The Difficulties and Dangers of Prophetic Study

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It is hardly possible not to feel interested in the present revived attention to prophecy. Whether this has arisen from the stirring events of the world, or from the awakening of the Church to a sense of her own proper glory, still, as a matter of fact, the numerous late publications show that the attention of many is now being turned to Prophecy. If passing events have given this impulse to prophetic study, it will in all probability be merely ephemeral, ending in an attempt to make the present era an important one in the prophetic chart; and if there should be anything like re-settlement in the nations of Europe, the study of prophecy will, by the many, be dropped. If, on the other hand, the Church is being awakened to a sense of her own proper glory, and the high prize of her calling, we may expect, from the known love of the good and great Shepherd of the sheep, that He is about to open to them their own proper hope, to make them see this hope more distinctly and vividly, so as to act influentially on them; and by this very means, perhaps, to unfold to the Church what is written in the Scripture of Truth, concerning the closing scene of this present evil age. I must confess that it is not without much anxiety that I look at this revival of the study of prophecy among Christians. In the space of twenty years, I have witnessed the formation of two prophetic schools, each issuing in fundamental error, respecting the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. I speak only of what has fallen under my own limited sphere of observation. It just twenty years, this very month, since I took from Nisbet's counter the first number of the "Morning Watch," and read it with much interest. But how soon as this interest disturbed by the growing intellectual character of the work, its dogmatism and antagonism, its attempt to unsettle the mind on every truth commonly received among Christians; till, at last, speculations on the person of Christ, soon ended in the heresy now known as " Irvingism." I doubt not that the book did its work; and for myself, I can say, that painful as was the process of the Irvingite controversy, I am thankful for the result of it on my own mind, as it taught me the important truth, that the person of the Lord was set before us, not as the subject of speculation, but as the object of faith. And from that day to the present, I have felt the safeguard of the canon-" No man knoweth the Son but the Father." But besides this, although ending in false pretensions and a system of ordinances, yet attention was called, by means of the Irvingite controversy, to what the Church really is in her privileges and endowments; to the specialty of the relation of the Holy Ghost to the Church, and His distinct gifts of ministry; subjects well nigh forgotten even by real Christians. It is indeed a sorrowful "needs be," yet those who have learned the truth of God by means of it can understand the Apostle's
words: " There must needs be also heresies, that they which are approved may be made manifest." God has not given His truth to minister to our self-conceit. In this way, truth might indeed be " sweet in the mouth as honey." But if, by fault of spirituality or faithfulness, we have so trifled with the truth of God as not to be able to digest it, and thus find it " bitter to the belly," He will make it to become so by another process, even by " heresies." Divisions will spring up, a party will be formed in support of some erroneous dogma, and in separating truth from error, the truth will be found " bitter to the belly."
Within the last few years another prophetic theory has been formed, which was almost stamped with infallibility; and this also has been discovered to be connected with fundamental error respecting the relation of Christ to God by Incarnation, an error as dishonoring to the person of the Son, and as subversive of the Gospel as Irvingism itself.
Now, with such experience before me, I feel convinced that there are dangers and difficulties specially connected with prophetic study, which have proved a great hindrance in the way of the sincere inquirer, and probably a stumbling-block in the way of some, to their pursuing the inquiry at all. Some of the dangers and difficulties appear almost on the surface; others may not so readily be seen. I desire to set down such of the difficulties and dangers as have presented themselves to me.
Besides the natural curiosity in all men's hearts to pry into the future, prophecy presents itself as a proper field for the exercise of human learning. It has been connected with antiquity, history, and chronology, and can reckon among its students some of the greatest names. I fully admit that we are greatly indebted to some learned men for their researches; but the point now before my mind is, the exceeding facility with which the study of prophecy may become a merely intellectual study. I mean, without any deep tone of spirituality, without bringing out anything which might tend to establish or feed the souls of the poor of the flock.
