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“ evil. Yet it was much for the orders to serve the Church's need “ for two centuries and a half.” 1
Now the moment we perceive and understand this feature of perpetual mutability in the Church, the following beautiful theory of Mr. Drummond's becomes little better than nonsense :
“ Truth is one, and proceeds only from God; and men's disputes about church government, and rites, and forms of worship, as well as their debates about monarchies and republics, prove only that they are ignorant of that truth. There is but one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; and all its officers, and all its rites, and all its forms, are as incapable of variation or modification as God himself. So there is but one form of civil government ordained of God, and this, too, is equally incapable of modification or variation.”---(Government, pp. 65.)
Every just and benevolent and pious man will be found banded with the wicked in the work of universal destruction, save in so far as he is enlightened in the true principles of God's government of men by kings, and of teaching them by his Church."-(Ibid, p. 149.)
The fact that “truth is one,” of itself shews us where alone we may hope to find it, infallibly, and without admixture. Church, under Clement and Ireneus, taught one thing; under Gregory and Innocent and Hildebrand, it taught quite another thing. Becket's “ Church” and Cranmer's “Church” differed as much as Christ and Belial. Granting, then, that “God teaches men by his Church, we do not grant that men are to take any thing and every thing for God's Church which chooses to call itself
Was it not declared beforehand, by the lips of infallible truth, that “the Man of Sin,” the “ Mystery of Iniquity,” should “sit in the temple of God, shewing himself as God?"
But this brings us to another great question ; and one which the Henry Drummond of other days would not have left out of sight. Has God, in his word, given us no indication of what should befal his Church in the absence of her Lord ? in the ages which should elapse between his first and his second coming ? Why even the Tractarian writer whom we have just quoted, at once admits the importance of this point of the case :
“What is history but the key whereby to open the cabinets of “prophecy ?” “If it be true, as has been well said, that we have “ attained a stage of existence, which stretches beyond the reach “ of any analogous experience, if we are in an unnatural evening, “ then are we thrown perforce on prophecy for our warning and “ instruction.” (p. 342.)
But we may go much higher for guidance on this point. An inspired apostle has told us, that “We have also a more sure
· Sights and Thoughts in Foreign Churches. By Frederick W. Faber, M.A., Fellow of University College, Oxon. 8vo. Pp. 355, 356.
“ word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as “ unto a light that shineth in a dark place;" and has enjoined us to “ be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the
holy prophets.” And, conducting such an enquiry as this in a humble and befitting spirit, we cannot rise from it without gaining some light and instruction. It is, in truth, a recurrence to the highest source of guidance,-to the Divine word ; interpreted, not by human fancies or theories, but by history; by fact ; in other words, by the workings of the Divine hand.
And what is the chief question which is to be submitted to this process of investigation? It is of the following character :
A British Christian of the present day finds himself pressed by difficulties of no ordinary kind. He belongs, we will suppose, to the English Church,-a community which professes, it is commonly said, to be both Catholic and Protestant : Catholic, as agreeing with, and descended from, the one undivided Church of the Primitive Age; Protestant, as witnessing against, and withdrawing herself from, the corrupt system and practices into which the great mass of Western Christendom had in the middle
fallen. Such a person finds himself now beset with warm and earnest representations, to the effect that he must not, and cannot, remain in this mixed and neutral position; that the English Church herself cannot remain in it; for that either Protestantism must be embraced alone, and carried to the length of rejecting all authority external to the enquirer's own will and fancy; or else it must be entirely abjured, and Catholicism followed to the opposite extreme, of a determination to become reunited, by some means or other, to “ the churches of the Roman obedience."
Drawn then, in this way, first to an unity with foreign Protestantism, with all its real or apparent scepticism; and then in an opposite direction, towards unreformed Rome, it is very natural that an enquirer should turn his eyes in the direction indicated by Mr. Faber, and ask, Whether the word of God does not contain any hints as to the state and condition of the Church in after ages; hints which, if they exist at all, must exist in the form of prophecy, or prophetic intimations and warnings ?
The nature of the question is of this kind :
Does the word of God either directly assert, or indirectly imply, that the great body of professing believers in Christ, constituting the visible Church, should be divinely preserved from falling into any vital error ; and, being so preserved, should remain an ark of security, a guide to be implicitly confided in, through all past, present, and future days of the present dispensation ?
Or, on the contrary, does it leave the prospects of the visible Church unguaranteed by any such security, and open to the various dangers arising from the known and ascertained tendencies of mutable humanity?
Or, lastly, does it describe and foretell the future state and trials of the Church, visible and spiritual; and thus, in so far, remove all uncertainty concerning the result? And, if it does, what is the general tenor of such predictions ?
