ALL the evidences of the marvellous love of Jehovah, exhibited in the salvation of men, are like itself, superlatively grand and sublime. The evidences which command belief, are all miracles; the evidences which corroborate and strengthen that belief, sometimes called "the internal evidences of the record," are admirably moral and rational. The evidences on which the faith of the intelligent rests, are, in the first instance, all miracle. But when we discourse intelligibly on this miraculous evidence, we distinguish miracles, spiritual gifts, and prophecy. We have briefly suggested a few thoughts on miracles, properly so called, and on spiritual gifts, and are now to attend to prophecy. We have already found prophecy amongst the spiritual gifts, as also, indeed, the power of working in others the power of working miracles. But we are now to consider prophecy in a higher and more exalted sense.
Many of the primitive Christians were possessed of the gift of foretelling future events. Paul declared that the Holy Spirit testified to him in every city, that "bonds and afflictions awaited him." In what manner the Holy Spirit testified this in every city we are informed. Let us take a few instances which settle this point. Acts xxi. 3. Paul found some disciples "who said to him, through the spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem," because of those afflictions that awaited him. Philip, the deacon, had "four  daughters which did prophesy," and while Paul was there a certain prophet named Agabus, came down from Judea, and when he came into the presence of Paul, he took his girdle and bound his own hands and feet, saying, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owns this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles." Thus the Holy Spirit testified to Paul by the words of the prophets. This Agabus was a prophet of some note, as appears from Acts xi. 28. "There stood up Agabus, and signified, by the spirit, that there should be a great dearth through all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Cesar." This gift of prophecy differs from another gift of the same name. To prophesy, in the church of Corinth, imported no more than to speak, by inspiration, in a known tongue, to the edification of men; but to foretell future events, by the spirit of inspiration, is, what we are now contemplating. Nor is it our design to attend to those prophecies, which many individuals, in the age of spiritual gifts, uttered for the immediate exigencies of that period, for either the conviction or confirmation of their cotemporaries; but we are now to view the recorded prophecies, which were designed as a standing evidence of the truth testified concerning Christ. We all see the advantages which resulted to both Jews and Gentiles from the recorded prophecies of the ancient revelations, in the times of the Saviour and his apostles. Indeed, the prophecies, written and read, were the last appeal, and the all-convincing or silencing one, against which there was no rising up. But it is not prophecy, in that enlarged sense, which includes the evidence given to the Messiah, before his appearance in Judea, by the Jewish prophets; but it is the prophecies of the New Testament, afforded by the Holy Spirit, in honor of the Messiah and his cause, since his appearance in the flesh, which I am now to consider under this head.
The greatest wisdom is apparent in this department of evidence. The Spirit, given immeasurably to Jesus, afforded him all means of confirming his mission. His wisdom in exercising the gift of prophecy was admirably adapted to the exigencies of the time. He did not, in the first exercises of this gift, utter predictions that respected events long future: no, this would have been altogether useless in the first place; and, therefore, his first predictions respected events soon to happen with respect to himself and his apostles. If I possessed the gift of prophecy, and wished it to contribute to my honor, I would, doubtless, foretell some events which would soon happen, in order to obtain credit to predictions of greater futurity. So did the Saviour. His first predictions respected events just on the eve of being born. He foretold to Peter, that, on going to the sea, and in casting in his line, he would take a fish with a stater in his mouth. This was a small matter, but as difficult to tell as an event two thousand years distant. He prophesied that he would be killed by the chief priests, and that he would rise from the dead the third day, a few months before it happened. When they were on their way to Jerusalem, he sent two of his disciples to a village, predicting to them that they would there find an ass tied, and her colt with her, and ordered them to bring them to him; at the same time assuring them that, on telling the proprietor that the Master wanted them, he would send them. These little matters all tended to confirm the disciples in their faith concerning him. And, indeed, there was much need that their faith should be well confirmed, as it was soon to be put to a most severe trial. He, therefore, gives as a reason for his numerous predictions, the following: "This I tell you now, before it happen, that when it happens, you may believe?' But, to pass over the numerous predictions that respected minor matters and approaching events, we shall proceed to notice a prophecy of great utility, which respected an event about forty years distant. This prediction was designed for public conviction, and was perfectly adapted to this end. It was of that character of events which must necessarily be notorious and eminently conspicuous. Let us attend to it. When all was tranquil in Jerusalem, the city and the temple standing guarded by the enthusiasm and patriotism of a powerful people, under a Roman procurator; when religion and business were going on in their regular course as for ages, he foretold, that, before the people then living, died; before the existing generation passed off the stage, the city and the temple should be razed, and not one stone left on another that should not be thrown down.
