Imágenes de páginas

stands the full verbal meaning of the original. We say verbal, and refer to the understanding only, as being but one avenue or means of approach to the spiritual meaning; which last is a much higher attainment, and one which sometimes appears the result of an instinctive tact of spiritual discernment given from above, and independent of any common means.

The state of learning in the Christian church has been to a considerable extent anticipated in our account of the several versions. The principal truths of the Old Testament having been embodied in the New, and the Greek version being in very general use, Hebrew learning very soon languished in the church ; and though it was from time to time partially revived by the accession of a Jewish convert, yet it had ceased to be cultivated with any profit to the church before the time of Origen. The encomiasts of Origen boast of the short time in which he mastered Hebrew. This only leads to the suspicion that he had by no means mastered it, and nothing in his remaining works shews any deep or critical acquaintance with the language. Of Jerome, this is not merely a suspicion, but a certainty, for his comments prove, that, with all the pains he had taken, in procuring four different Jews for instructors, his knowledge of Hebrew scarcely exceeded that of a well-taught schoolboy. But we think this has been to us rather an advantage than otherwise : for as the chief use of Jerome's works and Origen's fragments is to verify the sacred text, this is better done by the servile adherence to the letter of Scripture, which their conscious weakness imposed upon them, than by any critical

On the contrary, we have rather occasion to rejoice that they were not gifted with the learning, if it had been accompanied with the recklessness of either Houbigant or Bentley, as they might then have endeavoured to model the text according to those notions of amendment which would best suit their translations; and not, as they have done, given us every where the letter, whether they could make their own sense of it or not. Jerome died A. D. 420; and for nine hundred years we find no traces of Hebrew learning in the writings of the Western church. With the generation that succeeded Jerome, or soon after, Greek literature also declined, and the subtleties of the schoolmen took the place of theology in the church, and their barbarous Latin became its only learning: and many a precious manuscript was erased, to furnish parchment for Thomas Aquinas or P. Lombard. Had we space, it might be instructive to trace out the heresies and superstitions which have from time to time arisen, in their connection with the learning or the credulity whence they severally sprang. Heresy is dangerous and infectious only in proportion to the learning which accompanies it-if, indeed, perverted learning be not its only soil. In the Western church we find but little of heresy, after the time of Athanasius, till the revival of learning in the fifteenth century; but in the East, where a certain portion of learning subsisted, heresies springing from a perversion of learning abounded : and, monstrous as the superstitious accumulation embodied in the Papacy appears, it is less hateful than the wild, hopeless, irremediable heresies of the East. These heretical perversions have no fixity or substance with which to grapple, and rest on no principle on which you can take your stand; but superstition has generally a basis of truth, and you have only to clear away the rubbish to discover the goodly foundation on which it rests. The first symptoms of a revival of learning in the church appeared in Nic. de Lyra, 1320. He may be considered as the forerunner of the Reformation, by his knowledge of Hebrew loosening the spell of ignorance in which the church had been so long imprisoned, and by the freedom of his comments preparing the way for that perfect liberty of private interpretation which the Reformers established. Luther says of him, Ego Lyram ideo amo, et inter optimos pono, quod ubique diligenter retinet et persequitur historiam :” and he is commonly said to have held Luther's stirrup. The miseries which now overwhelmed the East, and the persecutions in Spain, drove multitudes of learned men into Italy, bringing with them their books, their only solace. The ardent Italians immediately caught the flame, and learning at once blazed forth in all its several quarters. The principal instrument in reviving Hebrew, was Picus of Mirandula, who in 1484 astonished the world by the variety and precocity of his talents, and whose early death left his contemporaries under the full impression of the emulation he had excited, and took away the jealousies and other attendant evils. His whole career was brilliant and extraordinary, and he had taken up that branch of Hebrew learning which was most calculated to excite astonishment, and produced by it an effect on that age which probably has not its parallel. Galatine and Reuchlin were first led to Hebrew by the meteoric glare which Picus left in his track; but Reuchlin, in his zeal for the preservation of some Rabbinical books, was brought into contest with the monks : in this contest he was supported by the principal Reformers, and its circumstances contributed greatly to give notoriety and eclat to Hebrew literature. The Reformers had also now found the necessity of continually appealing to the original Scriptures, and most of them became in consequence good scholars. Bibles, grammars, and lexicons were abundantly circulated ; and many a man, who never emerged from privacy, was enabled by these means to become well acquainted with the Scriptures, and in his own sphere of acquaintance to diffuse the truths of the Reformation, though his name was unknown beyond the pivate circle. At the beginning of the Reformation the greatest portion of learning was on the side of the Reformers: the


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Papists felt their disadvantage, and did their utmost to supply
it, but for the first century continued decidedly inferior to the
Protestants. But the cause of learning among the Protestants
received a great injury in Grotius, from which it has never
wholly recovered. T'he learning of Grotius none can deny, but
he turned it to so ill an account, that, without thinking himself
infidel, or being so esteemed by others, he has served the cause
of infidelity perhaps more effectually than a professed infidel,
and brought a discredit even on learning itself. The principles
of interpretation which he first introduced still have their
patrons, and keep alive in the minds of many pious simple
persons an undefined and jealous dread of learning, lest it
should pervert the simplicity of the Gospel. He, if not the first
to begin, did by his learning give the most powerful sanction,
and carried to a most pernicious extent, the reprehensible
principle of accommodation in interpreting the word of God;
assuming that the Scriptures do not mean what they seem to
say, but that they are to be limited or exaggerated according to
the interpreter's notions of propriety. Another kindred error
of the same school, is the supposition that God's ordinances were
framed in condescension to the follies and superstitions into
which the heathen had fallen ;-an error which Spencer adopted
from Grotius, and carried into all the institutions of the Law.
And thus, by supposed figures, and orientalisms, and accommo-
dations, they explain away all the definite sense of the Pro-
phecies, and rob the Law of the better part of its Divine sanc-
tion. These errors, which now prevail on the Continent to the
extent of rendering their theology nearly infidel, are to be traced
to a want of the just equipoise of faith and learning. If faith
be deficient, heresy, passing through all its degrees up to in-
fidelity, is the consequence; or cast away learning, and the
tendency is towards superstition : but let faith and learning
be duly combined, and they then constitute the panoply of a
complete theologian. “Put on the whole armour of God, that
ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we
wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,
against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world,
against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore také
unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to
withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. Stand
therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having
on the breast-plate of righteousness, and your feet shod with
the preparation of the Gospel of peace ; above all, taking the
shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery
darts of the wicked : and take the helmet of salvation; and the
sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephes. vi,


