Imágenes de páginas

as when a full-minded man scatters over his discourse quotations from his favourite authors ;-an hypothesis than which one less founded in truth, more dishonourable to the holy Scriptures, and the Holy Ghost who inspired them, or more destructive to the faith of men, was never invented. And while I thus proceed from quotation to quotation, following the order of events in the Gospels, and the order of chapters in the other books of the New Testament, I shall also take occasion to shew forth the weight and importance which is brought to the narrative, or to the argument, by the fulfilment of the Prophecy therein cited.

But I confess, when all these ends have been mentioned, good and great as they are, the chief end of this undertaking is still undisclosed; which is no less, O my fellow-Christians, than to. deliver God's holy and divine prophecy from the darkness with which it hath been covered by the indolence, unbelief, and incuriousness of men. Believing, with holy Peter, that "we have also a more sure word of Prophecy" (literally, "and we have more confirmed the prophetic word"), "whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arise in your hearts," I am desirous to shew unto the church, that the Prophecy is indeed light, and is not darkness; a light to lead unto life, and not to mislead unto death;-a steady light, which shineth afar upon the bosom of the troubled deep, amidst the wreck of the howling tempest, guiding forlorn mariners into fair havens, where their rest is;-not a baleful fire, betokening invasion, bloodshed, and ruin to a land; nor yet a fiery star, hastening to the destruction of the world; nor yet an ignis fatuus, or light of the dead, hovering over foul graves and treacherous swamps, to disappoint the weary way-worn wanderer; but a light of God, a light of truth, hung up in the darkness of the long night of His absence who is the True Light, in order to comfort the world with its regeneration, in order to comfort the body of man with its resurrection, and his soul with its eternal inheritance of life and blessedness upon the earth, when He who is our life shall come again; when those also shall come with him who do now in heaven sing this song, "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us unto God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign upon the earth." This is my great end, O God, thou knowest, to follow the footsteps of the Fathers and Reformers of thy church, who did make a constant use of the prophetic Scriptures, in order that the hopes of men might rest upon the word of God, and not upon the word of men. Therefore, as Thou, who knowest the heart, dost well know and discern what this my purpose is, in seeking to interpret those several strains

of prophecy which thine own wisdom hath applied, I do entreat for myself those gifts of interpretation and of utterance which the Holy Spirit in the beginning of the church gave unto pastors and teachers: and I ask, moreover, for the love I bear to thy church, that thou wouldest open their hearts to receive and believe and rest upon the truth contained in thy holy Prophets, and by their prayers to be helpful unto thy poor servant in his endeavours to do what in him lies for thy glory and for their good.


Isai. vii. referred to Matt. i. 22, 23.

For the most important purposes, then, of directing the mind of the church to the more sure word of Prophecy, which hath very much ceased from being looked to as "a light in a dark place" (2 Pet. i. 10); and of connecting the New Testament with the Old, and shewing the light which they reflect upon one another; I shall take in hand, trusting to the Spirit, which searcheth all things, and revealeth them to us (1 Cor. ii. 10), and likewise shews us things to come (John xvi. 13), to open in order all those prophecies of the Old Testament; which have been quoted and applied in the New Testament; wherein we shall have the guidance of the Holy Spirit himself, as to the application of that part of the prophecy which is quoted and from this, as from a given point, we shall endeavour to fix and determine the application of the whole passage of prophecy whereof it is a part. By this means, those who are disinclined to the study of Prophecy from certain undefined notions concerning the unprofitableness, and even sinfulness, of interpreting it, will, I trust, be delivered from that fearful snare of the devil, and guided into the right method of understanding those Scriptures which, like all the rest, were written for our learning. (Rom. xv. 4.) Now, the first prophecy quoted in the New Testament is that of Immanuel, contained in the viith, viiith, and ixth chapters of Isaiah. This prophecy of the Nativity, though it seemeth to have escaped the great body of the Jews-intent altogether upon the national glory connected with the Messiah-had not escaped the knowledge and the faith of Simeon and of Anna, and of those others in Jerusalem who "waited for the consolation of Israel," and who gave thanks unto God when his parents brought the child Jesus into the temple, to do for him after the custom of the law. And of it we may say, that never before, and perhaps never since, was the attention of men called in so wonderful a manner to the fulfilment of any prophecy. First, Zacharias's vision, while performing the most solemn office of the daily worship; and his seizure with dumb

ness in the sight of the assembled people, not removed until the circumcision of the Baptist, whose birth was then announced to him. These things, taken along with the barrenness and the old age of Elizabeth, were calculated to rivet the attention of men upon John, the forerunner and prophet of Christ; and accordingly it is said, Luke i. 65, "Fear came on all them that dwelt round about them and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judea; and all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be?" The salutation of the angel to the blessed Virgin, and the vision given to Joseph her betrothed husband, and the salutation of Elizabeth, and the prophecy of Zacharias, were all fitted and designed to raise expectation in the hearts of those to whom they came, and of all to whom they were reported. Also the appearing of the angels to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem, and their proceeding straightway to the stable in which He was born, and immediately upon his birth, was a thing never to be forgotten, and much to be spoken of through all the country round. And the appearance of the star to the wise men from the East, and their arrival at the court and palace of Jerusalem to inquire where the King of the Jews was to be found; the alarm of Herod, and the secret assembling of his conclave, together with the murder of the innocents which followed thereon; were fitted to make an indelible impression upon all the city and nation. Such a combination of celestial and terrestrial means was no doubt intended of God to draw the attention of the Jews to the fulfilment of this very prophecy. In a most remarkable manner, therefore, was this prophecy honoured of God; and well is it worthy of our most diligent study.

