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follow throughout and exclusively an historical interpretation ; it is consistent also to follow exclusively a spiritual interpretation ; or again it is consistent to adopt always the two together; and to say that every prophecy has its historical sense, and also its spiritual sense. But it is not consistent to interpret the same prophecy partly historically and partly spiritually; to say that in one verse David is spoken of, and in another Christ; that Jerusalenı here means the literal city in Palestine, and there signifies heaven; that Israel in one place signifies the historical people of the Israelites, and in another place the people of God, whether Jews or Gentiles. This is absolutely foolish, and is manifestly a mere accommodation of the prophetical Scriptures to certain previously conceived opinions of our own." What does Dr. Arnold mean here by the words “ throughout and exclusively"? From the former part of the extract, we should naturally apply them to the whole range of Scripture prophecies, and infer that the author was contending that predictions of every kind should be explained after one manner; and this is plainly his meaning, as he professes in his scheme (p. 7), to maintain a one general principle of interpretation” for all propheciesnamely, “that of an uniform historical, or lower, and also of a spiritual, or higher, sense.” But when he wishes to prove the inconsistency and folly of other schemes, he shifts his ground, and confines the words " throughout and exclusively," to the several parts of the same continuous prophecy. “It is not consistent to interpret the same prophecy, partly bistorically, and partly spiritually;" and again, “ to say that in one verse David is spoken of, in another Christ, &c.” This is nothing but a literary sleight of hand, of which, however, I believe the author to have been himself perfectly unconscious. But surely there is nothing either inconsistent or foolish in asserting that some prophecies are of a purely historical character, and admit only of one literal interpretation, while others are capable both of the historical or lower sense, and also of the spiritual, or what I would rather call the final, fulfilment, of which an earnest may have been given in several partial accomplishments. Of the purely historical prophecies I would give instances in Noah's predictions touching his three sons, in the promise given to the house of Rechab, in Joshua's curse against the future builder of Jericho, in the prophecy of the man of God concerning Josiah and the altar in Bethel, in Ahijah's prediction to Jeroboam that he should reign over ten of the twelve tribes of Israel, in Jeremiah's prophecy of the defeat and captivity of Zedekiah, and in many similar examples. Surely the interpretation of these and the like predictions belongs exclusively to history, nor is there any room left for the mystical expositor. On the other hand, there are many prophecies touching the Israel of God, which certainly as yet have received no literal fulfilment, either in God's ancient people or in the Christian church. We may give these a spiritual sense, if we please ; yet even so, we shall be compelled to acknowledge (as Dr. Arnold does, p. 47) that the complete fulfilment is still among things future. Neither literally nor figuratively has the world yet seen that state of perfect peace and tranquillity described in Isaiab, chap. xi. 6, &c., and in the many parallel passages. But there are also many historical prophe
cies concerning the historical Israel, which can be applied only to the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. Take for example God's declaration to Abraham, that his seed should sojourn in a strange land, and be in servitude, and be afflicted four hundred years. (Gen. xv. 13, &c.) Or look at the temporal blessings and curses spoken respecting Israel by Moses, in Deut., chap. xxviii. Will not history furnish an adequate fulfilment of every word? Or can we apply to any but the historical Israel, Jeremiah's prophecy of the seventy years' captivity in Babylon ? (Jer. xxv. 11.) It is needless to multiply instances in a case so plain. And I therefore ask again, Where is the inconsistency in giving an exclusively historical interpretation to prophecies, which are expressed with historical circumstances of time and place, while, at the same time, as members of the one universal church of the redeemed, we may humbly claim to have a share and inheritance in those general assurances of peace and prosperity and endless glory which are bestowed in language of general acceptation upon the ransomed of the Lord, and the citizens of the true Zion ?