Now, that which is true as regards persons of great learning, may be true also among those whose range of information is exceedingly limited. Prophecy itself is their learning-that is, an accurate acquaintance (or what in their own judgment they deem to be such) with the future eventful crisis. In such minds the study of the prophetic Scripture is nothing more than a mental exercise; which is, I believe, always more dangerous where there is shallowness, than where there is real learning; because the very truth of God becomes the subject on which the mind is at work, instead of the mind being itself subject to the truth of God. It is one special office of the Holy Ghost to " guide into all truth," and to " show things to come." And this He does as the One who glorifies Jesus. Never, in his teaching, does the Blessed Spirit divert the soul from the person and work of the Lord; never does He guide onward in truth so as to disturb the soul from that to which it has, under His own teaching, already attained. And when He shows things to come, He shows them as vivid realities: if they be blessings, He presents them so as to give them a present subsistence to the soul; if they be judgments, so as to enable us to read the present in the light of the future. But the future which the Holy Ghost shows is God's future. Man has his own future as a creature of time and circumstances; but man's future is not the future about which the Holy Ghost informs us. He informs us of the future according to the purpose of God, whether in relation to the Church, to Israel, or to the nations of the world. Prophetic study is liable to the danger of becoming a mere mental exercise, and one of its greatest difficulties is true subjection to the patient but safe guidance of the Holy Ghost. In this respect, I fear we have all greatly grieved and dishonored the Spirit. We have become impatient of the place of inquirers, and then relieved ourselves from this irksomeness by becoming theorists. For it is very remarkable how readily the mind, when once interested in prophecy, forms a theory of interpretation. I hold it as one of the most important pre-requisites for prophetic interpretation, that the special and characteristic relation of the Holy Ghost to the Church be practically acknowledged. The divinity and personality of the Holy Ghost, His indwelling in the Church as a body, and in the members individually, when really recognized, becomes a safeguard against a speculating habit of mind, " intruding into that which it ought not," even the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another danger is that " of private interpretation." We find in the Scripture, that when the value of prophecy is insisted on as " a light that shineth in a dark place," there the caution is given -" Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation; for the prophecy came not in the old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." It is this caution which makes me hesitate in my own mind as to the result of the present revival of attention to prophecy. Christian men attempt to solve the extraordinary aspect of political events by prophecy. Now the Holy Ghost, who inspired, is the alone One who can interpret; and His interpretation is not found to be an isolated fact, but that which connects things with the glory of Christ and the purpose of God.
Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world." This is a principle of the deepest
importance. Man regards passing events, and seeks to make them the interpreter of prophecy; but he who
is led of the Spirit seeks to ascertain how everything is connected with the revealed purposes of God. God, in announcing His purposes, has always allowed Himself (if the expression may be used) room for action. We are quite incompetent to judge what is needful for His glory in evolving that which He has proposed. The first announced purpose of God has been gradually evolved, and yet awaits its final accomplishment. We should never have thought that a world destroyed by the flood- the call of Abraham-the introduction of the law-the ministry of the Prophets-the giving power to the Gentiles—the Incarnation of the Son, His Cross and Resurrection-the coming down of the Holy Ghost-the preaching to the Gentiles-the gathering the Church, were all included between the announcement, and even primary actual accomplishment of the purpose announced: for it is not the shutting-up of Satan in the bottomless
pit, but his eventual consignment to the lake of fire, which constitutes the full " bruising of his head." Not
only were all these events to intervene, but the one great object of the divine intention-viz., the bringing out the several glories of God and His Christ-could not otherwise be answered. It is thus that we are able to regard the purpose of God, either retrospectively or prospectively. " In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He has purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, He might gather together in one all things IN CHRIST, both which are in heaven and which
