« PreviousContinue »
the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph, being raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son, and he called his name Jesus.” In the second chapter ascribed to Luke, (ver. 21,) it is said,
“ And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” A curious fulfilment of a prophecy this, where the prophecy is, that the virgin spoken of by Isaiah shall call the name of her child Immanuel; and the supposed fulfilment, that both the mother and the father-in-law of a child born seven hundred
years after, were commanded by an angel to call her child Jesus, which they are stated to have done ; and it does not appear, that they, or any one else, ever called him Immanuel during the whole course of his, or their lives, or during the lives of any of his apostles. This naturally creates a desire to examine the prophecy itself, in order to ascertain, whether it does in fact relate to our Lord at all: and I must confess, after having considered it with great attention, it appears to me that it does not. It is stated (Isaiah, ch. vii.) that Ahaz king of Judah, being in great distress, on receiving intelligence that Rezin king of Syria, and Pekah king of Israel, had
combined to invade his doininions, and to dethrone him, the prophet was commissioned by the Most High to encourage him, and to assure him that their design should not be successful: but it would appear, that some doubt, or apprehension, still lingered in the monarch's breast, for it is said, (ver. 9) “ If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.” And then the Lord is represented as speaking again unto Ahaz by the prophet, as before, saying: “ Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David. Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also ? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a virgin (or “young woman,' as I apprehend it may be rendered; meaning more likely some virgin or young woman then present, and looked to, or pointed at, than a virgin or young woman who was to appear seven hundred years after, of which not the slightest intimation is given)-she (for thus I understand it may be translated) shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good; for before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
Now there is every reason to believe that this prophetic sign, which was to encourage the doubting sovereign
and his household, was to be manifested in a very short time. If any young woman then present, to whom it might be known to relate, was to be declared prego nant within a very short time after, it would be some indication that the prophetic sign was fulfilling ; and when in the course of a few months
she was de livered of a son, and called his name Immanuel, the sign would be fully accomplished, upon the speedy fulfilment of which the prophet had staked his credit, and the greatest encouragement afforded, that the principal prophecy—which this secondary one, , for such it was, was intended to be a sign of_would in due time be accomplished likewise. But what sign could that be to a distressed, and doubting prince, which was not to appear till hundreds of years, not only after his death, but after the accomplishment of the principal prophecy of which it was to be a sign? Is it to be conceived, that any one who doubted the taking place of an event predicted to him, which he thought unlikely to happen, should have his doubts removed, or feel encouraged, by being told, upon the same authority, that a still more extraordinary, and unlikely thing should happen seven hundred years after ? This would be completely inverting the order of things, and be just as rational, as if it were to be predicted of any one in the last stage of a consumption, that in three weeks he should be restored to perfect health ; and upon his testifying his unbelief, the prophet were to say to him, As
believe my prediction, a sign shall be given to you that will remove all doubt--Three hundred years hence, one of
descendants shall be emperor of Austria. What would be the probable effect
the sick man's mind? Would it be at all likely to van: quish his incredulity, and to impart encouragement and comfort to him in his distress ? But there would be a much greater probability of its producing that effect, if the prophet, of whom he had a high opinion, were to pledge his credit upon something that was to take place very soon after, the not happening of which according to his prediction, he must well know would destroy it altogether, false prophets not being in the habit of acting in this manner. Besides, if the sign itself was not to appear till hundreds of years after the monarch himself should be in his grave, and after the event itself, of which it was to be the sign, should have taken place,—what propriety could there have been in declaring, that this event, the principal thing predicted, should happen before the child should know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, when it would have actually taken place hundreds of years before the child was born? Would it not have been more simple, and more natural, to have said at once, It shall happen before he is born? What other reason could there have been for fixing at all, upon
the period when he should know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, than that the whole referred to events at no great distance, which were to take place after
the child's birth, but before he should arrive at years of discretion ?
To such events, I can entertain no doubt, it did re. late, and not at all to our Saviour: for it appears from the history of that period, as recorded in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth chapters of the second book of Kings, that Ahaz reigned but sixteen years. In what year of his reign this confederacy was formed ågainst him, does not appear; but it was probably not very soon, for it appears that he had time fully to develop his character, by forsaking the law of the Lord, and práctising all the abominations of the heathens ; and then it is said that the kings of Syria and Israel came up against him: but after having besieged Jerusalem, though without success, and conquered Elath, Ahaz, we are informed, in the course of that very war, applied to the king of Assyria for assistance, who accordingly attacked Damascus the capital of Syria, and took it, and carried away its inhabitants captive to Kir, and slew Rezin; by which the first part of the prophecy was very speedily accomplished. There is some little confusion in the accounts relative to Pekah; but as it is stated that he was slain in the twentieth
of Jotham the father of Ahaz,--and Jotham is said to have reigned but sixteen years, and Ahaz to have succeeded him in the seventeenth year of Pekah’s reign, and Pekah to have reigned twenty years,—it is evident that Pekah must have perished in the third or fourth year of Ahaz; so that even supposing the confederacy to