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reference is made, is the regal government of Judah. "So long as kings shall reign in Jerusalem, the throne shall be filled by a man of the house and lineage of David."
The prophecy thus understood was fulfilled to the letter. Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, &c., son after father in regular succession, occupied the throne of David in Jerusalem, till the kingdom was overturned, the city destroyed, and the nation carried captive into Babylon. "The common adjunct to the history of the death of a king of Judah, from David to Coniah,* is, and his son reigned in his stead. If our object wTere to prove the inspiration of the prophecy," this might be strikingly contrasted with the kingdom of Israel; in which, during a part of the same period, one dynasty after another was cut off, and the crown transferred from family to family. This might naturally have excited, in the people of Judah, some apprehensions of similar disasters in their kingdom. And when they beheld the great wickedness of some of their kings; when they heard of insurrection, and conspiracy, and domestic treason in the state, and of confederated invasion from without, for the avowed purpose of setting up another king in Jerusalem; their only security against the sue* See Lecture V.? and note near the end.
cess of such attempts, lay in their reliance on the faithfulness of the prophecy literally interpreted. It is manifest, that any swerving from the simply literal interpretation would, in this case, have totally defeated the main object of the prophecy; or, in other words, that if any relaxed interpretation of the terms of the prediction had been admitted, the nation might as well have been left without any prediction at all. This is what strictly belongs to our present subject. During the whole of the period in question, we have, in the history of the kingdom of Judah, a continuous fulfilment of the prophecy of Nathan, literally interpreted; and any interpretation, other than the literal, would not accord with the facts of the case.
VI. In the reigns of the last of the kings of Judah, Jeremiah predicted the destruction of the kingdom, the captivity of the people in Babylon for seventy years, and their restoration to their own land, at the expiration of that period. The terms of these predictions are briefly these: 66 This whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the
king of Babylon seventy years After
seventy years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place." (See Jer. xxv. 8—14, and xxix. 10.) In these prophecies, three things are plainly asserted, and a fourth very obviously implied. It is asserted— 1. That the nation of Judah should be carried captive to Babylon, leaving their own land desolate. 2. That their captivity would last seventy years. 3. That at the termination of those years they would be restored to their own land and city; and by these assertions, it is obviously implied. 4. That during their captivity they would be preserved a separate people : for if amalgamated with the Babylonians, how could they be again separated, and brought back as a nation to the possession of their fathers?
We have only to advert to the plain terms of the subsequent history, to see how accurately all this was fulfilled, in the obviously literal meaning of the language of the Prophet. For the captivity of Judah, and desolation of her land, see 2 Chron. xxxvi. 17—21. For the fact of their providential preservation as a separate people during their captivity, see Esther iii. 8. For the history of their return at the end of the predicted period, when God raised up Cyrus, of whom he had spoken long before, see Isaiah xliv. 28, and Ezra i, ii, and iii.
In order to appreciate this part of the subject, it may be well briefly to contemplate the position of the prophecy in the days of Daniel. Daniel was in possession of the roll of Jeremiah. Comparing, then, the state of affairs, as they existed around him, with the terms of the prophecy, he would observe, that the assertion of the prophet, concerning the captivity of his nation, had found a plain and literal fulfilment: he would observe, also, that the implication of the prophecy, concerning his nation being kept separate, and not reckoned among the Babylonians, was receiving, up to the moment of his observation, a similarly literal fulfilment. What, then, could be so natural, nay, so imperative, as to be guided by the facts of the case so far, in his interpretation of the remainder of the prophecy concerning the restoration of his people to Judea, and consequently, to anticipate the literal fulfilment of that also? That such was Daniel's view of the subject, he has plainly told us; and when he understood further, by his studies, that the period mentioned by Jeremiah was drawing near its close, he recognised, in his calculation of the time, connected with his interpretation of the language of the prophecy, an animating stimulus to prayer and supplication, with fasting, before the Lord his God. (Dan, ix. 2, 3, &c.) The event fully justified his literal interpretation, and our contemplation of the whole supplies us with another important lesson on the subject of prophetic interpretation, in addition to those which we have already learned in the school of history.
Similar lessons may be learned, by comparing the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel, concerning Tyre, Egypt, and Babylon, with the histories of these places respectively.* In each case the
* See Keith on Fulfilled Prophecy. After an admirable selection of details, illustrative of literal interpretation, lie proceeds to say :—" On a review of the prophecies relative to Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, and Egypt, may we not, by the plainest induction, from indisputable facts, conclude that the fate of these cities and countries, as well as of the land of Judea and the adjoining territories, demonstrates the truth of all the prophecies respecting them; and that these prophecies, ratified by the events, give the most powerful of testimonies to the truth of the Christian religion. The desolation was the work of man, and was effected by the enemies of Christianity, and would have been the same as it is, though not a single prophecy had been uttered. It is the prediction of these facts in all their particulars, infinitely surpassing human foresight, which is the work of God alone. And the ruin of these empires, while it substantiates the truth of every iota of these predictions, is thus a miraculous confirmation and proof of the inspiration of the Scriptures. By what fatility is it, then, that infidels should have chosen, for a display of their power, this very field, where, without conjuring, as they have done, a lying spirit from the ruins, they might have read the fulfilment of the prophecies on every spot? Instead of disproving the truth of every religion, the greater these ruins are, the more strongly do they