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for the Christian Church,—for of such signification neither Ezekiel nor his hearers had any conception, —then must it be pronounced insufficient, and this insufficiency must be ascribed either to want of power or will, that is, an allegorical interpretation of this passage cannot be adopted without an implication of blasphemy.
But God has not only vouchsafed an occasional explanation in the Old Testament; in the New he has pointed out so many prophecies fulfilled, as to enable us to recognise the divine principle of interpretation. Messiah's miraculous conception and birth of a virgin, his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his betrayal for thirty pieces of silver, the casting lots for his raiment, the piercing of his hands and feet, and many other particulars which we have not time to enumerate, all formed the subject of prophecy, and certain predictions are referred to by the New-Testament writers as fulfilled by these events. The simple question therefore is, on what principle are these prophecies expounded in the New Testament? Is the allegorical or the literal principle the rule of interpretation? Is Israel in these prophecies made to stand for Gentile, or Jerusalem for the Christian Church? These prophecies are all interpreted as the Jews would themselves understand them. They are taken in their most simple and obvious sense.
If therefore we are to follow the example of the New Testament, the allegoric principle must be rejected.
Yea, if we would not be accounted as deceivers -if we have any regard for consistency—if we would place our own faith above suspicion, or preserve a single hope of ever communicating it to the Jewish people—if we would follow the footsteps of our Lord, we must adhere to the old Biblical method of interpretation.
We endeavour by an appeal to the prophecies to prove that the Scriptures are the word of God, and our Lord Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world? Upon what is this appeal founded? What is presupposed as a first principle in the whole investigation? What is the cornerstone of the whole fabric of our argument? Beyond all doubt, the turning-point-the root and foundation of our proof-is, first, the supposition that the prophecies are simple in their enunciation-unambiguous in their language, and of easy understanding, and secondly, that the fulfilment has taken place according to their unsophisticated grammatical meaning. Without these indispensable conditions, a proof of the Christian religion from prophecy is impossible. Introduce allegory and mystery — change the meaning of words—tell the unbeliever, that to prove Christianity it is necessary to affix an unusual meaning to the names of men, and to the geographical designation of cities and countries, he will laugh you and your argument to scorn; he will regard you, and that with good reason, as one of those two characters with which mankind is least in love. The whole force of our argument, when we refer to prophecies fulfilled before our eyes, or to those whose accomplishment is recorded in the New Testament, depends upon the unambiguity of the prediction, and the exactness of its accomplishment. When, therefore, the Jew comes with objections founded on unfulfilled prophecy, we must not resign the sword with which we have hitherto conquered, and grasp at a shadow, but with full confidence in the heavenly temper of our weapons, and in all good faith towards even an opponent, we must allow the force of his objection, and the legitimacy of his hopes founded on the word of God, and see whether a closer examination will not turn this objection into an argument for the truth. Such was the method pursued by an early apologist of the Christian faith. When Tryphon the Jew argued that Jesus could not be the Messiah, because the promises of glory and the mission of Elijah had not been accomplished, Justin Martyr did not meet him by a spiritual interpretation, or an hypocritical reproof for the carnality of his expectations, but by distinguishing between times and seasons; and such is the course pointed out in the text by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. When the Jew objects, we must say
in reply, The prophecies which you cite are equally sacred in our eyes with those which we have ourselves adduced in proof of our faith. The hopes built on them are equally well founded—the blessings promised equally secure of accomplishment. We have no desire to shake your faith in these unfulfilled predictions. We blame you, not for believing too much, but too little. We think that your mistake is that of Christ's disciples, when he said to them, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.' Those holy men of old who foretold Messiah’s glory have also announced his humiliation.
The God of your fathers has made known a twofold advent of Messiah, one to suffer, the other, after a long interval, to reign. The absence, therefore, of the glory is not only not an objection to, it is a negative proof in favour of Christianity. Time does not, however, permit us to enter into the further discussion of this argument at present—it must be reserved for another occasion.
LUKE XXIV. 25, 26.
Then he said unto them, 0 fools, and slow of heart to believe all
that the prophets have spoken : ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
In the last lecture, it was stated that the non
fulfilment of certain prophecies relating to the times of Messiah is the chief objection which the Jews urge against the truth of Christianity. It was shown that the usual answers to this objection are insufficient, or even prejudicial to the Christian cause—and it was suggested that the argument used by our Lord to remove the doubts of his disciples, furnishes the true reply. Partial faith and partial consideration of the prophetic Scriptures appear as the cause of their common malady. Both fixed their eyes upon the promises of glory, and totally overlooked the predicted humiliation which was to precede. Our Lord endeavoured to remove the unbelief of his followers by directing their attention to all that the prophets have spoken, and by teaching them to distinguish between the suffering and the glory. The same distinction, if valid, will solve the difficulties propounded by the Jew. To prove its validity is the object of the present lecture.