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them is, therefore, that they are, of the particular prophecies to be found in the Scripture, some of the most definite, and consequently the most easy. That they have been subjects of controversy is to be regretted; but this is a strong reason why some further effort should be made to ascertain the principles on which they are constructed, in order to their being made out more satisfactorily than perhaps they have hitherto been. From these examples it will probably have appeared, that an extensive comparison of the context, taken in addition to such explanations as the sacred writers themselves may have given, is the method most likely to ascertain the main intention of symbolical prophecy. That we should not be too anxious to make any one symbol (or even word in Hebrew) always to signify precisely the same thing, and then argue that other symbols (or other words) must necessarily signify something else; and, that we should, in no case, look for more than one well-defined subject in any piece of prophetical teaching, whether that be given in words, or in the equally expressive but less obvious language of symbols, is, I think, equally apparent. From what has been offered, it must also have appeared, that the context in which any symbolical language is found, ought to be very carefully weighed in connexion with its parallel passages, history, &c. And that, when this is done, we shall without doubt arrive at the principal thing intended to be inculcated. Having said thus much on this subject, we may now proceed to other considerations.
ON THE UNITY OF PROPHECY.
In our endeavours to understand the prophetical declarations of Scripture, it is my opinion, that our first business should be to make out the great and leading features, such as those noticed above in each case. In coming to our conclusions, we certainly ought to be very much on our guard, not too readily to fall in with any thing specious or new; to adopt nothing that will not admit of the amplest proof: but then I contend, that every important subject presented in Scripture will admit of this; and about unimportant ones we need not
trouble ourselves. When we have got thus far, we should be careful, in the next place, to offer no interpretations inconsistent with such obvious and important results; otherwise, we shall make Holy Scripture just as inconstant and variable, as double-tongued and delusive, as were the celebrated oracles, or the still more celebrated philosophers of old, and, instead of rendering it more convincing or instructive, create a prejudice against its reception, such as it may never be in our power to remove. I will exemplify this part of our subject by a striking but common occurrence. No circumstance, perhaps, is so clearly predicted in the Old Testament as the coming of Christ. It seems to have been the subject of prophecy long before the Jews had been chosen as a people. In that case, no reference could be made to the Theocracy, or system introduced by Moses; and accordingly, in those places we
* We have a remarkable instance of this kind in Mr. Forster's work on Mohametanism, already noticed. The author, in this work, sets out with the promises made to Abraham in favour of Isaac and Ishmael, which are as distinct, definite, and single in object, as words can make them. Isaac's promise expressly holds out the gift of the Holy Land and the additional spiritual blessing of the Messiah's kingdom. Ishmael's contains nothing (expressed) beyond temporal mercies. Out of the promise to Isaac, however, Mr. Forster extracts not only all the milk and honey of Canaan, but all the gall and wormwood of Jewish apostasy ;-not only all the blessing of Christianity, which it truly contains, but also all the mummery of popery, the idolatry, traditions, and persecuting spirit of the western Antichrist. From the promise to Ishmael he derives the temporal wealth, the twelve princes, his descendants (Gen. xxv. 16, &c.), the warlike prowess and power of the Arab nation, as enemies to the Jews (which is to a certain extent a good deduction), but also the rise, progress, and permanency of Mohammedanism; and all this, because he finds certain resemblances, which he terms analogy, parallelism, &c. too close and constant, as he believes, not to have been designed. The principle is, in my opinion, a most fallacious one. Mankind is pretty much alike in all ages. Nations and empires grow up, flourish, and decay, very nearly in the same way; and so do individuals. And the consequence is, there occasionally occur such instances of similarity as amuse and surprise the historian. The truth is, the world is governed by general and constant laws; and under these, similar results will now and then present themselves. Mr. Forster dwells on the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve princes to be derived from Ishmael; but he might also have introduced the twelve Cæsars of Rome, and the twelve Imams of the Shiah Mohammedans; and if he had been disposed to make the inquiry, I have no doubt his industry and ingenuity would have discovered a train of resemblances, just as well connected and as convincing, as those are which he has between the promises and events relating to these two patriarchs.