Dr. Arnold, indeed, attempts to confirm his view of the double sense pervading all prophecies, by the words of St. Peter in his 2nd Epistle, chap. i. 20, “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation :" which he explains as though the word private meant single. Prophecy, he says, (p. 12) "is anticipated history, not in our common sense of the word, but in another and far higher sense." And he adds in his note upon this assertion-" This, according to a very common interpretation, is the sense of the famous words in St. Peter's Second Epistle, πάσα προφητεία γραφής ιδίας επιλύσεως ου γίνεται. History is especially išías éticoews: that is to say, what the historian relates of Babylon is to be understood of Babylon only; of the city so called upon the banks of the Euphrates, and not of any other place more or less morally resembling it. But what prophecy says of Babylon is kolvñs ételtoews : it does not relate exclusively, nor even principally, to the Babylon of history, but to certain spiritual evils, of which Babylon was at one period the representative, and Rome at another, and of which other cities, which may have succeeded to the greatness of Babylon and Rome, may be the representatives now." We shall see presently how Dr. Arnold has employed this dangerous doctrine in reducing the historical fulfilment of prophecy, even in the plainest instances, to a mere empty shadow. But first let us inquire, whether this very common, and very convenient, interpretation of St. Peter's words is the correct one. Is not the sense of the passage more truly and (I believe) more generally understood to be to this effect, that no prophecy of the Scripture was of the prophet's own invention, and, therefore, that the circumstantial solution of a prophecy, in all its details, did not rest with the prophet himself? This is the view taken by the commentators in Poole's Synopsis, by Drs. Hammond and Whitby, and Bishop Pearson in Mant's Bible, and is forcibly main. tained by Macknight. It is in perfect agreement with the context, and does no violence to truth, which Dr. Arnold's interpretation of the words most assuredly does, inasmuch as several prophecies admit only of one fulfilment. But of no prophecy can it be
said that it was of the prophet's own suggestion, or that the prophet was able to explain beforehand the precise manner in which his words should be fulfilled. “Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;" and though, by diligent searching and devout meditation, they might in some instances, attain to a general conception of the purport of their predictions, yet the means by wbich God would, in due time, bring his words to pass, always remained among the secret things which belong unto the Lord. When the word of the Lord came to the disobedient prophet in Bethel, saying, “ Thy carcase shall not come into the sepulchre of thy fathers,” we may suppose, that both the deceived and deceiving prophets understood that an untimely and violent death awaited the man of God; but neither of them could have foreseen, that as soon as the diso. bedient prophet should have left the city, a lion out of the forest should slay him. This, I conceive, is an apt illustration of the true sense of St. Peter's words, “ No prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation.”
But the strange thing is, that while Dr. Arnold thus strenuously, in theory, advocates the uniform existence of a double sense in Scripture prophecies, and repeatedly protests that he does not deny the literal fulfilment of prophecy, (as in pp. 33, 47, 50, &c.,) yet in every instance which he brings forward, the historical fulfilment is unscrupulously sacrificed to a spiritual interpretation, and the literal sense is reduced to a mere empty shadow. Historical fulfilments the most minute and striking are pronounced to be only accomplishments given ex abundanti, (pp. 47,56.) They are regarded as acts of gracious
condescension on the part of God for the satisfaction of weak minds, which might be unable to appreciate properly the higher and more spiritual sense of the prophecy: In this way, all the predictions touching the overthrow and perpetual desolation of Babylon are spiritualized away into unmeaning nothings: God had declared that the overthrow of that great city should be like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, that Babylon should become ruinous heaps, which should never be inhabited, but should be the dwelling-place of ravenous beasts and birds of prey ; and Jeremiah was instructed to bind a stone about the book of his prophecy, and to cast it into the river Euphrates, saying, “ Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise again from all the evil which I will bring upon her.” (Jer. li. 63, 64.) But, notwithstanding all these, and the like denunciations of perpetual destruction threatened against Babylon, Dr. Arnold holds that the truth of prophecy is by no means involved in the continuance of such a minute fulfilment, and that if Mesopotamia were again to become fertile and habitable, and a new town were to be built on the site of Babylon, it would not be a revival of that Babylon against which God's judgments were denounced;" (p. 56,)—that is to say, the perpetual desolation threatened against Babylon meant only a desolation for some period of indefinite duration. Babylon, the cursed of God, might yet arise from her ashes to a new career of prosperity and power, without offering any contradice tion to the truth of the prophetic Scriptures.
The four arguments by which Dr. Arnold attempts to fortify this
position, (p. 55,) are scarcely worthy of serious refutation. The first is a merely gratuitous assumption that the denunciations against Babylon received an adequate fulfilment when the Babylonian people ceased to be sovereign ; the second rests upon the fact that the predictions were several centuries in arriving at their complete development; the fourth assumes the impossibility of tracing similar fulfilments, in the literal sense, with respect to other prophecies. But the most remarkable is the third : “ Babylon has been the seat of a Christian church, and therefore could no longer have been accursed : the sin of the old Babylon could not be so much more powerful than the grace of Christ's presence.” Has not Jerusalem been the seat of many a Christian church ? and yet is it not still lying under the ban of the Mosaic curse ? And Dr. Arnold himself allows that the present state of the city of Babylon, and the surrounding country, may be a fulfilment of the
prophecies, if only it be regarded as a fulfilment given ex abundanti. Yet this superfluous fulfilment was not brought to pass till after the time of Ammianus Marcellinus, who wrote in the fourth century of the Christian era. (p. 53.) Now, even a fulfilment given ex abundanti is a fulfilment; and, therefore, according to Dr. Arnold's own admission, the curse was not literally poured out upon Babylon for three hundred years after it had been the site of a Christian church.