are on earth." It is important for us to keep the revealed purposes of God steadfastly in view. God is steadily pursuing His course towards their accomplishment. In the meanwhile, men are acting as though God had no definite object before Him, and thus they become the unconscious agents of accomplishing what He has foretold. " And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers; but those things which God before had showed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled." Again-" Of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done." Thus, we see that the most wonderful of all events is here viewed in connection with the counsel of God. The responsibility, as well as the unconsciousness of the agents ("howbeit in his heart he thinketh not so"), is fully stated, yet all in subserviency to the purpose of God. " Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." I believe " private interpretation" to be the regarding any event marked in prophecy, apart from its connection with the counsel of God; the event itself will then be more regarded than the counsel of God in the event. When God has made some further communication of His mind to man, and thereby set him under a new and distinct responsibility, He has indeed thereby disturbed man's thoughts and plans, but He has never disturbed His own purpose. And it is the peculiar blessing of those " upon whom the ends of the world are come," to have the comment of the Holy Ghost himself on the past history which he himself has written. Those who were under the law regarded the law as superseding the promise of God. " Is the law then against the promises?" By no means; but it had a use in subserviency to the purpose of God, in order to bring out the promises of God in more prominent relief. The need of man, which promise alone could meet, and the faithfulness of God in fulfilling His promises were, by means of the law, most fully illustrated.
Again, the calling of Gentiles to be " fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel," appeared to disturb the constantly repeated declarations of Israel's distinctive glory, and the bringing in of the Gentiles under the shadow of their wing. But not so. The earthly glory of Israel was still the destined order of God, interrupted and deferred, but not set aside. God had allowed himself room to act in blessing whilst Lo-ammi was written on Israel, and this interruption of God's purpose towards Israel furnished the occasion for the revelation of that mystery " which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men," and " which, from the beginning of the world, had been hid in God." This, however it disturbed the cherished thoughts of Israel, did not disturb the purpose of God in supremely blessing Israel on the earth, and the Gentiles through them. The Apostle James, by the Holy Ghost, was enabled to see this " new thing" in perfect harmony with the old; and although for awhile, as to real blessing, the distinction between Jew and Gentile would be lost in the wonder of the " one new man" in Christ, yet after the accomplishment of this newly revealed purpose of God, -which was first in order in the divine mind, though last in its revelation,-God would " return, and build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down;... that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things." God had known from the beginning that which He was about to do, and here the important truth is fully recognized by the Apostle James; and it is still most important for us to recognize it. From this time it may be said that the Holy Ghost, who had moved Prophets to speak, now takes his place in special relation to the present purpose of God. Those who are now called are called according to a distinct purpose. " Unto me," says the Apostle, " who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." The recognition of the present special relationship of the Holy Ghost to the Church, is, I believe, a necessary preliminary to prophetic study; and the lack of this recognition may account for much of the difficulty and danger in that study. The Holy Ghost, by the Prophets, had testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. He was to them, as He is to us, the Spirit of Truth; but until the purpose of God was distinctly revealed. He could not guide into all truth; until Jesus was glorified, He could not come from heaven to glorify Him; He could not take of His things to show unto us; He could not show us the things freely given to us of God, or become Himself the earnest of our inheritance. He still shows in " things to come," but makes them also a present reality unto the soul. Now I believe, when under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, the study of prophecy which He Himself dictated will never disturb our apprehension of His special relation to the Church, or of those blessings which are special and peculiar to the Church.
