the First Week of Advent
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Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible Coke's Commentary
by Thomas Coke
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE Books of the OLD TESTAMENT.
THE canonical books, which form the body of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, are all referable to the grand object of our faith, the mystery of Jesus Christ, promised to the patriarchs, foretold by the prophets, made manifest to us by the evangelists, and preached through all the earth by the apostles. "Christ is the end of the law," says St. Paul, Romans 10:4. "Moses wrote of me," says Christ himself, John 5:46. "All things," he adds, "must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me," Luke 24:44. The books of the New Testament speak openly and clearly of the Deliverer who is given to us in the person of Jesus Christ; while the books of the Old predict and announce him under types and allegories: in him all the types, all the sacrifices, all the prophesies, have their accomplishment. The Old Testament is the prediction and the prefiguration of the mysteries contained in the New; while the New Testament is the accomplishment and manifestation of the mysteries foretold and prefigured in the Old. Both refer to Jesus Christ; for he is the end of the law.
The First Point, therefore, to which our attention should be directed, is, to adduce the necessary proofs to confirm this truth, that Jesus Christ is the end of the law: The second, to ascertain the principles by which we are to understand in what manner Christ is the end of the law: and the third, to establish the rules by which we should be guided in the application of those principles.
Jesus Christ is the end of the law.
How is Jesus Christ the end of the law?
By what tokens can we discern Christ in the law of which he is the end or accomplishment?
There are the three principal points proposed to be examined, in order to facilitate the understanding of the mysteries contained in the Old Testament.
THE FIRST POINT.
Jesus Christ is the end of the law: all the books of the Old Testament refer to him and to his church.
First, we must understand with St. Peter, (2nd Epist. chap. 1: ver. 20, 21.) that "no prophesy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophesy came not in old time by the will of man," says this apostle; "but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." It is not, therefore, by our own spirit that we are to judge of the meaning of the Holy Scriptures; but it is through the Spirit of God that we are to gain an understanding of these holy books; and this is given to us in the Scriptures themselves.
Every part of the Scripture concurs to establish this great truth, that Christ is the end of the law; i.e. that Christ and his church are the grand objects to which all the books of the Old Testament refer. Of this we shall proceed to deduce,
1. Proofs from the words of Christ himself.—In the Gospels, Christ very often quotes the Old Testament, to shew that it is accomplished in him. At the commencement of his preaching, talking with Nicodemus (John 3:14.), he compares himself to the "brazen serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness." In the Synagogue at Nazareth he declares to the Jews (Luke 4:16; Luke 4:44.), that he himself is the Deliverer whom Isaiah had foretold, and in whose name that prophet had spoken. On another occasion he says to the Jews, (John 5:39.) "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me:" and he concludes by saying, (verse 46.) "For, had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me." He proves his mission in the presence of the disciples of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:4-5.Luke 7:22; Luke 7:22.), by the same miracles which were to mark it according to the prophesies of Isaiah. He declares to the people (Matthew 11:10. Luke 7:27.), that John the Baptist, his precursor, is the same who was foretold by Malachi; and is (Matthew 11:14.) that Elias of whom the prophet spake. He declares to the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 12:40.), that he himself was prefigured in the person of Jonas. He shews to his disciples (Matthew 13:14-15.Mark 4:12; Mark 4:12.Luke 8:20; Luke 8:20.), in the blindness and hardness of heart of the Jews, the accomplishment of what was spoken by Isaiah. He tells the people (John 6:32. et seqq.), that Moses, in giving them "manna," gave them not "that bread from heaven;" but that he himself "is the bread of life which came down from heaven." He declares to the Jews of his day (Matthew 15:7-8; Mark 7:6.), that Isaiah prophesied of them, well marking their hypocrisy. He repeats to his disciples (Matthew 17:11-12.Mark 9:12-13; Mark 9:12-13.), that, although Elias should one day come, yet it might be said that he was already come in the person of John the Baptist, his messenger, or precursor. Comparing himself a second time with Jonas, (Luke 11:30-31.) he compares himself with Solomon also. When he declares to the Jews, that he is the "good Shepherd," (John 10:11. & seqq.) he gives them to understand, that he is the "one Shepherd" twice spoken of by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 34, 37). He compares (Luke 17:26. & seqq.) "the days of Noah and the days of Lot;" that is to say, the time of the universal deluge and the destruction of Sodom, with the time of his last coming and of the end of the world. He applies to the Jews of his own time (Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17. Luke 19:46.) the reproach which Jeremiah made to their fathers, that they had made the house of God "a den of thieves." He brings to the minds of princes and priests two passages in the Psalms (Matthew 16:28; Mark 12:10. Luke 20:17.), one of which mentions that "babes" bore witness unto him; the other, the unjust contempt which he was to suffer from the rulers of his people, being himself the "chief corner-stone rejected by the builders." He recals to the recollection of the Pharisees (Matthew 22:42. & seqq; Mark 12:35, & seqq; Luke 20:41. & seqq.), the testimony of David, who called him "Lord," though he was to be "his son." Announcing to his disciples the approaching desolation and destruction of Jerusalem, he shews them in that event (Matthew 24:15.Mark 13:14; Mark 13:14.Luke 21:20; Luke 21:20.) the accomplishment of the celebrated prophesy of Daniel touching the seventy weeks, which ended at his death. A second time he compares (Matthew 24:37-39.) "the days of Noah;" that is to say, of the deluge, with the day of his last coming. He announces to his disciples his approaching passion (Matthew 26:24; Matthew 26:54; Matthew 26:56. Mark 14:21.Luke 22:22; Luke 22:22.), as foretold by the prophets. He calls to their recollection (John 13:18; John 15:25.) two other passages of the Psalms; one of which marks the perfidy of Judas, the other the unjust hatred of his enemies the Jews. He tells them (Luke 22:37.) of the ignominy with which Isaiah foretold that he should be loaded; and of their approaching dispersion (Matthew 26:31.Mark 14:27; Mark 14:27.), foretold by Zechariah as a consequence of his being smitten: "I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." In his way to Calvary, he announces to the daughters of Jerusalem (Luke 23:28.) the approaching ruin of their city, using the same words as Hosea. Nailed to the cross, he cries (Matthew 27:46. Mark 15:34.) with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli," as we read it in St. Matthew, or, "Eloi, Eloi," as it is in Mark, "lama sabachthani," which, in Syriac, are the same as the words which in our Version begin the 22nd Psalm; and, at his last gasp, he utters words similar to those of David in the 31st. Psalm, saying, (Luke 23:46.) "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." Finally, after his resurrection, talking with the two disciples at Emmaus, he reproaches them (Luke 24:25. & seqq.) with their "slowness of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken." "Ought not Christ (said he) to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" Then, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them, in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself?" Appearing again, he says to the apostles, (ver. 44.) "These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me."—"Then opened he their understanding," adds the holy Evangelist, "that they might understand the Scriptures."
The Old Testament is a mysterious book, beyond the comprehension of the carnal man; but the spiritual man, taught by the Spirit of God, discovers on every hand, in the law, the Psalms, and the Prophets, that is to say, in the historical, legal, moral, and prophetical books, the grand mystery of Christ and his church.
2. Proofs from the testimonies of St. Matthew. Beside all these testimonies from the mouth of Christ himself in the Gospels, the holy Evangelists will be found very exact in shewing us Christ in the Old Testament. St. Matthew, from the very commencement of his Gospel, applies himself to shew us in Christ the accomplishment of what the prophets had foretold; and he repeats several times, (Matthew 1:22. & seqq.) "All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet." He shews us from Isaiah, (Matthew 1:22-23.) the bringing forth a son by a virgin; from Micah 5:2. (Matthew 2:5-6.) the place where our Saviour should be born; from Hosea, (Matthew 2:15.) the flight into Egypt, "out of which" God his Father "called him;" from Jeremiah, (17, 18.) the massacre of the innocents in and near Bethlehem; from Isaiah, (Matthew 3:3.) the preaching of John the Baptist; Christ's dwelling (Matthew 4:13. & seqq.) on the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim; the care (Matthew 8:16-17.) which he takes to ease us of our sicknesses and infirmities by taking them upon himself and bearing them; and the character of meekness (Matthew 12:17. & seqq.) which distinguishes him in his conduct toward his enemies the Jews during the whole time of his public ministry. He shews, that in Christ's parabolic language (Matthew 13:34-35.) was accomplished what had been said by the mouth of David, "I will open my mouth in parables;" and by that word he discovers to us, that the language of David, in those Psalms which seem the most historical, is "parabolic," like that of Christ in the Gospel: whence it follows, that the whole history of the ancient people is a grand parable representing Christ and his church: and, lastly, he points out (Matthew 21:4-5.Matthew 27:9-10; Matthew 27:9-10; Matthew 27:35; Matthew 27:43.) in Zachariah and the Psalms, several circumstances relating to our Saviour's passion.
3. Proofs from the testimonies of St. Mark. St. Mark, in the very outset of his Gospel (Mark 1:2-3.), shews us from Malachi and Isaiah the annunciation of the coming and preaching of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. He records (Mark 4:12. & seqq.) the greater part of the testimonies which we have already collected from the mouth of Christ, and which have been related by St. Matthew. Lastly, he shews us, (Mark 15:28.) in the crucifixion of Christ between two thieves, the accomplishment of what Isaiah foretold, that he should be "numbered with the transgressors."
4. Proofs from St. Luke. St. Luke goes back (Luke 1:31-32.) to the words which the angel Gabriel addressed to the Virgin Mary, announcing that she was to be the mother of the Saviour; by which he shewed at the same time, that this Saviour was the son promised to David, whose miraculous birth from the womb of a virgin had been foretold by Isaiah. He records the canticles or songs of the virgin (Luke 1:46. & seqq.), of Zacharias (Luke 1:68. & seqq.), father of John the Baptist, and of the holy and venerable Simeon, (Luke 2:29. & seqq.); in which the Saviour is described as the object of the promises made to the patriarchs, and of the holy oracles pronounced by the prophets. After the example of St. Matthew and St. Mark, he shews us, from Isaiah, (Luke 3:4. & seqq.) the preaching of John the Baptist. He alone records that important expression of Christ in the synagogue at Nazareth, (Luke 4:16. & seqq.) wherein he applies to himself one of the most celebrated prophesies of Isaiah. He relates (Luke 7:22. & seqq.) most of the other tokens by which this divine Saviour teaches us to discern him in the Old Testament, and which had been already pointed out by St. Matthew and St. Mark. St. Luke also (Luke 24:25. & seqq.) relates the interesting discourse of Christ with the disciples at Emmaus.
5. Proofs from St. John. In the Gospel by St. John, we find John the Baptist himself declaring (John 1:23.), what was afterwards said by the three evangelists of whom we have already spoken, that he is that voice which, according to Isaiah, was to cry in the wilderness. We find the same holy messenger saying and repeating (John 1:29; John 1:36.) that Christ is the "Lamb of God," i.e. the sacrifice typified by all those which were offered by the Jews, and particularly by the paschal lamb. We afterwards hear Philip telling Nathanael, (John 1:45.) "We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." St. John (John 2:17; John 2:22.) leads us to remark, that the disciples, having seen the zeal which Jesus Christ shewed for the temple of God his Father, recollected what was written on that subject in the Psalms; and that this recollection confirmed their faith in the Holy Scriptures, in which they thus found recorded and foretold all the circumstances of the Saviour's life. He also brings forward (John 3:14. & seqq.) several speeches of Christ which the other evangelists have not recorded. He points out (John 12:14. & seqq.) that, though the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem was evidently an accomplishment of what had been said of him by Zachariah the prophet, as St. Matthew observes, yet the disciples of Christ at that time were not struck by circumstances so strongly marked; "they understood them not at the first; but, when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him." He shews us, (John 12:37. & seqq.) from Isaiah, two prophesies of the unbelief of the Jews; and declares, that this prophet had seen the glory of Christ, and that he spoke of him when he wrote that holy vision. From the Psalms he brings to view (John 19:24; John 19:28.) not only the parting of the raiment of Christ crucified, but also the vinegar which was presented to him when he complained of thirst. He leads us to discern, (John 19:36-37.) in the "paschal lamb, a bone of which should not be broken," the image of Christ, who is truly the victim of our passover, and whose bones were not broken. He shews us in Zachariah, the prophesy of the opening which was made in our Saviour's side by a spear; and to these last two testimonies he adds this important remark, (John 19:36.) "These things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled." What riches then may not be concealed in Holy Writ, if circumstances which almost escape us, contain nevertheless express prophesies, marking even the smallest parts of the grand mystery of Jesus Christ, and finding their accomplishment in him!
6. Proofs from the Acts of the Apostles. Let us open the book of the Acts of the Apostles, wherein St. Peter shews us, from the Psalms (Acts 1:16. & seqq.), the punishment of the unbelieving Jews, and particularly of the deceitful Judas; from Joel (Acts 2:16, &c.), the pouring out of God's Spirit upon the disciples of Christ; from the Psalms (Acts 2:25. & seqq.), the resurrection of our Lord, and his ascension to the right-hand of his Father; from Deuteronomy (Acts 3:22.), the mission of Christ, the true prophet spoken of by Moses; from the Psalms again (Acts 4:11.), the glory of Christ, who, after having been "set at nought" by the chiefs of his people, "is become the head of the corner." The believers at Jerusalem, "with one accord," shew us, from the second Psalm (Acts 4:25. & seqq.), the rising up of Jews and Gentiles against the kingdom of Christ. St. Stephen recals to the recollection of the Jews all that God had done for their fathers, especially (Acts 7:37.) his promise to raise them up a prophet, as announced by Moses. Philip finds the eunuch of the queen of AEthiopia reading the celebrated prophesy of Isaiah touching the mystery of Christ's sufferings, and begins (Acts 8:35.) from that part of Scripture "to preach Jesus unto him." St. Peter declares (Acts 10:43.), that "to him give ALL the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." St. Paul, in the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia, shews, in the promise made to David (Acts 13:14. & seqq.), the birth of Christ; from the Psalms, (Acts 13:33. & seqq.) his resurrection; and from Habakkuk, (Acts 13:40-41.) the threats of punishment ready to fall upon the unbelieving Jews. St. James the Less shews us, (Acts 15:15. & seqq.) in Amos, the conversion of the Gentiles. St. Paul, when a prisoner at Rome, preaching to the Jews, exhorts them to believe in Jesus (Acts 28:23.) by proofs drawn "both out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets;" and, seeing their unbelief, he declares to them, (Acts 28:25. & seqq.) that thereby was fulfilled in them the celebrated prophesy of the sixth chapter of Isaiah. Lastly, St. Luke, three times in this book, (Acts 9:4.Acts 22:7; Acts 22:7. Acts 26:14.) repeats the words which Christ uttered to St. Paul when he cast him down on the ground, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Jesus Christ does not say, "Why persecutest thou my disciples, my brethren, my members?" but, "Why persecutest thou me?" to shew us, that, as he says in the Gospel, he regards as done to himself whatever is done to any of his people, because his members form but one body with himself, of which he is the head: a remark which is of great importance to the understanding of the Old Testament, and especially the Psalms, where Christ often speaks thus of his church, and his members, as if he spoke in his own name. But we must now hear the apostles from their epistles.
7. Proofs from the Epistle to the Romans. If we open the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, we shall find that apostle pointing out to believers, Abraham, (Romans 4:1. & seqq.) as the father of the faithful, and an example of justifying faith; in Isaac, (Romans 9:7. & seqq.) the type of the children of the promise; in the difference which God made between Jacob and Esau, (10. & seqq.) the symbol of that which he makes in respect to the dispensations of grace; in the person of Pharaoh, (Romans 9:17. & seqq.) the figure of hardened sinners. He there shews us Moses and Isaiah (Romans 10:19. Romans 11:8. Romans 15:10.) announcing the unbelief and rejection of the Jews, the free calling of the Gentiles to the faith, and their taking place of the unbelieving Jews. From the Psalms he shews us, (Romans 3:10. & seqq.) the general corruption of men, the freeness (Romans 4:6. & seqq.) of the gift of justification, the reproaches (Romans 15:3.) with which Christ was loaded, the evils (Romans 8:36.) to which his disciples must be exposed, the rejection (Romans 11:9-10.) of the unbelieving Jews, and the general calling (Romans 15:9-11.) of the Gentiles to the faith: from Isaiah, (Romans 9:27. & seqq.) the incredulity of the Jews and their rejection, the advantages (Romans 10:11.) of faith in Christ, the "glad tidings" (Romans 10:15.) announced by the Gospel, the free calling (Romans 10:20. Romans 15:12.) of the Gentiles, the future conversion (Romans 11:26.) of the Jews, and the universal homage (Romans 14:11.) that shall be paid to Christ at the great day of his latter coming: from Jeremiah he brings (Romans 11:26-27.) another prophesy of the future conversion of the Jews; from Hosea, (Romans 9:25-26.) the calling of the Gentiles; from Joel, (Romans 10:13.) the prerogatives of faith; and from Nahum, (Romans 10:15.) the glad tidings promulged by the Gospel.
