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The highest value should be set on the study of the prophecies, of those prophecies particularly that have been fulfilled, and the fulfilment of which is so evident in the historical events that have never been disputed. St. Peter says, "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 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 by the Holy Ghost.”*
* 2 Peter, i. 19–21.
SYMPTOMS OF THE
DISSOLUTION OF THE
JEWISH POLITY -THE COMING OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
THE PROPHECIES WITH REGARD TO TIME FULFILLED IN
NERO THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
OF THE EMPIRE -REFLECTIONS.
SYMPTOMS OF THE APPROACHING DISSOLUTION OF THE
THE Jews weakened and distressed by foreign power, and still more by domestic dissensions, had now passed into a state of subjection most afflicting to their feelings and offensive to their pride; and the whole fabric of their civil and ecclesiastical polity was evidently tottering on its base, and evincing very strong symptoms of approaching dissolution. The sceptre had already to a certain degree departed from Judah, and the lawgiver from between his feet; and consequently the time was come when Shiloh
should appear. The latter days of Daniel's 490 years were arrived, and the second temple erected by Zerubbabel after the captivity, and restored by Herod, was still standing. "The fourth beast" also, that was " dreadful, and terrible, and strong exceedingly;"* that is, the fourth great empire of the world, the Roman, which had subdued the Grecian and all the nations subject to the Grecian, and under which a new and everlasting kingdom was to be established by one to whom should be given universal dominion and glory, was in full strength and power. The spirit of prophecy, indeed, had ceased for about 400 years, and during that time no additional information had been dispensed relative to the Messiah and his kingdom. But there was now a confident and anxious expectation among the Jews that he was at hand; and the pious especially were waiting for the consolation of Israel, and looking for redemption in Jerusalem. There was, moreover, a very prevailing notion all over the East, that about this time a king was to arise out of Judea who should rule over the world: a notion derived from the prophecy of Daniel in particular, and probably from other parts of the Scriptures which, having
* Daniel, vii. 7.
been translated into Greek, had been read and studied by the wise and learned of the eastern nations.
How the promises of God, and the subsequent prophecies relative to the Messiah, those prophecies which were uttered previously to the death of David, were fulfilled in Christ has already been shewn. It is now to be made appear that the predictions of the successive prophets after David were also verified in Christ; together with those predictions of the Psalmist which were introduced among the former, as being immediately connected with their peculiar and identifying descriptions of the Messiah to come. And herein the economy of preparation will be found most interesting, and the exact accomplishment in Christ of its particular and various notices most remarkable.
THE COMING OF JOHN THE BAPTIST.
Prophecy, as has been shewn, ceased in Israel with the notice that a messenger should come to prepare the way of the Messiah; and that this messenger would be Elijah the prophet; that is, one who should come in the spirit and power of Elijah, resembling him in the austerity of his life, in the sanctity of his soul, and in his zeal for the honour of God.
After a lapse of four centuries without any inspired teacher, and while all Israel and the East were expecting the Messiah and King; a voice was suddenly heard in the wilderness, crying, "Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."* This voice was that of John the Baptist, so called, because he baptized all that came unto him, confessing their sins. Israel was again blessed with the sound of inspiration; again favoured with a holy prophet; and the word of Malachi was verified in John. This forerunner of the Lord told the people plainly that he was not that prophet whom they expected to return to life, that he was not the same Elijah that was taken up into heaven, and that he was not the Christ, but his predicted messenger sent to prepare his way, and make bis paths straight. He also assured them that the Christ was actually come, and standing among them, though not yet manifested to them; professing at the same time his own great inferiority and his subservient ministry. And he moreover testified that Jesus was the Son of God, on whom at his baptism the Spirit of God had descended and remained; and the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. Thus
* Matthew, iii. 2.