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person from one place to another, by rapid and almost momentary
mountain, or into some valley.” Prophecies The three succeeding chapters, including also the 17th, are a against series of predictions relative to Syria, Israel, and the Assyrians; Syria, Israel, and and embrace a space of time extending from the 742d to the 738th Assyrians.
year B.C. These are occupied with the apprehensions of Ahaz B.C. 738. respecting the league of Israel and Syria against him. Moab is
next threatened, conjointly with Ephraim, in the 15th, 16th, and
28th chapters of the prophecy, delivered in two succeeding years, B.C. 725. the 726th and 725th B.C. Within three years from this period,
Moab was to be so consumed as to leave a very “ feeble remnant,” while the hope of Ephraim, extinguished as to political existence, revived, never to be quenched, in the glories of the kingdom of
Christ. Ten years afterwards, Tyre and Sidon were threatened, in Ethiopia and Egypt the 23d chapter. The year succeeding, the sentence went forth
against Ethiopia, Egypt, Babylon, Israel, and Assyria, including a train of prophecy, from the 18th to the 21st chapters. It is in this first denunciation against Babylon that all the events of that dreadful and memorable night in which she was taken are so minutely detailed. The scene of festivity turned into terror at the apparition of the hand-writing on the wall—the cry of the watchmen upon the towers of the city—the approach of the combined armies of the Medes and Persians, symbolized by the vision of a chariot, to which asses and camels, the distinctive animals employed by the two nations,
were yoked—these circumstances are all described with the most Against astonishing precision. In the two years which followed, 713th and Babylon. 712th RC
712th B.c. the prophecy against Babylon is resumed, and associated B.C. 712. with predictions against Assyria, Palestine, Judea, and Egypt,
occupying the book from the 10th to the 14th chapter; the 22d again, from the 24th to the 27th, and from the 29th to the 56th. Predictions relative to the Messiah are interspersed with these several denunciations ; but from the 40th to the 56th chapters they relate almost entirely to him, with sudden transitions to the capture of Babylon by Cyrus. We are then brought down to the 698th year before Christ, during which the Jews are severely reproved, and the Edomites included in the censure; and the miseries of mankind are
The Edomites, &c.
seen terminating in the distant, but true perspective, of the reign of Christ. The book is thus occupied from the 57th chapter to the end.
In reviewing these predictions, it cannot have escaped the observation of the most superficial readers, that the prophecies which relate to the MESSIAH have the pre-eminence. It is in these that the fulness of the genius and inspiration of the prophet manifest themselves ; and we are at a loss which most to admire, the sublimity of his language, or the transcendent character of his conceptions. Isaiah has been considered a prophet of difficult interpretation; and if we consider the extent and variety of his communications, the conclusion is just; they relate to subjects which pass the limit of the finite, and lose themselves in the infinite; but if we regard them as relating simply to facts, detailed in prophecy and afterwards established by actual events, our astonishment springs from another quarter-and
that the striking agreement between the representation and the thing Į represented. Whatever might be the immediate object of the pro1 phet, whether the prosperity or the destruction of a state, he did not
fail so to connect it with the moral government of God, as to merge i it in the infinite blessings which should characterize the reign of the
Messiah. He, therefore, enlarges, with singular satisfaction, upon The the features of that dominion, which, while it shall ultimately absorb Messia all others, shall educe from partial evil universal good. Thus referring all events to His government, “whose right it is to reign, and who must reign for ever and ever,” he reduced the inexplicable politics of this world to a simple standard ; and passing over the decrees of monarchs who lived but for a season, showed their subserviency to his purpose who lives for ever. The prophet, in this point of view, had no equal, no rival. All men were absorbed in their present concerns and interests. But he, ascending the Eastern mountains, stood upon their lofty summit, as a point of light, illuminated by the glory of the yet unrisen sun: “ darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people;' the plains and the vallies were enveloped in the gloom of midnight; but when the nations looked towards Jerusalem, he appeared as the harbinger of day, and scattered abroad that radiance which he alone had received. How insignificant, in comparison with his high destiny, do the achievements of conquerors appear! And he has a key to the cabinet of princes of which they have no suspicion; he is admitted, by the intelligence from which nothing is concealed, into their most secret councils; and not only declares things present, but points out consequences of which the wisdom of this world had no conception, and declares what should be the policy of nations yet unborn. This leads us to the great question of prophecy. So many attempts had been made, in the Oracles of heathen world, to prejudge futurity, and so miserable were the shifts the
heathens, of oracles, by a perplexed and involved answer, to suit any circumstances which might possibly arise, that it behoved prophecy to have its credentials clear, in order to establish its claims. Accordingly,
