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Page 3, line 18, for nation read nations,
WHATEVER may be the opinion formed respecting a considerable portion of those numerous works, which have appeared of late years on the subject of prophecy, we cannot but rejoice, that this important subject should by these means have be. come an object of more serious consideration, and of more general interest; for that spirit of inquiry which is now abroad, as though the Church had suddenly awaked from a long sleep, does no more than comply with the apostolic injunction respecting " the word of prophecy:" "whereunto you do well that
take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise.”*
The object of the present attempt is to lead the attention of those who are waiting for this glorious “ day, when the Son man is revealed," to those portions of the word of prophecy, which still remain unaccomplished, in order to mark those things which have yet to come to pass, before the end shall be.”
Prophecies, which have already had their fulfilment, we contemplate in their accomplishment on the page of history, or in the present circumstances of the church and the world, and thereby learn the meaning of their language and symbols. Those expositors indeed seem to me to have succeeded best, who have most abstained from hypothesis and artificial schemes of exposition, and have most simply resigned themselves to the
* See "The Practical Guide to Prophecy, by the Rev. E. Bickersteth, Rector of Watton.
literal construction of scripture, and to history, as the best interpreter of prophecy. To history I mean in the hands of its most approved writers, who have carefully cultivated this branch of study, estimating by their own intrinsic importance, the changes and revolutions which have taken place among mankind, and, according to the greatness of the crisis and the actual combinations of events, have determined and marked off those principal epochs and eras, which are to assist us in tracing the history of the world, “since the fathers fell asleep,” especially among those nations which have in any way been connected with the church of Christ upon earth.
In the patient and persevering pursuit of this line of study, with a view to the interpretation of prophecy, the pious Christian, who has sufficient leisure, will find abundant satisfaction : often, as he proceeds, comparing history with scripture, will he be led to the recollection of those words of our blessed Saviour, respecting the first great object of his church's expectation : "and now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe."*
In directing our attention to the prophecies yet unfulfilled, we cannot of course avail ourselves of the guidance of history : only so far that, as we believe them to be unfulfilled, because we cannot find their accomplishment in the records of the past; so by a careful consideration of the historic events, which have shewn the meaning of the language and symbols, of already accomplished predictions, we may hope to gain some insight into the proper mode of understanding the word of prophecy in general; and from analogy, at least, to gather some hints respecting the character and nature of those persons and events, which, at a future period, are to answer to the types and symbols of the yet unaccomplished prophecies. Our information, doubtless, will not be sufficient to enable us to give an exact detail of future events, or a full picture of the ages to
. John xiv. 29.
come, but may yet suffice to supply us with some general characteristics of the principal actors in those last scenes, and a general outline of the principal events which shall precede or usher in the “coming of the Son of Man in his glory.”
Though clouds and darkness surround us, we are expecting the breaking of the brightest day that ever dawned on the creation of God; and until that day arrive, we would, according to the apostolic precept, before referred to, give heed to the “word of prophecy,” thought it be but as a light shining in a dark place, being well assured that he who caused it to be lighted for the benefit of his church in this dark period, and promised that his Spirit "should shew us things to come,” will not withhold altogether his blessing from the weakest attempt to follow his directions—“ lest that day should come upon us unawares.”
If I am not mistaken respecting the prophetic era in which we live, and respecting those signs of our times, which, as "the sky red and lowering,” betokens “the foul weather,” seem to indicate the near approach of the conflicts of the last times, our days are fallen low indeed in the series of predicted events. The glass of prophecy seems to have but few grains of sand to run out. The opinion, which not a few have formed, and that not hastily and on slight grounds, is, that we live in that period of time which is symbolized by the sixth vial in the vision of the revelation,* the last but one of “the seven last plagues,” in which“ is filled up the wrath of God.” Touching, therefore, on that very epocha, when a voice in the heavenly vision is heard, proclaiming, “ Behold I come as a thief : Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”
Now, if there be but a probability of this, the slightest cause for suspicion that it may be correct, or in point of time any thing near correct, ought not an alarm to be sounded ? Should it, after all, prove false, or a little premature, will blame
See Appendix I.
+ Revelation xvi. 15.