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the less is promised, that the greater, without which it would be useless, has already been given. Is it not, then, more important to the Church, that the language of prophecy should be simple, than that its written characters should be large and plain ? Would it not be like a mockery, first to clothe it in allegories, the meaning of which no reader, at that time, could possibly divine, and then to charge the prophet about the public manner of its exhibition, or the distinctness of the engraving ? Surely these words are of themselves a convincing proof, that the language of God's prophecies, where not expressly sealed, is intelligible and plain; that the only veil is the blindness of our own eyes, and the only seal upon the vision our negligence or unbelief.
Another argument we may gather from the form of the Jewish prophecies, and the manner of their communication. They are publicly addressed to the Jews themselves. They relate to objects and scenes with which they were familiar. They are given as pledges of the Divine goodness, in contrast with their own sin and degradation. They are attended with the charge, even to the carnal Israelites, in various forms—Believe the prophets of God, and ye shall prosper. They are intermingled with the actual history of that very people, whose future dignity and glory they seem
to announce so clearly. They are worded as if to exclude the possibility of turning them from their natural meaning. « Jerusalem shall be inhabited in her own place, even in Jerusalem.”* The Jews are to be “gathered into their own land, and none of them left any more at all” + among the heathen. If God's covenant with day and night should fail, then only shall Israel cease to be a nation before him.f Distinct promises are made to the holy city, to the chosen people, and to the very mountains of Israel. The land that has been “taken up in the lips of talkers” (how striking a description even now !) “ shall bear the reproach of the people no more,” and “bereave its dwellers no more,” but “shoot forth its branches for the people of Israel, who are at hand to come.”S Who can read such passages, and not feel that the Spirit of God has hedged round his predictions with a sacred fence, against every attempt to distort them from their simple and literal meaning ?
The conduct of the apostles, and the reproofs addressed to them by our Lord, are a further evidence of the same truth. Many times are they reproved for not receiving a prophecy in its literal sense, never once for so receiving it. They plainly understood the promises made to Israel in this literal * Zech. xii. 6.
+ Ezek. xxxix. 28. 1 Jer. xxxii. 25, 26. $ See Ezek. xxxvi.
manner, but for this our Lord never blames them. His censures are all aimed against their unbelief of other statements, equally plain, of Messiah's sufferings. Such was the rebuke on the way to Emmaus, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”* However chargeable with dulness in other respects, here they are not charged with being dull to understand, but slow to believe. It was with them, as with Christians now. Some sayings of the prophets pleased their taste, or tallied with their system, but others were of an opposite kind. They chose out, therefore, which they would believe, and tropes and figures served them doubtless to explain the rest.
A fourth and most convincing argument for the literal interpretation, may be found in the past history of the Jews. The threatenings pronounced against them have been strictly fulfilled; then so must the promises be also. Out of many examples let us choose one only from the prophecy of Micah. There, reproving the sins of the Jewish rulers, the Lord thus pleads with them by the prophet: “ Yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us. Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the
* Luke xxiv. 25.
mountain of the house as the high places of the forest. But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established on the top of the mountains, and be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” *
The warning in the first part of this passage has been literally accomplished; some who are here present have witnessed it with their own eyes. Why should we doubt the literal fulfilment of the rest? Will the Most High God perform his threatenings to the letter, and not fulfil his promises also ? Shall the burden of a special curse, because clearly denounced, rest in its full weight upon the unbelieving Jews, and shall not repentant Israel enjoy in all its specialty and fulness the promised blessing ? Every suffering, indeed, of the Jews in their long dispersion is a token of God's righteous anger for their rejection of his own Son. But, blessed be his holy name, it is more;—it is a lively pledge that the predictions of coming mercy in their restoration, and conversion, and royal dignity, shall also be visibly accomplished in the sight of men. Indeed, that style of interpretation which leaves all the curses in their full weight upon the Jewish nation, and transfers all the blessings by a figure to the
* Micah iii. 11, 12; iv. 1.
Gentile Church, is no spiritual service to God, but an unrighteous perversion of the truth. The Lord himself seems to mark it with the brand of his severe displeasure, when he declares, in connexion with this very subject, “ I hate robbery for burnt offering.”*
The last evidence we shall now adduce, and · perhaps the most impressive of all, is the literal
fulfilment of so many prophecies in the person of our blessed Lord. None could be more strange and wonderful than these; none to a merely natural judgment more unlikely to come to pass. The words of St. Peter, before the events took place, had a fair show of reason: “ Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee.” + Yet how fully were they all accomplished ! The sign which the Lord gave unto Ahaz was truly “in the height above, and in the depth beneath”—but it was strictly accomplished: “ The virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” I The voice of the Baptist was heard in the wilderness of Judah to “prepare the way of the Lord, and to make his paths straight." S “ The Lord, the messenger of the covenant, came suddenly to his temple.”[ * Is. lxi. 8. † Matt. xvi. 22. Is. vii. 10, 11, 14. § Luke iii. 4.
9 Mal. iii. 1.