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graven on the heart by God's Holy Spirit. But he nowhere teaches that the name of Jew, either in history or in prophecy, is to be commonly taken in this peculiar sense. Nay, in every case the Holy Spirit seems, in the context, to guard us expressly against this mistake. Thus, in the first passage it is added in the very next verse : “ What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision ?”* and in the second, after a few verses : “ Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.” + And again, when in writing to the Galatians, he gives the name of Israel to Christian believers; it is only after first describing their new creation in Christ Jesus, (Gal. iii. 15), and with the emphatic addition, “ the Israel of God,” to denote those who are in the actual enjoyment of the Divine favour. But where there is no special mark of deviation from the usual sense, the constant usage of the terms, Jew, Israel, Zion, and Jerusalem, in the New Testament writers, instead of disproving their literal meaning in the prophets of the Old Testament, fully ratifies and confirms it.
Again it is alleged, secondly, that since the coming of Christ, all distinction of Jew and * Rom. iii. 1.
+ Rom. ix. 31.
Gentile in spiritual things is at an end, and hence, that no prophecies of special glory to the Jew can hereafter be literally fulfilled. So again, St. Paul declares, that “there is no difference of Jew nor Greek;"* that “the middle wall of partition is broken down;" + that in Christ “ there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, but all are one in Christ Jesus; I that those who are Christ's are “ Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” S
These texts, when viewed in their real connexion, are not more conclusive than the former. It is only when read superficially that they seem to clash with the Jewish prophecies. “ There is no difference,” it is true, “ between the Jew and the Greek” in the full and free provision of grace in Jesus Christ, and in the way of attaining salvation by faith in him—5 for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.”|| But in the actual measure of faith, in the sovereign dispensation of the gifts of God, in the privilege of visible adoption into the covenant, and the honour which flows from that privilege, there may be, and has been, and is even now, the greatest variety. The Jews, therefore, who, since their rejection, have been the lowest in Gospel privileges, and under * Rom. x. 12. Eph. ii. 14. Col. ii. 11. § Gal. iii. 29.
|| Rom. x. 12.
the sentence of judicial blindness, may yet become, in God's sovereign goodness, the highest and the first. The middle wall of partition is broken down which shut out the Gentiles from the temple of God; but within the temple itself, there are outer and inner courts, and various degrees of privilege and of glory. There is nothing therefore in these passages really inconsistent with the fullest pre-eminence of Israel in times to come.
The last and most important objection, is the supposed earthly, gross, and carnal character of the literal interpretation. This idea repels many Christians from the subject, and makes them view it as a snare and hinderance, rather than a help to the soul. Hence also the title, spiritual, is often given to the figurative mode of exposition. Let us examine then, by a few plain tests, to which that high title justly belongs; and may the Holy Spirit of God enlighten our understanding, and lead us all to a right and true decision!
First, The truly spiritual interpretation is that which calls Faith into the liveliest exercise. For Faith is the nurse and mother of every Christian grace, the inlet of all spiritual life to the soul. To which of these two modes of exposition does this character apply? To that pliant and easy method which receives in the letter whatever accords with
our Gentile taste, or chimes in with our favourite system, or falls with a curse on the devoted head of the Jew; and then turns the rest into an allegory, to be moulded at our will ? Surely it applies much rather to the literal exposition. For this calls us to the docility of a little child. It bids us cast away our high imaginations, and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, by receiving his messages in their simplest and plainest sense. It commands us, in short, to break down the pride of our human systems, and to sacrifice our dearest prejudice, rather than to do violence to one jot or tittle of the Word of God.
Secondly, An interpretation is spiritual, in proportion as it illustrates the harmony and glory of the Divine attributes. In which exposition is this feature most conspicuous? In the literal, which rests simply on God's veracity, and shows his truth alike displayed in the desolation and the recovery of Israel ;-and not his truth only, but the depths of his long-suffering, and the perseverance of his love, and the triumph of his grace, and the riches of his boundless wisdom ? Or in the figurative, which is based chiefly on the ingenuity of man; which represents the God of truth as fulfilling his threatenings in the letter, but provides an excuse why his promises need not be so fulfilled; and thus destroys the balanced harmony of righteousness and grace, in the providence of the Most High toward the lost sons of Israel? On the literal view of prophecy, though grievous darkness has rested on their outcast race for two thousand years, the bow of the covenant, bright with hope, is seen still shining over them; on the other view, the arch is broken, and disappears, and nothing remains of its loveliness but the dark cloud of vengeance.
Again, that interpretation is most spiritual, which magnifies most the truth and preciousness of God's holy Word. For this is the grand instrument of our salvation, and God has magnified his Word above all his name. But the figurative exposition turns all the prophetic portion into an enigma, which but few can understand, and which must be useless to all others; it first covers the prospect with a deep mist, and then dissuades from farther search as unnecessary and even dangerous. While, on the other hand, the literal interpretation leaves it open to our view, just as the Spirit of God has spread it before us, a land of promise, goodly to the eye, with all the rich and varied beauty of earth, and with all the blessed light and purity of heaven.