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to be assumed without defence, and without proof :
1. That some prophecies have a meaning so hidden, obscure and concealed, as not to be understood, until their fulfilment.
2. That some prophecies have a mysterious meaning-a double sense-a literal and a spiritual application.
3. That times and seasons are to be taken in an enlarged signification, by which a day is made the representative of a year.
Such principles of interpretation render every thing vague and indefinite. Fancy is left to revel in wild luxuriance, and imagination is permitted to roam the fields of conjecture, in fixing the application of Scripture prophecy. Invention is called into exercise, each individual has an interpretation of his own, and prophetic revelation has its fulfilment in various events and circumstances. To this source is to be attributed many of the conflicting views that have obtained in the world.
The infidel sees in such differences a “confusion of tongues," and with a kind of triumphant satisfaction concludes, that so long as the expounders of the teachings of revelation are disagreed in their application, it is made pretty evident that they are so
vague and indefinite, as to admit of different interpretations, and therefore, like the ambiguous auguries of heathenish superstition, are of human invention designed to impose on the credulous.
Principles of interpretation attended with such results ought not to be received, until due investigation proves the necessity of their adoption. The maintenance of our holy religion depends very much on correct modes of interpreting the Divine word. It may be thought presumptuous to call in question these principles, adopted and maintained as they are, so generally by the learned in Biblical science. But when we see a system of interpretation admitting of such diversity of opinion in the application of Scripture testimony, there is some reason for doubting the correctness of the principles leading to such results.
It must be obvious to every reflecting mind, that if prophecy is so occult and mysterious as not to be comprehended and understood till fulfilled it can be no revelation to those to whom the communications are made, and of course of no available account. Is it reasonable to suppose that God would reveal truths to the human race in language that is incomprehensible? Of what service would be such instructions ? Such a revelation would imply a design of imparting useful information,--truths, so important as to demand superhuman effort for their communication. Accordingly, on reading the word of prophecy, it is made quite obvious, that the lessons taught were designed for warning, reproof, admonition, encouragement, hope, and joy. But revelation could have answered no such purpose, if the ideas and sentiments expressed, if the sayings and declarations made were not to be comprehended and understood.
It is very justly asserted by an apostle of Jesus Christ, that "all Scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect—thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
If God make an intelligible revelation to man, it is evident, he must make it in such terms, and phrases, and modes of expression and style of language, as are in common use among the people to whom the communication is made. Of course, such revelation is to be interpreted, as any other book is to be explained. No mystical, enigmatieal meaning is to be attached to it, except
what is necessarily associated with references, allusions, figures, symbols, and em·blematical representations.
The double sense given Scripture testimony, affords every one the opportunity of placing such a construction on the Divine word as his fancy shall dictate. There can be no uniformity of interpretationno criterion to determine which is right and what is wrong.
It is not probable that infinite Wisdom would address mankind in a way that would render his communication liable to such misconstruction, and we should seek for its meaning and application in the same manner,
that would investigate the subject matter embraced in other productions.
Conscious of the injury done to the credibility of Scripture inspiration, and the cause of truth, by such exceptionable principles of interpretation, it was an object of the author of the following Lectures, to show that a more literal, rational, and natural mode of explanation might be adopted, and yet find an equal fulfilment of prophetic predictions, without any draught on imaginative fancy. He indulges the hope, that his endeavors to aid the redemption of Scripture inspiration from the discredit
into which it has fallen, and the reproach it has received in consequence of speculative construction, will not be entirely fruitless; that the developements of truth being made in the halls of Sacred Literature will rescue the revelation of God from the sable folds of mysticism which ages of superstition have thrown around it, and bring it forth to view in its native loveliness.
The narrations of the Hebrew Prophets, embrace descriptions of natural history, as well as events relating to individuals. Concerning the people mentioned in these prophecies, the great mass know but little. Consequently much of Hebrew prophecy is not understood by Christians generally. Some scarcely find time to read history sufficiently to enable them to understand acurately the application of prophetic predictions. Some who have leisure, do not feel interest enough in the subject to attend to the labor. And few indeed, have the means of investigation. Much of the Old Testament therefore, is unintelligible to common readers; and when perused affords no great satisfaction.
Being unacquainted with the subject of prophecy, and with its literal application and fulfilment, they are illy qualified to