[ocr errors]


Interpretation II.
(Communicated by the Rev. E. Irving.)

The Prophecy of Immunuel's Name, Isai. viii.-ix. 8.
Though the prophecy contained in the vith, and the first half
of the ixth chapter, be not the next which is quoted in the New
Testament, I deem it good to depart in this instance a little from
our regular method; both because of its intimate connection
with, and immediate succession to, that which we have already
interpreted ; and also because these two, taken together, do
present, at one view, a most grand and complete exhibition of
the person, dignity, and glory of Immanuel, the Virgin's Son.
Now, there is not one strain of Old Testament prophecy which
is so often directly cited, and indirectly referred to, in the New
Testament, as this which we undertake to interpret. These re-
ferences and allusions, with the argument of the matter which
they are brought to confirm, will be best explained and enforced
as we proceed in the course of our interpretation; but, for the
satisfaction of our readers, in the beginning and outset we notice
these. Chap. viii. 14, is quoted in Rom. ix. 33, referred to in
1 Pet. ii. 8, and also perhaps in Luke ii. 34, Matt. xx. 44, and
Luke xx. 18: again, chap. viii. 18 is quoted in Heb. ii. 13; and
chap. ix. 1, 2, is quoted in Matt. iv. 16: and, finally, chap.
ix. 7 is certainly referred to in Luke i. 32, 33. And, besides
these, there are many other passages in the New Testament
in which the Spirit appeareth to me to give, in a less direct
manner, honour unto this particular strain of prophecy. We
do therefore with a willing mind, and with a devout heart, un-
dertake the office of presenting unto the church that light
which God, in his goodness, hath communicated at divers
times to our much study and meditation of this portion of his
blessed word.

The prophecy of the viiith chapter is intimately connected with the prophecy of the viith, in that they both begin by treating of the judgment of God brought upon Syria and Ephraim because of their God-defying enterprise to cut off the line of David. But, whereas the prophecy which we have interpreted did chiefly bear and conclude against Ephraim, determining the period of his dispersion as a people, this prophecy now under consideration doth begin by a judgment on Damascus, which is given with all the circumstance, and certified with all the assur ance, of a most determinate purpose of God. It thus begins : “ Moreover, the Lord said unto me”—that is, in addition to what had been said in vers. 7–9 of the preceding chapter, against Damascus and Samaria ; and what had been given as a sign thereof in vers. 15, 16, the Lord added this command

[blocks in formation]

ment, “Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man's pen concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” It was the custom of the East, and is to this day the custom, to roll, and not to fold, their writings. This roll, which the Prophet is commanded to take, is appointed to be of great dimensions, as being intended to contain much matter - how much, will appear in the sequel. In this roll he was to write with a man's pen—that is, as I suppose, in no cipher, with no mystery, but in such plain character and style as men do in their ordinary correspondence. And the thing written is to be concerning a child of the prophet not yet in existence. The prophet had a child, Shear-jashub, of such years as that he might take him in his hand when he went to prophesy before king Ahaz; and this Shear-jashub, which being interpreted, is, “the remnant shall return,” was made the sign of the dispersion of Ephraim; a sign of hope, a stone of help, on which was written, “ The remnant shall return." Ephraim, though broken from being a people, shall have a remnant left, who shall return. But this other son of the Prophet hath a name of larger omen, Mahershalal-hash-baz, which, being interpreted, is,in making speed to the spoil he hasteneth the prey;" or "make speed to the spoil, he hasteneth the prey.These two children were for signs and for wonders in Israel (ver. 18); and if the first be a sign that the remnant of Israel is to return, then the second seemeth to be a sign of that for which they are to return, calling them with speed to a spoil, and hastening the prey, teaching, as I conceive, that the remnant should return to the spoiling of the nations, to the prey which the Lord hastened. This, however, we do not lay down as interpretation, but merely as the combined power and signification of these two names or signs; for, as to all the circumstances connected with the spoil and the prey, they must not be taken for granted, but patiently gathered from the interpretation of the whole prophecy. The Prophet, having been thus instructed of the Lord, went about his instructions with great care and diligence : “ I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah son of Jeberechiah.” Of what were these witnesses called upon to record their testimony ? I think, of all that the prophet was commanded to write concerning his son, who was not yet conceived. What that was which he wrote concerning him, is, as I judge, the matters contained in this chapter and the next, and I think also the three following ; but certainly, as will appear, all that we have to do with in this interpretation. It is the prophecy. of the spoil and of the prey which the child of the virgin, then unborn, along with the remnant of Ephraim, is to make of all his enemies, and especially of the Assyrian, the last of his enemies. And I say again, that this prophecy of the prey and the

« AnteriorContinuar »