Imágenes de páginas

ground?" that "the Messiah should be cut off?" that the "mighty God" should be "found in fashion as a man," and "sold for thirty pieces of silver?" or that "a virgin should conceive and bring forth a Son?" Yet to all these, and many more points equally strange to the humility (i. e. pride) of human wisdom, was this assent required of the ancient Jewish church; and for her refusal to believe them, and her determination to study only such prophecies as she could understand, she was consumed with heavy judgments from God, but to read the accounts of which, at this distant period, makes the boldest pale. Such is faith; such the fulfilment of Prophecy, its proper object; and such is the vengeance of God on the unbelief of those who pay more respect to probability than to his word. And if there be truth in Scripture, and faithfulness in the all-faithful One, and power in the Omnipotent to keep his word, a storm of wrath will ere long visit unbelieving Christendom, so dreadful that the sacking of Jerusalem was but its faint fore-shadowing and type. Seeing, then, that the nature of faith is such as chiefly to regard things unseen and future, which must be the subjects of unfulfilled Prophecy; and since such is the fearful doom of unbelief; what principle can that be that requires us to leave unexamined what, if we believe not, we can have no faith beyond that of the infidel, no title to the inheritance of Abraham?

And towards this conclusion one of the arguments used by the supporters themselves of the dogma in question irresistibly presses. "Prophecy," say they, "cannot be understood till it be fulfilled; and that part alone of Prophecy which has met its accomplishment ought to be studied, for the strengthening of our faith." Of our faith in what? not surely in the prophecy fulfilled; that is no longer the object of faith, but of sense. And if in what is unfulfilled, how is our faith to be strengthened in that which we are not to examine? We cannot believe what we do not know.

But the commands in Scripture to read Prophecy, as well unfulfilled as what has been accomplished, are so numerous and so express, that no contradiction can address itself more grossly to the understanding, than that which asserts, first, that the Bible is the word of God; and in the same breath, that it is immodest, and imprudent, and unwise to study any part of it. 2 Pet. i. 19: "We have also a more sure word of prophecy, unto which we do well to take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place." Rev. xix. 10: "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Rev. i. 3: "Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein; for the time is at hand."

Dan. xii. 12: "Blessed is he that waiteth and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five-and-thirty days." Isai. xxxiv. 16: "Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read; no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his Spirit it hath gathered them."

To these, innumerable passages might be added to the same purpose; but those who will not be convinced by one, will withstand the force of all.

The opinion, therefore, that we ought not to search into the meaning of prophecy unfulfilled, is subversive of true faith, contradictory of itself, and most clearly against the express commandment of God. Where, then, shall it find its proper hiding place, if not in the bosom of infidelity?

Cambridge, Jan. 30, 1829.



Zech. i.-vi.

WHEN the sins of a people become ripe for judgment, and the measure of their iniquity is full, God has usually made a last appeal, by sending some prophet to warn them of the coming wrath—if haply they may repent; or, if none lay it to heart, to take witness against them that they have been warned, and are therefore self-condemned. Such to the old world were Enoch and Noah; such to the kings of Judah and Israel were the earlier of the Prophets; and such office did John Baptist and our Lord perform to the Jewish state and people. When, on the other hand, God is about to shew favour-to loose the bands of oppression, and let the captive go free-he sends notice of his gracious purpose, to prepare the hearts of his people, and to turn them to the Lord, who is about to have mercy upon them. Such notice Moses and Aaron carried to the bondsmen of Egypt; such were Ezra and Nehemiah to the captives of Babylon; and such were the invitations of John Baptist and our Lord to those who would receive the Gospel. And when, again, they are entered upon the work whereunto they are called, having experienced the returning mercy of the Lord; other prophets are raised up, or further revelations given, to strengthen and encourage them in their labours, and to animate their hopes, by shewing the glorious termination of that course the entrance of which appears so disheartening. Such were Haggai and Zechariah to the restored captivity; and such were our Lord and his Apostles to the Christian church. These several messengers, whatever might be their peculiar message, have one cir

[blocks in formation]

cumstance common to them all: they do not stop at the bare message, but, having delivered it, go on to declare "the glory that should follow." The purpose of God will have its completion, when his will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven; and the Holy Spirit, in dictating to the Prophet his peculiar message, so links it on to the chain of events which are accomplishing the final purpose of God, that no one part of revelation is insulated, or separated from the rest; but the whole one uniform emanation from the mind of Him who hath declared the end from the beginning, whose hand none can stay, or say unto him, What doest thou?

The prophetic inquirer should always bear these things in mind, and distinguish carefully between that part of the prophecy which was immediately applicable, and that part of it which related to future times: and in this latter portion, again, distinguish that part which has been fulfilled since the time of the Prophet, from that part which yet remains to be accomplished. To separate these with certainty seems no easy task, since every one of the prophecies has portions which may be understood literally or spiritually; and a detached portion, therefore, may be considered as past or future, according as it is interpreted spiritually or literally. But let each prophecy be considered as a whole, and interpreted consistently, either spiritually throughout, or literally throughout, and scarcely any difficulty will remain : for it will be found, that all those prophecies which are most important in their bearing on the times yet future, have portions which cannot be understood otherwise than literally; and these are so connected, by their language and the order of events, with the other prophecies which are less clear, that he who follows a consistent mode of interpretation can scarcely fail in the end to understand them all. The difficulty and the mistakes arise from the perverse method of interpretation which is now so general-namely, passing from spiritual to literal, and from literal to spiritual, often in the very same verse, and without any better reason than the interpreter's preconceived notions.

