Page images

into the fold, “ And every one who believeth not in me shall be cast out into hell, and every one who believeth on me shall feed with me beside


Father.” " For now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.”—The reason of their abiding in peace and rest is here declared to be the greatness of their Shepherd King; who, as he hath been the refuge, shall now prove the bulwark of his people ; and, because his large dominion reacheth out to the ends of the earth, no people shall dare to peep or to mutter against the nation whom he hath chosen for his inheritance. Not that the nations shall entertain in their hearts malice towards his people, after that blessed æra shall have begun, when “the Gentiles shall have come to his light, and kings to the brightness of his rising;” but that he shall exert himself to the very uttermost to comfort his people, and to give them honour in the sight of all the earth. And according as the nations of the earth feel the blessedness of his government, which shall“ come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth," they shall ascribe honour to the people of the great King, who are the instruments through whom he doth so abundantly bless them. For it is beyond a question that the Jewish people, in flesh subsisting, shall be the messengers of Christ to convert the nations, and the kings and priests over them when they have been converted; and the nations shall be but, as it were, the provinces of one kingdom, whose chief city is Jerusalem, and whose King dwelleth in the Temple of Jerusalem. The safety, the credit, the renown, and the glory of the Jewish people, is but a reflection from their King; who, because they are of one family with him according to the flesh, doth honour them in the sight of all the families of the earth in all things pertaining to the flesh : while unto us, who are of one spirit with him, is reserved the higher glory of occupying that place of spiritual supremacy over man which belongeth to Christ in virtue of his being the Son of God. We, entering by regeneration into that same glorious name, and into the divine spiritual unity which it denoteth, become a habitation of God, through whom he putteth forth that supremacy over mankind in flesh and blood which he himself heretofore held in the person of the Son; which is now usurped by the devil and his angels, and which in the end, and for ever, shall be possessed by Christ, and his body the church, which is God's fulness, the fulness of Him who filleth all in all. But not only shall the Heavens rule by means of and in the body of Christ, but there shall be an ordinance of government in the earth : not only shall we, children of the Spirit, eject Satan and his

angels from their spiritual lordship; but also the Jews, who are Christ's brethren according to the Aesh, shall possess the supremacy over the nations, as the royal priestly people, in that day when the


2 s

law shall go forth from Mount Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” And the reality of that universal empire, which Satan, by means of Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander, Cæsar, and finally Napoleon, hath been attempting to set up, shall at length be in existence, and abide the true form of the world's | unity. Yea, and the reality of that priestly royal dominion which

the Popes have claimed over the wide world, and which, if I err not, an individual person is shortly to assert for himself, and in a great measure attain-I mean the infidel Antichrist, figured in this prophecy by the Assyrian, in the Apocalypse by the eighth head which is also of the seven,-shall be brought to pass; not as an invention and master-piece of evil, but as the grand ultimate design and purpose of God, which the envy of Satan has been endeavouring, like Prometheus, to inspire with life stolen from the sanctuary of God; because he knew that this was the thing which man craveth after-namely, power lodged in holy hands, royalty residing with a priest of God. Of this blessed regiment Christ shall be the supreme holder, sitting upon the throne of David in Jerusalem; and he shall take the ministers of the same from among his people according to the flesh, who, as they have been trampled under foot of all nations, shall yet live to bless all the nations of the earth who have trodden them under foot: which is the revenge of God, the resentment of Christ; now enforced as a precept,

“ Bless them that curse you,” then exhibited as a reality over the wide world. And so the Jewish nation shall get honour from their King, and shall dwell in safety and in honour; and none of the nations shall hurt them, but contrariwise bless them, because that through them they derive the inheritance of every blessing. And when at length, breeding envious discontents, they shall be offended in their benignant and beneficent rulers; and, instead of going up from year to year to keep the Feast of Tabernacles at Jerusalem, they shall confederate against the holy city and the camp of the saints; God shall be so indignant at their blackest ingratitude as to rain down fire from heaven upon them, and consume them every one. Until which final consummation the tribes now scattered abroad, and oppressed of all nations, shall sit in noble state, and exercise righteous sway over all the nations of the earth. “ They shall abide, because now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth." Concerning that kingdom which Messiah shall hold over all the earth, it is not the place to speak at present; because more than to assert it, and to assign it as the cause of his people's greatness, our prophet is not moved to do in the text. Nor do we deem it ineet in these interpretations to turn aside from the express declarations of the text, and their conjunctions with one another. More than this belongeth to the doctor or the preacher, but not to the interpreter. Nevertheless, we are at pains to seek out the sub.

stance of the prophetic text, though we would not wander beyond it. We are no mere system-builders, nor symbol-expounders, but interpreters of God's mind in the prophet; wearisome on that account to the mere anatomist of God's word, but nowise wearisome to him who delighteth in its fulness and beauty.

While we regard this as the true and catholic interpretation of these words, some may think that they contain a reference and allusion to the wonderful action of power and holiness, of victory and of discipline, which are contained in the following verses, concerning the destruction of the Assyrian and the purification of the people of Israel. But this is a subject at once so large and so distinct that we shall separate it for the subject of another interpretation.

(To be continued.)


Before entering in detail into the interpretation of the parables to which I alluded in the last Number of this Journal, it seems proper to offer a few general observations. Much might be said to shew the impossibility of the interpretation which the language of the Parables in general receives, being the true one. My purpose, however, in the present paper, is merely to allude briefly to one or two essential misapprehensions which prevail amongst us, and to endeavour to lay before the reader, in the application of some shorter parables which occur in Matt. xiii., a specimen of the kind of interpretation which I would suggest the parabolic language was intended to receive.

