|Vol. II, No. 8
Heshvan 5605, November 1844
Having mentioned the insurmountable difficulties which attend the application of the prophecies concerning the Messiah, according to their obvious plain sense and meaning, to any person either pretending or claiming that character, which is the only rational proof by which his character is to be maintained and supported: I think some notice ought to be taken of the shifts and evasions to which they have recourse, in which they take shelter, and by which they endeavour and pretend to support a character, which, in reality, is the most contradictory to that which the prophets describe; and to show the fallacy and invalidity of such applications. Their principal engine is the allegorical or typical scheme, by the help of which they solve all difficulties; for, as it is but making one thing to mean another, they can, by its help, answer all objections; for, Proteus like, they apply it in all shapes and to all things. It is from this scheme that their various arts and inventions have their rise. As I have already considered this scheme, I shall now only observe,—
The foregoing assertions plainly demonstrate the insufficiency of the allegorical and typical scheme, or that things referred to for proof in the way of figure, simile, and allusion, (which is confessedly St. Paul’s scheme) can prove nothing; and, consequently, that all inferences or conclusions from such premises, must be fallacious and invalid.
This appears very evident; for if a prophecy be a future event foretold,¶ nothing but a proper fulfilling of that event can be deemed a completion of the prophecy, and no prophecy can possibly receive its completion unless it be fulfilled according to the event foretold; therefore it is absurd to pretend that types, allegories, similes, allusions, and figures, are the fulfilling thereof; for nothing but the entire completion of the prophecy, by the event, can be deemed valid; all other methods being thereby excluded. So much for the allegorical or typical scheme.
Another method and invention whereby they endeavour to solve difficulties arising from the most material prophecies concerning the kingdom of the Messiah, is to remove it to heaven. It was to this new invented heavenly kingdom that “Jesus invited the high priest, and promised that he should see him sitting at the right hand of power.”** They tell us it is in this kingdom he sits†† and reigns with great amplitude of power and dominion, over a most glorious race of spiritual beings and departed souls of true believers, who alone are admitted to the enjoyment of that happiness which, the prophets foretold, the Messiah should introduce here on earth. They have, indeed, carefully guarded against any possibility of searching, or having satisfaction concerning this kingdom, by placing it out of the reach of inquiring mortals; therefore you must take it all on their bare words.
Another invention to evade the prophecies, is to pretend that the kingdom of the Messiah, though they cannot deny it to be of this world, may, nevertheless, not to consist of mere worldly power and dominion, but was to be likewise of a spiritual nature. As in this claim they confound a temporal with a spiritual earthly empire, and as neither the one nor the other is any ways capable of being applied to Jesus—I choose, for this reason, to set it forth in the words of a famous divine:
“It appears” (says he) “that the kingdom of the Messiah, and that glorious state of things so much spoken of in the prophets, is not to be understood merely of a worldly dominion or empire, under the government of a mere temporal prince, that was to be a proper king of the Jews, and of them only; but of a kingdom of righteousness and peace, of truth and holiness. The proper design was to spread the knowledge and the practice of true religion among men. His dominion was to be over all nations.—The blessing of his reign was not to be confined to the Jews only, but was to extend to all nations.”*
This is not only a most glorious description of the character of the Messiah, but likewise a most desirable one. I think it wants only one thing to make it a complete character, and I will add it; it is this: That the Messiah was to gather the dispersed Jews from all countries and restore them. This appears from the twelve prophecies which I cited,† and from many others. If this, his distinguishing character, be implied in the author’s description, by his representing him, “not as a mere king of the Jews, and of them only,” I know not; but let that be as it will, it is plain that, according to this author, the prophets speak much of a glorious state of things under the Messiah; that worldly dominion or empire was a principal part of his character; that he was to be a proper king of the Jews; that the Jews were to enjoy the blessing of his reign. These qualities are extended farther; that is, under this glorious state of things the Messiah was to introduce righteousness and peace, truth and holiness, or the knowledge and practice of true religion. He was not only to be a proper king of the Jews, but to have universal empire; for his dominion was to be over all nations, and the blessings of his reign were not to be confined to the Jews, and them only, but these blessings were to extend to all nations likewise.
