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saick and prophetick dispensation as a grand preparatory system of religion and morality, instituted at so early an age, preserved by such apparent exercises of divine power, and promising in itself a new and bet. ter covenant,* which is the most worthy supposition, that the mediator of this new covenant was to be a temporal sovereign, or a moral teacher? And whether it is more probable that all this divine apparatus, which was in a high operation for near two thousand years, was meant to carry forward the hopes and ex
pectations of men to a conquering prince, who 1 should sit on a throne, and wield a sceptre in
a city of Palestine, or to a spiritual instructer of the souls of men, who should give them new rules for this life, and better hopes of the eternal ?
But it may be replied, that if the character of a temporal prince is really that which the prophets set forth, such general reasonings as these are of no avail. Let us then examine the prophecies. But let us do it rationally, and carry to the examination those principles of interpretation, which belong to candid and honest inquirers.
Most of the Hebrew prophetical writings are also poetical, and we discover in them all the peculiarity of style, which prevailed in their country and age.
Also the uniform inspiration by which they wrote, did not destroy or diminish the peculiarities which belonged to them as individuals, and they ex
* Jeremiah xxxi. 31.
hibit throughout those traces of manner and thought, which must be interpreted by the common laws of sound criticism.* Nothing therefore can be more likely to result in a mistake of their particular meaning and general import, than a superstitious or artful adherence to what, at a distance of two or three
• The following beautiful passage of a celebrated foreign critick, will illustrate this; I am sure the reader will excuse its length. “That the Old Testament is not the forgery of a single impostor is proved, by every page. What variety in language and expression! Isaiah does not write like Moses, nor Jeremiah like Ezekiel, and between these and any of the minor prophets, there is again a great diversity of style. The style of Moses is distinguished by its scrupulous grammatical correctness: the book of Judges is filled with provincialisms and barbarisms : in Isaiah we meet with old words under new inflections : Jeremiah and Ezekiel have their Chaldaisms : and in short, as we trace the succession of writers from the earlier to the later ages, we find in the language a gradual decline, till it finally sinks into a dialect of broad Chaldee. Then too, what diversity in the march of ideas, and range of imagery! In the hand of Moses and Isaiah, the lyre is deep and loud, but its tone is soft when touched by David. The muse of Solomon is decked in the splendours of a luxurious court, while her sister wanders, with David, in an artless dress, by streams, and banks, through the fields, and among flocks. One poet is original like Isaiah, Joel, and Hab. bakuk; another is imitative like Ezekiel. One strikes out the untrodden path of genius, while another strolls by his side in the beaten foot way. Rays of learning beam from one, while his neighbour never emits a spark of literature. In the oldest writers we see strong lines of Egyptian tini, which grow fainter anil fainter on the canvass of their successors, and at last disappear. Finally, in the manners what a beautiful gradation! At first all is simple and unaffected, as in the poems of Homer, and among the Bedowin Arabs to this day. By degrees this noble simplicity declines into luxury and effeminacy, and vanishes at last in the luxury of the court of Solomon. No where is there a violent transition, but a gradual and progressive course throughout. It is but an ignorant or thoughtless skeptick who can think the Old Testament is the fiction of a single impostor!” This elo. quent critick then proceeds to show that the Old Testament is not the fabrication of several impostors. Eichhorn's Einleitung ins. A. T. Th. i. p. 51.-2.
thousand years, and under the prevalence of totally different habits of thinking, feeling, and writing, we may affect to call the literal signification.* It has been indeed the practice of the Jews of the later ages to oppose Christianity by this resort; but who does not know that the Jewish nation, if judged by their ecclesi. astical authors, their targums, and talmuds, and midrashim, are the most contemptible criticks, which have appeared. The darkest age of Christian credulity can produce nothing to be compared with rabbinical and cabalisti cal folly. +
The cause therefore in which this folly is enlisted, and the system of interpretation connected with its are suspicious. Familiar as these observations are, it is necessary to repeat them here. Mr. Englisht, and Collins whom he imitates in this, have said much of the adherence of the Jews to the literal, and of the resort of Christians to a figu
Herder, a celebrated German scholar, and orthodox divine, (the same who is respectfully mentioned in the Edinburgh Review, vol. iii. p. 345,) has this remark, “The best study of theology is the study of the Bible, and the best study of this divine book, is that which regards it as human, (Das beste lesen dieses goettlichen Buchs ist Menschlich)-I use this word [hu. man) in its broadest compass and strictést meaning. The Bible must be thus read, for it is written by men, and for men. The language is human, the external means by which it was written, and has been preserved, are human, &c. Breife das Studium der Theologie betreffend Erster Breif.
+ Grotius de veritate, lib. v. S xvi. p. 261. "It has sometimes been thought, or at least been said, that the modern intelligent Jews reject the Talmudical absurdities; an incorrect opinion, if we may trust to Mendelsohn, the most intelligent of the modern Jews. Mendelsohn's Jerusalem, p. 2d. p. 63.
rative, allegorical, and typical sense.* It is to be regretted that the errours of other times have given so much pretence of justice to complaints like these. But no errours or extravagancies are to make us ashamed of the truth, and it is as certain now, as if the proposition had never been abused, that the style of the Hebrew prophets is highly figurative. Moreover, it is one thing to be figurative, and a far different thing to be typical or allegorical.t It is well known indeed that their style is also typical and allegorical,£ but it is so easy to carry types and allegories to excess, and so easy also to maintain the cause of Christianity without them, that I shall confine myself to the illustration of the figurative language of the New Testament, and its application to this controversy.
The prophets foretel a moral and religious dispensation, a spiritual Messiah, and a Prince of peace. Their language in these predictions is highly figurative ; and the following passages may serve as specimens and proof: “ to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Won
* Collin's Grounds and Reasons, c. viji. [This is the fifth chapter of Mr. English's work.] See also Collins' scheme of literal prophecy, page 8.
Collins himself judiciously remarks, the“ literal sense may be signified as well and as obviously, by a figurative, as by the most simple or literal expression.” Schenie of Lit. Proph. p. 251.
# Voltaire's Essai sur les Mæurs, t. i. p. 189. Edit. Didot. See too the Jews' letters to Voltaire, i. p 419 et seq.
derful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.”* These are the characters, on which the sacred writers delight to dwell. They delight to designate à mild and pacifick personage, who was to conciliate men, and to introduce a peaceful state. “ They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain ;”+ “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."| 'The strict language of description fails them here, and the harmony of men is represented as descending to the brutes. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard sball lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's den.”'$ Inanimate nature shall partake of the general conciliation. “The wilderness and solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the rose. It shall
* Isaiah is.6. Mr. English has asserted, upon the authority of R. Isaac (Chissut Emuna, p.i. $ 21.] that this should be read “ for the wonderful, the counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father shall call his name the prince of peace.” So, says he, it is pointed to be read. Of Mr. English's familiarity with points we shall see hereafter. The LXX discountenance this version; and I know of no interpreter, Jewish or Christian, except the one just mentioned, who adopts it. See a note to p. 209 of Dr. Freeman's occasional Sermons.
# Isaiah si.9. * Isaiah iii. 4. Isaiah xi. 6, 7,8.