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Essays on the Millennium. By the Rev. HENRY WOOD-
WARD, A. M.
ADVENT AND KINGDOM OF CHRIST,
EVENTS CONNECTED THEREWITH.
I ENTER on the present discussion with somewhat mingled feelings. Looking at my subject, I have a pleasing confidence, that my heart is inditing a good matter; since I am about to write of the things that are made touching THE KING: but when I consider, on the other hand, (what it were disingenuous to conceal,) that there are excellent and learned men, followers of the Lord Jesus, who are decidedly opposed to the views which I have adopted, I cannot but be diffident in myself; and am led, with increased conviction of its need, to seek the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Not however that I would for a moment give place to the notion, entertained by some, that because there are eminent ministers of the Gospel, who have not cordially embraced these views, therefore they cannot be important, nor even true: the case of Peter and Barnabas in respect to the circumcision of the Gentiles,a in which was involved the vital doctrine of justification by faith, plainly shews, that men of the highest attainments in piety, who have been pillars in the Church, and ordinarily under the influence of inspiration, have nevertheless been slow of heart in regard to truths of infinite moment.
. Gal. ii. 10-16.
These circumstances however move me to commence this series of essays, with the notice of two or three serious objections, directed against the subject in general. Other objections, which affect particular points only, I shall endeavour to meet as those points come to be considered; but these, I repeat, affect the whole subject, and are of that character, that, if the mind be under their influence, it will be predisposed against the clearest and most scriptural statements, and thus prevented from properly weighing any thing which may be advanced.
1. The questionable propriety of studying and of discussing prophecy, especially unfulfilled prophecy, is one of those objections, which must be met in the outset. It chiefly consists in the alleged impossibility of understanding or judging of a prophecy, until the event has proved its meaning. But how contrary is this to the experience of the Church! Promise, the greater portion of which is unfulfilled prophecy, is declared in the New Testament to be a principal means whereby we are made partakers of the Divine Nature;' which could not be, were it entirely vague and indefinable: and under the Old Testament dispensation, the Church was chiefly sustained and nourished by prophecy; most of the burning and shining lights raised up in it being prophets. The very first promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent, was an unfulfilled prophecy, to which the Church took heed for 4000 years. Noah prepared his ark, moved by the fear of an unfulfilled prophecy or promise; and Abraham saw afar off and rejoiced in the day of Christ by means of another. Joseph would not have directed his bones to be removed, had he not depended on prophecy for the going out of his people; to which prophecy the Lord afterwards referred Noses and Aaron, as the pledge, that he would redeem them. The Israelites were encouraged to labour for their deliverance from captivity, by the prophecy concerning it: for as Jeremiah had prayed for and obtained an understanding of the restoration of his people, when they were about to be led into captivity; so Daniel understood the times from the study of the writings of Jeremiah;d just as the faithful were afterwards waiting for the Consolation of Israel from the study (as is presumed) of the book of Daniel. It was through attention to unfulfilled prophecy, that the christians left Jerusalem and escaped to the mountain, when the city was besieged by the Romans: and the Lord hath, equally for our admonition, foretold the signs of that greater destruction, of which the overthrow of Jerusalem was but a type.
b2 Pet. i. 4.
Jer. xxxii. 16—25, 36–44.
Dan. ix, 2.
I am aware that there are difficulties attending the interpretation of the prophecies; and that, although some are to be literally understood, many are figurative or allegorical, whilst others are constructed of the literal and figurative intermixed: but of those which are not declared to be sealed up, the difficulty has chiefly arisen from the extravagant practice of spiritualizing or allegorizing all passages which relate to the future.
And great is the advantage which this system has given to the enemies of Revelation. They tell us that Scripture is not a proper guide, because every man hath his own interpretation-his own way of explaining or accommodating it. The imaginations of commentators, or the sentiments of friends, have too frequently been made the key to modern expositions; whilst the plain text, which is the safest guide, has been neglected.
The apostles are often brought forward, as an instance of men who erred in regard to the proper understanding of those prophecies, which related to the first advent; and from their mistakes the impossibility of any being able to understand what is foretold of the second advent is confidently insisted on. But I am of opinion that this circumstance is commonly misstated and still more misapplied. I cannot think the apostles and first disciples misunderstood the general scope of the prophecies, which led them to expect at that time a manifestation of the kingdom of Christ on earth; though they might have had much confusion and obscurity in regard to the time, and details, and nature of that kingdom. The fault of the apostles was, that—though repeatedly warned, that there were other prophecies, which shewed that Messiah must first suffer —they overlooked these, and suffered their attention to be absorbed with one class of predictions only. What was there to have prevented them from comprehending such prophecies as the following: viz:—that Jesus should be born of a virgin; -that he should ride upon an ass;—that he should be betrayed by one of his followers;—that they should pierce his hands and his feet;—that they should part his garments and cast lots for his vesture;—that he should be numbered with transgressors; and many other things, which being plainly foretold were literally fulfilled? The sharp rebukes of Jesus, because the disciples did not understand that he ought to have suffered these things, and because they were slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had written," appear inconsistent, if they really could not have been understood. Indeed the whole Sanhedrim, ungodly and darkened as they were, did nevertheless answer Herod most correctly from the prophets, that Christ should be born at Bethlehem: and it seems