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his own first dispensation; "he having provided
some better thing for us, that they without us “ should not be made perfect*."
IV. Concerning the measure of illumination afforded to the Patriarchal, and next ensuing age, by the other, the Evangelical Prophecies, we have no criterion whereby we can judge, so safe and exact as that of the recorded predictions themselves. No disclosure of prophecy can be without its use in furnishing a guidance to the minds of men, according to the light which it conveys.
also have another direct use, in exciting inquiry, and hope, and a desire of further knowledge; and these are exercises of the habit and disposition of religion; and they are as much so as the principles of a more resolved, a more instructed faith. The evangelical prophecies therefore, in whatever measure they were given, were a direction to faith in its views, and an inducement to the further exercise of its habit, where the prospects of it were less clear. It was an act of religion in Prophets, and in Patriarchs, to desire to see the things which yet they did not see, or were permitted to see only “as through a glass darkly.” At the same time, by the actual communications made, it is also right to think that some were more enlightened than others, and taught to see further into the truths partially revealed. For these
* Hebr. xi. 40.
degrees of knowledge are relative to the minds and apprehensions of men, which differ, or to the gift and favour of God's illuminating Spirit, not subject to be measured.
But upon the whole, we shall take our opinions of the comparative illumination of prophecy, in that time, most judiciously and truly, if we think of it as shedding its greater light upon the first, the Temporal promise, the nearer in its approach; whilst whatever discoveries it made of the better promise of God's mercies, would be cherished and improved with a zeal according to the piety of particular men, whose aspirations after those greater mercies would cause them to love the promise itself more, and instruct them to draw from it a support to their desires and hopes, proportioned to the cravings of their own exalted piety. In the actual contents of Patriarchal prophecy, however, the temporal subject takes by far the precedence, in the copiousness, and the strict delineation, of the predictions relating to it.
Hence we discern that Patriarchal prophecy was plainly a preparative to the Covenant of Canaan. And because it was so, there is on this account a great analogy seen to subsist in the distribution of the light of prophecy, and the succession of the Mosaic and the Christian covenants. For patriarchal prophecy is to the covenant of Canaan the same beacon of light which later prophecy is to the Christian covenant. Not only the promise of
Canaan in the antecedent prophecy is most explicit, but the years are numbered to the commencement of the possession of it. The term of four hundred years foreshewn to Abraham corresponds with the period of years numbered to Daniel *. There is a definite period of time prefixed in each case. The many varied predictions of patriarchal prophecy still tend to Canaan, as the predictions of later prophecy centre in the Gospel. The general analogy therefore which I have stated, and which I think will be acknowledged to obtain in the structure of Prophecy in its two chief periods, the one preceding the Law, the other subsequent to it, as related to the two Covenants, may contribute to fix our judgment in each case of its use, and to illustrate also the accordance and harmony of revelation in its most essential branches.
One great difference, however, we perceive in these two principal members of prophecy. The later is full of prediction, not merely of the Gospel Covenant, but of the Messiah, His person, His nature, His works, and every note of his character. In short, Prophecy delineates the second covenant, and the Founder of it. Not so in Patriarchal prophecy ; it knows nothing of Moses, the destined legislator of the first. There is no provision made for his honour. It is simply the promise of Canaan, with a profound silence as to the legislator, or the
* Genesis xv. 13.
mediator, of the covenant in question. Such testimony is there given to the eminent glory of the mediator of the better covenant, no less by the silence of the older prophecy, its silence concerning Moses, than by the full utterance of the later, concerning Christ. This distinction we know to be due to him ; for He was Lord over all, and Moses
“ but faithful as a servant*.” But the point in hand is, that Prophecy has adequately expressed this distinction.
It would be obvious to insist here again on the integrity of this first divine Messenger, “ faithful indeed in all his house,” but who was not deemed worthy to be an object of prophecy. For if, in the exact and luminous predictions concerning the land of Canaan, which he has prefixed to the history of his law and ministry, not a word of prophecy be found calculated to draw attention to his own person, character or mission, no auxiliary oracle to aid his pretensions or office, we shall be obliged to acknowledge his abstinence from the use of an advantageous opportunity of representation, which any principle short of Truth could scarcely have rejected. But it is too little to speak of the veracity of this great Prophet, when we should rather be impressed with the divinity of the oracles which he has delivered.
" who was
* Heb. iii. 5.
But finally, Patriarchal Prophecy, whilst it was silent as to Moses, was not so of Christ. It cast its prediction forward to him who was ordained to be - the Seed of Abraham," and the consummator “ of the sceptre of Judah." Ancient Prophecy, therefore, predicted Canaan ; but it penetrated beyond, to the Redeemer ; which anterior notices of him, preceding the Law, shew the constant and pre-eminent designation made of him from the beginning. When he came into the world, he had his signs before him. He came only as God had spoken by the mouth of his holy Prophets, which “ have been since the world began *.”
* Luke ii. 70.