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great epochs, the first and the second coming of Christ; and under these two great epochs all prophecy may be arranged.
1. The first epoch, including the view which prophecy gave, before his coming, of the person and office of our Blessed Lord, presents such an outline of him as embraces all the chief points of his history as recorded in the Gospels. His Divine and human nature (Isa. ix. 6). His descent; from the first woman (Gen. iii. 15); from Abraham (Gen. xii. 3); Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau ; Judah, the fourth in descent, not Reuben, the first-born (Gen. xlix. 10); Jesse (Isa. xi.) ; David, the youngest of eight (Jer. xxiii. 5). The time of his coming (Gen. xlix. 10; Dan. ix. 24; Haggai ii. 6—9); the place of his birth (Micah v. 2); circumstances attending it (Isa. vii. of a virgin : Mal. iii. 1, his forerunner). His offices, as Prophet, Priest, and King (Psal. cx. ; Zech. vi. 13; Isa. Ixi. 1). His ministry, where it should begin (Isa. ix. 1, with Matt. iv. 14); that it should be confirmed by miracles (Isa. xxxv. 5, 6). His sufferings and death (Psal. xxii. 16; Zech. xiii. 7; Isa. liii.). His resurrection (Psal. xvi.); ascension (Psal. lxviii. 18). His sending the Holy Spirit (Joel ii. 28).
2. The second epoch, including the various fortunes of His church after his ascension till his second coming, embracing many prophecies yet to be fulfilled, but the general bearing of which is to encourage the most exalted hopes as to the glory awaiting that church ; the conversion of the Jews (Rom. xi.), and all the kingdoms of the world becoming the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ. (Rev. xi. 15.) See also chaps. xxi. xxii., a most magnificent description of the heavenly state, with which this wonderful book closes.
If, then, we consider (as Bishop Hurd suggests) these three things in relation to the prophecies of the Bible,1st, The prodigious extent of prophecy, from the Fall of man to the consummation of all things; 2dly, The dignity of the Person who is the chief subject of prophecy—the Seed of the woman, and the Son of man, yet above all principality and power as the Word and Wisdom of God, the Eternal Son of his Father, the Brightness of his Glory, and the express Image of his Person ; 3dly, The declared purpose of prophecy, to deliver a world from ruin, to abolish
sin and death, to purify and immortalize human nature ;we may well say, “ Tell ye, Bring them near,” that with such evidence can hesitate to receive the Bible as the word of God; yea, let them take counsel together: Who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? Have not I the Lord ?” (Isa. xlv. 21.)
Yet, had there been no prophecies in the Bible, would it not have been proved to be the word of God by the miracles wrought to prove it? Had it contained neither prophecies nor miracles, would not its wonderful preservation; its moral influence in the world ; the exact agreement of all its parts with each other; the spirit of the writers; their regard to truth, love, holiness, and the glory of God—would not these have established the same truth? What then must be their united force? And this, and more than this, we actually possess.
But this great subject is thus glanced at, rather to awaken than set at rest inquiry, which, the more it is pursued in a right spirit, will the more deeply convince us, that, in receiving the Bible as the word of God, we have not followed cunningly devised fables ; that we may, as it graciously bids us do, build on it our hopes for eternity (John vi. 63).
And is the Bible the word of God? and can we think for a moment who God is, and our relation to him as his creatures (Acts xvii. 28 ; Rom. xiv. 12), and not feel that we should listen with deepest attention, and entire submission of our understanding and heart, to what it teaches ? take warning from St. Paul's admonition to the Hebrews (xii. 25) not to turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven. Let us imitate the example of the Thessalonians, and receive the Bible, not as the word of man, but, as it is in truth, the word of God (1 Thess. ii. 13). Like David, let us resolve, “I will hear what God the Lord will speak” (Ps. lxxxv. 8). Like Mary, let us ponder these things in our heart (Luke ii. 19, 51); and in a spirit of obedience, with Samuel, say,
Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth” (1 Sam. iii. 10). And, especially, as the Bible is dictated by the Holy Spirit, let it be read with constant prayer for the teaching of that Spirit. This direction unattended to, renders every other, to all practical purposes, useless—this direction patiently followed, will open the mind to all saving truth (Luke xi. 9. 13; Psalm cxliii. 10). Nor let the ,
reader ever forget that that evidence for the divine authority of the Scriptures, which it is most important he should possess, is the experience of its holy influence on his own heart and life.—“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.” (John vii. 17.)
QUESTIONS ON CHAP. I.
On what does a right use and even an understanding of the Bible depend? [p. 3.]
What makes the preservation of the Bible so remarkable ? [p. 4.] How do we know the Bible has been preserved unaltered ? [p. 5.). Give some instances of the effects of the Bible. [p. 6, &c.]
