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THE RESULTS OF THE LAWS OF FIGURES IN THE
INTERPRETATION OF THE SCRIPTURES.
ANOTHER more frequent and mischievous error, is the spiritualization of the Scriptures, and especially the prophetic portions of them, by the assumption that the persons, objects, acts, and events of which they treat are used representatively of others of a different class, and without any regard to analogy; and thence that the persons, acts, and events which they foreshow are not those mentioned in them, but another set belonging to a different sphere. Thus it is held, that in the prophecies of the Old Testament, Israelites stand for Gentiles, Jerusalem and Zion for the church, and the acts and events that are predicted of the Israelites for acts and events of a different kind, of which Gentiles are to be the subjects. For this extraordinary construction not the slightest reason can be given, except a wish to get rid of teachings which, though specific and indubitable if construed by the established laws of language, are at variance with certain favorite theories respecting God's purposes, or the measures it becomes him to pursue in the government of the world. It is veiled, indeed, under the pretext or fancy, that the passages which are thus interpreted are figurative; but no figure is identified that gives them the meaning which the construction ascribes to them; and no such figure exists. The allegory, even, were they held to be allegorical, would not invest them with such a representative sense. But they are not allegorical; 1st, because the allegory is always in its descriptive part in the past tense, but these predictions are altogether in the future; and, 2d, because there is no such resemblance, as the allegory requires, between the Israelites, Jerusalem, Zion, the return of the Israelites, the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, which are held by the spiritualists to be representatives, and the Gentile church, and the conversion of the Gentiles universally, which they are said to represent. In the first place, as the land of Israel, Jerusalem, and Zion are in those prophecies treated according to their nature, as places, and the Israelites are exhibited as to return to and inhabit them; if they are taken as representatives of the Christian church, then, on the principles of analogy, that church must also be taken as a mere place, or combination of places, bearing the same relation to the Gentiles who are to enter them, as the land of Israel and Jerusalem do to the Israelites who are to return to them. Their construction thus empties those prophecies of all their spiritual significance which it professes to unfold, and turns them into mere announcements that Gentiles are to go to a locality or localities that are or have been the scene of worship by Gentiles bearing the Christian name. In the next place, as the persons whom the predictions in question foreshow are to return, to Palestine and Jerusalem are Israelites exclusively, the descendants of the people of that name that once inhabited that country; if their predicted return is a mere representative of analogous acts of Gentiles, then, on the one hand, the return of Gentiles which is foreshown must be a mere return to localities or places where Gentiles bearing the Christian name had formerly offered worship; as the predicted return of the Israelites is a return of that kind; and, on the other, the Gentiles who are to return to those places are not Gentiles promiscuously of all nations and all religions, but only such Gentiles as are descendants of Christian Gentiles who once offered worship in those localities; precisely as the Israelites who are exhibited as to
return to Palestine are exclusively descendants of Israelites who once dwelt in that land. These
predictions, accordingly, instead of indicating, as the spiritualizing interpreters imagine, the conversion of the whole Gentile world, are limited, by the principle of representation on which they affect to proceed, to the descendants of Gentiles who once offered worship as professing Christians in the localities to which they are to return, which were to their Christian ancestors as places of worship what Jerusalem was to the ancient Israelites. In the third place; as the Israelites who are represented as to return to the land of their forefathers are exhibited as returning from exile in foreign lands, where they had long been scattered and oppressed ; in order to such a correspondence as the law of allegoric representation requires, the Gentiles whom their return, it is held, foreshows, must also return from dispersion and exile in foreign countries, at a distance from the national home of their ancestors, Where, then, are such Gentiles to be found, unless it be in the colonies that have been planted by the European nations on this continent, in India, and in the islands of the Pacific and Indian oceans during the last three hundred and fifty years? And are the people of this country, who have descended from European-British, French, German, Swiss, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian-Christians, who reside on this continent, to migrate back to Europe, to the localities in which their ancestors once offered their worship? That is the prediction couched under these prophecies undoubtedly, if the principle of interpretation is legitimate on which these writers proceed. What a beautiful result of their attempt to give them a higher spiritual signification than God employs them to express! In the fourth place; the Palestine and Jerusalem to which the Israelites are to go back, is Palestine in its desolation, and Jerusalem in ruins. If the parallel is to hold, then, the religious places to which the Gentiles are to return in the lands whence they have emigrated, are also to be in a state of depopulation and ruin. This implies that the countries, the cities, and the sites of ancient Christian edifices are, when the predicted return takes place, to be swept with devastation, and converted into a waste. What religious motive, then, can be supposed to exist for such a return? Is God to be any more accessible in those ancient sites, after they have been doomed to depopulation and waste by his avenging justice, than in the religious edifices of this and other lands, where the descendants of Europeans reside? Does any special prerogative attach to the sites of the old cathedrals,