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evidence of PROPHECY is justly qualified a more sure word*, when compared to MIRACLES, whose demonstrative evidence is confined to that age in which the power of them was bestowed upon the Church: whereas the prophecies here meant, namely, those of St. Paul and St. John †, concerning the GREAT APOSTASY, were always fulfilling even to the last consummation of all things; and so, affording this demonstrative evidence to the men of all generations.
However, if from this prophecy the first Christians drew a wrong conclusion, it was not by the fault of the Divine Prophet, but their own... Jewish Tradition might at first mislead the followers of Jesus to believe that the destruction of the World was very soon to follow the destruction of Jerusalem: But these men soon put off Tradition, with the Law: And Scripture, which was then recommended to them as their only study, with the DOUBLE SENSES with which it abounds, might easily have led them to a distinction of times in this Prophecy, a Prophecy formed, as they must needs see, upon the : ancient models.
But as Providence is always educing good out of evil (though neither for this, nor any other reason, is evil ever connived at by the disciples of Christ, as appears from the conduct of St. Paul, just mentioned above) this error was fruitful of much service to truth. It nourished and increased a spirit of piety, seriousness, and charity, which wonderfully contributed to the speedy propagation of the Gospel.
Before I conclude, let me just observe (what I have always principally in view), that this explanation of the Prophecy obviates all those impious and absurd insinuations of licentious men, as if Jesus was led either by craft or enthusiasm, either by the gloominess of his own
* Becaιórspor, more firm, constant, and durable.
+ See Sir Isaac Newton on the Prophecies, c. i. of his Observations upon the Apocalypse of St. John.
ideas, or by his knowledge of the advantage of inspiring such into his Followers, to prophesy of the speedy destruction of the World.
But by strange ill fortune even some Believers, as we have observed, are come at length to deny the very existence of double senses and secondary prophecies. A late writer hath employed some pages to proclaim his utter disbelief of all such fancies. I shall take the liberty to examine this bold rectifier of prejudices: not for any thing he hath opposed to the Principles here laid down; for I dare say these were never in his thoughts; but only to shew, that all he bath written is wide of the purpose: though, to say the truth, no wider than the notions of those whom he opposes; men who contend for Types and Secondary senses in as extravagant a way as he argues against them; that is, such who take a handle from the doctrine of double senses to give a loose to the extravagancies of a vague imagination: consequently his arguments, which are aimed against their very being and use, hold only against their abuse. And that abuse, which others indeed have urged as a proof against the use, he sets himself to confute: a mighty undertaking! and then mistakes his reasoning for a confutation of the use.
His Argument against double senses in Prophecies, as far as I understand it, may be divided into two parts, 1. Replies to the reasoning of others for double senses. 2. His own reasoning against them.--With his Replies I have nothing to do (except where something of argument against the reality of double senses is contained) because they are replies to no reasonings of mine, nor to any that I approve. I have only therefore to consider what he hath to say against the thing itself.
11. His first argument against more senses than one is as follows--"Supposing that the opinion or judgment
"The Principles and Connexion of Natural and Revealed Religion, distinctly considered, p. 221, by Dr. Sykes.
of the Prophet or Apostle is not to be considered in "matters of Prophecy more than the judgment of a mere amanuensis is,-and that the point is not what "the opinion of the amanuensis was, but what the inditer intended to express; yet it must be granted, that if "God had any views to some remoter events, at the * same time that the words which were used were "equally applicable to, and designed to express, nearer 166 events: those remoter events, as well as the nearer, were in the intention of GOD: And if both the nearer * and remoter events were equally intended by God in any Proposition, then the LITERAL SENSE OF THEM
IS NOT THE ONE NOR THE OTHER SINGLY AND APART, BUT BOTH TOGETHER must be the full meaning of such passages." p. 219.
