THE CERTAI TY OF PROPHECY. BY REV. JOH T W. FOWBLE.
"For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: thongh it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry," Habaklkuk n, 3. The argument in favor of the inspiration of the Scriptures, drawn from the fulfillment of prophecy, is plain and convincing. To us, poor mortals, it may, with great propriety, be said: "Ye know not what a day may bring forth.' 9 Let the most gifted of men be placed, at the dawn of a cloudless morning, upon some lofty eminence, whence an extensive prospect may open on all sides ; from this point of observation let him narrowly scan each object of heaven and earth, within view ; let him carefully mark every indication, and, beside, let him be placed in instantaneous communication with other favored individuals, in every part of the world, and yet, with all these advantages, and the history of each preceding day, since the commencement of time, spread out before him, he can not, with any degree of certainty, predict, at morn, what shall be at even. With all his boasted abilities he can no.t penetrate the future. To him it is dark and void. Far otherwise was it with those men who spoke of the future "as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." We hear them, in the language of the prophetic Scriptures, predicting events improbable to human reason, and even in opposition to it, which, centuries afterward, met their accomplishment so minutely, and so fully, as to leave no room to doubt that infinite Prescience alone could have seen and revealed them to men. The antecedence of the
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prophecy, and the consequence of the events being established, we are compelled to acknowledge the hand of God in them. Such is the unyielding strength of that foundation upon which the word of the Lord rests. Standing on this rock the Christian triumphantly says : "Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan his work in vain ; God is his own interpreter, And he will make it plain." The text suggests the following proposition : That the purposes of God, though apparently long delayed, will inevitably meet their accomplishment. In the first place, let us illustrate this proposition. For this purpose we will select an individual in a remote age of the world. An account of this remarkable man, and of the events of his history, which shed light upon our subject, is given in the inspired book. We turn to the twelfth chapter of Genesis. " ow the Lord had said unto Abraham, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great ; and thou shalt be a blessing : and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.'' These passages contain two distinct promises, or two prophetic declarations. God here engages to bestow upon
Abraham, and his posterity, great national distinction, and special religious privileges. This is the first promise. The second relates to a period more remote, and to the bestowment of blessings more exalted in their nature, and extensive in their compass — "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed." The Gospel is here preached to Abraham. These are the purposes of God, revealed to the patriarch. ow let us inquire into the manner and period of their accomplishment. 22
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The first step, in the order of divine Providence, for the fulfillment of this first promise, is to lead the patriarch out from his own land and kindred. Abraham is henceforth to be a wanderer and a pilgrim in a strange land. St. Stephen says, "God gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on," Acts vii, 5. To us it would seem that this order was calculated to defeat the declared purpose of God. What a strange road to family distinction and national pre-eminence ! But this act is full of instruction. The Church is henceforth to be distinct from the world — a community of itself. The beginning of sanctification is to separate from evil. Let us pursue this promise toward its accomplishment. Other seeming difficulties arise : the future becomes more dark. ot only does the "heir of the promise" find himself a stranger and pilgrim of the wilderness, but at nearly one hundred years of age, with a wife also far ad-
vanced in life, he is yet childless. To human reason the fulfillment of the promise was almost impossible ; to the divine Mind it was absolutely certain. The Lord's ways are not as our ways. At ninety years of age Sarah bears a son. Abraham is no longer childless. One ray of light falls upon the darkened pathway of the patriarch. Years pass away, and the child grows in stature, and in the confidence and affection of his parents. Let us again turn to our history. And God said to Abraham, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah ; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." If ever mortal man was challenged to reject the counsel of the Almighty, it was in this instance. Every consideration of affection, honor, and justice seemed to say, this must not, can not be. Affection for children must, in every believing parent, be strong and enduring as life. But in this instance it was
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such as only an Abraham could feel toward an Isaac. And yet faith triumphed. Abraham rose up early in the morning, and with his son and servants, and the cloven wood, set forward to the mount of sacrifice. Arriving, he builded the altar, laid the wood upon it, bound his unresisting son, and had lifted up the bloody knife for slaughter, when the angel of God interposed, saying, "Lay not thy hand upon the lad!" It was enough; his faith was perfect ; he loved God with all his heart.
