« PreviousContinue »
age, the first æra of its more copious promulgation.
In closing our survey of this period, I would bring together once more the original promise made after the Fall, and the evangelical promise to Abraham. The first was given when the state of primitive blessedness in Paradise was newly lost; the other, when the land of Canaan was first promised. The former of these prophecies supplied some hope that the forfeited blessedness was not wholly gone for ever; but the second, the Gospel promise given tò Abraham is set by the side of the earthly promise of Canaan, to shew that Canaan was not Paradise restored, nor the seat of man's expected recovery. The Gospel promise being coincident in the time of its revelation with the Temporal, we shall be justified in considering it as a corrective to mistaken views of the Temporal: a timely evidence of God's ulterior dispensation.
GENESIS XVII. 7.
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generation, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
RESUMING the investigation of Prophecy in its predictive matter, I shall follow it in its course: and shall combine throughout such observations as may tend to illustrate the scope and aim of the predictions themselves, in regard to the seasons at which, or the persons to whom they were delivered. For the word of Prophecy, as the examination of it will shew, always had its twofold use, to instruct by its promulgation, as well as by its accomplishment. It directed the eye of one age to look forward to the opening designs of God: it offered to convince another by the work of his Providence exhibited in their completion.
After we shall have seen what it is upon the whole which Prophecy communicated, we shall be
the better prepared to judge of its use and intent in the system of the divine Government: and also to seek the proper proof of its inspiration in the fulfilment of its predictions. In the earlier stage of the inquiry we consider what it is to which Prophecy asks our attention: in the second, we examine in what degree it satisfies it. In the first, we have to explore a history: in the second, to weigh an evidence. Only if it shall appear from the very structure of the scheme of Prophecy, and upon the face of its records, that there is something in it which manifests an extended wisdom, under a coherence and aptitude of design, which is one point I shall endeavour to establish; in that case it will be reasonable to carry such visible character of it to the side of evidence, and admit it as a presumption, that there was some great origin of that internal wisdom of design which is discernible in the Prophetic volume; and which, at the least, will command our attention as a fact to be accounted for.
It has been stated that the Call of Abraham is the æra from which Prophecy takes a double, though not a divergent, course; and that, from that time, it is occupied in two general subjects; first, in predicting the history of his Family, the Hebrew people, or of the nations with whom they were connected: secondly, in developing the Gospel Dispensation. This partition of it is complete; for either the Hebrew, or the Christian subject, embraces the
whole of what there is of the Pagan: Pagan history being included only as it fell within the range of Jewish observation, or was connected with the origin or the interests of the Gospel. Prophecy did not extravagate into remote subjects, beyond the Jewish, or the Christian pale.
Further I observe, that the promises granted to Abraham, those promises of God so often referred to throughout the Scripture, are, in fact, the fundamental points, which (as we may presume), have fixed and determined, in the divine plan of Prophecy, the tenour of its subsequent traditions. For in Abraham were united both the temporal and the evangelical promises-the possession of Canaan by his offspring being the object of the one, the universal blessing of Mankind, ordained to originate also in his offspring, that of the other. Prophecy, therefore, by pursuing the divided course which I have specified, only adhered to, and completed, the mixt revelation made to him at its beginning.
And here it is remarkable that God hath pleased to make this Patriarch to be the head and root of the succession and derivative order of Revelation. From his time began that line of the divine oracles, which, first preserved in his family, and afterwards secured in record, hath never been broken nor lost, but having successively embraced the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, is now completed, to remain the lasting and imperishable monument of Revealed Truth in the world. We know not what
reception the older oracles of divine truth had, nor how far they were preserved, from Adam and from Noah downwards, till the later inspired Prophet, a descendant of Abraham, fixed the memory of them in part, perhaps restored it, in his volume of the Pentateuch. But from Abraham the authentic tradition of Prophecy and of Revelation is perfect. With this Patriarch we enter the visible church which God began to build upon earth, and in that sanctuary the light of Revelation has been fixed in its sphere, and has never ceased to burn. Hence it is that the inheritance of God's revealed promises in the world is traced in Scripture to Abraham, not to the elder progenitors of the Jewish, or the human race, Noah, or Adam: as in that emphatic and sublime invocation of Isaiah, "Hearken to me
ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek "the Lord; look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and “unto Sarah that bare you; for I called him alone, “and blessed him, and increased him*." In the New Testament the like reference to Abraham is constant.
That we do not mistake in classing the predictions of Prophecy under the two general heads, and giving to them the application, which I have
*Chap. li. 1, 2.