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contained in it is, that all the people of God (denominated the true Israel, because that Israel, the chosen nation, was a type of the church chosen out of all nations) shall be converted to the faith of Christ, and form one glorious spiritual kingdom, in which there exists no longer any distinction between Jew or Greek, male or female, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free; but all are one in Christ Jesus: the middle wall of partition being thrown down; the enmity even the law of commandments, contained in ordinances, being abolished in his flesh; of twain one new man being made, so that through him we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Against this, as a statement of New Testament doctrine, there is no objection; on the contrary, it is most sound. In the Christian church there are no national distinctions: all the living members of Christ, chosen of the Father before the foundation of the world, born into the world at divers times and in divers places, and born again of the Holy Ghost into the church, at the fulness of the time appointed for each; these all compose one body. The kingdom they enjoy is spiritual, consisting of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and Jesus Christ, their head, is King over them all. This is a part of the truth once delivered to the saints, and, as such, deserves that we should earnestly contend for it. But this is not the subject now before us: we are not expounding the conversations of Jesus, nor the apostolical epistles. The matter in hand is a prophecy which God spake by his servant Ezekiel; and the question is, are these doctrines of the Gospel the subject of this prophecy, or has the prophecy found its fulfilment in the promulgation of these doctrines?' This I freely and fearlessly answer in the negative.
For, first, The interpretation before us makes the land to signify the Christian church. Now, what says the prophecy? -Ye, 0 mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come. For behold I am for
shall be tilled and sown; and I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded: and I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings:
the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, The land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, and desolate, and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.”
Among other particulars here mentioned, it is clearly stated,
first, that the land was desolate, but shall again be tilled and sown; and, secondly, that both men and beasts shall be multiplied upon the land. Compare this with the supposed interpretation. The land of the prophecy was desolate; its cities uninhabited, and laid waste: but the land of the interpretation was never desolate. In the darkest
the Christian church, though comparatively few in numbers, maintained its glorious character as God's righteous witness in the earth. The land of the prophecy shall have beasts as well as men multiplied in it; but the land of the interpretation is wholly composed of immortal creatures, to the exclusion of beasts. The interpretation, therefore, does not agree with the prophecy.
Again, the children of Israel of the prophecy are described as being wholly removed out of the land; but the children of Israel of the interpretation (the people of God) can never, from the nature of the case, be removed out of the land of the interpretation. The people of God compose the Christian church: remove them, and the church ceases to be. According to this interpretation, the children of Israel and the land are inseparable, yea, identical: if they be removed, the land is removed, But the prophecy describes them as removed from off the land, which remained in its place when they were gone. The interpretation, therefore, does not agree with the prophecy.
Again, the restoration of the prophecy is a re-settlement of the children of Israel in the land which their fathers had possessed, but from which they had been ejected: but the restoration according to this interpretation, is the conversion of sinners to the Christian church, in which neither they nor their fathers had ever been before, and from which, therefore, they never could have been ejected. The interpretation, consequently, does not agree with the prophecy.
Again, the two kingdoms of the prophecy were originally one, and are described as having been divided into two. Their re-union is predicted, and it is added, that they shall not be divided any more. But the kingdoms of the interpretation (Jews and Gentiles) were never one, and, consequently, could never have been divided, so as to afford an opportunity for a prediction of their RE-UNION in Christ. The interpretation, therefore, does not agree with the prophecy.
Once more, the king of the prophecy is called David, and seems clearly to denote some individual of the regal family of the stock of Jesse, who should be renowned upon the throne of his great ancestor. The king of the interpretation is Jesus Christ, of the seed of David. This, therefore, corresponds exactly, but not in the sense intended by these interpreters—as is evident; for if four out of five parts of this interpretation fail, the fifth can have only an apparent agreement in some other sense, and not in the systematic sense intended by the interpreters. For example;—the King shall reign, and Jesus Christ is the King. These are propositions to which both prophecy and interpreters will assent. But the prophecy declares, that the place of his reign is Judæa, and the people over whom he shall reign are the kingdoms of Judah and Israel united into one; while the interpreters declare that the place of his reign is the Christian church, and the people over whom he reigns are Jews and Gentiles in one body. Both these statements are true, but they concern different things, and the statement of the interpretation is not the meaning of the statement in the prophecy.
Surely we may conclude here, as before, that in all fairness this system of interpretation must be relinquished, so far, at least, as this prophecy of Ezekiel is concerned.
III. The impossibility of adhering consistently to either of these modes of interpretation has been felt, and a third mode has been adopted, which is neither more nor less than an inconsistent mixture of these two. It makes the land to mean Judæa, literally, in one part of the prophecy, and the Christian church, spiritually, in another part; the children of Israel to mean, literally, the Jews in one part, and, spiritually, Christians in another 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 recognised 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 prophet's words? Surely this system, (or rather no
* Calmet apud Mant and D'Oyly.
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 them—that 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 peculiar 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 Ísraelitish 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 recognise 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 recognise 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 fulfil. ment 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 re-union into one kingdom. The last individual who was born King of the Jews, was Jesus of Nazareth, and he is still alive. He is the literal, lineal descendant of David; and the angel who announced his birth, informed his mother that the Lord God would give unto him the throne of his father David.* Luke
* It is written of Coniah or Jechonias, the last king of the house of David before the captivity, "Thus saith the Lord, write ye this man childless, a man