« PoprzedniaDalej »
Scripture, with the answers of the Protestants, may consult Spanheim's Chamicr. contract, p. 237, &c.
(3.) The Jews are highly delighted with manifold senses of Scripture. There has, indeed, been among them a sect;, called Karaites, who were for a literal and just interpretation of Scripture. But that has ever been an unpopular fect, and hated by the Rabbies, and by the Jews in general.,
The Rabbies, (as has been already observed) affert “ that the
Scripture has feventy-two faces." And the Rabbics are the pular, learned med among the Jews, who are had in the highest esteem and veneration. The Jews, therefore, cannot but be pleased to fee Chriftians imitating their Rabbies. And, indeed, I know of pothing that could fo effcctually cover the Jews from the attacks of Christians, or harden them in their infidelity, as the giving into double interpretations, Tora Jew might argue thus with a Christian, who allows double senses. “Suppose your Messiah has come, and “ fulfilled the prophecies in one lense; the Meffian, whom we ex“ peet, may come, and fulfil those very prophecies in another sense. “ And why may not we, Jews, take the sense of the prophecies $ which we like beft; as well as you, Chriftians, take the sense of " then which you like best, especially as you yourselves allow that in the prophecies are fairly capable of more senses than one?”
I do not know what folid reply such a Christian could make to a Jew, who should argue in that manner. Nay, if another Messiah 1hould come, and aniwer the prefent opinion and expectation of most of the Jews ; yet such, as would not receive him, might argue in the same way for the coining of another :--and so on without end.
(4.) The, enemies of revelation are glad to see Chriftians pleading for double fenses; because it affords the greatest advantage to them and their cause.. What a poor figure would Mr. Collins's two books make, if the prophecies were interpreted in their one, true, and proper fignification; and all the invftical, double, senfes of them were denied, and rejected by Chritians! What indecent rhodomontade would Mr. Woolston's discourses on our Lord's miracles appear to be, if you take away the mystical, allegorical interpretations, and explain them in their juft and literal meaning! Whenever the author of Christianity as old as the creation” is pinched with the reasonbleness of the litoral sense of Scripture, he has recourle to a myitical, allegorical interpretation; and then, to support that, he, in a very ridiculous manner, cries out, “ The letter * killeh, but the spirit giveth life.” The author of “ Christianity “ not founded in argument” would prefently be ftruck dumb, if you denied double fentes; and would not allow him to fix his own fanciful, and even contradictory, interpretations upon texts of Scripture at his pleasure. And all the little dealers in infidelity fly to this refuge, when the one, true, sense of Scripture is so apparently Jeasonable and excellent, that they have nothing to object against.it.
Considering these things, methinks it is high time for Christians in general to be upon their guard, and not give way to double in
terpretations ; which would gratify their enemies, and render it more difficult to defend the Chriftian revelation.
Words, without a fixed meaning, convey no doctrine ; and in effect contain no revelation at all. Antecedent to one's opening the Bible, if one was told that it was a revelation from God, one would expect that the doctrines essential to salvation should be expressed clearly ; because men are concerned to understand and believe thein : that the rules of practice, or the precepts of an holy life, should have a single and determinate meaning ; because men are concerned to understand and practise them. For, if their fenle were dubious, the practice formed upon them could not be steady and uniform. The promises should be clear and express ; because they are to infuence men as motives to obedience ; and the threatenings Thould be intelligible, and their meaning fixed, because they are to deter men from sin and disobedience. The rules of divine worship ought to be express and determinate, and the language of our worship clear and intelligible; otherwise, we might as well worlhip in an unknown tongue. For all divine worship ought to be entirely in subordination to moral virtue, or true holiness. And it cannot influence God in our favour, unless it intiuence us to an holy temper and life. But what has no certain meaning 'cannot be expected to edify us, or to have any good and proper influence upon us. The facred history should be plain and intelligible; because it relates the most interesting events, events of public concern, and great importance to mankind.
We juftly condemn the answers of the Heathen oracles, as riddies, dark and obscure, vague and indeterminate, capable of being turned many ways, without certainly knowing which fenfe was intended, or in what way they are to be understood. But divine prophecies should be intelligible, and have one determinate meaning; that it may be known when and how they are accomplished. We admire it as an excellence in Homer, and other celebrated writers of antiquity, that their meaning is expressed clearly; and may not we expect, when God speaks to men, that his meaning lhould be expressed in as clear and determinate a manner?
