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For, as some of the expressions mark death by in-
sects, and others desolation by war, both senses must
be admitted. Allegory abounds in all the moral
writings of antiquity, and is employed at some timea
as an agreeable method of communicating know-
ledge, and at other times as a cover for that which
was too refined for vulgar eyes. There is not any
particular reason for saying that it was unworthy of
God to accommodate the style of many of his pro-
phecies to this universal use of allegory ; because,
whenever the Almighty condescends to speak to us,
whether he uses plain or figurative language, he
must speak after the manner of men ; and we are
able to assign a most important purpose which was


attained by those prophecies of a double sense, the
interpretation of whicli, although very far from de-
serving the name of unscholastic, may be called alle-
gorical. It pleased God, in the intermediate space
between the first predictions of the Messiah and
the fulfilment of them, to establish the Jewish eco-
nomy, an institution singular in its nature, and
limited in its extent. This intermediate institution
being for many ages a theocracy, there arose a suc-
cession of prophets by whom the intercourse between
the Almighty Sovereign and his people was main-
tained ; and the whole administration of the affairs
of the Jews was long conducted by the prophets. It
was natural for this succession of prophecy to give
some notice of the better covenant which was to be
made ; and accordingly, we can trace predictions
of the Messiah from the books of Moses, till the ces-
sation of the prophetical spirit in Malachi. The
Holy Ghost, by whom the prophet spoke, could have
rendered these notices of the spiritual and universal
nature of the future dispensation clear and intelligi-
ble to every one who heard them. But, in this case,
the intermediate preparatory dispensation would
have been despised. The Jews comparing their bur-
densome ritual with the simplicity of Gospel wor-
ship, — their imperfect sacrifices with the efficacy of
the great atonement, — their temporal rewards with
the crown of glory laid up in heaven, would have
thrown off the yoke which they were called to bear;
and those rudiments by which the law was given to
train their minds for the perfect instruction of the
Gospel, would have been cast away as " beggarly
elements." If the law served any purpose, it was ne-
cessary that it should be respected and observed so


long as it was to subsist ; and therefore it would
have been inconsistent with the wisdom of Him from
whom it proceeded, that it should impart such a de-
gree of light as might have destroyed itself. Enough
was to be declared to raise and cherish an expec-
tation of that which was to come, but not enough to
disparage the things that then were. This end is
most perfectly attained by the types, and the pro-
phecies of a double sense which are contained in the
Old Testament. Both were so agreeable to the man-
ners of the times, and both received such a degree
of explication from the direct prophecies concerning
the Messiah, that there was an universal apprehen-
sion of their further meaning. Yet their immediate
importance preserved the respect which was due to
the law ; and when, in the end of the age of prophe-
cy, predictions of the Messiah were given by differ-
ent prophets which could not apply to any other per-
son, — these direct predictions were clothed in a figu-
rative language, all the figures of which were bor-
rowed from the law. The law, in this way, was
still magnified ; and as the child is kept under tutors
and governors till the time appointed of the father,
so says the apostle to the Galatians, the Jews were
kept under the law, the guardians of the oracles of
God, — the depositaries of the hopes of mankind,
until the time came that the faith should be reveal-
ed.* When it was revealed, then the allegory re-
ceived its interpretation ; the significancy of the
types, the reddition of the parables, the hidden
meaning of the ancient prophecies, and the propriety
of the figures in which the latter were clothed, all

* Gal. iv.


now stand forth to the admiration and conviction of
the Christian world. What was a hyperbole in its
ajjplication to Jeuish affairs, becomes, says Dr. War-
burton, plain speech, or an obvious metaphor, when
transferred to the Gospel ; and the Old Testament
appears to have been, what St. Austin calls it, a con-
tinued prophecy of the New.


Before I proceed to state the amount of the ar-
gument from prophecy, there is one other objection
to that argument which requires to be mentioned.
The objection arises from a kind of verbal criticism,
but does not deserve upon that account to be dis-
missed as unimportant.

