Page images

assume the form of enigmatical ambiguity, resembling that of the ancient Delphic oracles, nor so clear and unequivocal as to stimulate the persons interested, either to accelerate or counteract its accomplishment. So far, therefore, is the obscurity of predictions an argument against their divine origin, that it illustrates the wisdom of God in such an arrangement. The evidence of a divine superintendance is rendered more decisive. The free agency and responsibility of men are not violated, and the great principles which regulate the moral administration of the Deity are displayed in connexion with the purposes and designs of his holy sovereignty.

Prophecies, as far as they are understood, either by past events, or the calculations of a sober and enlightened judgment, tend to animate our hopes and support our confidence, in the great cause of truth and holiness. But no interpretation should be allowed, for a moment, to supersede or interfere with the authority of explicit commands. Predictions are only intimations of the divine purposes; but the divine purposes, however they may guide the mysterious · procedures of the infinite mind, are no rule of conduct to us. It was never designed that mortals, by the aid of a perverted abstraction, should place themselves in the position of Deity, and judge of events and obligations, either in

reference to themselves, or others, from that position. The lower ground of duty and dependence, is that alone which we can safely occupy. The monstrous notions of some presumptuous expositors of Revelation, are in direct opposition to all the sympathies and obligations which relate to the interests and duties of mankind. Oh! such men have no bowels of compassion, no resemblance to the meek and lowly Redeemer, who, acting as the representative of perfect humanity, and presenting that very model of moral excellence, to which all his true followers should be conformed, indulged in the tenderest solicitude, and manifested all the holy fidelity, which the sins and sufferings of others demanded. He said nothing to diminish the guilt of Judas, while he foretold his treachery. He admonished Peter of the danger of presumptuous self-confidence, while he announced his fall. He asserted, in most solemn terms, the responsibility and guilt of those who betrayed and crucified him, even when he predicted his death. He wept over the city which he knew to be devoted to destruction. His actions resulted from the most perfect impression of all the moral relations which he sustained, as the servant of the Father, and the Saviour of men; and “ he that saith he abideth in him, ought to walk as he walked!”

Hence I observe,

Fourthly, That the spiritual and practical objects designed to be accomplished by the announcements of prophecy, should be continually and devoutly regarded.

Humility, dependance, and devotion, are characteristic features of genuine godliness; and in proportion as we are imbued with their influence, we shall be led to cultivate the spirit of prayer, and to combine with our supplications the energy of holy zeal. Prophecies were not designed to gratify a vain curiosity; but by leading us to contemplate the purposes of Jehovah, they furnish subjects for prayer, and motives to activity. · While the one proves our dependance, the other should exemplify our devotion. . Prophecies not yet fulfilled ought to call forth the spirit of 'fervent and persevering prayer. Prayer is connected intimately and inseparably with the fulfilment of prophecy. It is an essential part of the system of means, no less necessary than any other order of means for its accomplishment. Such is the constitution of things which God himself has established; and it illustrates his wisdom, his condescension, and his mercy. He hath said, “ I will yet, for this, be inquired of by the House of Israel to do it for them.” (Ezek. xxxvi. 37.) Such a declaration is the ground, the warrant, and the encouragement of prayer; and shows the connexion which exists between the promise of the Most High, and the responsibility of his people. He, who has ordained the end, has enjoined the means for its accomplishment. Of these means, the spirit of prayer is the most important, because it is necessary to the legitimate application of all other means, and directly recognises the agency of heaven as the efficient cause of success. It places the mind in that attitude and position which most appropriately fits it for the reception and enjoyment of the promised blessing. Now the entire system of prophecy is but an annunciation, more or less obscure, of the designs and intention of Jehovah. Whatever therefore may be its relation to the truth or the evidence of scripture, its moral uses, in leading the minds of men to such feelings, resolutions, and actions, as are most accordant with the revealed will of God, and such as tend most effectually to prepare them for the enjoyment of that final consummation which all prophecies terminate, should never be forgotten or disregarded. Is “ the gospel of the kingdom to be preached to all nations?" Is the conversion of the “ seed of Abraham” anticipated ? Is “ the mystery of iniquity" to be consumed by “ the brightness of the Redeemer's coming, and by the breath of his mouth ?" Is the world to be subjugated to the dominion of the Son of God? Do we believe in the universal prevalence of truth and piety,

and peace, under that holy dominion? Then let faith lead to prayer-let prayer be marked by fervency and union, and perseverance -- let promises and prophecies fill our mouths with arguments, and our hearts with confidence and anticipation! Such was the state of mind predicted as the delightful prelude to the accomplishment of those prophecies, that respected the termination of the Babylonian captivity. “ For thus saith the Lord, after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”—Jer. xxix. 10-13.

And did not the conduct of Daniel, and of Ezra, and Nehemiah, and their pious associates precisely correspond with these requisitions ? Of Daniel it is recorded, that “ he set his face unto the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplications” the accomplishment of the divine prediction; and while he was “ speaking in prayer," he received the special token of the divine approbation, and was favoured with still more extended disclosures of



« PreviousContinue »