« PreviousContinue »
HE learned and eminent Lord Bacon, whose judgment no true scholar, or good Christian, will ever dispute, anxiously recommended, that a “ History of the Prophecies should be under
taken, and carried down through all ages,
as the events should fulfil them ;" and there can be little doubt, had his leisure permitted, that he would have engaged in the sacred work: but “ non omnia possumus omnes.” He had, however, this great and pious design so much at heart, that he directed the manner how it ought to be performed. These are his words : *« Secunda
pars (historiæ ecclefiafticæ) que est historia " ad Prophetias, ex duobus relativis constat,
Prophetia ipfa, et ejus adimpletione. Qyapropter tale esse debet hujus operis institutum, ut cum fingulis ex scripturis prophetiis evena
tuum veritas conjungatur; idque per omnes " mundi ætates ; tum ad confirmationem Fidei,
* De Augmentis Scientiarum, lib. ii. cap. xi.
tum ad inftituendam disciplinam-quandam et peritiam in interpretatione Prophetiarum, quæ
adhuc restant complenda.” That is, “ The “ second part (of ecclesiastical history), which " is a history of prophecy, consists of two rela“ tive subjects, the prophecy itself, and its com
pletion. For which reason, the method of “ this work ought to be such, that the truth “ of the events may be joined with each re
fpe&tive prophecy of the Scriptures, to the si cnd that, throughout all ages, it may " tend as well to the confirmation of the faith, 66 as to the establiment of a certain rule and skilfulness, in the interpretation of the
prophecies which remain to be fuljilled.” This forting of the prophecies into two classes, the first to consist of those which have been fulfilled, and the fecond of those, the particular events of which lie concealed in the darkness of futurity, he saw indispensably necessary to the right understanding even of the first class; and he farther was satisfied of the impossibility, in many instances, of explaining the second : and therefore he prescribes a rule for understanding them when they should be accomplished by their respective and appropriate events. Without giving'any other example to prove the good sense, as well as Christian humility, of such a mode
of proceeding, had commentators, in every age, thus acted, confining their explanations to prophecies which were fulfilled, and generally referred a particular expofition of the others to future commentators,
as the events should arise, the history of prophecy would have been a faithful record of divine truths, which all other histories would have confirmed. It would have been equally useful and excellent, and of the first and most beneficial importance to mankind. The mysterious sense of the figurative descriptions would have easily been explained by the events, and the appropriate events as easily distinguished from others, and compared with that sense. Their corref.sondency and fitness would have clearly been ascertained, the exact completion of the prophecies fully vindicated, and evident; and the infinite wisdom, power, and righteousness of the providence of God, demonstrated to the meanest capacity. And moreover, this demonstration would have been accumulating throughout all ages, to the end of time. But for fallible men, however extensive their abilities, and who, were we to ask them, What will come to pass to-morrow? must answer, They do not know, to undertake unfold. ing, with certainty, the mysterious parts of the prophecies, which relate to future times and
seasons, is a presumption and folly altogether unaccountable. It has proved a very mischievous folly, because it has given to the infidel and sophist a handle to treat the revealed will of God with cavil, and impious disdain; and even to seduce some of the professors of Christianity to slander it, as *“ wild and visionary, and barba
rous even to folecism."
For my own part, I confefs, without regret, that I have again and again perused the prophecies in general, visionary and barbarous as they are impiously called, with increasing admiration and delight; and I trust, not without receiving instruction; and, may I be permitted to add, in the face of great authorities to the contrary, that the plan of narrative of the Apocalypse in particular, against which the spleen of infidelity has been for the most part directed, is critically regular and perfect, no less than grand; the chronological order of events exact, the style indisputably noble and sublime, replete with natural and beautiful images, and abounding with accurate and expressive metaphors. And I shall take the liberty of retaining this opinion of its excellency, till those who have endeavoured to bring the Apocalypse into
* Dr. South and others.
'contempt, by their rash and unsupported flander, shall condescend to point out some of those "wild and visionary allegories and barbarisms,' by which they assert it is rendered trifling and unintelligible; and shall also submit their
arguments to public investigation, and to the test of fair and found criticism. To return.
If, therefore, it has pleased God, in all preceding ages, to reveal his power and providence, through the pure, though mysterious course of prophecy, and events without number have demonstrated the completion, it cannot reasonably be supposed, that he has passed over, in filence, those of the PRESENT TIMES : inasmuch as no just cause can be assigned why they are not of as great importance to mankind, and as indicative of his existence and supremacy, as any that have gone before them. In this view of the subject, I ought to have very little doubt, that, if any candid inquirer after truth could be convinced that he might, by “ searching the holy Scriptures,” obtain a just idea of the great and extraordinary events foretold in ages past, and by looking around him perceive the same events, with all the particular circumstances described, as it were, before his eyes, exactly corresponding with, and fulfilling the prediction, it