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THE DUTY OF STUDYING THE PROPHECIES, AND THE
OBJECTIONS COMMONLY URGED AGAINST IT.
The diligent and careful study of prophecy is highly commended in the Sacred Scriptures. Motives urging to it also are suggested; so that, whoever may practically undervalue the prophetical parts of the word of God, cannot, with any fair pretext, question either the obligation or the importance of their study. Yet have both been done. In commencing a series of disquisitions, therefore, designed to aid in the discharge of this duty, it becomes proper and necessary to illustrate and to enforce, to some extent, the obligations binding all to it. Its importance will be manifest, at every stage, in the progress of the investigations proposed.
I. THE SAME OBLIGATION WHICH BINDS US TO THE STUDY
OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, ALSO BINDS US TO THE STUDY
The blessed Redeemer has commanded us to “ search the Scriptures."* In having so done, He has enjoined something more than the loose casual reading of them, or the things which pass current with many for their study. It will not suffice, having brought into view this or the other doctrine, the notions of this or the other theological school or professor, to examine and collate the texts by which they may be proved : nor will it suffice to search for all the texts, by which this or the other system of theological truth, this or the other body of divinity, this or the other theory of religion, may have its general and particular parts or features confirmed. This is but studying the doctrines or opinions, the theories or systems, of man's excogitation and arrangement.
Nor does the careful investigation of the creeds of different churches, and the adoption of that professed by the one to which we may belong, meet our obligations in this matter. It is not designed, either to disparage creeds, or to object to their legitimate use; but the study of any creed, or confession of faith, is not the study of the word of God. No man ever dreamed that he is studying Newton's Principia, Cavallo's Philosophy, Gibbon's Rome, or Hume's History of England, who does no more than consult the index, turn over their pages, and examine whether this or the other proposition or fact, previously stated, is contained in them. No more can he be said to study the Sacred Scriptures—no matter how diligent he may
* John, 5. 39.
be in the use of his concordance—who merely collects and assorts his texts under different heads, and either makes his own, or adopts some other, system of theology.
Nor can he be said to study the Scriptures, who consults this and the other commentator, and selects, from all their different commentaries, the opinions that strike him most favorably. A man may spend his life in this way, and manufacture volumes of notes, and scholia, and expositions, and yet, all the time, have been but studying the writings and opinions of men on particular passages, without digging into the inexhaustible mines of truth which the word of God contains.
Nor can he be called a student of the Scriptures, who is always on the search for novelties and recondite meanings, and betrays an anxiety to differ from all that have gone before him, and to startle by the unexpected and extraordinary interpretation given to plain and obvious passages. This is rather to affect a display of ingenuity, and to study to appear singular.
It behoves us to read the Scriptures attentively, carefully, and with a view to ascertain what they affirm; pondering the language, connection, arguments, and illustrations employed by the sacred writers, so as to ascertain, what they meant, and what they designed to teach. The obligation to this will be denied by no protestant. But if such be our obligations "to search the Scriptures," it is impossible for us to discharge them without the diligent and careful study of the prophecies, which form so large a portion of them. It is not a part only—not the New Testament merely-not, the Gospels—but both Old and New—the entire word of God, that we are bound, according to our time, means, and opportunities, to investigate. Whoso denies his obligation to study. the prophetical parts of Scripture, by the very same mode of reasoning, must deny his obligations to study the word of God at all. When did God give any of us the right to say what parts, or how much, of his revealed will we would attend to, and what we would neglect ?
II. THE SPIRIT OF GOD HAS ESPECIALLY COMMANDED
AND URGED THE STUDY OF THE PROPHECIES. This He has done in several ways. First, He has distinctly and directly met that spirit of practical contempt, with which many are apt to treat the prophetical parts of Scripture, enjoining it on us to “ despise not prophesyings."* And this injunction was immediately given after the solemn mandate, “ quench not the Spirit," as though one of the most common and effectual means to quench the Spirit, is to des. pise prophesyings. In addition to this, He has, in the most formal and explicit manner, expressed His approbation of those who were studious of the prophecies. The Bereans were commended as being “more noblet than they of Thessalonica, in that they re
* 1 Thes. 5. 20, npoontelas. The word is used in its generic import here. « Prophecy may include exhortation, and some sort of instruction, (Acts, 15. 32) as well as the faculty of foretelling distant events. Lightfoot. Locke. Wells. Macknight. See also Collyer's Sacred Interpreter, p. 2, c. viii., sub fin."-Slade's Annotations, vol. i. p. 269.
The Hebrew xias, or Greek mononiens, denoted one who uttered the words of God, either as the organs or interpreters of the divine oracles. See also Gaussen's Theopneusty, pp. 285, &c.
t Acts, 17. 11, cùyEVÉOTEp01. More ingenuous, of better spirit. “ They were, say the Greek fathers, ÉRLELKEOTÉpoi, more impartial ; they thought patiently, meditated, and inquired diligently on the subject; they were kiderútepon, more apt towards the kingdom of God; they were more prepared or marshalled, revayjévoi, towards eternal life.-Elsley's Annotations, vol. iii. pp. 285, 286.