Strictly speaking, the Parables in general have yet received no interpretation whatever. A general and vague application, which enters with no minuteness into the value of the terms which constitute them, is all that has been passing current amongst us. The common impression evidently is, that the Parables are of the nature of similitudes, used, for illustration, to help our capacities. But how erroneous such a notion is should be perceived at first sight, from the fact that they yet need illustration themselves. They are (at least some of them) confessedly difficult to understand, which no illustration should be: and in the way in which they are generally understood, are chargeable often, not only with difficulty, but with a degree of vagueness, redundancy, and inaccuracy, to which few tolerable Thetoricians would lay their compositions open. But the impression that a parable is spoken in illustration of something, inevitably begets the misunderstanding of it.

It is secretly taken for granted, that what it is intended to illustrate must be something which we know independently: and having satisfied ourselves, upon a general view of resemblance, what that is, we rest content, under the idea that the minute terms are not to be accounted for. But our only warrant for this latter assumption is the assumed correctness of our applications. Nevertheless, we know, from the most express testimon yof Scripture, that the design of the parabolic language was not to illustrate, but to hide truth. The parables are termed “dark sayings :" our Lord designates them “mysteries:” and plainly tells us why he spoke in parables-namely, to convey something which none of the wicked should understand (Matt. xiii. 10, &c.) Now it needs not to be urged, that of necessity the matters which they do convey must be hidden from the many now, as they were once : but I do urge, that it is plainly incongruous to make any parable reveal any thing now, which it could neither be intended nor adapted to hide originally. And I think this a very safe principle on which to question the truth of any received application. On this principle, it is clear how much exception may be taken against applications, of any of the Parables, which contain, as their substantial truth, the general judgment of all men at the resurrection. Of death, resurrection, and judgment to come, the elements of this proposition, the first could neither be hidden from any man, nor needs to be revealed to any; the second, the Jewish nation generally, and the Pharisees especially, firmly believed ; and the third has been, with little exceptions, the prevalent creed of all men in all ages: for which reasons, and because our Lord spoke openly of all the three elsewhere, and, because there is no term in any parable which can fairly be expounded to mean any of the three, I take the whole proposition to have been à priori, unfit for parabolic discourse, and à posteriori, actually in nowise contained therein. And here is another reason why our applications have hitherto been but of a vague and general nature-namely, because the crisis of so many of the parables has been by common consent carried forward beyond the grave, to the mysterious threshold of a future state; which terra incognita it has everbeen deemed presumptuous to attempt particularly to delineate. Now, the assumption that any but the quick are parties implicated in the Parables (with one exception) I take to be demonstrably erroneous; and that the Parables are merely general illustrations, or, strictly speaking, illustrations at all, our Lord himself has expressly contradicted. What I mean therefore to contend for is, that the terms of these discourses are to be fairly, diligently, and particularly expounded, by the help of Scripture; and not loosely applied, according to our own notions of general resemblance, however plausible.

The Parables form a large portion of the recorded discourses of our Lord. Is it conceivable that they have the mere office of loosely illustrating doctrines which we have revealed to us without difficulty or doubt independently of them ? Let any one compare, if he will, their united bulk with any equally large portion of the New Testament, excepting the Book of Revelation, and he will presently see how little instruction they are commonly made to convey. Several are made to mean, in substance, the same thing, though under circumstances involving the greatest unlikelihood that such should be the case.

Instance the parables of the "grain of mustard seed," and of the “ leaven (Matt. xiii. 31-33), which are spoken in conjunction; of the "hidden treasure," and of the “ pearl of great price” (Matt. xiii. 44–46), also spoken in conjunction; and of the “ talents and the pounds” (Matt. xxv. and Luke xix.), so essentially dissimilar in terms.

To be brief, however, there has been an incalculable impediment thrown in the way of a right appreciation of these parts of Scripture, by their not being carefully compared inter se, and studied in the connections wherein they stand. I allude more especially to the grammatical connections of some of the more important. It is truly strange how we have acquiesced in interpreting as an isolated discourse a passage beginning thus, “ Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins;" or thus, “For as a man travelling into a far country,” &c. or, thus, “Who then is that wise and faithful servant,” &c. It is abundantly clear that no independent discourse, either in Scripture or elsewhere, can so commence. But not only are the grammatical connections of some of the parables of immeasurable importance, but, all of them being prophetical, if they do not all set forth the same thing, there may be, as I think it will be found there are, independent means of determining the order and relation of the facts which they severally do set forth.

I shall now offer a remark on a point of no small importance, which is one of the first which presents itself in the study of the parables. I allude to the meaning of the expression “ The kingdom of heaven," with which so many of them open. Has this phrase, in the various places where it occurs, any consistent acceptation ? and if so, what is that acceptation? The kingdom of heaven is said to be like to muny things. It is a strange enigma, that neither are some of these things like to one another, nor any of them fairly like to a kingdom at all. Our commentators attempt to solve the difficulty by giving to the expression various significations. But this is to cut rather than to untie the knot. There is a kingdom of heaven, which is one thing and not many, to which the term kingdom is honestly and fairly applicable. This is that kingdom which the Jews thought should immediately appear” (avapalveodai, Luke xix. 11). This, which, as far as I can learn, is indiscriminately called “ kingdom of heaven” and “ kingdom of God” (see Matt. xiii. 31, and Luke xii, 18), did not then appear, nor, to my understanding, hath it

« PreviousContinue »