find none.* After the Theocracy had been introduced, and as long as it should continue, events predicted to take place, provided they did not reach beyond the time to which this system had been limited, must necessarily be such as to fall in with its provisions. Prophecies, therefore, relating to the return from Babylon, the rebuilding of the temple, and the like, would invariably be of this character; they would speak of times and of circumstances congenial with the Theocracy: all blessings would be confined to Palestine; and all God's people would inhabit those portions of land which had originally been assigned to one or other of the twelve tribes of Israel. This, I say, must necessarily and obviously be the case, because circumstances will allow of no other. The prophetical declarations, however, and those not a few, do occasionally reach beyond this period, and their particulars beyond these limits. Some of them speak of times when a new heaven and a new earth shall exist; when old things shall have passed, away; when the Spirit shall have been poured out from on high,‡ ALL shall be taught of the Lord, || and when his name shall be great among the Gentiles, and his glory to the uttermost parts of the earth.§ Under these circumstances, I say, it will be absurd to limit the declarations of Scripture either to the times, the circumstances, or the country, of the Theocracy; it will be, to confuse that which in Scripture is
* A most admirable work on this subject, and one which cannot be too often read, is the Demonstratio Evangelica of Eusebius. I will select one or two passages. Lib. i. Ποία δὲ προσδοκία ἦν, ἀλλ ̓ ἢ ἡ τῷ Αβραὰμ ἐπηγγελμένη περὶ τοῦ δεῖν εὐλογηθήσεσθαι ἐν αὐτῷ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη τῆς γῆς; πέφηνε τοιγαροῦν καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ Μωσῆς ἀκριβῶς ἐπιστάμενος, τὴν μὲν πρὸς αὐτοῦ διαταγεῖσαν νομοθεσίαν ἐξασθενεῖν, εἰς τὸ Tãoiv ipagμórai Toïs idview. Again, ib., after speaking of the patriarchs, he says : οὐκοῦν διὰ τούτων ἁπάντων τὸν ἀρχαιότατον, τῆς τῶν προπατόρων θεοσεβείαν τρόπον, ὁ Χριστοῦ Λόγος πᾶσι καταγγείλας τοῖς ἔθνεσι προφανῶς αποδίδεικται, ὡς εἶναι τὴν κοινὴν Διαθήκην οὐδ ̓ ἄλλην ἐκείνης τῆς ἀρχαιοτάτης τῶν Μωσέως χρόνων εὐσεβοῦς πολιτείας. ὣς Te ipoũ nai raλaiàv aùtùv sivas xaì viav. See also cap. ix. and x. of this book. + Isaiah, xliii. 18; lxv. 17; lxvi. 22. Micah, iv. 1-8. Is. xxxii. 15. Joel, ii. 28.
|| Isaiah, xl. 5; liv. 13.
§ Malachi, i. 11, &c. Psalm lxxii. 8—11,
¶ So Eusebius, Demonstrat. Evang. lib. i. 'Pouatu tùy móλiv šλóvres modiορκίᾳ καθεῖλον τὰ Ἱεροσόλυμα, καὶ τὸν αὐτόθι ναὸν. λέλυτό τε αὐτίκα πᾶσα ἡ Μωσέως διάταξις, καὶ τὰ τῆς παλαιᾶς περιῄρητο Διαθήκης. Some remarkable instances of this kind occur in the prophecy of Daniel. In chap. ii. 44, we are told, that the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed ; and this is
kept clear and distinct; and to introduce difficulties, doubts, and perplexities, which, under such a view of things, no ingenuity may be able to remove. This, however, has been done again and again by a considerable number of able divines; and it is still done in this country and others, particularly with regard to the question of the restoration of the Jews. Certain passages are taken from the later prophets, which speak strongly on the subject of the prosperity of Jerusalem, and then it is concluded, that in order to satisfy these, the Jews must again be restored to Palestine. Some have gone so far as to determine the time, and even the manner, in which this is to be done, and then have congratulated themselves with having discovered, for the first time, the exact period of the latter-day glory. It is, however, a very remarkable fact, either that this doctrine never occurred to the writers of the New Testament, or that they forgot to commit it to writing. For it is certain, their constant and obvious declarations were, that Jew and Gentile were now one, and that there was no difference whatever as to privileges, the same Lord being rich to all those who called upon him.* And further, we are expressly told by the Apostle,
to be done during the times of the last kings of the fourth monarchy. In chap. vii. 11, the beast, which evidently symbolises this monarchy, is slain; the dominion of the rest of the beasts is also taken away; and at v. 13, 14, the Son of man is vested with this endless and universal dominion. At v. 18, the saints, his servants, are to bear rule, which is repeated at v. 27. Again, chap. ix. 24-27, the period when this shall take place is mentioned. Now, I think, I may lay it down as a rule admitting of no exception, that, supposing we know the limit of this period, and can, in any case, ascertain the limits of any other given prediction, whatever falls within this limit must belong to the Theocracy, whatever falls without it, to the times of the reign of the saints of the Most High; or, what in other terms is styled the kingdom of heaven, and by theologians, the new dispensation.
