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divine authority, we might expect to see Peter exhibiting it, to satisfy these gentile strangers: on the contrary, we see the gift communicated to them, that is, to Cornelius and his friends, as a consequence of their repentance and faith.
We trace the same process in chap xix, with the addition of a striking fact in illustration of my argument. Paul goes to Ephesus, and finding certain disciples he said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? and they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." Here we find certain disciples who believed, and yet had not received the Holy Ghost. Now if we admit, that a man cannot be a believer, in the scriptural sense of the term, without the influences of the Spirit, it follows that the mere influences of the Spirit and the gift of the Holy Ghost are not identical: yet it was unquestionably “the gift of the Holy Ghost" which was promised in so ample and unlimited a degree at the day of Pentecost; and it must surely be a mistake to say, that this gift meant only its sanctifying influences.
I now turn to a most interesting period of our Lord's life; and let us hear his testimony to the same effect: the last words of a departing friend usually make a deep impression on the mind; and what I am now about to quote are, according to St. Mark, the last words of our departing Lord, previous to his being taken up. CC And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that • believeth not shall be damned. And 'these signs shall follow them that believe in my name shall they cast
' out devils, they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them, they shall lay hands on the sick and
they shall recover. So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God; and they went and preached every where, the Lord working with them ⚫ and confirming the word with signs following. Amen." e Here is an injunction to preach the Gospel to every creature in all the world;" then comes the declaration, " He
that believeth and is baptized shall 'be saved;" and in the next verse we have the signs, which shall follow "them that believe."
Here are two things well worthy of notice in this remarkable passage. The first is, that the promise is to all that believe: not they who teach merely, in order to attest their divine mission by miraculous signs; but to all that believe and are to be saved, in contradistinction to all who "believe not and are to be damned." This must surely include the whole Church of Christ from its first establishment until his second coming. They who contend for the limitation of these miraculous signs to the apostles and their immediate successors must, to be consistent, limit “belief and salvation” to them also; for he that believeth," (referred to in verse 16,) and them 'that believe" (in verse 17) are assuredly one and the same party. What is promised to one is promised to the other; and what is withheld from the one must be withheld from the other. The first includes of necessity the whole christian Church to the end of time; and the signs, promised to the second, must certainly be admitted as of equal duration.
e Chap. xvi, 15.
The second thing to be noticed is, that the signs are to follow them that believe. They are not to precede them, in order to convince them into belief by an appeal to their senses; but to follow—that is to be a consequence and accompaniment of their belief.
The argument receives considerable force from another declaration of our blessed Lord, in alluding to the miraculous power which should accompany belief in his Name. He says, Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, [the same parties referred to in the former quotations; viz. all the true christian Church,] the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works shall he do, because I go to my Father."f Why did he go unto his Father, but to send the Comforter? g And who is the Comforter, but the Holy Ghost? that same Holy Ghost which he did send on the day of Pentecost, in visible power en
f John xiv, 12. g Ibid. xvi, 7. h lbid. xiv, 26.
It was our intention to have offered a few remarks on the important topic contained in the communication of Quæsitor. The view The view which he takes of it, though carefully expressed, and quite unexceptionable in regard to the spirit in which it is written, is nevertheless so intimately connected with that second object for investigation" which he for the present waives, that we are sensible it must, if pursued, necessarily involve it. We still hope, at some early opportunity, to bring the whole subject dis
dowing the receiver with miraculous power, and given unto the Church till the end of time: for as long as there are any who believe on his name, so long will there be men who may legitimately claim the fulfilment of this promise. That the promise appears to be forgotten by the great Head of the Church, is probably because it has not been claimed; but this does not come immediately within my argument: my object at present being to prove, that the gifts of the Holy Ghost imply something more, than merely its sanctifying influences;—and that these gifts are a boon to the Church in perpetuity. If, Mr. Editor, any of your Readers can prove, that this view of the subject is incorrect and unscriptural, I shall be very happy to have it corrected; my object being, not the establishment of any particular hypothesis, but the elucidation of the truth.
passionately before our Readers for we are aware, that it is connected by many with the signs which are to precede the Advent of Christ and therefore ought to be considered. In the meanwhile we avail ourselves of the present opportunity to repeat the substance of the notification prefixed to our first Number: viz. that every writer is responsible for his own individual sentiments only; and that the views of any one Correspondent must not be imputed to the other Contributors to the Investigator.