What makes the agreement of all the parts of the Bible with each other so remarkable ? (p. 8, &c.]
Truth, love, holiness, a supreme regard to God's glory, distinguish the writers of the Bible-give an illustration of each of these qualities in them. [p. 11, &c.]
What is a miracle? and what are Leslie's marks of a real miracle ? [p. 17, &c.]
Illustrate how God graciously so appointed it that it should appear evident that Moses acted by His authority. [p. 19.]
Mention the names of some of those who have written on the Resurrection of our Lord, and the views they have taken of it. [p. 20.]
Give some illustration that the prophecies of the Old Testament are above human conjecture or sagacity. [p. 21, &c.]
Give some account of the prophecies respecting Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, Egypt, the preservation of the Jews as a separate people, Noah's prophecy, and that concerning Ishmael, and those concerning our blessed Lord. [p. 22, &c.]
By what three considerations does Bishop Hurd shew that the prophecies of the Bible prove it to be the word of God ? [p. 30.]
In what spirit should we read the Bible ? [p. 31.]
Which direction for the profitable reading of the Bible is of all others most important ? [p. 31, &c.]
What is that evidence for the divine authority of the Bible which it is most important we should possess ? [p. 32.]
N.B. This list of questions may be much enlarged ;•and both the framing of such questions on each section, and giving written answers to them, would afford a profitable exercise to the young.—Thus, § 1. How much older is the first part of the Bible than any other history which we have ? Who are the oldest profane historians whose writings we have ? With what writer of the Old Testament were they contemporary ? &c. &c.
FOR WHAT PURPOSE WAS THE BIBLE
CONTENTS.-fi. Ignorance of mankind without the Bible. Sii. God's
great design in the gift of the Bible.
The inquiry proposed in this chapter is most important. The Bible being the word of God, for what purpose was it given ?
§ i. Ignorance of mankind without the Bible. Consider what, as to religious truth, is, and ever has been, the state of mankind without the Bible.
“ When Adam died, Methuselah was about 200 years old; when Methuselah died, Shem was near 100 ; when Shem died, Abraham was about 150: so that a tradition need pass only through two hands from Adam to Abraham: and yet, within this period, the tradition of the one true God was in a manner extinguished, and the world was generally lapsed into polytheism and idolatry.” (Bishop Newton, on the Expediency of writing the Scriptures.)
The first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans very accurately describes what are men's views of the character of God, what is their own character, wherever the Bible is not (See particularly verse 23, 29—32). That chapter was written nearly 2000 years ago ; yet so much is human nature the same in every age, that it presents to us a faithful picture of the present state of mankind—the natural fruits of the human heart (See Magee on the Atonement, vol. i.
Where the Bible is not, mankind are ignorant on these two points: they are ignorant of God; and they are ignorant of themselves.
1. They have no just views of the character of God; His nature and attributes.
It has been truly said, “ No instance can be mentioned of any nation emerging from Atheism, or Idolatry, to the knowledge and adoration of the One true God, without the assistance of Revelation. The Africans, the Tartars, and the ingenious Chinese, have had time enough, one would think, to find out the true and right idea of God; and yet, after 4000 years' improvements, and the full exercise of reason, they have at this day got no further in their progress towards true religion than to worship stocks, stones, and devils” (1 Cor. x. 20; see also Bishop Heber's Journal, vol. iii. p. 354, where a most affecting account is given of the present state of the religion of the Hindoos as the great stimulant to crime).
“All nations that have not been, directly or indirectly, taught by the Bible, are Idolators ;” and in proportion as its circulation has been checked, men have shewn a tendency to return to idolatry, as abundantly appears from the history of the Christian Church during the ninth and two following centuries, and the state of those churches at this moment where the circulation of the Scriptures is checked.
2. As necessarily following from their ignorance of God, mankind, where the Bible is not, are grossly ignorant of themselves ; they have no just views of their own character and condition.
Facts every where illustrate, that, in proportion to men's ignorance of the Bible, they become "vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts are darkened.” Yet, so far from being aware of their folly, they profess themselves wise ; are proud, and boasters, while without understanding; glorying in their shame (Rom.i. 22; Isa. xliv. 9—20; Jeremiah viii. 9 ; Psalm lxxiv. 20).
Such being, and ever having been, the state of mankind wherever the Bible is not, we may remark, God gave us the Bible to teach us both the knowledge of His character and of our own character and condition ; to shew us what He is, and what we are.
§ ii. God's great design in the gift of the Bible. But we must go a step further, and ask, What is the amount of this knowledge of God and of ourselves which we derive from the Holy Scriptures ? This is what we