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The author of the following pages has deemed these remarks necessary, to bespeak a candid attention to the subject presented in them. He has not enlarged on the practical bearing of the millenarian faith, believing that it was unnecessary, and that the good sense and piety of professing Christians, under the guidance of God's Spirit, will make the proper use of them, whenever and wherever they are seen and felt to be the truth of God. He commends the work to the Christian public with much deference, and requests that the attention which the subject merits may be given, if not to these pages, certainly to their great and glorious theme. He offers no apologies for the imperfections which must necessarily mark a performance, prepared in the midst of extended pastoral care and labors, and with but limited means of access to the works of the learned, and especially those which are but rarely to be met with, except in large public libraries. The candid and discerning reader will make all due allowance.
The course of lectures, of which the dissertations are the substance, comprised a wider range, embracing, as well the objects or designs, as the reality of the Saviour's personal and pre-millenial coming. The author has thought it proper to preserve the unity of the work, by confining attention to the latter. Many and very interesting details, in the exposition of prophecy, have, by this course, been excluded. But should the providence of God indicate it, they may at some future day be given to the public.
DUTY OF STUDYING THE PROPHECIES, AND THE
The diligent and careful study of prophecy is highly commended in the Sacred Scriptures. Motives urging to it also are suggested; so that, whoever may practically undervalue the prophetical parts of the word of God, cannot, with any fair pretext, question either the obligation or the importance of their study. Yet have both been done. In commencing a series of disquisitions, therefore, designed to aid in the discharge of this duty, it becomes proper and necessary to illustrate and to enforce, to some extent, the obligations binding all to it. Its importance will be manifest, at every stage, in the progress of the investigations proposed.
I. THE SAME OBLIGATION WRICH BINDS US TO THE STUDY
OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, ALSO BINDS US TO THE STUDY
The blessed Redeemer has commanded us to “search the Scriptures."* In having so done, He has enjoined something more than the loose casual reading of them, or the things which pass current with many for their study. It will not suffice, having brought into view this or the other doctrine, the notions of this or the other theological school or professor, to examine and collate the texts by which they may be proved : nor will it suffice to search for all the texts, by which this or the other system of theological truth, this or the other body of divinity, this or the other theory of religion, may have its general and particular parts or features confirmed. This is but studying the doctrines or opinions, the theories or systems, of man's excogitation and arrangement.
Nor does the careful investigation of the creeds of different churches, and the adoption of that professed by the one to which we may belong, meet our obligations in this matter. It is not designed, either to disparage creeds, or to object to their legitimate use; but the study of any creed, or confession of faith, is not the study of the word of God. No man ever dreamed that he is studying Newton's Principia, Cavallo's Philosophy, Gibbon's Rome, or Hume's History of England, who does no more than consult the index, turn over their pages, and examine whether this or the other proposition or fact, previously stated, is contained in them. No more can he be said to study the Sacred Scriptures-no matter how diligent he may
John, 5. 39.
be in the use of his concordance-who merely collects and assorts his texts under different heads, and either makes his own, or adopts some other, system of theology.
Nor can he be said to study the Scriptures, who consults this and the other commentator, and selects, from all their different commentaries, the opinions that strike him most favorably. A man may spend his life in this way, and manufacture volumes of notes, and scholia, and expositions, and yet, all the time, have been but studying the writings and opinions of men on particular passages, without digging into the inexhaustible mines of truth which the word of God contains.
Nor can he be called a student of the Scriptures, who is always on the search for novelties and recondite meanings, and betrays an anxiety to differ from all that have gone before him, and to startle by the unexpected and extraordinary interpretation given to plain and obvious passages. This is rather to affect a display of ingenuity, and to study to appear singular.
It behoves us to read the Scriptures attentively, carefully, and with a view to ascertain what they affirm; pondering the language, connection, arguments, and illustrations employed by the sacred writers, so as to ascertain, what they meant, and what they designed to teach. The obligation to this will be denied by no protestant. But if such be our obligations “to search the Scriptures,” it is impossible for us to discharge them without the diligent and careful study of the prophecies, which form so large a portion of them. It is not a part only—not the New Testament merely—not the Gospels—but both Old and New-the entire word of God, that we are bound, according to our time, means, and opportunities, to investigate. Whoso denies his obligation to study