Imágenes de páginas

figurative and spiritual, to denote this scheme of allegorizing the language of unfulfilled prophecy; not because I think they convey the full meaning of its definition, but because, being used by the supporters of that system, they are upon the whole the least objectionable I am able to select and for the same reason I shall employ the word literal to signify what I hold to be the true method of interpreting prophetic language, which, before proceeding further, I shall stop to explain.

[ocr errors]

Written language is the art of conveying ideas from the mind of one being to that of another, by means of certain signs called words; and may be divided into two kinds-namely, simple and figurative. Simple language is that which presents ideas to the mind of the reader without the assistance of any image besides: as when we say, "David the son of Jesse reigned over Israel;" or, " Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery.

[ocr errors]

Figurative language is that which, by referring to some image or idea with which the mind of the reader is already familiar, and which has some resemblance to the idea intended to be conveyed, enables him more fully to comprehend the latter. Thus, in the sentence," He cometh up and is cut down like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay;" by pointing, on the tablet of the reader's memory, to the idea of a flower, which he has seen growing in the loveliness of its bloom and suddenly withering at the stroke of the mower, and to that of a shadow, now seen and in one moment vanished for ever, the notion of the brevity and frailness of our present life is much more strikingly suggested to his understanding than it could have been by counting the short number of its years, or by relating the accidents by which it might not reach even to the end of their limited term.


Now the books of the holy Prophets, like all other writings, whether sacred or profane, are composed in one or other of these forms of language: and as it would be difficult to conceive the perversion of understanding by which any one could suppose the third verse of the First Psalm to assert, that the righteous man shall actually become a tree flourishing by a river's brink, and covered with the honours of branch and leaf and pulpy fruit; so not less gross is the blunder by which some have imagined that the word souls, in Rev. xx. 4, means, not the souls of the persons there described, but, both the souls and bodies of generations afterwards to be born*.

To understand words, then, in their plain and obvious sense, and figures and allusions as they were universally applied in the time, country, and tongue of the writer, I hold to be the common key to all language, sacred and profane, and therefore

* See Dr. Whitby's explanation of this passage, also Burkit, &c.

to that of the prophecies, fulfilled or unfulfilled, of the Old and New Testaments.

[ocr errors]

Nor do those prophecies which, being presented to the mind of the seer in dreams and visions of the night, are necessarily given by symbols and images taken from the kingdom of nature, form any exception to this rule. The language is that of simple narration, whose meaning cannot be misunderstood, which tells us (Dan. vii. 2) that the Prophet saw in his vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea; and four great beasts came up from the sea, divers, one from another." And the words are not more obscure in which the angel (verse 17) instructs Daniel, that "these great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth." In like manner, when it is said, in Rev. i. 12, that St. John "saw seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle: his head and his hairs were white, like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters; and he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength;" every reader will have a perfect idea of the magnificent vision which the favoured Apostle saw. But what the golden candlesticks mean; what is the mystery of the seven stars; and who He is, the Mighty, who was "like unto the son of man," must be learned from higher authority than that of human ingenuity: Verse 17, " And he laid his hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not: I am the First and the Last; I am he that liveth and was dead, and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death ....The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches." There is, therefore, no insurmountable difficulty in the language of prophetic holy Scripture, the meaning of which may be ascertained by the same means which enable us to explain the words of any other book.

But prophecy speaks of God, whose being is incomprehensible, and whose perfections are infinite: it treats of his ways, which are unsearchable; and of his judgments, which are past finding out. It traces the workings of his great designs in the histories of human greatness and of human desolation. It guides the mind through the chequered history of this world, from the time of its original lapse till that of its glorious restitution, when the mystery of God shall be finished, sin and Satan for ever conquered, and the last enemy destroyed; when

the providence of the all-bountiful and all-just One shall stand forth fair and mighty, the admiration of the universe; when, in the creature redeemed and in the creature unfallen alike, God shall be proved to be all in all. And therefore prophecy is a revelation to faith, and not to understanding-as indeed is every word of Nature and Scripture which speaks of the mysterious things of God-and every attempt of man to approach this mighty subject armed with the "hows ?" and the "wherefores?" of the self-conceited philosopher, is Infidelity, pure and unqualified Infidelity. But as we proceed in this investigation-which I shall continue, if the Editor of this work permit me, in several papers to come-we shall find that the spiritual interpretation of prophecy (which I have above defined) is founded wholly and entirely on such opposition of the human understanding to the simple declarations of God's word, and therefore is also of Infidelity.

