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prophecies themselves. I have found with pleasure a great agreement with all the views contained in this volume, in Tholuck's first Appendix to his edition of the Epistle to the Hebrews. And in one of the volumes of the Theologische Studien und Kritiken there is a notice of a German work on the Psalms, where the application of the passages relating to God in the Old Testament to the Person of our Lord, is explained nearly on the same grounds as in the present volume. But the explanation was not suggested to me by that notice, but had long before appeared to me to be the true solution of the apparent difficulty
NUMBERS xxiii. 9.
LO, THE PEOPLE SHALL DWELL ALONE, AND SHALL NOT BE
RECKONED AMONG THE NATIONS.
It is a striking thing to observe, as we turn over the records of past times, what various subjects have at different periods occupied the attention of mankind. But it is no less striking to notice what falls actually within our own experience, how many various subjects engage the attention of different persons in the same generation and the same country. How different are the objects of general interest at a University, for instance, from those most regarded in a great commercial city; how different again are the views most familiar to different classes or sects of persons within the very same town. Following this up still farther, and if we come even to subjects connected with Christianity itself, what different degrees of interest are awakened by the same points in different minds. Some dwell principally on the doctrines of Christianity, others on its practical lessons; with some, the success of missions is the point nearest their heart; with others it is the unity of the Church, and the customs and opinions of Christian antiquity; while others again turn with especial fondness to
the question of Prophecy, and endeavour to trace out what has actually been fulfilled, and what still, as they think, remains to be so. Now it is not an evil, but a great good, that all these subjects should be studied; neither is it to be regretted, much less to be blamed, that some of them should be peculiarly followed by some persons, and others by others. But it is to be regretted, that men should ever follow any one of these so peculiarly, as to forget the claims of the rest; for then their view and their spirit become narrow, and they understand their own favourite subject the worse, because they look at it in one light only.
Of all these divisions to which I have been alluding, the class of persons who bestow their peculiar attention on the subject of Prophecy, receive perhaps in general the least sympathy from the rest. They themselves regard their subject indeed with intense interest, but they cannot prevail on many others to study it. But there is this peculiarity in the subject of Prophecy, that where it has not been studied, men’s notions respecting it are even more than commonly vague. They may have snatches of notions respecting it here and there, yet even to themselves they are conscious of their unsatisfactoriness. They talk about the evidence of Prophecy, yet I believe it is very rare indeed to meet with any one whose faith rests much upon that evidence, or indeed who has ever really tried its validity.
The subject of Prophecy, however, is one which ought, I do not say to be predominantly, far less exclusively, studied, but certainly not to be altogether neglected. If it were only for the sake of the
many appeals made to it by our Lord and his Apostles, it would have a just claim on our attention. Besides, the Prophets form no inconsiderable portion of the volume of the Scriptures, and the prophetic parts of Scripture are often, as in the first Lesson of this morning's Service, read publicly in the Service of the Church. It is well, therefore, even if we do not follow up the subject minutely, that the ideas which we have respecting it should be clear and edifying.
Now first of all, it is a very misleading notion of Prophecy, if we regard it as an anticipation of History. History, in our common sense of the term, is busy with particular nations, times, places, actions, and even persons. If in this sense, Prophecy were a history written beforehand, it would alter the very condition of humanity, by removing from us our uncertainty as to the future; it would make us acquainted with those times and seasons which the Father hath put in his own power. It is anticipated History, not in our common sense of the word, but in another and far higher sense. Common History, amid a vast number of particular facts and persons, can hardly trace the general principles which are to be deduced from them. Nay, the * See Note 1, at the end of the Sermons.