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“To expound these predictions of the ancient prophets, of any thing but the
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PREF A C E .
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THE following Lectures were originally delivered in
When the Holy Ghost spake by the mouth of Zechariah, saying, Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered, the language was figurative, our Lord not being literally a shepherd, neither his disciples sheep. But the event predicted in that figurative language was a literal event; and to the matter of fact, as it occurred in Gethsemane, the prophecy is applied by St. Matthew xxvi. 31. It is, therefore, no objection to the literal interpretation which I advocate, to say that the prophetic language is figurative. I admit that it is so—sometimes highly so. The question is, What do the figures mean? Do they mean other figures, or do they mean facts 2 My opinion is, that facts are the legitimate themes of prophecy. I appeal to history, comparing it with the prophetic volume, for the establishment of a principle by precedents; and I endeavour to convince by candid argumentation. I dogmatize not at all. I am open to conviction, when a more excellent way of interpreting the language of the prophets shall be pointed out. But I must be permitted to say to some of my esteemed Brethren, who have opposed the interpretation here offered, without themselves offering any other; that a simple denial without reasons assigned, or the true interpretation given to supersede the false, cannot in fairness be expected to have any weight of conviction. I have heard such denials frequently, but in vain. I have heard them
accompanied with much persuasive eloquence, with many tender and affectionate appeals, sometimes with ill-dissembled personal mortification, but all in vain. I do not mean to imply that the system of interpretation which I advocate, is divested of all difficulty. Far otherwise: but I protest against such a criterion of truth being set up. Nothing that deserves the name of interpretation is, or can be, free from difficulty. Our decision must be made between measures and degrees of embarrassment. It is comparatively easy to urge objections against any system, when it is tangibly propounded. The nature of the difficulties incurred ought, however, in sound reason, to be taken into chief consideration. Now, it appears to me, that our chief embarrassments arise, not from finding any passages of Holy Scripture, in the obvious meaning of the language, contradicted by our scheme; but from a lack of more revelation, to explain to us how these things can be, and thereby to supply us with answers to curious (sometimes captious) questions: whereas, the spiritualizing scheme has to encounter the direct grammatical contradiction of revelation given. It is one thing to anticipate the facts predicted, according to the literal meaning of the same words, when used in other books, or in other places of the same books, acknowledging our ignorance as to the mode of accomplishment, because that mode is not revealed; and it is quite another thing, to put a dif