8. Proofs from the First Epistle to the Corinthians. The First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians is replete with illustrations, for the understanding of the Old Testament. There, (1 Corinthians 5:7-8.) while the apostle points out, in the slaying of the paschal lamb, the "sacrifice" of Christ himself, whom he calls "our passover," he recommends us to join thereunto "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." In this epistle also, (1 Corinthians 9:8. & seqq.) when he proposes to prove that the ministers of the Gospel have a right to live by the Gospel, he cites this law of Moses, "Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn;" and hence he deduces his proof, by shewing us the spirit of that law: "for doth God," says he, (1 Corinthians 9:9-10.) "care for oxen?" or is it not rather for "our sakes" that he hath enacted this law? Yes, doubtless, "for our sakes this is written." It is in the present epistle that he lays down the grand principle, (1 Corinthians 10:1. & seqq.) that the Israelites are a type of us; that what happened to them is a figure of what happens to us; that the waters of "the sea" which they "passed through," and the "cloud" under which they walked, represent the waters in which we have been baptized sacramentally and spiritually; that "they did eat spiritual meat," in eating manna, which represented Christ himself, the divine food of the Believer's soul; that they drank "spiritual drink" out of a "spiritual rock," (1 Corinthians 10:4.) when they drank the water running from the rock, a symbol of the grace which flows from "Jesus Christ typified by that rock;" that their idolatry and fornication, the boldness with which they tempted the Lord and angered him by their murmurings, and, lastly, the evils "which happened unto them," are so many "ensamples" (1 Corinthians 10:11.) which shewing us the sins that we are to avoid, and the punishments which we have to fear, "are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." He tells us in general terms, that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4.) are the accomplishment of what was written in "the Scriptures." He shews us in the Psalms, (1 Corinthians 15:25. & seqq.) the sovereign authority of Christ, and the power of his kingdom. He compares "the first man Adam," (1 Corinthians 15:45. & seqq.) with Jesus Christ, whom he calls "the second man," and "the last Adam." He shews us in Isaiah, and in Hosea, (1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 Corinthians 15:57.) the "victory" of Jesus Christ over "death," and the eternal happiness of his faithful people.
9. Proofs from the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. In his Second Epistle to the believers of the same church, St. Paul compares (2 Corinthians 3:13. & seqq.) the "vail which Moses put over his face," with that which even now is over the "minds" of the Jews. He shews us, in the church of Christ, (2 Corinthians 5:17.) the "new" order of "creatures," spoken of by Isaiah; in the "day of salvation," (2 Corinthians 6:2.) "the accepted time," the "day of salvation," predicted by the same prophet. He discovers to us, in the words of Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, (2 Corinthians 6:16. & seqq.) the marks of the new covenant; and in the temptation of Eve, (2 Corinthians 11:3.) that temptation which we ourselves have to fear.
10. Proofs from the Epistle to the Galatians. The Epistle to the Galatians affords much valuable assistance toward the understanding, of the Old Testament: for, St. Paul therein assures us, (Galatians 4:22. & seqq.) that what is "written" of "Abraham and his two wives," is "an allegory;" that the "two wives" represent the "two covenants" of the Lord with men; that the "one covenant," which was made on "mount Sinai," and which of itself only "gendereth to bondage," is represented by "Agar;" that "Agar" is thus, in a figure, "the same as mount Sinai in Arabia, and," in the mysterious sense, "answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children;" and, lastly, that, besides the Jerusalem here below, represented by Agar, there is another "Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of us all," represented by Sarah. He shews us in Isaiah (Galatians 4:27.) these two wives of our Lord, one of which, having been long "barren," like Sarah, "hath many more children" than the other. He assures us, (Galatians 4:28.) that "we, as Isaac, are the children of promise." He shews us, (Galatians 4:30.) in the "casting out of" Ishmael "the son of the bondwoman," excluded from being "heir" with Isaac "the son of the freewoman," the image of the rejection of the carnal Jews, excluded from being heirs with the spiritual children of God; for "we are not," he says, (Galatians 4:31.) "children of the bondwoman, but of the free:" A testimony very interesting to us, as it shews us in the Holy Scriptures a fund of riches, which, perhaps, we should not have suspected, or which might at least have been somewhat doubtful, if the Holy Spirit who guided the apostle's pen had not stamped on this admirable and fruitful allegory the most perfect authenticity.
11. Proofs from the Epistle to the Ephesians. From this Epistle we might collect several testimonies, but shall content ourselves with one. It is from the fifth chapter, 31st and 32nd verses, where, in the very words of Adam on the close union of husband and wife, so that they become "one flesh," St. Paul discovers to us the "great" and ineffable "mystery'" of the close union that "Christ" has contracted with "his church," which is united with him so closely, that they are in effect but one flesh; whence, as one of the Fathers observes, as "Christ and his church" are thus joined "in one flesh," we must not be surprised, that in the Psalms they have "but one voice."
We will not here insist on the proofs which might be drawn from the Epistles to the Philippians, the Colossians, and the Thessalonians; or from those to Timothy. The Epistles to Titus and to Philemon, indeed, contain nothing for our present purpose; but that to the Hebrews abounds with proofs to confirm the grand principle which we mean to establish.
12. Proofs from the Epistle to the Hebrews. St. Paul brings together, (Hebrews 1:5. & seqq,) from the book of Psalms only, six proofs of the divinity of Christ. He shews us, (Hebrews 2:6. & seqq.) in this same book, the humiliations and the exaltation of the Saviour. He afterwards compares (Hebrews 3:2. & seqq.) Moses with Christ, and "the rest" (Hebrews 2:7. & seqq.) to which the Israelites were called with that to which "we" are invited. On this occasion he goes back (Hebrews 4:4. & seqq.) even to the rest into which the Lord entered after the creation, a memorial of which is preserved in the sabbath of the seventh day; and concludes, that there still "remaineth" a sabbath, (Heb 4:9) i.e. "a rest, to the people of God," who are one day to enter into God's rest. He shews us in the Psalms (Hebrews 5:4 & seqq.) the "priesthood" of Christ, which he compares with that of Aaron and Melchisedec; and remarks, (Hebrews 4:1. & seqq.) that Melchisedec was one of the most express figures of Christ, not only by his priesthood, which made him superior to the patriarch Abraham, but by his very name, which signifies "King of righteousness;" by his title, "King of Salem," which signifies "King of peace;" and by the silence of Scripture, which leaves him "without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life; but, made like unto the Son of God, (Hebrews 4:3.) abideth a priest continually." He compares (Hebrews 8:2. & seqq.) the earthly "sanctuary" and the "tabernacle" made by Moses, with the heavenly sanctuary and "the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." He declares to us, that the worship of the Priests and Levites under the old law (Hebrews 8:5.) was only "the example and shadow of heavenly things." He compares (Hebrews 8:6. & seqq,) the "old covenant" with the "new," which, he shews us, was expressly foretold by Jeremiah; and assures us, (Hebrews 9:9.) that the ceremonies of that ancient worship contain "a figure for the time then present." He repeats, (Hebrews 9:23.) that the tabernacle and all thereunto belonging were "the patterns of things in the heavens," and that (Hebrews 10:1.) "the law had only a shadow of good things to come." He shews us, in the Psalms, (Hebrews 10:5. & seqq.) Jesus Christ coming to offer himself to God his Father as a sacrifice for the sins of men; who, after "he had offered one sacrifice for sins, (Hebrews 10:12-13.) for ever sat down on the right hand of God, expecting till his enemies be made his footstool." He shews us, (Hebrews 11:19.) in Isaac living after being offered up, a "figure" of the resurrection of Christ. He describes the church (Hebrews 12:22.) under the names of "mount Sion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem." He compares (Hebrews 12:24.) "the blood of Abel" with that of Christ. He shews us (Hebrews 12:26-27.) from Haggai, that the new covenant cannot be shaken; again compares (Hebrews 13:11. & seqq.) the ancient sacrifices with the offering up of Christ; and makes us observe, that, as "the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp," (Hebrews 13:11.) therefore "Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate" (Hebrews 13:12.) of the city; and that, consequently, we must also "go forth unto him without the camp, (Hebrews 13:13.) bearing his reproach," i.e. his cross; so that the sacrifices of old did in all things, even in the smallest circumstances, instruct us in the mystery of Christ, and the obligations imposed on us by that faith which unites us with the divine Saviour.
13. Proofs from the First Epistle general of St. Peter. We could hence also deduce many proofs, but one may suffice: It is where the apostle, speaking of the "salvation of our souls," which is "the end of our faith," expresses himself in these terms, (1 Peter 1:10. & seqq.) "of which salvation the prophets, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you, have enquired and searched diligently, searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow;" and unto them "it was revealed, (1 Peter 1:12.) that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister" and dispense "the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into:" words inestimably precious, which make it clear to us, that, in effect, the object of the mission of the prophets and of the apostles is fundamentally the same; that both are the ministers of the same gospel, the one before Christ, the others after Christ; the one promulging in the forms of parables and enigmas the same truths which the others have since more clearly revealed.
14. Proofs from the Revelation. Lastly, the Revelation alone contains a multitude of passages from the Old Testament which it applies to Christ and his church. Christ himself, who speaks throughout this book, declares three times, (Revelation 2:27; Revelation 12:5; Revelation 19:15.) that it is to him that "power is given to rule the nations with a rod of iron," as God the Father says in the Psalms. He shews us, (Revelation 3:7.) that it is "he that hath the key" of the house "of David," which is spoken of by Isaiah, and is an image of his sovereign power. In shewing himself (Revelation 5:6. & seqq.) under the symbol of "a lamb that had been slain," he completely proves to us that he is our paschal lamb. When he shews himself in another place, (Revelation 6:2.Revelation 19:11; Revelation 19:11. & seqq.) under the image of a conqueror, going "forth conquering and to conquer," he recals to our minds what the prophets have written of his victories, as figured by the victories of Cyrus. But on all these things we shall enlarge in their order.
Thus the Old Testament resounds throughout with this great "mystery," which is no other than the grand work of man's redemption by Christ. All the ancient books of Holy Writ lead to Christ and to his church, as the grand objects to which refer all the histories, the laws, the canticles, and the prophesies which they contain. "Jesus Christ is" then, in this sense, "the end of the law." But how is he the end of the law? That is what we are next to shew.
THE SECOND POINT.
How Christ is the end of the law: and in what manner all the books of the Old Testament refer to him and his church.
Jesus Christ is the end of the law. Sometimes it leads directly to him, and describes him in unequivocal terms which can refer to him only: but more frequently it leads to him indirectly, describing him under the vail of parables and enigmas with which the books of the Old Testament abound. These books, then, contain several senses, or interpretations, between which we must carefully discriminate.
Are these various senses always of equal extent? Is the parallel they draw equally sustained throughout? How far must the agreement of these senses extend, to establish the truth of them? In short, what is the extent of the various interpretations by means of which the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament lead us to Christ, and to his church considered as a body, of which he is the head? This is what we have now to consider.
The distinction and extent, then, of the different senses or interpretations contained in the books of the Old Testament, are the objects of the Second Point which we shall first examine.
The Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament contain two principal senses: the literal and the spiritual. The literal sense is what results immediately from the letter of the text. The spiritual sense is that which is concealed under the vail of the letter, and contains the spirit of the text.
1. The literal sense, called also the immediate or obvious, because it is that which is presented immediately by the letter of the text, has for its object, in the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, 1. The history of man from his creation till the calling of Abraham, the leader of God's people. 2. The history of God's people from Abraham to the Babylonish captivity. 3. The moral, judicial, and ceremonial laws and maxims relating to manners. 4. The great work of man's redemption by the Deliverer, who, having been promised to the first man after his fall, and afterwards announced to the patriarchs and foretold by the prophets, was at length given to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
1. The literal and immediate sense relative to the history of man from his creation to the calling of Abraham, contains scarcely any difficulty: all is related in terms generally the most simple and clear. It must only be observed, that, from the relation of man's fall, the figurative style begins to be intermingled, so that the devil is presented only (Genesis 3:1. & seqq.) under the figure of "the serpent" whose shape he took; and hence the curse pronounced against the serpent falls less upon the animal than upon the devil himself.
2. The literal and obvious sense respecting the history of God's people from Abraham to the Babylonish captivity, is often mixed with enigmatic, metaphoric, allegoric, and figurative expressions; Jacob, blessing his children, when speaking to Judah, begins in a style quite simple and free from figure (Genesis 49:8.): "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise; thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee." But soon he raises himself, and assumes the figurative style, (ver. 9.) "Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, thou art gone up; he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?" Under this image he predicts the warlike actions of the tribe of Judah. In like manner, Moses, in his song, speaks at first, in clear, simple language, saying, (Deuteronomy 32:9.) "The Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." But he soon rises to the figurative style, and says, (Deuteronomy 32:11-12.) "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so the Lord alone did lead him," &c. Under this image he represents the care which the Lord took of Israel his people. David also assumes this figurative language, saying to God, (Psalms 80:8. & seqq.) "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it" (in their land). This vine clearly and obviously means the descendants of Jacob. The prophets have often employed figurative language in speaking of Israel or their enemies: and the remark is the more important, because this first kind of parable and enigma, which refers to the Jews themselves, leads us to the understanding of the dark sayings and parables which refer to Christ and to his church.
3. The literal and obvious sense, which concerns the moral, judicial, and ceremonial laws, and in general the rules for manners, or the conduct of life, is commonly very simple and perspicuous; but sometimes this also rises to the figurative style. In the Psalms, and in the moral and prophetical books, the "truth" to which we are to bind ourselves, the "righteousness" which we are to practise, the divine precepts which we are to observe, are often presented as a "way" which we should take, as "paths" in which we should walk; and, in these same books, the "way of the Lord," the "way of the righteous," and the "way of sinners," are put for the conduct or behaviour of sinners, of just men, and of God himself.
4. The literal and obvious sense with regard to the great work of "man's redemption," is sometimes very clear and simple; and the Deliverer is announced without a figure: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah," says Jacob, (Genesis 49:10.) "until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." Here the DELIVERER is clearly announced. But Jacob soon after rises to figurative language: "Binding," says he, (ver. 11, 12.) "his fole unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk." These are symbolical expressions, all referring to the great mystery of Christ and his church, to which the literal and immediate sense of the text necessarily leads.
II. The spiritual sense, called also the mystical, because it is that which, under cover of the letter, contains the spirit and mystery, has two principal objects, and thus divides itself into two kinds, the allegorical sense and the moral: the allegorical, shewing the mysteries of religion; the moral, shewing a rule for conduct and manners. The allegorical sense has itself also two objects: one referring to the mysteries that are to be completed in the earth in the fulness of time, and shewing us what we are to believe; which is the simple allegorical sense: the other refers to the perfect consummation of the great mystery of God to all eternity, in a word, to the celestial blessings which are offered us, and which are to be the everlasting reward of the faithful: shewing us what we have to hope for; and this is what is called, in the Greek, the anagogical sense, because it raises us to heavenly things.
Hence we commonly distinguish in the sacred writings four principal senses; namely, the literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical, comprehended and characterised in these two verses:
Littera gesta docet; quae credas, allegoria; Moralis, quid agas; quid speres, anagogia*. * For want of a better, the following translation of these lines may be accepted:— The literal sense instructs you as to facts; What to believe, the allegorical; The moral sense, what you should do enacts; What you should hope, the anagogical.
1. The simple allegorical sense is therefore that which, under the appearance of a literal sense, presents another relative to the mysteries of Christ, i.e. of Christ and his church: it is called also the prophetic sense, because it contains the prediction of those mysteries. Such is the sense which St. Paul discovers to us under the image of the alliance that Abraham contracted successively with his two wives, Sarah and Hagar: "Which things are an allegory," says the apostle; (Galatians 4:24.) "for these are the two covenants;" that is to say, they represent the two covenants which God has successively made with man; so that the everlasting covenant which God has made with the faithful is represented by Sarah, while the temporal covenant which he made with the synagogue is represented by Hagar. It is in this sense, according to the same apostle, (1 Corinthians 6:11.) "that these things," which happened to the Jews, "happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition," i.e. they were a figure of what should happen unto us.
2. The moral sense, called in Greek the tropologic, or that which concerns the manners, is that which, under the appearance of an historical sense, presents a second relative to manners; as when, under the image of reproaches made to the Jews, and punishments inflicted upon them, the apostles lay before us the unbelief which we ourselves should avoid, and the punishments which we have to fear. The moral sense, again, is that, which, under the vail of an obvious sense relative to the judicial and ceremonial laws of the Jews, contains a sense more sublime, but still regarding our morals; as, where we are commanded "not to muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn," St. Paul shews us (1 Corinthians 9:9-10.) the obligation which we are under to provide for the subsistence of those who labour in and exercise the most holy functions. The moral sense is often closely united with the allegorical; and then both are comprised in the same text; as where, under the image of that law which obliged the Jews "to burn the bodies" of certain victims "without the camp," the same apostle shews us (Hebrews 13:11. & seqq.) "Jesus also suffering for us without the gate;" here we see the allegorical sense, and our own obligation to "go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach," and weaning ourselves from the things of this world; "for here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come," which is our own country: this is the moral sense.
3. The anagogical sense is that which, under the appearance of a literal sense relative to earthly things, raises us to another interpretation concerning heavenly things; as when, under the image of the earthly "Jerusalem which now is," the apostles shew us (Galatians 4:26. Hebrews 12:22.Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:2.) "Jerusalem which is above;" under the image of present blessings they depict to us those future blessings which should be the only true objects of our desires. In such a point of view, this sense is, often the completion of the allegorical sense, and makes a part of it; for the allegorical sense, leading us to, the complete victory of Christ over all his enemies at the last day, shews us afterwards the eternal rewards in the possession of which he will then place the faithful: this is precisely the object of the anagogical sense.
Thus do these three interpretations, the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogical, containing the spirit and the mysteries under the vail of the letter of the sacred text, form together the spiritual or mystical sense concealed under the literal or obvious sense. But are these two meanings every where equally maintained? do they extend generally to all parts of the ancient Scriptures? is not one sometimes found without the other? Let us inquire into this.
In order to judge of the extent of the spiritual sense in the Old Testament, it must first be recollected, that in every emblem and enigma, in every parable and comparison, the parallel can never be perfect, because the shadow and the image are always below the truth. The shadow would be no longer a shadow, if it contained all the perfections of the body which it represented; the image would be no longer an image, if it contained all the substance of the original.
