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ing to us personally in this age, is another point of deep moment. Many considerations will be brought forward in the following chapters that may lead us to see that the church has now special reasons to be looking for his coming, and attending to all those directions which lead men to be always ready for its suddenness and surprise.

What a blessed hope then is this now before the church! The richest blessing that our God ever gave was the gift of his own Son. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” But when he first came, though the world was made by him, the world knew him not, and his own received him not, and he was despised and rejected of men, and cut off out of the land of the living: and thus, through the unbelief of the Jews, the world lost the greatest blessing which God ever gave to it,--the presence of its true Lord and King. But the God of love has overruled even this. He has taken a people to his name out of the Gentiles; and though now the Gentile churches have in similar unbelief, disregarding his promises, extensively fallen away, yet God's designs for our fallen world are still full of grace and truth; and mercy shall return to Israel, and through them to the Gentiles; and we who now trust in Jesus and confess him, shall yet see our King, the [91] acknowledged Head of all the earth, reigning King of kings, and Lord of lords.

And what holy joy should fill his people when they dwell on these glorious prospects! “Sing and rejoice, 0 daughter of Zion, for lo I come and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord; and many nations shall be joined to the Lord, and shall be my people, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee."

Christian reader, have we not too much lost the joyful hope of the earth's fullest glory by refusing to believe so large a testimony as God's word has given to it? and thus have not we and the church at large sunk into similar unbelief with the Jews, and also into the low state of the world, so as hardly to be distinguished from it? Rom. xi. 30–33. Oh let our affections be set on things above, looking thence for the Saviour, (Col. ii. 1-4.) and our conversation be in heaven cheered with the glorious hope of his return and our then being made like him. Phil. iii. 20, 21. 1 John iii. 3.

The Lord himself fill us with these high and holy hopes, and quicken us and raise us up together, and make us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus!

VOL. II.-56

CHAPTER VII.

ON THE LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF PROPHECY.

[92] Clear views of the principles of interpretation of scripture prophecies are of great advantage towards a well grounded faith in their testimony. A simple, teachable, child-like spirit, and next to this, an acquaintance with the word of God, are indeed most important guides, in this as in every other part of divine truth. The application of the promises in the prophecies to the Christian church has already been pointed out." A few farther remarks are needful to shew that this by no means sets aside the literal interpretation, and may help to clear away part of the doubt, which many feel, from the frequent and confused mention of literal, figurative, symbolical, allegorical, and other modes of interpretation.

All scripture prophecy may be classed under three heads, direct prophecy, parables or visions, and the explanations of these. It is the second class which render distinctions needful to see clearly the warrant for our faith.

In prophetic parables or visions, just as in doctrinal parables, the literal sense only carries us thus [93] far, that the parable was uttered, or the vision seen. The letter is a history,—the prophetic meaning is to be learned by the explanation adjoined, and by comparing scripture with scripture, and thus expounding the symbols with the help of divine wisdom. The last twenty chapters of Ezekiel, Dan. ii. iii. vii. viii. and Zech. iv. with the Revelation, are of this kind. Among the reasons why it has pleased God to reveal part of his prophecies in this form, these appear the chief. To veil the truths contained from the careless or profane. Matt. viii. 1; xiii. 11–13. Dan. xii. 10. Rev. i. 2. To allure the curiosity and reward the diligence of his servants. Eccles. viii. 1. Prov. i. 5, 6. Rev. i. I

-3. To express more vividly, by symbols, objects of prophecy, which could scarcely be expressed in common language, as empires and dynasties, with their spiritual character and varied forms;-lastly, to lead our thoughts more deep into the events of God's providence, by setting forth the fixed and lasting features of the changes it unfolds, and the analogy of nature with all spiritual truth. But all these imply that to patient, prayerful search, its meaning will be more and more revealed, that certain light is even here attainable,—The wise shall understand; and that the explanations which are mixed with the visions, are for the end of guiding us to the full meaning, and are themselves to be taken in their simple and literal sense. Such are the passages, Rev. i. 7, 11, 17—20; ii. iii. v. 9, 10; vii. 14, 17; ix. 6, 20, 21; xi. 17, 18; xiii. 9, 10; xv. 15; xvii. 1,7-18; xx. 5, 6; xxi. 3–8.

Setting these apart, prophecy, like all other scripture, is to be literally interpreted. By this it is not meant that figures are excluded; but only that [94] that sense is to be affixed, which would first and at once suggest itself to a simple mind, and that figures exist only where the context makes their presence clear, as in passages not prophetic. And this rule springs from the reflection, that God's words were given to be understood. Though, as the messages of Infinite Wisdom, they may contain a further and deeper meaning which the wisest men, and angels themselves (1 Peter i.) can but in part comprehend, they must at least have that meaning which they convey at first to the simplest mind. They would otherwise be more like heathen oracles, than revelations of Divine truth: neither would men be so often charged with the sin of slowness of heart to believe their sayings.

