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the morn; till, at length, "the sun of righteousness arose with healing in his wings," and shed his meridian glories on the world, at the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
To state the numerous predictions of the prophets, and to compare them with subsequent events, as the accomplishment of them;to point out, also, the many rites and ceremonies, the many parallelisms and analogies, under the Mosaic dispensation, which must be considered as symbolical, or typical of other events, in the history of human redemption, would far exceed the limits of a discourse. We may observe, however, that the notion of sacrifice and atonement for sin pervades the whole of the sacred Scriptures. It began with the offerings of Cain and Abel;—it is recognised in the practice of Abraham and Noah ;-it appears, in various forms, in the ritual of Moses; but more particularly in the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, which was to be without spot or blemish, till at length it had its perfect consummation in the death and passion of our Saviour on the cross.
Let us be satisfied, therefore, for the present, on the subject of prophecy, to call to our recollection the dark and mysterious prediction, as it must have seemed, at the time, that "the seed
of the woman should bruise the serpent's head," and mark the spreading light, in the promise to Abraham, and "in the Star that was to come out of Jacob;"-from thence, let us proceed to the clearer and more express declarations of David and Isaiah, Malachi and Daniel, till we come to the ministry of the venerable Baptist; who was declared to be "more than a prophet," because others uttered their predictions at a distance, looking through the mists of futurity; but he had the distinguished office of preaching the great preliminary duty of repentance ;-of seeing the promised Saviour come to his baptism;-of beholding the glorious day of the Gospel dawn ;-of proclaiming to the multitude, that thronged the banks of the Jordan, "Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world;" and of hearing the heavenly voice, which said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
In giving this slight sketch of the prophetic parts of the holy volume, I only wish you, at your leisure, to take more enlarged and comprehensive views for yourselves. At the same time, avoid the credulous and intemperate zeal of those, who would press into the service of Christianity many prophecies of doubtful inter
pretation, or applicable to other events; and who thus weaken the good cause, which they injudiciously endeavour to serve and strengthen.
It is a rule in philosophising, when we have discovered one satisfactory cause, that will fully account for a phenomenon, not to give ourselves the needless trouble of seeking for more; and it is to be wished, that the same sober maxim were in some measure adopted, with respect to the evidences and proofs of revealed religion. Besides, many of the predictions in the Old Testament relate to cities and kingdoms of remote antiquity, or to other events, in the history of God's providence, long since passed, with which we have now little, or no concern; though they will always furnish interesting subjects of research for the theological student, and professed historian. But, without noticing these, and some other portions of the Hebrew Scriptures, there is enough to "read, mark, and learn," and amply sufficient for establishing our faith on the firmest foundation.
Lastly, if in pursuing the pious task of reading "those things, which were written aforetime for our learning," or "instruction," we meet with difficulties, let us encounter them with "patience," and true humility. It should occur
to us, that there is no science without them; and, in proportion as any study, or pursuit, is exalted by its nature and its objects above others, difficulties may be expected to increase. We must be contented, therefore, while we are the inhabitants of earth, "to know only in part, and to see as through a glass darkly;" but hereafter, we are told, 66 we shall know even as we are known." Besides, it is the nature of knowledge to be accumulative, and progressive. Many difficulties, errors, and misapprehensions, which perplexed our forefathers, have been by the industry and learning of succeeding ages, most satisfactorily cleared away. We ourselves
might now, by the blessing of God, enjoy a degree of light, on some subjects, which, at a former period, must have appeared dark and inexplicable. Richer stores of learning, and more extensive researches, would doubtless produce fresh accessions of knowledge; but not without a large portion of that "patience," mentioned in the text. This, therefore, together with that glorious hope, which is the result of the whole, I purpose, by divine permission, to consider at some future opportunity.
In the mean time, let us remember, that it is not required of any man, as a duty, to go into
the deep recesses, the cross-roads, or bye-paths of theology; and if he seeks for stumblingblocks, and raises them, for no other purpose, in reality, than to counteract plain truths, and to release himself from the obligation of obvious duties, the divine oracles will pronounce future woe on the wickedness, the folly, and perverseness of that man's mind.
God grant, that we may never have to answer for the presumptuous sins of vanity and pride! and if our performance of duty, on all practical occasions, correspond with the measure and degree of our knowledge of it, we may then indulge the humble assurance, that our efforts and services, however imperfect, will hereafter prove acceptable to the Almighty Father, through the merits, mediation, and atonement of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.