Cambridge, June 1829.



SIR,-I enclose a Jewish prophecy which may prove interesting to your readers. The learned Rabbi, from whom I received it, read it in manuscript at Posen in the year 1807. It was made by Rabbi Samson of Oster Poli, who was a victim of the persecution against the Jews which raged about 300 years ago. The author was a great Cabalist. The original is said to be now in the possession of the Rabbi of the synagogue at Berlin. It may be as well to remind your readers, that the fulfilment, being fixed for A. M. 5601, occurs in eleven years from this time, since we are now in the year 5590. Another prophecy, computed in Jubilees from the birth of Jacob and Esau, puts an end to the supremacy of the latter at the same time.

I have placed the English words under the Hebrew. You will observe that it is written in columns from right to left, each word commencing with a letter corresponding with one in the word above it, and following in regular succession, in the ordinary mode of Cabalistic writings *.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

Sept. 1, 1829.


* The translation of the prophecy therefore reads thus:

And the country of France will kill their king-exceedingly they will prosper their ways-the crown of their glory will be great exceedingly and they will rise upon them their conquerors and destroy them-Germany, Spain, and the kingdom of Russia-and then a humble one will be called and shall rule-over children of Russia-and then shall seize their kingdom-5601-the Jews free shall be called-then shall come David.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

and then


and they will the crown of exceedingly and the country rise


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][subsumed][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]


[blocks in formation]

will be called and the kingdom of

their conquerors

will be great

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

their king

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

for ever

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

the Jews


[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]



Introductory Essay.

SOME of the causes which united to produce or modify that complicated and wide-spread system of events styled The Reformation of the sixteenth century, were by no means fitted to originate unmixed good: and to their influence it is not hard to trace much evil which is upon us at this day.

Let not an inquiry into the cause of that in the visible church which we lament, be mistaken for a sign that we would seek further cause of evil in man than the corruption of the human soul, ensnared and subdued by the father of lies; or a further cause of any good in man, than the direct interfering agency of the Father of lights. Were it in question, simply, why the good or why the evil exists, the answer must be short, and must carry us in one little step to the limits of our knowledge: but when we inquire, why the good or the evil wears a particular form, we are at once brought to deal with that many-linked chain of history, whose connections the eye of man may follow, and the finger of man may trace to his fellows. Our purpose will be attained by beginning somewhat more than three centuries back, and pursuing onward, from about the time of the Reformation, the influence, direct or indirect, of those events whose combination has determined the present state of the religious public. Of the Reformation, Heaven's best gift to earth during seventeen centuries, we shall speak the less unworthily, and the less weary with a hackneyed topic, and hazard the less the sinking of our minds below that reverent and admiring apprehension of it which the object of this essay makes it so desirable we should sustain, by using the words of one who, of uninspired authors, interposes least of human obscurity and littleness in exhibiting the great works of God.

"Amidst those deep and retired thoughts, which with every man christianly instructed ought to be most frequent, of God, and of his miraculous ways and works amongst men, and of our religion, and works to be performed to him; after the story of our Saviour Christ suffering to the lowest bent of weakness in the flesh, and presently triumphing to the highest pitch of glory in the spirit, which drew up his body also, till we in both be united to him in the revelation of his kingdom, I do not know of any thing more worthy to take up the whole passion of pity on the one side and joy on the other, than to consider, first, the foul and sudden corruption, and then, after many a tedious age, the.

« AnteriorContinuar »