in the prophet before us, there are many striking appeals to the heathen world, not only as to the superiority, but as to the distin
guishing characteristics of inspiration over the efforts of superstition. Prophecy. “I have not spoken in secret—from dark places in the earth”—is a
a testimony which sets heathen oracles at defiance, as to their structure. But when we consider the substance of prophecy, as compared, or rather contrasted with these, it is no longer a question of rivalry. The one presents only double meanings, uncertain conclusions, unauthorized presumptions; the other a cool, perspicuous, detailed representation of things not seen as yet. It should also be remembered, that the results stated by the prophets were the most unlikely, in the ordinary process of human events, that could well be imagined. For instance, the desolation of Egypt, never to be retrieved, at a time when she was the mistress of the world in arms, and the admiration of the world in literature. A train of political events may lead to a certain conclusion; and the political foresight of a man who has been accustomed to weigh consequences, and to connect effects with their causes, may enable him to arrive, with no small measure of conviction, at the fixed operation of given principles; but what shall we say when the conclusion is against all human calculations, all reasonable inferences ?—when a train of prosperity is shown to issue in ruin, when unpromising beginnings are encouraged to anticipate a glorious termination, and when the prediction of the prophet bears equally against probability, against his country, against his prejudices, national and individual, and against his personal interest?- These are conclusions to which nothing could lead but inspiration, and which nothing could compel the man to deduce
but a sense of duty. Clearness of Upon this high ground stands Isaiah, the prince of prophets, as Scies. well for the clearness of his revelations as for the sublimity of his
conceptions and language. It is difficult to select instances in a
book full of evidence upon this important question. Shall we take the Example. grand feature of his prophecies-his constant allusion to the Mes
siah? The 53d chapter of his unequalled work at once surprises and convinces us. Let any one look at that chapter and say, whether it be possible to alienate it from its object? A man may look at a portrait, and say, such and such features agree with those of this person or the other: he may, if he please, exercise his ingenuity in finding remote resemblances, and transfer that which is the actual likeness of one, to fifty, who in some particular feature may be allowed to answer to the comparison; but the question is, whose is the entire image ? and if it be a faithful delineation, only one answer can be given to it. Such is the case with Isaiah. He was no inconsiderable portrait painter; nor were his likenesses doubtful. None could mistake the resemblance of the portrait to the original; and when Jesus came to “his own,” it was not that they did not know him, but that, for reasons suggested by their
prejudices, and not by their understanding, they would not receive him. The Jews have acted the unworthy part of attempting to distort the fair and marked features of the Messiah, and to apply them to others than Jesus of Nazareth. They have fixed upon single and insulated resemblances, and have satisfied themselves to apply the predictions of this interesting chapter to Hezekiah, and to other distinguished characters. It is unnecessary to add, that this has been done with little success. The object was, not to discover the original of the portrait, but, if possible, to turn the eyes of the world from the original, that they might not perceive the likeness. But we have to do with facts, and to compare facts with prophecy; ånd in instituting this comparison, we shall find hardly any part of the Saviour's personal character, circumstances, or office, left undetailed. When the Jews set themselves, with an inveterate obstinacy, against the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth, they were not aware that, by this very hostility, they were establishing his pretensions. The evangelical prophet opens his wonderful discoveries with this very circumstance, and complains, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom bath the arm of the Lord been revealed ?" If they would overthrow the claims of the son of Mary, they ought to have met him with distinction, and surrounded him with prosperity; and he had been no longer Isaiah's Messiah. His unpretending char- Delineations acter, his deep poverty, his unequalled injuries, the object of his M sufferings, as an atonement for sin; the necessity of this sacrifice, as originating in human apostacy; the submission with which he bowed to his cruel oppressions; the violence of the procedure against him, defying all justice, and outraging even its forms, while it pretended to exercise them; the circumstances of his death, and his burial; numbered with malefactors, yet occupying a distinguished tomb with Joseph of Arimathea ; the perfect innocence which submitted to all this injury; the reference of the whole to a plan of Deity, as unsearchable as himself, and subordinating all things to its benevolent intentions; the glorious effects of this sacrifice, extending themselves over the whole earth; looking to future ages yet for their development, and expecting their consummation in eternity: all these things, taken as a whole, demonstrate what each regarded separately must suppose; the sole and irrefragable reference of the prophecy to Jesus Christ.
