It is certainly to be deplored that error and fanaticism have been so often mingled with prophetic studies. God has been thereby dishonored, and his word profaned. The lips of scoffers have been opened in taunt and derision, while timid believers have kept silence, as if unable to reply.
We need not keep silence. Let us admit the fact on which the mockery is founded, and there let it rest. It will humble us; it will inspire caution; it will teach us wisdom, but it will do no more. It will not deter us from such studies, nor will it lead us to impeach the Word of God for consequences in which man alone is the delinquent. It will not lead us to join in the fears of the over-prudent respecting the perilous nature of these investigations, nor to relinquish the field as either impracticable, or barren, or injurious. Because visions of futurity, drawn professedly from Scripture, have, with unholy fire, kindled some burning fancies into the wildness of a frenzied enthusiasm……are we, therefore, to shut up the prophetic record, and turn away our eyes from pages tamped so broadly with the seal, and encircled so brightly with the blessing of God? Are the prophets to be treated as if belonging to the kindred of the sybils, and their books to be buried out of sight? Nothing more profane has ever been uttered against Scripture, than that the study of any part of it is fitted to unhinge the mind, or raise its temperature beyond the point of calm and solemn inquiry. No Romanist ever promulgated an idea so indefensible as that any region of Scripture is unfruitful or forbidden ground, to be employed merely as a field out of which a casual text may be culled as taste or fancy may incline; that whole chapters and books of Scripture are wrapt in such studied mystery that the very endeavor to understand them betokens rashness and folly.
"Secret things belong to God," says an objector. Most certainly; and whoever insists on prying into God's secrets will only proclaim his own pride and plunge himself into profounder ignorance. But prophecy is no secret thing; it is a thing revealed. It is not truth over which God has drawn the veil. It is just the opposite. It is truth from which God has withdrawn the veil, on purpose that we may know it and profit by it.……We hear much of the difference between things essential and things non-essential; but who will undertake to draw the dividing line? Or who will venture to affirm that the prophetic portions of the Word are its non-essentials? Do not such truths as the advent, the resurrection, the judgment, form some of the chief scenes of prophecy; and are these non-essentials? Strange, truly strange, that man should make such a division of the Word of God! Stranger still, that he should make it for the purpose of excusing himself for the neglect of so large and precious a portion of revelation. Is not the fact of its being revealed enough to show us that God thought it essential; or if not essential absolutely and with reference to salvation, at least essential relatively and as pertaining to holiness? If a man will persist in calling it non-essential, surely he will not irreverently pronounce it unimportant? And if it be admitted to be important, then surely all farther argument is at end. It must be studied. We dare not overlook or postpone the duty.
- Horatius Bonar
From his book: Prophetic Landmarks