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Lastly, The spiritual interpretation is that which uproots selfishness from the heart, and enthrones on its ruins the love of Christ, and the love of our brethren. But by the figurative interpretation, the Gentile Church is taught to appropriate solely to herself all the promises of God, where Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem are most clearly addressed, regardless of the wrong done to the outcasts of Zion, and of the dark cloud which is thus brought over that glorious attribute of her Lord, his truth and faithfulness. On the other hand, the literal interpretation leads us to rejoice, with a pure and unselfish joy, in the fulness of God's love to his ancient people. It calls us, as Gentile Christians, to be willing ourselves to decrease, if only the faithfulness of our Lord may be vindicated and his glory increased; and our own heart's desire and prayer be fulfilled in the salvation of Israel.
We have thus shown the full warrant which God has given to his Church for the literal interpretation of prophecy, from his own express command, from the nature of the prophecies themselves, from the conduct of the apostles, the history of the Jewish nation, and from the solemn and repeated declarations of the Lord Jesus. We have seen its consistency with the statements of the Apostle of the Gentiles, and its peculiar
claims, above every other, to the title of a spiritual interpretation. The barriers are thus removed, and the entrance is thrown open into this wide and glorious field of Divine truth. Others, more experienced, will lead you shortly to some of those bright scenes of heavenly promise which are there presented to your view; and may He who has the key of David, who openeth, and no man shutteth, prosper their efforts with a large and abundant blessing ! Suffer me, however, before closing the present subject, to apply it to ourselves in a few practical lessons.
And, first, let us every one learn to exercise a more simple and childlike faith in the Word of God. In an age of excitement and various information like the present, when even religious knowledge of a certain kind, is so widely diffused, there is great danger of our forgetting that simple but important truth, which follows our text, “ The just shall live by faith.” This is the article of a standing or falling Church. It is one thing to have theological learning; it is another and a higher thing simply to believe. In truth, the great object and true perfection of scriptural learning is, to bring back the soul to the docility of a little child. Then is the Christian most truly and deeply wise, when, like Mary,
he comes to sit with unquestioning faith at the feet of his Lord and Saviour. Let us learn, then, my, Christian friends, from this inquiry, that hard but most profitable lesson. Let us read the prophecies with a simple faith; and instead of harbouring the unbelieving thought, “ If the Lord should make windows in heaven, then might these things be:'* let us rather use that answer to the tempter with which God himself supplies us: “If it be marvellous in the eyes of this people, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the Lord of Hosts.” † It is true of the system of Christian doctrine, as it is of the Church of Christ itself -if one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. A livelier faith in the Jewish prophecies will enrich our souls in every department of Divine truth, and brace them to a higher standard of devotedness and love.
Next, let us learn and practise a deeper interest than ever, in the welfare and conversion of the sons of Israel. What a motive of thrilling power do these prophecies supply for this great duty! When a shipwrecked voyager, all but lifeless, is rescued from the waves, what a breathless interest is taken in the steps used for his recovery. But if this voyager were the sole * 2 Kings vii. 2.
+ Zech. viii. 6.
heir of some great empire, and on whose life all its peace and glory were suspended, how wonderfully would that interest be increased, how intense would it become! Now just such is the present state of the nation of Israel. The daughter of Zion is not dead; the damsel only sleepeth. For two thousand years the animation has been suspended, and the breath of life might seem to be quite extinct. But her Redeemer is mighty to save, and soon, very soon he will bid her arise. Meanwhile, when their state seems most hopeless, we are assured that the world's salvation depends on their recovery, for “ What shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?”* It is the sight of Israel's returning glory, which is to pierce through the dark cloud of unbelief in these latter days with a quickening and gladdening power. “ The Gentiles shall come to her light, and their kings to the brightness of her rising.”+ How deep, then, should be our interest, how earnest our prayers, for that conversion of Israel, which will be as life from the dead to an unbelieving world !
Further, let us enter on that boundless field of meditation and hope, which the Spirit of God sets before us in the Jewish prophecies. In this great and crowded city how intense is the thirst * Romans xi. 15.
+ Isaiah lx. 3.
for perishable gain, by which thousands are urged onward from day to day! O, when will the children of light learn to emulate, in their heavenly calling, the wisdom of the world ! Here, in the word of prophecy, God has set before his people mines of imperishable riches, and treasures of bright and blessed hope, that will enrich our souls unto life eternal. Let us, then, with humility, with prayer, with earnest diligence, search for those treasures of knowledge and wisdom, which the Lord of all grace has hid from ages and generations, but which he has reserved for his Church in this latter day !
And let us be assured, that while with undoubting faith, we search into the oracles of God, every part of his truth will be profitable to our souls. The word of prophecy will light up even the dark world with the clear tokens of the Saviour's presence, till at length the day will dawn upon us, and the Day-star, in all his glory, shall arise in our hearts.
Finally, Let us present all our knowledge and all our labours, as a free-will offering at the cross of our exalted Lord.
This is the great and crowning lesson of the whole subject. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. The more we search into its sacred page, the more shall we find that all its blessings and its