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ing prophecy in its obvious literal meaning, and history in its manifest literal facts. If it be improper to interpret Moses and the Prophets literally, then history cannot be appealed to for evidence of inspiration. On the contrary, if it be proper to appeal to the facts of history as evidence of inspiration, then the literal interpretation of Moses and the Prophets is established.
“That the people of a single state (which was of very limited extent and power, in comparison of some of the monarchies which surrounded it) should first have been rooted out of their own land in anger, wroth, and great indignation,—the like of which was never experienced by the mightiest among the ancient empires, which all fell imperceptibly away at a lighter stroke; and that afterwards, though scattered among all nations, and finding no ease among them all, they should have withstood eighteen centuries of almost unremitted persecution; and that after so many generations have elapsed, they should still retain their distinctive form, or, as it may be called, their individuality of character, is assuredly the most marvellous event that is recorded in the history of nations. And if it be not acknowledged as a "sign," it is in reality, as well as in appearance, "a wonder” the most inexplicable within the province of the philosophy of history. But that, after the endurance of such manifold woes, such perpetual spoliation, and so many ages of unmitigated suffering, during which their life was to hang in doubt within them, they should still be, as actually they are, the possessors of great wealth; and that this fact should so strictly accord with the prophecy, which describes them on their final restoration to Judea, as taking their silver and their gold with them, and taking the riches of the Gentiles;* and also, that, though captives or fugitives, “few in number, the miserable remnant of an extinguished kingdom at the time they were “scattered abroad,” they should be at this hour a numerous people; and that this should have been expressly implied in the prophetic declaration, descriptive of their condition on their restoration to Judea, after their wanderings, that the land should be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and that the place shall not be found for them,t are facts which as clearly shew, to those who consider them at all, the operation of an over-ruling Providence, as the revelation of such an inscrutable destiny is the manifest dictate of inspiration.
Such are the prophecies, and such are the facts, respecting the Jews; and from premises like these, the feeblest logician may draw a moral demonstration. If they had been utterly * Isaiah Ix. 9, lxi. 6.
+ Isaiah xlix. 19. Zech. x. 10.
destroyed; if they had mingled among the nations; if, in the space of nearly eighteen centuries after their dispersion, they had become extinct as a people; even if they had been secluded in a single region, and had remained ununited; if their history had been analogous to that of any nation upon the earth, an attempt might, with some plausibility or reason, have been made to shew cause why the prediction of their fate, however true to the fact, ought not, in such a case, to be sustained as evidence of the truth of inspiration. Or if the past history and present state of the Jews were not of a nature so singular and peculiar, as to bear out to the very letter the truth of the prophecies concerning them, with what triumph would the infidel have produced those very prophecies, as fatal to the idea of the inspiration of the Scriptures. And when the Jews have been scattered throughout the whole earth; when they have remained everywhere a distinct race; when they have been despoiled evermore, and yet never destroyed; when the most wonderful and amazing facts, such as never occurred among any people, form the ordinary narrative of their history, and fulfil literally the prophecies concerning them, may not the believer challenge his adversary to the production of such credentials of the faith that is in him? They present an unbroken chain of evidence, each link a prophecy and a fact, extending throughout a multitude of generations, and not yet terminated. Though the events, various and singular as they are, have been brought about by the instrumentality of human means, and the agency of secondary causes, yet they are equally prophetic and miraculous; for the means were as impossible to be foreseen as the end; and the causes were as inscrutable as the event; and they have been, and still in numberless instances are, accomplished by the instrumentality of the enemies of Christianity. Whoever seeks a miracle, may here behold a sign and a wonder, than which there cannot be a greater. And the Christian may bid defiance to all the assaults of his enemies from this stronghold of Christianity, impenetrable and impregnable on every side.
