To consult the reason of the holy men of old on themes whereon they were qualified to speak is rational and right. To make of their writings a new oracle whose mysterious meanings we are to guess, as the ancient Greeks puzzled over the messages of the Delphic shrine, is to revive Paganism in Christianity. “No prophecy is of any private interpretation.” No passage in the Bible was written, centuries ago, with reference to your private affairs. All that is there written concerned men and affairs of distant days. The principles there applied will help you now, if you will take the trouble to search for them, since principles do not change with the fashions.
It is a wrong use of the Bible to go to it, as the heathen went to their oracles, for divination of the future.
The pagan oracles were the shrines of a Power sought for the forecasting of events. The inspiration of an oracle was proven by the success of its predictions. In the same way men have turned to the Bible as a sort of sacred weather bureau, a book which, if we could only interpret its mystic utterances, would tell us what things were going to happen upon the earth. I remember an eloquent Irish divine who came to this country on a great mission a number of years ago. His first sermon was on Ezekiel’s vision by the Chebar. He said that this was the age of science, and that such a marvel as science could not have escaped the vision of the prophets. This mystic creature which the prophet saw, with wheels, whose appearance was like burning coals of fire, which turned not as it went, and so on, was—the locomotive! This folly was only more undisguised than the mass of the lucubrations called Prophetic Studies.
Let any political crisis occur, and some sage will write a book showing how Daniel had foretold this issue of diplomacy. I have not forgotten the learned tracts and essays called forth by the fascination Louis Napoleon exercised upon the imaginations of half-educated people; all proving beyond a doubt that he was the mystic man of sin, the Anti-Christ in whom history was to culminate.
America, the restoration of the Jews to Palestine, and the Church of Rome especially inspire, at present, these crazy conjectures. They ought all to issue from Bedlam.
This mad and maddening use of what, rightly read, are noble and instructive books, grows out of a misunderstanding of what were the functions of Hebrew prophecy.
Prophecy has been taken as a synonyme for prediction. There is not much verbal difference between foretelling and forthtelling, but there is a vast difference for the purposes of religion. Taking prophecy as the synonyme of foretelling, the essential function of the prophets became predicting. They were supposed to have been busy in forecasting the things which should come to pass in the far future. The success of these long-range predictions was the demonstration