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writings: for they frequently resume topics of which they have formerly treated, after other subjects have intervened, and again discuss them.
Jeremiah and Ezekiel may, in particular, be cited as instances of this abruptness of style, who spoke of various things as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, and as occasion required; and whose discourses, being first dispersed, were afterwards collected together without regard to the order of time. In the midst of the mention of particular mercies promised to, or of judgments denounced against, the people of God, the prophets sometimes break forth into sublime predictions concerning the Messiah: these digressions appear extremely abrupt and incoherent to those who do not consider how seasonable the mention of Christ may be, in conjunction with that of the mercies of God, (of which he is the foundation and pinnacle, the ground and consummation,) and with the threats of the judgments of God, in which he was his people's grand consolation. A careful examination however, of the plan and distribution of the different prophetical books will always enable the diligent reader to trace the arrangement and scope of the respective prophecies. Where, indeed, a new prediction or discourse is distinguished from a former one by a new title, as in Haggai i. 1. and ii. 1. 10. 20., it is an easy task to trace such arrangement and scope: but where the prophets do not introduce any new titles (Hosea for instance) it becomes very difficult. Vitringa has laid it down as a canon,2 that in continued predictions, which are not distinguished one from another by titles or inscriptions, we should carefully attend both to the beginning and end of the prophetic sermon, as well as to the period of time in which the scene of the prophetic vision is fixed, and to the period in which it ends. This will tend to illustrate the sermons or discourses of Isaiah, in the forty-first and following chapters of his prophecy.
It is however probable that those prophecies whose terminus à quo demonstrates the beginning of the time of Christ's kingdom, and the terminus ad quem the end of that time, give a narration of the principal events that shall befal the church in a continued series, unless any thing intervene which may require us to go back to former times. Upon this foundation depends the interpretation of Isa. liv. 1. to lx. 22. The commencement of this prophecy unquestionably belongs to the beginning of Messiah's kingdom; the term or end falls upon the most flourishing state of that kingdom, which is to follow the conversion of the Jewish nation, and the vindication of the afflicted church; which deliverance, as well as the flourishing state of Christ's kingdom, are described in Isa. lix. 19—21. and lx. throughout.
VII. The prophets often change both persons and tenses, sometimes speaking in their own persons, at other times representing God, his people, or their enemies, as respectively speaking, and without noticing the change of person; sometimes taking things past or present for things future, to denote the certainty of the events.
Of this observation we have a signal instance in that very obscure prediction contained in Isa. xxi. 11, 12. which, according to Bishop Lowth's translation, is as follows:
THE ORACLE CONCERNING DUMAH.
The morning cometh, and also the night.
If ye will inquire, inquire ye: come again.
This prophecy, from the uncertainty of the occasion on which it was uttered, as well as from the brevity of the expression, is very obscure; but, if we observe the transitions, and carefully distinguish between the person speaking and the person spoken to, we shall be able to apprehend its general import. It expresses the inquiries, made of a prophet of Jehovah by a people who were in a very distressed and hazardous condition, concerning the fates which awaited them. The Edomites as well as the Jews were subdued by the Babylonians. They anxiously inquire of the prophet, how long their subjection is to last. He intimates that the Jews should be delivered from captivity, but not the Edomites. The transition being thus observed, the obscurity disappears.
1 Boyle on the Style of the Holy Scriptures, Works, vol. ii. p.
Isa. ix. 6., liii. throughout, lxiii. throughout, Zech. ix. 9. and Rev. xviii. 2. (to mention no other instances) may be adduced as examples of the substitution of the past or present, in order to denote the certainty of things yet future: attention to the scope and context of the prophetic discourse will here also, as in the preceding rule, enable the reader to distinguish the various transitions with sufficient accuracy.1.
It may here be further observed, that, in the computation of time, a day is used by the prophets to denote a year: a week, seven years; and that, when they speak of the latter, or last days, they invariably mean the days of the Messiah, or the time of the Gospel dispensation. The expression that day often means the same time, and always some period at a distance.
VIII. When the prophets received a commission to declare any thing, the message is sometimes expressed as if they had been appointed to de it themselves.
This remark, has, in substance, been already made. It is introduced again, in order to illustrate the phraseology of the prophetic writings. One or two additional examples will show the necessity of attending to it in interpreting the predictions of the sacred writings.