It was long ago observed, that many of the pas-
sages quoted from the Old Testament in the New,
do not exactly agree with the text of our copies of
the Old Testament. The apology commonly made
for this difference was, that our Lord and his apostles
did not quote from the Hebrew, but from the Sep-
tuagint translation, which was known and respected
in Judea. But, upon accurate investigation, it "w^as
found that the quotations do not always correspond
with the Septuagint ; and that there are many which
agree neither with the Septuagint nor with the He-
brew. It was insinuated, therefore, by the adver-
saries of Christianity, that our Lord and his apostles
had not been scrupulous in their method of quoting



the Old Testament ; but wishing to ground Christ-
ianity upon Judaism, and finding it difficult to lay
this foundation with the materials that existed, had
accommodated the words of the Old Testament to
their argument, and made the prophets say what it
was necessary for the conclusiveness of that argu-
ment, they should seem to say. It appears at first
sight very unlikely that our Lord and his apostles,
who began the preaching of the gospel from Judea,
would, in the hearing of the Jews, use such liberty
with the scriptures which were publicly read in those
very synagogues where they were thus misquoted.
The detection of the fraud was easy, or rather un-
avoidable, and must have been' ruinous to the cause
of Christianity. But however improbable it may
seem that our Lord and his apostles should be guilty
of such a fraud, the fact is undeniable, that the quo-
tations in the New Testament do not always agree
with the books from which they are taken ; and it
remains with the friends of Christianity to account
for this fact. Many zealous Christians have thought
it essential to the honour of that revelation granted
to the Jews, to maintain the integrity of the original
Hebrew text ; and even during the course of the last
century, some men versant in Jewish learning ar-
gued most strenuously, that the Providence of God
employed the vigilance of the Jewish nation, and
certain precautions of the Jewish Rabbis to preserve
the Hebrew text through all ages, from every degree
of adulteration. Were this opinion sound, it does
not appear to me that any satisfying account could
be given of the difference between the Old Testament
and the New, in those passages where the latter pro-
fesses to quote the former. But as suspicions had


been long entertained that there were variations in
the Hebrew text, so the opinion of those who main-
tain its integrity, was in the last century completely
refuted by the labours of Dr. Kennicott, who, from
a collation of six hundred manuscripts of the Hebrew
Bible, has demonstrated that there have been num-
berless small alterations, and some of considerable
importance. We found formerly that the various
readings of the Greek text of the New Testament
arose from the ignorance or carelessness of trans-
cribers, and that their being permitted could easily
be reconciled with the wisdom of God, and the di-
vine original of Christianity. We need not be sur-
prised to find the same causes producing similar
effects with regard to the Hebrew text. It has
been said, that particular circumstances may natu-
rally lead us to look for a greater number of such
varieties in the Hebrew text than in the Greek ;
and there is much reason to suspect that both the
Hebrew text and the Septuagint translation were
wilfully corrupted by the Jews after the days of our
Saviour, in order to elude the argument which the
Christians deduced from the clear application of
Jewish prophecies to him. We know that, in the
second century, another Greek translation of the
Old Testament, by Aquila, more inaccurate, and de-
signedly throwing a veil over many prophecies of
the Messiah, was substituted by the Jews in place
of the Septuagint. Taking then the learned men
who have devoted themselves to this study as our
guides, and resting in the conclusions which they
have established by a laborious induction of parti-
culars, we say, that the copies both of the Hebrew
text and of the Septuagint, which were in use in the


days of our Saviour, were more correct than those
which we now have ; that by the help of many ma-
nuscripts, and of the Samaritan Pentateuch, which
was much less corrupted than the books of Moses
in Hebrew, the true reading of the Hebrew has been
discovered in many places where it had been vitiat-
ed ; and that the honour of our Lord and his apostles
lias been fully vindicated ; for it appears that they
quoted from the Septuagint when the sense of the
author was there clearly expressed ; that, at other
times, they translated the original for themselves, or
used some translation more perfect than the Septu-
agint, and that there are many places in which their
quotations, although different from the Hebrew that
is now read, agree exactly with the Hebrew text, as
by sound criticism it may be restored. -f-

Such is the important service which sound criti-
cism has rendered to religion. The unbeliever
triumphed for a season in an objection which was
plausible, because the answer to it was misappre-
hended or unknown. But the progress of investiga-
tion has unfolded the truth, and has placed, in the
most conspicuous light, the fidelity and accuracy of
the quotations made by those who grounded Chris-j
tianity upon Judaism.


