« הקודםהמשך »
restricted to what relates exclusively to the personal work of the Saviour. They are capable of a wider interpretation, and are also to be understood as embracing whatever is connected with the extension of his kingdom, and the triumph of his cause in the world. The object which the writer of these pages has in view is, to call the attention of Christians in this country to this interesting subject, viz. to the aspect of modern times, the present movements of Providence, the attitude which passing events bear in relation to these prophecies, and the proofs to be derived from this sourcethat we are verging with rapid strides towards the period when they will all be fulfilled—and that we are approaching, with greater rapidity than even the generality of Christians are disposed to admit, to that delightful period when every temple shall echo with his praise, and every land be filled with his renown; when all the kings of the earth shall cast their crowns, and the nations of the world shall lay their glory, in submission at his feet.
The sacred writers are so diffuse whenever they touch upon this delightful theme, that one great difficulty consists in making a suitable selection of such passages as are best adapted to the purposes of this investigation.
Perhaps the 72nd Psalm may not improperly be referred to as embodying, in the sentiments which it contains, the substance of all which the Old Testament prophets have written on the subject. It points out in glowing language the future triumphs of the Redeemer, and paints in vivid colours the moral dignity of the Church as she will hereafter appear in the meridian splendor of her millennium glory.
On this interesting subject the prophet Isaiah likewise particularly excels, and perhaps there is no single passage throughout the whole of the inspired records more forcible and descriptive than the one which is found in his prophecy, chap. xi. 9, knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. The prominent idea of this passage appears to be in the striking comparison which the Prophet institutes. The knowledge of the Lord is not merely to cover the earth in general, but it is so to cover it as the waters cover the sea. And if we are to take this expression literally (and I see no reason why we shonld not), and press the full force of it into our argument, what an elevated view does it then give us of the Redeemer's triumphs, and how strikingly does it pourtray both the universality and the stability of his kingdom. Who, it may be asked, can stand for a moment upon the sea shore, and observe the mighty surges, rolling with resistless sway, unimpeded in their course, and deluging all that opposes them ; can watch the rising tide overflowing the whole shore, and filling every crevice that comes within its boundary, and not be
struck with the strength and the grandeur of this figure ? And does not this passage, it may be asked, teach us to believe that a deluge of religious knowledge similar to this,-a deluge of religious knowledge which will issue in the conversion of the world, -is ultimately to overspread the whole earth, and to extend to every nation, and people, and kindred, and tongue ?
We are likewise commanded by Him whose authority is supreme in the Church, to pray that the will of God may be done upon earth as it is done in heaven;" and it is in the point of comparison in this passage as well as the former, that the strength and sublimity of the idea which it unfolds principally consists. The exhilirating thought that the will of God will ere long be done upon earth, as it is done in heaven (admitting that the expression is only to be taken comparatively), is more than the Christian's mind, even in its most sanguine moments, can now possibly realize. It can however scarcely be supposed that we are commanded in any part of the inspired page, to pray for that which God never designed in some measure to bestow. On this principle therefore, and by the authority of this command, we are warranted to believe, that a period is coming in the future history of our world, when the inhabitants of earth will vie with the inhabitants of heaven in doing the will of God: when the Church militant, and the Church triumphant, will join in one common chorus ; will blend their mutual sounds in the most delightful harmony of praise, in a harmony which will be free from a single discordant note-sweet as the music of the spheres—and which continually increasing in its allelujahs, will rise with majestic grandeur before the throne of the Eternal, until his eye and his heart, moved by the melody of its strains, will once more be fixed in complacency and love upon the new-born creation, and the fulness of His approbation and delight again be testified in the hallowed announcement, that “ all is very good."
It is a well known fact that the Greek and Roman empires formerly extended over a very considerable portion of the globe ; and yet the prophet Daniel, glancing his eye through the vista of distant ages: and making them the subject of his prophetic theme, very significantly calls them nothing more than a "great image,” and proceeds to shew that they were but limited in extent, compared with that kingdom which the God of heaven designed to set up.
The dominion of the Papacy once included nearly all Europe, and extended its influence to several other quarters of the earth; and yet the same prophet, when speaking of this, and when bringing it into comparison with the kingdom of the Messiah, denominates it but little horn.” With all these passages, therefore, in our hands, and a multitude of others of a similar character derived from the prophetic records, we perceive without any effort of imagination what
are Jehovah's designs of mercy and grace to our guilty and apostate world.
The same exhilirating theme isalso taken up in the Scriptures of the New Testament. The living and the true witness, He whose words are faithfulness and truth, has expressly declared that “the Gospel shall be preached in all the world;" and although these words in their primary application have an undoubted reference to what would be accomplished antecedent to the destruction of the Jewish state and polity, yet there does not appear to be any reason why they should be absolutely restricted to that particular period. The Saviour's omniscient mind no doubt embraced a wider range, and this passage in its extended application may be taken as prophetic of the moralising process, and the regenerating influence, which the word of His grace will exert upon generations yet unborn, and the energy which it will continue to display in turning men from darkness to light, through all succeeding ages of the world's duration,
This sententious prediction of the Redeemer is peculiarly clear and emphatic, and it may not improperly be considered as an epitome of all the prophecies relative to the spread of the Gospel by which it was preceded ; and as it is one of the last recorded statements on this interesting theme, and carries with it a peculiar importance on account of His dignity and glory from whose lips it originally fell, we shall therefore take it as the principal foundation of our remarks, and, in the further prosecution of this inquiry, endeavour to make our observations bear more particularly upon the circumstances by which, in ages that are past, it has in measure been fulfilled, and also upon the various passing events of Providence by which it is fulfilling in the present day, and is likely to be still more extensively fulfilled in the future history of the world.
