« PreviousContinue »
had in view, it has become chargeable, I fear, with an apparent want of uniformity. Some chapters may seem too dry, and others too discursive. But I trust that on closer attention there will be seen, throughout, a practical unity of design. My aim has been, first of all, to impress the mind of the reader with a vivid sense of the reality of Divine Providence, based firmly on a strict and logical interpretation of the visions, and then to clothe the bare outline with a refreshing variety of spiritual meditations. It was my hope that the subject might thus become eminently profitable to the Church, to deepen and confirm her faith, to enlarge her hopes, to animate her love, and awaken a more lively adoration of the works and ways of the Most High. In the earnest hope that it altogether fail of its designed purpose, it is now humbly committed to Him, with the prayer that His blessing may rest upon its publication.
Watton Rectory, Herts, May 6, 1844.
ON THE FOUR PROPHETIC EMPIRES
AND THE KINGDOM OF MESSIAH.
From the first promise in Eden, down to the last message of inspiration in the isle of Patmos, the word of prophecy has been commended to the Church for her devout and prayerful meditation. It has been a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the Day-star arise in the heart. The truths, indeed, which need first of all to be learned in the school of Christ, are those which relate to the acceptance and pardon of the fallen sinner, and the holy obedience to which he is invited in the Gospel. They are summed up in the earnest inquiry of the Philippian jailor, “What must I do to be saved ?" and in the words of St. Paul at his conversion, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?” But when the soul is once established in the faith, and has entered on a course of willing obedience to God's commandments, there is an instinct which calls it still higher, and to a still larger view of the Divine counsels. The Christian then rises out of the circle of his own
wants, and the narrow range of his own little sphere, to seek for insight into the ways of the Most High, and the counsels of his love which are from everlasting to everlasting. And hence the beloved Apostle, who was privileged, above the rest, with prophetic revelations, presents this as the third and highest stage of Christian attainment, to“ know Him who was from the beginning." To understand those thoughts and plans of Divine love, which for six thousand years have been fulfilling upon this lower world, is thus the last and highest step in the ladder of Christian experience, and that by which the believer is prepared to enter on the full light of the coming glory.
The fall of man produced a twofold effect, which conspired to hide from sinners the counsels of God. By letting in the tide of evil into God's creation, it rendered the course of His Providence far more deep and mysterious; and, at the same time, it obscured, and almost destroyed, the faculty of spiritual vision. Man was not only an exile, but in darkness. It was the purpose of God, in the redemption of Christ, to restore His people into full communion with His own goodness, and a clear knowledge of His own thoughts and purposes of love. But the recovery was to be gradual and slow. Ages had to pass before the great Deliverer should appear. And till then, it was the part of wisdom to give the Church but a partial insight into those long years of deferred hope and abounding evil, through which the grace of God was slowly and steadily advancing to its final triumph.
Hence, in the earlier ages of the world, the light of prophecy was very sparingly dispensed to the Church of God. As soon as sin had entered, and Satan had triumphed, the promise of a mighty Redeemer was given. But the steps and stages of that redemption were veiled under a thick cloud. Till the time of Abraham, little seems to have been revealed, beyond the general promise of salvation, and the warning of judgment to