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SIGNS OF LAST TIMES.
The subject handled in this volume is as important as it is interesting. It consists of a patient and industrious attempt to illustrate inspired prophecy by authentic history. Bishop Newton, Dean Goode, Dr Keith, and others, have collected all the prophecies relating to Babylon, Tyre, Nineveh, Egypt, and Judea, and have placed side by side with each ancient prophecy the testimony of modern historians, and have thereby proved with irresistible cogency that the prophet was divinely inspired to predict what the historian, from personal and independent investigation, records. This evidence is the more conclusive because the historians they have referred to, either, like Gibbon or Volney, disbelieved the inspiration of the Scriptures, and therefore made no attempt to illustrate it; or, like Stephens, Porter, Chesney, and others, recorded what they found in their travels without any reference to prophecy; or, like Macaulay, Alison, and
others, wrote, as impartial historians, the facts as they occurred in chronological succession.
Bishop Newton, Dean Goode, and Keith have collected the Scripture prophecies relating to the ancient countries they selected, and have placed beside each prophecy all the historical records on the subject of it; and the reader seeing, what is so obvious, the minute fulfilment of the prophet's prediction in the historian's annals, cannot help feeling the full force of the divine declaration that “holy men of old,” sketching the programme, relations, and succession of events many hundred years before they actually took place, “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
Scarcely any of the historians, quoted by the learned divines referred to, give an account of the momentous events that distinguish the half-century ending in 1867. Their annals therefore furnish no assistance to those who, believing on chronological grounds that a group of ancient prophecies has passed into living history, desire to find historic proofs of their actual fulfilment. Where then shall we look for proofs if such really exist? We find a continuous chronicle of events in that wonderful creation of our age, the daily newspaper, constituting a supplement to the works of historians of at least equal merit in all respects, and reflecting from its broad sheet each day as it dawns and dies out, with a celerity, fulness, and impartiality truly marvellous. It is therefore neither hasty nor irrelevant to place under each ancient prophecy these records of passing events, and to leave it to the unprejudiced reader to determine from the comparison whether the coincidences between what the inspired prophet foretold, and what the impartial chronicler tells, be not so many and so close that the events of the present age must be accepted as the fulfilment of inspired predictions in the past. It is a question of fact and evidence. Readers constitute the jury; their verdict may fairly be “proven ” or “not proven ; ” but never can be consistently with what they owe to truth, to the church, and to God a compilation of scoffs and ridicule. This use of the modern newspaper is all the originality I claim. But it is singularly just and important. It is the world's unconscious testimony to the truths of Scripture. It is the proof of divine predictions translated into modern history, furnished by writers who do not design to illustrate, and probably have not read, the Scripture prophecies, being anxious only to record impartially facts as they crop up around them.
Few will fail to admit that 1866 and 1867 have been years laden with momentous events. More mighty, yet all but silent, revolutions have been crowded into these two years than into the 40 that have preceded them. Revolution seems to be the order of the day. Change in everything is insisted on. Is it the breaking up that precedes a new combination ? This, at least, is plain, those troubles which students of prophecy have long ago expected, and dared faithfully to proclaim, are gathering over the earth, and exceeding in density and gloom all we ventured to anticipate. But “the morning cometh,” “ to you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing under his wings.”
It must, to say the least, be no slight consolation to feel that God in prophecy is now God in history also; and that there can be no oscillation beyond the curve assigned to events from everlasting. All nature yearns after that emancipation which is near. She seems to beg redemption in prayers inaudible to us, but audible to Him who made, and will one day restore, all things. There is a mysterious life in every created thing, which, like the ancient statue of Memnon, unconsciously speaks to us as often as it is touched by a ray from above. There is very much in the apocalyptic and prophetic programme of the future fitted at once to refresh and sanctify the people of God. It opens nearing springs of joy and hope, of which weary ones may drink; to the sick, on innumerable sick beds, it presents consolation; to the povertystricken it is riches; to the martyr about to die it is courage ; to all that look along the brightening vista, and believe the “sure word of prophecy,” it is the inspiration of energy and life, and ecstasy of heart. Should it be our lot to die before the sunrise of the long-expected day, we know well the way to the grave, and that also to the glory beyond it. We shall feel death to be a mere change of residence-a passing shadow on the road—a momentary dimness of sight preparatory to opening the eyes in the everlasting light.
Our conscious growing dissatisfaction, which is not fretful discontent, is part of the process which makes us ready for the world that is to be. The aged Christian, like the young child, feels sleepy toward nightfall. What means that weariness of heart, experienced by those who possess in richest abundance the material comforts of this life, that strange multiplication of wants keeping pace with the increase of the means of gratification ? It is the heart feeling itself too vast to be filled from the cisterns of timethe very signature of its capacity of something infinitely better and greater. It is our inmost nature pining and yearning for a supply equal to its greatness, adapted to its wants, and worthy of its trust; it is the soul coming face to face with God, and discovering there how poor is the creature in his best estate, and how glorious God is. Yet such sense of dissatisfaction is a token of good ; it is time sensibly fading into eternity, or night breaking into day. It is not here denied that anything good or lovely has ceased to exist on earth, or that time is bare of beauty and goodness. A thoughtful spirit can detect much over and around it very beautiful. Creation still retains unfaded remains of its youth. The graceful foliage of the oak and the elm—the solemn, almost religious, silence of the pine forest—the wide and variegated common—the chimes of falling streamsthe jubilant life of June, and the pensive grandeur of