Imagens das páginas

and perhaps we might safely say, of the larger portion of modern exposition. That the learned professor has not ventured on his task without a thorough acquaintance with the literature which has been brought to bear upon his author, is fully developed in every page of his production. With the Jewish writers and the German critics, as well as the commentators which are more accessible to ordinary readers, he shows a familiarity truly surprising. On some points he has almost exhausted all the learning that they have elicited, as one illustration of which, we may refer to his remarks on the term “ Sinim,” in xlix, 12, on pp. 178—185. And what is particularly commendable, he has shown himself to be a thoroughly grammatical interpreter, not atlernating from the principles which a careful examination of Hebrew grammar may be said to have settled, and not unnecessarily, like Houbigant and Lowth, altering the Masoretic text. The mischiefs which have resulted from these two sources of error are incalculable.

The frequency, however, with which the author presents the opinions of some late German critics, particularly Hitzig, Ewald, Knobel, and Hendewerk, and even of the Jewish Rabbies, serve rather to encumber the true sense, and might, we think, be advantageously modified. No advantage is gained by perpetuating very much of what is weak or far fetched, although some exhibition of the sort may be necessary, in order to illustrate the history of interpretation, and the strange diversity and obliquity of the human mind. In this connection, we can not forbear expressing our surprise, that, in a critical work, the remark of a preceding commentator should be introduced, who guards against the application of Isaiah x!, 9, to “justify boisterous preaching, or a loud and unnatural tone of voice, alike offensive to good taste, injurious to health, and destructive of the life of the preacher," and his inference from the same text, “that the glad tidings of salvation should be delivered in an animated and ardent manner; the future punishment of the wicked, in a tone serious, solemn, subdued, awful.” (p. 10.) It is possible that the position and object of Dr. Barnes might account for the introduction of such a suggestion, but we can conceive no good reason why Professor Alexander should have given it a place in his volume.

We highly approve of a careful adherence to the meaning of language as settled by usage. Usage developes the known facts, from which there must be no uncalled for deviation. But it is plain that the compass of comparatively few books, such as the Biblical volume comprehends, may not be sufficiently extended to exhibit all the usage which the living language allowed, in every particular case; and, therefore, we may occasionally venture to decide from the context and seeming necessity, when the sense obtained is natural and in harmony with analogy. Thus, for instance, although the author truly says, (p. 3,) that “ giving or receiving double in all the cases cited, has respect, not to punishment, but to favor after suffering ;" yet, inasmuch as it is quite natural to apply the word either to favor or chastisement, and the latter thought is the only one of which the context in Isaiah xl, 2, admits, his conclusion, that “the clause may be understood to mean, that Jerusalem has now received double favors, notwithstanding all her sins," is unfounded. Punishment, far beyond the ordinary degree is undoubtedly the meaning.

In connection with this illustration of carrying a right principle beyond its legitimate bearing, we venture to make another remark. The extravagance into which some late critics have run in making almost every thing in the latter chapters of Isaiah turn on the Babylonian captivity, has probably led our author occasionally to the opposite extreme. Thus, he affirms that a “specific application of the fortieth chapter to the return from Babylon, is without the least foundation in the text itself.” (p. 1.) In a certain sense, this may be allowed. It is not distinctly and specifically declared. But is it not implied? The warfare, or rather galling service sustained ; in other words, the punishment received, immediately afterwards mentioned, seems to describe the distresses experienced by the exiled captives—the subsequent verses seem to express in beautiful poetry the preparation for return under divine guidance and with a development of divine glory—the good news is required to be proclaimed from city to city—the divine omnipotence is pledged to produce the result—the beginning of the next chapter is clearly appropriate to the case of Cyrus," as the author himself avers, (p. 34,)—the general scope of much in the subsequent chapters, undoubtedly refers to the Babylonian captivity and Israel's deliverance. All this taken in connection, confirms the theory, that the application of the fortieth chapter to the return from Babylon is made on very probable grounds; although, as has been already said, not without an ultimate bearing, and which is principally within the scope of the prophecy, on the return of mankind to God, through Jesus, the divine deliverer.

Perhaps the most important point which an interpreter should aim at, and that in which he is most likely in some degree or other to fail of success, is to avoid the undue influence

of early prepossessions. It is not difficult to conceive, that early education and long cherished thought, and particularly the habit of regarding truth merely in one aspect, may have given such a tone to one's religious feelings and views, as to make them seem to arise most naturally from certain texts of scripture, while in truth nothing was further from the thought of the sacred writer. Indeed, in our present imperfect state, the hope of complete release from the thraldom which in some degree or other, oppresses the best and wisest of men, is entirely chimerical. At least, it is a fact, that all classes of interpreters have given evidence of being somewhat under such influence. The men, who by appropriating to themselves certain appellations which imply that they, more than others, are governed simply by reason, and that their thinking does more particularly deserve to be characterized as free, have undoubtedly shown themselves to be as fettered by prejudices, as the most ignorant and superstitious sciolists. And no wonder; for they choose to view sacred subjects in the light of the torch which themselves have kindled; and this they blazon abroad as if it were an all-illuminating sun, while it is only a feeble, flickering flame, generated by the fætid exhalations of a merely sensual or intellectual bottom, without any higher principle, which might give promise of brightness, increasing in strength and intensity, until the perfect day. And must it not be confessed, that a large proportion of Christian expositors have been more or less governed by their respective theories of religion, so as to make the pure word bend to their preconceived opinions? A remark of so general application does not need the illustration of particular reference. We say with unfeigned satisfaction, that the work before us presents very little indeed, to which the principle noted is at all applicable. In reading the note on the words, “thy first father hath sinned,” in xliii, 7, we had a suspicion that some such sentiment may unconsciously have had influence. Be that, however, as it may, we can not accord with the author. He remarks as follows:

That interpretation which understands the phrase of Abraham, is supposed by some to be at variance with the uniform mention of that patriarch, in terms of commendation. But these terms are perfectly consistent with the proposition that he was a sinner, which may here be the exact sense of the original word. To the application of the phrase to Adam, it has been objected, that he was not peculiarly the father of the Jews. To this it may be answered, that if the guilt of the national progenitor would prove the point in question, much more would it be established by the fact of their belonging to a guilty race. At the same time it may be considered as implied, that all their fathers who had since lived, shared in the original depravity, while the VOL. 1.-NO. I.


term is still taken in its strict and full sense, as denoting the progenitor of all mankind.” (p. 86.)