Thus, when Isaiah was sent to tell the Jews, that their heart would become fat, and their ears heavy, and that they would be guilty of shutting their eyes, so as not to understand and believe the truth; the message is thus expressed Go and tell this people, hear ye indeed, but understand not, and see ye indeed, but perceive not. This implies, that they would not employ the faculties which they possessed, so as to understand and believe the Gospel. The reason of this is assigned: Make the heart of this people fat, and make their cars heary, and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert and be healed. (Isa. vi. 9, 10.) This is merely a prediction of what they would do for when this prophetic declaration was accomplished, the Saviour quoted the passage, and expressed its genuine sense: In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaias, which saith: For this people's heart is wazed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed: lest at any time, they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Matt. xiii. 15.) This condition is still more explicitly stated in John iii. 19. This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light, nether cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. The Lord said to Jeremiah, I have put my words in thy mouth; see I have this day set thee over the nations, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, and to build, and to plant. (Jer. i. 10.) The meaning of this message is, that the prophet was appointed to declare to the nations, that they shall be rooted out, pulled down, and destroyed, and that others would be planted in their place, and built up. When Ezekiel beheld the glory of the God of Israel, he observes, that it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, when I came TO DESTROY THE CITY. (Ezek. xliii. 3.) That is, when he came to prophesy that the city should be destroyed.
IX. As symbolic actions and prophetic visions greatly resemble parables, and were employed for the same purpose, viz. more powerfully to
1 This change of tense, however, is not exclusively confined to predictions of future events: it is sometimes used by the prophets to represent duties as performed which ought to be done : thus, in Mal. i. 6. A son honours (ought to honour) his father. But it is more frequently employed by the writers of the New Testament to express both our Christian privileges, and the duties to which they oblige us. Thus, Matt. v. 13. Ye are (ought to be) the salt of the earth. Rom. ii. 4. The goodness of God leadeth (ought to lead) thee to repentance. 2 Cor. iii. 18. We all, with open face beholding, (enjoying the means of beholding) as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are (ought to be) changed into the same image from glory to gle ry. Similar instances may be seen in 1 Cor. v. 7. Col. iii. 3. Heb. xiii. 14. 1 Pet. i. 6. 1 John ii. 15. iii. 9. and v. 4. 18. Dr. Taylor's Key to the Apostolic Writings, $274. (Bishop Watson's Tracts, vol. iii. p. 421.)
instruct and engage the attention of the people, they must be interpreted in the same manner as parables.1
We must therefore chiefly consider the scope and design of such symbolic actions and prophetic visions, without attempting too minute an explanation of all the poetical images and figures with which the sacred writers adorned their style. For instance, in Zech. i. 7-11., it is not necessary to inquire what is meant by the man riding upon a red horse, and standing among the myrtle trees: this vision represents so many angels returning probably from the kingdoms over which they presided) to give to Jehovah an account of their expedition and ministry. The horses, it has been conjectured, denote their power and celerity; and the different colours the difference of their ministries. The scope of the vision, however, is sufficiently plain: the angels tell that all the earth was sitting still and at rest; the Persian empire and other nations connected with Judæa, enjoying peace at that time, though the Jews continued in an unsettled state.2
OBSERVATIONS ON THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF PROPHECY IN
A PROPHECY is demonstrated to be fulfilled when we can prove that the event has actually taken place, precisely according to the manner in which it was foretold, either from sacred history, where that is practicable, or from profane authors of unimpeachable veracity; whose characters stand so high, that they cannot possibly be suspected of having forged any thing to favour the idea of its accomplishment. In order to ascertain whether a prediction has been fulfilled, we must first endeavour to find out the general scheme of the prophecy in question, by a careful comparison of the parts with the whole, and with corresponding prophecies both earlier and later; and to classify the various things spoken of, lest the judgment be perplexed with a multitude of references. And, secondly, in our deductions from the prophecies thus arranged, those predictions, and their respective accomplishments are principally to be selected and urged, which chiefly tend to remove all suspicion of their taking place by accident, or being foretold by some happy conjecture. Now this may be done, by showing the vast distance of time between the prophecy and the event foretold; the agreement of very many, even of the minutest circumstances, so that, when completed, the description determinately applies to the subject; and, lastly, the dependence of actions upon the uncertain will of man, or upon opportunity presenting itself for all these things are of such a nature, that no unassisted human intellect either can or could possibly foresee them. These two general observations being premised, we now proceed to offer a few canons by which to ascertain the accomplishment of prophecy.