-Then the literal sense of them is not the one nor the other singly and apart, but both of them together, &c. i. e. if both together make up but one literal sense, then there is neither a secondary nor a double sense: and so there is an end of the controversy. A formidable Adversary truly! He threatens to overthrow the thing, and gives us an argument against the propriety of the name. Let "him but allow his adversaries that a nearer and a remoter event are both the subjects of one and the same Prediction, and, I suppose, it will be indifferent to them whether he call it, with them, a Prophecy of a double and figurative sense, or they call it, with him, a Prophecy of a single literal sense: And he may be thankful for so much complaisance; for it is plain, they have the better of him even in the propriety of the name. It is confessed that GOD, in these predictions, might have views to nearer and remoter events: now these nearer and remoter events were events under two different Dispensations, the Jewish and the Christian. The Prediction is addressed to the Jews, who had not only a more immediate concern with the first, but, at the time of giving the Prophecy, were not to be let into the secrets of the other:
other: Hence the prediction of the nearer event was properly the literal or primary sense, as given for the present information of Gob's Servants; and the more remote event for their future information, and so was as properly the secondary sense, called with great propriety figurative, because conveyed under the terms which predicted the nearer event. But I hope a first and a second, a literal and a figurative, may both together at least make up a DOUBLE SENSE. SELDEN understood this matter better, when he said, "The Scripture may "have more senses besides the literal, because GoD "understands all things at once; but a man's writing "has but one true sense, which is that which the author "meant when he writ it *."
2. His second argument runs thus,-" WORDS are "the signs of our thoughts, and therefore stand for the "ideas in the mind of him that uses them. If then "words are made use of to signify two or more things "at the same time, their significancy is really lost, and "it is impossible to understand the real certain intention "of him that uses them. Were GOD therefore to dis
cover any thing to mankind by any written Revelation, "and were he to make use of such TERMS as stand "for ideas in men's minds, he must speak to them so as "to be understood by them. They must have in their "minds the ideas which God intended to excite in them, or else it would be in vain to attempt to make dis"coveries of his Will; and the TERMIS made use of must "be such as were wont to raise such certain ideas, or else there could be no written Revelation. The true sense therefore of ANY PASSAGE of Scripture can be "but ONE; or if it be said to contain more senses than
one, if such multiplicity be not revealed, the Revelation "becomes useless, because unintelligible." pp. 222, 223.
Men may talk what they please of the obscurity of Writers who have two senses, but it has been my fortune
to meet with it much oftener in those who have none. Our Reasoner has here mistaken the very Question, which is, whether a Scripture PROPOSITION (for all Prophecies are reducible to Propositions) be capable of two senses; and, to support the negative, he labours to prove that WORDS OR TERMS can have but one.-If then words are made use of to signify two or more THINGS at the same time, their significancy is really lost-such TERMS as stand for ideas in men's minds—-TERMS made use of must be such as are wont to raise such certain ideas-All this is readily allowed; but how wide of the purpose, may be seen by this instance: Jacob says, I will go down into Sheol unto my son mourning. Now if SHEOL signify in the ancient Hebrew, only the Grave, it would be abusing the TERM to make it signify likewise, with the vulgar Latin, in infernum, because if WORDS (as he says) be made to signify two or more things at the same time, their significancy is lost.— But when this PROPOSITION of the Psalmist comes to be interpreted, Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell [SHEOL] neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption; though it literally signifies security from the curse of the Law, upon transgressors, viz. immature death, yet it is very reasonable to understand it in a spiritual sense, of the resurrection of CHRIST from the dead; in which, the words or terms translated Soul and Hell, are left in the meaning they bear in the Hebrew tongue, of Body and Grave.
But let us suppose our Reasoner to mean that a PROPOSITION is not capable of two senses, as perhaps he did in his confusion of ideas, for notwithstanding his express words to the contrary, before he comes to the end of his argument, he talks of the true sense of ANY PASSAGE being but one; and then his assertion must be,:. That if one Proposition have two Senses, its significancy. is really lost; and that it is impossible to understand the real certain intention of him that uses them; con.~ F 3