Though, as we have said, it runneth through the viith, viiith, and part of the ix th chapters of the Prophet Isaiah, it divides itself into two distinct strains, given under different circumstances, and I think at different times. The division takes place at the end of the viith chapter, which contains what may be called, The prophecy of the sign. The second strain may be called, The prophecy of the name and power of Immanuel. The one, the prophecy of his nativity; the other, the prophecy of his triumph and everlasting kingdom. From each of these strains concerning Immanuel, the Virgin's Son, there are quotations in the New Testament. From the first, in Matt. i. 23; from the second, in Luke i. 32. Or, if any one should doubt this to be a quotation, because it is not stated as such, then have we in Matt. iii. 14 an express quotation from it, as well as in Heb. ii. 13. So that both these strains of prophecy concerning Immanuel will come before us in their due order. It is to the first of them that we now address ourselves. The Evangelist Matthew, after presenting us with the genealogy of

[blocks in formation]

Joseph, Mary's husband, whose reputed first-born Jesus was, and therefore in the eye of the nation the representative of his family, enters on the narrative of his conception by the power of the Holy Ghost, of the Divine intimation thereof to Joseph (who is spoken to as the son of David, his genealogy having been already derived from that royal stem), and of God's commandment that the child's name should be Jesus, " for he shall save his people from their sins." Then it is added (verse 22), "Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall bring forth a Son; and they shall call his name Immanuel, which is, being interpreted, God with us." There can be no doubt, therefore, that the prophecy in Isaiah did receive its fulfilment in this act of the immaculate conception, because it is expressly so declared by the Holy Spirit. Let us, then, by this leading light endeavour to steer our way through the prophecy itself.

The occasion of this signal prophecy was as signal as the prophecy itself. Samaria, the head of the Ten Tribes, did confederate with Damascus, the head of Syria, for no less an object than to cut off the royal line of David from the throne of Judah in Jerusalem. But the Lord had promised, and with an oath had sworn it to David, "Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne will He establish for ever" (2 Sam. vii. 16). To which promise frequent reference is made in the Psalms: as, lxxxix. 4, "I have sworn unto David my Servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations:" cxxxii. 11, "The Lord hath sworn in truth unto Ďavid, he will not turn from it, Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne." This confederacy of Samaria and Damascus was therefore no less than a conspiracy against the word and oath of God, which he had given to David his servant; and therefore it was a fit and worthy occasion for God to interfere and assure the house of David, "whose heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind." To prove, therefore, the strength of his own word, and its mightiness to overthrow the strength of confederate kings, he commissioned Isaiah to deliver this prophecy concerning Immanuel, the Son of David; for whose sake the promise of the throne had been given to David, as the promise of the inheritance had been given to Abraham. That we are right in this judgment concerning the purpose of the prophecy, is evident from the language with which the following and the only other prophecy concerning Immanuel concludes (Isaiah ix. 7)," Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from

[ocr errors]

henceforth even for ever." Which makes it manifest that it was given to confirm the oath made unto David against the conspiracy now undertaken to subvert his throne, and to cut off his royal line. Let us now examine the prophecy itself. The Lord commandeth the prophet to take with him his son Shear-jashub, for reasons which we shall see hereafter, to go forth to meet Ahaz the king, and to say unto him, "Take heed, and be quiet: fear not, neither be faint-hearted, for the two tails of these smoking fire-brands; for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, Let us go up against Judah and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal thus saith the Lord God, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass: for the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore-and-five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established." This first part of the prophecy was given to quiet the mind of Ahaz and his people, in order to his receiving the great and mysterious prediction of Immanuel. And, like the overture of all far-distant prophecies, it served the important end of verifying the prophecy itself, which was to wait for its accomplishment; enshrining it, as it were, in an enduring casket of incontrovertible truth. Moreover, it served this important end in itself, of shewing wherefore Israel was broken from being a people; because they rebelled and levied war against the house of David, God's appointed line for transmitting the sceptre unto Shiloh by striking at which consecrated dynasty they struck at Messiah, in the loins of Ahaz: and therefore were broken from being a people, and are broken still. The prediction was given seven hundred and forty-two years before Christ: from which take sixty-five years, and you arrive at the year six hundred and seventy-seven. Now, if we turn to the Second Book of Kings (ch. xvii.) we find that in that very year (verse 23) Israel was carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day, and other nations planted there in their room. The kingdom indeed of Israel, and Samaria its capital, had been overthrown before within twenty years from the giving of this prophecy; but still there remained a seed in the land, a remnant of the people; so that they were not as yet broken from being a people: but at the end of the threescore-and-five years appointed, their land was planted with strangers-a new language, a new religion, and a new people possessed it, whom the Jews until this day reject, as not being the people of Israel, but a spurious people; and because they would claim to be a

« AnteriorContinuar »