« AnteriorContinuar »
many Romanists also, if they durst avow it—and many of them, God be praised, do not scruple to avow it—the Scriptures are to be given to the people in their mother tongue, according to the best translation which can be made thereof by the learned ; then have we done a great injury both to God and man, unless we believe that God wrote for the understanding of common men ; and that common men, by the right use of their understanding, are able to comprehend him. While thus we speak, we do no injury to the truth, that “the natural man apprehendeth not the things of the Spirit, which are spiritually discerned :" for such spiritual discernment never cometh but through the revelation of the word. It hath been lost by the fallen and rebellious will, and can no otherwise be attained save by a communication from God, spoken by the mouth of accredited messengers, or written in their inspired books; and he who withdraweth himself from the hearing or from the reading of the same, need not to expect spiritual discernment, but will walk in that darkness and ignorance of God wherein men, all men, are naturally found. As Luther said to Bullinger, “ God's word is an instrument through which the Holy Ghost worketh and accomplisheth his work, and prepareth a beginning to righteousness or justification." “By your error," said he again, “ you cut in sunder and separate the word and the Spirit ; you separate those that preach and teach the word, from God who worketh the same; you also separate thereby the ministers who baptize, from God who commandeth it. Oh no: but I conclude thus: God himself preacheth, threateneth, reproveth, affrighteth, comforteth, absolveth, administereth the sacraments, &c. As our Saviour Christ saith, Whoso heareth you, heareth me; and, What ye loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, &c. Likewise, It is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.........Every hearer must conclude and say,
I hear not St. Paul, St. Peter, or a man, speak; but I hear God himself speak, baptize, absolve, excommunicate, and administer the holy sacrament of the Lord's Supper..... Therefore we conclude, short and round, that God through the word worketh, which is an instrument whereby we are instructed to know him in heart, as by the present and happy example of the conversion of this our loving brother Bullinger we apparently see and hear.” (Luther's Table-Talk, pp. 12, 13.)
These sentiments of Luther, which were blessed to the conversion of Bullinger, are the very basis and groundwork of the Reformation, and the corner-stone of every Protestant church ; which all do hold the right of private judgment, yea, the duty, and even the necessity of it, in order to the obtaining of any knowledge or comfort of the Holy Scriptures, any profit of the preacher's voice, any nourishment of the sacraments, any edification of the church. The faculties of the man himself, head and heart, are one element; the ordinances of the church, whereof the written word is a chief one, are another element, towards the working of any good work by the Holy Ghost in the soul of a believer; and being so, according to what principles is a man to exercise his natural faculties, if not according to the principles upon which they are constituted and exercised in all other matters whatever? And if this be so, unto what method or form of man's understanding should God inscribe his revelation, save unto that common form and method which he hath impressed upon all men by his creative hand, and which pertaineth not to man as learned or unlearned, as clerical or legal, as Jew or Gentile, as Christian or heathen, but as Man? Unto that common form, I say, of human reason which pertaineth to man as man, hath God inscribed his revealed word; and the man who is most exercised in the largeness and commonness of reason, and least conversant with the peculiarities of a school, of a class, or of a nation, is the man upon whom the word of God, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, will produce the largest and truest effect.
These remarks I make with the view of introducing what I take to be an unexceptionable method of bringing the great question concerning the literal interpretation of Prophecy to a fair and final determination. The method is simply this, To take the Holy Ghost himself for our guide; who in the New Testament hath directed us to the application of a great number of the prophecies of the Old Testament, expressly declaring, in most instances, that in such an event was such and such a word of prophecy fulfilled. Sometimes with greater latitude expressing an agreement between a prophecy and an event—as in Acts xv. 15, “To this agree the words of the Prophet, as it is written;" and Matt. iii. 23, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Prophets." But in whatever way referred to, and it is generally in the most exact and determinate, the Holy Ghost by such quotation doth give us a clue wherewith to follow the supposed labyrinth of the prophecies thus quoted and referred to. By taking this infallible guidance, we have no doubt that we shall be able to make it appear, that in every instance God interprets literally his own blessed word : and this I think occurring in well nigh, if not more than, an hundred instances, will prove warrant enough for every wise and pious man to conclude that his word ought ever to be interpreted literally. In thus exhibiting the use which God maketh of his own Scriptures, I shall have great delight in subverting and destroying a modern hypothesis, that these quotations in the New Testament are, many of them, made in the way of elegant allusion, of loose analogy, or poetical ornament;
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, viïith, 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 sball 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 Iinmanuel 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
VOL. 1.-NO, I.