When the terribly distinct denunciations of the perpetual destruction of Babylon are thus allegorized, and evaporated into mystical interpretations; when the historical prophecies against Babylon are explained away as general threatenings against the world which knew not God, (p. 63;) when we are told that Jonah's prophecy against Nineveh was not fulfilled, hecause “ God's prophecy was not against Nineveh, but against sin,” (Dr. Arnold does not even say “ against the sin of Nineveh,” but simply " against sin;") we are not surprised that the prophecies against Edom and Egypt are treated in the same way, though the author is compelled to notice a marked difference in the character of the respective predictions, and a nicely corresponding difference also in the historical fulfilment of them. (p. 60.) The historical prophecies, which foretel the future conversion and restoration of the Jews, are disposed of according to the same theory of spiritual interpretation. We are indeed in one place (p. 47) allowed to believe that “ there may be a lower fulfilment vouchsafed even to the old historical Israel, provided it be understood that such a fulfilment is by no means necessary to the truth of prophecy; that it is given ex abundanti; and that as in no one case we have a right to expect it, so, if it be withheld, we ought neither to feel surprise nor perplexity." But when this convenient admission of fulfilments given ex abundanti is applied to predictions so minute as that of Psalm xxii, 18, “ They parted my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture ;" when we are gravely told that no one could reasonably have thought that Christ's death and resurrection were not the real and sufficient fulfilment of this Psalm, even if his hands and feet had never been literally pierced, and the soldiers had never literally divided his garments among them, or cast lots for his coat," (p. 48 ;) surely it behoves us to consider whither this dangerous principle is leading us; surely we should ask ourselves whether we are not beginning to tamper with those lively oracles of truth, of which not one word has been uttered in vain, and not one jot or tittle shall pass away till all has been fulfilled. The doctrine of a suffering Redeemer is so contrary to all the preconceived notions of our carnal nature, that every scripture which foretels how it behoved Christ to suffer before he entered into his glory, should be peculiarly precious in our eyes; and when we consider further, how inconceivably dreadful were all the agonies and tortures of the Man of Sorrows, we should with thankfulness embrace and hold fast every passage of Holy Writ which proves that nothing happened by accident to that Just One, but that all his countless sufferings had been foreknown and fore-ordained in the immutable counsels of Divine Providence. Our blessed Lord's betrayal by Judas, his own familiar friend; bis deliverance of his terrified followers; his being carried before kings of the earth and rulers ; his cruel treatment by the Gentiles ; his scourging, and mocking, and being spit upon; his uncomplaining silence and resignation before his unjust judges; his being numbered with the transgressors, and being with the wicked in his death, and with the rich in his grave; his desertion by his kinsfolk and acquaintance; his being offered vinegar and gall; his being taunted with inability to save himself; his being pierced in the hands and feet, and also, (if Kennicott's version of 2 Sam. xxiii. 7, be received) the piercing of his sacred side with the Roman spear; the parting of his garments and the casting lots for his vestment; and finally, the circumstance that not a bone of the Righteous One, (Psalm xxxiv. 20,) should be broken-surely these minute details of the sufferings of God's incarnate Son were not given in vain by the spirit of prophecy, but are the very bulwarks of our faith, and afford the most complete refutation to the sneering infidel, when he would taunt us with the unexampled agonies of a crucified Redeemer. But, on Dr. Arnold's view, all these are worth little more to us than the tinkling brass and sounding cymbal. Hear his own words : “ Because there were persons who would be more struck by such a minute fulfilment than by that general fulfilment which to us seems far more satisfactory, therefore God was pleased that they also should have the satisfaction they required, and over and above the great and substantial fulfilment of the prophecy, he provided also those instances of minute agreement, which, however thankful we may be to trace (them), now that they have been given, we could not, I think, have ventured to expect beforehand.” (p. 48.) Is not this a fearful tampering with divine truth? Is not this equivalent to saying that many passages of Scripture were inspired without any adequate or worthy object? For, what general fulfilment can there be of such minutely detailed prophecies as those to which I have referred? And if the literal fulfil. ment of predictions, which admit of none but a literal fulfilment, be indeed superfluous, and an accomplishment given ex abundanti, it seems to follow that the predictions themselves are unnecessary, and unworthy of that God who doeth nothing in vain.