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That prophecy came from God is evidenced, not only by such express declarations as those to which we have just referred, but also by the internal evidence of the prophecies themselves, to those who have considered the purpose of all prophecy, and have studied the subject, comparing the declarations with the accomplishment, having this original purpose continually borne in mind. The intent of prophecy was not to gratify the curiosity of man-its primary intent was not even to inform and direct the Church ; it has a higher purpose than this-its first intention was, that God might be known thereby, as declaring future things before any signs or tokens of them appeared, so that, in the accomplishment of these declarations, it might be known that he who spake these words looked into futurity with unerring certainty, because the end to be accomplished was that which he from the beginning had purposed, and because his own Almighty arm would sustain and effectuate that purpose; and that thus it might become manifest that HE ALONE is God. The idols of the heathen are scornfully invited to a competition with Jehovah in this respect :
“Let them show us what shall happen: let them show 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. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods.” (Isaiah xli. 23).
The conditions required in the test are-first, that it shall be shown what will happen ; secondly, that when it has happened, it shall be shown that there was no such necessary connexion between the former things, when the word was spoken, and the latter end of them, when it was accomplished, that natural sagacity could foresee such an accomplishment; thirdly, that things yet future-things that are to come hereafter, should also be declared, that we may not stand still, idly gazing with wonder on the past, but go on in the hands of the same God, with whom past, present, and future are all one; and so move forward with the course of that Providence which is ever evolving, from that which we call futurity, fresh additions to the monuments of the glory of God in the accomplishment of his word in past times, and a consequent enlargement of our wonder, adoration, and praise.
Thus viewed, it becomes a condition of prophecy that its accomplishment shall not be so obvious as to seem to be attributable to natural causes, and thus appear unworthy of God; nor yet that its declarations concerning those things, in accomplishing which man would take part, should be so plain, that some might vainly try to accelerate, and others madly
endeavour to frustrate, the counsels of the Most High. Prophecy, in its grandeur and in its mystery, rises above these dangers; it treats of those grand movements which affect the whole Church, or in which nations, or heads of nations, are the instruments; and it is couched in so lofty a strain, that while enough is revealed to encourage and guide the Church, man is not tempted thereby so to forecast the purposes of God as either, in foolish zeal, to entertain the thought of helping to accomplish that purpose ; or, on the other hand, with insane hostility, try to counteract, by the puny efforts of worms of the dust, events to be wrought out by the arm of Almighty God.
Even as it is, there have been instances of men capable of these egregious absurdities, infatuated by their hostility to the truth of God; like Porphyry, who asserted that the prophecies of Daniel were written after the events, as there could not otherwise, he said, be so exact a correspondence between the predictions and their accomplishment; or the Emperor Julian, who attempted to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem, for the avowed purpose of defeating the words of long desolation pronounced upon it both by Daniel and by our Lord. And it is expressly written in several places, in which the fulfilment of the divine announcements is recorded, that the disciples knew not the meaning of the things at the time, but afterwards remembered that they were written of old, and saw that they were then fulfilled; or that the perpetrators of the crimes had done it ignorantly in unbelief, and knew not the Scriptures; for if they had known them, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Ignorance, therefore, of the full meaning of the prophetic Scriptures, previous to the fulfilment, is a condition necessary for their accomplishment.
Prophecy is often taken, in a large and generic sense, for the whole Scripture, and for every divine declaration. Every part of Scripture may, in some sense, be called prophetic, as even the facts which it records are either typical of future events, or mere beginnings of a series of acts, and preparation of materials for future acts, more fully to reveal at some future time the being and perfections of God. Even the creation itself, however complete in one sense, as bringing all matter into being, had yet another tale to tell, when of that created matter a portion was incorporated with the person of the Son of God through incarnation, and when Christ thereby became able to say—“ He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” It had yet another tale to tell, when, in consequence of the coming of Christ, and his return to the bosom of the Father after the work which he came to do was finished, the promised Com
forter was given to the Church, and men were empowered by the Holy Ghost to do works like to those of Christ, yea, and even greater works, because he was gone to the Father. And the whole creation is destined to tell yet another tale of truth in the ages to come, which purpose, though seeming to be frustrated, was only interrupted by the fall, and shall yet be told out with all fulness in the new creation and the kingdom of heaven.