I would in all humility, and yet in a great measure of confidence, suggest to the saint, whether the difficulty and danger connected with the study of prophecy does not, in great measure, arise from a vague apprehension of what " The Church" really is, What the calling of the Church is-what its privileges-what its present endowment, and what its destiny, according to the eternal purpose of God. This is the present great subject of the Holy Ghost; it does not at all nullify or supersede, or even disturb the previously announced purposes of God-it affirms them; but yet there is a special subject of interest to God, hidden from the wise and prudent, revealed unto babes. What eye hath not seen, what ear hath not heard, what hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive, God hath revealed to us by His Spirit. Now I fully believe, that the past and future history of the nations, the past history of Israel, as well as its future destiny, may become subjects of deep and interesting study to Christians, apart from any just appreciation of what the Church of God really is. And if such a study become absorbing, I can well understand that it might lead to a depreciating view of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; because these things appear to be more immediately connected with Him in his human and earthly relationships. We find Paul, immediately after his conversion, "preaching Christ in the synagogues that he is the Son of God." That He was the Son of David, was the truth uppermost in the thoughts of a Jew. And the solving of the Lord's question will alone set the Jews right-how David's Son is David's Lord. It is as Son of Man that he takes the kingdom; but the essential glory of his Person was revealed to Peter. " Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am "? "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." On this revelation of the glory of his Person to Peter by the Father, the Lord immediately adds, " this Rock will I build my Church." And when the Church was actually formed, and set up on earth by the coming down of the Holy Ghost from heaven, the glory of the Person of the Son, the living rock on which the Church was founded, becomes one great subject referred to in apostolical teaching. We have no reference to the title Son of Man in the Epistles.* The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Romans, contrasts the true title " Son of David," so familiar to Jews, with that of" Son of God with power." So our Lord himself, in his own teaching in the third chapter of John, speaks of " the Son of Man in heaven," " the Son of Man lifted up," and then brings out the proper glory of his person -" for God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son." Are we reconciled to God? it is by the death of His Son. Are we to enlarge our expectations from God? " He that spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things"? Is the life communicated by the Spirit to be nurtured? it is written, " The life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Are we in our proper posture of hope? we have turned to God, and wait for his Son from heaven." So long as the Church is mindful of her calling and destiny -so long must the person of the Son be, of necessity, kept before her remembrance. I believe it to be impossible to have an accurate idea of what the Church is, without recognizing the glory of the Person of Christ its living foundation. And if the soul has not entered into the idea of the Church, I believe that prophetic study must be attended with danger; and if in any measure it becomes an exclusive study, the danger will be great. I do not say that much of the truth of God, as to the future, may not be taught and maintained; but if the higher truth of " the Church," which forms the special present testimony of the Holy Ghost, be not apprehended, the very truth of God will, by thus handling it, become disproportioned and disjointed, and tend to unsettle rather than establish the soul. It is well known, that there is a system of the doctrine of the second advent, very extensively held and taught by persons most unsound on the fundamental truths of the gospel. Amongst such, so far as my own observation goes, there is no just idea of " the Church of God." The prophecies of Daniel relating to the kingdom, appear to be the basis of the system. To many also it is known, that very minute prophetic statements touching the coining glories of Christ have been made, where the personality and deity of the Holy Ghost is denied. It is impossible that the idea of the Church can be entertained by such, because that which forms the Church, the presence of the Holy Ghost, is denied. The danger and difficulty of prophetic study, I believe therefore to arise, even among the really orthodox, from not regarding the truth of God in its just proportion.
It is a work of patience, and an exercise of soul before God, to see the truth of God in its just proportion. Now, if that which is the present special testimony of God, viz.: "the Church" and its future destiny, is less engaging to our thoughts than the future dealings of God with Israel and the earth, we do not see things in their just proportion. The Apostle Paul speaks to the Colossians of "the hope of the Gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven, whereof I Paul am made a minister": and afterward he speaks of " the body" of Christ, " which is the Church; whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill [or fully to preach] the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." I do most assuredly believe, that these two ministries of the Apostle were quite distinct, and yet perfectly harmonize; but they came into exercise under very different circumstances. In his life of busy activity, St. Paul was exercising the first; his imprisonment at Rome was cheered by bringing out the other into exercise. He had gone from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and fully preached the gospel of God. He had gone about preaching the kingdom of God; but in prison he had fully to tell out the previously hidden mystery in all the riches of its glory. It is all-important to look out at the future from a Church-position. The position in which we actually stand, cannot fail of influencing our judgment in contemplating the future. How readily would the Christian patriot see in prophecy " a sealed nation." There are Protestants who regard Protestantism simply as protest against error, and that nationally (and God has honored such national protest); yet, even in their view, the destiny of the nation will be the more prominent thought than that of the Church. The nonconformists, who know happy deliverance from the galling yoke under which their fathers groaned, may easily read the glowing descriptions of coming blessing on the earth, as expressive of civil and religious liberty. And so influential is present position on our interpretation of prophecy, that when the Babylon of the Revelations was pressed by Protestants as prefiguring Rome, some of the most learned Papists invented theories of interpretation to turn aside this application.
