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WATCHMAN, WHAT OF THE NIGHT? WATCHMAN, WHAT OF THE NIGHT ! THE WATCHMAN SAID, THE MORNING COMETH, AND ALSO THE NIGHT: IF YE WILL INQUIRE, INQUIRE YE: RETURN, COME.
ISAI. XXI. 11, 12
ON THE STUDY OF PROPHECY.
“PRODUCE your cause, saith the Lord : bring forth your
strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen ; let them shew the former things what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come.” (Isai. xli. 21.) Thus strongly doth the Lord appeal to Prophecy, as the surest test of the true God, and rest the evidence of his own Deity on the truth of his prophetic word. And with a cogency equal to the strength of the appeal, and with a solemnity commensurate with our reverence for God, do we feel ourselves called on to take up the argument, and vindicate our study of that portion of his word, which is both a pole-star to direct our course, and an anchor of safety to the soul ; and which we have special reason to make sure of now, when a storm seems gathering in the horizon, in which we shall need both light to steer by, and a sure and stedfast anchor " rely on, “ which entereth within the veil.” (Heb. vi. 19.) All mankind endeavour to provide for the future; the natural man by natural sagacity, the spiritual man by spiritual discernment: natural sagacity calculates on probabilities founded on experience, spiritual discernment looks to the declared purpose of God. But there are many who belong not strictly to either of these classes, who endeavour to separate between spiritual and temporal things; and, while content to take direction in spiritual things from the word of God, expect no direction thence for temporal affairs, and call it presumption in those who do. With
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these, who now form a large class, we are directly at issue. We say, that the Scriptures are the only sure guide, not only in spiritual, but in temporal things: we say, that Prophecy was given for this express purpose; and we would seek to conform ourselves in all respects to the will of God, as revealed in his word. And seeing that some modern divines have supinely glanced over the Prophecies, with slight and superficial notice; while others, distracted by their numerous avocations, have wholly disregarded them; we shall endeavour to rescue that large portion of the Holy Scriptures from this unmerited neglect, and give it in our theology the place which its transcendant importance demands. And since on the fulfilment of Prophecy an issue so mighty as the Divine verity has been staked, it deeply behoves us to beware how we dare to pass it by as unworthy of attention, or how we timidly wait for the sanction of man before we will venture on its study. And may that allmerciful Being, who knows our weakness and ignorance, but who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hath perfected praise, and without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: may He, in vindication of whose word we are now girding ourselves for the contest, endue us with the requisite strength? may He so direct our meditations, that we may think only such things as be right, and so controul our words that we may, express nothing unbecoming the disciples of Christ, or prejudicial to the progress of the Gospel among men.
For interpreting the prophetic parts of Scripture, we intend to follow the same methods by which all students attain their knowledge of the doctrinal and practical parts of Holy Writ. We assume that every part of the revelation of God, being given either to make known his character and dealings to men, or to teach men their duty to him and to each other, must have been intended to be understood. Then it follows, that those for whose instruction and guidance it was intended may, nay, ought, to understand the whole of Scripture ; if not on the simple perusal, yet surely by the help of means which he has put within their reach, who, by faith apprehending it, and employing these means, go on to the “ full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ, in whom are bid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. ii. 2). But though thus intelligible to the faithful, the mere natural man does find in the same Scriptures a degree of mystery which he cannot penetrate, and which avoids the laying him under such a moral compulsion as would destroy will and responsibility, and reduce faith to mere persuasion, and make void the doctrine that “ the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. ii. 14).—These hints, which we suggest with