No doubt Abraham was a sinner, as “there is no man that liveth and sinneth not;" but it is difficult to comprehend how this fact, or that of Adam's transgression having been the occasion of the race becoming guilty, is a reason for “ giving up Jacob to the curse and Israel to reproaches.” Nor is it at all probable, that the father of the faithful would be placed in juxta-position with“ rebels” by the same sacred writer, who elsewhere gives him the honorable appellation of the friend of God.

We have already suggested that the prophetic language has often a comprehensive meaning, and is not to be limited to the single event which may have given rise to it, and which the prophet may seem to have most immediately in view,

The author is disposed to apply the same principle to the phrase “ Jehovah's servant,” which is of such frequent occurrence in the later chapters of Isaiah. Although we can see no reason why so simple a phrase as this might not be used of any agent of Gop, from the lowest grade to the highest, and thus be applied to an ordinary prophet, priest, or king, or figuratively to bodies of men composed of one or more of these classes of persons, or even to the nation or Church of Israel personified, or lastly to Messiah Himself as God's great agent ; yet an examination of its use, in this portion of the book does certainly favor the opinion, that it is often employed in a comprehensive sense, embracing the MessỊAH, in connection with one or other of the individuals or classes before mentioned, of whom he stands as the distinguished Head, the facile princeps

“Such an hypothesis,” says our author, “ is obscurely stated by some older writers, and may be more satisfactorily propounded thus, that by the servant of JEHOVAH in these later prophecies of Isaiah, we are to understand the Church with its Head, ur rathes the MESSIAH with the Church, which is His body, sent by JEHOVAH to reclaim the world from its apostacy and ruin. This agrees exactly with the mission both of the Redeemer and His people, as described in Scripture, and accounts for all the variations which embarrass the interpretation of the passage in question upon any more exclusive exegetical hypothesis. It is also favored by the analogy of Deut. xviii,* when the promised prophet, according to the best interpretation, is not CHRIST exclusively, but Christ as the head of the prophetic body, who possessed his spirit. Another analogy is furnished by the use of the phrase, Abraham's seed, both individually and collectively. He whom Paul describes as the seed of Abraham, and Moses as a prophet like unto himself, in a perThe appa

* To which might be added 2d Samuel, vii.

sonal, but not in an exclusive sense, is described by Isaiah as the servant of JEHOVAH, in his own person, but not to the exclusion of his people, so far as they can be considered his co-workers or his representatives. Objections founded on the want of agreement between some of these descriptions and the recorded character of Israel, are connected with a superficial view of Israel considered simply as a nation and like other nations, except so far as it was brought into external and fortuitous connection with the true religion. An essential feature in the theory proposed is, that this race was set apart and organized for a specific purpose, and that its national character is constantly subordinate to its ecclesiastical relation. rent violence of applying the same descriptions to an individual person and a body, will be lessened by considering, that the former, that is, Christ, was in the highest and the truest sense, the servant of Jehovah and his Messenger to man, but that his body, Church or people, was and is a sharer in the same vocation, under the gospel, as an instrument or fellow-worker, under the law as a type or representative of one who had not yet become visible. Hence the same things might be predicated to a great extent of both. As the MESSIAH was the servant and Messenger of God to the nations, so was Israel. If it be asked, how the different applications of this honorable title are to be distinguished, so as to avoid confusion or capricious inconsistency, the answer is as follows. When the terms are in their nature applicable both to Christ as the Head, and to the Church as the body, there is no need of distinguishing at all between them. Where sinful imperfection is implied in what is said, it must of course be applied to the body only. Where a freedom from such imperfection is implied, the language can have a direct and literal reference only to the Head, but may be considered as descriptive of the body, in so far as its idea or design is concerned, though not in reference to its actual condition. Lastly, when any thing is said implying Deity, or Infinite merit, the application to the Head becomes not only predominant, but exclusive. It may further be observed, that as the Church, according to this view of the matter, represents its Head, so it is represented by its leaders, whether prophets, priests, or kings; and as all these functions were to meet in CHRIST, so all of them may sometimes be particularly prominent in prophecy." (pp. 50, 51.)

The principle thus stated and developed would admit of much amplification and illustration, and is, we believe, the only one by which the application of many passages of the Old Testament to our Lord and His Gospel in the New, can satisfactorily be explained. But to go into detail would lead us into discussions too protracted for the present notice ; although they might be both interesting and useful to the careful and intelligent reader of Holy Scripture.

It would have given us much satisfaction to follow the learned commentator in those portions of Isaiah which have so often been appealed to in defence, not only of a literal reestablishment of the Jews in their own land, but also of a restoration of their temple, and a personal and visible reign in Jerusalem of King Messiah. But the subject would open before us too wide a field. On this topic, Professor Alexander sontroverts the views of Dr. Henderson, as given in his late

« AnteriorContinuar »