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have any special holiness in the sight of God, but should be common as other lands. With respect to the expression, “a razor that is hired,” I think it denotes, that herein Nebuchadnezzar was the servant of the Lord, who would reward him for the good service which he was about to do; according as it is written (Jer. xxvii. 6), “ And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also, to serve him.
The remainder of the prophecy is but a comment upon the breaking of the vow of the Nazarite towards the land and the people, setting forth, by strong and striking similitudes, the desolation to which the land should be brought (verse 21): "And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow and two sheep; and it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give, that he shall eat butter, for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land.” This signifies, that during the same period—namely, in that day of desolation from the fly of Egypt and the bee of Assyria, in that day when the land ceased to be holiness to the Lord, in that day of Israel's rejection and casting out, which day endureth still, any man who might own a cow and two sheep, should have such abundant pasture for them amidst the wide wildernesses, that he should eat butter in abundance from their milk, which, with wild honey, should constitute his food. In other words, the remaining few should live upon the food of a wandering horde, such as the Tartars, roaming with their cattle over deserts where once mighty empires flourished, which, by the wrath of God, have been turned into a desolate wilderness. This, in the all-comprehensive language of Prophecy, describes better than a volume the depopulation and the desolation of that land, which, in the days of her separation and holiness, could send forth to battle a million of men of war. But more striking features of miserable wasteness follow in succession (verse 23): “ And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be where there were a thousand vines, at a thousand silverlings: it shall even be for briars and thorns." The silverling (of silver, a thousand of silver) being undefined, is to be understood of the common silver coin, the shekel, about half-a-crown of our money, as it is rendered, 2 Sam. xviii. 11, 12. Now we learn (Can. viii. 11) that a vineyard, which produced a thousand pieces of silver, was of the richest and most precious kind, and such a vineyard is here said to run to briars and thorns. Moreover, to such wildness would nature turn, that it should be unsafe to come into the land without arms; and those, such arms as are borne by wandering tribes (verse 24): “ With arrows and with bows shall they come there, because all the land shall become
VOL. 1. NO, I.
briars and thorns.” And lastly, on all hills that shall be, or should be, or had wont to be, digged with the mattock for the purposes of vineyards, orchards, or gardens, or for the pleasure of rich and wealthy people, where the briars and the thorns came not, as loving better the level grounds, these hills should be “ for the sending forth of oxen and the treading of lesser cattle;” which, by the overgrown wildness of the plains and the meadows, should not come there. It seemeth to me to declare that there should be such wasteness in the land which was once to be tilled with the plough-share, that the cattle should be fain to seek their pasture upon the rugged hills which were wont to be digged with the mattock and the hoe.
Such is the passage of prophecy, in the heart of which the prophecy of the Son of the virgin is contained. We have seen every jot and every tittle of it fulfilled. It is a literal prophecy literally accomplished in all its parts. Ephraim is broken from being a people; from the set time, three-score and five years after the utterance of the prophecy, Ephraim hath ceased to be a people. Rezin and Remaliah's son were cut off before the lad Shear-Jashub could discern between good and evil. The house of David hath been in distress and humiliation, the people of Judah and Benjamin under captivity and oppression, the holy land under wasteness and desecration, and continue so until this day. In the midst of such disastrous tidings, such violence of woe, is the birth of Immanuel, the virgin's Son, introduced as a sign, token, and surety, that the vials of woe poured upon David's house, and David's throne, and David's people, and David's land, should not utterly overwhelm them, should not abide for ever, but have an accomplishment and an end. That time, place, and persons should be left for the accomplishment of those better promises, that double recompence of blessings, and eternal glory which is yet to rest upon all these humbled and oppressed things, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, when all confederacies and associations of all countries against the land of Immanuel shall be broken in pieces, and shall come to nought for (because of) Immanuel (Isaiah viï. 10),; when the government shall be upon the shoulders of the Child that is born unto them, when he shall sit upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom to order it, and to establish it with justice and with judgment from henceforth, even for ever. (Isaiah ix. 6, 7.) Therefore, O Jew, who believest in the Son of Mary, be comforted and re-assured, for the sign hath been given. But if thou believest not, then walk on in darkness; for thou seest not the sign of the preservation of David's house. And thou, O Christian, who believest in the sign, believe in the thing whereof it is the sign; and no more doubt that David's house shall be re-established in
Jerusalem, in the holy land, and that Immanuel, God with us (then indeed with us, no longeraway from us), shall sit on David's throne, than thou doubtest the other parts of this veritable prophecy.
