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philosophers of modern times lay claim to infallibility when they maintain the elementary principles of religion and morals to be an immediate revelation from God to the souls of men. This connection of infallibility with inspiration, this entire separation of the natural from the supernatural, is a theological figment of more modern times ” (pp. lxxxvi-lxxxvii).
Among the conclusions thus arrived at by this eminent theologian, we shall venture to draw a line of distinction. We agree with him, that absolute infallibility cannot be asserted of the Hebrew prophets, or of any other mortal men. But this admission does not prevent us from recognizing in them an inspiration, distinct from any that has been granted to other writers. On the contrary, it removes the great obstacle to the acknowledgment of such inspiration. As, in the historical books, the recognition of a human, fallible element relieves us from the necessity of defending the geology of Moses, and the treatment of enemies by Jael and David ; so does the recognition of a similar element in the prophetical books make it a matter of slight concern to us, if here and there a prediction can be proved to have been unfulfilled, or if the prophets, in foretelling some great event, blended their own imagination with the light given them from above.
Herein, we conceive, is the key to the Messianic prophecies. Our author enters into an examination of these in his Introduction, and also in the notes to the various passages as they occur. He shows satisfactorily that the Hebrew prophets anticipated for their country a royal Deliverer and a glorious future, the union of all nations in a common faith and service, while Judah and Jerusalem should be the splendid and happy centre of the universal and ever-enduring monarchy. A spiritual reformation was to be connected with this temporal deliverance, - an unending age of spiritual purity with this outward prosperity. Dr. Noyes conceives that this anticipation of the Jewish prophets differs so widely from its supposed fulfilment in Jesus Christ and his religion, that they could not have had these in view. Their predictions were subjective, not objective. He admits, however, that the Divine Being who raised up the prophets may have foreseen, and revealed to the mind of Christ, that he was the destined instrument for accomplishing the purposes which the prophets had unfolded. He also admits that Christ " claimed to fulfil in some sense their predictions, and especially their predictions relating to the kingdom of God. He claimed to be a king, the head of the kingdom which the prophets had predicted as about to be established in the world” (vol. i. pp. Isiv, lxv).
With these views, for the most part, we agree. The prophets had a very imperfect conception of the glories of the Messiah's kingdom; but the divine purposes, to whose accomplishment they looked forward, were truly fulfilled in Christ and his religion. We cannot, however, receive in its full extent the statement, that the Messianic predictions were not objective. We believe that the prophets had in view a real person, however imperfect may have been their conception of him. And the fact, that, while that person applied their predictions to himself, his greatness was of a nature that far transcended the most exalted visions of prophetic inspiration, constitutes to our mind an important proof of the divinity of his mission. The more fully it can be shown that the prophets had no conception of a peaceful, spiritual, self-denying Messiah, the greater the glory of the exalted soul that could look beyond their brilliant presentations of an earthly throne, to discern and to claim the true, divinely constituted royalty.
We believe that the prophets were inspired, in a manner different from other writers, however great or good. That difference we conceive to have been one, not of degree, but of kind. Had it been of degree merely, Isaiah might have given us sublimer poems than Homer: as it is, he has given us predictions, which have received their fulfilment in Christ. We distinguish, too, between the inspiration of these Hebrew bards, and that of other poets whose predictions have sometimes been peculiarly happy. An unknown Latin author, claiming the name of Seneca, foretold the discovery of America.* Bishop Berkeley foresaw the greatness of the United States. We recognize in these the great thought, the happy coincidence; but in the Hebrew prophets we recognize the especial divine communication.
Was that communication made to all the prophets, or to a few, or to one only among them? A scholar, eminent alike as theologian, historian, statesman, and friend of freedom, re. stricts the divine message in the Old Testament times to its earlier portion, believing that the idea of the Messiah was given to the world chiefly in those words of Moses (Deut. xviii. 15), “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me: unto him shalt thou hearken.” | The later Messianic predictions he conceives to have been echoes of this. But the announcement in Deuteronomy appears too indefinite to be thus singled out; nor do we know any other that can claim such exclusive honor. It may be, that some of the long line of prophets — for instance, the author of the first part of the book of Daniel — received the great thought from those who went before them; but, until some mode of distinguishing between direct and secondary prophecies is suggested, we can but consider all as dictated by the same inspiration.