Among all the books of Prophecy, there is not one whose external claims upon our attention are stronger than those of the book of Zechariah. The time at which it was written, and the immediate object of these prophecies, are of a cheering and hopeful character; and being at the foundation of that very temple, in which it was purposed that the Redeemer should be manifested in flesh, Christian sympathy is attracted towards every thing connected with its lowly origin, in a much stronger degree than by all the glories of that of Solomon. This temple, apparently so weak in its beginnings, assailed by malicious foes, and rising with difficulty to such a condition as to withstand their attacks, is in perfect and tender keeping with the “Root out


of a dry ground," "the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," who "in the fulness of time" shewed himself there, and there laid the "sure foundation-stone" of that more glorious edifice, which shall "in the last days be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it." But though the external claims of Zechariah are thus strong, its internal are still stronger: for these prophecies, beginning in the day of small things," uniformly pass on to the "latter-day glory." They stop not at Jerusalem which then was, but call upon the daughter of Zion to sing and rejoice; for, lo, I come; and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord." They not only treat of Christ the "Servant," but declare his coming vengeance on his foes, the final deliverance of his people, and his glorious manifestation as the Man whose name is "The Branch;" at once a King upon his throne and a Priest upon his throne; the Melchizedec, Prince of Peace, of whose government and peace there shall be no end. These things are most strikingly represented in that series of visions given in the first six chapters; to which, being complete in themselves, we shall confine our attention in the present paper; they being, as it were, the text which is unfolded and applied in the remainder of the book.

The Prophets Haggai and Zechariah were raised up to encourage the people in building the second temple, and to point their faith to the final glories which would result from these humble beginnings. Solomon's temple was the object ever present to their thoughts. It was complete in all respects; not only in external splendour, but in all those indications of the Divine presence which constituted its chiefest glory,—the tabernacle, the sacred fire, the Shechinah. "Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do you see it now? is it not in your eyes, in comparison of it, as nothing?" The visions of Zechariah correct this tendency of the people, and shew that the very things in which this temple was deficient were but types of those "heavenly things" which would in reality be manifested herein, and constitute its true glory. Solomon's reign completed the long series of persons and acts which typified the person and kingdom of Messiah; and Solomon's temple embodied in itself all the types and symbols of the church. In many of the most remarkable of these types the second temple was deficient-as, the tables of the Law, the ark and mercy-seat, the pot of manna, Aaron's rod, and Urim and Thummim. In following out the visions of Zechariah, we shall see that all these are shewn to have their antitype and accomplishment in Christ, and to be either embodied in him as their end, or to be given out afresh by him under a new form. These visions also bring together and reconcile the double,

and seemingly contradictory, characters given of the Messiah by the other Prophets. Isaiah, for instance, prophesies of Him as a Servant (xli. 1), as a Man of sorrows (liii. 7), in some places; in others, as Wonderful, Counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (ix. 6). Zechariah reconciles both characters, by shewing the Branch coming forth first as "servant," to " remove iniquity" (iii. 8, 9); and secondly, as the Man whose name is the Branch, who shall build the temple of the Lord, and bear the glory, and shall sit and rule as King and Priest and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (vi. 12, 13). These visions also reveal the corresponding destination of the church, which from humble beginnings shall advance," not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts:" and the "great mountain shall become a plain; and he shall bring forth the head-stone with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it" (iv. 7).


In chap. i. 12, the time is come for speaking "good and comfortable words" to Jerusalem, against whom the Lord has "had indignation these threescore and ten years;" and we are taught (ver. 15), that he is "sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease," for helping forward the affliction of his people. We are further taught (ver. 19), that the heathen are but as "horns," brutal instruments of violence; for the controul and punishment of whom there are in reserve an equal number of intelligent agents (ver. 20), signified by "carpenters" (artificers), who shall "fray and cast out" these "horns of the Gentiles.' These horns "have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem (ver. 19). They therefore not only refer to the captivity of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings xxv.), and the captivity of Israel by Shalmaneser (2 Kings xvii.), but look forward to the captivity of Jerusalem by the Romans; and thus include the whole time of the four Gentile monarchies, and lead us to conclude that the time is future still, when "the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jeruselem" (ver. 17).


The four Gentile monarchies of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, are symbolized in Dan. ii. by the image of four metals, and in Dan. vii. by the four beasts. But as in Daniel the kingdom of the saints does not commence till the destruction of the fourth monarchy, so we might in Zechariah expect that the four horns must be frayed and cast out before the comforting of Zion. Accordingly we find, after the casting out of these horns, chap. i. 21, that the first act, in chap. ii. 1-4, is the rebuilding of Jerusalem; which, though it might have been taken as an encouragement in their work to the people whom the Prophet addressed, and though really applicable to them in its first and limited sense, will only have its full accomplishment in the last deliverance of the Jews from their present dispersion and

« AnteriorContinuar »