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Itherto we have been pleading the Cause of the Jews, but without being injurious to the Chriftians. For we have not faid any thing (far be it from. us) with any Design to transfer the Reward from our felves to them; but that we might not envy the ancient People their Portion whatever it is at length to be. We believe that the Jews will be restored, having been drawn to that Hope and Expectation by the repeated Oracles of the Prophets. But as to the Circumftances of that future Reftauration, I muft profefs my felf ignorant, nor do I pretend to know by what means it will be brought about. These things God feems in a great measure hitherto to have concealed from us; but we learn from the fame Prophecies, that it will be very illuftrious, and not brought about without Miracles, or an extraordinary Ministry. Then as to the time, we fuppofe that their compleat Redemption is not to be expected but at the fecond coming of the Meffiah, and renewal of the World; which I believe we have fufficiently demonftrated already from the Writings of the Prophets. Hav ing laid down thefe Conclufions we are obliged to anfwer all those Questions, which those who study much about this matter may poffibly raise. But as for thofe (as I fuppofe there are many) who deny our general Conclufion, and reject all thofe Arguments, which we have brought from the Prophets, their Reafons, or Objections must be confidered.
First, fome affirm that nothing Certain and Conclufive can be drawn from Prophecies before the G
Event; because the prophetic Stile is fo lax, and their Words fo doubtful, that they may easily be drawn to favour any preconceived Opinion, according to the Inclination of the Reader. The Prophets feldom ufe a plain and direct Method of speaking, but wrap up their Oracles for the most Part, in Figures and Allegories, fo that there is a large Scope for Conjectures, but little room for the certain understanding of their meaning. Nor are we (fay they) only puzzled to find out the certain Signification of their Words, but also of Things, Perfons, Places and Times. Doubts will arife in the Expofition of all thefe. As to Things themfelves, the Prophets often pafs indiftinctly and abruptly from one Subject to another. Some are referred to the Type, others to the Ante-Type, and this Order is alternately reverfed; nor are there proper Diftinctions by which we may know what properly belongs to the one or the other. There is no lefs Ambiguity as to the Perfons, fpeaking, and anfwering. God, the Prophet, and the People are often Interlocutors: Friends and Enemies intervene and mix together; nor is it eafy to affign every one his proper Turn. Moreover Places and Kingdoms have changed their Names, and the ancient Inhabitants are well nigh perished; being mingled and confounded with other Nations. And lastly, there yet remains a Difpute about the Times, and whether fome Prophecies are to be referred to the paft, prefent, or future Times. What is more frequent among the Prophets than prepofterous Narrations, and inordinate, with refpect to the time? All thefe Circumftances being weighed they fay, that nothing clear and certain can be determined from thefe Writings, till the Event has confirmed the Prophecy. Since moft Places in the Prophets will only admit of a conjectural Interpretation,
and but very few of a certain and demonftrative
I must confefs they do well in exhorting us to act with Modefty and Caution in our Interpretations of the Prophecies, fince there are fo many Doubts and Obftacles, which render it difficult for us to come at their true meaning. But what must we do in the mean time? Is there no ufe of Prophecies before the Event? I muft own that those Expofitors who defcend too minutely to the particular Circumstances of Times and Things, may eafily fall into Error. But that we might avoid this Danger, we have in the firft Place taken Care only to infift on Generals, and farther we have not relied on one fingle Place of the Prophets, but produced multitudes; moreover we have compared the Prophets of the Old Teftament, with thofe of the New, that fo by their Agreement the Doctrine might appear more evident. We may also add, that we have no where departed from the literal Senfe, where the Nature of the Subject would permit us to adhere to it. Now I ask what Rules of Interpretation can we more fafely adhere to? Nor can I eafily perfuade my felf that the meaning of the Prophets in thefe Places, according to thefe Rules, is uncertain and inexplicable. Indeed the Iffues and Events of Things more fully explain the Prophecies; but God is often pleafed to give us as it were a Compendium of thefe Things before they come to pass, that thereby we may be the more chearful in the Expectation of future good Things, and more Cautious to avoid impending Evils. By which methods it more evidently and beautifully appears, that the World and human Affairs are governed by Providence, and are not driven about by the uncertain Motions of Chance.
The Prophecies have a Reference to good or evil things which are future: Now unless they are believed (in order to which it is neceffary that in fome measure they be understood) in the Progrefs of Things before the Event, they will be for the moft Part unprofitable. Certainly Jeremiah was willing that the Jews fhould understand his Prophecies about the Babylonifh Captivity, before it actually began: In like manner Daniel, and the rest of the Prophets, defigned that their Predictions of the coming of the Meffiah fhould be understood before his Appearance. The Apostles foretold the coming of Antichrift, together with his Destruction: And they have alfo forewarned us of the Resurrection of the Dead, and the future Judgment. All these we must believe before the Event; and fome Knowledge must neceffarily go before our Faith, by way of Foundation. Now this is not to be obtained by any Light of Nature, but is only to be learned from the facred Scriptures.
To conclude this Article, we confefs that fome of the Prophecies are more obfcure than others, and they are fo much the more difficult to be explained, as we attempt to give a particular Definition of Times and Places. Farther, that which is but once or feldom faid, or related only by one Prophet, is not fo easy to be explained, or put beyond all doubt. But as to that which is fignified by many Prophets, and oftentimes by the very fame Prophet, we need not be in fo much doubt as to the meaning of it. They mutually afford Light to each other, and the Truth of the Argument is confirmed by many Witneffes. The general Conclufion which we have premised is this, That the Jews fhall at last be restored. And we have fhewn that this Conclufion has been oftentimes predicted by most of the Prophets, and for that Reafon I
can never look upon it as an uncertain and dubious
It is in the fecond Place objected, that those future good things which are literally predicted by the Prophets to the Jews, are indeed allegorical, and to be transferred to the Chriftian Church. I anfwer, that we envy the Chriftian Church no Happiness, nor defire to detract from her Felicity; yer we would not exclude others, when they fhall acknowledge the fame Meffiah; let us rejoice at our Chriftian Privileges, and magnify the extenfive Grace of God; but it feems very unreasonable that we should snatch at all thofe good things which the Prophets have promised, and attribute all the evil Predictions to the Jews. Which is too frequent a Practice among Interpreters. But by what right are the Jews excluded from partaking with us in those Promises which we have received from the Mouth of Jewish Prophets, who were directing their Difcourfes to the Jews? Certainly it behoved the Prophets to look after their Affairs in the first Place; and to premonish them of future Events, whether profperous or afflictive. fometimes their very Words and Phrafeology fhew fome particular Matter, as when they mention the Children of Ifrael by Name, or fpeak of the Land of Canaan, or their native Country, concerning Jerufalem, or the ten Tribes, about the Houfe of David, or the like. Thefe are not to be wrested to a contrary Senfe against the genuine Signification of the Words, and without any juft Authority. It is indeed fometimes proper and decent to transfer Words from a common Senfe to a myftical one; as often as a literal Interpretation would be attended with fome Abfurdity, and offer Violence to the Nature of Things. But this is not to be done rafhly, and at the Pleasure of the Interpreter to serve