Page images
PDF
EPUB

: But I have something more to say on this subject. Though we cannot see every thing in the prophecies, which we are impatient to fee, it is not to be supposed that we can seç nothing in them. If this were the case, we should scarce regard them as prophecies at all; at least, we should hardly be prevailed upon to read and con. fider them, For, it is on the supposition that some light is communicated to us, that we are disposed, as well as required, to take beed to it. In short, if we saw nothing, we should expect nothing : such prophecies would not engage our curiosity, or so much as take our attention. In onę word, they would be utterly loft upon us.

This seems to have been, in some mea. sure, the case with regard to this very book of the Revelations. The early Christianş faw sa little in this prophecy, that they were led by degrees to neglect the study of it. Otherwise, the little 6 therefore it makes for the credit of the prophecy,

that it is not yet understood." Sir I, Newton, p. 251.

F 3

they

they did fee, might have given them a glimpse, at least, of many things, that intimately concerned both their faith and conduct.

It being then necessary, as I faid, that prophecy should, from the first, convey some light to us, and time having now very much increased that light, it' fol" lows, that men may excuseably employ themselves in studying and contemplating even unfulfilled prophecies. They may conjecture modestly of points which time has not yet revealed: but they should, in no case, pronounce confidently, or de cide dogmatically upon them. . It seems therefore to be going too far, to pass an indiscriminate cenfure on all those, who have proposed their thoughts on the sense of prophecies, not yet com pleted, though it be ever so clear that a wrong construction has been made of them. Nay, it is worth confidering whether they may not even have conjectured right, when they have been thought to

mistake mistake the most widely. I say this, chiefy, with regard to the time, which some writers have beforehand assigned for the accomplishment of certain prophecies, and that, on principles apparently contained in those prophecies; but so unhappily, as to draw much scorn and ridicule upon themselves.

I explain myself by a famous instance. Nothing has been more censured in Proteftant divines, than their temerity in fix, ing the fall of Antichrift; though there are certain data in the prophecies, from which very probable conclusions on that subject may be drawn. Experience, it is said, contradicts their calculation. But it is not considered, that the fall of Antichrift, is not a single event, to happen all at once ; but a state of things, to continue through a long tract of time, and to be gradually accomplished. Hence, the interpretation of the prophecy might be rightly formed, though the expectations of most men are disappointed

· It is viấble; I suppose, that the papa! power (if we agree to call that, Antichrift) is now on the decline ; whenfoever that declension began, or how long foever it may bé, before it will be finished. And therefore interpreters may have aimed right, though they seemed to others, and perhaps to themselves, to be mistaken.

Suppose, the rúin of the Western Em, pire had been the subject of a prediction, and some had collected, beforehand, from the terms of the prophecy, that it would happen at a particular time; when yet nothing more, in fact, camé to pass, than the first irruption of the bar: barous nations. "Would it be certain that this collection was groundless and ill made, ''because the empire subfifted in a good degree of vigour for some centuries after? Might it not be said, that the empire was falling [2] from that æra,

[?] St. Jerom, who lived in this time, speaks in the very terms, here supposed, Romanus orbis RUIT. Ep. iii.

or perhaps before; though, in the event, i fell not, till its sovereignty was shaken by the rude hands of Attila, or rather, till it was laid flat by the well-directed force of Theodoric ?

But we have an instance in point, re. corded in facred scripture. It had been gathered from the old prophecies[m], that, in the last times (that is, when the Messiah was come), a new earth and new beavens jould be created. The style is symbolical ; but the meaning is, and was so understood to be, that a new Law should be given to mankind and prevail over the whole world.

This Law was accordingly promulged and began to prevail in the days of the Apostles. Yet there were some who said, Where is the promise of his coming? for, since the fathers fell asleep, all thing's continue as they were from the creation of the world. It was taken for granted, we see, that this great and glorious work, equivalent to the produce tion of a new world, would take place {m} Ifai. lxv. 17.--2 Pet. iii. 4. 13.

suddenly

« PreviousContinue »