Page images
PDF
EPUB

taking place in time and space can be the condition sine quâ non of divine perfection. And any struggle or conflict like that supposed implies imperfection " (pp. 261, 262).

But where do the advocates of the third theory say in unqualified words that “ Christ died to satisfy what was due to the moral universe,” if by the universe he meant the creation, or that the atonement was simply an act of justice which owed protection to the universe from the danger of evil example? Where do Orthodox divines speak of an antagonism in the divine nature enduring until A.M. 4034, and then ceasing? Is it proper to make such representations, and to conceal the familiar principles of Orthodoxy, that God sees the end from the beginning; that he acts in regard to the future as if it were past; that he looks on a thousand years as one day, and one day as a thousand years ; that the atonement as predicted, promised, prefigured, is an atonement, so that Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ and saw it, and was glad; that we are redeemed, not by an influence beginning in the year 4034, but by “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times ?”

Similar criticisms might be made on Dr. Clarke's representation of the Orthodox doctrine concerning Sin, Regeneration, Decrees, etc., but our limits forbid further remarks. We regard his volume as an important and valuable one, giving evidence of a truth-loving and conscientious spirit, as well as of a vigorous and acute mind. It is difficult for any man to describe satisfactorily the system of his opponents, especially his theological opponents, unless he describe it in their own chosen words with all their qualifying adjuncts.

Cowles's COMMENTARY ON THE MINOR PROPHET8.1 To write a good commentary on the Minor Prophets is an arduous work. Some portions of them, as, for example, Hosea, Nahum, Habakkuk, and parts of Micah and Zechariah, present a Hebrew text which is of difficult interpretation; and where the literal interpretation is plain and simple, the true scope and meaning are sometimes obscure. In proof of this we need only refer to the discordant views of the commentators on Joel, where it would be hardly candid or modest for one writer to assume that all who do not follow his line of interpretation are under the shackles of prejudice - befangen, as our German friends say. The author of the present commentary proposes to give, in general, the results, not the details, of historic investigation, " aiming to meet the wants, not of Hebrew scholars only or

1 The Minor Prophets, with Notes, Critical, Explanatory, and Practical, designed for both Pastors and People. By Rev. Henry Cowles. New York: D. Appleton and Co. 1866.

chiefly, but of all English readers." He makes an exception in the case of "points of great practical interest and value, e.g. those prophecies respecting the Messiah and his kingdom which yet remain in part to be fulfilled "; which he proposes to discuss "fundamentally and thoroughly." The question is how ably and faithfully he has carried out his plan.

With regard to the main body of the work, in which he gives the results of historic investigation, a writer in the New Englander, who criticises the work with a severity which seems to us unjust, says:

· The first sense of the prophet's words, together with the connection of thought, is in general correctly given.” This testimony is true, and it covers ground of great importance. We know of no commentary designed for readers generally, and not specially for students of the original Hebrew, in which the first sense, with the connection of thought, is brought out more plainly. We do not affirm that he has never missed the true meaning (this could be affirmed of no commentator on the Minor Prophets with which we are acquainted); but we think that, in general, he has succeeded very well in giving the literal sense with the connection of thought in the context, and that, in this respect, the work deserves commendation to "all English readers.”

But a commentary on the Minor Prophets must, of necessity, bring out the writer's views of prophecy also; and here the reviewer will

approve or condemn according to the school to which he belongs; for on the question of the nature of prophecy there are at the present day different schools, and some of them widely divergent from each other.

There is, first, the rationalistic view, which, either openly or in a more or less covert way, resolves all prophecy into mere human anticipation, that presaging (Ahnung) of great coming crises in the course of human affairs which belongs to gifted minds. This view eliminates from prophecy all that is divine, except so far as the human mind may be supposed to contain in itself a divine element, and it utterly denies a supernatural revelation from God to man of future events; being, in truth, part and parcel of a system of religion from which all that is properly supernatural is excluded. This view of prophecy all evangelical men reject utterly.

But among supernaturalists there are different views of the nature of prophecy. There is certainly just ground for charging upon many of the old interpreters the error of transferring the prophets themselves into the future, and making them see the events which they predicted with all their details in the light of coming history. This we hold to be inconsistent with the divine representation, according to which the ancient prophets " inquired and searched diligently” concerning the meaning of their own utterances, "searching with reference to what or what sort of time (eis riva Tolov kaupóv) the spirit of Christ which was in them, made revelation (édýkou) when it testified beforehand the sufferings pertaining to Christ (rà eis Xpwotòv madhuara) and the glories after them ( càs.

metà Taïra dócas). These words give with great clearness the scriptural idea of prophecy. It is a revelation made by the spirit of Christ — the Holy Spirit employed by the Father and the Son in the work of redemption- in the mind of the prophet. And precisely because it is not the product of his own mind, but is given to him from above; and given, moreover, as a general rule, only in outline, without specification of " times and seasons,” he cannot understand, any more than his contemporaries, its full import, but is under the necessity of inquiring and searching diligently concerning it. The apostle adds: “ Unto whom it was revealed that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things which are now announced (ivnyyéln) unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” The apostle certainly does not mean that the prophets ministered no instruction and comfort to themselves and their own age.

“ Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” is the burden of all prophecy; and this comfort pertains to the generation that receives the prophecy and to all following generations till its fulfilment. His meaning plainly is that the “good things to come ” which the prophets foretell, are fulfilled, not to them, but to a future age - in the case of the Messianic prophecies, to the age of the apostles. Joel's prediction, for example, of the pouring out of the spirit in the last days upon all flesh, was a comfort to him, and a comfort also to the people of God in his own day and onward. But the blessing itself he ministered to the generation which witnessed the day of Pentecost, for they received it.