Thus, 1. Under the allegorical or metaphorical sense, as the metaphor is an essential part of an allegory, Christ says, (Revelation 16:15.) "Behold, I come as a thief." Is Christ, then, like a thief? He has not the wickedness of one; but, as the thief comes and surprises us in the stillness of the night, so Christ, at his last coming, shall surprise men who are resting in perfect security. This is the main point of the comparison, and therein it is found just. In another place, Christ is called (Revelation 5:5.) "the lion of the tribe of Judah;" in another, we read, (1 Peter 5:8.) that "the devil walketh about like a roaring lion." Is Christ then a lion? and is the latter like unto the devil? Certainly not; yet in different lights the lion is shewn as an emblem of Christ and Satan.—Christ says, (John 7:11.) "I am the door of the sheep;" and soon after he adds, "I am the good shepherd." Can he be at once both the shepherd and the door? He is so indeed, but under different designations. Thus, in the allegorical language, the comparisons can never be complete; the same emblem may represent two very different objects; and the same object may be represented by two emblems which of themselves have no sort of resemblance.
Also, 2. In the moral sense, Christ proposes (Luke 16:1. & seqq.) for our example the parable of the unjust steward who was commended for acting wisely. Are we, then, to imitate the injustice of this steward? Certainly not; but we may imitate his prudence. Here lies the point of comparison, to depart from which would be to go astray and lose ourselves.
Likewise, 3. The anagogical sense has its limits, beyond which it must not pass. In the promises made to the children of Israel, we not only are shewn, that the greatest blessings should be bestowed on them, but it is said also, (Jeremiah 32:39.) that these blessings shall be "for the good of them and of their children after them;" and that, in a word, (Isaiah 60:15.Joel 3:20; Joel 3:20.) the enjoyment of these blessings should be continued from race to race, or through all their generations. The blessings reserved for us in our heavenly mansion shall endure for ever; but then there can be no new generation. These promises then have a first sense respecting the present life, wherein the gifts of God to his church are continued from generation to generation, notwithstanding all the ills which it may endure. But in the second sense, which regards the life to come, eternity only can describe the gifts in store for us. Therefore, either we must understand that these gifts shall be spread among all generations distributively, among the race of Judah as among the race of Levi, among the Jews as among the Gentiles, among the Greeks as among the barbarians; or, if we acknowledge that the promises extend to all generations successively, the prophesy cannot here have any application to the anagogical sense.
Thus, in every sense in which the Scriptures may be taken, the comparisons must never be strained beyond the points of which they are the objects; yet the imperfection of the comparisons destroys not their truth, because from their nature, as we have shewn before, they must necessarily be incomplete.
These principles being premised, we are next to divide the ancient Scriptures into the historical books, the legal or moral books, the Prophesies, and the Psalms.
I. In the historical books, every thing is not susceptible of a double meaning: there are many passages in which the literal and obvious sense, respecting the history of the world, or that of the Israelites in particular, is the only proper meaning of the text; it would be vain to seek an allegory where none is meant, or to stretch the allegories that may be found into a meaning which they will not bear: we must take the most striking relations as authorised by the testimony of scripture itself, or at least as justified by the application: but we must neither push these relations beyond their just limits, nor reject them because they have not all the extent that we could wish they should have. Thus we are assured by St. Paul, (Galatians 4:24.) that Abraham's "two wives" represent the "two covenants;" this suffices to give the allegory all the extent of which it is capable: we are not to suppose, or expect, that all that is said of these two women will be verified in the two covenants which they represent; and thus, if in the character of these two women some circumstances should be found which do not tally with, or refer to, the two covenants, we are not on that account to reject an allegory so clearly established.
II. In the books of laws or morals, we must distinguish those laws which in a general sense concern morals, from those which more particularly regard civil order and the ceremonies of religion. These are called moral, judicial, and ceremonial precepts.
The moral precepts have often but one meaning, which is that immediately obvious from the letter of the text; but sometimes under this meaning is couched a second of greater elevation and extent. The precept, (Exodus 20:13.) "Thou shalt not kill," forbids at the same time homicide properly so called, which deprives the body of life, and also spiritual homicide, which kills the soul.
St. Paul shews us also, under the vail of the judicial laws, a second sense more elevated and sublime; for (1 Corinthians 9:9. & seqq.) while we are forbidden "to muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn," he lays before us the obligation of giving needful helps to the ministers of the Gospel.
He declares, (Hebrews 9:23; Hebrews 10:1.) that the ceremonial laws contain "the shadow of good things to come," and "the patterns of things in the heavens;" in a word, the grand mystery of Christ and his church: we ought, therefore, to follow up this opening, and search for the profound secrets concealed under that vail, but always following the justness of the applications founded upon the analogy of faith.
III. In the Prophesies, almost every thing leads us more or less to Christ. There are indeed some prophesies which seem to have but one sense, i.e. that which has for its sole object the history of the Jews; others have but one sense, but that respects Christ or his church. Others, again, have two meanings, because, besides the first sense, which regards the state of the Jews before Christ, they refer also to the miracles which God has wrought in the establishment of his church, and those which he yet will work in his own time for recalling the Jews, and for the establishment of the universal reign of Christ. Lastly, some contain three meanings; as, besides those which regard the present life, they have reference also to the perfect bliss of the saints in the life to come.
But we must not suppose, that all parts of the same prophesy are equally susceptible of all these different meanings. The harmony of the various meanings of the Scripture does not require that the parallel should be always complete, because sometimes it is impossible. When Nathan the prophet announces to David the glory which was to accompany Solomon's reign, (2 Samuel 7:4. & seqq.; 1 Chronicles 17:3. & seqq.) he foretels at the same time, and in the same terms, the glory of the kingdom of Christ, of whom Solomon was a type. But this celebrated prophesy is mixed with some marks or characters which belong to Solomon only, and others which belong only to Christ; so that we must not apply to the one what belongs peculiarly to the other. "It is very certain," according to the remark of a learned interpreter, "that we must not neglect what is proper to Christ on account of that which cannot refer to him; and we must not refer the whole to Solomon, because one part of the prophesy can refer only to him. We must refer to the Son of God that which can only be literally true as referred to him. We must interpret mysteriously those passages which literally relate to Solomon, and in a more figurative and sublime sense to Christ. We must take from the Son of God every thing unworthy of his divine nature, and understand it only as relating to Solomon." This discrimination is of great importance, and very useful in the understanding of the prophesies; for, it often happens, that, for want of following up this essential point, we wander into forced and illusive interpretations which have no foundation in reality, or which do not convey the energy of the expressions in the text. Let us establish it, then, as a principle in reading the prophesies, not to apply these prophetic oracles but to events which are clear, and corresponding in importance to the expressions of the sacred text; and to follow up their application no farther than the certainty of the events and the certainty of the relations may warrant, always having respect to the limits prescribed by Scripture itself.
IV. Lastly, the Psalms may in general have an obvious meaning respecting David, or the people of Israel; but the sense relating to this first object is generally very imperfect, being mostly far beneath the energy of the expressions. The great and principal object of the Psalms is Christ and his church; the complete mystery of Christ, considered from his first coming even until his final appearance. We must not pretend to explain all the Psalms, or even the whole of any one of them, as referring either to David or to the people of Israel; some passages, but not the whole, may relate to them; there are many, of which even the literal meaning must be taken in a different sense: on the contrary, all refers to Christ or to his church, either immediately and without a vail; or under the vail of a moral or historical meaning, which in some degree respects Israel, or David, or righteous men in general; Israel, as being a type of the church; David, who is a type both of Christ and of his church, which form together one body, one man, one Christ; or the righteous man, who represents Christ himself, the chief and model of all righteousness, and in whom all righteous men are united as members of his mystical body, i.e. his church. Thus the Psalms often have two meanings, the first relating to David or to Israel, the second to Christ or to his church, and sometimes both to Christ and to his church, as making together but one man, of which he is the head, and his church the body. It frequently happens, however, that they have but one meaning, which refers entirely to Christ or to his church. But, even when they are found susceptible of two interpretations, the best to be maintained is that which relates to Christ or to his church. In general, the allegorical meaning is more kept up in the Psalms than in any other part of the Old Testament.
In the other parts, the spiritual sense, which regards Christ and his church, is often interrupted by passages that seem to have no other meaning than the literal and obvious sense as it respects Israel or other nations. What rules, then, are we to follow in order to discern Christ and his church under the cover of this literal meaning? By what tokens are we to know Christ in the law of which he is the end? This is the last point that we have to examine.
THE THIRD POINT.
By what tokens are we to discover Christ in the Law, of which he is the end? And what Rules must we adopt to discern Christ and his Church through the vails wherewith they are covered in the Old Testament?
The Holy Scripture is like a well-tuned instrument, in which the notes are not all equally loud: every thing strikes the eye equally, but not so the ear: yet all is connected; the parts which emit no sound, join necessarily with those that fill up the harmony: and we must be careful not to pretend to draw a sound from that which is not meant to yield one. Thus we must be careful to distinguish in the Scriptures those parts which are susceptible of but one meaning from those which contain many. Jesus Christ is the end of the law; but we must learn how to discern him. On this subject we propose to collect some of the most useful and important rules.
RULE I. The first rule for discerning Christ in the books of the Old Testament is an infallible one, wherever it can be applied, namely, To take for our guides the writers of the New Testament, and to see Christ wherever they appear to have seen him. Then the Spirit of the prophets themselves unfolds to us the sense of the words dictated to them by that Spirit: it is the Spirit of Christ which shews us Christ. We are under no difficulty, for example, in ascertaining "the virgin" spoken of by Isaiah in the 7th chapter of his prophesies, Isa 7:14 or in discovering that "Son" who should be worthy to be called "Emmanuel:" St. Matthew has on this point given us full information (Matthew 1:22-23.); and has afforded to us a key to the understanding of a chapter full of obscurities, with several others which follow it and are crowded with difficulties. We cannot be deceived in seeking for Christ under these dark vails; but we must take care to preserve the truth of history and of the temporal events which cover these important prophesies; we may draw aside the curtain, but are not to tear it.
II. To the former rule succeed those which are drawn from the sacred text itself. We must see Christ in the Holy Scriptures, when certain marks that designate and discover him, are found there, and can only relate to him. Without this, we must undervalue his august qualities by attributing them to another, and put a forced meaning upon the text to give to it another object. The command of God to Isaiah to speak to the Jews (Isaiah 6:10.) in an obscure manner so as to blind them, "to seal the law" (Isaiah 8:16.), to reserve the full understanding of it for future "disciples"—shews us, that Christ is not designated without a vail in the Old Testament; but sometimes the vail is so transparent, that we are more struck with the splendor beneath than with the vail itself. Sometimes the vail is closer and thicker, and completely conceals what it covers, but is yet too short, and leaves some parts exposed by which we cannot fail of distinguishing Christ, though perhaps all the rest of the prophesy may refer to some other person: and it is chiefly in such passages as these, that great attention and discrimination are necessary. We do not immediately perceive Christ in the 18th Psalm, "I will love thee, O Lord," &c. which, by the text of the Second Book of Kings, seems to refer only to David's victories; yet St. Paul refers it (Romans 15:9; Romans 15:33.) to Jesus Christ; and, indeed, the faith and "obedience" of the "Gentiles," (Psalms 18:43; Psalms 18:50.) are therein so clearly foretold, that this passage alone might suffice to discover the mysterious meaning contained throughout the psalm, even if we had not the authority of the apostle, who assures us that this is its true meaning.
III. When the expressions of Scripture are too strong, too general, too lofty, and too sublime for the subject to which they seem to refer, it is a certain rule, that the holy Spirit had another meaning in view, with which all these expressions will exactly agree, and in respect to which they are too feeble rather than too strong: for the word of God is the word of truth; it is gold purified even seven times; it can have nothing defective, nothing superfluous. It is a rule or model for expressions the most appropriate; and, when any thing appears too strong, it is a sign that we do not understand it, and that we refer it to a wrong object. This rule is of great extent: it furnishes a key to several passages at which superficial minds are hurt, because they know not the true meaning of them; and it teaches us to pay the Scriptures a due respect. It shews also, not by conjecture, but by demonstration, the blessings concealed under those promises which are only true in a spiritual sense, which sense is the only one that agrees in those instances with the expressions of Scripture. We know all that Isaiah foretold relative to the restoration of the Jews when captives in Babylon, (Isaiah 40:0. & seqq.). He gives the most sublime descriptions of it; yet in the event itself nothing answers to this sublimity; we have the narrative of their journey in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the whole passed without any very remarkable occurrence: the expressions of Isaiah, then, must have allusion to some other object besides the return from Babylon to Jerusalem; under the figurative style, he must have foretold the liberty and the spiritual blessings procured for us by Jesus Christ, especially those reserved for the faithful to all eternity.
St. Peter and St. Paul have applied to Christ's resurrection these words of the Psalms 16:10. "Thou will not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption:" and they have shewn, that in truth the passage could only refer to him, because David, in his body, was reduced to dust ages before, "and saw corruption." David therefore, being a prophet," says St. Peter, (Acts 2:30-31.) from the knowledge he had of futurity, hath spoken "of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption,"—"For David," says St. Paul, (Acts 13:36-37.) "after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption; but he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption." These two apostles have taught us, by their own example, how we are to understand the Scriptures. We should, like them, take literally all that may be taken literally without injustice to the attributes of God, or to any known truths; and we may conclude, without doubt, that whatever agrees not literally with David and the people of Israel, must refer properly and directly to Christ and his church, and can be taken in no other sense.
IV. We have already observed, that there are passages in Scripture, and particularly in the Prophesies and Psalms, which are not susceptible of an historical meaning, or a meaning confined to the history of the Jews: in which cases, to take them in that sense, were to be ignorant of the rules that are laid down for finding out the meaning of the Scriptures. The sense called immediate, must be followed up and maintained throughout: it must not be received in certain points, and given up in others. It must not be taken as meant literally, when the literal sense makes against the meaning. The immediate sense differs from that which it covers only in grandeur and majesty. It is not so deep; but it is true. It does not come up to the full energy of the text; but it does not contradict it. It leads to a more noble prediction, but it presents no obstacle. It leads to an understanding in the mysteries, instead of turning away the mind, or clouding it. By consulting these rules, we shall soon discover, that Solomon, and his alliance with the daughter of the king of Egypt, cannot be the immediate objects of the 45th Psalm; and that they can refer only to Christ and his church. How could Solomon describe himself as God seated upon an eternal throne? (Psalms 45:6.) "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever;" or, as in the Hebrew, "for ages and to eternity." How dare we to weaken the meaning of this text, after St. Paul has produced it (Hebrews 1:8.) to prove that Christ is God? He who is spoken of in this psalm is a prince armed against his enemies, a prince to whom the prophet gives (Psalms 45:3; Psalms 45:17.) a "sword," a bow and "arrows," and who is alone the conqueror of his own kingdom. Who can possibly distinguish Solomon by these marks, when it is written of him that the whole of his reign should be peaceable, and, in fact, he never gained any thing by the sword! The Conqueror of whom the prophet speaks shall bring the whole world under the government of his children: "Instead of thy fathers," says he, (Psalms 45:16.) "shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth." Solomon, on the contrary, whose kingdom the victories of David had greatly enlarged, not only failed to establish his children over foreign kingdoms, but deserved, by his ingratitude, that the only one of his sons who succeeded him should retain but one or two tribes out of twelve, and that only out of special favour to the memory of David, and the promises which had been made to him. It would, therefore, be evidently a fruitless effort, and only resisting the Holy Spirit, to seek any other prophetic sense, or any other object here, than Jesus Christ.
V. The Scripture cannot contradict itself: it commends not in one place what it condemns in another. It will not regard in one place, as felicity suitable to righteous men, what it owns in another to be denied them, and acknowledges to be often bestowed on the unjust and wicked. It flatters no passions, but seeks to cure them all. It is always in opposition to avarice, ambition, revenge, and luxury. We must therefore be satisfied, "that all those promises which have only temporal felicity for their object, all expressions capable of inspiring a love of money or pleasure, all circumstantial recitals of human magnificence, can be in Scripture only as the images or figures of felicity more solid and real, as figures of the spiritual kingdom of Christ, and the future glorification of the righteous;" and that we shall convert Christianity into a kind of Judaism, if we reject the most sublime and exalted interpretations which enlightened men have given to such passages as would be useless or dangerous if taken literally. Besides, as these promises are in general terms, they must be fulfilling at all times, and in respect to all righteous men; and therefore, if taken in the literal sense, good men would never want the necessaries of life, they could never suffer hunger or thirst, must always live in plenty and in honour, and sooner or later must gain the advantage over all their enemies. What then must become of so many just men under the law, spoken of in the Epistle to the Hebrews, (Hebrews 11:35. & seqq.) who were in want of all things, and besides "had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings?" &c. &c. What must become of all the martyrs destroyed by hunger, and distress, and torment, while their persecutors lived in ease and affluence? The more we consider these promises literally, the more shall we be offended and scandalised at seeing them so often of none effect with respect to some of God's most faithful servants, while we see them accomplished in the most wicked, and such as most strenuously oppose the doctrines of the Gospel. The Scripture itself leads us to spiritual interpretations, by designedly blending promises of perfect righteousness and holiness with those which seem only sensual or temporal. For it is plain, that righteousness and grace may be figured by temporal gifts; but they never can be the images of blessings of inferior value: "For brass I will bring gold," says the Lord in Isaiah, (ch. Isaiah 60:17. & seqq.) "and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron: I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness. Violence shall no more be heard in thy land;—thy people also shall be all righteous." These parts of Scripture may serve as an interpretation for all others where future blessings are promised under other words and other images, because they connect what is elsewhere divided, and include at the same time the blessings promised only as figures, and the very blessings which are therein shewn or typified.
