Page images

But the allusion to the controversial nature of those expositions demands a passing notice. However plausible the objection may sound in the ears of latitudinarians, it is in reality empty and frivolous. Divine truth; as we are plainly taught, is part of the Christian armour; and what is the use of armour, but to be employed in conflict? The very purpose and intent of sacred prophecy is to warn the Church against secret danger; and what warning can be given without exposing unsuspected enemies? An interpretation of prophecy which is not, in some way or other, controversial, would by that mark alone be proved spurious and deceptive.

But this interpretation, we are told, “ had its origin in three different and independent families of reputed heretics." The argument, as thus stated, is not very formidable. That the men who believed and affirmed the Roman Church to be the harlot Babylon should be reputed fearful heretics by her votaries and admirers, is not very surprising. For such men to have been owned as sound and orthodox Christians by the followers of the accused system would have been a miracle of no common order. And when we are assured, by an adverse authority, that the same testimony was given by three independent families of such heretics, we can scarce fail to be reminded of the words of Scripture - In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

But “has the exposition (Dr. Todd asks) restored unity to the Church? Has it carried with it the intelligent conviction of all impartial readers of the Bible?" It may

be asked, in the same tone-" Has Christianity restored unity to the world? Has it carried with it the intelligent conviction of all the nations of the earth?" It is dangerous for Christian divines to borrow their shafts against an obnoxious theory from the armoury of infi

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

dels. As the Gospel itself predicts the opposition it would receive, and the numbers who would reject it; so do these prophecies both imply and expressly assert, that multitudes within the Church would either slight or pervert them. Let us only give a faithful paraphrase of this triumphant inquiry, and its gross absurdity becomes apparent. “Has that exposition of prophecy, which affirms that the Church will be troubled till the coming of Christ, by a dangerous apostasy, of which Rome is the centre and head, restored unity to the Church, and put an end to the apostasy long before his eoming ?" An objection of this singular kind calls for no answer; it is its own best refutation.

To conclude: the Protestant system, in its first principles, has the full concurrence of the early Church; while that of the Futurists, in its very foundations, directly contradicts the early writers. Even the yearday theory, the most modern and most assailable outwork of the Protestant system, was recognized, in the two main pillars on which it rests, thirteen centuries ago, and perhaps longer; and its slow development is a necessary result of the hypothesis itself, rightly understood. We have further the direct warrant of Scripture for preferring, on this particular topic, the judgment of the later ages of the Church ; and for seeking the true exposition among the persecuted, rather than among the persecutors (Dan. xii. 10). Finally, in Dr. Todd's attempt to set aside this weighty argument, the far greatest part is entirely irrelevant; his first alternative is conclusive against his own theory; and in the second, his version is inconsistent with the context, his paraphrase inconsistent with his own version, and palpably untrue.

IV. THE STUDY OF HISTORY REQUIRED is a further objection which Mr. Burgh produces against the com

[ocr errors][ocr errors]


[ocr errors][merged small]


mon view of these prophecies. Mr. Maitland (Attempt,
&c., p. 20 presents it in the germ; but in Mr. Burgh's
Lectures it is formally unfolded :-

“But are we so without rule and measure of interpretation ?
Is the word of God no rule or measure for its own interpretation?
--the word of God, honestly taken, compared with itself, made
its own interpreter? We are told that we must resort to the
foreign aid of history--that none are qualified to interpret pro-
phecy who are not deeply read in history--and that the Chris-
tian most thoroughly furnished with knowledge of the Scriptures
must here go to commentators. But if I were called on to name-
one advantage more than another which the system for which I
contend has over that which prevails, I would say it is its main-
taining THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE. The interpreter of pro-
phecy must be read in history-yea, truly, in the history of the
Bible ; for where are the prophecies, the fulfilment of which we
can only ascertain from history-of the fulfilment of which the
Scripture history does not contain the record? I say, the ful-
filment of which can only be ascertained from history; for of
many which have been fulfilled, the fulfilment is matter of noto.
riety, ascertainable by observation.” (Lect. Adv., pp. 133, 134;
second edition).