These prophecies concerning the Jews are as clear as a narrative of the events. They are ancient as the oldest records in existence; and it has never been denied, that they were all delivered before the accomplishment of one of them. They were so unimaginable by human wisdom, that the whole compass of nature has never exhibited a parallel to the events. And the facts are visible, and present, and applicable even to a hairbreadth. Could Moses, as an uninspired mortal, have described the history, the fate, the dispersion, the treatment, the dispositions of the Israelites to the present day, or for two
thousand two hundred years; seeing that he was astonished and amazed, on his descent from Sinai, at the change in their sentiments and in their conduct in the space of forty days? Could various persons have testified, in different ages, of the self-same and similar facts, as wonderful as they have proved to be true? Could they have divulged so many secrets of futurity, when of necessity they were utterly ignorant of them all? The probabilities were infinite against them; for the mind of man often fluctuates in uncertainty over the nearest events, and the most probable results; but, in regard to remote ages, when thousands of years shall have elapsed, and to facts respecting them, contrary to all previous knowledge, experience, analogy, or conception, it feels that they are dark as death to mortal ken. And, viewing only the dispersion of the Jews, and some of its attendant circumstances—how their city was laid desolate—their temple, which formed the constant place of their resort before, levelled with the ground, and ploughed over like a field-their country ravaged, and themselves murdered in mass-falling before the sword, the famine, and the pestilence;-how a remnant was left, but despoiled, persecuted, enslaved, and led into captivity;-driven from their own land, not to a mountainous retreat, where they might subsist with safety, but dispersed among all nations, and left to the mercy of a world that everywhere hated and oppressed them ;-shattered in pieces like the wreck of a vessel in a mighty storm; -scattered over the earth like fragments on the waters, and, instead of disappearing, or mingling with the nations, remaining a perfectly distinct people, in every kingdom the same, retaining similar habits and customs, and creeds, and manners, in every part of the globe;-though without ephod, teraphim, or sacrifice-meeting everywhere the same insult, and mockery, and oppression—finding no resting-place, without an enemy soon to dispossess them—multiplying amidst all their miseries-surviving their enemies—beholding, unchanged, the extinction of many nations, and the convulsions of all-robbed of their silver and of their gold, though cleaving to the love of them still, as the stumbling-block of their iniquity-often bereaved of their very children-disjoined and disorganized, but uniform and unaltered-ever bruised, but never brokenweak, fearful, sorrowful, and afflicted-often driven to madness, at the spectacle of their own misery-taken up in the lips of talkers—the taunt, and hissing, and infamy of all people; and continuing ever, what they are at this day, the sole proverb common to the whole world: how did every fact, from its very nature, defy all conjecture; and how could mortal man, overlooking a hundred successive generations, have
foretold any one of these wonders that are now conspicuous in these latter times? Who but the Father of Spirits, possessed of perfect prescience, even of the knowledge, of the will, and of the actions of free, intelligent, and moral agents, could have revealed their unbounded, and yet unceasing wanderings; unveiled all their destiny, and unmasked the minds of the Jews and of their enemies in every age and clime? The creation of a world might as well be the work of chance as the revelation of these things. It is a visible display of the power and of the prescience of God; an accumulation of many miracles. And although it forms but a part of a small portion of the Christian evidence, it lays not only a stone of stumbling, such as infidels would try to cast in a Christian path, but it fixes an insurmountable barrier at the very threshold of infidelity; immoveable by all human device, and impervious to every attack.”*'
Is this satisfactory, and felt to be conclusive as regards the past? Doubtless it is, completely so. Let all those who feel it to be so, consider candidly on what principle of prophetic interpretation this satisfaction is founded. When Moses and the Prophets spoke of the dispersion of Judah and Israel, did they mean literally what they said? When they described the persecutions, and oppressions, and miseries of that people in all ages, did they mean literally the lineal descendants in the flesh of that nation, as distinguished from all other nations? And did they mean to say, that those lineal descendants in the flesh of the Jewish people, generation after generation, would be scattered abroad from their own country, among the nations of all countries? This question is fraught with consequences. If Moses and the Prophets, when they spoke of Judah and Israel, meant some other people, (e. g. Christians among the Gentiles); and if, when they spoke of dispersion and persecution, they meant some other thing, (e. g. a distressed state of mind;) then the historical facts to which Keith refers are not fulfilments of the prophecies. They happen, indeed, to agree with the language of the prophets interpreted literally. But the prophecies must not be interpreted literally; and, therefore, these facts must not be received as fulfilments. Such is the auxiliary which infidelity finds in the rejection of literal interpretation.
But on the other hand. If the facts adduced be indeed the fulfilments of the prophecies referred to, then the literal interpretation of prophecy is established. And such an interpretation of the prophecies which are as yet unfulfilled, will give the facts which are to be scripturally anticipated. It is established, for example, that when Moses and the
Prophets write Judah and Israel, they mean Jews in literal, lineal descent in the flesh, and not Christians of the Gentiles: that when they write dispersion from their land among all nations, they mean literally the land of Judea, and literally nations in other lands: that when they write captivity, persecution, sword, famine, pestilence; they mean literally those calamities which have accordingly come literally to pass. When, therefore, in the same contexts they go on to write deliverance from captivity and persecution, restoration to their own land, from all countries whither they have been scattered, resettlement in their old estates, and national glory, honour, and power, and peace, under the Son of David, their king, what do they mean?”* Is the character of their language fundamentally altered, because the fulfilment of it has not yet become history to us? Is there any talismanic power in the particular age of the world wherein we chance to live, that up to this time the language of the prophecies should be taken literally; but after this time it must not be taken literally? And is our faith so mingled with infidelity, that, although by the help of history we can acknowledge that events which have occurred were predicted, we cannot on the strength of prophecy alone feel confident that events predicted will occur? It is a serious question, how far we are enabled to adventure the confidence of our hearts upon the bare word of God without a voucher. In matters of doctrine and experience it is difficult to ascertain. Prophecy supplies a test, and cordially to anticipate without wavering, the fulfilment of Allt that the prophets have spoken, is to honour the faithfulness of our God.
*"For thus saith the Lord: Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people; SO will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them." Jer. xxxii. 42. + St. Luke xxiv. 25.
St. Jude's, July, 1838.