VI. When we find in Scripture some things which, in a simple recital, seem not to agree with our weak manner of reasoning, or with the idea that we have of the persons concerned, it may be taken for a certain rule, "that there lies beneath the surface some mystery which we must endeavour to clear up, or which we must at least receive with respect, if we are not able to discover its full meaning." We are touched with compassion at seeing Hagar and Ishmael driven away from Abraham's house; (Genesis 21:9. & seqq.) and are somewhat surprised to see how little provision is made for an exiled mother and son by a man so rich and charitable as this patriarch was, who apparently turns them out to perish with thirst in the wilderness. Nothing indeed can be more surprising than these circumstances. Why should he hasten that very morning to execute a project, the mere idea of which had given him pain? Why did he take upon himself the disagreeable part of the business, rather than leave it to Sarah? Why bestow so little upon a mother and a son—a son who was his own? Why lay upon the shoulders of this afflicted mother a load which the weakest beast, among the many that Abraham had, might have easily carried? Why send her away without a guide, without instruction, without any comfort? All this appears apparently so contrary to the humanity and justice of Abraham, that we cannot but be offended at it, unless we look farther than the simple words of the Scripture. But, after St. Paul has drawn aside the vail which covered the mystery, (Galatians 4:22. & seqq.) we then see, in Abraham's zeal, the wise precaution of the apostle, not to leave false brethren and blasphemers among the faithful who are full of gratitude and love for Christ. In the severity of the patriarch, we may discern that of God himself, who has cast out the proud synagogue and her children. The load laid upon the shoulder of Hagar, prefigures the blind and fruitless attachment of the Jews to legal observances looking to earthly things; all which are abolished by Christ. Bread and water given so sparingly, are to shew, that the Jews have left the land of plenty, and are condemned to die of hunger and thirst, because they rejected the bread of life, and that everlasting fountain of water which destroys thirst to all eternity. Hagar and her son, wandering in the desart, without a guide, without a track, or any fixed design, fatiguing themselves to no end, teach us, that the Jewish nation, in rejecting the Gospel, have lost their light, their wisdom, their hope, and the fruit of their labours. What more wretched than the Jew, or more desolate than Judea? The temple, the priesthood, Jerusalem, the kingdom, the country itself, all have been taken from them. Hagar and Ishmael wander long near a fountain without seeing it: Christ shews himself to the Jews in all the Scriptures; the light of his cross shines throughout; they are in the midst of his kingdom, yet it is still concealed from them by a cloud. Hagar and her son are both on the ground, on different sides, near this fountain; yet they are dying of thirst. God sends his angel, who miraculously opens Hagar's eyes, that she may behold a fountain so visible and so necessary. As soon as she sees it, she gives drink to her son; and, as if she had found every thing in discovering this fountain of health, the Scripture presently adds, that he became a strong man, large, and active; that he established himself in power and might, and became the father of many princes. Had any one of these circumstances been wanting, the figure would so far have obscured the truth, instead of being the image of it. It was necessary that Abraham should act with apparent inhumanity, that he might act clearly and prophetically; and it was necessary that, in the relation, Moses should omit nothing essential to the mystery, though it might appear injurious to Abraham. An uninspired mind would not have stooped to a detail which, according to the feeble light of reason, might appear so unimportant; such a narrator would have said too much or too little: and hence we must acknowledge, that a superior Spirit guided the hand of Moses; and that infinite Wisdom, to whom all things are present, described future events of the greatest consequence under the less important history of past transactions.
VII. "We find in Scripture other circumstances, which, though they do not offend our reason, yet are so wonderful, and so visibly susceptible of a mysterious meaning, that we must be insensible if we do not endeavour to find out the motive, the secret, and the end thereby intended." It is plain, that the text itself often declares that more is meant than meets the eye, and that it were to be satisfied with an imperfect understanding of it not to look beyond the literal meaning. Thus there are inestimable riches concealed in the Holy Scriptures; and it is a rule which will never deceive, to be assured that great mysteries may be discovered when the first view of a passage announces that it demands attention, and deserves to be fathomed: then the letter leads to the spirit; and we must be deaf if we do not hear its voice. The history of Jacob alone furnishes many examples of this kind: why does Jacob go into a country (Genesis 28:0. & seqq.) whither Abraham had so strongly forbidden Eliezer on any pretence to bring his son Isaac? Eliezer typified the care which God would take of his church by means of his ministers; and Jacob, the personal appearance of Christ: he sent his prophets, and is come himself. He took his spouse from afar off, and went himself to fetch her. Why is Jacob obliged to sleep in the open air with a stone for his pillow? God had given to Abraham and Isaac the land where Jacob slept; and Jacob himself had just been declared lord of it by those words of Isaac, (Genesis 28:4.) God make thee to "inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which he gave unto Abraham." But no one knew that he was lord of this land; no city had acknowledged him, no village would own him for a master. He was in the midst of his kingdom like a stranger; he lived among his own subjects as one unknown, or as a servant. All is denied to Jacob; yet all is his: this heir to the promises has not where to lay his head. Thus was Christ treated: all nations were promised to him; the universe was his work; the whole world was his kingdom; yet he not only lived without pomp and without authority, but without a place to lay his head. "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not; he came unto his own, and his own received him not. The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head." Why does God place a ladder of communication between himself and Jacob? Why fill it with angels employed only on his account? Himself, on the upper step, seems to have forgotten the whole world, to be occupied only about this one man. Can an attentive reader fail to discern the image of the Just One, who, though humbled to our flesh, has not yet left his Father's bosom, but is become the link between heaven and earth, the Reconciler of God with man, the Mediator who is on the lowest step of the ladder because he is equal with us, yet at the same time on the top, because he is one with the Father? On his head ascend and descend the angels, as Christ says where he applies this figure to himself, (John 1:51.) "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." He is, in his sleep, (i.e. his death,) the grand object of God's attention, who sees all the faithful in him. In his poverty and his nakedness, he is the source of all blessings to us; and, while he seems lower than the angels, he is their master, as they are employed in attending upon him as his ministers. All the rest of Jacob's life is full of circumstances equally mysterious, and as worthy of being investigated.
VIII. "The language of the holy Spirit is sometimes so plain, that the slightest reflection is sufficient for the understanding of it; and this is the case when all the circumstances of a history have so clear a reference to Jesus Christ, that we cannot doubt of God's design to represent therein the mysteries of his Son and the conduct of his church." This agreement of circumstances forms a complete picture; and we may take it for a certain rule, that the same Spirit who dictated the Scriptures makes them continually understood; that the Old Testament predicted the New; and that Christ is shewn very clearly in some places, to incite us to seek him in the rest. The history of Joseph (Genesis 37:0. & seqq.) is one of those wherein Christ is, perhaps, as visible as the person who prefigures him. He becomes odious to his brethren because he reproves their faults, and because his father gives public testimony of his virtue. He seeks his brethren, although they repay his kindness only with hatred. He is sold by them, and his coat is bloody; but he rises living out of the pit in which they had buried him, and reigns among the Gentiles to whom his ungrateful family had given him up. He is forgotten by his wicked brethren; but Jacob, typifying in this all the holy patriarchs, wails his absence. His brethren at length acknowledge and honour him; and he, who was the saviour of Egypt, becomes the saviour of all Israel. Who but must be struck with these parallels, at least if he be a Christian? and who can doubt of a resemblance which divine Providence has made so plain and so complete? It is the same with the conformity which God has made between the state of the Israelites coming out of Egypt, (Exodus 1:0. & seqq.) and that of Christians in this life; he willed, that all the incidents which happened to the former should be a figure, a prediction, a pledge, of what he would do for the latter. The children of Israel are in bondage, and fighting under hard servitude with the prince and god of this world, who uses all his endeavours to detain them, subjected to disgraceful and laborious works in earth and dirt, notwithstanding their high origin, and notwithstanding the promises of God, which call them to liberty and a kingdom. Towards evening they kill the paschal lamb without blemish, (1 Corinthians 5:7. John 19:36.) the flesh of which they eat without breaking any of its bones; they eat it with bitter herbs and with unleavened bread; standing, like travellers and strangers; no longer attached to Egypt, and waiting only the happy signal for their departure; and they are preserved from the wrath of heaven, and of the destroying angel, by virtue only of this slain lamb, the blood of which was sprinkled on their door-posts, and the nourishment of whose flesh gave them strength for their journey. The church, by a thousand multiplied prodigies, is delivered from the oppression of Pharaoh, who is overwhelmed in the same waters which prove her salvation; but though she sings a song of deliverance on the borders of the Red Sea, she is not yet arrived at her journey's end; she has still a long voyage to make, and many trials to suffer. A mysterious cloud covers her, and directs her steps in the wilderness; her children did "all eat the same spiritual meat, (1 Corinthians 10:3-4.) and did all drink the same spiritual drink;" they ate the bread of heaven, they drank the water "of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ." Jesus Christ, represented by the brazen serpent, (John 3:14.) is their remedy against the bites of the serpents with which they are surrounded; finally, they are conducted into the promised land by a deliverer who bears the name of Jesus, which name, in Hebrew is the same with Joshua. This divine deliverer shall divide the land among those who have bravely fought under his banner; then they shall no longer have need of manna, because the new land will furnish a different refection; God will then manifest himself unveiled before them, and will communicate with them immediately and intimately. We must be totally destitute, not of faith only, but of reason or justice, not to acknowledge the finger of God in those wonders of which the first are the images of the last. We cannot hesitate here to apply that general maxim of St. Paul, that the history of christians is drawn in that of the Jews; and that what we read in the Old Testament is as much our own instruction as a relation of what happened to them; "All these things happened unto them," says the apostle, (1 Corinthians 10:11.) "for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition."
IX. Besides that general principle which serves to inlighten the faithful in the reading of the Old Testament, it is observed in particular by St. Paul, (Hebrews 9:23; Hebrews 10:1.) that the pattern of the tabernacle, and all that served in its ministry, were only "a shadow of good things to come;" whence it follows, that we must look upon them only with reference to the divine original which Moses saw upon the mount, and which was no other than the economy of the mystery of Jesus Christ, the High Priest of future blessings, the only Mediator between God and man, who alone was worthy to wash out our sins by the shedding of his own blood; who alone was worthy to enter the sanctuary, which is heaven, and to bring in those who trust in him, and form one body with him, of which he is the head. St. Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, has drawn aside the vail which concealed from us part of these agreements or parallels, but he has left it remaining over other parts of the picture; and those who have profited by what he has shewn, will endeavour, by following up his principles, to discover the rest. But the principle established by St. Paul remains unchanged; the rule that he gives us is certain. The priesthood, the tabernacle, the victims, the ceremonial law, represented heavenly things: "They serve (Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:23-24.) unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God, when he was about to make the tabernacle; (Exodus 25:40.) Look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed to thee in the mount." We must, therefore, go up to the truth, up to the original, even to the heavenly mysteries, in order to understand what is written in Exodus, in Leviticus, and in many other books of Scripture; and, far from regarding this care and attention as the work of an idle man, or as the occupation of a dreamer who finds out forced meanings, we must be satisfied, that he who stops at the mere letter resists the letter itself, which commands us to look higher, and instructs us to be less attentive to the works of Moses, than to the things therein figured. The Scripture compares the different parts of the tabernacle to the visible and invisible world, which have been brought under the dominion of Christ: this world is shewn as the vestibule and porch, which is the outside of the temple, and exposed to the profanations of unbelievers and wicked men. The second inclosure, which is called holy, may represent the kingdom of heaven below, the entrance to which is open only to the chief priests,—only to genuine believers, who offer without ceasing the incense of their prayers, and the perfume of their praises, on the golden altar which is before the throne of God. By the "holy of holies," the apostle would have us understand the celestial mansions, where God has painted his perfections in the most lively colours, where he has united all the traits of his beauty, of his power, and of his glory. This is the sanctuary not built by the hand of mortal man, but by God himself. There the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, abide and dwell in all their glory: there Christ disposes of all with full authority: that is the true sanctuary, where he is established high-priest for ever, by an irrevocable oath: that is the sanctuary into which he enters, not like Aaron once a-year, in the cloud of the smoke of incense, the vail still covering it; but once for ever, in the brightness of his glory, and leaving after him a free entrance for the faithful worshippers who follow him. That is the sanctuary into which he has carried, not the blood of a dumb victim, but his own blood; where he presents himself continually for us, not before a propitiatory, but before the face of God himself; where, face to face, and without shadow or vail, he performs the ministry of a priesthood as eternal as himself, of which himself only can worthily fulfil the duties, because he alone is infinitely beloved of God, the only pure source of righteousness, incapable of any defect, merciful towards sinners, open to their prayers, subsisting perpetually, needing nothing for himself, and always ready to grant the prayers of others. The ceremonies prescribed by the Levitical law were of use only as they typified the grand sacrifice of the cross, which in itself united the whole diversity of the Jewish oblations, and which required, from its infinite excellence and its varied effects, to be thus variously represented. Thus then this great sacrifice is what we are to study and to discern in the book of Leviticus, which otherwise would little interest us, but under that point of view becomes of infinite importance.
X. In our researches into the profound and mysterious meanings of the ancient writings, we must be actuated by a spirit of equity, and not pretend to find in their obscurity an evidence which the Holy Spirit has not given therein. The language of the prophets would have been no longer obscure and mysterious, if it had always carried with it its own explanation. We must not, therefore, pretend to subject the unravelling of these mysteries to demonstrations of which they are not susceptible. The authority of Christ and his apostles, the analogy of faith, and the truth of the relations, are the only proofs necessary to justify the truth of the allegories. The allegorical sense cannot of itself prove any doctrine, any truth, any fact; but the fact, the truth, the doctrine or tenet, being otherwise confirmed by certain proofs, may become the foundation of an allegory the truth of which shall be established by the exactness of the relations.
We are not then always obliged to adopt those interpretations which are given even by persons inlightened and devout, and who preserve as they ought the analogy of faith spoken of by St. Paul, that is to say, a relation between the discoveries made and the truths revealed. But "it is much in favour of those interpretations, when they explain some passages of sacred history, or some prophesy respecting Christ or his church, in a simple, natural, and easy manner, where every thing seems connected, depends on one event, and is easily understood," without having recourse to a fresh explanation for each incident. This simplicity and this connection are the principal marks of the truth. We should respect explanations where they are found; and we may, without rashness, lay down this rule, That the explanations are generally right, when they appear reasonable and probable. This rule, on the one hand, is founded on revelation itself, which teaches us that Christ is the end of the law, and that he is therein typified in a thousand ways; on the other hand, it has reason for its support, which shews us, that what discovers the agreement between Christ and the types of him, must be the explanation of what is concealed under those types or figures. It is easy to discern in Noah's ark, (Genesis 6:0. & seqq.) all the characters and all the privileges of the christian church. The necessity of entering and remaining therein, is perfectly clear and apparent: whoever enters not in must be drowned; whoever goes out before the passing away of the waters must perish also. The inward union of the church could not be better represented than by the peaceable manner in which men and beasts lived together, and by the submission of all to their chief shepherd; by the setting aside of all distinctions among the animals, unclean beasts as well as clean being admitted, the fierce and the tame, the wild and the domestic, creeping creatures, and the birds of the air. Nothing could more clearly explain the words of St. Paul, (Colossians 3:11.) that in Christ "there is neither Greek nor Jew, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free." The universality of the church, which takes in all the world, was truly figured by the ark, which contained the whole world: its presence, or visibility, by the ark being raised between the heaven and the earth, the only object then to be seen, the only thing then to be desired, rendered more striking by the wreck of the whole universe besides, and appearing evidently miraculous from the marked protection of heaven; and the cries of those who had before despised it, and could then no longer be received into it, spoke more forcibly than the warnings of Noah while he was employed in building it. We might push this parallel or agreement much farther; but let us proceed.