Having thus cleared the way, by settling every pre-
liminary point, and removing the objections which
appear to me the strongest, I come to state concise^


\y the arguinent from prophecy, or the nature of that
support which the truth of Christianity derives from
the coincidence between the appearance of Jesus, and
the predictions of the Old Testament.

In stating this argument, we allow that there are
passages quoted by our Lord and his apostles from
the Old Testament, in which there is merely an ac-
commodation of words that had been spoken in one
sense, to another sense, in which they are equally
true. When it is said, in the second chapter of Mat-
thew, " Joseph took the young child and his mother
by night, and departed into Egypt, and was there
until the death of Herod : that it might be ful-
filled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet,
saying, out of Egypt have I called my Son," nothing
more is meant by the expression, " that it might be
fulfilled," and the idiom of ancient languages does
not require any thing more to be understood, than
that the words which in Hosea are applied to Israel,
whom God calls his Son, received another meaning
when he who is truly the Son of God, was brought
out of the same place from which Israel came. We
allow that it does not follow, from the possibility of
this accommodation, that Hosea meant to foretell the
future transference of his words, any more than that
he who first enunciated a proverbial saying, fore-
saw all the particular occasions upon which it might
be fitly applied. We admit, further, that the se-
condary sense of those i^rophecies in which we say
the Messiah was included, and the typical nature
of those ceremonies or actions which prefigured him,
are not always obvious upon the consideration of
particular prophecies or types. Nay, we admit that
there is a degree of obscurity or doubt with regai'd



to some of those prophecies in which the Messiah is
directly foretold ; and, therefore, the argument does
not depend upon the clearness of any single prophecy,
or upon the interpretation which may be given to this
or that passage, but it arises from a connected view of
the direct predictions, the secondary prophecies, and
the types, as supporting and illustrating one another.
Allow as much as any rational inquirer can allow to
the shrewdness of conjecture, to accidental coincidence,
and to human preparation, still the induction of par-
ticulars that cannot be accounted for by any of those
means, is so complete and so striking, as to constitute
a plain incontrovertible argument.

From the exact fulfilment of predictions extending
through many centuries, uttered by different pro-
phets, with different imagery, yet pointing to one
train of events, and marking a variety of circum-
stances, in their nature the most contingent ; from
the aptness of all the parts of the intermediate dis-
pensation to shadow forth the blessings and the cha-
racter of that ultimate dispensation which it an-
nounced, and from the sublime literal exposition
which the events of the ultimate dispensation give
to all those prophecies under the preparatory dispen-
sation, which are expressed in language too exalted
for the objects to which they were then applied ; —
from these things laid together, there arises, to any
person who considers them with due care, the most
satisfying conviction that the whole scheme of Christ-
ianity was foreseen and foretold under the Old Tes-
tament. If you admit this position, there are two
consequences which you will admit as flowing from
it. The first is, that the prophets under the Old
Testament were divinely inspired. The very means,