The reader must bear in mind, that at the period when the Saviour uttered this important prediction, there was not the least apparent probability that the event to which it refers would ever be accomplished.' The Gospel had then obtained no footing in the world, it had no secular influence to support its claims, it held out no temporal prospects whatever to those who embraced it; and, besides the absence of these and other similar advantages, which in the eye of reason might appear requisite to support its claims and accelerate its interests, it had, on the other hand, to encounter the most fearful opposition from the emissaries of the
god of this world. The malice of men armed with power, and influenced by pride, rose up in hostile array, and threatened its destruction. Its claims were every where disputed, its purity was hated, and its friends and supporters universally treated with contumely and scorn ; and in addition to this formidable phalanx, it had also (in order to make
its way) to overturn all the long established and deeply-rooted systems of idolatry and superstition, which from time immemorial had received the veneration of all ranks and classes of mankind. And yet notwithstanding this amount of opposition, and the appalling nature of the task which it consequently had to perform, it completely effected its purpose, and that too within a very short period after its first announcement to the world. The apostles of our Lord, in obedience to his commands, sensible of his authority, and sustained by his power, went forth armed to the conflict; and the pride, the prejudice, the malice, which before raised their brazen fronts, opposed their progress, and apparently rendered hopeless their prospects of success, fell powerless and harmless at their feet. He who gave them their commission accompanied their labours by his blessing, and Satan fell before them like lightning from heaven. The listening multitude attended to the message of mercy, the Spirit of God applied it with power to the heart, and the idolatrous rites were deserted, and the altars overturned, whilst in every direction Christian churches (the monuments of the Saviour's victorious grace), rose with the number, the order, and the brilliancy of the stars.
Perhaps the generality of readers, however, may not feel so much interest in contemplating the past fulfilment of this prophecy, as in surveying the various means which the Church of God is at present employing to bring about its accomplishment—means which, with his blessing, are calculated to accelerate the approach of that period when it will be fulfilled on the most extensive scale that delightful period when the kingdoms of this world, as the result of its proclamation, “shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
It is however impossible to enter fully upon this branch of the subject, without extending the present essay to an improper length: we shall therefore reserve it for future consideration, and conclude these remarks with a few observations on the end and design of prophecy, and the evidence which is derived from it in support of the truth and authority of the Christian Scriptures.
On the former subject, viz. the design of prophecy, we may remark that, “it is not intended to amuse or perplex us in the previous study, but to confirm our faith in the event,” or, in other words, it appears to be designed principally as a species of standing evidence which God has graciously furnished both to the Church and the world, of the truth and authority of his own word—an evidence by which the faith of the former is strengthened, and by which the unbelief of the latter will be rendered wholly inexcusable. The mystery of Providence is gradually developing itself, and every development as it successively occurs, throws increasing light upon the sacred oracles, and furnishes us with additional and continually
literally fulfilled ; in doing this, we produce a case in which it is clear dence of a divine hand becomes still stronger, and so on in every
ted accumulating evidence-evidence of a tangible nature, and which Tal
comes within the sphere of our own observation, that the Bible “has God for its author, heaven for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its contents." Nothing can be more clear and explicit as to the design of prophecy than those words, which fell from the lips of the Redeemer when speaking of the treachery of Judas—“Now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass ye might believe." This passage may, we conceive, without any unnatural force, be applied to every part of the prophetic records'; and we learn from it that the whole of the events foretold,—whether foretold by Moses, or by the prophets, or by Christ himself,—were so foretold that when fulfilled we might believe, that the word, whe
ther spoken or written, was the authenticated word of God. We the
have also in this passage, a valuable and important test presented to our view by which we may be materially assisted in our endeavors to distinguish truth from error,—a test which it is our imperative duty to apply to the claims of the Bible, and which will, if duly attended to, afford us the most solid and satisfactory evidence of its
That blessed book contains nearly 600 distinct prophecies on different subjects; amongst these, are an immense number which relate to the spread of the Gospel, and to the extension of that kingdom which is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost”—and we have ocular demonstration of the truth and divine authority of these predictions, because they are actually receiving their fulfilment under our immediate and personal observation. In short, if we examine the Bible throughout, we shall find that out of this immense number of prophecies, it does not contain one-no, not one-which either has not been fulfilled, or which, judging from the aspect of modern times, is not likely to be fulfilled, by forthcoming events. We maintain therefore, that if we find certain events predicted long before they happened, if they be so clearly described that when completed, they determinately apply to the subject--if they be related by persons unconcerned in them, and expecting to be removed from the stage of existence long before they take place,—it is then evident to a demonstration that some Power superior to humanity, has been pleased to impart to them so much of its designs and counsels as are referred to in these predictions. Or to vary this illustration and put the case in a still stronger light, let us suppose that we bring forward a single instance of some well authenticated prediction, having been to a demonstration, that a divine prescience was actually concerned.
a second instance of this nature ; the evi
Suppose we produce