« AnteriorContinuar »
whether they so firmly believed, as some now do, that the destruction of the world, and a day of general judgment, are inseparably connected with the resurrection of the dead.
Under the circumstances already mentioned, it is submitted whether the passages we. have noticed, and others of similar character, should be interpreted literally or figuratively. If the language be figurative, describing events to be accomplished on the earth, then all arguments drawn from it, in support of the doctrine of a day of judgment after the resurrection, resulting in the reward of some, and the punishment of others, are ill founded and inconclusive.
V. To the view we have taken of this subject, an objection has been urged, like the following :—Every figure is taken from some reality; admitting, then, the figurative use of this language in any or all of the passages quoted, it is still true that it has a literal sense; hence, we should believe that the material universe will be destroyed; for otherwise, such use of language would be unjustifiable. To this we reply: 1. If the correctness of this argument be admitted, we are involved in a difficulty at the first step: for sometimes we read that the heavens and earth shall be burned ;1 sometimes that they shall be shaken and dissolved ;s and again, that they shall flee away from the presence of the Lord, and no place shall be found for them.3 But one sort of literal destruction is as much as we can very easily conceive. 2. The argument involves an absurdity. We read that the stars fell to the earth, like figs from a tree, when shaken by a mighty wind.4 But a single star is much larger than the earth. A literal fulfilment of this prophecy, is therefore impossible, in the nature of things. 3. The futility of this objection, or argument, may be seen from an examination of scriptural usage: 'Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together.'5 Is this figure taken from a reality? Can it bear a literal interpretation? Have the floods hands, can inanimate substances be joyful? We read of the face, eyes, mouth, hands, feet, he. of God. Are these figures taken from a reality? Has the invisible God bodily organs like men? Hence, we learn that it is not true, as the objection assumes, that, in this sense, every figure is
1 2 Pet. iii. 10. • Im. xxxiv. 4. • Rev. xx. 11. « Rev. vi. 13.
* P*. xoviii. 8.
taken from a reality. The truth, we apprehend, is this;—We can conceive that there is a God; we know that men have bodily organs; by a figure, we ascribe those organs to him, that we may more definitely communicate our ideas to each other. But it does not follow, that he possesses those organs. We know that there are floods, and hills; we know that men clap their hands and are joyful; by a figure, we ascribe those actions of men to inanimate objects. But it does not follow, that floods have hands, or that the hills are joyful. So also, we know that there is a sun, and moon, and stars, and earth; to express an exalted sense of the dignity of rulers or rovernments, these terms are sometimes applied to them: when rulers are cut off" from the earth, or governments are overturned, or any important revolution is effected,—by a figure, the sacred writers declare that the heaven, or sun, or moon, or earth, or stars, are dissolved, or shaken, or burned, or displaced. But it does not follow, that either or all will be thus destroyed. We have no more reason to believe this, on account of such declarations, than to believe that God has bodily organs, or that floods have hands and clap them, and that hills are conscious of happiness and are joyful, on account of the declarations already noticed.
Hence it appears that the objection under consideration is founded on a false principle, and therefore the argument in connexion with it is unsound. It still appears to Be true, that a literal destruction of the material universe is not proved, by the class of texts which we have noticed. If such destruction can be proved, the proof must be obtained from some other source.