But in questions of Theology we may be supposed to be biassed, and to lean to the convictions of our creed; for we are really oldfashioned enough to confess that we have a creed. We will, then, place the argument upon other grounds, and bring the predictions into contact with facts, which are simply the subject of history, and with which Theology has nothing to do. Take, for example, the Destruction prophecy relative to the destruction of Babylon. We say nothing o of the memorable description of the night of dissipation and ruin, so powerfully presented in the 21st chapter, lest it should be imagined
of the Messiah.
that the advantage of being able to compare the history with the prediction should have induced a fanciful interpretation ; but what shall we say of the prophecy which calls Cyrus by his name, a century before he was born? which speaks of opening the gates of brass, before we are quite certain of their existence? It is well known that, in Isaiah's days, Babylon was a rising state; it is even uncertain whether the river was then walled, as the prophecy supposes it must be; it is indisputable that Nitocris, the queen, mother of Belshazzar, added greatly to its majesty; and that Nebuchadnezzar, who was, when the prophet wrote, unknown, if not unborn, so strengthened and embellished this wonderful city, that he arrogated to himself its creation, and said, “Is not this great Babylon that I have built ?” But even supposing Babylon were what we are very sure it was not, and what it appeared a century
afterwards, the circumstance that it was foretold that a deliverer of Calling of Israel should arise, whose name should be Cyrus, one hundred years
before the birth of such a person, demonstrates the truth of ancient prophecy; which, as an argument in favour of revelation, does not depend upon the number of facts detailed, but upon the authenticity of them; and if it can be proved, in any one unquestionable instance, that any thing has been decidedly predicted, the argument is as
conclusive, as to any application of it, as though we could produce Evidence ten thousand examples. But as it is very possible we might be
om deceived in any single instance, although the argument is conclusive prophecy.
from one only, the repetition of the case renders the principle indisputable, and the inference proportionally irrefragable. Accordingly, what has been stated relative to Babylon obtains in reference to the other states, whose destiny is pronounced by the prophet. In short, such is the variety of prophecy, as to its forms and its subjects, its principles and its application, that it is capable of being tried upon the largest possible scale; and Isaiah furnishes a just exhibition of his contemporaries and successors; while, representing all, he is inferior to none.
The investigation of this important topic cannot fail to convince every inquiring mind, that prophecy is not the conclusion of a penetrating and thinking intellect, calculating results from existing circumstances; far less, that it is the bold guess of a daring spirit which plunges into futurity at a venture, presuming that time may shape its conjectures, and give them a resemblance, if it cannot attach to them certainty ; least of all can it be suspected to be a design to practise upon the credulity of mankind, by professing a knowledge not really possessed, and working upon the hopes and fears of the multitude, to bend them to any purpose, political or religious, which may be supposed to be in the contemplation of the prophet. Nothing of all this appears, or can be maintained, even with plausibility: but the prophetic pages are flooded with light; as though heaven would write its own truth only with its own sunbeams.