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To this general statement of the value and genuineness of the testimony from Prophecy, there lies, as we apprehend, no availing objection. To some minds, this evidence from Prophecy is of the most convincing nature. Implying, as the jerm denotes, the prediction of future events, it includes with it, of necessity, the inspiration of God, since, as "no one can work miracles,” so none can foretell future events “except God be with him.” And when it can be shown, that the prediction points to the event, and the event corresponds with the prediction, we know of notbing in the whole range of scripture evidence more conclusive or satisfactory. As has been well remarked concerning it, “it is a species of evidence, which no previous conjecture nor accidental coincidence," nor, we may add, any fanciful theories of accommodation, are sufficient to counteract or invalidate."
Yet from the nature of the subject, — prediction and not history, - and not seldom too from the manner in which it has been treated, it is undeniably attended with difficulties. In the application, moreover, or interpretation of particular prophecies, there might be expected, as is found, a wide diversity of opinion. That with a blind zeal for finding Christ in every thing, in the ark, and in the tabernacle, in the sacrifices of the temple, and in every word that proceeded from the priests, — some have applied to him personally, or to his religion or kingdom, passages which bear no such application, which were either not uttered as predictions at all, or had their fulfilment in events near at hand ; that others, led away by that delusive and mischievous theory of a double sense of prophecy, a primary and a secondary, have introduced mysticism and perplexity, - is not less true. We willingly, and of choice, reject from this testiinony what is doubtful or cannot be proved to belong to it. Just interpretation demands here, as in all other parts of Scripture, a strict adherence to the “ uniof sense ;
that is, when it is ascertained, that
* “In all other authors besides the Scriptures," says Dr. Benson, in his admirable " Essay on the Unity of Sense,” s before we sit down to read and study them, we expect to find in them one, single, determinate sense and meaning of the words ; from which we may be satisfied, that we have attained to their meaning and understand what they intended to say.”
a text or passage means one thing, it cannot also mean another. If a prediction refer to one person or event, it cannot at the same time include another person or event; nor may we suppose, that while it has a primary reference to a prior individual or bistory, it looks forward also to another subsequent or remote. “For if the Scriptures are not to be interpreted, like the best ancient authors, in their one true and genuine meaning, common readers,” says the writer already cited, “will be led to doubt, whether or no the Scriptures have any certain meaning at all. They will be for ever at a loss what to believe and what to practise ; on what to ground their comfort here, and their hope of everlasting happiness hereafter." On this obvious, and only safe rule of interpretation, many passages in the Psalms and in the Prophets, which ignorance, inadvertence, or a misguided zeal would refer to Christ, should be referred, where they belong, to David, or to David's son, to the kings or kingdoms of Israel or of Judah, to the condition, prosperous or adverse, to the sins and impending calamities of the neighbouring idolatrous nations. For the objects of the Old testament predictions were almost as various as the predictions themselves. Some of them announced events just ready to be accomplished, and were designed for the immediate instruction of those to whom they were addressed. Others looked forward to more distant periods. Of this class' were the denunciations, so frequent in the prophetic books, of the fate of various kingdoms, of Egypt, and of Babylon, of Nineveh and Tyre. These were the burdens, 3 with which the souls of the Prophets were oppressed ; the heavy doom, which they were commanded to utter.
Yet who will contend that these had any relation to Christ or his religion ? Surely none, except that they are found in the same Scriptures, which do in truth speak of him. We do not want for the evidence of our faith this cumbrous help.
There is another class of predictions, which with far better reason have been applied to Jesus Christ or to his religion ; and which, even by intelligent critics, have been understood as susceptible of a double sense. Of such are the second and the sixteenth Psalms. “But if,” as says Benson, whose authority on this point is inferior to none, they can be shown throughout to agree to David, then let them be interpreted exclusively of him.” So, also, if in the seventy-second
N. . VOL. XII. NO. II.
Psalm the prophet intended the son of David, King Solomon, then he intended him alone; and the whole Psalm is to be interpreted of the peace and prosperity of Solomon's reign ; and we only diminish the worth and value of the Christian evidence by pretending that at the same time he looked forward to the kingdom of Christ.
