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pretation which makes the return from Babylon, to be the fulfilment of the restoration here predicted by Ezekiel, must be relinquished.
II. Another interpretation of this prophecy is, that which makes the land to mean the Christian church; the children of Israel, to mean the elect people of God, the true, the spiritual Israel, gathered from all nations; the restoration, to mean the conversion of sinners; the two kingdoms, to mean Jews and Gentiles in one church; and the one king, to mean Jesus Christ, of the house and lineage of David, now exercising spiritual dominion over all believers.
I am not conscious of any unfairness, in thus stating it; but to remove all doubt, I will repeat it in the words of one of its advocates: "This prophecy certainly looks further to the kingdom of Christ; he is that one King, in allegiance to whom, all God's spiritual Israel shall cheerfully unite, and under whose protection they shall all be gathered. All believers unite in one Lord, one faith, one baptism; and the uniting of Jews and Gentiles in the Gospel church, their becoming one fold under Christ the one great Shepherd, is doubtless the union that is chiefly looked at in this prophecy."5 The prophecy describes Judah and Ephraim united in the land: this is interpreted to mean, the union of Jews and Gentiles in the Gospel church. To be consistent with itself, therefore, the interpretation must maintain, that by the land in the prophecy, is meant what this popular commentator calls the Gospel church.
b Matthew Henry, in loco.
Now, let us examine it. The general statement of doctrine contained in it is, that all the people of God, (denominated the true Israel, because that Israel, the chosen nation, was a type of the church chosen out of all nations,) shall be converted to the faith of Christ, and form one glorious spiritual kingdom, in which there exists no longer any distinction between Jew or Greek, male or female, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free; but all are one in Christ Jesus: the middle wall of partition being thrown down; the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, being abolished in his flesh; of twain one new man being made, so that through him we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Against this, as a statement of New Testament doctrine, there is no objection: on the contrary, it is most sound. In the Christian church, there are no national distinctions; all the living members of Christ, chosen of the Father before the foundation of the world, born into the world at divers times and in divers places, and born again of the Holy Ghost into the church, at the fulness of the time appointed for each; these all compose one body; the kingdom they enjoy is spiritual, consisting of righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the Holy 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/rom 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 accord.ing 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 conse. quently, 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. ii ' . --i
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 inc See page 157.