by which you attain a conviction that they prophe-
sied of the gospel, render it manifest that the things
foretold were beyond the reach of human sagacity ;
and there is thus presented to us, in the fulfilment
of their predictions, an evidence of the truth of the
Mosaic dispensation as clear as that arising from the
miracles performed by Moses before the children of
Israel. The second consequence, and that which we
are more immediately concerned in drawing, is this,
that the scheme in which the predictions of those
prophets were fulfilled is a divine revelation. In
order to perceive how this consequence flows from
the position which we have been establishing, you
will attend to the two uses of prophecy, its imme-
diate use in the ages in which it was given, and that
further use which extends to the latest ages of the
world. It is certain that prophecy ministered to the
comfort, the instruction, and the hope of those who
lived in the days of the prophets ; and we know, that
the predictions respecting the Messiah were so far
understood, as to excite in the whole nation of the
Jews an expectation of the Messiah, and to cherish
in just and devout men that state of mind, which is
beautifully styled by Luke in the second chapter of
his gospel, " waiting for the consolation of Israel,"
and " looking for redemption in Jerusalem." But
that this was not the whole intention of the prophe-
cies concerning the Messiah, appears indisputably
from hence, that, according to the account which has
been given of these proi^hecies, they contain a fur-
ther provision than was necessary for that end.
There were many parts of them which were not un-
derstood at that time, but were left to be unfolded
to the age which was to behold their fulfilment. As



such parts were useless to the age which received the
prophecy, we must believe that, if they had any
use, they were designed for that future age, and that
the i)rophets, as the apostle Peter speaks, " minis-
tered not u.nto themselves, but unto us, the things
which are now reported by them that have preach-
ed the gospel."*

Bishop Sherlock wrote his admirable discourses
on the use and intent of prophecy in the seve-
ral ages of the world, to show that prophecy was
intended chiefly for the support of faith and reli-
gion in the old world, as faith and religion could
not have existed in any age after the fall without
this extraordinary support ; and he has been led,
by an attachment to his own system, to express him-
self in some places of his book to the disparagement
of the further use of prophecy. Yet even Bishop
Sherlock admits, that prophecy may be of great ad-
vantage to future ages, and says that it was not un-
worthy of the wisdom of God to enclose, from the
days of old in the words of prophecy, a secret evi-
dence which he intended the world should one day
see. The Bishop has stated in these few words,
with his wonted energy and facility of expression,
that further use of prophecy of which I am speak-
ing. It is merely a dispute about words, whether
the laying up this secret evidence was the primary
or the secondary intention of the Giver of prophe-
cy. But it is plain, that when all the notices of the
first coming of Christ, that were communicated to
different nations, are brought together into our view,
and explained by the event, they illustrate, in the
most striking manner, both the truth and the im-
portance of Christianity. The gospel appears to be

* 1 Peter i. 12.


not a solitary unrelated part of tlie divine economy,
but the purpose which God purposed from the be-
ginning ; and Jesus comes according to the declared
counsel of heaven to do the will of his Father. The
miracles which he wrought derive a peculiar confir-
mation, from being the very works which ancient
prophets had foretold as characteristical of the Mes-
siah. Prophecy and miracle, in this way, lend their
aid to one another, and give the most comjjlete as-
surance which can be desired, that there is no de>
caption : for as miracles could not have justified the
claim of Jesus to the character of Messiah, unless
ancient predictions had been fulfilled in him, so the
miracles which he wrought were an essential part of
that fulfilment ; and hence arises the peculiar signi-
ficancy and force of that answer which he made to
the disciples of John, when they asked him, " Art
thou he that should come ?" " Go," said he, " and
show John again those things which ye do hear and
see. The blind receive their sight, and the lame
walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the
dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel
preached to them." He refers to his miracles ; but
he mentions them in the very words of Isaiah, thus
conjoining with that divine wisdom which shines in
all his discourses, the two great arguments by
which his disciples in all succeeding ages were to
defend their faith. The internal evidence, too, aris-
ing from the nature of his undertaking, is very
much heightened, when we see that that undertak-
ing was the completion of the plan of Providence.
We are often able to vindicate and explain the pe-
culiar doctrines of Christianity, by referring to the
manner in which they were sketched out by the pre-
paratory dispensation ; and the intimate connection


of the two systems, which enables us to give a satis-
factory account of the peculiarities of the law, reflects
much dignity upon the gospel. While the kingdoms
of this world are spoken of only in so far as the
kingdom of the Messiah was to be affected by their
fate, we see the servants of the Almighty preparing
the way for the Prince of Peace ; the continued effu-
sion of the divine Spirit does honour to Jesus ; the
prophets arise in long succession to bear witness to
him ; and our respect for the sundry intimations of
the will of heaven, is concentred in reverence for
that scheme towards which all of them tend. In the
magnificence of that provision which ushered in the
gospel, we recognise the majesty of God; in the con-
tinuity and nice adjustment of its parts, we trace his
wisdom ; and its increasing light is analogous to that
gradual preparation, by which all the works of God
advance to maturity.