In one word, if the Scriptures are not to be interpreted, like the best ancient authors, in their one, true, and genuine meaning, the common people will be led to doubt, whether or no the Scriptures have any certain meaning at all. They will be for ever at a lofs what to believe, and what to practise, upon what to ground their comfort here, and their hope of everlasting falvation hereafter.
By all that has been said, I would not be understood to intimate, that all texts are to be interpreted alike. No! general expreffions muft contain a number of particulars under them ; though particular expressions must be confined and limited to particular cafes. All texts are not to be interpreted in the literal sense ; nor all texts in the allegorical or figurative fenfe.-- What I contend for is, that everv text has only one meaning; which when we have found, we need enquire no further. Literal passages ought to be interpreted brerally; figurative pallages, tiguratively. Historical narrations are
to be understood historically : and allegorical passages ought to be interpreted allegorically. In parables, the fact is nothing, but as it illustrates, or inculcates, the moral, or application. In figurative, or allegorical, passages, the thing alluded to, in the figure, or alle gory, is only to enliven or illustrate what is said. And he would act'as unreasonable a part, who would interpret figurative expreffions literally; as he, who would interpret literal expreflions figuratively. The obvious and gramınatical, or the rhetorical and figurative, fense of the words, the time and place, the charakter and situation of the speaker or writer, and the relation which any passage has to his main view, or to the connection, will, in moft cases, lead an interpreter easily to distinguish history from parable or allegory, and literal representations from such as are mystical or figurative. And the judgement of a true critic, or faithful interpreter of holy Scripture, will very much appear therein. But fancy and imagination are boundless; and no rules nor limits can be set to them.
THE prophecies have been thought to favour double senses the moit of any part of holy Scripture. But, perhaps, upon examination, they do not really require or admit of luch an interpretation. Dr. Sykes (in his Connection between natural and revealed Religion) has a whole chapter, to thew that the ancient prophecies contained only one single sense. And that chapter I would recomvend to the reader's perusal.
Some particular passages I would now consijer.
(1.) If the second and fixteenth Plains can be shewn quite throughout to agree to king David; then they ought to be interpreted of him. But if (as lome judicious persons have thought) there be in them some expressions, which arc not applicable to king David, then they should be interpreted wholly concerning the Messiah ; to whom they do in every part very well agree.
(2.) The seventy-second Psalm has generally been applied to king Solomon, but some have thought that it was a prophecy of the Messiah ; and that there are, in it, paílages which were not applicable to king Solomon, If so; then I apprehend the Psalm ought not to be applied to him at all. For, if the interpretation will not go through, that very circumstance seems to be a plain proof that the interpreter has set out wrong. Some of the ancient Jews were of opinion, that several things, in this Pfalm, belong more properly to the Messiah than to Solomon. And Theodoret, in his interpretation, supposes that king David, in this Psalm, prophesies of nothing else but the Messiah ; and that he hath no respect to Solo
The passages, which could not belong to king Solomon and his subjects, are such as these, (ver. 5. “ They Thall fear him, “ as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations."
“ In his days shall the righteous flourish ; and abundance “ of peace, so long as the moon endures." Ver. in. " Tea all
“ kings shall bow down before him, all nations shall serve him.'
“ His name shall endure for ever ; his name shall be con“tinued, as long as the sun; and men shall be bleffed in him. “ All nations shall call him blessed.] : As to the passages, which have been thought inconsistent with the Pfalm's being a prophecy of the Messiah, “ Ver. 1. He is called “ [a King, and the king's fon”). But was not our Lord a king? and “ the fon of him, who is King of kings, and Lord of lords?” Or, by “the king," fome may understand David himself; and, by “ the king's son,” his great descendent, the Messiah. (See Matth. ii. 1. and xxii. 42. Mark xi. 10.). Though the Chaldee interpreteth " the king” to be Chrift. And several, that interpret the Pialm of Solomon, suppose that he is called both“ the king” and “ the king's “ fon.” Ver. 15. " Praver, also, shall be made for him continually; " and daily shall he be praifed." The former part of this verfe has been thought to be an objection againit interpreting the pfalm of the Messiah. Somė, indeed, have understood it of praying before, or to, him. But is not prayer made for him continually; when his disciples daily pray, " Thy king.lum come.” “ dom of the Meiliah be set up, where it is not; and have more in“ fluence, where it is already set up!" Is not this praying for the Melliah? or for the enlargement and success of his kingdom ; which is, in this pfalm, so beautifully described, as a kingdom of truth and righteousnets? The latter part of the verse [“ daily shall “ he be praised") is most applicable to the Messiah, our blessed Lord and Saviour. And I do not see any thing in that psalm, but what exacly suites his great and glorious character.
