Page images
PDF
EPUB

to fair grammatical construction, denotes the glorious dominion of Jesus Christ, to be established on earth at his coming, not a kingdom in the heavens, sometimes illustrated, it is true, and frequently spoken of, as in its embryo condition, in its forming, preparatory, or inchoate state, comprising the saints on earth with the saints in heaven-destined to a future state of triumph and joint dominion with Jesus Christ, but never as an organized spiritual society, either in union with, or opposition to, or in contradistinction from, the kingdoms of this world.

And as to His coming,* we utterly deny, that the phrases which are employed by Christ himself, and the New Testament writers, to designate His interposition for the introduction and establishment of His kingdom, either do, or can, upon any fair principles of grammatical construction, mean anything but His VISIBLE PERSONAL APPEARING-His second coming, or glorious return to earth. The assumptions, therefore, on which this whole system of spiritual interpretation is based, we pronounce to be altogether fallacious and untenable. They never have been proved.

in a proper place, we shall show, that the idea of the church being the kingdom of God, was not current in the world for several centuries after the Chris. tian era; yea, was not excogitated till after the introduction of the Platonic philosophy, from the schools of Alexandria, by Origen, and the rise of the spiritual interpreters. After the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christianity, and the establishment of the church and of the Christian religion by the laws of the Roman empire, the idea of an allegorical kingdom was conceived and adopted, and became, through

* See Chap. XI.

the corruptions of the times, the grand means, the ladder, as it has been called, * by which the Bishop of Rome ascended to his lofty seat, where, claiming the kingdoms of this world, as the vicegerent of Jesus Christ, “he opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped ; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”+

There is, indeed, an analogical use of language, which, founded on an assumed relation between moral, spiritual, and intellectual things, and physical, sensible, and material forms, determines the meaning and use of terms originally taken from the latter, as suitable representatives or expressions of our thoughts in relation to the former. It cannot, however, be claimed as a basis for Scriptural exegesis any more than for any other description of exposition. It, however, has been carried by a writer on the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, to the most extravagant results, and claimed as ample warrant for the double sense, allegorical or spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures. But the author's whole system is founded on the following vague, mystic, Aristotelian assumption, “that all things in nature, being outward productions from inward essences, are natural, sensible, and material types, of moral, intellectual, and spiritual antitypes, and finally of their prototypes in God.”+ This is avowedly making a physico-theological, or metaphysical speculation about the origin of creation, the philosophical key for the interpretation of the Scriptures, and needs but to be stated for its refutation. It dif

* The Glad Tidings, by H. D. Ward, p. 65, 82. 2 Thess, 2. 4.

# S. Noble's Lectures on the plenary inspiration of the Scrip. tures, pp. 156, 157.

fers in its characteristic details, but is essentially of like character with the system of interpretation introduced by Origen, and which, in the progress of our discussions, we shall have occasion to notice.

Whether, therefore, we contemplate the manner in which the cotemporaries of the prophets interpreted their predictions, the manner in which the providence of God has interpreted, by their actual accomplishment, those which have been fulfilled-and the man. ner in which Christ and his apostles delivered theirsusing the very same phrases and language with the former prophets, and never giving the least intima. tion of any change to be made in the principles of interpretation-there is but one conclusion to which we can come, viz.—THAT THE ENTIRE SYSTEM OF PROPHECY, UNFOLDED IN THE SACRED SCRIPTURES, RECOGNIZES AND ESTABLISHES, THE LITERAL OR GRAMMATICAL INTERPRETATION, AS THE ONLY APPROPRIATE METHOD.

Here we might rest, but we advance a step further. We claim for this system of interpretation the explicit direction and sanction of God himself.

4. The spirit of inspiration long since authorized us to expect, and has pledged the literal fulfillment of prophecy, and God himself authoritatively and formally ordained that to this test must every prophet subject his predictions. The prophet exhorts us to study the predictions, and to compare them carefully with their accomplishment.*

“ Seek ye out of the book of the Lord and read:

No one of these shall fail;
None shall want her mate:
For my mouth it hath commanded,
And his Spirit it hath gathered them.”

[blocks in formation]

It is admitted by commentators* that while the language here is taken from the pairing of animals, it is designed to teach, that, as each has its mate, so shall it be with the prediction and its accomplishment. They shall be as certainly paired ; pone shall want its fulfillment.

But over and above this, it was formally enacted by Jehovah, as a fundamental law in His government of His people, that this should be the rule or test, which, down to the time of the end, they should apply to the sayings of any prophet, who might arise among them. Moses commanded in the name of the Lord, in all cases of doubt about the genuineness and divine authority of a prediction, that if events did not verify the word of the prophet literally interpreted as men are wont to do the language of each other, they were to be set aside. “The prophet which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken ? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously.”+ The common sense of mankind requires the application of the same test or rule to every one still who pretends to be a prophet; and it is equally important for the cause of truth and the honor of God's word, that in the study and interpretation of the divine dictions, it should be as rigidly observed.

* See Barnes on Isaiah, ad loc.

+ Deuter. 18. 20-22.

CHAPTER IV.

THE SYSTEM OF INTERPRETATION. THE NATURE OF FIGU

RATIVE LANGUAGE.

The general nature of the system of interpretation, applicable to the prophetical writings, has been affirm. ed to be THE LITERAL, in contradistinction from THE SPIRITUAL. Various arguments have been adduced to prove the affirmation. In presenting those arguments, it has not been deemed necessary to give anything more than a very general definition or description of the two systems. It is possible, however, that mistakes and misapprehensions may exist, in relation to the distinctive features of the system of literal interpretation, and that further information and illustration may be desired by those who would pursue, for their own benefit, the study of the prophecies. It is important, therefore, to correct such mistakes, and to meet such wishes. It is possible that some may claim the authority of the apostle, for spiritualizing or explaining by way of allegory, important moral and religious truths.* He did unquestionably employ allegory for the illustration and enforcement of the im. portant truth, that no one minister in the Christian church should be vaingloriously exalted and honored for his work, above another. He selected the case of Apollos and himself, who were the favorites of particular portions or parties in the church of Corinth, and by means of an allegory, suggested by the process of building a temple, undertook to show that all who

* 1 Cor. 4. 6.

« PreviousContinue »