On the Mount of Olives his disciples accosted him privately, saying Tell us, when shall this happen? What shall be the sign of your coming, (to do this,) and of the conclusion of this state?" These questions he minutely answered. He declared the preceding events--the means by which the city and temple would be destroyed--gave directions to his disciples how they might escape this impending calamity, frequently called "the wrath to come," or "impending vengeance." And, as to the precise day, he informed them that he was not authorized to communicate it, for the Father had reserved this in his own bosom, and willed not men or angels to know it; but at the same time, he would so far satisfy them as to assure them that the people then living would not all die till it actually came to pass. This was as definite as a prophecy, so public and comprehensive, ought to be.
Let the reader remember that this circumstantial prediction concerning an event to be notorious through all the earth, was committed to record, and published through Judea, Greece, acid Rome; in a word, through Asia, Africa, and Europe, many years before it came to pass.--And also let it be noted that the apostles, while they published it, gave exhortations in their epistles to the christians concerning it. Matthew's gospel was published in Judea thirty two years before the destruction of the city and temple; Luke's memoirs of Christ were published in Greece seven years before Titus, the Roman general, razed Jerusalem and made the plough pass over it. Mark's memoirs of Christ were published in Rome five years before this era of vengeance. But, besides these written records, there were all the publishers of Messiah's words and deeds going to and fro through all the world. These are facts, which christians acquainted with the New Testament and the history of the world, believe; and which learned infidels are constrained to admit. That the apostles declared this prophecy to the churches, and that it was uniformly believed, and its accomplishment anxiously looked for, can be easily shewn from their writings. I say, anxiously looked for, because the persecuting power of the Jews was to fall with their city and temple; and the apostles solaced the disciples with the hope of its speedy fall. Paul assured the suffering Hebrews that their sufferings by the Jews would soon cease;  "For," said he, "yet a little while, and he who is coming will come, and will not tarry;" he will destroy the Jewish state, and then your infidel countrymen will have to cease persecuting you. This the context declares. He tells the Thessalonians, that the Jews killed their own prophets and the Lord Jesus; that "they were hindering us (apostles) to preach to the Gentiles that they might be saved; so that they fill up their iniquities always. But the wrath of God is coming upon them at length." (Macknight's Translation.) Paul also assures the Romans, that the God of Peace would soon put under their feet the infidel Jews and the Judaizers. The Jews he calls Satan, or the enemy, and adversary. He comforts them with the assurance that God "would bruise Satan under their feet soon." It seems from what Peter says in his epistles, (the latter of which was written three years before the Lord came to avenge his quarrel with the Jews,) that the infidel Jews scoffed the idea of Christ's ever coming, as if the apostles had been long talking about it, and yet he had not come. He consoles the dispersed brethren with these words, "Know that there shall come scoffers in the last days, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?" And James, in the clearest style, after speaking of the wickedness of the Jews, in a tremendous gradation, which ends in these awful words, "You have condemned and killed the Just One, who did not resist you," exhorts and comforts the christians in these words, "Be patient, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draws nigh." From these, and many more expressions and references to the epistles to the predicted fall of Jerusalem, and the power of the Jews, we are authorized to say that this catastrophe was, by all the christians, universally expected for years before its arrival, and therefore they required exhortations to patience under their persecutions, and were consoled by the certainty of the accomplishment of their Lord's prophecy. In the year 70 Jerusalem and its temple were levelled to the dust, after being immersed in all the calamities the Saviour foretold. This event, then, gave a terrible blow to the Jewish adversaries of the christian cause, aid stimulated the christians with fresh courage. Their patience having been tried for many years, the deliverance would be the more appreciated, and their faith would be greatly confirmed. The more extensive the hatred, opposition, and persecution of the Jews had been, the greater publicity was given to the prophecy, and the more convincing the accomplishment. Had I lived in those days, and been so happy as to have been one of those persecuted christians who had witnessed the catastrophe, I would have argued thus with all opposers of the christian faith--"That Jesus the Nazarene was the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and now the Governor of the Universe, is abundantly proved, not only from the ancient prophecies, from his resurrection from the dead, from the gifts he has bestowed on many of his disciples, from the private prophecies he gave, which have been all accomplished, from his continued presence with his apostles, from the success attendant on their labors; but now, from the accomplishment of one of the most public and particular predictions in the annals of the world. It cannot be denied that this prediction has been read by thousands in the writings of his apostles, has been heard proclaimed a thousand times by his followers; yea, that some are still living who heard him pronounce it; and that it is literally fulfilled, all the world is now witness. I pass over every thing of a mere private character--I fix my eyes exclusively on this astonishing circumstance. I see everything so exactly fulfilled in it; not one of his disciples perished in the siege; they all obeyed his commands; when they saw Jerusalem invested with armies, they fled; the people that were considered an abomination, that makes desolate, have come; the walls of Jerusalem are levelled to the ground; the temple laid in smoking ruins; the nation dispersed. The blood of the righteous prophets has been avenged; and the curse the rulers invoked upon themselves and their children, has come upon them. 'This is the Lord's doing and marvellous in our eyes.' Kiss the Son, lest he be angry. If his wrath be roused for a little, blessed are all they that put their trust in him."