Such is the support which the truth of Christiani-
ty derives from the predictions of the Old Testament
respecting the Messiah. The argument from pro-
phecy, therefore, was not, as Mr. Gibbon sarcastical-
ly and incorrectly says, merely addressed to the Jews
as an argumentum ad liominem. To those to whom
the books of the Old Testament are known chiefly
if not entirely by the references made to them in the
gospel, it affords much confirmation to their faith,
and much enlargement of their views with regard to

Prideaux — Hartley — Gray — Prettyman's Institutes — Stilling-
fleet's Orig. Sacrae — Chandler — Hurd — Warburton — Newton
— Law — Sykes — Kennicott — Randolph's Collation — Geddes's
Prospectus — Lo\vi;h de Sacra Poesi — Home's Preface to Com-
mentary on the Psalms.




The support of which we have hitherto spoken pro-
ceeds upon those prophecies in the Old Testament
concerning the Messiah, which were fulfilled by his
appearing in the flesh. But a due attention to the
subject leads us much further, and we soon perceive
that the birth of Christ, important and glorious as
that event was, far from exhausting the significations
given by the ancient prophets, only served to intro-
duce other events most interesting to the human
race, which were also foretold, which reach to the
end of time, and which, as they arise in the order of
Providence, are fitted to afford an increasing evidence
of the truth of Christianity.

In entering upon this wide field of argument,
which here opens to our view, I think it of import-
ance to direct your attention to the admirable econo-
my with which the prophecies of the Old Testament
are disposed. They may be divided into two great
classes, as they respect either the temjioral condition
of the Jews and their neighbours, or that futiu'e spi-
ritual disjjensation which was to arise in the latter

As the whole administration of the affairs of the
Jews was for many ages conducted by prophecy,
there are, in the Old Testament, numberless predic-
tions concerning the temporal condition of themselves


and their neighbours. Some of these predictions
were to be fulfilled in a short time, so that the same
persons who heard the prophecy saw the event.
This near fulfilment of some predictions procured
credit for others respecting more distant events.
" Behold," said the Almighty to the nation of the
Jews, " the former things are come to pass, and new
things do I declare. Before they spring up, I tell
you of them." * There are prophecies of the tem-
poral condition of nations, which are at this day ful-
filling in the world. The present state of Babylon,
of Tyre, of Egypt, of the descendants of Ishmael, and
of the Jewish people themselves, have been shown by
learned men, and particularly by Bishop Newton, to
correspond exactly to the words of ancient prophets :
and thus, as the experience of the Jewish nation
taught them to expect every event which their pro-
phets announced, so the visible continued accomplish-
ment of what these prophets spoke two or three
thousand years ago is to us a standing demonstra-
tion that they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

But this whole system of prophecy was merely a
vehicle for preserving and conveying to the world
the hopes of a future spiritual dispensation. It em-
braced indeed the temporal affairs of the Jews, and
of the nations with whom they were particularly
connected, because an intermediate preparatory dis-
pensation was established till the better hope should
be brought in. But all the prophecies of temporal
good and evil were subservient to the promise of the
Messiah, and the fulfilment of those prophecies che-
rished among the nation of the Jews the expectation

* Isaiah xlii. 9.


of that future covcnaut which was the end of the
law. The birth of the Messiah justified this expec-
tation. It did not indeed accomi^lish all the words
of the prophets, but it brought assurance that there
should be, in due time, a complete accomplishment.

Online LibraryGeorge HillLectures in divinity (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 32)