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for that has become extinct for ever. So with Egypt, which now is flourishing as a country: it is not the Egypt of old times; there is a chasm not to be filled up, between the people who built the pyramids, and engraved their hieroglyphics on the obelisks, and the new nation that may occupy their land. So it is even with Greece. Christian Athens is divided, and must be, by one deep and impassable barrier, from the heathen Athens of old. But Israel exists still unchanged; still God's people in every land carry back their sympathies unbroken to the age of the first father of the faithful; the patriarchs and prophets are the spiritual ancestors of the Apostles and of ourselves; their prayers are ours, their cause was ours, for their God was ours. And if Israel after the flesh were to return unto the Lord, what has she lost of her old identity? Place does not make a nation, but the sameness of sympathies; and in this respect there is nothing of Israel in the earliest times, which would be dead to Israel now.
This can be said of no other nation upon earth; and thus has Israel endured, because she was, though imperfectly, the representative of the cause of that God, who alone endureth for ever.
St. Matthew iv. 6.
IF THOU BE THE SON OF GOD, CAST THYSELF DOWN: FOR IT
IS WRITTEN, HE SHALL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE CONCERNING THEE; AND IN THEIR HANDS THEY SHALL BEAR THEE UP, LEST AT ANY TIME THOU DASH THY FOOT
AGAINST A STONE.
if I may
In what I said last Sunday on the subject of Prophecy, I endeavoured to lay down what appeared to be its general object and character; namely, to assure man amidst the existing evils of the world, that the cause of good would be finally and entirely triumphant. And this being so, as it is most certain that no people on earth has ever either perfectly served the cause of good, or utterly opposed it, so it follows, that no people can, so speak, fully satisfy the mind of Prophecy, because no people purely represents those unmixed principles of good and evil, with which Prophecy is alone properly concerned. And thus it has happened, that those who have attempted to trace an historical fulfilment of the language of Prophecy with regard to various nations, have never done their work satisfactorily; nor on their system was it possible to do it. For the language of Prophecy on these subjects could not be literally accom
plished for two reasons ; first, because, as I have said before, it was not properly applicable to any earthly nation from the imperfection of all human things; and, secondly, because even that character of imperfect good or evil which made certain nations the representatives, so to speak, of the principles of good and evil themselves, was not and could not be perpetual; there are in the course of generations changes in the character of every people, both for the better and for the worse. Now where such a change took place either for good or for evil, there the prophecy could not be fulfilled at all; as in the case of Jonah's prophecy of the destruction of Nineveh; and they who under such circumstances would require the fulfilment, in order to save, as it were, the honour of the prophecy, are rebuked beforehand in the language addressed to Jonah, when he indulged a similar feeling. God's prophecies are not against Nineveh, but against sin: if Nineveh turns from her sin, she is no longer the subject of any prophecy of vengeance.
Thus there may
be cases where no historical fulfilment of national prophecies is to be found at all: but in all cases, the fulfilment will fall short of the full strength of the language, because, to say it once again, the language in its proper scope and force was aimed at a more unmixed good and evil than have ever been exhibited in the character of any earthly people.
And here then, arrived at this view of Prophecy,
and seeing on the one hand the largeness of its promises, and on the other the necessary incompleteness of their fulfilment, how shall the truth of God's word be reconciled with the laws of his moral government ? must he stint for our sin's sake the abundance of his mercy, or impair for his promise's sake the perfection of his justice? Surely here too, as in other respects, the creation was groaning and travailing in pain together; the children were come to the birth, but there was not strength to bring forth: hope and disappointment were struggling together; the promise was still of blessing, but the experience was of sin, and therefore not of blessing, but of judgment.
And look around even now, and does it fare better with the historical interpretation of Prophecy than it did in times past? Does the Christian Israel answer more worthily to the expectations of Prophecy, than the Israel after the flesh answered to them of old ? Grant that Rome in later times is in some sense and in some degree the Babylon of Christian Prophecy, yet who that knows the history of the Roman Church from first to last, can pretend that its character is of such unmixed or such intense evil, as to answer to the features of the mystic Babylon of the Revelation ? As truly might it be pretended that any historical Church, protestant or primitive, was a faithful image of the heavenly Jerusalem.
But where then is the consolation of Prophecy to