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A GENERAL OUTLINE OF THE LITERAL AND SPIRITUAL
SYSTÉM OF INTERPRETING THE PROPHECIES.
The importance, in the study of the prophecies, of having correct principles of, interpretation, has induced us to pursue the subject more extensively than we had at first designed. Having affirmed them to be the same substantially with those we apply to all ordinary works, written in the same characters of style ; having at some length unfolded the varieties of prophetical style, comprising, in general, the Alphabetical, the Tropical, the Symbolical, and the Typical ; having, as we think, proved the literal system of interpretation in contradistinction from the spiritual or allegorical to be the true ;—and having endeavored to guard against the more common mistakes and misapprehensions growing out of ignorance, as to what the literal system is, we deem it proper, before applying these principles of interpretation, to the predictions concerning THE COMING AND KINGDOM OF JESUS CHRIST, to lay before the reader a general outline of the two systems as applied to these subjects, and brought out in their general results, and after having done so, to TRACE THEIR HISTORY, so far as traditionary records may throw any light upon them.
We do not, it is true, hold to tradition as deci. sive authority ; nor do we admit it, for one moment, to be either a source of original information, of equal
value with the written Scriptures, or the only infallible interpreter : but we nevertheless affirm that as history, it is of great use in determining how primitive Christians, either in the apostolic days, or immediately after, understood the language of the inspired writers. We value the writings of the fathers, and of the ancient Jewish Rabbis, as exponents of the views entertained in the church, both before, and immediately after the coming of Christ. When those views coincide with the written Scriptures, as grammatically interpreted, we feel bound to treat them with respect.
Retracing the stream of traditionary history on this subject, we admit that much will be found deserving of no respect whatever, being the opinions, the speculations, and the additions of different individuals and ages. Because certain heretics, as Cerinthus and others, who, according to Eusebius' account of this heresiarch, adopted some of the leading features of the millenarian views, and gave them altogether a sensual dress,* until they were incorporated into the belief of the eastern nations, who.adopted the religion of Mahomet, and indulged the expectation of a sensual Heaven, is no more reason why the whole of their views, and the system of literal interpretation, should be rejected, than the anti-millenarian, or spiritualist, would feel it to be a good and valid reason for rejecting his views, and the spiritual system of interpretation, because some of his notions about the coming of Christ, and the nature of the kingdom of Heaven, together with his system of spiritual interpretation, have led to the despotism and splendid extravagance of Papal and other hierarchies ;-to the reveries and mysticism, and unintelligible allegories of the Hon. Emanuel Sweden
* Eusebii Pamphili Ecclesiasticæ Historiæ, lib. iii. cap. 28.
borg and his followers, or to the generalization and philosophical expositions of the Neologists of Germany, and of the Unitarians of Great Britain and the United States, who boldly, but falsely, and as we think, blasphemously speak, of “the contradictions of the Old Testament, its legends, so beautiful as fictions, so appalling as facts, its predictions that have never been fulfilled, its puerile conceptions of God, and the cruel denunciations that disfigure both Psalm and prophecy."*
Our object is; not to give the history of either system in its details ; nor to contrast them minutely ; but merely to present the general outlines of both, as they take their form from the leading and essential ideas on which they are respectively founded.
Both admit the fact of the second coming of Jesus Christ, suddenly, visibly, and gloriously, for the purpose of raising the dead bodies of his saints, quickening the living, judging the world, and establishing for ever the glorious dominion or kingdom of Heaven. They, therefore, both believe and teach these five great general facts, viz. the visible appearance of Jesus Christ-the resurrection of the bodies of the dead -a day of universal judgment-a Millenium, and a kingdom of glory inconceivable and eternal. They differ greatly, however, as to the import of these facts, and the time, order, and manner of their occurrence.
The spiritualist objects to any attention being given to chronological prophecy, affirming that it is designedly kept secret, and therefore almost impious to attempt to determine when Jesus Christ shall come again to this world, partly, because he says it is not revealed, and partly, because he takes it for granted,
* Th. Parker's Discourse, p. 31.
that it is not to be expected, at all events, till some time after the Millenium. He pleads that the Saviour, after his resurrection, rebuked the disciples for prying into this matter, observing that it was not for them “ to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power,”* and had previously and explicitly declared“ of that day and of that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in Heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”+
It is worthy of remark, that since the time these things were said by the Saviour, the counsels and plans of the Father have been further revealed, and that since the return of the Saviour to the Father, He has given very copious comments on former predictions, and added greatly to the field of prophecy by the revelations which he has made through the Spirit, by the apostles, and especially by John, who carries us down to the very time of the end. We do not, indeed, plead for any attempts to fix certainly the date of the Saviour's second coming, and the epoch of the resurrection of the saints, and of the introduction of His glorious kingdom: but this we affirm, that it will not do, as it is very often done, to plead the remarks made by the Saviour, which were literally true up to the date when they were made, and appeal to them as authoritative and absolute, in reference to a later period, in the discharge of the duties confided to him by the Father, and when, from the fact of extended revelations having been subsequently made, and chronological prophecies too, delivered, it is evident that the Father has subsequently made known to the Son, officiating as the Mediator, more of his counsels and plans. Still we do not mean to say, that the precise day and hour
can be known; nevertheless, everyone can see, that while these may be unknown, nevertheless the general season, or period of the world's history, if not the year, may be known, and there be no real contradiction between these things. · Even should we be able to come within a century of the truth here, we come sufficiently near for all practical purposes of warning, preparation, and watchfulness to the church and to the world.
That this may be done, will be obvious to all, who will look so far into the prophecies, as to see, that there is a definite order in the succession of certain great epochs, connected with the introduction and establishment of Christ's kingdom. For example, as the personal coming of Christ, the resurrection of the saints, the judgment, the Millenium, and the eternal kingdom, are all admitted, by both the literalist and spiritualist, it becomes a very appropriate inquiry, in what order will these great events occur? Does prophecy say anything on the subject? or give us any hints, whether the Millenium is to precede the second coming of Christ, or the second coming precede it? Is the judgment, a mere judging or trial of all mankind, simultaneously collected, and speedily despatched ? or is it a new and wonderful, and glorious dispensation, having its distinct epochs, at its commencement and its close, and calling into exercise other than Judiciary powers, even the Legislative and Executive, and all that pertains to the work of government, which is the sense of the word to judge, as often used in the Sacred Scriptures ?* Is there to be any difference,
• The work of a JUDGE, as given in the Sacred Scriptures, is to rule or govern, to deliver and protect his people to execute the laws, and to avenge or punish enemies or transgressors. Such were Gideon, Sampson, Jephtha, Samuel, and others. When Christ is pre