Now this being in part the glorious state of things so much spoken of and described by the prophets, and the distinguishing character of the Messiah: it would be an easy matter to work the conversion of the Jews, which might be done only by making application of all this to Jesus. But this they are not able to do; and it is as impossible to prove his spiritual empire as his temporal; for where will they find either the one or the other? Surely persecution and the different sects damning each other, cannot be part of those blessings which were to extend to all nations spiritually. Thus, with the same breath, they endeavour to establish a spiritual kingdom or empire, which they affect to call a state of peace, truth, and holiness, or the practice of piety and virtue; but which they cannot prove to have been generally practised at any time. They very effectually establish the power, greatness, and earthly dominion of the Messiah, in like manner as the Jews do; and it is worthy observation, how it weighs them down; for they never endeavour to soar above it, but directly sink under it.
For, notwithstanding Jesus disowns and disclaims any earthly power or authority, by declaring, “That his kingdom was not of this world, for if it were, his servants would fight that he might not be delivered up;”* yet his followers cannot avoid forcing it upon him, contrary to his expressed declaration and renunciation; for they will have him to be not a mere king of the Jews, but a universal monarch.
Another invention, is to pretend that the offices and character of the Messiah clash, or are contradictory to one another. The following passage will set this invention in its true light: “The evidence appealed to by our Saviour” (says Mr. West) “was the testimony of the Scriptures, in which are contained not only the promises of a Messiah and Saviour of the world, but the mark and description by which he was to be known. Of these, there are so many, and those so various so seemingly incompatible in one and the same person, and exhibited, under such a multitude of types and figures, that it was absurd for a mere mortal to pretend to answer the character of the Messiah in all points.”†
This is the light in which they represent that great and noble character, which all the prophets so unanimously describe. But the absurdity of representing it such as no mere mortal could answer in all points, is owing to themselves. It is nothing but a phantom of their own raising, by applying to him passages which do not belong to him, or ever were intended as any part of his character. This they are obliged to do, that it may answer their purposes, and because the plain characters by which he is described by the prophets, are clearly a contradiction to their schemes. They, therefore, make his character a contradiction, that they may have the opportunity of explaining the prophecies, and applying other passages in such a manner as is most suitable to their cause. Thus it was the custom of designing heathen priests to deliver the oracles of their false gods, couched artfully in dubious or ambiguous terms, “so as to be easily applied to the event, let it fall out which way it would.”‡ For, as they were ignorant of futurity, an ambiguous, or doubtful, reserved meaning, delivered in seemingly incompatible or clashing terms, capable of different sense, meanings, and constructions, would certainly bring their votaries to receive the explanations of such oracles from them; this was agreeable to their cause, a cause of darkness, deceit, fraud, lies, error, and imposition. But, to suppose ambiguity, double or hidden constructions, clashing or incompatible meanings in. the oracles delivered for our information and direction, BY THE ALL-WISE, GOOD, AND MERCIFUL GOD, THE FATHER OF LIGHT, is either to suppose Him as ignorant of futurity; as the priest who made use of that method, or to suppose Him deceiving those whom He, in his great goodness, thought proper to enlighten and instruct, for to this end only did He reveal those things. Therefore, whatever passages clash, or are incompatible, can be no part of that character so often and repeatedly uniformly described. Such passages are, therefore, inconsistently ushered in, and made a part of it, by artful and designing men, to answer their own interested views, prejudices, and purposes.
Therefore, in justice to Him who only could foretell and reveal future events with a fixed certainty, we must believe that what He has revealed is candid, and easily to be understood; and that the characters which He describes are uniform, and have neither contradiction, double sense, hidden meaning, or ambiguities; and that those who represent them in a contrary light, act inconsistently and absurdly.
