Chapter 1 Introduction

It is in the very nature of man to look forward. He cannot help it if he would. Thoughts as to the future will and do occupy his mind; and in so far as these are the offspring of fancy, or the reasonings of mere natural sagacity, they are for the most part utterly false. But God has in this, as in all else, anticipated the need and the desire of His own redeemed children. He has not left us to be tossed about by winds of fancy or reason. In Jesus our Lord “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3); in us is “the Spirit that searcheth the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10); and in the Word there is revealed for our blessing so much of God’s wisdom as He has deemed fit to impart, as much as it is for our good to know, and infinitely more than the most enlightened and diligent have ever learned. “If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” (1 Cor. 8:2.)

It is most blessed to come to the Lord Jesus, as lost and guilty ones, and to find in the Word of God all that our souls need — pardon and life through His name. Very blessed is it also as saved ones knowing the grace of God in truth, and fully owning the authority of the Lord, to come to the same Word to know His will, that we may do it. In the former we are as sinners learning the grace of the Saviour, in the latter we are as disciples and servants, learning the mind and will of the Master; but, blessed as these attitudes of the soul undoubtedly are, they are not the highest into which the grace of our God would introduce us. “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:15.)

Surely this is higher, nearer, more blessed! It is the intercourse of friendship—the telling out of the deepest counsels of the heart to the dearly loved ones for whom He would lay down His life; it is taking us into confidence, even as He had done long ago with Abraham. “Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do?” (Gen. 18:17.) And was it not in exultant allusion to this that Jehoshaphat, with the boldness of faith, called him God’s “friend”? (2 Chron. 20:7)—a word that long afterward the Lord Himself, who had treasured it up, brought forth by the lips of Isaiah (Isa. 41:8), and again confirmed by His apostle James (Jas. 2:23.) Yes, it is the very joy of God to take His servants into the confidence of friendship. It was so in patriarchal days—it was so when “the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us;” and, when “received up into glory,” we have “the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants the things which must shortly come to pass.” (Rev. 1:1.)

What then is the fitting response to such manner of grace as this? Is it to declare that any truth beyond the knowledge of forgiveness of sins and life eternal is speculative, and therefore of no practical value; that beyond the mere knowledge of the precepts of the Lord concerning our daily walk, all inquiry is a kind of presumption, and sure to end in variance, puffing up, and bitterness?

Such things have been said by some, who have confounded the vain intrusions of curiosity with the reverent gaze of the worshipper—the searchings after hidden things by the carnal mind with the holy inquirings in God’s temple after the things that are revealed.

But is this the response that is due to such condescension —to such a confiding love? Is it not becoming rather to seek by obedience to be taken much into communion with the Lord? according to His word, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14.) “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.” (Ps. 25:14.) With such will His Spirit, ungrieved, hold high communion, unfolding, according to promise, the things of Christ, guiding into all truth, and revealing “things to come.” (John 16:13, 14.)

But more than this; we live in a dark and evil day. Many and subtle are the devices of the adversary. Cunning craftiness and specious falsehoods are his means of beguiling the unwary. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.” (Prov. 22:3.) Hence it has been also written, “We have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed.” (2 Peter 1:19.) God has foreseen the evil, and has forewarned us. Shall we give heed to His warning voice, and seek to know those things that are coming upon the earth—or shall we “pass on” and be punished?

Again, not only has He given warning of coming snares and judgments, He has set before His people an infinitely blessed hope, even “the appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” and our sharing with Him in the glory and blessedness of His coming kingdom. His people shall be “like Him; for they shall see Him as He is.” “And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as Christ is pure.” (1 John 3:3.)

It is therefore a purifying hope, and cannot he held in the heart without its purifying power being experienced and manifested.

But is it not now as it was of old? He has mourned unto His people of dark and evil days, and they have not wept, and fain would they turn the night into day, and call the darkness light. He has piped unto them of coming glories, and they have not danced, but rather have turned away from the bright and blessed prospect, and sought a place and portion on earth, where Christ is disowned.

The world has scoffed, and raised the cry, “Where is the promise of His coming?” and the saints have said in their hearts, “My Lord delayeth His coming;” but God has foretold it all. Happy is he that heeds the gracious warning: “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To whom be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”

When Israel had forsaken Jehovah and turned to idols, the work of their own hands, the Lord reasons with them by Isaiah His prophet—commending Himself to them upon three leading grounds; firstly, as creator (Isa. 45:18), secondly, as Saviour (ver. 21), and thirdly, as the “declarer of the end from the beginning.” (46:9, 10.) No other could do any of these things but God Himself.

And it is in this last character, as the declarer infallibly of what is future, that the prophetic word so mightily approves itself as of divine origin. In this it is its own witness; and the lax views that so widely are held as to the inspiration of the Scriptures are not a little traceable to the fact that the prophetic character of the Word of God has been so largely ignored.

Some have been deterred even from examining the subject of unfulfilled prophecy because of the difference of judgment that exists amongst those who have chiefly studied it. But have such given attention even to the subject of fulfilled prophecy? Is it not a lamentable fact, that most Christians are in almost total ignorance, even of those prophecies which have already had their accomplishment—albeit that about such there cannot possibly be any difference of opinion, all being fulfilled literally, and to the very letter? On the other hand, many have been occupied much with prophetic truth, who have had little heart for Him of whom it testifies.

The wise men of the East had a heart for the Lord, as well as for His truth, and to them His star was revealed, that left them not until it brought them to Immanuel in the manger.

The scribes and chief priests knew from the Scriptures the very place of His birth, and could answer the inquiry of the troubled Herod; but not one step would they take to see or worship the Messiah that was born at their door. (Matt, ii.) Such there may yet be—some, hiding the Word in their hearts, with little insight as to the details of prophecy, are indeed waiting for the Son from Heaven; others with greater knowledge, and readier to impart it too, have little of the waiting and watching spirit.

Nevertheless, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Rev. 1:3.)