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rived from various sources, but generally from the most familiar and impressive objects in natural scenery: and some, which are more artificial and therefore more difficult to be understood, appear to have been drawn from the same origin as the hieroglyphics of the ancient Persians and Egyptians. This latter kind is chiefly to be found in those of the prophets who lived in the Babylonish captivity, especially Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah.
To explain more clearly what I mean, and to awaken the attention, especially of studious young persons, to this part of our subject, I shall mention some examples. The great objects in nature, namely, the heavenly bodies, mountains and hills, lofty trees, particularly the cedars of Lebanon and the oaks of Bashan, signify kings and conquerors, princes and nobles : plains and lower grounds, branches and underwood, and the land or earth put generally, represent the mass of a people: the daughter of any state or city denotes its inhabitants, with an especial reference to the non-militant part of the population : savage animals are put for tyrants and oppressors : shepherds, in many places of our version rendered pastors, signify the kings and influential men of Israel or Judah : a horn signifies authority: a rod, the exercise of authority: earthquakes, tempests, eclipses, the dissolution of the earth and the heavens, and all things falling into the primitive chaos, represent invasions, conquests, revolutions, and great national convulsions.
Ignorance or inattention to the system of emblems of which these are a specimen, has led many professed interpreters of prophecy into lamentable mistakes, particularly in their attempts to explain the highly-wrought and intricate imagery of the Book of Revelation. It becomes us to guard most carefully againsť this source of error.*
* On this subject valuable information may be derived from Lowth's Prælectiones generally, and his Notes on his Translation of Isuiah, particularly on ch. ii. 13-16; Dr. Smith's, of Campbelton, Summary View of the Prophets; the later editions of Mr. Hartwell Horne's Introduction to the Holy Scriptures ; Mr. Carpenter's Popular Introduction to the Study of the Holy Scriptures ; and Mr. Liefchild's Help to the Reading of the Holy Scriptures.
RULE VIII. Different portions of the same prophet, or
of different prophets, which refer to the same subject, should be brought together, diligently compared, their agreements or apparent disagreements carefully noted, and the interpretation of each adjusted by the mutual illustration of the whole.
For instance: In the dying prophecies of Moses (Deut. xxviii.---xxxii.) are to be found the elements of explanation for a very large portion of the writings of the latter prophets. Abundant elucidations may be obtained by comparing those parts of Isaiah and Jeremiah which respect Moab, Egypt, and Babylon; Isaiah and Ezekiel respecting Tyre; Obadiah with Isaiah, Ezekiel, and others, concerning the Edomites; Jeremiah and Ezekiel concerning the state of the Jews in the captivity, and the mercies and chastisements attending their restoration; Haggai and Zechariah, upon the state of the Jews in the first period of their return from the Babylonish bondage ; and, above all, those of the prophets who supply any prediction respecting the MESSIAH, his work of salvation, the blessings of his kingdom, the character of his subjects, and the extension of his reign through the whole earth.
· RULE IX. We must not judge of the reality or importance
of any topic of prophecy by either the brevity or the
copiousness of the space which it occupies. The mere fact of length or shortness, in any book of the prophets, is a circumstance not necessarily denoting a permanent importance. Many facts connected with the state of the ancient Jews and the nations around, were to them of great relative interest, and therefore occupy a large space in the pages of the prophetic scriptures. But those exterior nations have long ago ceased to exist. They and the predictions which referred to them, and the accomplishment of those predictions, are now matter of long-past history; valuable for the lessons of religious truth and moral instruction which we may learn from them, but by no means of importance comparable to the often short paragraphs and even
abrupt fragments which refer to the Messian and his glorious work, the redemption of mankind.
With respect also to the Messiah, it requires our observation, that the prophecies respecting his kingdom, its extension and duration, and the happiness of his innumerable subjects throughout the world, are in a much greater proportion than those which describe his humiliation to sufferings and his dreadful death. The reason of this we may probably derive from the circumstances of the people to whom the prophecies were addressed. A chief design of those gracious communications was to console the people of God, under their calamities and sorrows, by bright pictures of the happiness which should be enjoyed under the reign of the Messiah: evidently, therefore, it was more suitable to that design to dwell more copiously upon “ the glories which should follow," than upon the awful and distressing scenes which were to precede and accompany the great PROPITIATION. Rule X. It is our duty to acquire a just conception of
the designs of prophecy. We should greatly err if we imagined that the system of prophecy had only one design : its objects were perhaps more numerous than we can assign, but I venture to lay down some which appear to be of the greatest importance.
i. To afford a decisive proof of the existence, perfections, and government, of the One and Only God.