Church-position, practically recognized, is in my judgment the only place from whence we can calmly and unselfishly survey the future. Deeply interesting and wonderful as that future is, according to the revelation of God, yet nothing can be more wonderful than the riches of grace already made known by the Holy Ghost-himself a present possession in the heart as " the earnest." The Church when delivered from trial, at rest, and in glory, will be occupied in beholding the glory of Him who has "presented her to himself a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle." But the Church even now, under the guidance of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, seeking advancement in the knowledge of Christ, is led by the same Spirit to see that next to Him, her foundation and head, nothing is so wonderful a study as her own standing, portion and destiny. It is indeed humbling to be writing about the Church, instead of consciously enjoying the " riches of glory" of which the Apostle speaks; such enjoyment can only be "joy in the Holy Ghost." Paul, as an Apostle, had his fellow Apostles, though not a whit behind the chiefest of them. As an Evangelist, Timothy had the same ministry as St. Paul. As a Prophet, others of the Apostles have left on record their predictions. But as " a Minister of the Church," St. Paul evidently claims a distinctness and specialty; " To fulfill the word of God "- " whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ"-" that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God." Such expressions imply a distinctness and specialty of ministry entrusted to St. Paul. No one really caring for Christ's sheep, would lead a young convert not established in peace of soul to prophecy as a suitable study; because the soul in such a state is likely to be disturbed by connecting coming glory either with devotedness or service. The need of such is to have the heart established with grace; and when this is the case, the apprehension of glory is not accompanied with that amazement which unsettles the soul. So also I believe the most important pre-requisite for prophetic study, to be a practical apprehension of what the Church is, according to the tenor of the prayers of the Apostle in the first and third chapters of the Epistle to the Ephesians. The first prayer being for the knowledge of our own special blessings; the second, for the real present power of those blessings. The Church has its own proper hope—" the one hope of our calling." We find great indistinctness in the minds of Saints as to their own proper hope. The "personal coming of Christ," " the personal reign of Christ," and similar expressions, will generally be found to merge in vagueness the proper hope of the Church. The coming of Christ for the Saints to meet Him in the air, and the coming of Christ with the Saints to order the world in blessing, so that the will of God shall be done on earth as it is done in heaven; are very distinct. " I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may also be," is an announcement as gracious and blessed, as it is distinct from Christ's coming to bring in " the restitution of all things," the great burthen of prophetic testimony. We wait for " the Son of God from heaven"; while we, actually, are in an evil world and a groaning creation; " and ourselves also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit groan within ourselves"; but, in position, by faith, we are in heaven- " we sit down in heavenly places in Christ"; or, as it is written, " Our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself." There is one specialty of the Church's hope by reason of the Holy Ghost being the earnest of the inheritance, and that is, that the Church even now knows, tastes, and enjoys her own blessings. They are actually accomplished blessings. All spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ are already her portion, although not palpable to sight-" for what a man seeth why Both he yet hope for; but if we see them not, then do we with patience wait for them." And the Church is waiting to have her own blessings manifested, and to enjoy those blessings where sorrow and trial cannot enter; even where the wretched selfishness of our hearts can no longer hinder our full apprehension and enjoyment of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus -the Son of God and the Lamb of God. It is now the portion of the Church, while she cannot actually see Jesus, yet believing in Him, to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; what then must it be to see Him as he is, and to be like him? That which the Church knows, she enjoys even now, by the special relation of the Holy Ghost as the earnest. Her hope is to enjoy what she knows and tastes