« ElőzőTovább »
to predictions or events; but the same method of inter. pretation applies practical exhortations and advice, which were at first intended to support, console, or edify one person, by an elongation, as it were, of prophetic perspective, to other persons, in after ages, as directly belonging to them. In the concluding admonitions of the epistle to the Hebrews, the Apostle urges as one motive to contentment, in times of difficulty and pressing circumstances, that God hath said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Now, when we come to examine the original utterance of this promise, we find that Moses delivered it, shortly before his death, to support and encourage the Israelites in their subjugation of the land of Canaan : “Be strong, and of good a courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them : for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”* (Deut. xxxi. 6.) Here, however, St. Paul, divinely inspired as he was, binds this promise upon the Hebrew Christians, and bids them regard it as written for their especial consolation and relief.
Now, on what principle does this extended and continuous application in the instances before quoted take its stand. For if it can be elicited, we shall on the one hand be guarded against a loose and unwarranted interpretation of God's Word, and, on the other, shall find a staff to lean upon, and a light to guide us towards a faithful exposition of its contents. In this way, were prophecies only thus treated, we might find a good reason for the practice in the theory of type and antitype, where the investment of each with a similar character, or the features which mark the latter being delineated in the former, would admit of the prediction being applied in a double sense, and casting the rays of its brilliance through and beyond the one to the other. But the
* Some consider these words to have been adopted by the Apostle, from those spoken to Joshua, after Moses' death. (See Josh. i. 5.) The argument will apply with equal force, whichever be true ; but 1 am more inclined to believe that they were adopted from this place in Deuteronomy; as it is well known that the Apostles. quoted mostly from the Septuagint, and their translation here is the same as that in Heb. xiii. : whereas in Joshua the words used are different.
principle in the last instance cannot be so limited; for there would be manifestly no impropriety in applying its encouragement to any body of Christians in similar circumstances; that is to say, its application may be indefinitely extended. But if we examine into the ground of reason, which furnishes to us a right for interpreting prophecies in this double sense, we shall gain a clear insight into that which stamps this further extension of the right with truth. Why then are certain predictions, which we meet with in the Bible, unfolded in this double sense ?
An accurate writer on prophecy, thus clearly expounds its reasonableness and strict propriety : “This age of prophecy,” he says, (speaking of David and Solomon's reign,) “ brings the doctrine of the double sense,' as it has been called, before us. For Scriptural prophecy is so framed, in some of its predictions, as to bear a sense directed to two objects, of which structure the predictions concerning the kingdom of David furnishes a conspicuous example. *** The double sense of prophecy, is of all things the most remote from fraud or equivocation, and has its ground of reason perfectly clear. For what is it? not the convenient latitude of two unconnected senses, wide of each other, and giving room to a fallacious ambiguity, but the combination of two related, analogous and harmonizing, though disparate subjects, each clear and definite in itself. Of the validity and rectitude of this interpretation by a double sense, there is a simple and decisive test, which will shew at once when it may with safety, and should in reason, be admitted. The test is, that each of the subjects ascribed to the prophecy be such as may challenge the right of it in its main import, and meet it in its obvious representation.”*
Leaving now this particular doctrine of prophetical interpretation, we may remark, that the general principle is substantiated on the ground of analogy. Subjects which resemble each other in their great essential particulars, through which there runs not an incidental, but a close and striking similarity, which are tied to each other as it were by a cord of the same materials and
* Davison's Lectures on Prophecy. 195.
