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sceptre was not mentioned. But if both were tribal Sceptres, the continuance of Benjamin's had as good a claim to the Prophet's notice (for any thing the Bishop has shewn to the contrary) as Judah’s. Since as Tribes, they both continued to exist, and to exist distinct.
His second answer to the Objection seems as little satisfactory as the first-Though the continuance of the SCEPTRE of Benjamin is not foretold, yet the continuance of the tribe or PEOPLE of Benjamin is distinctly foretold. p. 356. Would you desire a more conclusive argument against his own notion of a tribal Sceptre? If this prophetic Sceptre of Judah was a civil one, there is a very good reason why the continuance of the people, and not of the Sceptre of Benjamin, should be foretold; because what Judah and Benjamin had in common was their continuing to exist as distinct tribes; the Sceptre being peculiar to the first : But if a tribal Sceptre be the subject of the Prophecy concerning Judah, then no possible reason can be assigned why the continuance of Benjamin's Sceptre should not be honoured with the divine notice as well as Judah's; since his. Lordship assures usthey both run the same fortune; they went together into captivity; they returned together to Judea; and were both in being when Shiloh came. And while a Tribe continues distinct, a tribal Sceptre continues with it; just as the head of a family exists so long as there is a family to govern.
All this considered, his Lordship in my humble opinion had done well not to load himself with more than he had occasion to carry: especially as he had so little to answer for, in the success of this hypothesis; for he tells us at the end of his DISSERTATION, that he has nothing more to add, but to acquaint
the reader that the interpretation of Jacob's Prophecy now advanced, was not a mere invention of his own; that it was, as to the main point, the same with that which is the fourth in HUETIus, and by him rejected, but for such reasons as had been fully obviated in this dissertation.—That it was the same which JUNIUS and TREMELLIUS, and our own learned Countryman, AINSWORTH, had espoused; and which not many years ago was revived and improved by Mr. JONCOURT.
Now, from what hath been said, it appears that of all the three branches, into which the common interpretation spreads, though they be equally weak, the last betrays its weakness most. But, what is of principal consideration, it is, of all the three, least suitable to the DIGNITY OF PROPHECY ; the whole body of which has a perpetual reference to one or other of the great parts of the Dispensation of Grace. Now the first branch refers with suitable dignity to a whole People at large : the second to the same People under the Government of one certain line: while the third concerns only the fortunes of a single Tribe, and under a Family-idea.
The common interpretation therefore being shewn so very exceptionable in all its branches, what remains for us to conclude, but that the true and real meaning of the Sceptre of Judah is that THEOCRATIC GOVERNMENT which God, by the vicegerency of Judges, Kings, and Rulers, exercised over the Jewish nation? We have shewn from various considerations of weight, that this THEOCRACY, which was instituted by the ministry of Moses, continued over that People till the coming of Shiloh or Christ; THAT PROPHET like unto Moses, whom God had promised to raise up. And to support what hath been urged from reason, to illustrate VOL. V.
this important truth, we have here a Prophetic declaration enouncing the same thing, -the sceptre shall not depart from Judah till Shiloh come : Shiloh is Christ, Now Christ is not the Successor of those VICEGERENTS of the Jewish State, but of God himself, the KING of the Jews. The Sceptre therefore which descends to him, through the hands of those vicegerents, is not merely a Civil, but a THEOCRATIC Sceptre. This, at the same time, explains the Evangelic doctrine of Christ's KINGDOM, arising out of the Theocracy or Kingdom of God. Hence the distinction in that famous declaration of Christ, so much abused to factious and party purposes, that His KINGDOM WAS NOT OF THIS WORLD: The Theocracy which was administered over the Jews only, and in a carnal manner, was a Kingdom of this world: but when transferred to Shiloh, and extended over all mankind, and admi niştered in a spiritual manner, it became a Kingdom not of this world. And the making the Sceptre of Judah neither Tribal, nor MERELY Civil, but properly Theocratic, clears the Prophecy from those insuperable difficulties which render all the other interpretations hurtfül or dishonourable to the Prophetic system in general.
These are the superior advantages of the sense I have here endeavoured to establish. Nor are these all the adyantages. The Prophecy is seen to embrace a much nobler object than was imagined. It was supposed to relate only to the fortunes of the Jewish Economy, and we find it extends itself to the whole Dispensation of Grace. It was considered but as a simple Prophecy, while it had the dignity of a ReVELATION. It was mistaken for the species, when it is indeed, of the genus.
But to all this an Answerer may reply: 1. That, as we admit the THEOCRACY to be a Kingdom of this
World, the same objection will lie as well against the CONTINUANCE or duration of a Theocratic Sceptre as of a mere Civil one.” But here we must distinguish. The Theocracy was indeed carnal in its administration, but in its original it was Divine. Therefore, as where the subject is of the continuance of a mere civil Sceptre, we cannot bút understand the continuance of its administration, because the administration is inseparable from the existence; so where the subject is of the continuance of a Theocratic Sceptre, we must understand that continuance to consist in its remaining unrevoked, since what is of divine original exists, independently of its being actually administered; it exists till it be formally abrogated. This difference is evident froin the naturc of things
. Forms of Government ordained by Men, ccase when Nen no longer administer them; because, in the non-administration of them, they are naturally supposed to revoke what they had ordained : But men's ceasing to administer (whether by choice or force) a Form of Government given by God, does not (on any rules of logic or ideas of nature) imply God's revocation of that form of Government.
Again, we must remember what has been said of the effect and consequence of a Theocracy. It not only united, but incorporated the two Societies, civil and religious, into One. And this incorporated body of the Jewish State went by the name of the Law, . Now under that part of the Law which more intimately regarded Religion, the Jews always lived FREE till the publication of the Gospel; though the other part of it , regarding the sovereign administration of civil policy ånd justice, they had lost from the time of Pompey. For à power precariously enjoyed, and ready to be abolished at the nod of a Conqueror, can never be
called Sovereign (which iinplics the being free and independent) without the worst abuse of words, which is, the quibbling upon them. So that a Sovereignty in this Theocracy was still administered to the last, though in part. Ilowever, this partial exercise was consentaneous to the System on which this Theocracy was dispensed; its Administration being ordained to have a gradual decline. The Jews, for their transgressions, being first of all deprived of that natural effect of Theocratic rule, the extraordinary providence: and then, for their incorrigible manners, further punished by an infringement of their civil sovereignty : but still the Theocracy, as to that more essential, the Religious part, remained unhurt till the coming of Christ : And let it be observed, that it was this part in particular which was to be assigned over to him, from the Father. Thus, as I said before, this is not so properly a prediction of human events, as a revelation concerning the course of God's Dispensation.
2. Secondly, it hath been objected, that “ according to the sense here put upon the Sceptre, it should have been said--the Sceptre shall not depart from JEHOVA II instead of JUDAH. But such Objectors do not advert, that the Theocracy was administered by Vicegerents of JUDAH. And this likewise will account for the expression of a Laugicer between his feet.
3. Lastly, it may be said, “ That by this interpretation of the Sceptre of Judah we deprive the Prophecy of one principal part of the information it was supposed to give, namely, the TIME of Christ's advent, which the common interpretation is supposed to fix exactly. To this I answer, that Religion loses nothing by this change, since there are so many other Prophecies which point out the time with infinitely more precision. On the other hand, Religion gains much by it, in evad