already, in the Lord's immediate presence, where there shall be no slow heart or dull mind. Israel waits for glory and blessing in their own land; but still being in blindness and unbelief and in a strange land, Israel has no foretaste of the joys which await them; their harps must hang upon the willows; they cannot sing the song of Zion. Creation too awaits its jubilee; the groaning creation earnestly expects deliverance from the bondage of corruption; but it has no foretaste of that deliverance. May we not say that the hope of Israel is as unintelligent as that of Creation itself, the blessed agent by whom the blessing is to be accomplished, and the mighty work on which that accomplishment hangs being unknown; and the hope itself, as revealed in the Scripture of truth, is only seen at the end of the dark vista of the wrath of God. But God's future to the Church is all bright and glorious. " The sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed in us." The tribulations are manifold," "now" and "for a season": out from these tribulations the Church looks for her rest and glory. There is a real present manifestation of Christ to the Church now that he is unseen by the world.. This is the wondrous problem-Christ manifested to the Church, unmanifested to the world. The hope of the Church is, so to speak, unselfish; she knows accomplished redemption; she knows present deliverance; she looks for the Savior, to see him and be satisfied. Now, I believe unless the Church be true to her own proper hope, there will be danger and difficulty in the study of prophecy. But when she looks at the future, from her own proper position, realizing, however it be in feebleness, her present portion, and looking to her own proper hope, both danger and difficulty are in great measure removed; because she can unselfishly connect everything with her own risen Head.
God uses the Church now as his instrument to make known to other intelligences, principalities and powers in heavenly places, his "manifold wisdom." And that which she now displays to others, ought to be the subject of her own study. She has capacity for it, for she has " the mind of Christ"; she is in the right position for learning it, for she is admitted into present deep intimacy with God through redemption; she is not without a guide or a rule, for she has the Holy Ghost and the Scriptures. And I am fully convinced that the soul even of an unlettered Saint, instructed in his Church standing and Church destiny, would, from such a position, be quite able solidly to grasp the great prophetic outline. And it would indeed be a marvelous instance of the abounding grace of our God, if he were pleased to retrieve the study of prophecy from being, as is too often the case, merely a mental exercise to the refined or intellectual Saint, so that it might minister to the spiritual nurture of the mass of Saints. To such, Prophecy can only be presented on the ground that they are spiritual, and thereby capable of testing what they hear. They have eternal life. They know the Father, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent; and therefore they know already that which is the deepest truth-a knowledge in which they are to grow forever. They have a standard, therefore, by which to measure things; and by such, prophecy can only be valued, as it unfolds to them the glories of Christ, the grace of God, and the peculiar privileges of their own standing. They will not receive it if it lowers the dignity of their Lord, or the dignity of their own standing. Happy indeed would it be, if prophetic teaching ceased to be peculiar teaching, and was felt to be food of which the whole Church has need; because it is the exponent of the manifold wisdom of God. How interesting to the Church in contemplating all the future revealed glories-to be instructed in them, and to share in them, as knowing something deeper than all revealed glory; even that she is loved of the Father, as Jesus himself is loved of Him. How interesting to trace the common elements in all blessing; and yet for the Church to see what is distinct and peculiar to herself. How it illustrates the grace of God! how it manifests the value of the Cross, thus to regard what it has pleased God to reveal! But how deeply important to the Church to know the Holy Ghost -the eternal Spirit-the one who has quickened in every dispensation, in his own special relation to herself, "the earnest"-" the other Comforter"-" the one Spirit" animating that " one Body" which has a place here, whilst-its risen and glorified Head is in heaven. I believe, therefore, that the study of prophecy from a Church position will not only be safe, but remove many difficulties which present themselves to the spiritual mind, even at the outset.