VI. It will perhaps be expected, that we shall notice another class of texts, which may seem to imply, or assert, the destruction of heaven and earth. This we shall do briefly. 1. 'Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shnll wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.'1 It is agreed by critics, that, according to the Hebrew idiom, when the respective qualities of two objects are compared, the writer uses a direct affirmation in regard to the one, and an absolute negation in regard to the other.1 According to this idiom, the prophet intending to express iu strong terms the abiding nature of God's righteousness and salvation, declares that they shall not perish, though the heavens and earth shall perish; meaning merely, that we might more reasonably expect the destruction of heaven and earth, than any lailure of God's goodness. 2. 'Of old bust thou laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.'2 The Psalmist here compares the duration of God's existence with the duration of heaven and earth: but he does it according to the idiom before mentioned, asserting that heaven and earth shall perish, but God shall not. This passage is quoted by the apostle,3 and the same idiom is preserved; of course, the same interpretation maybe given, as in the other case. For it will be recollected that although the language of the New Testament is Greek, yet the idiom is in a great degree Hebrew, not only in the quotations from the Old Testament, but in other places; for it was written by Jews, for the use of Jews, who well understood these forms of expression.4 The same rule of interpretation, in this respect, therefore, applies both to the Old and to the New Testament. 3. 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.' 5 Here we find the same idiom ; and agreeably to it, Wakefield translates the passage thus :—' The htaven and the earth will sooner pass away, than these words of mine pass away.' The meaning seems to be, it is not so probable that my words will pass away, as that the heaven and earth shall pass away. Similar to this, is the following: 'Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.'6 Bishop Pearce remarks, 'This is the same in sense with what Luke says, xvi. 17. 'It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than one tittle of the law to fail.'7 On the same passage, Kenrick observes, that 'the phrase 'till heaven and earth pass away,' is a proverbial expression for any thing that appears impossible; for Luke says, xvi. 17, 'it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than one tittle of the law to fail.' That heaven and earth should pass away, or perish, seems, in the nature of things, impossible; equally impossible is it, that the smallest part of the law should perish, or be destroyed.'1
1 Isaiah li. 6.
1 Grotius on Matt. xii. 31, 32. • Psalm cii. 25—27. * Heb. i.
10—12. « Campbell's Prel. Dia•. i. Part 1. • Matt. xxiy. 35.
* Matt. r. 18. » Com. in loco.
These observations may suffice, in regard to this class of texts. By a proper attention to their peculiar idiom, we shall find that they admit an easy interpretation, without supposing them to imply the destruction of the material universe.
L. R. p.
'And the desire of all nations shall come.'—II Aggai ii. 7.
Taking the immediate connexion in which this passage stands, we read, ' For thus saith the Lord of hosts: yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this bouse with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former,—and in this place will I give peace, saiih the Lord of hosts.' These words were addressed to Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the residue of Israel, who wore engaged in rebuilding their temple, after the Babylonish captivity. We shall devote our chief labor to the particular passage which stands at the head of this article ; but there are two things in the connexion now quoted, a brief notice of which, will aid to a good understanding of our subject. These are, the shaking of the heavens and the earth, Sic. and, the superior glory of the second temple to that of the former.
1 Expos. in loco.
With regard to the shaking of the world and of the material objects in the world, it is a very common mode in the Scriptures of representing important revolutions in the affairs of men. Isaiah, in predicting the overthrow of the Jewish state, said of the people, ' They shall go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.'2 Ezekiel, prophesying a war in Israel by the invasion of Gog and Magog, said, ' Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; so that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men that are on the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground,—saith the Lord of hosts.'3 And Jesus, in describing the final overthrow of the Jewish church and slate, an event which should be succeeded by a more rapid spread of the gospel, employed similar language: 'Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And
then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.'4 This passage describes a shaking which wrought an important change both in the ecclesiastical and the political condition of the Jews; and which opened the way for the spread of that light of gospel truth, the power of which soon caused a shaking among other nations. And this is the shaking of the heavens and the earth, which was the subject of Haggai's prophecy. The shaking of the heavens denotes the changes which took place in the religious or ecclesiastical establishments; and the shaking of the earth, both sea and dry land, relates to the change in political concerns.
For this application of the prophecy under consideration, we have the infallible authority of the inspired apostle Paul. See Hebrews xii. 26, 27, 28: 'Whose voice then shook the earth; but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more 1 shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken,
• Isaiah ii. 31. 'Eiek. xxviii. 20. * Matt. xxiv. 29, 34.