XI. "There are in Scripture certain passages well calculated to clear away the obscurity of others, and to shew Christ and the Gospel without exactly describing them: the principal of them are those wherein God rejects all outward worship as useless, and even as offensive to him; where he reckons as nothing the character of an Israelite after the flesh; and wherein he gives the posterity of Abraham the names of the race of Canaan, and men of Sodom;" wherein he declares that he requires neither burnt-offerings nor sacrifices, but the oblation of an upright heart and clean hands; wherein he promises an eternal dwelling upon his holy hill to every righteous man, without requiring circumcision or any alliance with the house of Jacob, or any legal purification. These passages, which are of infinite consequence, and must be examined with care, explain the whole law, and shew, that it is only a preparation—a paving of the way for Christ, whose grace alone can change the hearts of men; every other mode being incapable either of converting them, or of reconciling them to God. "For thou desirest not sacrifice," says David, addressing himself to the Lord, (Psalms 51:16.) "else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt-offering."—David being a sinner born under the law, and subject to all its observances, whence could he learn that sacrifices are not desirable unto God? by what light did he see the imperfection of all the Jewish sacrifices to sanctify man, and the necessity of substituting the sacrifice of the heart, spiritual and evangelical? "The sacrifices of God,"' says he, (Psalms 51:17.) "are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." The 50th Psalm contains the same doctrine: there God declares to the Jews, who were very exact and scrupulous in the observance of the ceremonial law, that not by those things shall they be judged, because the real object of his will has never been the multitude of victims which they supposed were agreeable to him; (Psalms 50:8.) "I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices, or thy burnt-offerings, to have been continually before me." God gives them to understand, that they insult him, if they think he has need of their offerings, or if they pretend to give him what they only possess through his own liberality: (ver. 9. 12.) "I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he-goat out of thy folds.—If I were hungry, I would not tell thee; for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof." But, if God regard the sacrifices of the law as nugatory, or even as hurtful to his greatness, unless they have a higher intention, what becomes of that law which was peculiar to the Jews, and of which Moses was the minister? What becomes of Aaron's priesthood, if sacrifices are to be accounted for nothing? What becomes of the tabernacle, and the temple which succeeded it, if the victims, and the priesthood established for offering them up, be useless? Where are the Israelitish feasts? Where the public worship? All legal observances are set aside, from the time that God will not even inquire whether they have been exactly kept or not. The confidence of the Jew is taken away, when his judge deprives him of those things wherein he had placed that confidence. These passages, and many others of like import, where the Messiah is not even named, shew him, nevertheless, as clearly as those which foretel his coming. They shew, that all is fruitless without him; they undeceive men from that vain hope which they might place either in their own righteousness or in the law. They discover what is false righteousness, and shew the righteousness of the Gospel, even the righteousness of God by faith. This rule has no exception; and we can never fail to discern Christ wherever the law, with its sacrifices and its ceremonies, is regarded as insufficient for true righteousness
XII. "There are certain predictions of the prophets, which by the same expressions describe very different events, events sometimes separated by long intervals of ages, and of which one is the image or pledge of the other; so that these prophesies, after having been accomplished, are revived in the Scriptures, and especially in the Revelation, as new, and as relating to things to come." From this it is clear, that the first meaning given to them is not the only one, since it is past; but that they have another, which is not yet fulfilled. Some of there prophesies are easy to be understood; others are more slightly marked, but will not escape the attentive mind. Examples of this kind are frequent. In the second Psalm, God declares to his Son, that his enemies in all ages shall be no more than brittle vessels of earth, that he shall attack them with a rod of iron, and that it shall be as easy for him to break them and grind them to powder, as it shall be impossible for them to avoid the blow or to recover themselves: (Psalms 2:9.) "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." Christ made the Jews feel the first effects of his rod of iron, by destroying for ever their priesthood and kingdom; burning their temple and their city; bringing the armies of the emperors, which were only his instruments, to destroy those murderous husbandmen, who thought to maintain the usurped inheritance by killing the heir. The Cesars for three centuries took the most cunningly-devised means, made the most violent decrees, and exercised the most shocking cruelties, to withstand the reign of Christ; and they all perished miserably. In the last and most cruel persecution, four princes were occupied for ten years in the sole business of exterminating Christianity: they converted almost the whole Roman empire into a bloody slaughter-house; they turned against the servants of God, and of his Christ, the arms of the Roman legions raised for the defence of the state, and they already anticipated a complete victory over enemies who made no defence but patience and flight. But, at the very time when they flattered themselves that they had rooted out the Gospel, and had raised idolatry to the height of power and glory, Christ broke the sword of these masters of the world: he exterminated in a few years emperors and Cesars, with all their posterity and all their friends: Dioclesian, Maximinus Hercules, Maximinus Galerius, Maximinus Daia, Maxentius, and Licinius, disappeared all at once like dust blown away by the wind. Satan, who was placed among the stars to be adored, was thrown down like lightning; his temples were rased, his altars overturned, his statues broken or melted down; and that shameful and wretched idolatry was banished from the Roman empire, of which it had so long been the opprobrium. But even this was not enough to make full reparation to the sceptre of Christ. Every power which had had the boldness to withstand it was to be extirpated. The sword of the emperors, stained with the blood of the martyrs, had contracted a rust which was not to be effaced by the good use which their successors made of it; and the Roman empire was struck with an anathema condemning her to be broken and destroyed. The blood of the martyrs called upon barbarians from all quarters for revenge: the Goths, the Vandals, the Huns, the Franks, the Saxons, the Lombards, came in troops to fulfil the dispensations of Providence: they destroyed the Roman empire to its foundation, and left not a vestige remaining. But notwithstanding this double accomplishment so striking both upon the Jews and the Romans, the Revelation still quotes this prophesy from the same Psalm, as if not yet accomplished; and we there learn, that the last use which Christ will make of this rod of iron will be, to give his church a perfect and eternal victory over all its enemies,
XIII. "Not only are certain detached passages susceptible of divers accomplishments, separated by long intervals of ages, but sometimes intire chapters, even several chapters together."—"The promises made to the children of Israel and Judah had a very imperfect accomplishment in the Jewish nation before Christ; they have had a second and will have a more perfect accomplishment in the establishment of the church; they will be fulfilled still more completely in the future conversion of the Jews; and, lastly, they will have a fourth and final accomplishment in a blessed eternity." These are the four vertical points round which most of the prophesies turn. The first contains all that relates to the surface of the Scripture; the other three appertain to what forms the sap or nourishment of those divine books; and we are raised by degrees to a variety of spiritual interpretations which lead us to admire the riches concealed in these writings of the prophets. It may even be said, that these four sorts of interpretations are all literal, because the letter itself leads to them and requires them. The expressions have often an energy which cannot be rendered perfectly but in the spiritual sense; in which sense, indeed, they agree more naturally with the text, and more perfectly fill up its various shades. It is easy to make the experiment: we shall very often find that a prophesy, which at first sight seems only to speak of the kingdom of Cyrus, and of the re-establishment of the Jews after the Babylonish captivity, agrees much better with the spiritual kingdom of Christ himself, and the establishment of the church; that several passages accord still more perfectly with the future recal of the Jews; and, finally, that, the whole strength of the promises can only have its accomplishment in eternity. Thus, so far from there being a possibility of explaining the letter of the Scripture independent of spiritual interpretations, the letter itself calls for them, generally one after the other, shewing that all these interpretations are necessary to the fulfilling of the perfect truth of God's word. But in these regular four-fold accomplishments, it would be absurd to suppose that all the words of the prophesy can be referred to each prediction in particular; some concern one mode of accomplishment, and some another, That Eternal Wisdom which dictated the words of the prophesies, had in view the revolutions of time, and the symmetrical proportions of his works; and, considering this agreement of relations, he has made the same picture represent events parallel in their nature, though very distant in point of time. An admirable variety has, however, been thrown in as an ornament amid this unity of representation; and that wisdom which has thus ornamented the works of his hands, has also chosen that this double beauty of his productions should be displayed in the prophesies. Hence it is, that the prophets shew all at once the relations and differences of the various predictions which they announce. The relations are shewn by passages that easily unite in various senses; the differences are shewn by other passages, which agree with only some one of the various meanings, while they seem forced with respect to the rest. The harmony of the prophesies, therefore, consists in the conformity of the relations, but without excluding the contrast of the variations; which it is very important to observe, that we may not have a false idea of that harmony. We should follow up, as attentively as possible, each meaning of the text; but not force it, in expectation of making it exactly agree in all points. The book of Joel is a strong proof of the justness of this principle: that prophesy, according to the letter, visibly respects the kingdom of Judah troubled with a multitude of insects; namely, grasshoppers of different kinds, who ravage the fields; and subsequently by a numerous and formidable army, which carries desolation in its course: after which, God promises to restore the house of Judah, and denounces signal vengeance upon the enemies of his people. But that several mysterious meanings are concealed under the letter in this prophesy, is proved by the very words of the prophet himself, by the testimony of St. Peter, and by the agreement of Joel's prophesy with that of St. John in the Revelation. The expressions of the prophet are too lively and strong, his ideas too general and extensive, to be confined to the sense presented by a first or cursory reading. St. Peter expressly shews us therein the descent of the Holy Ghost after Christ's ascension. On comparing the grasshoppers spoken of by St. John with those mentioned by Joel, it is easy to discover in Joel's prophesy those great revolutions which, according to St. John, were to precede, accompany, and follow, the renovation which God will one day work in favour of his church, and more particularly by the conversion of the Jews. These different senses have particular agreements with each other, which form the harmony of the prophesy; but we do not pretend to say, that every part of the prophesy is equally susceptible of all these meanings. There are some passages which seem to have but one meaning; others contain two; and some comprise the whole. The vacancy left by the first meaning obliges us to pass to the second; and the insufficiency of the second leads to the third.
XIV. "The principal points in the prophesies thus present a number of essential agreements between the nations of old and those of the present day; which it is very important to understand perfectly; for, being once known, they become as it were a key to all the prophesies." The prophets sometimes speak of what they themselves have experienced, and in many respects are types of Christ himself, as may be observed in the persons of David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Jonah, and Zechariah. The great promises which respect Cyrus cannot have their intire accomplishment but in the person of Christ, of whom Cyrus was a kind of representative. The reproaches and threatenings of the prophets against Israel and Samaria, fall also on the unbelieving Christians. The promises made to Israel and Samaria have been scarcely fulfilled at all according to the letter; but they embrace the promises made to the Jewish nation respecting their future recall. The prerogatives which distinguish Judah and Jerusalem, are those which formerly distinguished the Jews; but they have since more particularly designated Christian believers and the church of Christ. The reproaches and threatenings of the prophets against the children of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, may indeed fall again on the unbelieving Jews; but they fall particularly on backsliding Christians in all ages, and more especially on those of latter times. The enterprise of Sennacherib, who at the head of the Assyrians over-ran Judea, and advanced even to the gates of Jerusalem without being able to take the city, may represent, under different circumstances, the persecutions of the heathen emperors against the church, and those of the popes and their adherents against the faithful in later ages. The Lord's vengeance upon Jerusalem by the arms of the Chaldeans, under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, foreshews, under different points of view, God's vengeance upon the unbelieving Jews by the arms of the Romans, and that which he will pour out upon the backsliding Christians by the arms of the enemies to the Christian name. The re-establishment and re-union of the two houses of Israel and Judah, is a type of the future union of the Jews and Gentiles, and perhaps of the agreement of all denominations of believers. Sodom chastised and set up again, is the Jewish nation rejected and recalled. Niniveh turning to God, represents the conversion of the Gentiles; idolatrous Niniveh, shews the unbelieving or apostate Gentiles. Babylon, is the empire of idolatry; it is the anti-christian empire; and it is the world lying in the Wicked One. The Egyptians, by their origin strangers to the people of God, yet connected with this people by means of Joseph, who had the government of Egypt, and who received his brethren into that kingdom, may be an image of the Gentiles, who, in their origin, were strangers to the people of God, but in the midst of whom Christ reigns, of whom Joseph was a type. The Tyrians, equally strangers to the people of God, but yet equally connected with them by means of Hiram king of Tyre, who contributed to the building of the temple, may also prefigure the Gentiles, who, though originally strangers to the people of God, have yet contributed towards the building of the heavenly temple, which is the church of Christ. Finally, the magnificent promises made to the holy city, or to the children of God, regard the future glory of the church, and the eternal rewards of holy men. And the dreadful threats pronounced against sinners and wicked men, will receive their intire accomplishment in the eternal misery of the finally impenitent. These are the principal points of view under which the prophetic oracles may be examined, in order to discover the mysteries and instructions which they contain.
XV. "To acquire a still better understanding of the prophesies, we must have in view the greater prophets and the less, and the Revelation of Christ by St. John, which is a key to them all; in short, we must attend to the whole body of the prophetic oracles of the Old and New Testament, and the complete series of those great events which have succeeded each other from the time when those divine oracles were pronounced, even unto the present day; and also, as much as possible, to the whole series of those which may succeed from the present time unto eternity."—To consider prophesies and events by detached parts, and without regard to their connected whole, is to expose ourselves to confound things sometimes very different and very distinct, and to complicate and confuse times and dates. To avoid this, we must reflect; and see whether, in applying the prophesies to the events, all the parts have a mutual agreement. To confine ourselves, for example, solely to the study of the prophet Isaiah, because he is the first at the head of the great prophets and the less, and to neglect considering Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the minor prophets, is not only to deprive ourselves of all the assistance offered by these prophets toward the understanding of the prophesies of Isaiah himself; but also to expose ourselves to the danger of giving interpretations to the prophesies of Isaiah, that may be controverted and destroyed by direct texts from the other prophets, which, perhaps, shew some things clearly that the first had marked but obscurely. And, to apply to the study only of the older prophets, and neglect the book of Revelation, as supposing it a more obscure and difficult study, is to deprive ourselves of the helps which the Revelation furnishes toward a right understanding of the old prophets; and also to make ourselves liable to give meanings to the intire body of the ancient prophets, that perhaps are controverted or overturned by the oracles of the Revelation, which, though indeed mysterious in themselves, are yet the clue to the unravelling of the ancient prophesies. For, as the New Testament is the explanation and key of the Old, so the Revelation is the key and the explanation of the books of the ancient prophets. The various spiritual meanings contained in the oracles of the old prophets, embrace not only the great revolutions which the church has experienced from its establishment up to our own days, but all those which it has to undergo from this time until the end of the world; and into the darkness of futurity it is impossible to penetrate without the lights that are given us in the books of the New Testament, particularly in the book of the Revelation, which contains the history of the Christian Church from the commencement of it to Christ's latter coming. It is true, this book, on a first or superficial reading, appears very obscure and almost unintelligible; yet it is not in fact so dark as may be thought; and, if we take pains to avail ourselves of those rays of light, which the Scripture affords, and of those which have been drawn from Scripture by the best divines, and unite them with the remarkable events of the present times, we shall find those gleams of light break into almost open day.
XVI. Finally, the last and most important rule is, "ever to join prayer with the study of the Holy Scriptures; because the understanding of the Holy Scriptures is a gift from God, which gift can only be useful to us as it is accompanied with the gift of his grace." The Spirit of God, who dictated the oracles of the prophets, can alone penetrate all their mysteries, and therefore that Spirit only can discover them to us: to that Spirit, then, must we address ourselves for the precious gift of the power to understand these holy books. Yet in vain shall we discover all the mysteries concealed in the Holy Scriptures, if we have not Love, which only can teach us to make a proper use of our knowledge. We may, perhaps, become useful to others by the lights that we have acquired in this study; but these lights will be useless to ourselves; they will even tend to our condemnation, if divine grace do not render them fruitful, by inspiring us to store up the instruction contained in the various meanings of these holy books, and to practise the truths which we have learned therein. Let us adopt the mode practised at places of worship, at the beginning and ending of divine service. Never let us open the book of God, without praying for his blessing on what we are about to read in his presence; let us entreat the Spirit of Truth to teach us all truth, by bestowing on us the understanding and the love of the holy truths contained in the words of those sacred writers whose pens were guided by his inspiration. Let us remember, that, as God was the first Author of these divine books, he is also their proper Interpreter, and must be our Master in this study. Let us then read attentively, as under his eye; let us take time to hear his voice in our hearts; let us indulge the holy thoughts which he inspires, and follow the holy desires that he incites: and let us not leave off reading without asking for God's blessing, and "his peace, which passeth all understanding!"
O Holy Spirit! who hast spoken by the mouth of Moses and the prophets, and who hast in their writings given us divine instruction; grant that we may sedulously seek in these sacred books for Christ and his church, "Christ who is the end of the law;" that we may respect, and seek to understand, the various meanings contained in thy word; that, while the literal and obvious sense shews us what has been said and done, the spiritual and mystical sense may shew us the mysteries which thou hast therein concealed; that we may find in the allegorical sense what we are to believe, in the moral sense what we are to do, in the anagogical sense what we are to hope for; that we may be able to distinguish the just extent of each different meaning; and that, wherever thou speakest of high matters, we may be thereunto conducted by the authority of the apostles; by the instructions of holy divines, who have followed up the lights thrown upon divine truths by the apostles; by the tokens which so clearly shew Christ and his church, that they can refer only to that great object; by the greatness, the strength, and the extent of the expressions, which require an interpretation worthy of themselves; by the impossibility in some places of following the literal meaning of the text; by the nature of the promises, which would not be worthy of our hopes if confined to earthly blessings; by the cloudy vail which, though it may offend our weak minds, conceals mysteries highly worthy of thy sublime wisdom; by those wonderful circumstances which, without staggering our reason, amaze us, and apprize us of the mysteries which they contain; by those visible and striking affinities, which operate as so many rays of light to dissipate the obscurity that surrounds them; by the clear agreement which thou hast been pleased to make between the economy of the Levitical priesthood and the mystery of Jesus Christ, who is a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedeck; by the multiplied relations, whose simplicity and truth concur to assure us of the justness of those interpretations where every thing is connected, and yet may be discriminated without trouble; by the indifference and distaste which thou hast expressed for carnal and figurative worship, in order to substitute in its place the true spiritual worship that is alone worthy to please thee; by the various analogies which thou hast been pleased to make among thy works, so that under the same expressions are described different events which succeed each other in different ages of the world; by those plain and visible affinities which thou hast placed between the five principal portions of thy works, the state of the Jews before Christ, the establishment of the church, the future recal of the Jews, the universal reign of Christ, and the intire deliverance of the church at the end of the world; by the diversified agreements which thou shewest us between Jerusalem and the church, between the house of Judah and the people of Christ, between the two houses of Israel and Judah, and thy two people, the Jews and the Christians; by the innumerable affinities which thou dost manifest between the prophets and Jesus Christ, between the kingdom of Cyrus and the kingdom of Christ, between the divers objects literally shewn in the prophesies, and the objects shewn in the history of Christ and his church; by the harmony of the intire body of the prophetical oracles of the Old and New Testaments compared with the intire body of events answering thereto from the days of the prophets until our own times, and to all eternity!—Grant, lastly, that by the proper use of all the relations and affinities which lead us to the unity of the body of Christ, we may be raised even unto thee, who art the soul of this body; and that prayer may ever accompany this study, which, holy as it is in itself, can never be salutary without thy grace, since, "though we understand all mysteries, and have not Love, we are nothing." Teach us all truth; and give us grace to use it with charity; in order that, by the way of truth, we may arrive at the happy goal of a blessed eternity!
A VINDICATION OF THE AUTHENTICITY AND DIVINITY OF THE PENTATEUCH; or, FIVE BOOKS of MOSES.
THE books of Moses, as they are the first, so are they the foundation of the whole system of our revelation; for, could it be supposed that the writings of Moses were false or forged, the very pillars of Christianity would be shaken, and one of the main supports of our system would totter to its fall:—so injudicious and undiscerning are they, who decry or speak lightly of the writings of Moses, and of the Old Testament, while they vainly attempt to place those of the New in a kind of opposition to them! The whole code of the Divine revelation, from Genesis to the Apocalypse, is one consistent and harmonious system; every part mutually dependant upon the other, and the whole displaying, in the most perfect and beautiful manner, the wise and providential goodness of a Being graciously attentive to the salvation of the faithful.