It is difficult to reply gravely to so bold and strange
an objection as this. If it be just and solid, one of these
alternatives must also be true. First, that whenever
God has given a prediction in his word, he has pledged
himself to give us, after the event, a fresh revelation
to announce its fulfilment: or else, that he has bound
himself to utter no prediction, the fulfilment of which
is not self-evident, without search or inquiry, to the
whole Church in every following age. Now what is
this but to charge God with contracting his own all-
perfect revelation, that he may encourage the indolence
of his people, and justify them in a careless neglect of
the lessons of his providence ?

Very different is the real nature of the all-sufficiency of
Scripture. We have there given to us the express com-

[ocr errors]

mand, “ Ask now of the days which are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth.” And to those who neglect this duty, which Mr. Burgh accounts so needless, the Spirit of God addresses the severe warning, “ Because they regard not the work of the Lord, nor consider the operation of his hand, he will destroy them, and not build them up."

In a second edition Mr. Burgh endeavours to remove the objections which Mr. Cuninghame had brought against these statements, by the following explication :

“ He gives only three examples, and what are they? First, the destruction of Nineveh ; with respect to which I have quoted his words above, which, he says, has been accomplished so literally, that the place where Nineveh stood is now unknown.' And if so, I ask, need we go to history to ascertain that it has been destroyed ? Secondly, the rise and partition of Alexander's empire, predicted Dan. viii. 21, 22; and believing, as Mr. C. does, that the he-goat, which forms the burden of the prophecy, and which some have said denotes Popery, others Mohammedanism, is the Roman empire in the East, he is greatly indebted to history for the proof that the prophecy has been fulfilled. I, however, believe that the person denoted by this emblem (for a person, and not an empire, I believe it to denote) has not appeared, and that the connection he shall have with the kingdom of Alexander is as yet non-apparent: and this being so, I cannot feel myself much indebted to history for telling me that Alexander's empire is no more, if indeed I need its information at all for this notorious fact. And, thirdly, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; and here again I quote his words:– He might as well deny that the sun shines on the earth;' and 'we appeal to desolated Jerusalem and history to prove their fulfilment ;' with which I agree, with this exception, that I think desolated Jerusalem, without history, is sufficient , evidence." (L. Adv., second edition, p. 135).

Now, surely, it is quite as difficult for the unlettered Christian to travel to the site of Nineveh or Jerusalem, as to read a few books of authentic history. What advantage, then, is gained by this empty and unnecessary

[ocr errors]

distinction ? If the unlearned Christian, unless he travel over half the world, must be thrown upon credible testimony, as to the present state of Tyre and Nineveh, why not resort to the like testimony in the case of past events? Next, if “information of the notorious fact of the division of Alexander's kingdom" can be gained without the help of history, as Mr. Burgh appears to assert, by what means is it to be acquired ? Is it to be gained by intuition? or are we perhaps to receive it by a supernatural revelation ? But if both these suppositions are absurd, then, without the aid of history, how can the fact be notorious, or even known at all?

But “ desolated Jerusalem, without history, is sufficient evidence.” Now, first, it is a curious notion of the sufficiency of Scripture, that it may borrow evidence from books of travels, and none from works of general history. Apart from this objection, however, there is another of equal weight. The assertion is untrue. The prophecy announces, not merely the desolation itself, but the means by which it should be effected, the invasion of hostile armies, with many other characters of the judgment. Desolated Jerusalem, therefore, without history, is not sufficient evidence; and the defence fails in every point.

But besides the absurdity of the general principle advanced, Mr. Burgh falls into two other great mistakes in this short passage; though, since it is a note added to correct and explain his first statements, we might expect here, if anywhere, to find marks of common accuracy in his statements and reasonings. First, he asserts that commentators have explained the hegoat to be Popery, Mohammedanism, and the Roman empire in the East. But this statement is most in

All commentators, I believe, except Dr. Todd and himself, give the same exposition of the he


« PreviousContinue »