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ceived the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so.” A reference to the subject of Paul's preaching will show, that they were the prophetical parts particularly which they searched. For he “reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead, and that this Jesus whom I preach unto you is Christ."'*
Peter, speaking by the Holy Ghost, says, in the plainest manner, that we do well to “ take heed” to the “more sure word of prophecy.”+ Surely if the Spirit of God commends, we should not care who condemns. . .
Beside, the example of the prophets themselves, yea and of the very angels, is referred to in proof of the propriety and obligation of this duty. “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time, the spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified before hand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven-which things the angels desire to look into.”I It ill be comes us, therefore, with examples of such an elevated character before us,—when the very prophets themselves studied their own predictions, and the angels also desired to look into them,—to treat, with lightness or indifference, such an interesting, solemn, and wonderful portion of the word of God.
* Acts, 17. 2, 3.
t 2 Peter, 1. 19.
f 1 Peter, 1. 10–12.
Farther-the volume of inspiration closes with the most extended and intricate portion of the prophetical writings, the revelation of John the divine, in the commencement, and at the close of which, the study of the prophecies it contains is pointedly and solemnly commended. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those sayings which are written therein."* “ And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”'t We know no more likely, or more dangerous way, for any one to incur the curse here denounced, than practically to disesteem, and to discourage, the study of the prophetical writings, by neglecting them altogether. It is virtually taking away the whole. .. These considerations will justify this attempt, by a series of disquisitions, to induce the study of the prophecies. The obligation seems to be so clear and strong, as to excite surprise that it should have been questioned. Yet, by far the greatest portion, both of the ministry and laity, it is to be feared, accord with the proverb they had in the land of Israel, “ in the days of Ezekiel the prophet,” saying, “ The days are prolonged and every vision faileth. The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off.”I The very fact of many prophecies being unfulfilled, or of difficult and doubtful interpretation, is pleaded as sufficient reason for their being neglected.
In enforcing the obligation to study the prophecies, therefore, the motives appropriate, and furnished by the Spirit of God, ought not to be overlooked. He has styled the whole system of prophecy “a light shining in a dark place,” affirmed it to be “a sure word,” and given to exert its cheering and enlightening influence “till the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts;"'* that is, it is to be our light till the events predicted shall have transpired. The apostle Peter compares the knowledge of prophecy to the dawn, and morning star. The system itself is the midnight lamp, to guide our way, and to comfort us in the darkness that enshrouds us. It behoves us to take heed to it or study it, till, through our knowledge of prophecy, we feel the light break in upon us, like the dawn and morning star betokening the approach of the rising sun, or, in other words, the realization of the things predicted. The force of these motives will be most felt, and best appreciated, when it is seen how fully they meet and answer the objections commonly urged against the study of the prophecies.
* Rev. 1. 3.
Rev. 22, 19.
Ezek. 12. 22.
· 1. It is objected, THAT MANY EMINENT MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL, ATTACH BUT LITTLE IMPORTANCE TO THE STUDY OF THE PROPHECIES, CONFESS THEMSELVES ENTIRELY IGNORANT OF THE IMPORT OF A LARGE PORTION OF THEM, AND PROFESS THEMSELVES SKEPTICAL AS TO THEIR LITERAL FULFILMENT. It by no means, however, follows from these facts, that the prophecies are unimportant, and the study of them may be well neglected. It is an argument wholly unbecoming a Christian man, to say, that this or the other great divine, this or the other good man, thinks thus or thus-regards with indifference the subject of prophecy, and does not believe in their literal fulfilment. The question of chief importance with us, should ever be, What doth God say—what is the mind of Jesus Christ-how hath the Spirit testified ? The opinions of men are not the rule of faith ; not even the opinions of the fathers. They are of value no farther than, as matter of history, they help us to trace to the days of the apostles, what views were entertained by those to whom were first committed the oracles of God.
* 2 Peter, 1. 19.
The authority of the fathers has been substituted, by the papal and other hierarchies, for the word of God. Wherever it has been improperly, superstitiously, or inordinately regarded, it has led to the worst of despotism. No man, no church, is infallible. Even the apostles themselves laid claim to no such thing. Their word and opinions are no law or authority, except as they were divinely inspired, and instructed by the Holy Spirit what to testify to the churches. Peter differed from Paul in relation to the circumcision of the Gentiles—a question involving the cardinal doctrine of justification by faith alone in the righteousness of Jesus Christ ; and Barnabas was carried away by Peter's influence, so that he actually abandoned the views which he before held in common with Paul: yet were they both wrong; and Paul hesitated not to rebuke them.* How foolish and dangerous, therefore, must it be, to make any man or set of men our standard, and to adopt their opinions—no matter what may have been their erudition or attainments in piety, even though they may have been “ pillars” in the church. It is only wherein any have been actually inspired, that their word is authority.
It is no uncommon thing for men of undoubted piety to be slow of heart to believe things predicted, which the providence of God afterwards has made so
• Gal. 2. 12, 14.
plain, that it seems wonderful how for one moment they could have doubted. Peter was skeptical in re, lation to the death of Christ, though He had taken pains “to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised again, the third day."* Here was plain minute detail, in the statement of events which were literally to transpire; but the things predicted so of. fended Peter, that he could not believe them; and he carried his skepticism so far, that he even rebuked the Saviour for having thus spoken. The Saviour, how. ever, referred Peter's skepticism to the influence of Satan, and rebuked the devil in his mouth. “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence to me, for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”+
In like manner, the two disciples that went to Em. maus, and Thomas, were so skeptical in relation to the resurrection of Christ, that they would not at first believe, even after the prediction had been literally ful. filled. The rebuke and reproach of the Saviour pronounced against the former, “Oh fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken,"I are enough to show the weakness and absurdity of the objection, against the study of the prophecies, founded on the opinions of great and good men. Deference to such authority may suit papists, and high church ecclesiastics, to be found in different denominations, but it illy becomes those revering His divine authority, who has enjoined it on us all, “Despise not prophesyings; but prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.”ş * Matt. 16. 21, 22.
† Mark, 8. 33. | Luke, 24. 25.
§ 1 Thess. 5. 20, 21.