1. The same prophecies frequently have a double meaning, and refer to different events, the one near, the other remote; the one temporal, the other spiritual or perhaps eternal. The prophets thus having several events in view, their expressins may be partly applicable to one, and partly to another, and it is not always easy to mark the transitions.
1 On the construction of parabolic language, see pp. 612–617. of this volume. 2 Archbishop Newcome on Zech. i. 7-11.
What has not been fulfilled in the first, we must apply to the second; and what has already been fulfilled, may often be considered as typical of what remains to be accomplished.
The double sense of prophecy has been opposed with much ingenuity by Mr. Whiston, Dr. Sykes, Dr. Benson, and Mr. Faber, in this country, and by Father Balthus in France, as well as by most of the German theologians, who severally contend that the antient prophecies contain only one sense: but, that the rule above stated is correct, we apprehend will appear from the following remarks and illustrations.
Throughout the whole of prophetical Scripture, a time of retribution and of vengeance on God's enemics is announced. It is called "the day of the Lord," "the day of wrath and slaughter; of the Lord's anger, visitation and judgment; "the great day;" and "the last day." At the same time, it is to be observed, that this kind of description, and the same expressions, which are used to represent this great day, are also employed by the prophets to describe the fall and punishment of particular states and empires; of Babylon, by Isaiah (ch. xiii.); of Egypt, by Ezekiel (ch. xxx. 2-4. and xxxii. 7, 8.); of Jerusalem, by Jeremiah, Joel, and by our Lord (Matt. xxiv.): and in many of these prophecies, the description of the calamity, which is to fall on any particular state or nation, is so blended and intermixed with that general destruction, which, in the final days of vengeance, will invade all the inhabitants of the earth, that the industry and skill of our ablest interpreters have been scarcely equal to separate and assort them. Hence it has been concluded, by judicious divines, that these partial prophecies and particular instances of the divine vengeance, whose accomplishment we know to have taken place, are presented to us as types, certain tokens, and forerunners, of some greater events which are also disclosed in them. To the dreadful time of universal vengeance, they all appear to look forward, beyond their first and more immediate object. Little indeed can we doubt that such is to be considered the use and application of these prophecies, since we see them thus applied by our Lord and his apostles."1
The second psalm is primarily an inauguration hymn, composed by David, the anointed of Jehovah, when crowned with victory, and placed triumphant on the sacred hill of Sion. But, in Acts iv. 25. the inspired apostles with one voice declare it to be descriptive of the exaltation of the Messiah, and of the opposition raised against the Gospel, both by Jews and Gentiles.-The latter part of the sixteenth psalm is spoken of David's person, and is unquestionably, in its first and immediate sense, to be understood of him, and of his hope of rising after death to an endless life but it is equally clear from Acts ii. 25-31. that it was spoken of Christ, the son of David, who was typified by that king and prophet. — The twenty-second psalm,2 though primarily intended of David when he was in great distress and forsaken by God, is yet, secondarily and mystically, to be understood of our blessed Saviour during his passion upon the cross; and so it is applied by himself. (Matt. xxvii. 46.) And it is further observable, that other passages of this psalm (v. 8. 16. 18.) are noticed by the Evangelist, as being fulfilled at that
1 Dr. Woodhouse on the Apocalypse, pp. 172, 173. One of the most remarkable of these prophecies, he observes, is that splendid one of Isaiah, ch. xxxiv.; the importance and universality of which is to be collected from the manner in which it is introduced: "All nations and people, the world and all things in it," are summoned to the audience. It represents "the day of the Lord's vengeance," and the year of the recompenses for the controversy of Sion (ver. 8.); it descends on all nations and their armies. (ver. 2.) The images of wrathful vengeance and utter dissolution are the same which are presented under the sixth seal in the Revelation of St. John. (vi. 12-17.) The hosts of heaven are dissolved; the heavens are rolled together as a scroll of parchment; the stars fall like a leaf from a vine, or a fig from its tree. And yet Idumea is mentioned by the prophet as the particular object of vengeance: such seems to be the typical completion and primary application of this prophecy: but it has evidently a more sublime and future prospect, and in this sense the whole world is its object and using the same symbols and figurative expressions with the prophecy of the sixth seal, with those of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and, above all, sixteenth chapters of the Apocalypse, and with others of the Old and New Testaments, it must, with them, be finally referred to the great day of the Lord's vengeance for its perfect completion." Ibid. p. 174.