'texture, although differing on many inferior points, are bound together by one train of thought, and have the same language, in so far as they agree, applied to them. To one particular fact, or idea, or person, or principle, the remark originally belongs ; and from thence it becomes appropriated to other ideas, persons, or principles, by analogy in so far forth as the resemblance combines them together. Thus to take the example of a single word, the term “perfect” is applied not only to him who is radically perfect in holiness and purity, which constitutes its grand idea, but to a person that is sincere, or sound from the infection of particular sins, or gradually advancing towards a morally perfect state, because they are reflections and shades of the same leading idea. So, also, to come nearer to the point, the “ coming of Christ” is applied to three or four different manifestations of the divine glory, accompanied with judgments on God's enemies, and mercies poured out on his Church, as well as to that great event when he will literally and personally appear to condemn and to deliver, just because they all resemble each other in their main features. The phrase, "kingdom of heaven," is likewise thus predicated. In its primary idea, it doubtless has respect to that state of celestial happiness, in which Christ will be all in all to his people, as their Priest and King; but the most superficial reader of God's Word must perceive that it is there referred to other conditions of things on earth, which are distinct from, and yet united to, this great idea by a close analogy. The visible Church of Christ on earth, comprising all who are by name and profession, and the adoption of certain external laws, Christians; and the Church of his truly faithful people alone, are likewise singled out by this common appellation—" the kingdom of heaven.” Why is this but because they are successive approximations to this final manifestation of Christ's full and perfect sovereignty over his redeemed people? And thus, to connect these different comings of Christ with the different applications of the last mentioned phrase, we may sum up our observations in the words of an excellent writer of the last century: “The state of things which is attained by the events of this period (the evangelical) is what is often called the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God. The setting up the kingdom of Christ is chiefly accomplished by four successive great events, each of which is in Scripture called Christ's coming in his kingdom. I would observe, that each of these four great dispensations, which are represented as Christ's coming in his kingdom, are but so many steps and degrees of the accomplishment of one event. They are not the setting up of so many distinct kingdoms of Christ, they are all of them only several degree of the accomplishment of one event. And because the e four great events are but images one of another, and the three former but types of the last, and since they are all only several steps of the accomplishment of the same thing, hence we find them all from time to time prophesied of under one, as they are in the prophecies of Daniel, and likewise Matthew xxiv., where some things seem more applicable to one of them and others to another.”*
I think that I have now sufficiently explained and illustrated the warrant we have for the rule itself; and we shall experience but little difficulty, if we attend to the data given in applying it. Suppose, for instance, we have come in the course of our reading to that practical exhortation,“ Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate; and touch not the unclean thing.” (2 Cor. vi. 17) This was undoubtedly addressed to the Corinthian Christians as a caution to abstain from the idolatrous practices of the heathen around them. But on this principle of analogy, we should see that there is no impropriety in enlarging and extending the application. The resemblance would be most full and perfect between them; and Christians living now in the midst of idolatrous and unconverted heathen, as is the case in many parts of India, this exhortation then would apply most closely to this case. Or, if there were a body of idolatrous Christians with whom God's
* President Edwards' History of Redemption. Period the third. Some short remarks on the right of extending interpretation by analogy, will be found in the beginning of Bishop Butler's first Sermon on Human Nature.
servants had communication and intercourse, as the Church of Rome, a secondary application might with justice be extended to them. Or, lastly, if the believer is surrounded by a world, many of whose customs, max. ims, practices, pursuits, proclaim a spiritual idolatry, rendered by it to the “god of this world,” it would be not improperly, though of course less strictly, applied to such a case as this : Come out from among them in these evil customs and ungodly practices, and be ye separate. But, on the other hand, we must not forget a due caution in thus dealing with Scripture ; and it is better to keep within the range of a legitimate interpretation, than bring discredit on that Holy Book by loose, fanciful, and unwarranted explanations of its text.
THE BOOK AND THE MISSIONARY. A LITTLE more than twenty years ago a youth of about seventeen years of age, the subject of true piety, having entered at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, with a view to the bar, the study of mathematics so enraptured him, that he pursued it most ardently day and night, and grudged every moment taken from it, except a short period for devotion. So assiduous were his studies, that after remaining there only five terms, had he gone up for the examination, he would have obtained a scholarship. But the great Head of the Church had determined to confer upon him a higher honour than any that a university conld bestow, namely, that of preaching to the perishing heathen the unsearchable riches of Christ. One Sunday, when he was looking over some religious pamphlets which he had brought from his father's library, he happened to alight upon the Memoir of Mrs. Mead, wife of the Rev. C. Mead, missionary in Travancore. The perusal of this so powerfully impressed his mind with the importance of consecrating himself to missionary work, that when he began to study mathematics again, on the Monday morning, he found he could not proceed; and every time he read this memoir it had the same effect; so that at last he determined to give up the bar, and to devote himself to the work of Christ among the heathen.