ON THE LITERAL AND FIGURATIVE
INTERPRETATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
There is at present a great diversity of opinion on subjects of prophecy; and this arises chiefly from the manner in which the language of the sacred Scriptures is interpreted, either literally or figuratively.
It has been the custom of all nations, from the first age to the present, to express their sentiments in figurative language; yet in reading books of uninspired authors, whether ancient or modern, we rarely meet with a passage respecting which we entertain a doubt, whether it should be understood literally or figuratively; nor do we consider ourselves at liberty to depart from the literal meaning of the words employed without necessity. And ought not the same rule to be observed in reading the sacred writings? Yet when we open the Bible and read its prophecies we meet with many passages, yea, even whole chapters, concerning which we are in doubt whether they are literal or figurative. Is this because inspired persons did not write with as much propriety and perspicuity as other men? or is it as some suppose, that they employed mysterious terms on purpose that they might not be understood, until near the time of the accomplishment of their predictions? But what saith the Scripture ? “Let him that readeth understand." a "Blessed is he ‹ that readeth, and they that hear the 'words of this prophecy."b Is it not the rather, because many persons,
who read the writings of the prophets, do not believe what the prophets say, according to the proper import of their words; and therefore they put a figurative construction upon literal passages?
There has been for a long time a disposition in expositors to allegorize and spiritualize the Scriptures; so that the that the "sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well to take heed,” is by the aid of figurative interpretation forced to say any thing, according as caprice or prejudice shall direct. Thus they take as much liberty with a text, as the wind does with a weathercock, turning it according to their pleasure. It is however very evident, that some passages are literal and others figurative: therefore he that would teach that they are all literal, and he that would teach that they are all figurative, would be alike undeserving our regard.
The following question naturally presents itself to the inquiring mind :-How can we ascertain to which class certain passages of the sacred Scriptures belong? It must be plain to every one, that we can understand our Bibles only in proportion as we are able to answer this question. Our Lord foretold his suffering and death to his disciples in the plainest terms; but they (not taking the words in their common acceptation) understood none of these things." c Jesus said respecting the daughter of Jairus, "The
a Mark xiii, 14. b Rev. i, 3. c Luke xviii, 31-34.
damsel is not dead but sleepeth;" and the people, not taking the terms in a figurative sense, laughed him scorn." d It seems therefore very desirable, that some general rules should be laid down, by which we might ascertain what portions of Scripture are literal, and what are figurative. But it is highly probable that the best rule would have its exceptions; for no human rule can perfectly measure God's Word or his works for " My thoughts are 'not as your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." By what means therefore can we ascertain, whether certain passages of Scripture are to be understood literally or figuratively ? This is a question of great importance to every one who reads the Bible; and it deserves the serious consideration of every believer in divine Revelation, whether Jew or Christian.
To excite attention, inquiry and discussion, I beg leave to submit the four following Rules.
RULE I. Interpret every passage of God's Word literally, unless there be a necessity to the contrary. Example. And the house which 'king Solomon built for the Lord, the length thereof was three score cubits,' &c. (1 Kings vi, 2, compared with Acts vii, 47.) "They gave me also gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar 'to drink." (Ps. Ixix, 21, compared with Matt. 27, 34.) In these passages the words are to be taken in their plain, literal, and obvious
RULE II. Whenever a literal in
d Mark v, 39, 40. e Judges ix, 8.
terpretation involves an absurdity or incongruity, interpret figuratively.