It is not easy for us, in our favoured circumstances of religious knowledge, to have a sufficiently high conception of the importance which belonged to this object in the early ages of the world, and in all the periods of the Israelitish history. But let us, as vividly as we can, place ourselves in the situation of the ancient Hebrews: a small people, distinguished by peculiarities which made them objects of jealousy and dislike, surrounded by nations that were generally hostile; nations more numerous and powerful than themselves, and often more rich and luxurious; nations whose notions and rites of religion ministered gratification to the sensual appetites, and presented the strongest incentives to pride and ambition; nations who attributed their enjoyments
to Isis and Osiris, to Dagon and Ashtaroth, to Peor and Moloch. It was by such fascinations as these that the irreligious, who always formed the greater part of the people of Israel, were so frequently drawn aside into idolatry, and thus brought judicial woes upon themselves and their children. Hence, also, the upright and pious were exposed to the temptation of doubting whether Jehovah were any other than a limited being, one out of many other national gods, the protecting deity of the Hebrews; and whether it would not be politic to pay occasional respect to the tutelary gods of other nations. It is evident, therefore, that it was a most important object to erect a powerful barrier against this constantly pressing temptation; to provide clear and palpable arguments that “ the gods of the heathen were vanity and a lie, the work of error," and that Jehovah alone was “ the True God, the Living God, the Everlasting King."
To accomplish this grand purpose, the Voice of Prophecy and the Fulfilment of Prophecy were effective instruments.
The promises given to Abraham, when published, were predictions; and they were fulfilled, four hundred years after, by the oppression of his posterity in Egypt, and by their triumphant emancipation. The predictions of Moses were verified in the plagues of Egypt, that the supremacy of Jehovah over the gods of Pharoah and his people might be made manifest. Moses appealed to the Israelites, reminding them of all that the Lord their God did for them in Egypt: Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that JE- • HOVAH, he is God; there is none else besides Him.” * The admirable constitution given to that nation, the miraculous providence ever vigilant for their good, and the punishments which it inflicted upon their violation of the national covenant, rested upon the fact of a system of predictions: the protection was promised, the chastisement was threatened, and both were fulfilled, by a special providence, through the long course of ages, according to the conduct of this selected and peculiar people. In all their subsequent history, we find this principle in action. Their national changes; singular
* Deut iv, 35.
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events regarding their government and their public religion, and particularly the reign of David and the preservation of his posterity; the captivity in Babylon and its consequences; and the manifold circumstances of connexion with the neighbouring nations,—were subjects of special and repeated prophecies. A great and declared design of the entire system was to explode the polytheism of the Gentiles; to demonstrate the imposture of their oracles, their necromancy, and all their pretences to divination ; and to erect an ever-during monument that “ Jehovah, he is the God; Jehovah, he is the God !"* In various passages this is expressly stated to have been the intention of prophecy: for instance; Jehovah: that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. Behold! the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.—Thus saith Jehovah, the King of Israel; and his Redeemer, Jehovah of hosts : I am the First, and I am the Last, and besides me there is no God. And who, as I, shall call; and shall declare it and set it in order before me, since I appointed the ancient people; and the things that are coming and shall come? Let them shew unto them.-Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? And ye are my witnesses. Is there a God besides me? Yea, there is no Refuge. I know there is none.-Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are done ; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.-Yea, I have spoken; I will also bring it to pass : I have purposed, I also will do it." +
ii. To afford a decisive evidence, pointing out particular persons as the authorized messengers of God.
Thus Samuel in his very youthful days was designated as the person by whom the communications of Jehovah to Israel should be renewed ; after an alarming intermission and rareness of those communications, as a judgment for the im
• 1 Kings xviii. 39.
+ Isaiah xlii. 8, 9, xliv. 6-8, xlvi. I-ll.