Years roll on, and every year tends to ripen" the purpose of God. Abraham and Sarah, having closed the long, and painful pilgrimage of life, are now quietly sleeping, side by side, in the sepulcher of the field of Machpelah. The posterity of Abraham, in the family of his grandson — Jacob — has increased to the number of seventy and five souls. All-consuming famine overspreads the land. There is no corn, and death threatens, at once and forever, to thwart the purpose of God declared in prophecy. By providences, mysteriously afflictive, the whole family are forced into Egypt. They live, prosper, multiply. Oppressive jealousy lifts its iron scourge over their heads. k Chains of servitude are fastened upon them. They are slaves ! 0, how the doubting skeptic now, for a time, triumphs ! Where is the promise of his coming ? Where the national pre-eminence promised the posterity of Abraham? Hold thy peace, doubting one, "for the vision is yet for an appointed time ; in the end it shall speak and not lie; it will surely come; it will not tarry." The cry of distress filled all the land — rose up to heaven and entered the ear of God. It was not only heard, but heeded. Jehovah came down, brought his people out of bondage, with a high hand and mighty arm led them, "dry shod/' through the midst of the Red Sea, and then buried, forever, the persecutors and oppressors of his Church.
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The star of promise now brightens in the firmament of prophecy. The seed of Abraham are now marching to-
ward Canaan ; but new disasters await them. They are yet to be proved. They enter the wilderness, from which, alas ! but few are ever to escape. For forty years the conflict between the unbelief of the people and the truth of God continues. Failing to allure them onward by benevolence and mercy, Jehovah swears in his wrath, that they shall not enter into that rest. A new generation grows up and takes the place of those, doomed, through unbelief, to lay their bones in the solitude of the wilderness. The time of the promise draws nigh. The cup of the Amorites is full. The memorial of the faith and obedience of Abraham is yet present to the divine Mind. The "end" of the vision is at hand. For nearly five hundred years the purposes of God have been maturing, and now we see a large army of men, women, and children approaching the eastern bank of Jordan. Who are these, and whence come they? These are the children of the solitary and childless wanderer of the wilderness ; and they come from Egypt, from Hara, from Ur of Chaldea. They enter and possess the land, the word of the Lord is magnified, and the purpose of the Almighty, though so long delayed, is at length accomplished. But the promise of God to Abraham included other, remote, and yet more extensive blessings. "In thy seed shall all families of the earth be blessed;" "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ," Galatians iii, 16. Earlier and fainter manifestations of this great truth had, indeed, been given to mankind. Long prior to this time it had been predicted, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." But now, that the Church is located in a single family, and is distinguished by peculiar marks and signs, we are led to look, in a certain direction, for the
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accomplishment of this glorious prediction. God promises the world a Savior; that promise he never forgets, nor does any event in the great plans of his moral government diverge from the leading intention of Divine benevolence, in the redemption of man by the Lord Jesus Christ. But how many and sad the reverses that happened to God's people, during the "waiting of this vision," for four thousand years ! We see them in the wilderness ; we see them in captivity, spoiled by rapacious conquerors, and corrupted by idolatrous rulers ; their towns and cities despoiled, sacked, pillaged, and burned ; the country overrun by hordes of implacable barbarians. Babylon, and Syria, and Egypt, and Philistia, in turn, are engaged in spoiling the heritage of the Church. By Babel's streams, companies of captive Jews are seen touching their harps of sorrow, and weeping, in anguish, over the desolations of Judea and Jerusalem ! But yet, at length, though torn, and scathed, and persecuted, they come up out of the wilderness, leaning upon the arm of their beloved. After a long night of darkness the star out of Jacob arose ; the deliverer came to Israel. "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons," Galatians iv, 4, 5. The purpose of God is accomplished; the world has a Savior. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good- will toward men." Having illustrated the proposition in the bearing of these prophecies, let us now, in the second place, apply it. God can not change. "He is the same yesterday, to* day, and forever." He continues to govern the world in
righteousness and truth. The Lord's word, upon earth, is yet but partly perfected ; much yet remains to be fulfilled. But the Christian, planting his feet upon the im22*
