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law, and save from going down to the pit.
It is this hope and confidence, this trustful expectation, this glorious faith that puts these prophesies above all disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortations of moralists since the world began.
This gospel is never separated from the stern demand for righteousness; but it is distinct from that demand.
Holiness is still the goal, righteousness is ever the duty required of man; but to reach this goal, to perform this duty, man is to have the help of God, the champion who should appear on our behalf and crush the serpent's head. This was the distinctive feature of these messages which justifies the habit of regarding prophecy as being, most essentially, prediction. It was prediction. Its point of view was in the future; it saw not only the world that lay about the speaker, but the world that was to be ; and we get the prophet's point of view, not by conceiving of him as foretelling this or that event, but rather as projecting his soul to that future, viewing the world as from that point of vantage.
But while the prophets' horizon was thus extended, and their visions clarified that they might reveal the will of God, there is no such thing in prophecy as "speaking at large;" uttering truth which was for the future and not for the present.
They spoke always to the occasion. They strove for a verdict. They demanded righteous conduct.
But while their aim was always practical, such applications of truth to present duty did not exhaust the truth.
Truth is universal and eternal. The principles of righteousness which they expounded as the basis of their plea for better living were everlasting principles, as true today as when the prophets first perceived them; and their applications are varied as the times and circumstances of the human race. Therefore there is a sense in which they spoke more wisely than they
knew. Truth has applications and implications that are inexhaustible.
"Flower in the crannied wall
All teachings of the prophets which refer to the coming Savior are called Messianic Prophecy.
These prophecies are sometimes definite predictions of specific events connected with his coming, as “But thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah art not the least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall come a governor who shall rule my people Israel.” Micah v:2, or the whole of Isaiah Lill, and many other passages in the various books of prophecy.
But far more significant, and, on the whole, more illuminating, is the general attitude of mind which all the prophets hold toward the destiny of Israel as the Priest Nation of the world; the agent of the world's redemption.
They constantly assume that the golden age lies in the future; and that God's word was pledged to send a Savior for the world.
Zacharias voiced the hope of all the prophets when he sang the Benedictus “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for he hath visited and redeemed his people.
And hath raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets since the
And good old Simeon rightly called the new born babe of Bethlehem
"A light to lighten the Gentiles
These two ideas permeate the whole of Hebrew prophecy. A Savior was to come to redeem the world; and Israel was the chosen people of whom this Savior should come.
Israel was therefore in a special sense the servant of Jehovah. This was their national calling, and their glory among the nations.
The revelation of this truth was progressive, but the substance of it was the same from the beginning; and the clearer revelation of the later prophets does not in the least degree discredit the more vague and shadowy teaching of the earlier seers. As an outline
map of the U. S. which shows no more than the boundary lines may be as accurate as the great chart which gives all the physical features and the location of each town and village; so the conception of Messiah's coming revealed in the Garden of Eden, or to Noah, Abraham or Moses is in perfect accord with the exquisite details of Isaiah's more advanced and brilliant visions. The prophets saw as through a glass darkly but they saw; and the limitation of their vision does not diminish the certainty of what they saw. As the little child discerns the phases of the moon, or notes the constancy of the pole star, and has no occasion to revise his observation however much he may later learn of the causes which lie back of what he sees in childhood, so the early visions were of things eternal and immutable.
A few of the outstanding features of the prophetic vision were common to them all; and these are of such importance that we should note them well. The first of these is the conception of a universal kingdom over which the coming king
Catholicity has been the watchword of the church from the beginning.
“In thee and in thy seed shall the nations of the earth be blessed."
“He shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him and his enemies shall lick the dust.
The kings of Tarshish and of the Isles shall bring presents
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end." These are but examples of a host of passages which predict the universal sway of the annointed one whom God would in his own good time send forth to save.
Such predictions are the more remarkable in view of the fact that Israel at its best was but a petty nation, and for the greater part of its long history an insignificant factor in the political world. Nor does this conception of a universal kingdom seem ever to have been a political conception. The prophets taught, what Jesus himself confessed, "My kingdom is not of this world." His reign is over the hearts of men. "Righteousness is the girdle of his loins and faithfulness the girdle of his reins." His strength is the eternal force of truth and right; and by this power shall every thought be brought into subjection to his will. His kingdom shall extend not only to each man, but to the whole soul of every man. Not only "every knee shall bow", but “every tongue shall confess him Lord.”
The second great feature of the prophetic concept of the
coming Savior is his gentleness, his tender pity, his great deep compassion for the world in all its sin and misery. This feature is most attractively portrayed in the poetic vision of Isaiah. “He shall not cry, nor lift up nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench ;" "He shall be a light to the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon and them that sit in darkness and of the prison house.” “He shall lead his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs in his arms and carry them in his bosom.”
But this thought is not peculiar to Isaiah. It is.common to them all. Jacob called him the "Shiloh" or peaceful one. Malachi prefigured him as the “Sun of Righteousness" who should arise with healing in his wings, and Micah describes his reign in those glorious lines, "But in the last days it shall come to pass that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and the people shall flow into it. And many nations shall come and say, come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for the law shall go forth out of Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke many nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plough shares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his own vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."
But the most remarkable of all the revelations concerning the Messiah is the prediction of his humiliation and suffering. The prophecy in Eden foretold the "seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent's head.” No figure could more clearly