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On Prophecy and Its Interpretation.

On Prophecy and Its Interpretation.

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY THE REV. S. LEE, B.D.


Prophecy, as found in the Scriptures, is of two kinds —
general and particular. General prophecy is that which
proceeds, on certain given principles or data, to instruct,
encourage, deter, or to thi'eaten, those for whom it has been
given. In one case it informs us, that God is the author
and maker of all things ; in another, that those who fear
the Lord shall want no manner of good thing; and, in
another, that evil men live not out half their dai/s; and so on.
BY THE REV. S. LEE, B.D.


Prophecy, as found in the Scriptures, is of two kinds —
general and particular. General prophecy is that which
proceeds, on certain given principles or data, to instruct,
encourage, deter, or to thi'eaten, those for whom it has been
given. In one case it informs us, that God is the author
and maker of all things ; in another, that those who fear
the Lord shall want no manner of good thing; and, in
another, that evil men live not out half their dai/s; and so on.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jul 22, 2014
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O PROPHECY AD ITS ITERPRETATIO. BY THE REV. S. LEE, B.D. Prophecy, as found in the Scriptures, is of two kinds — general and particular. General prophecy is that which proceeds, on certain given principles or data, to instruct, encourage, deter, or to thi'eaten, those for whom it has been given. In one case it informs us, that God is the author and maker of all things ; in another, that those who fear the Lord shall want no manner of good thing; and, in another, that evil men live not out half their dai/s; and so on. Those who make these declarations, in the first instance, must of necessity be inspired teachers; in the second, they may be either inspired or uninspired ; and, in either case, they are termed prophets, particularly in the ew Testament. Par- ticular prophecy is that which foretells such particular events as could not be foreknown by the exertion of any human faculties or powers whatever ; and it is afforded for the pur- pose of giving effect to some religious or moral truth. Those who lay claim to the office of a prophet, in this sense, must necessarily be vested with supernatural powers, or be fa- voured with superhuman assistance. And, when there is good reason for believing that this has taken place, such declarations are binding upon all, to whose knowledge they have come. Again, prophecy, either general or particular, may be enounced in three different ways, — by words, or by signs, or by both taken together.* The import of the first must be made out by a diligent attention to the context, to the grammar, tiie » A further distinction may be made between symholicul and meta- phorical language ; the one exhibiting by action only the thing to be taught ; the otlier, though describing by words the thing to be taught, yet ex- pressing by these more or less of the imagery used in the symbolical.
 
The distinction is important; but it will not be necessary for our present pur- poses. SECT. I.] O PROPHECY, &C. 217 rhetoric, and the antiquities of the Hebrews; that of the other two, by attending to these, with the circumstances detailed, the explanations occasionally given (for in many cases these intimations are explained by the prophets themselves), and to the fulfilment of such predictions, as given either in the Old or the ew Testament.* When this is done, we shall never fail, perhaps, in ascertaining the intention of the prophets ; though we may not always succeed in understanding mi- nutely every one of the symbolical figures. This, however, will be of but little importance : the general scope is sufficient for edification ; and when we shall have arrived at this, the main object of the prophet will have been ascertained. All prophecy must necessarily be definite in the terms of its enunciations. General prophecy must be given in language easy to be understood by those to whom it is sent ; and, as the numbers here are large, and contain the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the learned and the unlearned, it must involve no declarations unintelligible to the mass, nor rest on grounds, the goodness of which they cannot see or appreciate. Particular prophecy must, in addition to these considerations, be definite and single in its objects. That is, the person or thing foretold must be clearly marked out and defined, to such a degree at least, as to leave no reasonable * Parables, which involve a species of teaching common to tlie prophets, employ neither sign nor symbol, but state cases which they proceed to con- sider as facts; and then, in conformity with the declarations of the moral law, as principles, deduce their conclusions. They belong, therefore, to what we have termed general prophecy. There are instances, however,
 
occur- ring, even in particular prophecy, in which cases are put as facts ; and these apparently for the purpose of prefiguring some future event. In these instances, the particulars so laid down may be considered as symbolical. See Ezek. iv. 4, &c. Hosea, i. 2. In the first of these cases, it is, according to Jerome, impossible the facts alluded to could have taken place : in the last it is extremely improbable ; yet both evidently contain particular pre- dictions. See also Matt. xxi. 33 — 46; xxii. 1 — 14. The cases put, there- fore, must be considered as symbolical. In every case, the interpreter ought to transport himself as much as possible into the times in which such declarations are made ; which, in conjunction with the aids to be derived from other parts of Scripture, and of tiie ew Testament in particular, will never fail to afford him all the light he can want. People generally read the Bible just as they do a newspaper, and as if all had taken place only yester- day, destitute of all acquaintance with oriental idiom, usage, and antiquities ; and hence have arisen the never-ending varieties found among us. 218 O PROPHECY AD [dISS. II. doubt on the minds of those who read it, either that it has been fulfilled, or that it has not : while it must also provide against imposture ; that is, — that the person or thing so pre- dicted cannot be assumed or so fabricated, either before or after the time in which it ought to come to pass, as to be the cause of great and extensive error. This, I say, is what prophecy in every case ought to be, in order to deserve that name ; and this, I will affirm, is what that is whicli is found in our Scriptures. It is not meant, however, to be affirmed, that it is such as cannot possibly be misunderstood : this would be

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