To confirm this, we have only to reflect further that Old Testament prophecies were given to Jews, before the time of the Gentile dispensation. They could not then have understood them but in the letter, that Jerusalem meant Jerusalem the city of David, the chosen seat of God;-Zion, the mount where the temple stood;— Israel, the nation separated from other nations to the name and worship of God. Yet the truth of these promises was to be the anchor of their souls in the midst of trouble, and in times of darkness. Surely then he who marked as iniquity the spoiling of Naboth’s vineyard, though with the offer of a better in exchange, would never disappoint the hope of the faithful Jews, though he may graciously add to the promise thus given, a farther and larger blessing. Our Lord warns us expressly against such a view, saying, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets.” Matt. v. 17. His reproofs to his disciples, or the pharisees, are never drawn from their [95] belief in their Messiah's kingdom on earth and their nation's glory; but for their disbelief, through carnal pride, of prophecies, alike plain, of the Messiah's sufferings and Israel's desolation.

It has indeed been shewn that the Christian is entitled to apply to himself the promises of spiritual blessings made to the Jews of old. They are to him all yea and amen in Christ Jesus.” But this has led to a great mistake in the interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies-(a mistake in which the author long partook,) of confining their meaning simply to the Christian church, and not taking their literal application to the Jewish nation, in a fulfilment which, we have so much scriptural reason to expect, will take place hereafter. St. Paul explicitly applies Isa. lix. 20, to a future fulfilment (Rom. xi. 26); Isa. xxv. 8, to the time of the resurrection (i Cor. xv. 54); and Hag. ii. 6, to a future shaking of the heavens and the earth, (Heb. xii. 26); and thereby distinctly teaches us that there will be a future fulfilment of the passages. There are statements in the prophecies that cannot, without the greatest force upon words, be applied merely spiritually, or be viewed as already literally fulfilled, and which we may therefore expect will have a literal accomplishment hereafter. *

The right combination of the literal interpretation of a prophecy, as to its past or future fulfilment, with the present personal application of its promises to the believer's individual use; and the right union of the interpretation of the prediction by historical facts, with its personal use in the way of comfort, example, warning, direction, and hope for the future (96] glory, give us the full advantage of the prophetic word. These things have been too much disjoined. Having therefore now considered the practical application of the promises to ourselves, we must also notice the literal interpretation of the prophecies as they concern more immediately those of whom they speak.

The privileges and blessings of Christians under the gospel are truly great, and the present enjoyment of spiritual mercies are of incalculable value: “Blessed be the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ Jesus,” (Eph. i. 3,) may every Christian say; but the inheritance to which we are predestined is yet to come. We are now sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise which is, however, only the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of his glory. Our present privileges still leave us groaning within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. viii. 23; 2 Cor. v. 4.)

This may teach us, that any application of the glorious prophecies of the Old Testament to the church now militant, though the Jews are scattered over the earth, and the witnesses

* See Mr. Platt's Thoughts on Old Testament prophecies.

+ On the Psalms, Allix, Horsley, and Fry, give us their views of the prophetical meaning. Amesius in Psalmos, Dickson, and Horne, give us their spiritual, practical, and devotional use; but both views are needful to attain the full benefit of the Psalms. .

prophesy in sackcloth, must be vastly short of their full meaning; they belong to Christians, indeed, in such foretastes and earnests as the Divine Spirit may now impart, and in the joyful anticipation of Christian hope; but not in the present possession and enjoyment of the predicted [97] glories. We might here turn Bishop Hall's remark, varying the application; "to tie those frequent and large promises” to a mere spirituality of sense, which Christians have never yet enjoyed, is limiting the Divine promises where we have no right to do it. There may be a much larger literal fulfilment, as well as more extended spiritual blessings in the future state of the church of Christ, consisting of Jews and Gentiles dwelling on earth, and in the bliss of the glorified saints, dwelling with Christ their Lord in the heavenly Jerusalem. The scriptures cannot be broken, (John x. 35,) should be to us an axiom in their interpretation. “Heaven and earth shalt pass, but one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.” (Matt. v. 11; xxiv. 35.) However we may, for illustration, accommodate them to the Christian church, their real meaning as prophecies has not, as far as we can judge, had an adequate fulfilment in events that have yet taken place, and therefore we may consider that they are to be realized in a more blessed state than this world has ever yet witnessed.

Let not any imagine that the glow of eastern imagery, and poetic imagination, led the prophets to give what may to us appear exaggerated views of the state of the church of Christ. It is not really so.

The Parables of our Lord, and the predictions of the book of Revelation, shewing us the trials of the church and the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth, may guard us against such a perversion: and the closing chapters of that book, may lead us to a fuller view of the prophecies of the Old Testament. It is also a most unworthy idea of the words of the Divine Spirit, to think that they are [98] swelled out beyond the just 'ineaning; God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think, (Eph. iii. 20;) and it is perfectly clear that the promises to the patriarchs were not realized to them individually, and yet wait for their full accomplishment. (Acts viii. 4, 5. Heb. x. 8—16, 39, 40.

It is necessary to a consistent interpretation, and it throws great light on the Old Testament predictions, and on the future purposes of God, to take them first, and generally, in their plain, literal, and obvious meaning:—Zion meaning ZionJudah meaning Judah-Israel meaning Israel—and Jerusalem meaning Jerusalem. Mark how far they were accomplished when Christ first came, (as in Isaiah liii.; Dan. ix. 25, 26,) and then consider what has yet been unaccomplished, and may be

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