I would lastly advert to that which is a very practical difficulty in the way of profitable study, I mean the want of a mind so disciplined, as to enable us to enter on it in a right spirit, even the spirit of Him who wept over Jerusalem, when contemplating its fixed and settled doom. The closure of this present evil age, out of which we have been rescued by Jesus giving himself for our sins, according to the will of God and our Father, is fearfully portrayed in the scripture of truth. To study this profitably, there is a needed preparation of soul. Exclusiveness of study of the final development of evil-often tends to self-complacency, harshness of judgment or legality. The great professing body of Christendom is to be cut off, because it has not continued in the goodness of God. The safeguard of Christians, therefore, is continuance in the goodness of God. Then they are able to exercise spiritual discernment as to the principles of evil, and to find that there is nothing manifested in the close, the beginning of which is not marked by the Holy Ghost as already working, when there was apostolic power both to discern the evil and to provide the safeguard. When the Apostle Paul opens to Timothy the perils of the last days-he solemnly charges him before God and the Lord Jesus Christ-" preach the word," " do the work of an Evangelist." The Apostle Peter closes the exposure of the awful ungodliness of the last days, with this safeguard " Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ." And Jude, testifying of the fearful manifestation of evil in turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, thus guards the saints: -But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." Now, all these forms of evil are viewed by the Holy. Ghost from the place of that blessed grace in which God had set the Church, and therefore to see them aright we must get into that place, and then we shall be able to detect in many more trivial evils the same principles working. the fruit of which will be fully ripened in the actual close.
The Prophets of old were faithful protesters against the corruptions of their day; but we see from the sacred word they needed previous discipline of God in their own souls, lest they should protest with any measure of self-complacency; also that they might fully justify God in his judgment on the evil. The vision of the glory of Jesus to Isaiah, made the prophet feel that he himself was a man of unclean lips, as well as that he dwelt in the midst of a people of unclean lips. He would not have been a suited instrument to go and blind his countrymen, had he felt himself better than they were. The Prophet must feel that he, himself, was simply spared by the grace of God, and as deserving of the judgment as his countrymen. It was needed, for Daniel the "greatly beloved," to have his comeliness turned into corruption," that he might understand what should befall his people in the latter day." Ezekiel and Hosea had to go through most painful and revolting discipline, in order to lead them into a realization of the baseness into which Israel had sunk in the estimation of God. It may, indeed, now be God's method to discipline his servants by special circumstances, in order to train them to study the future aright. But the special peculiar training, is a conscience exercised before God. It is the habit of the soul which leads it into the presence of God to judge things there. " The spiritual man judgeth all things." And however fearful may be the crisis of evil, the soul exercised before God can discern in itself principles which, if unrestrained by the grace of God, would lead to it. Hence the soul becomes more rooted in grace, experiences more consciously what a debtor it is to grace. And, in this manner, the firmest protest against evil becomes linked with personal lowliness. And whilst there is increasing thankfulness for the promise of being kept from the hour, of temptation, which is to try all that dwell upon the earth,-there is real self-judgment of the evil principles which are to be manifested in the crisis, and sympathy and intercession for those who are blindly helping it on. I believe the way of God to enable us to meet the growing evil of the last days, is practically to unfold to us the deeper resources of his grace, because the study of evil by itself is most injurious to the soul. The recognition of the faithfulness of God-of the abiding presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church, and. of the untouched blessings of the Church, in Christ, notwithstanding all which has failed here, will lead us farther outside the camp to Jesus, bearing his reproach. And thus shall we be in principle, in position, and in spirit, enabled to take our place in " the Wilderness," and from thence to learn " THE MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH," and at the same time to take our place on " the great and high mountain"—thence to survey the graces and glories " of the Bride, the Lamb's Wife."