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Sun of righteousness” “ with healing in his wings.” This image is taken from one of the most striking objects which the whole creation offers to our view. We may conceive the heathen world lying in the darkness of the night. We may regard the Jewish church as enjoying the benefit of such light as was reflected in the Law from the Gospel not yet seen; pure, but comparatively cold and dim; holy as coming from God, but weak through the infirmity of man. When, behold, the sun arises; and the darkness is dispelled. The moon that ruled the night is now of use no more. To the sun, and to his rays alone, all eyes are turned, all nature is directed, for light and warmth, for health and strength, and cheerfulness. And yet there are some who love darkness rather than light. And it is therefore to those who fear God's name that “the Sun of righteousness" is here promised to arise. These are they who joy and prosper in his rays, as here described. These have the great advantage over the wicked here foretold; the one being as ashes under the feet of the other; the one perishing like the refuse of a furnace, whilst the other thrive, like the cattle of a stall, in peace and plenty, in grace and godliness. Oh let us then both fear God's name, and also watch for and welcome in our hearts “the dayspring from on high.” Luke 1. 78. And often as we enjoy the light and warmth of the sun shining in the firmament, let us lift up our hearts to Him who created all its glory, saying, So may our blessed Lord shine in our souls with healing in his wings !
Thus the Gospel is described beforehand, to them which were under the Law, as an object of devout desire, a dispensation of health and safety. Thus the advent of Christ, however terrible to the wicked, is described as full of grace and glory to the faithful and devout. And yet they are strictly charged, and it is the parting charge sent them by the prophet, it is the last command written in the Old Testament, “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.” The Law was not abolished at present, though its fulfilment in the Gospel was foreshewn. And though the Law came by Moses, it was God who gave Moses the commandment; and therefore it must be obeyed, as unto God, with patience and perseverance, even to the end. Prophecy then, though it may seem to have disparaged the Law, by dwelling on the hope of better things, concludes not without solemnly enjoining its remembrance, on the ground that it is God's commandment. And we may say the like of the great things promised in the New Testament; they afford no pretext for dispensing with the many duties there prescribed. Having the hope of heaven set before us, we might be apt to feel weary of our work on earth, impatient of the burden of the flesh, and of the many and oft recurring toils and troubles to which we are exposed by its infirmities. But as the Law was to the Jews a schoolmaster, to bring them unto Christ, see Gal. 3. 24, so is this present life our school, to train us for eternity. Whatsoever therefore we have set us for our task, by the dispensations of God's providence, or by the injunctions of his word, let us do it as unto Him; at once patiently and cheerfully, at once contented where we are, and rejoicing in the hope of what we shall be.
But finally, even the Old Testament does not conclude with a commandment. As the last portion of the whole volume is prophecy, so the last clause in the prophetic portion is promise. It is a promise pointing to Christ. It has indeed a warning annexed to it; but still it is a promise pointing to the Saviour of the world. It is in harmony with all the promises and prophecies, which testify of Jesus, from the one end of holy Scripture to the other. It is a promise of one whom God would send “in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1. 17. Thus the angel in St. Luke's Gospel applies this prophecy to John the Baptist. Thus we know that it is a promise of John's coming to prepare the way for Christ. Thus we see in it a promise of Christ's coming in the flesh. And we may learn from it, that to be prepared for Him, when He shall come the second time, our hearts must be turned from disobedience to the wisdom of the just, and even they that are fathers amongst us must become as little children, so to enter into the kingdom of God. As then they of old looked for Christ's coming in the flesh, let us watch for his appearing in the clouds of heaven. And as we have seen the things they looked for fulfilled long ago, let us contemplate with the eye of faith the like sure fulfilment of the glory that shall be revealed. “ Surely I come quickly.” This is the concluding promise of the New Testament. Let us be ready to respond, as there instructed, “ Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Rev. 22. 20. Come, not with the terrors of the Law, but with the grace of the Gospel. Come, not to “smite the earth with a curse," but according to the gracious promise made to them that look for Thee, come, “the second time without sin unto salvation.” Heb. 9. 28.
In concluding this Commentary on the Old Testament, the author offers the following remarks on some of the most generally accessible of the works which he has consulted; for the benefit of those who are engaged in the study of the sacred volume.