It is, therefore, of great consequence to establish the genuineness and authenticity of the books of Moses; for, nearly the same arguments, or at least the same mode of reasoning, will serve with respect to the other books of the Old Testament. In subserviency then to this purpose, let us take a general view of the argument before us.
The history of Moses is well known. The sacred Scripture says of him—and no human language can add to the eulogium,—That "there arose not a prophet in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs, and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land; and in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror, which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel." Deuteronomy 34:10; Deuteronomy 34:12.
The writings of Moses, as they are the most ancient books in the world, so do they treat of matters the most interesting and important. In five books,—which the Greek interpreters have called by the names that we use, and which probably composed only one single work,—Moses has comprised the history of all ages from the creation of the world till the end of his ministry; and, particularly, has given us a detail of that covenant which God entered into with the children of Israel; that peculiar people chosen from the rest of the world, as the depositaries of his truth and his promises concerning the future Redeemer of mankind.
These books have constantly been acknowledged as authentic; and no one, whether Christian, Jew, Mahometan, or Pagan, ever expressed a doubt of their authenticity till the twelfth century; when Rabbi Aben-ezra started some difficulties, which yet he rather insinuated than expressed. The enemies to revelation eagerly caught up, and as eagerly improved the paradoxes which he had advanced; and because there are, perhaps, a dozen passages in the Pentateuch which seem to have been added by an extraneous hand, they have therefore concluded, that the Pentateuch is the production of an author more recent than Moses, who compiled the books of it from ancient memoranda which he had collected.
Our faith by no means depends upon this question, determine it as we may: the books of Sacred Scripture derive not their authority from the names of the persons whom it pleased God to employ in writing them; they derive it from themselves; from the things contained in them, and from those characters of divinity, which have determined the universal church to receive them with an unanimous consent, as books inspired by the Spirit of God. Though the Pentateuch, therefore, could not be proved to be the immediate work of Moses, infidelity would gain nothing on that account: but, upon every consideration, the proofs to demonstrate him the author of it are so strong, and the objections on the other hand so weak, that a good mind can never hesitate upon the question.
For, in the first place, there is no book,—as was hinted above,—so old as the Pentateuch. The epocha assigned to it is prior, by 300 years at the least, to the fragments of Sanchoniatho, which are the oldest of all historical pieces extant; and more than 1000 years prior to the date of any of the historians which have reached us intire. This observation is more important than it may perhaps seem at first, as hence a very strong presumption arises in favour of the authenticity of the books which go by the name of Moses: for, if these books were the work of imposture, can it be supposed that the good providence of God would have permitted almost the whole civilized world (the Mahometans themselves not excepted) to have been so long deceived by such imposture? Would that Providence, in a measure, have connived,—if we may so say,—at the preservation of it for so many thousand years? Would it not rather, consistently with every attribute of justice and truth, have discovered and detected the glaring deceit?
Again; we cannot reasonably entertain a doubt, whether there ever was such a man as Moses; whether he lived in times of the most remote antiquity; whether he was the lawgiver of the Hebrews, and whether he did not give them laws, whereupon their religion and polity were founded and subsisted for many generations. Upon this subject the tradition of all ages, and of almost all religions, is unanimous; indeed the Jews, as they exist before us at the present day, are a living demonstration of the fact: were we allowed to doubt of this, we could be sure of nothing; the wilder Pyrrhonism would take place of truth; all histories must no longer be considered otherwise than as mere fables; and facts the most firmly established could claim no more credit than fictions the most chimerical.
Thirdly, a very cursory inspection of the Pentateuch is sufficient to prove, both that it was from the time of Moses, and that Moses was the author: he who speaks in it,—though always speaking of himself in the third person, as has been usual with the best writers of antiquity,—every where shews that he is this Moses; that it is he himself who writes; that he received orders from God, and that the thing is of public notoriety. The manner which reigns throughout the work is of the most remote antiquity: we find there facts, miraculous events, and numberless other particulars, which no author more recent could have inserted in a work forged with design. We find in it, especially, a body of laws, which certainly could never be the production of a forger, or of a hand subsequent to Moses; because the form of worship and government prescribed by those laws, singular as it is, and always submitted to by the Jewish nation, must necessarily have been originally prescribed by the legislator who imposed it. If, in a course of ages, an impostor, after having forged the Pentateuch, had attempted to offer it as the work of Moses, the whole nation, doubtless, would have risen up against it, and so gross a cheat could have found no encouragement.
But, fourthly, so far from having conceived the least suspicion on this subject, the Jews have borne constant testimony to the authenticity of the Pentateuch: they have always and invariably attributed the books of it to Moses, and Moses has ever been celebrated as the author of them, as well by the writers immediately subsequent, as by those of later ages, from Joshua down to Malachi. See Deuteronomy 9:24-26. John 1:7-8. 1 Kings 2:3. 2 Kings 22:8. compare with 2 Chronicles 34:14-15.Ezra 7:6; Ezra 7:6. Nehemiah 1:11. and numerous other passages.
But, in the fifth and last place, if we examine the matter ever so slightly, we shall be fully convinced, that a forgery of the Pentateuch was impossible. For, when could this forgery have been made? It could not have happened at any period since about the 250th year before Jesus Christ; for the books of the Jews, then translated into Greek, were spread through the world; and the books of Moses were at the head of that version. It could not have happened after the division of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah down to the time of Esdras (that is to say, about two hundred years before the date of the version of the LXX); for before Esdras, most of the prophets quote Moses and his laws: before Esdras, Jeroboam, the first king of the ten tribes, publicly acknowledges the truth of the facts related in the Pentateuch; 1 Kings 12:28. Before Esdras, the division of the two kingdoms renders the forgery of the Pentateuch impracticable; because if it had been forged in Israel, those of Judah would not have failed to take notice of it: if it had been forged in Judah, the Israelites would not have received or taken aught from it; reasons of state would have thrown an insuperable obstacle in the way. Had the false prophets or statesmen been the authors of it, the true prophets would have detected their imposture; and the former, in their turn, would not have failed grievously to accuse the latter, had they incurred the least suspicion of the kind. Besides, the Samaritans,—whose schism made so great a noise towards the close of this period, and in the days of Esdras himself,—in spite of their implacable hatred to the Jews, received the Pentateuch as well as they, and paid it the most inviolable respect, as the work of Moses; the forgery of it therefore, as it was impossible within these periods, must have been made, if at all, during the interval between the death of Moses, and the end of the reign of Solomon. But, then, what shall we say to the books of Solomon, of the Kings, Chronicles, Ruth, Judges, and Joshua, which clearly bear testimony to those of Moses, either directly or indirectly, in express terms, or by plain allusions?—Could Solomon have persuaded his subjects, contrary to all truth, that for more than six hundred years the worship and polity prescribed by the Pentateuch had been religiously observed by their ancestors?—Could he have imposed upon them concerning the antiquity of the sabbath, of circumcision, and of their three great festivals?—Could he have made them believe, that all the ceremonies of public worship had been prescribed to their fathers several ages before, and committed to writing in books of the same date, which he produced, while the whole was a mere fiction and delusion?—The whole history of the Hebrew republic, under Joshua, the Judges, Saul, David; all those public facts attested by the Pagans themselves, and strongly retraced in some of their fables; the many events, revolutions, doctrines, laws, rites, whose connection is palpable, and the principal circumstances whereof all suppose Moses to be the author of the books attributed to him;—Is it possible that all this should be only a romance, forged preposterously after the events to which it refers? The infidel (large as we know his faith to be) would protest, but in vain, that he believed this absurdity: it could be no easy matter to persuade us to credit his protestations.
Indeed, to give some colour to the doubts that he affects, the unbeliever heaps up objections which at first sight seem to have something specious in them, but at bottom they are weakness itself; for, to what do they amount, but this principally, "that there are some particulars in the Pentateuch which Moses could not have written?" But, supposing the fact to be true, what conclusion are we to draw from it? That the Pentateuch is not the work of Moses? This would, in truth, be admirable logic! At this rate almost all the ancient books might be proved not to belong to the authors whose names they bear; for there are few to be met with, in which, as in those of Moses, we do not find some trifling facts inserted, some minute particulars added. We find instances of this in the works of Homer, of Herodotus, and almost all the old historians, without any man's thinking of rejecting the books on that account, as not being their's by whose names they are called; we are contented to say, that these things have been interpolated; and why not judge in the same manner of the Pentateuch?—But to consider this objection a little more distinctly.
Most of the facts related in the Pentateuch happened under the eye of Moses himself; they are events of which he was a witness, and almost always the minister; the others, indeed, happened before his time; but he had two ways of ascertaining them, tradition and revelation. Levi, his great-grandfather, lived for some time with Isaac, Isaac with Shem the son of Noah, Shem with Methuselah, Methuselah with Adam; and the tradition preserved in the hands of these five or six persons, bore characters of authenticity and truth so singular and striking, that it could not be suspected. In every case, supposing that in some respects it might appear doubtful to Moses, he could always be instructed by immediate revelation, and consequently have all the necessary lights respecting the circumstances of the facts in question. In fine, we observe in the books of Moses various things that relate to futurity, which did not happen till after his death, and which, therefore, as some pretend, he could not write. But, either these are prophesies,—and, in that case, the pretence is absurd;—or they are historical facts; and then I would ask, what is the nature of them? What are these additions, about which such an outcry has been raised? To what do they relate? Does any capital fact appear to have been inserted in the Pentateuch, which was not there originally, and from which it may be inferred that the Pentateuch cannot be the work of Moses?—Nothing is farther from the truth. Perhaps it is the name of a city, which has been changed with time, and so has been rectified; perhaps it is a date that has been fixed, or an historical circumstance thrown in to make the narrative more complete; some few notes added by a very ancient hand (since we find them in the Samaritan copy just the same as in the Hebrew); or else, some additions for which we are indebted to Esdras, and which concern only a very few passages; some of which, however, may very possibly have been written by Moses himself. And upon this foundation it is, that some declaim, as if the work were supposititious, forged after the events, or grossly falsified; though surely they must have little honour or honesty who can reason in this manner!
"But," it is asked, "who can tell what has been done?—Those who inserted these slight additions in the Pentateuch, or others after them, possibly might have foisted in some more considerable: possibly they might have falsified it in passages the most essential." This suspicion is weighty: but the more weighty it is, the more iniquitous if it be ill-founded: If, did I say?—What ground can there be for a doubt?
(1.) It cannot be said with truth, that the discordance of stile and subjects gives room to suspect this falsification of the Pentateuch: on the contrary, the learned observe a singular uniformity with respect to both. The whole work is written in the same taste: it is properly an historical journal, intermixed with doctrines, laws, and prophesies; but in which the prophesies, laws, and doctrines are so closely connected with the facts, that nothing indicates many hands to have been employed upon them; every thing proclaims the work to be of one and the same author.
(2.) The more we study the Pentateuch, the less can we conceive what motive could engage any one of the nation to falsify it. If any person had retouched it at leisure, and simply with a view to make the work more perfect, he would have rendered it more methodical; he would have displayed more art in it. If he had altered it with a design to raise, by some new strokes, the glory of Moses and of the nation, there would not have been left so many particulars so little to the credit of both. All this would have disappeared: or, if he had been too delicate to suppress facts intirely, he would, doubtless, have been prudent enough to exhibit them only on the fairest side.
(3.) But further: How could an alteration or forgery of the Pentateuch succeed? Let it be considered, that these books were sacred; that the Jews revered them, as containing the divine law; that all the tribes considered them as the only rule of their religion and government; and that in all ages the whole nation shewed a respect for these books, which bordered even upon superstition. Let it be considered, with what care the Pentateuch, solemnly deposited in the ark of the covenant, was there preserved till the time of king Josiah; let it be remembered, that under pain of the divine malediction it was forbidden to add to, or take any thing from it; let it be considered, that if ever work was made generally public, dispersed, and known, it was this: not only the great men, the priests, and the people were bound to read in it every day of their lives; not only had they scribes, or writers, whose profession it was to multiply the copies of it; not only was it enjoined by an express law, that they should have it publicly read every seven years; but, besides all this, it is certain that from all antiquity,—that is to say, from the commencement of the Mosaic dispensation,—there were persons who read and preached the Pentateuch publickly every sabbath-day. On the one hand, therefore, the books of Moses must be as well known among the Jews as the Gospels have been since among Christians; and on the other, what those books contain must have been as familiar, at least to them, as what is written in the New Testament can be to Christians: and, this granted, what method to falsify them could succeed, without discovery, and the just punishment of so sacrilegious an attempt?
(4.) Once more we would ask, Who could have dared to attempt this falsification of the Pentateuch?—When could the design have been formed?—Where could it have been executed?—Here we see most of the observations made above, to prove the Pentateuch to be the work of Moses, recur of themselves, and with new force. The authenticity of these books once allowed, there is no receding from it; we must grant the falsification of them to have been always impossible. A private person, or a society, that might have corrupted some copies, would very soon have been convicted, by confronting these falsified copies with the great number of those dispersed in public. The whole church would have risen up against so criminal an imposture; and the authors of this outrage, convicted of having sullied with a sacrilegious hand the purity of the Sacred Scriptures, would, as the fruit of their crime, have gained no more than the general indignation, and an eternal opprobrium, even if they had escaped an exemplary punishment. The jealousy of the tribes, whose interests were in some respects so different, and even so opposite; the vigilance of the prophets; the zeal of the Levites, the devotion of the people, the hypocrisy of some, the piety of others; every thing, in short, would have concurred to discover the fraud, and to prevent its going unpunished. Let it be further observed, that if the Pentateuch was falsified, this must necessarily have happened either before or after the schism of the ten tribes. Before, it was impossible; no one would have dared to attempt it under the eyes of David or of Solomon; or, if it had been done, Jeroboam, the first king of the revolted tribes, would not have failed to exaggerate this attempt, out of hatred to the family of those two monarchs, whose sworn enemy he was. Still less could the Pentateuch have been altered in a period prior to Solomon, to David, to Saul, or Samuel; for, the further you go back toward the age of Moses, the more impracticable will the falsification of his writings be found. Tradition was then too pure, the events of too fresh date, whatever Moses had done or written still too recent, for any one to have dared to insert falsities, which public notoriety would have immediately contradicted. This falsification then must have been made after the schism of the ten tribes; but we have incontestable proof that the books of Moses were not altered either in Judah or in Israel; either at Jerusalem or at Samaria; either in the time of Esdras or in the reign of any of the successors of Solomon:—we have, I say, an unanswerable proof hereof, "in that the Pentateuch, which passed through the hands of the ten tribes into those of the Samaritans, is found essentially conformable to that of the Jews."
The first book of Moses, which the Hebrews call בראשׁית Beresheth, "in the beginning," is by the Greeks called ΓΕΝΕΣΙΣ, Genesis, that is, "the origin or generation of all things," because it contains, first, the history of the creation of the world, and then the genealogy of the patriarchs, from Adam, the first man, down to the sons and grandsons of Jacob. This book well deserved upon every account to be placed not only at the head of the Pentateuch, but also of the whole sacred code; for nothing can be more grand, more interesting, or more useful than its subjects: the providence of God shines forth in it in an admirable manner, and his august perfections are every where most strikingly remarkable. For is its design less interesting than the subjects whereof it treats: it is intended to imprint strongly upon the minds of men the persuasion of the unity of a God, the creator and preserver of the universe: it is designed to nourish in their hearts the expectation of a Deliverer, ordained to the redemption of the human race; to withdraw men, and the Hebrews more especially, from idolatry; to dispose them submissively to observe the laws which Moses enjoined them, and to animate them to march boldly to the conquest of a country which the Lord had so solemnly promised to their forefathers. Hence it is that Moses expatiates so little upon the history of foreign nations, and, on the contrary, enters so minutely upon the genealogy, revolutions, and all the particular circumstances of the glorious ancestors of the people whose leader he was. No other introduction could so well have suited what follows in the Pentateuch; no other frontispiece could have figured so well at the head of that magnificent performance.
As to the stile of Moses in this book, it is equally plain and affecting, clear and elevated, and is, as it ought to be, simple and majestic, grave and animated; in a word, we may boldly apply to Moses Mr. Dupin's Eulogium on the Eloquence of the Scripture: "Its narration pleases by its justness; its instructions are agreeable from the lively and noble manner in which they are proposed; there is nothing languid, nothing mean, nothing superfluous; every thing suits the persons and subjects. The things which are explained by descriptions and comparisons, are indeed bold according to the customs of the Easterns; but just and noble: the discourse is adorned with necessary figures, simple and natural: it has all that is requisite to please those who understand true eloquence. Moses inspires admiration, by the sublime manner in which he treats of divine subjects: he imprints terror, by the vehemence and force of his expressions; he excites the love of virtue, and the hatred of vice, by his paintings of both; he astonishes by the strength of his menaces; he gives courage by the sweetness of his consolations; he communicates ardour by that divine flame with which he is filled. In short, it may be said, that there are no books more calculated than his to persuade the understanding, and to move the heart; and, what is no less admirable in that eloquence which is peculiar to them, is, that it is always proportioned to the persons and the subjects. Minute things are spoken of in a simple stile; the moderate in a higher, the great in a sublime; and every thing in them is couched in a grave, serious, majestic stile, suitable to the dignity of the subject and the persons."
It were easy to add here various things respecting the chronology of Moses, with regard to the form of the days, months, and years which he uses; but this detail belongs rather to those authors who have explained the Hebrew chronology and antiquities in separate treatises. We shall therefore only observe, once for all, that, according to the calculation which Moses has given us of the duration of the deluge, the Hebrew year consisted of three hundred and sixty-five days, and began with the month Tisri, that is, about the seventeenth of our October. The learned have proved that it was regulated upon this footing, from the beginning, down to the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt;—as the reader may be convinced by consulting Archbishop Usher.
