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terpreters—as is evident; for if four out of five parts of this interpretation fail, the fifth can have only an apparent agreement, in some other sense, and not in the systematic sense intended by the interpreters. For example—the King shall reign, and Jesus Christ is the King. These are propositions to which both prophecy and interpreters will assent. But the prophecy declares, that the place of his reign is Judæa ; and the people over whom he shall reign, are the kingdoms of Judah and Israel united into one : while the interpreters declare, that the place of his reign is the Christian church; and the people over whom he reigns are Jews and Gentiles, in one body. Both these statements are true, but they concern different things, and the statement of the interpretation is not the meaning of the statement in the prophecy.
Surely we may conclude here, as before, that in all fairness this system of interpretation must be relinquished, so far, at least, as this prophecy of Ezekiel is concerned.
· III. The impossibility of adhering consistently to either of these modes of interpretation has been felt, and a third mode has been adopted, which is neither more nor less than an inconsistent mixture of these two. It makes the land to mean Judæa, literally, in one part of the prophecy, and the Christian church, spiritually, in another part: the children of Israel to mean, literally, the Jews in one
part, and, spiritually, Christians, in another part: the restoration to mean the return of Judah from Babylon in one part, and the conversion of sinners in another : the two kingdoms to mean Judah, and his Israelitish companions, in one part, and Jews and Gentiles in another : the king to mean the Jewish ruler after the Babylonish captivity in one part, and the Messiah in another: thus mingling the two preceding interpretations, and adopting them alternately, as is found most convenient for glossing over the context. This is avowed, though in guarded language, as thus :
“ The most sensible interpreters seem to agree that there are several expressions in this chapter, (Ezek. xxxvi.) particularly in the latter part of it, which cannot be literally understood of any event, excepting of the reign of the Messiah, of the freedom that he has procured for his church, of another promised land, and of a chosen people, different from that of the Jews; but, at the same time, that there may be recognized in it certain forms of speech, which have had their literal accomplishment since the return of the Jews from their captivity:
Certain forms of speech have had a literal accomplishment! Several expressions cannot, &c.! Is not this to pretend to some mode of ascertaining the prophet's mind, other than by the prophet's words ? Surely this system, or rather no system,
Calmet, apud Mant and D'Oyly.
refutes itself: for if such arbitrary liberties be taken with the language of Scripture ; if when the prophet, in two different places of the same prophecy, uses the same words, without any intimation of a difference in his meaning; the interpreter
permitted to say, that the words in one place have a meaning which they cannot have in the other place; then, manifestly, the church is at the mercy of the fancy of the interpreter, and all settled, consistent exposition is at an end.
The true secret of this inconsistency lies here: that expositors have taken it as a sort of sine quâ non in their interpretations, that the prophecies have been already fulfilled. The category of yet unfulfilled has not been allowed a place in their systems : hence they have diligently applied every practicable passage to the return of Judah from Babylon, and have toiled with sore labour and travail, to make all the rest fit on to the Christian church. In this they have been baffled, as to any detailed consistency; and yet the degree of simi, larity naturally to be expected between type and antitype has encouraged them to go on, and confirmed them in their opinions : while all the time they have been pointing out antitypical applications, and calling them expositions of prophecy.
Only admit this idea of yet unfulfilled, and a thousand difficulties vanish.' And why should this idea not be admitted? We have seen, that so long as we have the history of the Jews to compare with the prophecies concerning them that is, up to this time; a certain mode of interpreting those prophecies, is rendered indispensable : then why 'not simply continue that same mode of interpretation, when we have prophecy alone not yet illustrated by history? If prophecies concerning the Jews, delivered two or three thousand years ago, be proved, by the history of the interim up to our own days, to have been fulfilled in a literal sense, and therefore to demand a literal interpretation; upon what principle can it be alleged, that other prophecies, delivered in similar language by the same prophets, are not to be similarly interpreted after our days? Must God have done, before our days, all the literal things which he ever intended to do upon the earth ? Is there indeed any thing magical in the age of the world we live in, that it should change the nature of the prophecy, or of its fulfilment? Or is it that unbelief, though forced to yield to the testimony of history, yet refuses to be effectually taught, even by that plain lesson ; and will not take God at his word, or trust him for a moment out of her sight?
IV. The interpretation, then, which remains to be considered, and which alone will be found to harmonize with all that the prophets have written, is that which makes the land always to mean Judæa literally; Judah always to mean the two tribes nationally, with their Israelitish companions; Israel always to mean the whole ten tribes nationally ; restoration always to mean the actual return of the twelve tribes to Judæa; and David, their one king, always to mean the King of the Jews, of the seed of David, Jesus Christ our Lord.
This; interpretation holds good in every point. The present condition of the land of Palestine is well known to be one of extreme barrenness and desolation ; whereas it was a land of flocks and herds, a land flowing with milk and honey, the glory of all lands.
In this we recognize the literal fulfilment of that clause of the prophecy which predicts desolation; and from the next clause of the prophecy, we confidently anticipate a literal renovation to beauty and fertility, accompanied by a multiplication of beasts upon it, as well as men, for the consumption of its produce. In the present condition of the Jewish people, divided and dispersed, we recognize the literal fulfilment of those clauses in the prophecy which imply division, and predict dispersion ; and from similar clauses, simi. larly interpreted, we confidently anticipate a simi. larly literal fulfilment of the promised restoration and reunion. But here it may, perhaps, be objected, that in order to be consistent throughout, we must maintain, that king David literally shall reign again over the twelve tribes in Judæa, according to the terms of the prophecy. To which I answer, first, that if the prophecy stated this unequivocally, we should have no hesitation in be