Dr. Randolph has a beautiful exposition of this Psalm at the end of vol. i of his View of Christ's Ministry, pp. 503-515.
time (Matt. xxvii. 35. 43.); now it is certain that they could not be fulfilled unless they had been intended in this mysterious sense of Jesus Christ. The forty-fifth psalm is, in the original, a song of loves, an epithalamium on the nuptials of King Solomon and the King of Egypt's daughter; but from Heb. i. 8. we are assured that it is addressed to Christ; and therefore in a remote and spiritual sense, it celebrates the majesty and glory of his kingdom, his mystical union with his church, and the admirable benefits that would be conferred upon her in the times of the Gospel.
It would be no difficult task to adduce many other psalms in which the double sense is most clearly to be discerned: but we shall proceed to cite a few instances from the writings of the prophets.
(1.) Isa. vii. 14. In the primary but lower sense of this prophecy, the sign given was to assure Ahaz that the land of Judæa would speedily be delivered from the kings of Samaria and Damascus, by whom it was invaded. But the introduction of the prophecy, the singular stress laid upon it, and the exact sense of the terms in which it was expressed, make it in a high degree probable that it had another and more important purpose and the event has clearly proved that the sign given had, secondarily and mystically, a respect to the miraculous birth of Christ, and to a deliverance much more momentous than that of Ahaz from his then present distressful situation.2
(2.) Isa. xi. 6. What is here said of the wolf dwelling with the lamb, &c. is understood as having its first completion in the reign of Hezekiah, when profound peace was enjoyed after the troubles caused by Sennacherib; but its second and full completion is under the Gospel, whose power in changing the hearts, tempers, and lives of the worst of men, is here foretold and described by a singularly beautiful assemblage of images. Of this blessed power there has, in every age of Christianity, been a cloud of witnesses; although its most glorious æra predicted in this passage, may not yet be arrived. The latter part of the same chapter, in which there are many beautiful allusions to the Exode from Egypt, seems to refer principally to the future restoration of the Jews from their several dispersions, and to that happy period when they and the Gentiles shall stand together under the banner of Jesus, and unite their zeal in extending the limits of his kingdom. This is a favourite theme with Isaiah, who is usually and justly designated the Evangelical Prophet, and who (ch. xl.) predicted the deliverance of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and their restoration to the land of Canaan; - events which were primarily and literally accomplished, but which by the evangelist Matthew (iii. 3.), and by our Lord himself (Matt. xi. 10.), are said to have been fulfilled by John the Baptist's preaching in the wilderness of Judæa; and which, secondarily and spiritually, foretold the deliverance of mankind from the infinitely greater bondage of sin.
(3.) Once more. -- Hos. xi. 1. Out of Egypt have I called my son. This passage in its literal sense, was meant of God's delivering the children of Israel out of Egypt; but, in its secondary and mystical sense, there can be no doubt that an allusion was intended by the Holy Spirit to the call of the infant Christ out of the same country. (Matt. ii. 15.)
Thus it is evident that many prophecies must be taken in a double sense, in order to understand their full import; and this twofold application of them, by our Lord and his apostles, is a full authority for us to consider and apply them in a similar way. In order to ascer
1 Bishop Horne, in the preface to his admirable commentary on the Psalms, has noticed a considerable number of those divine odes, which bear a double meaning, the propriety of which he has fully vindicated. Works, vol. ii. pp. x.-xx. See also Dr. Apthorp's Warburtonian "Discourses on Prophecy," vol. i. pp. 77-89; and Dr. Nares's Warburtonian Lectures, entitled "A Connected and Chronological View of the Prophecies relating to the Christian Church," pp. 155–162. 176, 177. Almost the whole of the Psalms are applied by Bishop Horsley to the Messiah, in his "Book of Psalms translated from the Hebrew," 2 vols. 8vo. But Bishop Marsh has endeavoured to show that there are no double meanings, or, as he terms them, secondary senses, in prophecy. Lectures on Divinity, part iv. lect. 22.
2 There is a good philological illustration of this prediction in Dr. Randolph's Prælectiones Theologica, in vol. ii. (pp. 446. et seq.) of his View of Christ's Ministry