This is no speculation, but forms the theme and climax of all those portions of Scripture which are held to be, par excellence, and by the common consent of all men, PROPHETIC. It is declared in the eighth Psalm, a declaration taken up and further explained in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where it is further shown by St. Paul that the glory which Christ has already received at the right hand of the Father has not exhausted the prophecy in the Psalm, but only fulfils one portion, the necessary preliminary to the remainder; but that it is by Christ's coming a second time, and without a sin-offering, unto salvation, that the entire purport of this prophecy shall be accomplished, and the name of the Lord our God becomes most excellent throughout all the earth. And all the types refer to this final consummation : and Enoch prophesied of this second coming of the Lord; and Abraham rejoiced in distant prospect of this day, when in his seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Yea, and every act of our Saviour's life, and all the many parables which he spake, had reference to a kingdom which is even yet future; and his last discourse concerning the destruction of Jerusalem declares the time-the long distant time when he spake the words—for Jerusalem should be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled; but the same discourse also gives signs of the approaching termination of that long period, which signs the Church is required to mark, that they may be prepared
for that great event which shall conclude the Gentile dispensation, and usher in that of the new creation, or the kingdom of heaven-even the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven, in like manner as the first disciples saw him go up into heaven. (Acts i.) And by observation of these signs, and faith in these declarations of Christ, very many among the studious and thoughtful in the present generation of the Church are convinced that the end of the present dispensation and the time of the second advent draw
It is the deep interest which we know to be taken in prophecy generally, at the present time, which induces us to direct
our attention to that particular branch of it which Mr. Faber especially treats on-the consecutive and chronological prophecies, and especially those of the Apocalypse, as being more immediately connected with the Gentile dispensation and the Christian Church. Those who are not aware of the interest which is generally felt, may in some degree estimate it by referring to “Bickersteth on the Prophecies,” or any other popular manual, and looking over the long list of publications on prophetic subjects which have recently appeared, a class of writing which has gone on progressively increasing and multiplying up to the hour in which we are now writing. And if
, after all this, any still continue to doubt whether there really are any prophecies applicable to our own times, and do not rather doubt their own judgment for its singularity—if any continue still irreclaimable preterists or futurists, as Mr. Faber classes them, we must give them up as irreclaimable. We cannot ourselves entertain the question—we cannot sufficiently feel with, or approximate towards, those who do entertain it, to do them any good; we should only anger them by seeming to treat them cavalierly. It appears to us a monstrous supposition to hold that those Scriptures to which the Church, in all past ages, looked for light and guidance, are no light to us, but refer to things long past, or still future, and not to things present. And still less can we entertain the supposition, that the Christian dispensation, subsisting through eighteen hundred years, to which all preceding dispensations which have been the subjects of prophecy have confessedly led, and for which they have prepared, should itself have been omitted in prophecy-should not have been especially regarded in prophecy. Nay, on the contrary, we believe and assert that the Christian dispensation has been in an especial manner the subject of prophecy, and that it has some books, such as the Apocalypse, exclusively its
Large portions of Isaiah are indisputably to be referred to the time of the Christian dispensation, not only their internal evidence compelling us, but the clearness of their sequence being such, that some of them which speak of the man of sorrows, and others which were appropriated by Christ in his saying, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears;" the necessary consequence is, that the succeeding portions belong to Christian times, and lead on to the new heavens and the new earth. (Isaiah lxv. 17). And this is so generally acknowledged, that Isaiah has been very commonly called the Evangelical prophet. Large portions of Hosea, Micah, and Zechariah, are in like manner applicable, and with almost the same force
of demonstration, to the Christian Church. And we have only to apply the same process of reasoning to the prophecies of Daniel, which are chronological and numerical, to convince us that these have such points of connexion and such clearness of sequence as will oblige us to carry the symbols and numbers of Daniel into the Christian dispensation, like the spiritual and doctrinal characteristics of the prophet Isaiah.
We have not the smallest doubt concerning the ordinary interpretation of the seventy weeks in Daniel.
We are sure that they cover the whole period of time from the age of Daniel to the coming of Messiah, and consequently believe that a day is put for a year in this symbolic number. But this being so, consistency and common sense lead us to expect that the other numbers in the same prophecies should follow the same rule, and that other periods of days will also denote corresponding periods of years, unless it be clearly declared that it is not so, and these other numbers can be shown to be exceptions to the rule which has been established in the case of the seventy weeks. We say established, as this is the shortest of the periods, and therefore was the first accomplished, and all the longer periods must follow the same rule; but the more so, as it is the most important of the periods, as indicating the time when the Messiah should come. And as he is the Alpha and Omega of all prophecy, and all facts rest upon him for their basis and stay, so the period which marks his coming is the measure of all the other periods, which are only consequences of his coming and preparations for his return.
And the rule, being established in Daniel, of course comes into operation in the Apocalypse also ; the numbers in this latter book being derived principally from Daniel, and nothing appearing to prevent their following the same rule in both cases.
We believe, therefore, that in all instances when numbers are used symbolically, a day uniformly denotes a year.
A principle thus simple being uniformly established, men would naturally conclude that all difficulty would be at an end —we should only need to fix one of the periods, and the others would join on or fall in with this one, and a simple system would be the result; and men might read off the intended events with as much confidence as they read the calculations of an almanack. But fortunately it is not so; men may not thus presume, or if they do, it will be only to shame themselves and expose their own folly. For that which forms the chief difficulty is fixing with precision any one point of time whatsoever before the adoption of our present mode of reckoning from the incarnation; and this mode of reckoning did not