The observations made in the Postscript to the New Testament Commentary are equally applicable here, to such of the works there mentioned as comprehend the Old Testament wholly or in part.
Gill's Commentary is valuable in many points of view, particularly as containing many curious specimens of the Jewish Rabbinical theology; but it is highly Calvinistic, as well as overladen with references to the abominations of Rome. Orton falls below Doddridge in those points in which Doddridge is himself defect but his reflexions, though often common place, are practical and improving.
Townsend's Chronological Arrangement has less to recommend it in the Old Testament than in the New; the chronology being bere more uncertain, and the dislocations of Scripture being therefore more arbitrary and objectionable. The notes however are usually valuable. Hales's Chronology is a first rate work. But this writer, like Horsley, another giant in his way, often makes one regret that his uncommon powers were not more constantly under the mastery of a sober judgment.
Shuckford and Prideaux are very serviceable books. Their series has lately been completed by Russell, in a work which requires some revision, in order to match its companions. Stackhouse's History of the Bible, and Milman's History of the Jews, are mentioned only to be objected to ; lest they should undermine, though in different ways, that devout reverence, with which God ought always to be approached in the study of his word.
Graves on the Pentateuch is highly and deservedly esteemed. Michaelis on the Laws of Moses affords much useful information, and shews uncommon acuteness and research. Had but the translator omitted all that is irreverent and indecent, he would have much reduced the length of the work and augmented its value.
Lee on Job is a work similar in many respects to Bloomfield's valuable notes on the Greek Testament; and leaves it much to be desired that the writer may accomplish his purpose of going through the whole of the Old Testament.
Horne on the Psalms needs no commendation, being read and liked by every one. His fault perhaps is sameness.
He has the rare excellency of constantly aiming to awaken and enliven a feeling of devotion in his readers.
Vitringa on Isaiah, though not a book very generally accessible, may be here mentioned as one of the best books of its kind; comprising a full discussion of every opinion on every text, fairly summed up, and judiciously decided. "It almost excites a feeling
PART VIII.-1). T.
of regret, that this method of exhausting a subject, tedious but sure, is gone out of use. The work may be advantageously compared with the ill digested volumes of Pradi and Villalpandi on Ezekiel. Henderson on Isaiah is a sensible work. Its capital error is the confining the scope of each prophecy to an individual object. The principle of manifold fulfilment, improperly called the double sense, may be seen advocated to the opposite extreme in two valuable sermons by Arnold, on the interpretation of prophecy.
Maitland's argument, against one of the main principles of nearly all modern interpreters of the Book of Daniel, is by no means conclusive. In this prophetic book our guides are numerous, but far from agreed as to the path to be taken. Stonard throws much light on the vision of Zechariah ; and his disquisitions are occasionally enriched with impressive practical reflexions.
Davison on Prophecy is helpful throughout; and is a very valuable work. The same may be said of Lowth on Sacred Poetry.
Adam Clarke's Commentary presents more show of learning than reality. And besides other serious faults, it is defaced by the gratuitous introduction of indelicate allusions, and indecent expressions. Yet in his preface this writer makes the following just remarks as to what a commentary ought to be: “ Many are of opinion that it is an easy thing to write reflections on the Scriptures; my opinion is the reverse ; common place observations, which may arise on the surface of the letter, may be easily made by any person possessing a little common sense and a measure of piety; but reflections, such as become the oracles of God, are properly inductive reasonings on the facts stated or on the doctrines delivered; and require not only a clear head and a sound heart, but such a compass and habit of philosophic thought, such a power to discern the end from the beginning, the cause from its effect, (and where several causes are at work, to ascertain their respective results, so that every effect may be attributed to its true cause,) as falls to the lot of but few men.”
With so many valuable helps already provided for the interpretation of the Scriptures, and with so many instances also of faults in the productions of able and learned men, it is with fear and trembling that the writer of the present commentary brings forward a new expository work, and one which he is well aware will easily be proved faulty in many points. All that he can say is that he has done his best to supply a kind of exposition which he was unable to meet with ; and that as he has already corrected in a new edition some faults justly found with the parts first published, so be hopes ever to feel thankful to those who will point out, either to himself or to his readers, any thing in his pages inconsistent with the object at which they uniformly aim, to be “good to the use of edifying.”
Alderley, Jan. 24, 1812.