* Rom. iii. 22. "For there is no difference." So ib. x. 12, " For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him." Again, chap. iv. 12, we are told, that Abraham is the reputed father of all those who hold his faith; and v. 16, that the promise is sure to all the seed, both to those who had been under the law, and to those who had not, but had received the faith of Abraham. See also ver. 24, 25. Now, I ask, taking for granted that St. Paul's reasoning may here be relied upon, if the promise is sure to all the seed, and all believers are reckoned as being the seed of Abraham, then, granting also that a part of this promise was the possession of Canaan, if any restoration to
that the Jew had been broken off from his own stock, that the Gentile had been grafted thereon, and been made the proprietor of his once glorious privileges. Circumcision, too he tells us, availeth nothing, that sacrifice had ceased; that the tribe of Levi was no longer exclusively the priesthood of God; and, in short, that all things had become new.* With these things before us, one would scarcely suppose that the Jews would be carried back, under the old system, to Palestine, and there made to possess the land, each tribe in his ancient allotment. Scripture is manifestly against this, unless it involves contradictions. Reason can see no object to be obtained, unless indeed it be supposed that the Theocracy is to be revived; which will require the rebuilding of the temple, the restoration of circumcision, and indeed of every other particular required by the law of Moses.†
It is argued, however, that there are certain particular prophecies which require this interpretation. Let us now see what these are. I must be allowed to pass over many of those occasionally cited from the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, because it would be to offer proof where none can be wanting, that such places relate simply and solely to the return from the Babylonish captivity. The most
this land is ever to take place, must not the seed which is of the faith be that which is to be restored?—that is, must not all believing Christians, not unbelieving Jews, be the persons to whom this land ought to be given up; for even during the very first times of the Theocracy, Moses distinctly told the Jews, that if they ceased to be faithful, this land should be taken from them. (See Lev. xxvi. 1-39; Deut. xxviii. 15—37, 45—47, 63-68.) But no one thinks of arguing thus, because it would be absurd to talk of renewing the terms of the Theocratical covenant after the new one has been established. Much less can the question be urged for restoring a nation of infidel and manifestly rebellious Jews. Eusebius has a remarkable passage on this subject, Demonstrat. Evang. lib. ii. cap. 1 :-τοῦτο δ ̓ ἦν τοῖς ἐκ περιτομῆς μέγα ἐφ ̓ ἑαυτοῖς αὐχοῦσι καὶ σεμνυνομένοις, ὡς τοῦ Θεοῦ μόνους αὐτοὺς τῶν λοιπῶν ἐθνῶν προτιμήσαντος, καὶ μόνους τῶν θείων ἐπαγγελιῶν κατηξιωκότος, ἐπιδεῖξαι ὡς οὐδὲν κρεῖττον παρὰ τοὺς λοιποὺς ἅπαντας ἰδίως αὐτοῖς ἐν ταῖς θείαις ἐπήγγελται ὑποσχέσεσιν, &c.
• A remarkable instance of the adaptation of the language of the Old Testament to the times of the New is to be found in Heb. xii. 22: (6 But ye are come unto Mount Sion," &c.
If it be argued, that the gift of this land was prior to the times of the Theocracy, I shall answer: So was the institution of sacrifice, of circumcision, the distinction of clean and unclean animals; all of which, however, expired with the Theocracy.