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movable foundation of prophecy, looks forward, in glorious hope, to the future and full revelations of the mercy and power of God. Let us contemplate a few leading events, shadowed forth in the prophetic Scriptures, which are yet to be accomplished. First. The destruction of idolatry and false religion. Whatever system denies to Jesus Christ the excellency and splendor of his offices and character, robs the divine Being of his sovereign authority and rule, or corrupts the spiritual and effective simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus, is Antichrist. This power is marked by various characteristics in the word of God. It has long been in the world, and will hinder and interrupt the pure doctrines of Christ, till it be taken out of the way. The same inspired ringer that writes its characteristics upon leaves of Scripture, in that same Scripture predicts its destruction. The day of doom is fast approaching ; no power on earth can arrest it. Though now, for a time, this system of lies and blasphemy may prosper so as to alarm the fears of many pious Christians, the prayers of the souls under the altar, crying, "How long?" are entering into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. Sudden, fearful, and complete will be
her overthrow. Like a great millstone shall she be cast down, to rise no more forever. Then shall heaven and earth resound the acclamation, "Halleluiah, halleluiah, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth \" Again : the Scriptures predict the spread of the Gospel to all nations, and the approach of the day when the knowledge of God shall cover the earth as the waters cover the great deep of ocean. This event may be long delayed ; corruption may roll, like a flood of desolation, on the world ; God may be denied, and religion subjected to universal contempt and opposition ; yet the eye of faith steadily contemplates the triumph of truth. "As I live, saith the Lord God, every knee shall bow to me, and every
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tongue shall confess to God," Romans xiv, 11. Jesus Christ has put into the mouths of his praying followers the sentence, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is done in heaven!" That prayer will be answered ; how and when, are questions we do not now attempt to explain; but the event itself is certain. The wicked shall not always triumph ; all of earth shall feel the renovating hand of God. The tempest of evil having passed by, then shall the bow of endless peace span the moral firmament. Eden's innocence, and Eden's happiness shall then be restored in that new heaven and new earth, wherein righteousness shall dwell. But, further : the word of the Lord predicts the resurrection of the human body, and the final judgment of the world.
Skeptics may still tauntingly inquire, "How are the dead raised up? and with what bodies do they come?" This can not be ; it is unphilosophical, absurd, and impossible. All this shakes not our faith. "Was Jesus raised from the dead? Let the witnesses be heard! Did he rise? Answer, ye millions, in whose hearts the Holy Ghost witnesses this fact. His resurrection is the model and pledge of ours. " Christ, the first fruits, afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." But we shall be judged. "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ." "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God ; and the books were opened : and another book was opened, which is the book of life : and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it : and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them : and they were judged every man according to their works," Revelation xx, 12, 13. What a scene will then be presented! Can imagination picture its overwhelming realities ? The dead of all ages are here— kings and mighty men, the
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aged patriarch, the seer, the apostles, martyrs, and all the witnesses of Jesus. And the wicked are here — the proud, the persecutor, the vile, the infidel, skeptic man is here, and he is here for judgment for heaven or hell ! That judgment has its issues. They are life and death. They are eternal, unchangeable, limitless. '* Come, ye blessed,"
and "Depart, ye cursed," are the final sentences which shall, on the one hand, fill with rapture, or, on the other, drive to desperation. In God's holy book, salvation or damnation is regarded as the inevitable doom of each and all. The subject is full of terror to the wicked. His day is coming. ow he may sport with eternal things, and laugh at the idea of coming vengeance, but it steadily approaches. 0, sinner, haste for thy life ; haste to Jesus ! But the Christian is interested too deeply to forget it. To him it will be the end of care, and trouble, and sin. Both events are certain. God hath said it. The prediction can not fail. It must meet its final accomplishment. Christian reader, endure unto the end and thou shalt have a crown of life. Amen.
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