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the ground which God had pronounced to Adam. * To Noah this assurance was accomplished, and a promise given that the world should no more be destroyed.
To Abraham the promise made to Adam was renewed in clearer terms. God assured him that in his successors all the nations of the earth should be blessed, thus directly referring to the salvation of Christ, who in after ages was born of the descendants of Abraham.
Jacob, when delivering his dying injunctions to his children, prophecied still more clearly the future blessing of Christ; distinctly stating that this promise would be fulfilled in the line of bis son Judah.
Moses repeated all these prophecies in the fullest manner; and while he described the nature and office of the Redeemer, he prophecied that Christ would be rejected of the Jews, foretelling the heavy punishment of their ingratitude, with astonishing clearness.
From that time forward a succession of prophets appeared in the world, who continued to renew these gracious promises of the coming of Christ, pointing out more and more exactly the circumstances of his life and ministry. They accompanied these promises with the most earnest exhortations to virtue and piety. They warned the chosen people of God, in the most solemn manner, of the danger of falling away from their duty; recalling them from error and idolatry by the prospect of the severest temporal punishments which followed their rebellion to the Almighty.
The number of these prophets appears to have increased up to a certain period preparatory to our blessed Saviour's birth. They were constantly engaged in pointing out the fatal consequence of not attending to these promises. They prophesied the ruin of those wicked nations who denied the true God; and repeatedly foretold the terrible vengeance which the Jews themselves would incur, by their obstinate ingratitude and infidelity.
The benevolent exertions which were employed to bring them back from idolatry, seem not to have been completely effectual until their slavery at Babylon, which the Jews endured for seventy years, as the exemplary punishment of their continued rebellion. From that time they forsook the worship of idols entirely; and being thus brought to a proper sense of the importance of their religious duties, prophecy ceased altogether, as then no longer necessary; and a solemn interval of 400 years succeeded, during which we know of no supernatural communications made to them until the birth of Christ.
The prophetical books of the Old Testament are, from their nature, more difficult to understand, than the historical parts of the Sacred Volume; and, as they contain the evidence of the gracious purpose of the Almighty, in providing the means of salvation for his creatures, from the beginning of the world ;-as they furnish the most clear and satisfactory assurances of this great event, many hundred
* Genesis v. 29.
years before the actual appearance of Christ on earth,-they require our most earnest attention.
The foretelling of future events was not intended to afford mankind an insight into futurity to gratify idle curiosity, but to convey proofs of God's authority given to his chosen ministers. The language, therefore, in which they were expressed was generally obscure, and oftentimes not to be understood until the event itself explained the meaning.
As an example of this, we may refer to many of the prophecies of Daniel which yet remain to be accomplished; and which have baffled the wisdom of learned men, who tried to penetrate into futurity by an endeavour to explain them.
The eastern manner of writing, which deals much in comparisons, represents to us in these ancient prophecies but few things in simple terms. For example, kingdoms and states are often signified by the sun, moon, and stars. Earthly power or strength is likened to that of the lion, and other animals. Knowledge and truth, in prophetic lan, guage, are called light: error and ignorance, darkness. Wars and revolutions are signified by tempests and earthquakes. Divine vengeance, by thunders and lightnings. While the kingdom of Christ is compared to the flourishing of a vine, the beauty of a bride, or the glory of a noble city.
The Prophets whose works form a part of the Old Testament are sixteen in number, and have been divided into two classes, the greater and the less; not that the authority of the lesser Prophets is in any degree inferior to the greater, but they are so called simply from the shortness of their works.
I shall mention a few short particulars concerning each.
Isaiah, the most distinguished of the Prophets, began to deliver his predictions in the reign of Uzziah, King of Judah, about 760 years before Christ. These prophecies most particularly related to the glorious ministry and salvation of Christ, although many other events were foretold by him. The destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah; their captivity in Babylon; the final overthrow of that great empire; the ruin of Egypt, Assyria, and other nations; are foretold in the writings of Isaiah in the most eloquent and impressive Language.
The restoration of the Jews, under the decree of Cyrus King of Persia, is most particularly prophesied in the 45th chapter. Cyrus is therein mentioned by name, above 100 years before he was born. The 9th and 10th chapters particularly foretel the circumstances of the birth of Christ. The 53d (in a most minute and surprising manner) his crucifixion and burial. The 60th chapter points out the extension of the church of Christ to the Gentiles; by which name all other people were distinguished from the Jews, for whom alone the Religion of Moses was designed. The 65th chapter prophecies the exemplary punishment of the Jews for rejecting the promised Messiah.
Jeremiah began to prophecy 630 years before Christ, in the reign of Josiah King of Judah. His predictions were directed to most of those events which`Isaiah had already foretold; the captivity and destruction of the Jewish nation, and the future coming of Christ. Towards the end of the book, he minutely relates the particulars of many of those events which he had himself previously foretold. He prophecies the return of the Jews to Jerusalem; their obstinate rejection of Christ; the heavy judgments which would follow; and their final reception into his kingdom. The last chapter, which relates the death of King Zedekiah, and the captivity of his subjects at Babylon, is supposed to have been added by the Prophet Ezra. These later prophecies were addressed to the people during their captivity at Babylon, from the country of Judea, where Jeremiah continued to reside, though The afterwards retired into Egypt. The Lamentations of Jeremiah, which follow the book of his prophesies, are a representation of the miseries which would befal Jerusalem under the just judgments of God upon that city.
The prophet Ezekiel was carried prisoner to Babylon with the rest of his countrymen, by Nebuchadnezzar, 598 years before Christ; and during that time delivered his prophecies. The holy visions described in his writings represent the high calling to which he was chosen by the Almighty, and many of the misfortunes which were to happen to the Jews, whose crimes he severely rebukes. He also prophesied the destruction of many other nations, Egypt in particular; and, in the 37th chapter, delivers a very clear prediction of Christ's coming.
