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description of prophecies, that it is almost impossible to specify particular examples. It will be sufficient to allude to the book of Isaiah, as exhibiting throughout, and particularly in the latter part, a remarkable instance of this double or secondary sense of prophecy; to the prophecies relating to the restoration of the Jewish nation from their captivities and the extended dominion of the kingdom of David, which evidently have an ultimate reference to the final conversion of the Jewish people and the universal extension of the Redeemer's kingdom ;—and, lastly, to that remarkable vision relative to the measuring of the Temple and the division of the holy land, which closes the prophecy of Ezekiel”. This prophecy, although it was probably designed, in its immediate application, for the guidance and direction of the Jews on their restoration from the Babylonish captivity in the re-building of their Temple, yet is evidently intended, in its more remote fulfilment, to describe some state of the Christian Church at a very distant period, and probably quite at the close of the divine dispensations'. This is manifest, from its position in this book, in which it follows other prophecies, which have an obvious reference to distant and important events in the Christian dispensation — from some parts of it, for instance, the vision of waters in the forty-seventh chapter, which evidently have a spiritual meaning and import",—and from other parts, which never had any literal fulfilment after the return of the Jewish people to the land of Canaan.
? Ezek. chap. xl. xLvii.
3 See the valuable remarks of Mr William Lowth contained in the Gene. ral Argument prefixed to the last nine chapters of Ezekiel in his Commentary on this book; also the Preliminary Remarks on these chapters by Archbishop Secker, which are inserted by Archbishop Newcome in his Com. mentary, pp. 151–156. In this most valuable dissertation, the learned Prelate strongly maintains that this vi. sion had reference to the re-building of the Temple on the return of the Jews from their captivity: yet, remarking upon the spiritual import of the vision of waters in chap. xlvii. he says,
that “the building of the Temple, and the rules about worship, and about the Prince, may be literal, and belong to Judaism, and this of the waters belong chiefly to Christianity.” “But then, he observes, “the division of the land cannot well be both literal and true; for few of the twelve tribes returned, and we have no ground to think that any such division was made to those that did. Nor yet did their sins hin. der these things. For, as was mentioned above, it is in this vision foretold they should not sin.” Ib. p. 156. These things are sufficient to establish the spiritual character of the prophecy contained in this vision.
(2) Again, there are others amongst the ancient prophecies, which, from the vast range which they occupy,—extending quite to the close of the divine dispensations,—must necessarily be both indistinct in many of their peculiar features, and incomplete in their details. And although, with respect to most of these prophecies, we derive from those parts of them which have been already fulfilled, strong grounds of belief that the unfulfilled portions of them will have their accomplishment at some future period; yet, from considering the peculiar character of these prophecies, we may derive reasonable grounds for believing, that God would vouchsafe some future revelation of his will, in which the indistinct parts of them would be more completely cleared up; and those parts of them, in which the details are at present necessarily imperfect, would be more fully and more perfectly illustrated.
The force of these remarks may be abundantly illustrated from different prophecies of the Old Testament: and we derive a striking illustration of them from one of the earliest prophecies in
1 For instance, chapters xxxvi-vii, which evidently relate to the final conversion of the Jews to Christianity; and chapters xxxviii-ix, which evi. dently have reference to the latter ages
of the world. Comp. Rev. xx. 7—10, &c.; and see W. Lowth's Preface to these chapters.
2 See W. Lowth on Ezek. xLvii.
the Bible, namely, the prophecy of Noah with regard to his posterity, which is contained in Gen. ix. 25—27. “ Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth; and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.”
Now the fulfilment of the temporal part of this prophecy is very evident in the servile condition of the descendants of Canaan, and in their subjection both by the descendants of Japheth and of Shem; in the great enlargement of those nations who constitute the descendants of Japheth, and in their settlement, in different ways and at different periods in the tents of Shem. The fulfilment also, to a limited extent, of the spiritual part of it is no less evident, in the spiritual blessings which God has vouchsafed to the posterity of Shem?; and in his dwelling for so many ages amongst his peculiar people; by which he was especially distinguished as the God of Shem. If such, therefore, be obviously the spiritual object and purport of the first part of this prophecy, it seems impossible to affix any other than a spiritual interpretation to the remainder, in which it is declared, that God shall enlarge Japheth, and shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant.
Whether, however, we regard it in a temporal light, as prophetical of the conquest of the Eastern nations by the descendants of Japheth, or, what is more probably the true interpretation of the pro
3 See Bishop Patrick ad locum, 4 Exod. xxv. 8; xxix. 45; 1 Kings and Bishop Newton's Exposition of this prophecy.
vi. 12, 13.
phecy, of the conversion of these nations to the faith of Christ through the agency of the descendants of Japheth, the fulfilment of this prophecy involves many intermediate events; for instance, the overthrow of the Mahomedan power, and other things which have been made the subjects of subsequent prophecy.
The object of the original prophecy is clear and determinate: but it derives additional interest from considering it with relation to those subsequent prophecies which are connected with the same subject; and, which, as far as we are able to comprehend them, will lead us to some knowledge of the train of events, by which it may please God to bring about the fulfilment of this wonderful prophecy!
An attentive examination of the prophecies of the Old Testament will furnish us with many similar instances in illustration of this point: the only difficulty consists in the selection. But perhaps the concluding chapters of the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Zechariah, and the greater part of the prophecies of Daniel, are amongst the most striking. In the seventh chapter of the prophet Daniel', the rise and duration of the great anti-christian apostacy is clearly foretold; but not with that distinction of circumstances and events, which might be reasonably expected; and which we actually have presented to us in the subsequent prophecies of St Paul and St John in the Apocalypse : and a com
The remarks of Vitringa on this tian Church, which Vitringa does not prophecy are very valuable. He shews, appear to have had immediately in in a clear and convincing manner, its spiritual character; though I have 2 vii. 7, 8, 19–25. ventured to believe it applicable to 2 Thess. ii. 3-5, 8-ll. future and distant events in the Chris
parison of these prophecies of Daniel with those of St Paul and St John afford a good illustration of the additional light, which the more obscure intimations of ancient prophecy are capable of receiving from later and more clear revelations.
But still, amidst the obscurity in which the more distant parts of these prophecies are involved,extending even to the close of the divine dispensations,—we derive great confirmation to our faith from the consideration of those parts which are already fulfilled; of which the evidence is so strong, that we may look forward with confidence to the final accomplishment of the remainder. This is the case with the line of prophecy which is contained in the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the book of Daniel, of which the evidence of the fulfilment of the former part is so strongʻ; while we must acknowledge that the latter part has reference to events, which are connected with a very remote period of the divine dispensations, and of which the exact meaning can only be discovered by their fulfilment.
Again, with regard to the prophecies which are contained in the concluding part of the book of the prophet Ezekiel, upon examining the constitution and character of this prophecy, we find that the conversion of the Jews, and their final restoration to their own land,—a subject which is indeed continually kept in view, and brought prominently forward in other parts of this prophecy:—forms the subject of the thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh chapters; after this, in the thirty-eighth and thirty
Compare the annotations of Mr W, Lowth on the first part of the eleventh chapter of the book of Daniel.
5 See particularly chap. xxxiv.