But notwithstanding this, and yet more that sound interpretation would reject, the Christian evidence from predictions, fulfilled and fulfilling, is abundant and complete. In addition to all the miraculous attestation, by which it was established, we have also, in the language of the Apostle, the sure word of prophecy, unto which we do well if we take heed. And when Isaiah at a distance of more than seven hundred years, declares, " There shall spring forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots; and the spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him; the spirit of wisdom and of understanding; the spirit of the knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah ;" * when, announcing, as we interpret it, the place of Messiah's birth, the Prophet Micah declares, (ch. v. 2, “But thou, Bethlehem, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come a governor, who shall rule my people Israel, whose goings forth have been of old ; " -- when, desig
– nating the place of his parents' abode, it is said, (Isaiah ix. 2, “ In the land of Zebulon and of Nepthali, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan in Galilee, the people, that sat in darkness saw a great light, and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined: when, yet again, the same prophet declares, “ Unto us a son is born, unto us a child is given," (Isaiah ix. 6,) and afterwards describing in his own person the blessed influences of his mission, “ The spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; for Jehovah hath anointed me: He hath sent me to publish good tidings to the distressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim the year of mercy from Jehovah ;” † and this prediction, too, applied by our Lord to himself, when rising in the synagogue, and reading the passage, he said, “ This day is the Scripture fulfilled in your ears ;
when Jeremiah predicts, (ch. xxiii. 5, 6,)“ Behold the days come, saith Jeho
* Isaiah xi. 1, 2, et seq. See Noyes's Translation. † Isaiah lxi. 1, 2, in the same Translation.
vah, that I will raise up unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall execute judgment, and this is his name, whereby he shall be called, the LORD, OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS; when Daniel saw in prophetic vision one like the son of man, coming in the clouds of heaven, to whom was given dominion and glory, a dominion that should not pass away, and a kingdom, that should not be destroyed; when, passing from the solemnity and magnificence of a general description, he specifies the very time “determined upon the people and up
« on the city to finish the transgression and seal up the prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy ;” nay, the exact period, at the end of which, Messiah should be cut off, though not for himself, (Dan. vii. 13, and ix. 24 – 26;) and finally, when at the close of all, Malachi predicts, (ch. iii. 1-3,) “ The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, in whom ye delight:" - for ourselves, we read in these the same sure word of prophecy of which the Apostle speaks; we see not merely a vague and indefinite anticipation, - a looking forward to one knows not what, - nor yet terms of general import, to be applied only in accommodation, or for rhetorical ornament, as we quote from orators and poets, - but clear, distinct predictions
of the kingdom and coming of Jesus Christ.
Of these, were it necessary, we might select for more particular illustration that memorable prediction, which commences with the close of the fifty-second and is continued through the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, in which the prophet describes the humiliaton, sufferings, and reward of the Messiab. The language of this prediction is scarcely less remarkable than the character and events it foretells. In the number, minuteness, and peculiarity of the circumstances it details, it would seem to be rather a record of what had been, than a prophecy of what was to come. Here," says Paley, who in his admirable view of the “Evidences of Christianity" selects this from the whole range of ancient prophecies, as the clearest and strongest of them all, — “here is no double
. sense, no figurative language, but what is sufficiently intelligible to every reader of every country. And what adds to the force of the quotation is, that it is taken from a writing, declaredly prophetic, professing to describe such future transactions and changes in the world, as were connected with the fate and interests of the Jewish nation."
The ancient Jews, as Chandler has fully shown, interpreted it of the Messiah. And the modern Jews, too well aware of the
ght of the argument, have exhausted all their ingenuity to evade the application of a prediction, the authenticity of which they could by no methods disprove. They have referred it to the distressed condition of their own nation; to the persecutions and sufferings of their own prophet Jeremiah ; to one of their kings, and even, as their last resort, to one or more of their Rabbis.
That it points to an individual and not to a nation, the whole scope and spirit of the prediction incontrovertibly proves, and no individual has ever appeared, to whose life, and condition, and character ingenuity itself could find a resemblance, but Jesus Christ. To him it perfectly accords. In him, with astonishing exactness, was it fulfilled. His humble yet miraculous birth, his spotless life, his meek patience, his bitter sufferings,“ wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities ;” the humiliation of bis death, “bis grave appointed with the wicked, yet with the rich man his tomb; and finally the glory of his reward, “ because he poured out his soul unto death ; because he bore the sin of
and made intercession for transgressors,' reasons applicable in no sense to any mortal beside, -- all these are distinctly described. Had this prediction stood alone, it had been enough to show the connexion between the Jewish and the Christian dispensation ; to establish the latter on the evidence of prophecy in the former. For this, its obvious interpretation, we have in addition the express authority of Philip, who, in answering to the enquiries of the Ethiopian convert, “Of whom speaketh the prophet this ?” 6 began at this same scripture and preached unto him Jesus." +
But there are other predictions, which it were easy to adduce, in which with less distinctness, indeed, but in terms not to be mistaken, the names and offices of Messiah are enumerated, the nature and influences of his religion are described, and the triumphs of his faith are anticipated. Which shall we most admire, - the bold and glowing strains in which the Prophets foretold, or the calm historic
7-9. Noyes's Translation. + Acts viii. 30 - 35.