Such an argument would, we think, be omnipotent with all who would hear and consider it. Besides, this prediction gave a vast weight, and a new impetus to the other prophecies delivered by the apostles in their writings. For when this one, which figured so prominently in all their writings and speeches, was so exactly fulfilled, who would hesitate in looking for the accomplishment of the others in their proper seasons.
The prophecies delivered by Paul and John concerning the fate of christianity in the world occupy the next place in the written prophecies, and immediately succeed in train to that one now noticed. The size of this paper forbids a minute attention to them. The intelligent will readily perceive, what an essential service they render to the testimony of the apostles. I will only set down the items of Paul's prophecy concerning the great apostacy, which we have lived to witness. "That day (speaking of the last day) shall not come unless there come the apostacy first, and there be revealed that man of sin, that son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above every one who is called a god, or an object of worship; so that he, in the temple of God, as a god sits, openly shewing himself that he is a god. Do you not remember that when I was still with you, I told you these things? And you know, what now restrains him, in order to his being revealed in his own season. For the mystery of iniquity already inwardly works, only till he who now restrains be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed that lawless one. Him the Lord will consume by the breath of his mouth, and will render ineffectual by the bright shining of his coming. Of whom the coming is after (or similar to) the strong working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and miracles of falsehood." (2 Thess. ii. 3-9. Macknight's Translation.) This is as minutely descriptive of the apostacy, called anti-Christ, as the Messiah's description of the destruction of Jerusalem.
John informs us that he was in the Spirit, in Patmos, on the Lord's day, when the Messiah vouchsafed him a prophetic view of the church's history till the end of time. In this prophecy, declared to be the fruit of the Spirit, we have a most signal evidence of the truth of the apostle's testimony. The prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, forty years before it came to pass; the prediction of the dispersion of the Jews, which yet exists; the prediction of the rise of the apostacy, and the removal of the Pagan power of imperial Rome, hundreds of years prior to the event; and the prediction of the downfall of the anti-christian kingdom, with the means eventuating therein; (a part of which we have lived to see,) constitute a sort of standing  miracle, in attestation of the truth of the divine authenticity of the christian religion, which we owe to that Holy Spirit, which searches and reveals the deep designs and counsels of God.
These brief notices of the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing the saving truth, and in confirming it by miracles, spiritual gifts, and prophecy, merely suggest to the intelligent reader a train of reflections, which, if followed out, may lead to a further acquaintance with this most interesting subject, than could be communicated in volumes of essays of this diffuse and general character.
It must be remembered in all our inquiries into this, and every other question pertaining to the revelation of God, that it was all given since men fell into a state of sin and misery; and that, like every other work of God, it is perfectly adapted to the end for which it was given; that is, to make wise to salvation those that are ignorant and out of the way, and to guide those that are reclaimed by it in the paths of righteousness and life.
Hitherto we have been considering the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Wisdom, and the Spirit of Power. We have not yet introduced him as the Spirit of Holiness or of Goodness. This will be more particularly attended to by and by.--For it is not only revealed as the spirit of wisdom and of power, but also as the spirit of all goodness in man. As the Spirit of Wisdom and of Power, it was the author of all the miracles, spiritual gifts, and prophecy; but as the Spirit of Goodness, it is the author of that principle in christians, which inclines and enables them to cry Abba, Father.
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- 14 Dec 2004
The same old error regarding the meaning of "this generation" in Mt. 24:34. Since the basis for God's revelation to man is first the NATURAL things of the OT and then the SPIRITUAL things of the NT (1 Cor. 15:46), it should be easy to understand that the NATURAL judgment of the first age of the world occurred when the universal flood came in the clouds in the last day and hour of a 100-year period described as "this generation" in Gen. 7:1 and the SPIRITUAL judgment of the post-flood world occurred when Christ came in the clouds in the last day and hour of another 100-year period, the true first century which is described in Mt. 24:34 as "this generation"
- 01 Jan 2005