The second book of Moses is called EXODUS, from a Greek word, which signifies "The Departure;" because it contains principally the history of the departure of the Israelites out of Egypt. The Jews only called it שׁמות Shemot ("the names;") because in their language it begins with that word.
This book is naturally connected with that of Genesis by its subject matter: besides the history of the Hebrews, continued immediately from the death of Joseph, with which the Genesis concludes, we there find the evident accomplishment of the promises which God had made to the patriarch Abraham. He had promised him that his posterity should "be as the stars of heaven;" that they should "dwell as strangers in a land which should not be theirs;" and should be oppressed, and brought under subjection; but that at length he would judge that cruel nation; would make the descendants of the patriarch formidable to it; and at last, with a high hand, deliver them from it.
The direful slavery to which the Israelites were reduced in Egypt is painted in the most affecting colours: the description of the prodigies which the Lord wrought for their deliverance affords, after these mournful representations, a prospect equally magnificent and consolatory; and when, at length, we see the Supreme Being, the Lord of the universe, forming to himself a peculiar people of the posterity of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, after having brought them out with a mighty hand, and an outstretched arm, from under the Egyptian yoke, becoming the Monarch of the Israelites, honouring them with his presence, intrusting them with his oracles, covering them with his protection, governing them by his laws, and ruling among them according to that form of worship which was to distinguish them from all the nations of the earth;—we cannot fail to admire the goodness and faithfulness of this august Being.
We therefore recommend to believers the reading of the Exodus, as one of the books of Sacred Scripture which best deserves their attention. For, in the first place, it contains a rich and agreeable variety of objects; it offers to rational readers of every kind wherewith to gratify their taste. Is history the favourite?—There cannot be one more interesting than this; never were seen so many wonders assembled in one picture. The birth and preservation of Moses; the prodigies wrought successively in Egypt, to humble the pride of Pharaoh; the miracles of the deliverance of the children of Israel; those of their journey to the foot of mount Sinai; those of their subsistence in the dreary solitudes of Arabia, and all the other extraordinary events which are related in this book, cannot fail to give high gratification to the reader's curiosity. Is the grave and important study of laws preferred to that of history? Here opens one of the widest fields wherein to exercise it; for, not to mention the moral laws, which concern and oblige generally all mankind, and which are delivered summarily in the Decalogue; we find in the Exodus the original of the law of the Hebrews, the most ancient people in the whole world; there we are instructed in a part of their municipal laws; laws, indeed, made only for them, yet worthy of the respect, and in various particulars of the imitation of all nations; inasmuch as they are immediate emanations from God himself, and their equity and justice is striking: in a word, laws far more worthy to engage our minds, and become the objects of our disquisitions, than those of Athens, of Sparta, and of Rome. What shall we say more?—If any one takes a pleasure in considering attentively the productions of art, and in investigating its rules, he will find in the structure of the tabernacle, in the form of the instruments, the vessels and utensils of this portable temple; in the description of its magnificent hangings, in that of the sacred habits, and in a variety of other matters of the like nature, enough wherewith to exercise himself in that way.
Again, the book of Exodus is particularly remarkable for the symbolical representations which we find there of things to come. We should be grossly deceived, were we to persuade ourselves that the description of the deliverances which God granted to the Israelites, and of the religious ceremonies which he prescribed them, is preserved here only for pomp, or, at most, with a design to perpetuate the memory of them. Views more worthy of God led him to appoint these things to be written. He chose this method to keep up and confirm in the minds of the Hebrews an expectation of that Deliverer whom he had promised to their forefathers; and, by emblems adapted to their circumstances, to prepare them insensibly for that great revolution which was to take place in the fulness of time by the establishment of a new covenant and a new worship. The more impartially and attentively we study the old dispensation, the more shall we be confirmed in this idea, that it was only a provisional arrangement, to continue till the Christ should come and publish a new religion for all the people of the world. Hence the frequent and evident relations between those events the detail of which composes the history of the Old Testament, and those which were the astonishment of Jews and Gentiles at the foundation of the Christian church; hence those many types of the spiritual things of the Gospel purposely dispersed through the rites of the Mosaic worship.
Once more we observe, that what renders the reading of the Exodus highly important and extensively useful, is, that we clearly see, in this holy book, how far God condescended to extend the cares of his paternal Providence in favour of his people:—an object no less interesting to the heart than to the understanding. For, what an encouragement is it to attach ourselves to God, to submit to his laws, and to give him our whole confidence in whatever situation we are placed! Moses, exposed from his infancy to the most imminent perils, surmounts all those perils, and triumphs over every enemy that conspired for his destruction. The Israelites multiply under the cruellest servitude, and in the midst of the furnace of intolerable afflictions: the bush burns, but it is not consumed. All the craft, the power, the wickedness of men fail, against the people protected by heaven; the rod of divine justice is displayed in the most formidable manner against sinners rebellious to the will of God. On the contrary, his hand is stretched out, and multiplies striking miracles, to confirm the report and glory of his true worshippers, in proportion to their obedience. Endeavours to destroy them are vain, since God is their guard: under his paternal care, they are in perfect security; though transported into the dryest and most uncultivated desarts, he will there cause them to find food in abundance to nourish them, and springs of water to quench their thirst: if, faithful to his word, they shew themselves zealous to obey his commandments, nothing can fail them of whatever is essential to their true felicity. Happy they, therefore, who place all their wisdom in fearing this great God, in depending upon him, and in doing his will! Happy they, who, seeing all their bliss in him, can rely upon his protection, and boldly expect from his favour whatever is necessary for supporting them in want, for raising them above the attempts of their enemies in emergencies, and for rendering them in all things more than conquerors amidst adversity! This is the only unfailing resource to the good man; and it is that which we should prefer to every other, if we entered into the spirit of Moses, by improving from the instructions which he has left to posterity in this book of Exodus. And we are so much the more bound to this, as we cannot have the least doubt of the authenticity of this book: not to mention that the events which it contains are, in a great measure, confirmed in Psalms 78, 105 where the author, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has so nobly celebrated them; not to mention that they have been since celebrated in like manner by St. Stephen;—not to mention this, our Lord and his apostles have quoted twenty-five passages from the Exodus in the very terms of Moses, and almost as many others, in a manner less precise as to the terms, though very express in point of sense. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Christian, in concert with the Jewish church, has always received this book as divine, by considering it as the production of Moses, who was indubitably the author of it.
The Greek interpreters, and after them the Latin, have given the title of LEVITICUS to the third book of the Pentateuch; because it principally contains divers laws touching the sacrifices, and other ceremonies, the care of which was committed to "Aaron the Levite," and his sons, Exodus 4:14. Indeed those inferior ministers who assisted the priests, and whose functions are described by Moses in the book of Numbers, were properly called Levites; but as the priesthood was entirely entrusted to the house of Aaron, one of the branches of the tribe of Levi, it was hardly possible to specify more suitably a book which especially treats of the duties annexed to that eminent dignity, than by calling it Leviticus; in the same sense that St. Paul gives the title of "Levitical priesthood" to this august dispensation, Hebrews 7:11. So that, though in the Hebrew the book goes by the simple name of ויקרא, vayikra; the rabbis frequently call it "The book or law of the priests;" and this is the title given to it in the Syriac and Arabic versions.
There is no room to doubt that Moses is the author of Leviticus; the Jews have always acknowledged it; Jesus Christ has confirmed the authenticity of it by his seal; and we find upwards of forty passages from this book quoted in divers places of the New Testament. Besides, Leviticus is evidently connected with Exodus. On comparing the beginning and end of it with the last chapter of Exodus, and with the first of Numbers, we may easily discern that Moses wrote at least the journal of it soon after the building of the Tabernacle, in the first month of the second year from the departure out of Egypt, and at different periods down to the beginning of the second month. This book may be reduced to the three heads of sacrifices, purifications, and feasts.
First, with regard to the "sacrifices." Moses here enters into the most minute particulars, both as to the matter of them, their different species, the persons who were to offer them, and the rites to be observed in offering them: but, let any one read this detail, and examine, unprejudiced, the expositions given of them, and he will clearly see, that all this apparatus prefigured in a thousand ways the expiatory sacrifice which Christ was to offer, in the fulness of time, for the sins of the world; that it imperceptibly prepared men's minds for that great event, and announced at once the nature and the necessity of it. Hence this third book of Moses is the best commentary that can be desired on St. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews. On the other hand, this multitude of laws respecting sacrifices clearly shewed, as it were, the sovereign perfection of God, and his abhorrence of evil; his righteousness, and constant regard not to let sin go unpunished; his clemency, in his readiness to accept as a homage and kind of satisfaction, victims, the sacrificing of which could not of itself repair the violation of his laws; his kindness, in the small value of the victims which he demanded, particularly from the poor; and his care to form men to holiness and virtue, by requiring of them victims whose qualities were an image of the inward sanctity which he required from the offerers. In fact, among so many oblations and sacrifices, to expiate the breaches of the ceremonial law, there were none to expiate sins wilfully committed against the moral law:—a particular which strongly demonstrates the necessity of a sacrifice more perfect both in its nature and in its price.
Secondly, with respect to "legal purifications," we must reason in nearly the same manner as we have done upon sacrifices. The perpetual obligation of avoiding so many things, almost unavoidable in the commerce of life, in order to contract no pollution, either in eating, drinking, or touching them, was a yoke very difficult to bear. The subjection to so many ablutions and formalities, when a person had unfortunately contracted any of these outward defilements, was a very toilsome servitude. But those ordinances which appeared limited to what was external, concealed at bottom admirable lessons to regulate what was internal. All these rites were as so many emblems and parabolical instructions, used by the Divine Legislator to inspire men, rude and difficult to be led, with the respect which was due to his house, his ministers, his worship, and the things which were consecrated to him; to insinuate purity of heart, of principles, and of conduct; to shew the danger of vicious habits, the difficulty of breaking them off, and the obligation to purify themselves from them, in order to be acceptable to him. All this teaches us how happy we are in finding the reality, of which these observances were only the shadow; in finding it in our Lord Jesus Christ, who, having washed us from our sins by his blood, purifies our souls by enlightening our understandings with his doctrine, and sanctifying our hearts by his grace.
Thirdly, as to the "feasts" and sacred solemnities of the Hebrews: their institution cannot be called any thing but a mere apparatus; for,—not to mention here the mystical views discovered in them, particularly in the grand solemnity of the day of atonement, to the ceremonies of which the authors of the New Testament make such frequent allusions,—nothing was better calculated than the institution of these feasts, to attach the Israelites to the true religion, and to preserve them from the contagion of idolatry. They were so many pious commemorations of the favours and signal deliverances wherewith God had honoured them; favours and deliverances which were themselves the source of the blessings and prosperity which they enjoyed as a nation. The happy obligation they found themselves under of annually renewing these feasts in the house of the Lord, and the magnificence of the worship which they then paid to the supreme Majesty in the holy transports of a public rejoicing, tended immediately to animate their zeal for the worship of the one true God; to unite them by the ties of love and charity; and to make them more and more sensible of the advantages of a constitution, the felicity of which was assured to them by the continual and miraculous care of an especial providence. Add to this, that these public solemnities are so many authentic monuments of the truth and divinity of the Mosaic religion: we must abjure common sense, before we can believe that Moses would institute solemnities assigned to the commemoration of the most extraordinary events, which he declared to have happened in his time, and under the eye of two or three millions of witnesses, had those events been false or imaginary. For this reason, the whole nation joyfully united in the celebration of the feast which renewed the memory of their departure out of Egypt; of the law given from mount Sinai, and other similar events: thus they publicly owned, and confirmed the truth of these events to all the earth, and to all ages; nay, even to this day, the shadow of worship that remains to the Jews fully demonstrates the truth of those facts to which their solemnities refer, and leaves no doubt respecting the sincerity of the author of the Pentateuch, by whom the memory of them has been transmitted to us.
The authors who treat of Hebrew antiquities, place in the number of the national feasts the sabbatical year and the jubilee; appointments which afford us the strongest proofs of the fidelity of Moses, and of the divinity of his mission. To order that the land should be left at rest every seventh year, without cultivation or harvest; to prescribe the same law for every fiftieth year, which exposed the country to be without a crop for at least two years; and to promise from God, that, to make good this deficiency, he would pour his blessing upon every sixth year, so that it should bear as much fruit as three years, is certainly what never could have come into the mind of the legislator of the Hebrews, had he been but an ordinary man. To say the least, he must have been assured of the divine blessing, to dare to promise this miraculous resource; without which, the institution of the jubilee and sabbatical years would have brought a famine upon the land, consumed its inhabitants, and drawn down a public curse upon the memory of the legislator. But, on the contrary, when we consider that Moses, whose prudence and probity are in other respects so well known, promises nothing in this particular but what he was authorized from heaven to promise, can we sufficiently admire the wisdom of the appointments in question?—To say nothing either of the release given to debtors, or of the freedom granted to slaves; it was to perpetuate in a glorious manner the memory of the world's creation in seven days; to institute solemnities, whose periodical return so strikingly renewed the memory of that time; it was to lift the poor from time to time to a due level with the rich, by opening equally to both a community of the good things which the earth produced of itself every seventh year; it was to oblige all the subjects of the true God to make him the most solemn homage of their possessions, as persons who held them of him rather as usufructuaries than proprietors: it was the best possible method to keep up in the hearts of the people those sentiments of confidence which they owed to God, and to the miraculous care of his providence:—to say all in one word, that which would have been madness in a politician, supported merely by the arm of flesh, invincibly demonstrates, that Moses had very different resources; and that the Eternal, whose minister he proclaimed himself to be, did in reality assist him.
Beside the mystical and moral views observable in the rites of the Mosaical religion, it cannot be denied, that the legislator had another purpose to serve. At this we have just hinted before: it was, to make the Hebrews a separate people, who, surrounded by idolatry on every side, should preserve the purity of a worship consecrated solely to the glory of the Lord; both to prevent the truth from being utterly extinguished in the world, and that the manifestation of Christ, who was to arise from among the Jews, might more forcibly strike the view of the other nations of the earth. These are the reasons of those many customs and usages, in which the learned have shewn a more or less evident opposition to the customs and usages of the heathen nations, ancient and modern. Surely nothing was more worthy the wisdom of the divine Legislator, than to oppose, as he did, both for the present and the future, the strongest barrier against that almost incurable propensity which the Israelites had to idolatry; a barrier, which served as a wall of separation betwixt them and the heathens, and which was to be cast down only at the calling of the nations to one and the same spiritual worship by the preaching of the Gospel.
If, from the ceremonial laws which we find dispersed in this third book of Moses, we carry our views to the political laws, as well civil as judicial, which, are also recited there, we shall see no less cause to admire the divine prudence and wisdom of him who was the author of them. Nothing can be more admirably adapted to the situation of the Hebrew people; nothing better connected with their worship. Under this theocratical government, —that is, where God was the supreme monarch,—the laws of religion were the laws of the state; and the ordinances of the state were so many statutes rendered sacred by religion: the authority of government had no other supports than those which served at the same time as a basis to the liberty of the people; and the whole concurred in the surest manner to render the precepts of the moral law respected, by causing justice, charity, and the love of peace to flourish, with all those virtues which assure the happiness of individuals no less than the public tranquillity. It is so far from being true, that the Mosaical polity, in opposition to the law of nations, inspired the Jews with that "unsociable temper," and "that aversion to strangers," with which they have so often been reproached, that, on the contrary, nothing can more forcibly impress the observance of the duties of humanity and sociability than the several regulations found in the Leviticus, and particularly in the nineteenth chapter.
The historical part of this book is the shortest: according to Archbisop Usher's calculations, it contains an account of several things which happened between the 21st of April and the 21st of May, of the year of the world 2514, which answers to the first month of the second year after the departure from Egypt.
The NUMBERS is the only one of the five books of Moses that has a title which may be called English; the words Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy are Greek. The Latin version, known by the name of the Vulgate, borrowed them from the version of the LXX, and our translators have appropriated them. But, instead of preserving the word Αριθμοι, which the LXX had placed at the head of the fourth book of the Pentateuch, the author of the Vulgate having thought proper to render it in Latin "Numeri," we have followed him; and this book is now universally called "Numbers," because, among many other remarkable things, it contains, almost from the beginning, the numbering of the people of God. The Jews intitle it במדבר Bammidbar, which is the fifth word in the Hebrew text, and signifies "In the wilderness;" evidently because it contains the history of what passed during about thirty-nine years of the journeying of the Israelites in the desarts of Arabia.
The book of Numbers has, in all ages, been generally acknowledged among the Jews, and since among the Christians, not only as the production of Moses, but as a production stamped with the seal of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Allusion is made to it in divers places of the New Testament; St. Paul, St. Peter, and Jesus Christ himself, have either insisted upon events, or quoted expressions, which are only to be met with there; and indeed, when we examine the subject of this book, we shall presently see that it contains nothing but what arises from the idea that we have given of its origin.
This book equally merits the reader's attention, whether we consider it with respect to the numberings, the laws, or the events contained in it.
