« AnteriorContinuar »
cally related to David, in an allegorical and sublime sense to CHRIST, was altogether at variance with the precepts of correct and sober interpretation, and that if one should venture to treat in this way any Greek or Roman author (!) he would deservedly subject himself to censure by all considerate per
Quite consistenly with this most profound canon, he thinks it sufficient to say of the words of Isaiah: “This verse is accommodated by Matthew to John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Messiah”! without stopping to inquire, what is necessary to be proved before the principle of accommodation can logically be applied. Let us hear the orthodox Dr. Lee, who can, no more than his neological antipode endure the idea of a double sense, although he has arrived at his result by a very different process of reasoning, and on grounds vastly more rational and religious. “ Isaiah xl, is thought to be such a prophecy,” one that requires what he calls “ a double interpretation ;" “ because, it is said, it must primarily relate to the delivery from Babylon. To show this, we have considerable talent, poetical imagery, and some fine writing displayed. I doubt, nevertheless, whether the whole of this is not a mere delusion. The New Testament is quite sufficient to show that it applies to the times of Christ. Some passages which it contains seem also to show, that it never could have applied to the temporal Jerusalem. The Apostolic interpretation, therefore, is the just one ; and every other ought to be rejected as worthless and mischievous. The vagueness of all this is evident. No Christian doubts the truth of the Apostolic interpretation ; but this does not prove that other points beside those which the Apostles have determined to have been intended, were not also comprehended in the original prediction. The Christian inquirer, who would learn the true nature of prophecy, can not be satisfied with either of these views. He must regard them both as superficial, and not meeting either the demands of this particular case, or those required by the general analogy of prophecy.
The restoration from the Babylonian exile, then, is not the only, nor indeed the leading topic of the prophecies in the last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah. This is rather the historical fact which the prophet sometimes introduces, and oftener alludes to, in order to bring the more graphically before the consideration of his Hebrew readers, the "return to the
* Dissertation on the Interpretation of Prophecy, &c. p. 277.
Mighty God,"* of that elect remnant of his ancient people, who should embrace the true Messiah, and unite with themselves that multitude whom no man can number, selected from the whole world that lieth in wickedness ; both of whom, in intimate connection, not only with each other, but also with their Divine Head, constitute that Church, exxindia, to whom are made the exceeding great and precious promises.
If, however, this restoration were the prominent subject of Isaiah's later chapters, and if it were true that their illustrations are drawn from it, it would by no means follow that those chapters are not the work of Isaiah. Such a supposition assumes that a writing must contain nothing beyond the grasp of its own or immediately connected time, and be shaped in accordance with it. And this is to assume the very point in debate. For if the writing be a prophetic writing, it must contain something more, and it may take a different form. In fairness of reasoning, the latter portion of Isaiah ought not to be brought under consideration at all in this discussion. Our author says, very truly, that
"It is, in fact, a begging of the question to deny that it was the prophetic lisage to borrow local and historical allusions from future times, when that denial really involves an allegation that it is not so in the case before us.” (P. XIX.)
On the other hand, however, we must not appeal to this portion in proof of the opposite, as this would be to assume its proper prophetic character. Neither is it enough to know that prophets might“ speak of a real future," as poets do of an ideal one. It must be proved by an induction of particulars, that they do so speak. The result of examination on this point would, we think, establish the affirmative in a considerable degree, but not to such an extent as to form ordinary and general usage.
And the true principle of exposition would seem to be this ;—that the manner and coloring, the images and allusions, of a composition, ought to be regarded as indicative of the time of the author, unless it may be proved on other grounds, that he belonged to a different age.
There is still another consideration, which has direct and evident bearing on the period of time in which the writer of the latter chapters of Isaiah lived. Allowing that allusions to the captivity may often be traced in them, it is undeniable that they contain at least as frequent allusions to a previous existing condition of the people of Israel. The lvi, and three
* Isaiah x, 21,
following chapters, as well as certain other portions, represent a state of things which can not be made to harmonize with that of the Hebrews during the captivity ; while it is certain that they may describe the condition of Isaiah's age. Here then we have a coloring apparently different from that which is said to bring out in bold relief the Chaldean oppressions, and to determine the later period to be that of the author. And which of the two are we to assume as decisive? If we found our conclusions on the one, we fix the captivity as the date of the composition ; if we are governed duly by the other, the author must have lived long before. But what shall we do with both classes of facts, each equally true; those stubborn things that will stand so unaccomodatingly in the way of imperfect theories ? It is plain that we must adopt a theory that may explain both; and that is, that the author is the same person and lived in the same age, as has always been asserted by the old and competent witnesses ; and moreover, that, “moved by the Holy Ghost," he predicts a state of things still future, while he occasionally describes the present as it lies within the scope of his natural view. In a word, after all the efforts of neology, and they are neither few nor trifling, we are forced back again on the old, plain, and beaten track of simple inspiration, without which it is impossible to explain the palpable facts.
