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lectures, I shall endeavour to avoid, as much as possible, any improper interference.
The passage I have read from the Epistle of St. Peter, contains an interesting and most instructive statement of the manner in which the ancient prophets regarded unfulfilled predictions. It announces the great subjects of prophetic testimony; it assures us that the facts reported in the preaching of the Apostles have verified and accomplished that testimony; and it represents the highest order of holy intelligences as devoutly interested in contemplating the great economy of redemption. In connexion with these statements, it carries forwards our anticipations to that period when the purposes of mercy shall receive their full completion, in “ the grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The past is the pledge of the future; the things now reported as facts, were once announced as predictions; the light that has shone on those predictions shall by and by be reflected on such as are yet involved in obscurity; “ the mystery of God shall be finished,” the number of the elect be accomplished, and “ God shall be all in all.”.
From the text it is evident that the prophets did not fully understand their own predictions; nevertheless they made them the subject of their constant and devout investigation: “they searched and inquired diligently respecting the grace" that did not come unto them, but was designed to come unto us. They “ searched what things, (eic tiva) and what manner of time, the spirit of Christ that was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” As the result of their thoughtful and devout inquiry, they were assured that the things thus revealed would not be realized by themselves, and that in a future age, and under a better dispensation, they would receive their accomplishment. “God having provided those better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect”---they still cherished a holy desire to look forward to “ the glory to be revealed,” and rejoiced in the anticipation of the coming day of the Messiah. On the same enlarged and benevolent principles, it becomes us to enter in their spirit, to imitate their devout example, and, aided by the light which prophecies already fulfilled shed on our path, to explore as far as we are able the scenes that lie before us.
On the present occasion I propose to adduce some reasons for the purpose of recommending an attention to unfulfilled prophecies; and to suggest a few considerations which
assist in regulating our inquiries into this department of revelation.
In order to a just impression of these reasons, it is necessary that we should form correct ideas of the general objects and designs of the prophetic system. Prophecy is both the subject and evidence of revelation. It is an announcement in the name of the Almighty, which demands the reception of faith, before it is either understood or accomplished. The primary ground of its claim to credence exists either in the character of the Prophet, or in some direct attestation of his divine commission. When events transpire which fulfil the prediction, that fulfilment becomes an additional proof of the truth and authority of the original testimony. All the associated truths and principles are thereby confirmed; and prophecies fulfilled are in effect miracles of knowledge, as other and more sensible attestations are miracles of power. Prophecy is thus accumulating and progressive in its character. Each successive epoch reflects new light on its meaning; its language becomes more intelligible; its application is more definite; and the unfolding hand of time, as it removes the causes of obscurity, increases its value, and confirms its authority.
Prophecies differ from miracles in being not merely attestations of the truth of revelation, but an essential part of the materials and elements of revelation. The first communications of the Deity to fallen man were prophetic; and “things not seen as yet,” became the objects of his faith, and the sources of his consolation. It has so pleased the Most High, in the disclosures of his will, as not only to meet all the moral exigencies of our nature, but in the method of that revelation to provide for the beneficial exercise of its most important faculties. Memory and hope are the sources of our intellectual eminence, and according to the complexion of their objects they form the elements of our moral character. It appears to be the great line of distinction between the mind of Deity, and all created and dependant minds, that while the understanding of Jehovah is infinite and essentially incapable of receiving accessions either to its knowledge or its power, to all other minds there is a necessary successiveness in their ideas. Thus the past constitutes the materials of memory, and the future becomes the object of anticipation. The present never satisfies us but as it is associated with what is remembered or hoped for: and it would seem as if this stretching forward to the future, this unlimited and indefinite progressiveness in our desires and anticipations, would be the character of our mental existence through eternity.
religion, the expectation of some better and brighter era appears to have formed an essential part of the cherished hopes of the servants of God. Of the patriarchs we read that “
they died in faith, not having received the promises; but having seen them afar off, they were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were pilgrims and strangers upon earth.” The attention they felt to be due to unfulfilled predictions, included in it the most important requirements of their religion: their faith was eminently in this respect “ the confidence of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.”
The system of prophecy appears to have been so constructed by its divine author, as to accomplish the highest moral purposes, before, during, and subsequently to the respective periods of its accomplishment. It is thus associated with all the plans of the divine government in reference to responsible agents. It has embraced, especially in former times, and before the discoveries of revelation and the evidence of their authority were completed, a series of events of a purely secular character, and for purposes of local and temporary interest. These were all designed for important objects, both at the time of their announcement and their accomplishment; but they were evidently of a subsidiary character; and all of them were subordinate to the