First, the "numberings" that we there meet with are by no means an indifferent matter: besides that good policy required that God, as Monarch of the Hebrews, should take cognizance of their number and force, in order to form them into an army, whose marches and encampments might be regular, and in which every one might distinctly know his rank, his employment, and his duty, to avoid all confusion;—besides this, he proposed to himself views superior to human prudence, and perfectly worthy of his supreme wisdom. His design was, to justify from time to time the truth of his promises, and to shew evidently that he had not vainly assured Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of his constant attention to multiply and preserve their posterity. These numberings were moreover infallible means to prevent the imperceptible alliance of an idolatrous race with that of the chosen people.. Thus every Israelite was put to the necessity of establishing his origin, by proving in what tribe and house he was born. Thus, too, the genealogies were exactly preserved, the confusion of families prevented, and the method of knowing the Messiah by the characters of his birth solidly ascertained. It was particularly for this latter purpose that God enjoined an exact numbering of the tribe of Levi. To judge of things by the maxims of worldly policy, one would imagine that he made this tribe a separate body, only to give more weight to the priesthood, and that he had no other intention in ordering a separate register to be kept of all the priests and Levites: but when we enter a little further into the design of this arrangement, it soon becomes evident, that Christ and his religion were its true objects. Jacob had foretold, that this great "Deliverer, to whom should be the gathering of the people," was one day to arise, not from the tribe of Levi, but from the tribe of Judah. It was necessary, therefore, to prepare matters early, so that the Levites dispersed among the other tribes might never be confounded with them: and all the measures taken for that purpose had this great advantage, that at the same time that they tended to render the accomplishment of the prophesy more palpable, they furnished a preservative against the dangerous prejudice of the necessity, the excellence, and the absolute perpetuity of the Levitical priesthood. Hence this important reflection naturally offered itself to the mind, that since the Messiah himself (that Messiah promised to the church as the author of the greatest, most perfect, and last dispensation of religion) was to be born neither in a sacerdotal family, nor even in the tribe to which the priesthood was appointed; he would doubtless be a high-priest of an order far superior to that which Moses had instituted, and would establish for ever a religion much more excellent than his. This consideration is urged by St. Paul in the 7th chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews, to which we refer the reader.
The second object that renders this book of Numbers worthy of much consideration, is, the "laws" found there. Some of these laws, as that of the waters of jealousy, of the water of purification, with the ashes of the red heifer; of the benediction which the priests were to give the people; of the inheritances, and several others, make their first appearance in this book. They must be considered as a supplement to those which we find in the two preceding books, whether with respect to worship, manners, or polity: the rest are little more than a bare repetition of divers rules respecting these three branches of the Hebrew laws; but a repetition which the circumstances rendered necessary. That generation which received the laws from God at the foot of mount Sinai had been consumed; it was of the utmost consequence that the generation which supplied its place should be instructed from the very mouth of the mediator who had brought the first commands from heaven. The manner in which Moses performs this always illustrates, or in some respect confirms, what he had before enacted. Every thing in his instructions tends to confirm the happiness of the Israelites in the country which they were about to enter; every thing conspires to supply them with the method of establishing their freedom, and ensuring success against the attempts of the idolatrous nations amidst whom they were to be placed: and that method is, the love of the one true God, a love which attaches inviolably to his religion.
Thirdly, the grand "events" contained in this fourth part of the Pentateuch merit particular attention. We there learn what happened that was most remarkable for about thirty-nine years, during which time the Israelites were condemned to wander in the desarts of Arabia as the punishment of their disobedience; or, to speak more properly, we there find a detail of all such events as were necessary to be transmitted to posterity, for the edification of the church and the instruction of the faithful in all ages. Who, for instance, can read the history of the murmurings and seditions whereof the Israelites were so often guilty, at the very time that God honoured them with the most distinguished protection, and that his Providence incessantly signalised his care for them by continual miracles;—who can read these historical facts, without being terrified at the excess of ingratitude and hardiness into which the human heart may sink;—without finding a thousand reasons to admire the patience, mildness, and excellent character of Moses, and, more than all this, the justice, wisdom, and clemency of the God whose minister he was?—The exhortation of St. Paul to the Corinthians immediately presents itself upon this occasion; "Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer!—All these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition:—wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." 1 Corinthians 10:10-12.
It is the same with numberless other particulars in this book; all are instructive. Here, distrust, infidelity, rebellion, and an insolent contempt of the promises of heaven, draw upon the people (seduced by the false report of the spies sent to discover the land of Canaan) the terrible order to return back, and wander for near thirty-seven years in the wilderness, till all the guilty perish. There, the spirit of faction, private interest, and the lust of dominion, after having, for a moment, disturbed the government of Moses, receive from God, in the persons of Korah and his accomplices, the chastisement which they deserve. Here, all Israel, in punishment of their ingratitude, find themselves miraculously assailed by an army of fiery serpents; and, as soon as they return into the right way of repentance, are miraculously delivered at the bare sight of a brazen serpent, the elevation of which, made in the middle of the camp by the express command of the Lord, was a type of the future elevation of Christ upon the cross, to take away the sins of the world. There, Balaam, a true prophet, but covetous, impure, and wicked, suffers himself to be brought over, in order to curse the people of God; and then, seized with an enthusiasm which he cannot controul, he blesses that people involuntarily, foretels the glory of the Messiah in the most magnificent terms, and presages to the nations who would have purchased his oracles astonishing catastrophes which the events have verified. There we find a Phinehas, urged by a holy zeal for the glory of God, setting to the heads of the nation the example of a generous indignation against wickedness, when become scandalous and insolent from the abuse of rank and authority.—In a word, this book, worthy of the pen that wrote it, and of the Spirit which dictated it, offers to pious and attentive readers a variety of particulars from which they may derive useful lessons, to confirm them in the love of truth, holiness, and virtue, in the fear of God, confidence in his promises, and filial submission to the paternal care of his providence. With respect to the chronological order of the events of this book, we refer the reader to Usher and Bedford.
The fifth and last book of the Pentateuch is known among the Jews under the title of הדברים אלה Acleh haddebarim, with which it begins, and which we render "These be the words." The rabbis sometimes call it "The book of reprehensions," on account of the many reproaches which Moses there casts upon the Israelites; but they more frequently call it תורה משׁנה mishneh torah, as much as to say, "The duplicate," or copy "of the law;" because it contains a collection of the laws which are found scattered in the preceding books. For this same reason the LXX have intitled it "The DEUTERONOMY, or Repetition of the Law;" a repetition accompanied with expositions and additions for the use of such of the Israelites as, being born in the wilderness, had not heard the first publication of the laws of God.
To be convinced that Deuteronomy is the work of Moses, it is sufficient to read his words in the xxxist chapter, the 9th and 24th verses, of this book. The Jews always considered it as a part of the sacred oracles wherewith God had instructed them; and, without reciting here those passages of the book which are to be found in other parts of the Old Testament, it cannot be disputed that St. Paul has quoted more than one passage from it in his epistles, upon the same footing that he has quoted the other productions of the prophets inspired by heaven. Nay, did not God himself set his seal to it, when at the baptism of Jesus Christ, proclaiming that divine Saviour as his only Son, he announced him at the same time to be "the prophet like unto Moses," and, from the midst of the heavenly glory, commanded men to "hear him?"
Every thing in the Deuteronomy corresponds to so distinguished an original: its end is clearly expressed, ch. 31: 12, 13.; which was, to teach the Israelites "to fear the Lord their God, and observe to do all the words of his law; and that their children, which had not known any thing, might hear, and learn to fear the Lord their God as long as they lived." For this purpose Moses, in a grave and pathetic discourse, wherein he recapitulates to the Israelites the inestimable favours that God had showered upon them, from their departure out of Egypt till their arrival in the plains of Moab, passes on immediately to "declare unto them that law" of the Lord; he recites to them the publication of it, briefly expounds it to them, and then, coming to the exposition of the whole, illustrates the moral part of it from ch. 6: to 12: the ceremonial from ch. 14: to 17: and the political from ch. 18: to 27: In which last and the following chapters we find him renewing the divine covenant with the people. He resigns his charge in ch. 31: and 32: The xxxiiid is consecrated to a recital of the pathetic farewel which he took of the tribes; and the last (which probably was added by some of the prophets who succeeded him) contains an account of his death and burial, with an eulogium.
The repetitions of which this book is composed have greatly offended some fastidious minds: it may be proper, therefore, to remove these eye-sores. To which end we observe, that though the repetitions in this book are frequent, it cannot be truly said that it contains repetitions only: on the contrary, how many passages are there, where Moses explains himself on subjects upon which he had not before touched:—such are the laws against a city guilty of apostacy; those which enforce the necessity of respecting the sentences of the supreme council of the nation; those which specify the duties of a king, when the Hebrews should have one; those which determine the punishment of false-witnesses; those which concern war, the expiation of murder when the author shall be unknown, the treatment of captives, the right of the first born, rebellious children, hanged malefactors; and a variety of others: to say nothing either of that remarkable prediction of "a prophet like unto Moses;" of the admirable "song" which that holy legislator composed by the command of God; or of the prophetical "benedictions" which he gave to each tribe before his death.
In this book Moses also insists upon the motives to obedience in a manner which may be called entirely new, both as to the extensiveness of his reflections upon the subject, and the lively and affecting manner in which he embellishes it. Not content with speaking of it as a legislator, he speaks of it as a minister of God, for the salvation of the souls which the Almighty had committed to his trust. The tender, the urgent, the pathetic, are every where joined with the majesty of the legislative style; no laws are delivered, without strong exhortations to submit to them; no precepts, without particulars which set forth their beauty, their justice, convenience, and necessity; no opportunity escapes Moses of bending hearts to obedience, by the powerful attraction of the sweetness of divine love, and of the advantages which man procures to himself by a rational submission to the supreme will of his Creator. No writer can be found who knew how to employ these grand motives with more dignity or more persuasion.
As to the repetitions, properly so called, which we meet with in Deuteronomy, they fall either upon "facts," or upon "laws." In the three first chapters of this book, we find those of the former sort; but can it be said, that they are mere repetitions, without purpose or use? Certainly no; their design is marked out: Moses intended to shew the new generations of the Israelites how many reasons they had to put their whole confidence in the protection of a God who had wrought so many miracles for their ancestors, and who, after becoming the Deliverer of their fathers, had shewn himself their Preserver by a succession of prodigies, of which the actual existence of their posterity was a speaking proof. In relating to them what had passed since the departure from Egypt, he prepared them for new instances of the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Lord of hosts, provided they did not render themselves unworthy of his favour. So many facts recapitulated, were so many motives to obedience. As to the repetitions of the second class, those of the "laws," their utility is obvious; they contribute, in a variety of instances, to shed new light upon the laws repeated, as a few examples will shew. In Exodus 21:16. it is said, "he that stealeth a man, &c. shall be put to death." Onkelos translates it, "If any one steal an Israelite:" and, at first, we might be tempted to reject an interpretation which so considerably limits the sense of the law; but by turning to Deuteronomy 24:7. we are satisfied at once: "If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, &c. that thief shall die." Again, in Exodus 23:15. there is this law: "None shall appear before me empty:" the sense of which is clear from the connection; but what light is thrown upon it from Deuteronomy 16:16-17.!—Compare also Leviticus 19:13. with Deuteronomy 24:14-15. It would be easy to add many other passages of the like kind; but, not to insist further upon them, let us rather remark, that Moses sometimes repeats a law, only to have an opportunity of annexing properly to it some clause, to prevent the ill use which might be made of it. Compare Leviticus 25:0. with Deuteronomy 15., particularly the remarkable clause in ver. 9. At other times, in repeating a law, Moses supports it by a fresh motive; as the reader will find by comparing Exodus 20:10-11. with Deuteronomy 5:15-16. Exodus 12:2-3. with Deuteronomy 16:1-2.Exodus 22:29; Exodus 22:29. with Deuteronomy 18:4-5. And lastly, it is the same with passages where the wise legislator seems to recapitulate laws that he has already given, in order to annex to them the exceptions which dispense from the obligation of them in all possible cases.*
* See Pere Simon's Histoire Critique, b. 1: 100: 5. where he shews, that the genius of the Hebrew language allows of repetitions, and that Moses and Homer are in this respect very similar.
Indeed, there requires not so much pains on this subject: it is certainly enough for us, that the great God has condescended to reveal his will as he judged most proper. Did he think fit to explain himself only at various periods, and as occasions required?—It is our part to use the utmost care and application in collecting together the scattered laws of this Supreme Legislator; that so, by comparing them in their different relations with other truths, we may at length more certainly arrive at their sense and spirit. God chose to excite us to application, industry, and continual reflection; and this is what the generality of men do not love. To dispense with them, therefore, they make nice distinctions upon the expressions; so many tautologies are called tiresome, and create an insupportable disgust—"What pity!" nay, they almost add, "what audacity!" Epicurus, more sensible, more rational than the pretended free-thinkers of our days, would have formed a very different judgment of things: he would have granted, "that the lessons necessary to be repeated to an audience can only be repeated in nearly the same terms;" nay, he would have owned, "that it ought to be so, the better to impress upon their memory, and more especially upon their hearts, the important truths delivered." This is not bare conjecture; long since the learned Chytreus observed, that we are indebted to Epicurus for the following excellent rule: "It is certain that a man cannot arrive at the solid knowledge of any truth but with great difficulty, and unless he daily reads and hears it, and in this manner renders the practice of it easy."—It was thus that Moses formed his Israelites to obedience: the last days of his life were constantly employed in repeating, in inculcating the things which he had already taught them, in order to engage them to conduct themselves in a manner suitable thereto; and hence those fine discourses, of which the Deuteronomy is composed.
It is certain, in fine, that the repetitions which displease in this book will ever pass, in the eyes of sensible men, as a strong proof of its authenticity. If Moses, content to write his discourses upon fugitive leaves, had left to some other the talk of arranging them, the repetitions would probably have been less frequent; the arrangers would have taken care to avoid them; the art and the method of later ages would have discovered themselves; the ordinance of the work would have betrayed the workmen: whereas we now readily acknowledge a venerable original, which, upon the whole, has suffered no essential injury, (though it has passed through so many hands, in so long a series of ages,) in that plainness of style, and in that ancient taste of simplicity, which, solely taken up with things, and the care of expressing them clearly, despises that precision of language on which we now set so great a value. In a word, as the slight variations which are found in the narratives of the historians of the New Testament shew, that our Gospels are neither the work of impostors, nor the studied productions of friends combined to that end; so all the irregularities of style, all the defects of art and method, which some think they perceive in the Pentateuch in general, and the Deuteronomy in particular, confirm rather than invalidate the proofs which we have, that Moses was its author.
For our own parts, we ingenuously confess, that in this book, more than in any of the preceding, Moses appears the greatest minister and the meekest man that ever existed; filling up at once the several functions of law-giver, judge, pastor, leader, and father of the Israelites. With what kindness, with what tenderness does he acquit himself, by labouring to devote his people to the Lord: by the recital of those prodigies of love and power which the Lord had wrought in their favour; and by addressing them in so many pathetic discourses; to animate, on the one hand, their gratitude, from due sentiments of the divine blessings; and, on the other, to inspire them with a rational fear of drawing down upon their heads, by disobedience, chastisements like those which their rebellious forefathers had suffered! At one time, he stands in the breach, to disarm the hand of divine vengeance, just ready to fall upon them: and at another, the victim of their impatience, and almost of their rage, he bears them with a fortitude, he bends under them with a dexterity, which forces them to return to a proper recollection of themselves. At one time he almost so far forgets himself as to complain; but presently rises up, and gives new proofs of his courage, of his love, and of that zeal for the glory of God, which animates him; that zeal, which dictates to him exhortations so fraught with affecting, with consolatory particulars, so proper to influence men's hearts by motives the most noble and rational; that zeal, which, as pure and charitable as it is fervent and magnanimous, accompanies him in all his proceedings, till the moment of his ascending the top of Nebo, to resign his soul into the hands of his Creator, and thus to pass from a sight of the terrestrial Canaan, to a possession of the glories of the Canaan which is above.
Such, and much greater, does Moses appear through the whole book of Deuteronomy; which presents the serious reader with objects the most instructive, the most admirable, and in every respect the most worthy of attention. We cannot read it with a good and considerate mind, without becoming better by it: the whole is a rich web, wherein are wrought the highest lessons of piety, justice, charity, humanity, resignation, and courage; lessons supported by the most powerful motives, the most urgent considerations, the most sensible encouragements; and that in terms the most affecting, the most piercing, the most proper to stir up the heart, to kindle in it the flames of divine love, and to incline it to obedience. When it is necessary to shew to the Israelites the path of holiness and happiness, the language of Moses assumes a mildness, and a force, the impression of which it is impossible not to feel; (see Deuteronomy 4:5; Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 4:15; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 11:16.) he "calls heaven and earth to witness against them;"—he "sets before their eyes life and death, blessing and cursing:" in a word, there is not an effort to be used which he does not use to save them; and that in such a manner, that every one still finds in those efforts motives to holiness and virtue. Particularly, what a taste of piety, of tender and sublime piety, reigns in the latter discourses of Moses! In vain should we search in the eloquent productions of the first orators in Greece and Rome, for any piece comparable with that divine "Song," in which the sacred legislator, by the order of God, draws a picture of the fate of the nation. The mind is enchanted and the heart delighted at the reading of this inimitable composition, when the sense is fully understood: the finest hymns of Callimachus, of Orpheus, of Homer, are nothing when compared with it. There we see poets, who, under a pretence of celebrating their gods, seek only to immortalize themselves; on the contrary, in Moses we behold a man, that, full of the God whose faithful minister he is, thinks only of worthily chanting his praises, and has no other end than his glory. Follow him in those prophetical "benedictions" which he bestowed upon the tribes before he finally left them; behold, in the history of the Jews, the exact accomplishment of them: add to them the several particulars in the annals of the world which justify the truth of the predictions contained in the long whereof we have been speaking; and impartially deduce from the whole the consequences resulting from it. Were we blind, we might perceive these consequences to follow with equal truth,—that the writings of Moses were inspired from heaven; and, that our holy religion, which bears testimony to them, is divine:—"The LAW was given by Moses; but GRACE and TRUTH came by Jesus Christ."
It may be necessary to add, by way of conclusion, that it was the first day of the eleventh month, in the 46th year after the departure from Egypt, when Moses began to repeat to the children of Israel the sacred laws which he had given them. This repetition was made in several discourses, which entirely occupied that great man till he departed from this world, in the 120th year of his age, on the first day of the twelfth month of that year, which was the 2553rd of the world.