Example. "The trees went forth on a certain time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, 'Reign thou over "us.'"'e "I will plant them in this land." f Now it is absurd to suppose that the trees walked, and talked, and desired a king. It is also very unnatural and incongruous for people to be planted in the land. Therefore the terms employed in these and similar passages must be interpreted figuratively.
RULE III. All symbolic portions of Scripture must be interpreted figuratively.
Example. The kine of Pharaoh, the great image of Nebuchadnezzar, the beast described by Daniel, the ephah of Zechariah,h the seals, trumpets, vials, &c. of the apostle John, must all be interpreted figuratively for it would be absurd to understand them literally. See Rule II.
RULE IV. Interpret the unfulfilled prophecies in the same manner, as historical facts have verified those that are already fulfilled.
Example. The promises and threatenings relative to persons; such as Abraham, Moses, David, Ahab, Cyrus, Jesus, &c.—relative to cities; as Niniveh, Babylon, Jerusalem, &c.
relative to nations; as the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Moabites, Edomites, Jews, Persians, Greeks, &c. To ascertain the bearing of this rule. recourse must be had to history, sacred and profane; by which it may be shown, that all the fulfilled prophecies, which were not evidently figurative, have had a literal accomplishment. This is now demonstrated by the testimony of more than thirty travellers, who
f Jer. xxxii, 41; Amos ix, 15. g Dan. ii, 31. Zech. v, 6—8.
have been eye witnesses of the events foretold by the Prophets.
If however the first rule were universally admitted, there would yet be a diversity of opinion about the necessity. Therefore, as no human rule will include every case, it is evident, that every passage must stand upon its own merits; and that the connexion and scope must direct us to decide, whether it be literal or figurative. Nevertheless, the standing rule applied by the most judicious expositors is worthy of general adoption, and is thus expressed by Dr. John Smith, in his Summary View and Explanation of the Writings of the Prophets. Although the Prophets use words so frequently in a figurative or metaphorical sense, yet we ought not ' without necessity to depart from the primitive and original sense of language; and such necessity there is when the plain and original sense is less proper, less suitable to the subject and context, or contrary to ' other Scriptures." In general there is no necessity where the predictions can be literally accomplished. The Jews could be scattered among all nations, and they are: they can be restored; Palestine can be delivered from its present possessors, and the land assigned them can be divided among the twelve tribes, each possessing it in equal and parallel portions, according to the prophecies of Ezekiel; the city the city and temple can be rebuilt; the Jews can be brought to believe in Messiah their prince; and He can reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously. All these things can be literally accom
plished; and why should they not? Has not he that hath literally fulfilled his threatenings, in the very same manner engaged to fulfil his promises? If the sacred Writers say, "that Jerusalem shall be encompassed with armies; that it shall be taken; and that the city and temple shall be destroyed; 'the land of Israel become desolate, ' and its inhabitants be carried away
captive into all nations;" all expositors are agreed in a literal interpretation: but if these same inspired writers say, "that the 'outcasts of Israel shall be restored; that Jerusalem and the temple shall be rebuilt; that divine worship shall be re-established there, ' and that all nations shall go thither from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts; and that Jerusalem shall become a praise in 'the earth;" more than half these same expositors tell us, that we must understand these things figuratively. But we would ask-By what rule of interpretation? Who will venture to say, that the curses denounced upon mount Ebal were literal, and that the blessings pronounced upon mount Gerizim were figurative? Who can say, that the threatenings denounced against Israel, in the twenty-sixth chapter of Leviticus, have not been literally fulfilled? and who will dare to say, that the promises contained in the same chapter shall not also have a literal accomplishment? Surely there is a consistency in the language of the Sacred Volume equal to any thing that can be found in any other book."†
The folly of understanding the
* See "Evidence of the truth of the Christian Religion derived from the literal fulfilment of Prophecy," by the Rev. Alexander Keith; sixth edition. This is one of the very best books extant on fulfilled prophecy. A selection from it constitutes. No. 282 of the Religious Tract Society.
+ Tyso's Inquiry after Prophetic Truth, page 12-14.