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defence of the year-day so utterly absurd and selfdestructive as those quoted by Mr. Maitland from the “Dialogues on Prophecy," or so much arrogance be combined with ignorance, as in the article which drew forth Dr. Mac Caul's able reply, it was high time that Protestants should either frankly abandon the view as untenable, or learn to support it in a more modest and Christian tone, and by more solid and conclusive arguments. The transition from a hollow, hereditary faith, to a deep and personal conviction of truth, like the return to gold and silver from a false and fictitious currency, may have its temporary evils ; but it was absolutely needful, before the Church could attain such a knowledge of the divine prophecies as might really sustain her in the hour of danger and temptation. This change, there are many reasons to hope, is now begun. The Protestant interpretations, cleared from loose and inaccurate statements, or devious fancies, will be unfolded in fuller harmony than before, and serve as a beacon to the Churches of Christ in those various conflicts which seem now to be near at hand. If these pages shall only contribute, in any humble measure, to this great and blessed end, the chief object for which they are now offered to the Church will be fully attained. May it please God, in His infinite goodness, to attend them with His blessing, that they may help to clear the way for a more extensive, and deep, and practical inquiry into every part of the sacred prophecies !
The leading maxims on which the Protestant interpretations of the prophecies are based have now been examined, and are shown to rest on firm and solid proofs. The objections urged against them of late, with so much assiduity and zeal, are found, on a closer search, to be without any real warrant either in Scripture or sound reason, and would lead, by a natural consequence, to universal scepticism and unbelief. The application of the great image, and of the four beasts, to the empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome; and the fulfilment, in past events, of the opening part of Daniel's other visions, has been clearly established. The true reference of our Lord's own prophecy, and the Catholic scope of the Apocalypse, as a history of the whole Gentile dispensation, have also been confirmed by a multitude of concurrent proofs. And, finally, the year-day theory, which some recent authors have thought fit to reject contemptuously, as an antiquated error, is shown to rest on full and copious evidence, when the direction of St. Paul is observed; and, instead of resting in a superficial view, we learn to compare spiritual things with spiritual, and to search deeply and carefully the whole testimony of the word of God. The way is thus cleared for the practical superstructure, by which the remaining part of these prophecies may be explained on sure grounds, and applied to the actual instruction and guidance of the Church of Christ.
An inquiry, however, like this, confined to first ele. ments, and the removal of unconnected and discordant objections, may seem dry and repulsive, and ill-suited to the real dignity of the whole subject. The words of Hooker will supply an apology, if such be needed, for this almost unavoidable defect. “The goodliness of houses, the stateliness of trees, when we behold them, delighteth the eye; but that foundation which beareth up the one, that root which ministereth life and nourishment to the other, is in the bosom of the earth concealed; and if at any time it be needful to search them out, yet is that search more profitable than pleasant, both to them that undertake it, and also to the lookers on." These remarks on the first principles of law, human and divine, apply with equal truth to the fundamental maxims of inspired prophecy. The truths previously established, however dry and abstract they may at first appear, are of the deepest importance in the practical results to which they lead. But besides their connexion with the other parts of these visions, as the true basis on which their interpretation must repose, it seems desirable to point out some of those great practical lessons which they directly convey, and which clothe these bare and mountain eminences of truth with a divine and attractive beauty.
And, first, it may be well to trace the secret spring from which the erroneous theories, here exposed, seem to have arisen. A strong leaning towards a modified Popery, and an instinctive dislike of Protestant truth, appear, in one or two instances, to be the real motive. But there are others, and these are the greater number, in which it would be unjust to offer the same explanation, and where there is no conscious intention of undermining the Protestant faith. The error seems to be of a kind entirely distinct, and requires a deeper search to explain its true nature and origin.
The word of prophecy, then, has a lower and a higher object. The first relates more directly to man, and has two main sub-divisions--the conviction of the unbeliever, and warning or guidance to the faithful Christian. The latter relates to God himself, and the manifestation of the divine counsels in their spiritual glory. The former has reference to the personal interests of man ; while the latter raises our thoughts into the light of heaven, unveils to us the scheme of redemption and the glory of the divine perfections.
In the first of these aspects, the distinction of the past and the future is of great importance. Man, in his fallen state, can scarcely pierce at all through the dark veil which conceals coming events from his view. The contrast, in this respect, between fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecy, is complete; and the practical use of each is entirely distinct. But when we rise to look upon the prophecies in their higher and nobler aspect, as the unveiling of Christ, the distinction almost entirely disappears. In the sight of God himself, who is unchangeable, the past and the future are alike transparent, and form one harmonious counsel of manifested love. And the higher the Christian rises in spiritual attainment, the more does he lose sight of that changing point of time which severs the future and the past, and views the whole plan of redemption, reflected in the mirror of prophecy, in the pure and unchanging light of eternity.
It is, however, the lower objects of prophecy, as evidence or warning, which have generally been foremost in the view of Christians. And here there are two opposite mistakes to which they have been exposed, and which are almost equally injurious. When the attention of the Church was awakened afresh to this great subject, there was, in the mind of many Christians, an exceeding jealousy of all discussion on unfulfilled prophecy. It was thought to be speculative and uncertain, adapted to
produce and foster a vain curiosity, and to divert the mind from the duties of practical religion. Hence arose a tendency to dwell only on fulfilled predictions, to consider evidence as the main benefit to be derived from the study, and to proscribe all investigation of the future as unlawful and pernicious. These notions were too defective, and too plainly opposed to the statements of Scripture, to endure the test of a prolonged inquiry. Thoughtful minds, however cautious and devout, could not fail to see that other purposes, of equal or greater importance, were to be answered by these sacred predictions. They saw plainly that warning to the careless, guidance to the faithful, instruction in the nature and outline of coming events, and preparation for the great steps of divine providence, were real objects recognized by Scripture itself, and which could only be answered by unfulfilled prophecy. Evidence was seen to be only a secondary purpose, compared with this direct insight into coming dangers and mercies, and that spiritual preparedness which is its natural fruit and consequence. The last and noblest prophecy of Scripture, it was also seen, was given with this express design, " to show unto God's servants the things which must shortly come to pass."
There was, from these causes, a natural recoil from the prevalent doctrine which had proscribed the study of unfulfilled prophecy as useless and dangerous. But the correction of this error led, in many cases, to an opposite extreme. Many seemed to fancy that a prophecy, when fulfilled, had lost nearly all its power to instruct or benefit the Church. The office of warning and guidance as to the future was clearly at an end. The use, as evidence, of revealed truth, might appear superfluous, in proportion to the depth of their own conviction. The higher purposes which it might still answer were overlooked or forgotten. Fulfilled prophe