« 上一頁繼續 »
Then, much of the predicted glory of the church remains yet unaccomplished. The limits of the Christian faith are narrow; its purity is low and variable; the triumph of the eastern and western apostacies, after eleven or twelve centuries, continue; the progress of missions is slow. The world is still, comparatively speaking, a dark place. We do well then to take heed to the word of prophecy stillmore especially to that which relates to the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christas unto a light shining upon our path, until the day of a brighter glory dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts. The prophecies of the New Testament join with those of the Old, in explaining to us the present state of the church and of the world; and thus sustain our faith in the second coming of Christ, and teach us to be looking for, and hasting unto the day of the Lord.
Thus, most important practical ends are accomplished by the voice of prophecy. Many such attended the delivery of it under the Old Testament. The expectations of the church were fixed on the first coming of Christ; true religion was preserved; consolation was afforded under national distress; the means of recognising the Messiah were abundantly furnished. The prophecies were, indeed, obscure in many other respects, but as to the practical
purposes of them, they were clear. All the wants of the Jewish church were supplied. . • In like manner, our wants under the New
Testament are now met-the confirmation of our Lord's mission; the excitement of faith in comparing prophecy with its fulfilment; and the hope of the further blessings promised to the church.
And as the prophecies of both Testaments are gradually fulfilling, the faith of the church in each passing age is strengthened. The accumulation of accomplished predictions confirms our hope more and more, with the lapse of time, and teaches us to expect the complete and final fulfilment of all our warmest desires for the conversion of the world.
Thus gloriously does the divine prophecy shed its beams amidst the darkness of the world. When the miracles and doctrine of our Lord, in agreement with the ancient predictions, had established his claims to the Messiahship, and the apostles had promulgated the new dispensation to mankind, the church was left to support itself for some period on the undoubted tradition and explication of those proofs. By the time, however, that those miraculous powers had lost something of their impression by the flow of ages, the additional evidence of prophecy was preparing to supply
its place with still greater efficacy. The predictions with regard to the state of the Jewish and Christian church, began to improve into evidence, as miracles failed. And thus the latter times of the church have more than an equivalent for what was, in the nature of the case, confined to the earlier. Prophecy is the last and concluding evidence. This marks a divine hand. The proof from miracles loses something of the vividness of its effect from the distance of time ; (not indeed of the force of conviction, when examined, but of the vividness of the emotions produced as it lies in history;) but the proof from prophecy gains strength from that very cause, and is therefore admirably fitted to accompany the church to its latest period. The two unequivocally attest the divine authority of the religion, of which they form an integral part.
A review of some of the more remarkable instances in which this vast scheme of prophecy has been fulfilled, and is now fulfilling in the world, will be the object of our next lecture.
I. In the meantime tell me, in conclusion, if this prodigious scheme has not the IMPRESS UPON IT OF THE INFINITE MAJESTY of God? Tell me whether any kind of evidence can, in its own nature, be more distinct and clearwhether any proof can be of an extent more becoming the majesty of God-whether its parts can converge in a centre-truth of more sublimity and grace- can be developed with more exquisite contrivance-can be communicated by messengers of more purity and integrity, or be directed to ends more worthy the Almighty and most blessed God.
I see you already are convinced by this display of divine wisdom. The evidence from miracles has prepared you for this different and yet more astonishing testimony from prophecy. The union of the two overwhelms the mind with the superabundant proof. You listened with increased attention as we passed over the rapid survey, and your heart was touched and moved. You saw the wide and irreconcileable distinction between all the petty and miserable conjectures of men, and the majestic and widelyspread ramifications of the holy revelation of God. The dignity and glory of the divine Saviour, incarnate for the redemption of man, seemed to you a suitable and natural centre around which such a system should be placed. All is in proportion.
II. PROCEED, THEN, IN YOUR COURSE OF
HUMBLE AND CAUTIOUS ENQUIRY. Study with sacred awe the amazing subject. You now more clearly comprehend the reason of our insisting so repeatedly, on the right temper of mind in the enquirer into the Christian Evidences. If a man may neglect and reject the palpable proof from miracles, as we showed to have been the case with the Jews at the time of our Lord, he may also misinterpret the divine prophecies. If our minds are prejudiced against the spiritual and humiliating doctrines of Christianity, and we come to the investigation with pride and scorn, we shall discover no harmony in the scheme of prophecy, we shall derive no confirmation from it in favour of the Christian doctrine. In such a state of mind, all is perverted, misunderstood, abused. If the deductions of mathematical science were placed before us as the medium of proof for such holy doctrines, in such a state of mind, we should reject them.
But to the teachable and candid heart, touched with a sense of the weakness and ignorance of man as a creature, with his demerit and blindness as a sinner, and thirsting for heavenly wisdom, the prophetic word is as rivers of water in a desert land. He traces its rise in paradise. He follows the stream as it flows onward. He marks the union of all the tri