The Book of Daniel begins with an account of his being also carried away to Babylon 606 years before Christ, when Nebuchadnezzar plundered the city and temple of Jerusalem, intending to instruct him and other young men of the royal household, in the language and idolatry of Chaldæa. They however held firmly to the true God; and being miraculously preserved by Divine favour, Daniel was raised to high dignity and honour, which he continued to enjoy during the reigns of the successive conquerors of Babylon. By the help of heavenly inspiration he interpreted many remarkable dreams; and many wonderful visions were shewn him which are recounted in the writings before us, containing the most astonishing prophecies relative to the revolutions of nations, which were long
afterwards most exactly fulfilled; of others which are now accomplishing; and of some which are yet to come to pass, even to the very end of the world. In the 7th chapter he foretels the coming of Christ; in the 9th he fixes the exact time of his appearance, his death, and resurrection; the prophetical weeks being weeks of years in the language he employs. Lastly, he predicts the future kingdom of Christ on earth, the restoration of the Jews, the universal spreading of Christianity throughout the world, and the general resurrection to judgment at the last day.
Hosea, 800 years before Christ, prophesied to the Israelites the heavy punishment of their crimes; shewing, in the 3d chapter, their future ruin and dispersion, the destruction of their temple and reli❤ gious places. At the same time he promises them a Redeemer, whose resurrection on the third day is exactly mentioned in the 2d verse of the 6th chapter; and finally, he predicts their restoration to God's favour, and that they shall be received into the kingdom of Christ.
Joel prophesied about the same period. He reproaches the people in severe terms; he exhorts them to escape the punishment of their sins by repentance; he pronounces the dreadful judgments that awaited them; but shews the salvation of Christ, which should spring out of Jerusalem; and concludes with a declaration that the Jews would at length be restored.
The Prophet Amos, who lived about the same time, predicts the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, and Judah, and many other nations. He declares the judgments of God upon their great ingratitude, hypocrisy, and rebellion; and, in the last chapter, foretels the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem, and the return of the Jews from captivity.
The vision of Obadiah, who prophesied 585 years before Christ, relates the future birth of the Messiah, as descended from the line of Jacob; and the destruction of the descendants of Esau, who was the father of the nations of the Edomites, or Įdumeans, as had been previously predicted.
The prophecy of Jonah is addressed to the people of Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian empire, whose downfall is predicted as a judgment upon their idolatry and wickedness. He records the remarkable punishment he himself experienced for delaying to execute this Divine command. And the repentance of the Ninevites is shewn, which turned away the anger of God from them until 170 years after; when relapsing into wickedness, their city was destroyed, and the empire entirely subdued. The Books of the Prophets are not arranged in our Bible according to their date, that of Jonah being the earliest; he prophesied 840 years before Christ.
Micah prophesied in Judea 750 years before the birth of Christ, foretelling the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem. In the fourth chapter we read a beautiful prediction of the establishment of the Christian church, and of the birth of the Messiah at Bethlehem, which he mentions by name. He shews the future dispersion of the Jews, and the completion of all the promises made to Abraham.
The prophecies of Nahum are confined to the destruction of Nineveh, and the kingdom of Assyria; they were delivered 715 years before the Christian era.
Habakkuk, who prophesied 605 years before Christ, recounts the visions by which the Babylonian captivity was miraculously shewn to him, and the subsequent fate of that empire. The 3d chapter contains the prayer of the Prophet, which cannot be read without great admiration. It concludes with an eloquent declaration of his confidence in the God of salvation.
In the reign of King Josiah, 630 years before Christ, Zephaniah prophesied the desolation of Jerusalem, Nineveh, Moab, and other devoted cities and nations. He exhorted the Jews to repentance, and to await with submission their future restoration to God's favour, when Christ's universal kingdom should be established.
The Prophet Haggai returned from Babylon with his countrymen, in the year 520 before Christ; when, under the decree of Cyrus, they were restored to Jerusalem. He encourages them to rebuild the temple, and to obtain the favour of God in completing that pious work; promising that it shall far excel the former in glory, not by the beauty of the building, but by the future appearance within its walls of the Messiah whose coming he announces.
Zechariah, who flourished at the same time, prophesies in like manner the coming of Christ, and the Jews' final restoration. In the 9th chapter he exactly describes his public entrance into Jerusalem, as related afterwards by St. John. In the 11th chapter he speaks of the thirty pieces of silver by which he was to be betrayed. In the 12th chapter he mentions the piercing of his body on the cross. These minute prophesies being so exactly fulfilled are referred to by St. Matthew, St. John, and others, in relating the circumstances of our Saviour's death.
We come now to Malachi, the last of the Prophets, who delivered his predictions 400 years before the birth of our Saviour. In Malachi the spirit of prophecy ceased, preparatory to that great event. You will have observed that the great object of prophecy, in those inspired persons who went before him, was to warn the people from their crimes; to preserve in them the worship of the true God; to remind them of the ancient promises of the Almighty to Moses, Abraham, and others; and finally to declare the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to redeem them and all mankind from the eternal consequences of sin. Malachi accordingly begins with lamenting their perverseness and continued impiety. He reasons with them in the name of God for their stubborn wickedness, and in particular severely reproves the priests for corrupting his worship.
In the 3d chapter he makes known the coming of John the Bap tist, as the forerunner of Christ. He declares that the Messiah will appear in his holy temple at Jerusalem, who will invite them to return from their errors, and will send his blessing upon all nations. Lastly, he exhorts them to keep the Law of Moses, and assures them