Another invention which they make use of is, to take and usurp the names by which the Jews are always meant. Of this they stand in very great need; for, how otherwise could they inherit the promises? It is no wonder then that they boldly use the name of Judah and Israel. The following passage shall describe this pretension: “Whereas the Messiah’s kingdom seems sometimes to be described with a particular regard to the Jews, and it is foretold that he should reign over them, as their prince and shepherd, and that in his days Israel and Judah shall dwell safely, and in a happy state: there are two things which will entirely take off the advantage; the one is, that the terms Israel and Judah, and the House of Israel, are not to be understood, in the prophets, precisely of the seed of Jacob, literally so called, or of the Jewish people and nation; but are sometimes designed for the church in general.”*
This is the method by which the Jews are entirely to be deprived of the advantages promised them. Here, then, by a dash of the pen, you have the Jews stripped of their name, and the advantages of the† promises to them made; and both the one and the other transferred to the church in general. They, whenever they stand in need of it for their purpose, (as sometimes they do,) why then, they make use of it; but, their turn being served, they very willingly part with it, and generally restore it to the right owner; for, whenever there is a calamity foretold, that should happen to Judah or Israel, then the Jews are thereby meant; and, upon such an occasion, they are the literal seed of Jacob, and they will most certainly find it fulfilled and accomplished. But whenever they find any promises of good things, or happy days, then the Jews, or literal seed of Jacob, have nothing to do with it; for the advantage of their name must be taken from them, and such things only belong to the Christian church, that is, to the mysterious seed of Jacob.
Thus absurdly do they reason, and make the prophecies a two-edged tool, to cut which way they please. Should not a reason be given why the literal sense should be applied one time, and a different one at another? Have notthe Jews a right to urge that the words of the prophets were always understood and taken in the literal sense, whenever they described or foretold either the exaltation or downfall of any people or kingdom? And are not such prophecies always applied according to their plain sense, and literal meaning? Nay, is it not an argument made use of to prove the inspiration of the prophets, that they did so clearly foretell such events? Would not the Jews, in their Egyptian bondage, have had great reason to refuse the mission of any person that should have pretended to persuade them that the promises which God made to Abraham, of their delivery from thence, and of possessing the land of Cancan, were not to be taken in their literal meaning, but that these promises meant, and should be applied and explained in a spiritual sense? Are not the promises made to the Houses of Israel and of Judah of their delivery from their oppression and dispersion, and their return from all parts, as express as those made concerning their delivery from Egypt? If so, the Jews act consistently in rejecting the sense of a spiritual delivery from their present dispersion; in like manner as their ancestors would have acted judiciously to refuse the mission of that person who should have pretended their delivery from Egypt was only to be spiritual, and not from their oppression, which was the promise made; and as God made good his promise, in delivering them literally from Egypt, why should they not expect, and hope for, a literal accomplishment of his promise in this other?
How absurd would it appear, even to Christians, were any nation or people to pretend that the promise to Abraham, of the delivery of his seed from Egypt, was not intended for his descendants, but meant themselves, who were intended by that promise to have a spiritual deliverance! The fallacy of such a supposition they would immediately discover and detect; and, I dare affirm, would agree very much in favour of the delivery of the Jews, and very clearly show how chimerical that people or nation’s pretensions were, and demonstrate the absurdity of such a claim, and the vanity of usurping a name which was none of theirs. Now if it be absurd in one case, why not in the other? Besides, if the Jews are the natural seed of Jacob for their calamities, why not for the promise of good things? And if they are literally fulfilled in one case, why should they not be literally accomplished in the other?
But the vanity of this pretension is plainly described by the prophet, in these words: “One shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand by the name of Israel.”* From the prophet they have also the answer: “Who, as I shall call and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming and shall come, let them show unto them.”† “Is my hand shortened at all that I cannot redeem, or have I no power to deliver.”‡
To conclude this long letter: it is by such arts and inventions, without any authority, that they pretend to reconcile the greatest difficulties and contradictions. Allow them but the means, and they will attain their ends. Take but their words, and every thing is made clear by the application and explanation of terms and passages.
There are, besides, some other methods and inventions, which I shall take notice of upon proper occasion.