all events on these great results is decided and unquestionable. Antichrist shall be defeated; Christ shall be exalted; and the felicity of the church, and the display of the divine glory, shall be the consummation of the mighty scheme.
Philosophy as well as fanaticism has had her reveries about an Elysian age; but all her dreams of perfectibility and improvement are baseless as the fabric of a vision. We rejoice in the persuasion that science, and literature, and liberty, are all subservient to the cause of truth; but our hope of an era of happiness rests not on policy, or philosophy, or power, but on “ the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever!"
I proceed to suggest
II.-SOME CONSIDERATIONS THAT MAY ASSIST IN REGULATING OUR INQUIRIES INTO THIS DEPARTMENT OF REVELATION.
Some of the instructive advices brought under our notice at the last lecture, and applied to prophecy in general, might be directly applied to the topic before us; and it is evident that whatever principles and rules of interpretation apply to prophecy generally, apply to such portions as are yet unaccomplished. Here, however, by the presumption of their being not accomplished, it is obvious that, instead of facts explaining the language and symbols of prophecy, we have only rules founded on inferences drawn from fulfilled and analogous predictions, and conjectures as to the probable events of futurity. It has most properly been said that prophecies were not given to make us prophets, or to enable us to predict future events; and serious injury to the cause of revelation in general, and of prophetic interpretation in particular, has resulted from these attempts. Every age has had its theories, and for the most part, every theory has been modelled under the influence of political prejudices and ecclesiastical opinions. As objects that are near to us seem larger than those at a distance, so passing events and immediate interests are magnified by the mental vision, and filling up a larger space in the view, prevent an adequate and correct impression of the superior magnitude of remoter events. Innumerable are the instances of hazardous conjecture and most deceptive speculation; and scepticism has been led to triumph with licentious exultation, over the follies and absurdities of Apocalyptic expositors. What I have to suggest on the subject before us, may be comprised in the following observations:
First, Our attention to unfulfilled prophecies should not interfere with what is due to other and more important parts of revelation.
When I say more important, I mean in relation to our immediate interests and obligations, and the interests and obligations of all around us. The knowledge however diligently acquired, or humbly sought, or properly applied, which respects the visions of the Apocalypse, and the symbols and hieroglyphics of prophecy, can never be brought into comparison, as to all the purposes of practical and spiritual religion, with the facts and doctrines and precepts of revelation. Enigmatical and mysterious in their character, they require an attention to history, and chronology, and criticism, to an extent, and with a degree of application, which few have it in their power to command. And those that are favoured with the requisite leisure and facilities for such inquiries, would do well to remember how possible it is to devote an undue portion of time, and talents, and resources to the elucidation of such topics, and thus acquire too naturally such a disproportionate interest in the subject as shall materially affect their personal edification and public usefulness. I know that habits of devotion, and purity of intention and design, may characterise students of prophecy, as well as the students of other portions of revealed truth; but we are all liable to unhallowed partialities, and consequently to unhallowed prejudices. If the deciphering of symbols, the collation of dates,