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phecies; "Go, ye, and teach all nations;" "
go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature;" that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations;" "God commandeth all men every where to repent."
3. Almost all the prophecies also of the coming of Messiah, which appear at first sight to have had their full accomplishment in the promulgation of the gospel and the conversion of the then known world, are found, on a closer examination of their scope and connection, and the force of the terms employed, to look forward to an universal diffusion of the salvation of Christ; that is, to the springing up of "righteousness and praise before all the nations."
For example, we read in the sublime language of Isaiah, "It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and all nations shall flow unto it; and many people shall go and say, come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord; and he will teach us his way and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the heathen and rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Now, that this was fulfilled, or at least began to be fulfilled, at the first promulgation of the gospel cannot be questioned. Perhaps therefore we might for a moment think that it was then adequately accomplished. But when we consider the force of many of the expressions, and compare them with other passages, doubts arise in the mind. The strong terms of, "all nations flowing" into the Church; the wide period assigned, "the last day," which is known to comprehend the entire period of the evangelical dispensation;
the remarkable result, "They shall beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruninghooks," an usual figure for universal peace; and the yet more astonishing fact of the science of war itself ceasing, "They shall learn war no more,”-lead us to conclude that the " germinant" fulfilment, as Lord Bacon expresses it, in the first coming of our Lord, has yet to bud forth in fuller beauty and to bear its more abundant produce in the universal conversion of mankind, before the plenary import of the terms of the prediction can be considered as answered, This observation applies to a vast variety of similar prophecies.
4. The chronological predictions, again, which regularly unfold the chief events of the Church and of the world, and terminate in the establishment of the universal kingdom of "righteousness and praise," confirm the above conclusion. The early prophecy of Noah is of this description. The vision of the four monarchies expounded by the prophet Daniel, as to be succeeded by the erection of the one kingdom of Messiah, is a yet more distinct one; as are also other series in the same prophet, and in the Apocalypse of St. John in the New Testament. And it is to be observed, that we have a key to so much of the emblematical language employed, in these and other prophecies, as to allow us to fix with some certainty the general interpretation. Thus when Daniel, speaking of the image with its head of gold, and breasts and arms of silver, expressly says of Nebuchadnezzar, "Thou, O king, art this head of gold; and after thee shall arise another king inferior to thee;" the scheme of interpretation is fixed; and four general monarchies are depicted. When therefore the prophet goes on to explain, "The stone cut out without hands, which smote the image upon its feet, and grew till it became a mountain and filled the whole earth;" of "the God of heaven setting up a kingdom which
shall never be destroyed, nor be left to other people; but break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and then stand for ever," we seem to arrive at a conclusion firm and irrefragable.
5. It much strengthens our argument to remember, that these prophecies and series of prophecies were not delivered by one inspired penman only, or under one dispensation; but by many prophets under all the periods of the Old Testament, and by many sacred writers in the New. The prophecies of our Savior, of St. Paul, of St. Peter, take up the thread of the divine purposes where it was broken off at the cessation of the prophetical spirit at the time of Daniel and Malachi, and carry on again the self-same scheme. The copious prophecies of the Apocalypse, especially, are no new and independent series of predictions, but only the continuance and further developement of those of Daniel and the other Old Testament prophets. The same figures are employed, the same kingdoms spoken of, the same great periods assigned, the same events foretold, the same general consummation assumed. All is harmonious, so far as we can judge; all bears on one glorious spiritual result, the universal kingdom of righteousness and praise, from the beginning to the close of the Bible.
6. For it is not immaterial to consider that many prophecies scattered throughout the Scriptures and not in their terms so universal, agree best with the view suggested by the more extensive predictions. The boundless prevalence of the gospel best suits with the brief but pregnant prophecy coeval with the entrance of sin, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head;" and again, with the prediction of Jacob, that "to Shiloh should the gathering of the people be ;" and to that made to Abraham, that in "him and in his seed should all the families of the earth be blessed."
This view agrees best also with the numerous prophecies of the conversion and restoration of the Jews, of the fulness of the Gentiles coming in with it, and of their reception being as life from the dead," and "the riches of the world."
It entirely concurs again, with our Lord's language, that" the gospel of the kingdom should be preached to all the world, for a witness to all nations, and then should the end be;" that "Satan as lightning should fall from heaven" at the approach of his agony; and, that he would be with his Church "always even to the end of the world," whilst they were going at his command, and preaching the gospel to every creature in all nations of the world.
7. Once more, the main obstacles to the rapid spread of the gospel for many ages, are minutely predicted-and predicted as judicial punishments inflicted on the Church for falling into a gradual decay of Christian doctrine and practice. The Eastern and Western apostacies, the persecutions arising from each, their peculiar opposition to the person and mediation of Christ, the period of their prevalence, the lying miracles they should employ, their ultimate, and, as it should seem, contemporaneous overthrow, and the glorious result" the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ”are all laid down, and go strongly to establish our general position.
8. Not less so doth the subjugation and imprisonment of Satan, the great spiritual adversary, who is described as having raised up these intervening apostacies; and whose captivity is stated as preparatory to the conversion of the world; "I saw an angel come down from heaven; and he laid hold of the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and cast him into the bottomless pit, that he should deceive the nations no more."
9. That no error is committed in interpreting the
prophecies concerning the glory of "the latter days," of the universal conversion of mankind in all their progressive advances and all their developement by the successive cultivation of new regions, appears from this, that the general judgment of the last day is described as following immediately after, and in the same terms, and including in both cases the entire race of men. To whatever extent, then, that judgment reaches, to the same does the diffusion of the gospel.
10. Lastly, this whole view receives an important confirmation from considering the scriptural character of God; his love in giving his only-begotten Son for us; the redemption of the world wrought by no less a personage than that eternal Son clothed in our nature; and the administration of grace committed to the hands of the Holy Ghost, the third person of the ever-blessed Godhead. Moreover, the glory of the divine government in the ultimate overthrow of sin and Satan, and the establishment of a reign of righteousness and praise; the full and transparent vindication of the ways of God, now so mysterious and unfathomable, before the eyes of the intelligent universe; and the permanent and conspicuous triumph of truth, holiness, and love, after a long conflict, over the powers of Satan, sin and error; with the multiplication of happiness over misery in our fallen race beyond all our powers of conception, when the whole scheme of providence is fulfilled-all tend to confirm the anticipations which our text, in concurrence with the general bearing of Scripture, awakens ; and on which we should not have dwelt at such length, if it were not so essential as an encouragement to the laborious and sometimes discouraging work of missions to which the Christian Church is called. A more direct source of consolation, however, is opened in the third point of comparison between the spiritual and the natural vegetation, to which we now proceed,