But that inspiration did not make the prophets acquainted with all truth. As Dr. Noyes justly reasons, they were not infallible. If one of them had been, the world would have needed no future guide. If Isaiah had foreseen in its fulness
* “ Venient annis
† “ Westward the star of empire takes its way;
The four first acts already past,
Time's noblest offspring is the last.”
Palfrey's “Lectures on the Jewish Scriptures and Antiquities," Lectures XIX. and XXXIV.; and his “Relation between Judaism and Christianity."
the spiritual teaching of Jesus, Isaiah might have revealed it, and the coming of Jesus have been forestalled. The prophets saw but in part; God alone is omniscient.
What did they see? We will use that metaphor of sight; for it is the one which the prophets themselves use, to express the method in which the Divine purposes were made known to them. We are told of “ The vision of Isaiah the son of Amos, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem." We may find the metaphor of sight a better guide than that of breath, implied in the word “inspiration."
In our common, natural vision, the beholder has before him an object, of which he sees some parts more clearly than others. The different parts are not always seen in their right proportions. If it be a prospect, prominent points appear distinctly, while intervening spaces are less subject to observation. Nor can distances be accurately determined. Objects which lie in the same line of vision may naturally be supposed much nearer to each other than they really are. Especially if the remotest object seen be of great dimensions, as a mountain, arresting the attention and shutting out all beyond, its proportions may be mistaken, and it may be supposed both nearer and smaller than it actually is.
Thus it was with the “vision” granted to the prophets. From time to time, their eyes were opened to discern the future. They saw there objects relating to the present interests of their own country and of others; and, beyond, they saw the waving fields, the towering cities, the majestic temples, of a period of civilization, peace, and happiness, far surpassing any thing that they had known. “The mountain of the Lord's house, established on the top of the mountains," closed the view; and there, it seemed, they might discern, far off, a majestic figure, of colossal proportions, that seemed to preside over all below, while the Divine glory hovered above his head. God's wisdom and goodness displayed to them the scene; their own minds were to interpret it. What name should they give to that happy country but that of their own Israel? What should that holy city be but their own Jerusalem ? And that glorious personage whom
they owned as God's Anointed, God's Messiah, — who should he be but the king, the heir of the old royal line, who should, at that predestined time, be on the throne ? What wonder if, while the eye failed to measure distances with correctness, each prophet thought that the Messiah before him was either the prince he served, or the heir that had just been born ; if the writer of the seventy-second Psalm identified him with Solomon, and Isaiah (chap. vii.) with the infant Hezekiah ?
We believe, then, that the vision of the prophets was not only subjective, but objective, in the general foresight of a great and Heaven-sent Deliverer. That they called him king, when they might have called him prophet or sage, detracts but little from this foresight; for who but a king, could they suppose, would exercise such power and confer such blessings? We may question, too, whether either of these titles would have fitted the actual position of Jesus Christ as well as that which was employed. “Prophet” would have designated him as a member of the old order, not the founder and presiding spirit of a new; and “sage” would have been the title of a self-constituted teacher, not of one sent by God. That the demand of Jesus for the reverence and obedience of mankind was, in many respects, a personal claim, has been so well illustrated in the recent suggestive volume, “Ecce Homo," and is a fact so familiar to every believer's heart, that we need linger no more on the task of excusing the prophets for the assertion of his kingly dignity.
And there were some to whom a nearer vision was granted. We will not presumptuously measure swords with Dr. Noyes in relation to the famous passage, Isa. lii., liii.; but one thing is clear, that, whether from this passage or from others, some of the Jews had derived the idea of a suffering Messiah. And this idea in them is the more remarkable, as it was contrary to their general train of thought, their expectations and hopes, and as they resorted to a far-sought supposition to explain it. Thus says Strauss (“ Life of Jesus,” part III. chap. I., $ 112):