ON PROPHECY ALREADY FULFILLED.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation; for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost.—PETER.
In order to prove anything from Scripture, it is highly necessary in the first place to lay down some certain, definite, infallible rule of interpretation, without which the mind is lost in uncertainty and doubt, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
The neglect of such a rule has thrown mankind into the utmost confusion and uncertainty in all their biblical researches. Indeed, while mankind are left at liberty to transform, spiritualize, or give any uncertain or private interpretation to the word of God, all is uncertainty.
"Whatsoever was written aforetime, was written for our profit and learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope." Now, suppose a friend from a distance should write us a letter, making certain promises to us on certain conditions, which, if we obtained, would be greatly to our profit and advantage: of course it might be said the letter was written for our profit and learning, that through patience and comfort of the letter we might have hope to obtain the things promised. Now if we clearly understood the letter, and knew what to expect, then it would afford us comfort and hope; whereas, if there was any doubt or uncertainty on our minds in the understanding of the same, then could we derive no certain comfort or hope from the things written, not knowing what to hope for; consequently the letter would not profit us at all. And so it is with the Scriptures. No prophecy or promise will profit the reader, or produce patience, comfort, or hope in his mind until clearly understood, that he may know precisely what to hope for. Now, the predictions of the Prophets can be clearly understood, as much so as the almanac when it foretells an eclipse; or else the Bible of all books is of most doubtful usefulness. Far better would it have been for mankind, if the great Author of our existence had revealed nothing to His fallen creatures, than to have revealed a book which would leave them in doubt and uncertainty, to contend with one another, from age to age, respecting the meaning of its contents. That such uncertainty and contention have existed for ages, none will deny. The wise and learned have differed, and do still widely differ, from each other, in the understanding of prophecy. Whence then this difference? Either Revelation itself is deficient, or else the fault is in mankind. But to say Revelation is deficient, would be to charge God foolishly; God forbid: the fault must be in man. There are two great causes for this blindness, which I will now show:
First, mankind have supposed that direct inspiration by the Holy Ghost was not intended for all ages of the Church, but was confined to primitive times; the "Canon of Scripture being full," and all things necessary being revealed; the Spirit which guides into all truth was no longer for the people: therefore they sought to understand, by their own wisdom, and by their own learning, what could never be clearly understood, except by the Spirit of Truth: for the things of God knoweth no man, except by the Spirit of God.
Secondly, having lost the Spirit of Inspiration, they began to institute their own opinions, traditions, and commandments; giving constructions and private interpretations to the written word, instead of believing the things written. And the moment they departed from its literal meaning, one man's opinion, or interpretation, was just as good as another's; all were clothed with equal authority, and from thence arose all the darkness and misunderstanding on these points, which have agitated the world for the last seventeen hundred years.
Among the variety of commodities which attract the attention of mankind, there is one thing of more value than all others. A principle which, if once possessed, will greatly assist in obtaining all other things worth possessing, whether it were power, wealth, riches, honors, thrones, or dominions. Comparatively few have ever possessed it, although it was within the reach of many others, but they were either not aware of it, or did not know its value. It has worked wonders for the few who have possessed it. Some it enabled to escape from drowning, while every soul who did not possess it was lost in the mighty deep. Others it saved from famine, while thousands perished all around them; by it men have often been raised to dignity in the state; yea, more, some have been raised to the throne of empires. The possession of it has sometimes raised men from a dungeon to a palace; and there are instances in which those that possessed it were delivered from the flames, while cities were consumed, and every soul, themselves excepted, perished. Frequently, when a famine or the sword has destroyed a city or nation, they alone who possessed it escaped unhurt. By this time the reader inquires, What can this be? Inform me, and I will purchase it, even at the sacrifice of all I possess on earth. Well, kind reader, this treasure is FOREKNOWLEDGE! a knowledge of things future! Let a book be published, entitled, "A Knowledge of the Future," and let mankind be really convinced that it did give a certain, definite knowledge of future events, so that its pages unfold the future history of the nations, and of many great events, as the history of Greece or Rome does unfold the past, and a large edition would immediately sell at a great sum per copy; indeed, they would be above all price. Now, kind reader, the books of the Prophets, and the Spirit of Prophecy were intended for this very purpose. Well did the Apostle say, "Covet earnestly the best gifts; but rather that ye prophesy."
Having said so much, we will now enter into the wide expanded field which lies before us, and search out the treasures of wisdom and knowledge which have been shining for ages like a light in a dark place. We will explore regions unknown to many; we will gaze upon the opening glories which present themselves on every side, and feast our souls with knowledge which is calculated in its nature to enlarge the heart, to exalt the mind, and to raise the affections above the little, mean, grovelling things of the world, and to make one wise unto salvation.
But, first, for the definite rule of interpretation. For this we will not depend on any man or commentary, for the Holy Ghost has given it by the mouth of Peter: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation." 2 Peter i, 20.
There is one grand division to be kept constantly, in view in the study of prophecy; namely, the distinction between the past and the future. The reader should be careful to ascertain what portion has been fulfilled, and what remains to be fulfilled: always remembering Peter's rule of interpretation will apply to both. Now, if we should find in our researches that every prophecy which has been fulfilled to the present year, has been literally fulfilled, then it follows of necessity that every prophecy which is yet future will not fail of a literal fulfilment. Let us commence with the days of Noah. Gen. vi, 17: "And behold I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die."
In the verses which follow the above the Lord commands Noah to enter the Ark, and take with him animals of every kind, etc. And in the 22d verse it is written, "Thus did Noah, according to all that God commanded him, so did he." It was well for Noah that he was not well versed in the spiritualizing systems of modern divinity; for, under their benighted influence, he would never have believed that so marvelous a prophecy would have had a literal meaning and accomplishment. No, he would have been told that the flood meant a spiritual flood, and the Ark a spiritual Ark, and, the moment he thought otherwise, he would have been set down for a fanatic, knave, or fool; but it was so, that he was just simple enough to believe the prophecy literally. Here then is a fair sample of foreknowledge; for all the world, who did not possess it, perished by the flood.
The next prediction we will notice is Gen. xv, 13-16. "And he said unto Abraham. Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterwards shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age; but in the fourth generation they shall come hither again, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full."
The evil entreating of the children of Israel four hundred years, together with their coming out with great substance, and the judgment of God upon Egypt, as well as the death of Abraham in a good old age, are all facts too well known to need comment here; suffice it to say, that it is a striking example of the exact fulfilment of prophecy, uttered more than four hundred years before it had its accomplishment. From this we gather that none of those ancient men knew anything of the modern system of spiritualizing.
Our next is Gen. xix, 12, 13: "And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: for we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxed great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it." Now, Lot being simple enough to believe the thing in its literal sense, took as many of his family as would follow, and escaped for his life; to the great amusement, no doubt, of the Sodomites, who probably stood gazing after, crying "Delusion, delusion!" they thinking all the while that the prophecy was only a figure. Here is an example of a man escaping from the flames by foreknowledge imparted to him, while the whole city perished. O! what a blessing that Lot had no knowledge of the modern manner of interpreting prophecy. If it had once entered his heart that he must come out of Sodom spiritually, instead of literally, it would have cost him his life……..