From this prophecy thus literally interpreted I make this inference, that it is a grievous error to say, as men do now say, that prophecy is only to be understood when it is accomplished; to say that it is idle, or worse than idle, to attempt to understand it till then; for surely Ahaz well knew what this burden betokened to him, to his confederated enemies, and to Ephraim; or if he did not, it was a blindness of the understanding brought on by a perversity of the will, in which also consisteth, as I deem, much of our present ignorance of prophecy. Like Ahaz, we will not have a sign; like Ahaz, we weary both God and man; like Ahaz, we regard not the prophetic word ; and like Ahaz, the church will come to destruction for this very offence. And if the sign itself, that the virgin should conceive, which is the nucleus of the prophecy, should have been hidden from the understandings of men before the coming of Christ, whereof we cannot now with accuracy judge, this also was for want of faith, not for want of simplicity or sincerity in the language; for want of that faith which Abraham had when he believed God, that he and Sarah should have a son in their old age: and this want of faith proceedeth from doubting concerning the power of God to change the laws and ordinances of nature; and this doubt leads men to degrade and explain away the prophecy until it become commensurate with the ordinary methods of cause and effect. But if the Jews had believed this word exactly as it is written, it would have proved to them a sure and almost infallible sign whereby to know Immanuel, and knowing him to believe in him, and to believe in the restoration of their estate by the Man who should be born of the virgin. In like manner, if we could bring ourselves to believe in the coming of Christ, and in all those things which he is to accomplish exactly as they are written, we would see a fulfilment of them in the time of the Lord, and even in this present time we would see all things concurring with that progression of signs, which is to draw on the fulfilment. But if we will not believe we cannot be established, but shall surely perish in our unbelief.
My second observation is with respect to the great error of those who
say that God never intended that we should know the times and the seasons of the fulfilment of the prophecy; whereas he gives both a period of years and a date in the life time of a child then before the king, within which the events of the prophecy should be accomplished. But the true cause of all these falsehoods is, that men have such slight and unreal notions of God's being and providence, their faith in God is so much weaker than their faith in time, place, and circumstance, that they cannot believe any
word of God which comes into competition with their belief in the ordinary course of events. When the course of events has made the prophecy to become history, they can credit the prophecy because it coincides with the history; but until such coincidence, they have no faith in it at all. Now I would rather, for my part, have a firm faith in God, as fore-seeing, and overruling, and predicting all, though my interpretations thereof should in most instances be wrong, than have no faith in God as overruling all, though I should never be detected in a false expectation. What I am about to say may seem extreme to many, but I believe it, and therefore will say it; and it is a solemn word with which this first interpretation may be well concluded, That those who have attempted to interpret prophecy, or love to hear it interpreted, are the only persons who have had actual faith in prophecy. And now may the Lord bless this endeavour to open his prophetic word, and commend it to the hearts of all his people !
THE TIMES AND SEASONS *.” The expression occurs in Acts i. 7, and in 1 Thess. v. 1. The first more generally: “ It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” The other is stated more definitely and particularly : “ Of the times and
ye have no need that I write unto you,” &c. Both places, however, have a direct reference to acquiring knowledge respecting the time of the second advent.
We see in Acts i. 7, that our Lord does not correct the supposition of the disciples, as if it were an error; but, on the contrary, implies that a period will arrive when the kingdom will be restored again unto Israel ; but that they had another work to perform : they were to receive power from the Holy Ghost, in order to do the work which would precede the glorious epiphany-namely, witnessing, unto the uttermost part of the earth, ver. 8, before declared by our Lord to be a necessary preliminary, Matt. xxiv. 14.
every purpose under heaven there is a season and a time.” (Eccles. iii. 1.) As Isaiah, i. 3, reproaches the Jews with being in knowledge and consideration inferior to brute instinct; so does Jeremiah, viii. 7, compare the knowledge of the stork and the turtle, respecting the times of their migrations, with the
* We have perused a little pamphlet, entitled “ Hints on the Study of Prophecy," published for the benefit of the Continental Society; and as it is now out of print, we give one head, which appears original, and may be of use in the investigation of prophecy, nearly as it before appeared, with some few additions communicated to us by the author.- EDITOR.
ignorance of the Jews respecting the time of their visitation and dispersion. “Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times ; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming ; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord.” Luke xix. 44: “ Thine enemies shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”. Our Lord, in the same manner, declares the Pharisees to be hypocrites for not discerning the signs of the times.” (Matt. xvi. 3); and their first display of enmity against him (Luke iv. 24–29) was in rejecting the intimation of “ a mystery which, from the beginning of the world, had been hid in God; and which, in other ages, was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto the holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs,” &c. (Eph. ii. 5, 6.) Here we see, that what at one time was hidden from the church, at another time it is criminal for the church not to be acquainted with. And it behoves us to consider, whether the Lion of the tribe of Judah has not “prevailed to open the book," and thereby revealed to the church the approach of that day which was before “ known to no man, no, not to the angels, neither the Son, but the Father." only. At any rate, Paul, though he had been only three Sabbaths (Acts xvii. 2) at Thessalonica, had sufficiently acquainted the Thessalonians respecting “the times and the seasons," as that " that day should not overtake them as a thief ;” they being “children of the light,” and, BEING SUCH, were not in darkness respecting the future.
Perceiving, then, that the observation of “ the times and seasons” is one of the great means pointed out for discerning the approach of that day, it will be well to consider the expression itself.
The seasons explains itself, and is similar to the direction given by James v. 7: “ Be patient, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord: behold, the husbandman watcheth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the EARLY AND LATTER RAIN." Our Lord, in like manner, warns the disciples (Matt. xxiv. 32): “ Now learn a parable of the fig-tree : when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh; so LIKEWISE YE, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors ;” or, as Luke has it, “ that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand,” (xxi. 31; and compare Luke xii. 54-56 with Matt. xvi. 1). The Jews required a sign in proof that he was the Messiah “that was for to come:
for to come:" he says to the people, “When ye see THE* cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh
* The article unquestionably is demonstrative, Tnv.— Horne's Introd. vol. iii. p. 21; Bp. Middleton, p. 327.