It is curious to remark, and no less interesting to observe the fact, as affording a striking comment on the illusions of the human mind, when deceived by the ignis fatuus of misguiding error, that the very same class of thinkers and writers on the subject of revelation, as connected with the Old Testament, have maintained the very opposite grounds. Formerly, those who rejected the doctrine of divine revelation, regarded the Hebrew prophets as visionary enthusiasts, men of overheated imagination, expressing themselves with an inaccuracy and obscurity, which, while it made them unintelligible to others, proved that they themselves had no very clear conception of their own meaning. Hence it would follow of course, that they must have been an ignorant set of men, and their productions must be marked by error and absurdity. But on the other hand, ask the German disciple of rationalism, in what light he regards the Hebrew prophets? He will tell you, that they were men of extensive information, profound wisdom, enlarged views of the political and religious state of their own and of surrounding nations, strongly attached to the theocracy, able to penetrate further into the probable results of causes in operation, than most others; men, who were enlightened politicians, thoroughly acquainted with the history of past ages, with the government and institutions, not only of their own country, but of other people ; perfectly conversant with the springs of human action, and particularly with the political views of nations, connected by interest and policy with the Jews. They were men of extraordinary sagacity, and, from the well-known operations of causes, with which they were familiar, were able to calculate with moral certainty the results which they predicted and announced as oracles from God; men who held an honorable station in the community, and in point of influence and practical authority, were among the chief of the nation. But although the attempts to support this scheme are exceedingly plausible, nothing is more certain, than that its defenders have been obliged to disregard all evidence militating against it, derivable from history. They have been compelled to abandon the authenticity of several works, although it has been uniformly supported by a plain and undeniable tradition of the people of whose literature they make a part, reaching, so far as we are able to judge, up to the days of their respective authors. They have been compelled to adopt interpretations which are not merely at variance with those generally received, but also with the whole character of the Bible, as such, and better suited to the fables of oriental mythology ; interpretations assumed without proof of the theory on which they rest, and contradictory and frigid in the results that they exhibit. Such a scheme is utterly inadequate to explain the Hebrew prophecies. Still, it is well to note, that they are acknowledged to contain specimens of genius of the highest order, and as such to deserve the attention of every scholar, by men whose profound learning must place them at the very head of all literary circles. A Hebrew prophet is neither an ignorant fanatic nor a sagacious politician. He is a divinely directed teacher of the true religion, and such teachers were promised to his nation by the inspired Moses. It is not essential to the character of a prophet, as such, that he shall be endowed with the power of forseeing future events, although such power was evidently possessed by many of them. In either capacity, as a divine teacher of the true religion, and as a seer to look into the ages to come, it is plain that the influence by which he is guided is not destructive of his own powers, whether of native genius, or as strengthened by education. Consequently, it leaves him in the free exercise of his imagination, of his mental faculties, and of his feelings. These may be chastened and controuled by education, discipline, society, and various other causes; or may run wild, as it would appear to a cold western reader, in all the luxuriance of oriental nature, splendid in its seeming extravagance. The style of each writer is formed, as in other cases, by the usual circumstances, and therefore, in some works it is purer, or more sententious, or more ornamental, or more sublime, than in others. But, in all cases, the inspiration is the very life of the writing. A denial of this, and an assumption of the truth of statements which can not be proved, and which, if the writings in question are genuine, are demonstrably false, characterize the neological school, and are the very basis of its reasonings. Give it the tõu otń, and it will naturally proclaim the boastful Vaunt, τόν κόσμον κινήσω.
The author turns the tables on the neologists by inquiring into the legitimate objections to their theory. We must content ourselves with quoting the following passage, recommending the whole Introduction as worthy of careful study.
“These objections may all be reduced to this, that the oblivion of the author's name and history is more inexplicable, not to say incredible, than any thing about the other doctrine can be to a believer in prophetic inspiration. This is a difficulty which no ingenuity has ever yet been able to surmount. That a writer, confessedly of the highest genius, living at one of the most critical junctures in the history of Israel, when the word of God began to be precious and prophetic inspiration rare, should have produced such a series of prophecies as this, with such effects upon the exiles, and even upon Cyrus, as tradition ascribes to them, and then have left them to the admiration of all future ages, without so much as a trace of his own personality about them, is a phenomenon of literary history compared with which the mystery of Junius is as nothing. It would be so, even if we had no remains of the same period to compare with these; but how immensely is the improbability enhanced by the fact, that the other prophets of the exile, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zachariah, are not only well-known and easily identified, but minutely accurate in the chronological specifications of their prophecies, a feature absolutely wanting in those chapters, though alledged to be the work of a contemporary writer.” (p. xxv.)
It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that these chapters can not be the production of a later writer.
The length to which our remarks on the chief topic of the author's Introduction have extended, reminds us of the necessity of limiting our observations on the book itself. This is a sequel to a former volume on the earlier prophecies of Isaiah. In the first place, we congratulate the Church at large, and especially the lovers of the Bible, on the appearance of two large octavo volumes on the writings of the Evangelical prophet, marked by accurate and fundamental knowledge, as well as by a general tone of pious feeling and sound sense ; more especially as the last characteristic is by no means predicable of all,