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Ghost; and Jesus Christ their head, is King over them all. This is a part of the truth once delivered to the saints ; and as such, deserves that we should earnestly contend for it. But this is not the subject now before us; we are not expounding the conversations of Jesus, nor the apostolical epistles. The matter in hand, is a prophecy which God spake by his servant Ezekiel ; and the question is, are these doctrines of the Gospel the subject of this prophecy, or has the prophecy found its fulfilment in the promulgation of these doctrines ? This, I freely and fearlessly answer in the negative.
For, first, The interpretation before us makes the land to signify the Christian church. Now, what says the prophecy?—“ Ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel ; for they are at hand to come. For behold, I am for you ; and ye shall be tilled and sown : and I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded : and I will multiply upon you man and beast ; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings : ..... the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, The land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden ; and the waste,
and desolate, and ruined cities, are become fenced, and are inhabited." · Among other particulars here mentioned, it is clearly stated, first, that the land was desolate, but shall again be tilled and sown; and secondly, that both men and beasts shall be multiplied upon the land. Compare this with the supposed interpretation. The land of the prophecy was desolate ; its cities uninhabited, and laid waste : but the land of the interpretation was never desolate. In the darkest ages, the Christian church, though comparatively few in numbers, maintained its glorious character, as God's righteous witness in the earth. The land of the prophecy shall have beasts, as well as men, multiplied in it; but the land of the interpretation, is wholly composed of immortal creatures, to the exclusion of beasts. The interpretation, therefore, does not agree with the prophecy.
· Again, the children of Israel of the prophecy, are described as being wholly removed out of the land: but the children of Israel of the interpretation, (the people of God,) can never, from the nature of the case, be removed out of the land of the interpretation. The people of God compose the Christian church ; remove them, and the church ceases to be. According to this interpretation, the children of Israel and the land are inseparable, yea, identical ; if they be removed, the land is removed ; but the prophecy describes them as removed from off the land, which remained in its place, when they were gone. The interpretation, therefore, does not agree with the prophecy.
Again, the restoration of the prophecy, is a resettlement of the children of Israel in the land which their fathers had possessed, but from which they had been ejected :c but the restoration according to this interpretation, is the conversion of sinners to the Christian church, in which neither they nor their fathers had ever been before, and from which, therefore, they never could have been ejected. The interpretation, consequently, does not agree with the prophecy.
Again, the two kingdoms of the prophecy were originally one; and are described as having been divided into two: their re-union is predicted, and and it is added, that they shall not be divided any more. But the kingdoms of the interpretation, (Jews and Gentiles,) were never one, and consequently, could never have been divided, so as to afford an opportunity for a prediction of their REUNION in Christ. The interpretation, therefore, does not agree with the prophecy.
Once more, the king of the prophecy is called David; and seems clearly to denote some individual of the regal family of the stock of Jesse, who should be renowned upon the throne of his great ancestor.
The king of the interpretation is Jesus Christ, of the seed of David. This, therefore, corresponds exactly; but not in the sense intended by these in
See page 157.
terpreters—as is evident; for if four out of five parts of this interpretation fail, the fifth can have only an apparent agreement, in some other sense, and not in the systematic sense intended by the interpreters. For example—the King shall reign, and Jesus Christ is the King. These are propositions to which both prophecy and interpreters will assent. But the prophecy declares, that the place of his reign is Judæa ; and the people over whom he shall reign, are the kingdoms of Judah and Israel united into one : while the interpreters declare, that the place of his reign is the Christian church; and the people over whom he reigns are Jews and Gentiles, in one body. Both these statements are true, but they concern different things, and the statement of the interpretation is not the meaning of the statement in the prophecy. · Surely we may conclude here, as before, that in all fairness this system of interpretation must be relinquished, so far, at least, as this prophecy of Ezekiel is concerned.
· III. The impossibility of adhering consistently to either of these modes of interpretation has been felt, and a third mode has been adopted, which is neither more nor less than an inconsistent mixture of these two. It makes the land to mean Judæa, literally, in one part of the prophecy, and the Christian church, spiritually, in another part: the children of Israel to mean, literally, the Jews in one part, and, spiritually, Christians, in another part : the restoration to mean the return of Judah from Babylon in one part, and the conversion of sinners in another: the two kingdoms to mean Judah, and his Israelitish companions, in one part, and Jews and Gentiles in another : the king to mean the Jewish ruler after the Babylonish captivity in one part, and the Messiah in another : thus mingling the two preceding interpretations, and adopting them alternately, as is found most convenient for glossing over the context. This is avowed, though in guarded language, as thus :
“ The most sensible interpreters seem to agree that there are several expressions in this chapter, (Ezek. xxxvi.) particularly in the latter part of it, which cannot be literally understood of any event, excepting of the reign of the Messiah, of the freedom that he has procured for his church, of another promised land, and of a chosen people, different from that of the Jews; but, at the same time, that there may be recognized in it certain forms of speech, which have had their literal accomplishment since the return of the Jews from their captivity.” d
Certain forms of speech have had a literal accomplishment! Several expressions cannot, &c.! Is not this to pretend to some mode of ascertaining the prophet's mind, other than by the prophet's words ? Surely this system, or rather no system,
• Calmet, apud Mant and D'Oyly.