From this view it follows that God is himself the interpreter of prophecy; that is, that God alone can reveal the full meaning of what is contained in the prophetic utterances. His people can know beforehand the general purport of a given prophecy, and derive therefrom strength and comfort. But its fulfilment will shed upon it a flood of new light. God interprets prophecy, generally, by the events of history; more specifically, by subsequent revelations. So the explanations given by Christ and his apostles of previous prophecies are of the highest authority, and from them there is no appeal.

From this view of prophecy it follows, again, that the various portraitures given by the ancient prophets of the Messiah are not a shifting sand-bank of merely human conceptions, that vary radically from age to age ; but that all of them, from first to last, find a true fulfilment — not a fulfilment by accommodation merely — in the historic Christ of the New Testament. One of these portraitures, like that, for example, in the second psalm, may give one side of his office, and that, too, in theocratic drapery; another, like the passage in Isa. xi. 1-9, may give a second side ; another," like that in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, a third side. One portraiture may be more dim, another more distinct. But since they all proceed from God, they must all have a real fulfilment in our Saviour; else his constant

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

appeals to them, in which he is followed by his apostles, are only “pious frauds,” well suited to the character of Jesuits, but most abhorrent to that of Jesus of Nazareth and his holy apostles. The appearance of the Son of God in human nature is, then, both the fulfilment and the interpretation of the preceding Messianic prophecies.

So far as we have examined the commentary under consideration, its view of prophecy agrees, in general, with that which has now been given, and which we regard as the scriptural view. There are indeed particular points on which we should differ from the writer. We should, for example, with the reviewer in the New Englander, interpret the word nie, Joel ii. 23, to mean the early rain. Such dissent in particulars is incident to any commentary on the Minor Prophets that has for its author an uninspired man. It is not inconsistent with commendation of the work as a whole; and such commendation, we think, the present commentary may justly claim. The author's candid remarks on Haggai ii. 7, naon 23 oran-sp, rendered in our English version after the vulgate : “ And the desire of all nations shall come,” show that it is not his plan to force a passage into a Messianic meaning in violation of grammatical laws. He has also avoided, in general, the particularism so characteristic of Henderson's interpretation of prophecy. In the celebrated prophecy of Joel, for example: “ And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh,” etc., chap. iii. 1-5 (in the English version, chap. č. 28–32), he justly sees a progressive fulfilment extending through the whole Christian dispensation, and having its culmination in ages yet future. We hope that this commentary will have an extensive circulation among the Christian readers for whom it is designed. THE BOOK OF PROVERBS, in an Amended Version ; with an Introduction

and Explanatory Notes. By Joseph Muenscher, D.D. 265. Gardiner, Ohio: Western Episcopalian Office. 1866.

The author of this volume was graduated at Brown University, in 1821, was connected one year with the class which left Andover Theological Seminary in 1825, and has been a Professor of Biblical Literature at Kenyon College, Ohio. In the preparation of this volume he acknowledges his chief indebtedners to Poole, Geier, Piscator, Schultens, Holden, Rosenmüller, Boothroyd, Noyes, and Stuart. He prefaces his Commentary with fifty-three pages of Introduction, which we have read with great interest. The Commentary itself is judicious and instructive. "In the preparation of the notes he has endeavored to meet the wants both of the scholar and of the plain English reader.” He has succeeded admirably, we think.

Dr. Muenscher is also the author of a volume published in 1865, containing 318 pages, 16mo., entitled, Manual of Biblical Interpretation. It is replete with sound thought, and shows that he has evidently studied the Vol. XXIV. No. 93.

26

12mo. PP.

science of Hermeneutics with great care. He would have enriched his work if he had appended a full index to it. He has left it difficult to ascertain where he has treated particular topics.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES : an Exegetical and Doctrinal Commen

tary. By Gotthard Victor Lechler, D.D., Ordinary Professor of Theology, and Superintendent at Leipsic; with Homiletical additions by the Rev. Charles Gerok, Superintendent at Stuttgard. Translated from the second German edition, with additions, by Charles F. Schaeffer, D.D., Professor of Theology in the Theological Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church at Philadelphia. 8vo. pp. 480. New York: Charles Scribner and Co. 1866.

This is the fourth volume of Dr. Schaff's edition of Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical. Dr. Schaeffer has performed his part of this work with great skill and fidelity. He has noticed many of the important “ various readings” which Lechler did not specify, and has introduced many of these “readings" from the Codex Sinaiticus of Tischendorf, has inserted geographical and philological notes from English and American authors, and has added Dr. H. A. W. Meyer's “ large chronological chart, presenting a full synopsis of the dates which he himself recognized, and also of those which the most eminent chronologists and commentators had respectively adopted.” Dr. Schaeffer has obviously translated the volume with great accuracy and conscientiousness.

COMMENTARY ON THE SONG OF SOLOMON. By Rev. George Burrowes,

D.D., Professor of Biblical Instruction in Lafayette College. Second edition, revised. 12mo. pp. 454. Philadelphia : James S. Claxton. 1867.

Dr. Burrowes contends with honest zeal for the allegorical interpretation of this book. He would have done a better service to the cause of truth if he had been more accurate in the statement of the opinions held by other commentators, and if he had manifested more of a scholarly and less of a partisan spirit. His volume, however, contains many wise sayings, and suggests many profitable trains of reflection.

GREAT IN GOODNESS: a Memoir of George N. Briggs, Governor of the

Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1844 to 1851. By William C. Richards. With illustrations. 12mo. pp. 452. Boston: Gould and Lincoln ; New York: Sheldon and Co.; Cincinnati : George S. Blanchard and Co. 1866.

Governor Briggs was noted for his sound sense, sterling honesty, and childlike piety. His intellectual character was remarkable. He was a self-made man, and he was a man. The present memoir is faithful and

« PreviousContinue »