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which they are a highly hyperbolical expression, we were to say that this is all which they contain; that he who has learnt without offence to embrace them fully, to take them in their length and in their breadth, in that sense in which they are no longer hyperbolical but literal, has extracted from them more than they were intended to supply.
And thus with respect to the interpretation of prophecy. We do often very right in taking a lower or partial sense; it is that sense which according to the particular view before us may happen to be the true one. For instance, in taking the prophecies in the simple and historical view of them, as relating, for example, to Babylon or to Jerusalem literally, we should then do wrong if we were not to understand them in a sense much lower than the literal one; everlasting destruction, perfect happiness, and perfect glory, belong neither to the one city nor to the other. But then it would not be right to say that this lower meaning is all that the words bear; there is a spiritual Babylon, there is a spiritual Israel, to which the strongest expressions of misery and happiness apply without any hyperbole; nor is it till we have ascended to these, that we can be said to have entered fully into the mind of the prophecy. So again, many persons in the Old Testament are commonly said to be types of Christ ; there are points in which they resemble Him, and language
is often used concerning them, which as understood of them is hyperbolical and hyperbolical only; but which when understood of Christ Himself becomes literally true. For Christ being both God and man, language suitable to those human and imperfect types of Him may be applied to Him without blasphemy; while on the other hand language which as applied to them is extreme hyperbole, finds in Him, I do not say its entire, but much more than its entire fulfilment; for what human language can adequately express the perfections of the Eternal God?
The rule then is, that, in all that is said in Scripture of our Lord, or of any type of Him, the full and highest meaning of the words is true of Him without hyperbole, although lower and partial meanings may very often be true also. For instance, when He said to the Jews, that He and His Father were One, there was a lower sense in which this was true of Him even as a prophet; and thus our Lord actually appeals to the Scriptures, to show that similar high expressions had been there used to those who had received God's word, and declared it again to man.
But it would be
very wrong to rest in this lower sense of the words only; take them in their literal sense,-follow them to a height where they become lost to man's conceptions, in the utmost, and much more than
the utmost human conception of unity,—it is true that Christ and the Father are One.
That St. John so understood the expressions which he has recorded of our Lord is absolutely certain. “ Before Abraham was, I am,” is an expression which is true to the letter of Him who was in the beginning, who was with God and was God. The first chapter of St. John's Gospel is a clear declaration that all the language which he records as applied to our Lord is to be taken in its literal sense, that it is not, like similar language when applied to persons merely human, the language of figure and hyperbole. That first chapter is the key to all that follows; it tells us that St. John, now that the Spirit had taught him to understand Christ's words fully, acknowledged much more in them than he had found perhaps when he actually heard them : that he has recorded them for after ages, that they also might receive them to the utmost, that they also might join with the Apostle Thomas in owning Jesus of Nazareth to be their Lord and their God.
Thus much I have said as to the interpretation of the solemn words of our Lord, which I have taken as a part of my text. I have tried to show that they are to be taken in their full literal meaning, according to a rule which applies to the whole of the Scripture, that whatever is said of Christ,
or of any type of Him, may and ought to be taken as relates to Him in the full extent of its meaning; that while the prophets and kings of Israel were often types of Him, and therefore that for His sake language was used towards them which their human nature, inasmuch as it was human only, could not worthily fulfil; He Himself is the fulfilment of all prophecy, and no word or thought of man can conceive of Him beyond, or in any degree approaching to the truth. Men could be types of Him, because He was also man; they could be no more than types of Him, because He is God. And I have shown from the first chapter of St. John's Gospel, that the Evangelist himself clearly so understood the language which he has recorded; it being evident, that no expressions can be too high for Him whom he has described at the very outset of his Gospel as existing in the beginning, as being with God, and being God, and as being the Maker of all things.
But I have not often touched on this point as a matter to be proved; nor do I think it is needful or desirable often to do so. I do not imagine that the peculiar danger which is likely to threaten any of you,
is the infection of what are called Unitarian opinions. It is mostly, I think, another class of society, and one differently educated, that is most in danger from Unitarianism; with us here I should expect that we should either be in danger
of judging those who hold such notions too harshly, and of being far too well satisfied with ourselves for not being as they are; or else that the temptation will be to something far worse than Unitarianism—to the casting away of our Christian faith altogether, and of our very faith in God. Utter unbelief is far more really prevalent, I believe, than Unitarianism; and its language is far more dangerous. For Unitarianism, acknowledging the authority of Scripture, and asserting its own peculiar interpretation of it, appears to me to lose in strength intellectually exactly as much as I hope it gains by so doing morally. I mean that the very clinging to the authority of Scripture, and professing to follow Christ and Christ's Apostles, which makes a wide difference morally between them and the unbeliever, yet renders their peculiar arguments the less dangerous, inasmuch as it forces them to rest their cause on interpretations of Scripture which the most ordinary knowledge of language and of the common principles of criticism show at once to be extravagant.
It is more, I think, to the purpose, when we consider to what society so many of you are likely to be removed when you go away from this place, -to remind you, that while it is easy, I think very easy, to see the errors of Unitarianism intellectually, yet that many speak of it with a violence of condemnation which in them is clearly