Page images

III. The prophets sometimes stop short in describing the progress of events, and introduce matter which, at first view, appears foreign to the subject. Upon investigation, it will be found that they pause to answer objections which naturally occur from their subject, and are tacitly understood, though not expressed.

The design of prophecy, as well as of every other part of Scripture, is to convince men of the truth of what God has revealed, and thereby to rectify the heart, and reform the life." In order to work a thorough conviction, it is necefsary not only to state facts, but to remove objections. When the Spirit of prophecy forefaw objections which would have weight, he proceeds instantly to solve them, without formally stating them.

Thus Ifaiah (chap. xxviii. 7.--22.) shews the rejection of the Mefliah by the Jewish nation, and the consequent desolation brought on them by the Romans. In order to vindicate the jul. tice of God in this dispensation of his providence, the prophet answers (from verse 23. to the close) the great objection of the Jews to the Christian dispensation, and their apology for rejecting it, namely, the removal of the Mosaic Economy. He foresaw that they would consider it as inconsistent with the wisdom of God, first, to have appointed it, and afterwards to have


[ocr errors]


abolished it. The objection is answered by an allusion to the practice of the husbandman: " He first plows, then fows ; so the Mosaic Economy was a préparation for the Gospel. He suits the feed to the soil, the threshing instrument to the feed; he uses one inftrument to thresh, another to grind: Changing the instrument in the progress of his work, is the effect not of folly, but wisdom. It was from the beginning the plan of Infinite Wisdom; to adapt the mode of

in the several ages of the Church, to the capacities of

of mankind, and to change the Mofaic for the Christian Dispensation.

The prophet Ifaiah (xl. 9. 111.) describes the ministry of the Apostles; he removes (ver. iz. 17.) the objections of the Jews to the Messiah. As, the meanness of his outward appearance, answered, (verse 13.) by turning round to the works of creation, and asking, Who made them?

The folly of his cross anlwered;' (verfe i 3; 14:) by afferting the superior wisdom of God, in the fcheme of redemption, and the folly of setting up human wisdom'in opposition to it. The fear of the Romans answered (verse 15.) by declaring the insignificance of all nations, in comparison of Him whom they rejected. A conceit that facrifices were fufficient to attone for fin, and that the death of the Mefliah was therefore nivo Surinn


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

unnecessary, answered, (verse 16.) by asserting that the sacrifices of brute animals, enjoined by the law, were in themselves absolutely insufficient to attone for fin.

Isaiah (chap. xlix. 1.-23.) gives a view of events in their order, from the promulgation of the gospel to the restoration of the Jews. At the 24th verse he stops short, and answers objections which would naturally occur against the restoration he had promised. He continues to answer several objections in the whole of the ist chapter, and in chap. li. from the beginning to verse 9.

At other times the prophets interrupt the detail of events, in order to make a practical application of some important fact foretold ; showing the influence it ought to have on those who hear it, but especially on thofe who see it accomplished, according to their several situations, Thus, the prophet having shewed the conversion and restoration of the Jewish nation, (Isaiah xli. 1.-20.) he breaks off (verse 21.) by an animated address to the adherents of every false religion, summoning them to produce any such evidences of divinity in the deities they worfhip, as the true God has given in the prediction and accomplishment of those important facts, respecting the Jewish nation. We find a fimilar address on the fame event, chap. xliv.


9.-20. The same prophet having shewed the progress of the gospel among the Gentiles, on its first promulgation, (xlii. 10.-16.) he breaks off the detail of events, to denounce the judgments of God against the heathen nations, who retained their idolatry; then turning round to the Jews, in a pathetic address, he represents their inexcuseableness in rejecting the Gospel, and the justice of the calamities which were in confequence entailed upon their nation', (ver. 18.-23.)

IV. THERE are sudden transitions in the prophets ; that is, they rapidly pass from one event to another, very remote as to the time of its accomplishment, from that mentioned immediate. ly before. However, a minute attention to the passage, and the comparing it with other passages, in the same prophet, will enable us to trace the connection of the writer's ideas, and prevent our misapprehending the narration, fo far aś to imagine, that the last event shall quick. ly succeed the preceding in the accomplishment:


(1) Many instances of this kind could be produced, out of all the prophets ; and in them we ought to admire the wisdom of the Spirit, who dictated the word of God. The future events foretold relate only to one period; but the practical remarks with which they are interspersedare equally profitable in all periods. The literal meaning of the events predicted, and a knowledge of their coincidence with the prophecy, may be acquired only by a few i but the practical remarks are'level to the capacity of all ; so that the word of God,' even in the darkest passages, maketh wife the fimple.

Thus (Isa. Ixi. 1.-3.) the prophet describes the personal ministry of the Messiah, for fo our Lord applies it, (Luke iv. 17.-21.) At the 4th verse, the prophet suddenly paffes on to the restoration of the Jewish ration, which takes place at the Millennium. Betwixt the personal ministry of the Messiah and the Millennium, no less than two thousand years elapse. Is any apt to suppose; that the latter event quickly fucceeds the former ? Let him carefully peruse the prophet, from the 40th chapter, and he will find, in the several parallel views of the fame time, that the rejection of the Jews, the admiffion of the Gentiles into the church, the promulgation of the gospel among all nations, conftantly intervene betwixt the personal ministry of the Meffiah and the Millennium. In the passage where the transition is made, he says, “ They (that is the restored Jews) shall build “ the old waftes-repair the desolations of

many generations.” These expressions imply, that many generations hould intervene be. twixt the personal ministry of the Messiah and the restoration promised, during which time the


« PreviousContinue »