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throughout the whole civilized world, both Gentile and Jewish. It was, as already stated, a season of universal tranquillity. A virgin daughter of Judah, according to the prediction of Isaiah, was found with child of the Holy Ghost—a manger in Bethlehem of Judea, was the birth-place of the Prince of Peace— angels proclaimed to the Judean shepherds the complete accomplishment of all that the prophets had spoken of his incarnation—and a miraculous star had piloted the footsteps of the magi of the East to his cradle to do him homage. In the light of truth and fact, therefore, we affirm that, so far from any concealment of a knowledge from those interested, of time, place, and other circumstances of ALL the most prominent predictions of the Old Testament down to the First Advent of Christ in the flesh; in addition to the specification of DATEs, marking their commencement and termination, are also “signs,” appointed as the harbingers of their approaching consummation. We ask therefore—Why this? It is natural enough for one to suppose that, to mark the beginning and end of a predicted event by a specific number of years, were quite sufficient for all the practical purposes contemplated therein. And so it were, did we Christians, like the Babylonian captive Daniel, “set our faces wnto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes,” to examine, that we might understand by books, THE NUMBER of THE YEARs whereof the word of the Lord speaks” in the prophecies concerning us. But, alas! alas! who can contemplate, without the deepest emotion, the sad reverse of all this Look abroad in our churches, and among the religious orders of every name throughout christendom, and, except here and there, like angel visitants,
1. Isa. vii., 14.
“—— few and far between,”
none are to be found as witnesses for the momentous truth; none to assert the weighty and important fact, for which we here contend. All voices unite in denouncing prophetic dates All exclaim, what can we know of prophecy till it be fulfilled 2 And now, in reply, we would not dip our pen in wormwood and gall. No; we would temper the always painful task of “reproof and rebuke” of the sin of omission in these premises, “with meekness, and long-suffering, and patience;” and if we have drawn the picture of this sin in strong and vivid colors, it is that we may the more effectually aggrandise the boundless goodness of God in adding to prophetic dates prophetic “signs.” Here, then, we exclaim, O love of God surpassing thought ! The professed followers of Jesus, for the most part ignorant of the commencement and termination of prophetic times by a wilful neglect to consult the great scriptural chronometer which God has given them; yea, even denying the fact that such scriptural chronometer for the measurement of “times and seasons” has been given; receiving, nevertheless, through the Divine goodness,
the interposition of a double warning, by the institution of “signs,” both in the natural and moral heavens, to the intent that the latter, supplying, so to speak, the purposes of the former, may rescue them from those otherwise forgotten judgments, now nigh at hand “O for such love let rocks and hills, Their lasting silence break; And all harmonious human tongues, The Savior's praises speak.”
Yes; in this act of the Divine goodness, it may be
Once more. If we take a view of the prophecies as connected with the doctrines which we inculcate, we cannot but perceive the harmony existing between them and the doctrinal features of Christianity. Does every PREDICTION, as we have said, comprehend within itself the double characteristic of judgment and of mercy? Does it consequently proclaim alike to all the voice of warning and of promise 2 So we say of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. It comprehends the twofold, doctrine of judgment and mercy. It unfolds a merciful doctrine of divine grace—“He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.” It unfolds also a gracious doctrine of divine justice, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” In view, therefore, of this sacred affiance between the Gospel and the Prophets, may wenot demand, “What God hath thus
1. Mark Xvi., 14.
joined together, let no man put asunder 2" | To conclude therefore this branch of our subject. To my mind, as well may we hope to reap the mercies, and escape the judgments of the prophecies, though we wilfully close our eyes against both the sacred chronometer of prophecy, and the “signs of the times” which accompany them, as to hope for salvation through the
Gospel, though we wilfully close our eyes against its invitations and its warnings.
These, and the like considerations, which, but for want of time, might be profitably extended, we would offer to your unbiassed and serious attention; while, by your further indulgence, we now proceed to apply prophetic “signs” to the present and the future. Yes, concerning these, we now say to you, “Ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” For, “when THESE THINGs begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth migh.”
On entering, however, on this department of our Lecture, I would make the language of the distinguished Baxter mine, who, whenever he entered the pulpit used to say,
“I preach as if I ne'er should preach again,
Our subject is one of momentous interest. Our relation to it is one of common concern, which if we would, we cannot evade. It must prove to us a bea
1. Matt. xix., 6.
con-light, to pilot our trembling bark into the blest haven of millenial repose; or it will be as “a millstone” about our necks, to plunge us in the lowest depths of God's coming judgments. If of any subject in the whole compass of God's revelation to man it may be said, that it will prove a “savour of life unto life, or of death unto death,” it is this. Yes, the present “signs of the times,” considered in the light of evidences of the fulfilment of prophecy, both present and future, may be viewed as the last call, the last act, the last stoop of God's long-slighted, longabused mercy to the guilty nations of men. These “signs,” therefore unheeded, till amid the darkening of the heavens by the sudden uprising of the cloudy pillar of God's wrath, they are for ever closed to our view; and amid the clashing artillery of heaven the voice of mercy can no longer be heard, and we are lost, lost for ever ! O then,
“Awake—again the Gospel trump is blown,
It is due to that portion of the subject on which we are now about to enter, to remark, first, that the prophetic expositor will be called to encounter difficulties which, in comparison with the preceding, are neither few nor small. At least, (and this is what we mean
1. Matt. xviii., 6. 2. 2 Cor. ii., 14.