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part; the restoration to mean the return of Judah from Babylon in one part, and the conversion of sinners in another; the two kingdoms to mean Judah and his Israelitish companions in one part, and Jews and Gentiles in another; the king to mean the Jewish ruler after the Babylonish captivity in one part, and the Messiah in another; thus mingling the two preceding interpretations, and adopting them alternately, as is found most convenient for glossing over the context. This is avowed, though in guarded language, as thus:
"The most sensible interpreters seem to agree that there are several expressions in this chapter (Ezek. xxxvi.), particularly in the latter part of it, which cannot be literally understood of any event, excepting of the reign of the Messiah, of the freedom that he has procured for his church, of another promised land, and of a chosen people, different from that of the Jews; but, at the same time, that there may be recognized in it certain forms of speech, which have had their literal accomplishment since the return of the Jews from their captivity."*
Certain forms of speech have had a literal accomplishment! Several expressions cannot, &c.! Is not this to pretend to some mode of ascertaining the prophet's mind, other than by the * Calmet apud Mant and D'Oyly.
prophet's words? Surely this system, or rather no system, refutes itself; for if such arbitrary liberties be taken with the language of Scripture; if when the prophet, in two different places of the same prophecy, uses the same words, without any intimation of a difference in his meaning; the interpreter be permitted to say that the words in one place have a meaning which they cannot have in the other place; then manifestly the church is at the mercy of the fancy of the interpreter, and all settled consistent exposition is at an end.
The true secret of this inconsistency lies here; that expositors have taken it as a sort of sine quâ non in their interpretations, that the prophecies have been already fulfilled. The category of yet unfulfilled has not been allowed a place in their systems: hence they have diligently applied every practicable passage to the return of Judah from Babylon, and have toiled with sore labour and travail, to make all the rest fit on to the Christian church. In this they have been baffled, as to any detailed consistency; and yet the degree of similarity naturally to be expected between type and antitype has encouraged them to go on, and confirmed them in their opinions: while all the time they have been pointing out antitypical applications, and calling them expositions of prophecy.
Only admit this idea of yet unfulfilled, and a thousand difficulties vanish. And why should this idea not be admitted? We have seen, that so long as we have the history of the Jews to compare with the prophecies concerning themthat is, up to this time; a certain mode of interpreting those prophecies is rendered indispensable: then why not simply continue that same mode of interpretation, when we have prophecy alone not yet illustrated by history? If prophecies concerning the Jews, delivered two or three thousand years ago, be proved, by the history of the interim up to our own days, to have been fulfilled in a literal sense, and therefore to demand a literal interpretation; upon what principle can it be alleged that other prophecies, delivered in similar language by the same prophets, are not to be similarly interpreted after our days? Must God have done, before our days, all the literal things which he ever intended to do upon the earth? Is there, indeed, any thing magical in the age of the world we live in, that it should change the nature of the prophecy or of its fulfilment? Or is it that unbelief, though forced to yield to the testimony of history, yet refuses to be effectually taught, even by that plain lesson, and will not take God at his word, or trust him for a moment out of her sight?
IV. The interpretation, then, which remains to be considered, and which alone will be found to harmonize with all that the prophets have written, is that which makes the land always to mean Judæa literally; Judah always to mean the two tribes nationally, with their Iraelitish companions; Israel always to mean the whole ten tribes nationally; restoration always to mean the actual return of the twelve tribes to Judæa; and David, their own king, always to mean the King of the Jews, of the seed of David, Jesus Christ our Lord.
This interpretation holds good in every point. The present condition of the land of Palestine is well known to be one of extreme barrenness and desolation; whereas it was a land of flocks and herds, a land flowing with milk and honey, the glory of all lands. In this we recognize the literal fulfilment of that clause of the prophecy which predicts desolation; and from the next clause of the prophecy, we confidently anticipate a literal renovation to beauty and fertility, accompanied by a multiplication of beasts upon it, as well as men, for the consumption of its produce. In the present condition of the Jewish people, divided and dispersed, we recognize the literal fulfilment of those clauses in the prophecy which imply division and predict dispersion; and from similar
clauses, similarly interpreted, we confidently anticipate a similarly literal fulfilment of the promised restoration and re-union. But here it may, perhaps, be objected, that in order to be consistent throughout, we must maintain that king David literally shall reign again over the twelve tribes in Judæa, according to the terms of the prophecy. To which I answer, first, that if the prophecy stated this unequivocally, we should have no hesitation in believing and expecting it; neither should the apparent improbability, or even absurdity of it, interfere in the slightest degree with our faith. But, secondly, the Jewish people, who shall be re-assembled in the land, are not the identical individuals of whom the prophet speaks as being dispersed, but their literal, lineal descendants, who shall be found alive at the time appointed of God for their restoration. In like manner, the King of the Jews, who shall reign over the twelve tribes in the land, is not the identical David, or Solomon, the son of David, or Rehoboam, the grandson of David, who did reign over them before their division, but the literal, lineal descendant of David, the last of the line of Jewish kings who shall be found alive at the time appointed of God for their reunion into one kingdom. The last individual who was born King of the Jews, was Jesus of