Now, in proceeding in this enquiry, we have already seen that we have even the concurrence of the Tractarians themselves. To any others, however,—and such persons there ever will be,-who shrink from the investigation of the prophetic portions of God's word, we would repeat the apostolic declaration :-“All scripture " is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, “ for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that “the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all “ good works.” (2 Tim. ii. 16, 17.) And we would ask, how any humble and right-minded Christian can venture to declare or to imply, that large portions of this holy scripture are to be laid aside as “not profitable ? ”--that half the book of Isaiah, half the book of Ezekiel, nearly all of Daniel, and of the Apocalypse, should either be sealed up as unfit for use, or read without a hope or an attempt to understand them ? Not so judged the holy and most humble Daniel ; who, “having understood by books the “ number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to “ Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in “ the desolations of Jerusalem,” (ch. ix. 2.) did “set his heart to
understand” further and higher things, and was honoured and rewarded—not rebuked-by a special revelation. (ch. x. 12.) Nor was such the course pointed out by our Lord himself
, who, in his discourses to his followers, referred to one of the most obscure passages in Daniel's prophecy, being then unfulfilled, and added, “Whoso readeth, let him understand.”
We cannot, therefore, for a moment concede to those who would forbid all reference to various parts of God's word which it pleases them to deem “unprofitable.' But we may remind such, that in the present instance we are even meeting them on their own ground. They are very fond of quoting our Lord's words : “ These things I have said unto you, that when it come to pass ye may
remember that I told you of them;" as a proof that the prophetic parts of Scripture only come into use when they are fulfilled. Our present enquiry, then, on their own principles is allowable ; for it concerns, not so much the future as the past; it seeks to discover whether APRIL, 1842.
certain predictions of our Lord, through bis Prophets and Apostles, have yet “come to pass.”
We proceed, then, without admitting that there can be any valid objection to the enquiry,—and restate the question in the following simplified form :
There are many predictions in Scripture of our Lord's first Advent: these, it is admitted, have all been wonderfully fulfilled. There are also many other predictions of his second Advent: these, it will be as readily conceded, are still unfulfilled. But are there, besides these two classes of prophecies, any concerning the intermediate period ? any which describe the state of the Church militant on earth, during the period between Christ's first coming to suffer, and his second coming to reign ? This is the subject to which we invite our readers' attention.
And first let us offer a preliminary remark, as to the method in which it has generally pleased the Divine wisdom to make His intentions known to his people. The plan discernible, in the prophecies of the coming Saviour, was that of gradual developement. No one prophet was commissioned to make known, by a single message, the whole of God's gracious purposes; but step by step, point by point, “here a little and there a little," by successive revelations, often separated from each other by whole centuries, was the grand outline sketched and filled up, which was realized in the coming and the effectual work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This has been well shewn in a recent work of a divine of another country :-" The nearer the day of Christ's advent approached, the
more precise were the prophecies concerning it. In the infancy “ of our race, the intelligence of that future Saviour who was to “ bruise the head of Satan was only revealed in general terms. In “ the times of the patriarchs this Deliverer was more precisely de
scribed, as a scion of that people who, numerous as the stars of “heaven, were to proceed from the root of Abraham. In the days “ of Moses and the Law the cry resounds to us from the death-bed “ of Jacob, “ Judah, thou art He!”—thus pointing out to us the “ tribe from which the Sun of Righteousness should arise. During “the government of the kings, the prophecy attaches itself with “ still more precision to a single house, for out of the family of “ David the Ruler was to proceed. Two hundred years later, “ Isaiah predicted that a virgin of this family should bring forth “ Emmanuel. Micah then steps forward and names the place of “his birth; while, at a still later period, Daniel determines the “ time when he shall appear. “Seventy weeks,' he says—that is
to say, seventy times seven years—are determined to finish the “ transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconci
" liation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, "and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most “ Holy.'”
With this remarkable instance before us, we shall not, if we act reasonably, fall into the error of expecting any grand event in the world's history to be entirely and at once foretold to us, with time, place, and leading features, by a single prophet. The course which God has seen fit to adopt, in the greatest event of all, is one which demands our wondering admiration. We learn from it, also, what to anticipate, in our enquiries into any other topic; we proceed to such, forewarned that the Divine plan is usually that of gradual developement.
Fixing this in our minds, let us now take up the prophetic Scriptures, not partially, or in order to snatch at one or two texts which to a superficial view may seem likely to serve a purpose ; but let us quietly submit to the whole teaching of God's word; taking up all the prophetic books, one after the other, and asking, in humility and sincerity, what instruction each affords us, towards the solution of this great question.
We begin with Isaiah. It was of this prophet that Mr. Palmer rashly asserted, as we shewed in our last number, that he had predicted that “the Church of Christ was to be in all ages) emi“ nently conspicuous and visible.” This Mr. P. attempted to prove by adducing ch. ii. v. 2, “It shall come to pass in the last
days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established “ in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the “ bills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” But he was not justified in overlooking the time particularly pointed out,—"the last days,"—or the accompanying wonders,—“Out of Zion shall go forth “ the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he “shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people ; " and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their
spears into pruning-hooks : nation shall not lift up sword against “ nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
We may not thus wrest the word of God. Let us take a general but honest view of this prophet. We find in him strong rebukes and denunciations of the wickedness of the existing generation of the children of Israel. We find also many predictions which seem specially or solely to concern them. Besides these we may observe two classes of most glorious predictions respecting our Lord Jesus Christ :-The one, descriptive of His first coming to suffer : the other, of His future glorious reign. The forty-second and the fifty-third chapters will immediately
· Krummacher's Voice of the Church, Lond. 1840, p. 51.