(3.) The famous prophecy, llai. vii. 14. quoted by St. Matthew [ch. j. 22, 23.), has been thought to contain a double sense. Or else, St. Matthew's application of it (as it is supposed) cannot be vindicated. It has been said, “ that Ifaiah spoke the words, not of " the Messiah, but of his own child; whose birth of a young
woman was given as a fign, that Jerusalem should be delivered, “ before the child should be able to speak plain. The prophecy, “ then, óbeing literally fulfilled in the prophet's days, it is forced “ and unnatural to fix a figurative, which is another, interpretation, upon
the text.” But this objection will appear to have no foundation, when it is considered that the prophecy was originally and literally intended for our Saviour's miraculous birth ; and literally accomplished in that remarkable event: and that there are in reality two prediétions or prophecies delivered in that chapter ; viz. one concerning “ the “ house of David,” which should not be then deftroyed (as king Alaz and his people were afraid); but continue till the Mefliah came, who ihould be born of a virgin. And the other prophecy was, that king Ahaz's two enemies thould, in a few years, be destroyed; and unable to moleft him, or his kingdom, any more.
Abaz, king of Judali, was then in the utmost distraštion at the invasion whicb threatened Jerusalem, his capital city, from the two
neighbouring and confederate kings of Syria and Israel. To comfort him in this conjuncture, Isaiah is fent of God, with a message to king Ahaz, to let him know that their counsels and attempts 1hould prove ineffectual.
Isai. viii. 18. The prophet himself informs us, “ Behold I, and " the children, whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and % for wonders in Israel, from the Lord of hosts, who dwelleth in "s mount Zion.” And accordingly he is ordered [Ifai. vii. 3:}, 4 to go and meet king Ahaz in such a place; and to take with him
Shear-jashub, his son.” And, when the prophet came up to the king, carrying his little boy in his arms, or leading him in his hand, for a fign, as God had commanded him, he found the king and his nobles viewing the walls of the city under the utmoft dejection. “ For his heart was moved, and the heart of his peqple,” at the rumour of the confederacy, “ as the trees of the wood are moved 56 with the wind.” (Ver. 2.). And the prophet would have comforted them with the divine message whiuh he brought. To that end, he compared the two hoftile kings to two firebrands, who 1hould smoke, but never burn; and foretold the speedy fate of their kingdoms. Bu king Ahaz and his nobles seem to have paid lit:!e regard to the divine message. Then the prophet spoke again to the king, and offered him the choice of any fign, in the depth beneath, or in the height above. But king Ahaz, in a fullen humour, refused to ak any fign. And he and his counsellors des spised the prophet, and distruited God. Since then king Ahaz him. ielf refused to atk any fign, and the house of David was so greatly moved and affe&ted, God, by the prophet, faid, “ Hear ye now, Ó " loute of David, I will give you a lign, · Beliold, a virgin thall
conceive, and bear a fon; and shall call his name Immanuel," * that is, God with us. The line of David, therefore, shall not “ be cut off, till this remarkable event happen, and the Mefliah be
bor:1, in a miraculous manner, and of a pure virgin.”
Now this is a literal predi&tion, and was exactly accomplished, some hundreds years after, in the person of our blessed Lord; the only perfon, to whom fuch a prophecy can be literally applied. And this prophecy is addrelled, in the plural number, to the houie of David.
The following is a distinct prophecy, addressed to king Ahaz, ini the singular number; and has a particular regard to him and to his danger at that time. The prophet Isaiah, pointing (moft probablv) to his son, Shear-jashub, whoin God had commanded him to bring along with him, and constituted a tign unto lfarei ;---ponting (I lay) to his own fon, who was prelent, though very young, he said, Butter and honey thall he cat; that he may know to re* fufe the evil, and choose the good : [that is, this child shall partake “ of thie peace and undisturbed plenty of the land). Surely; before as this child (7937 hanachar] thall know how to refuse evil, and “ choose what is good, the land, which thou, O Ahaz, abhorrell, * Thall be forfaken of both her kings. In other words, a year or "two's time fhall deliver you from all your fears.”