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another, I will content myself with setting down their several opinions, leaving it to the discretion of the reader to determine whose exposition he may think fit to follow.” This was doubtless a very
safe determination; and by adopting it I might with no great trouble have made a larger volume than the present; but I think with any thing else than satisfaction to the reader. For Jerome himself afterwards states or recounts no less than seven opinions; those of Africanus, Eusebius, Hippolytus, Apollinarius Laodicenus, Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, and Tertullian. Pererius numbers up fifteen, and having refuted them all, left a sixteenth, as Frischmuth observes, to be refuted by others. Mr. Faber also notices the interpretations of fourteen expositors and adds his own, from which I find myself obliged to record
my dissent, when I propose a new one. If indeed the seventy weeks had been one of those prophetic visions, in which the subjects of prediction are shadowed out in types and symbols, such discrepances would be less surprising. But here we have a precise and plain declaration concerning times and events to come, delivered in proper and unadorned language, and affording, as it should seem, no great scope for critical ingenuity to strike out diversities, much less oppositions of significations. The difficulties arising
from two or three various readings of small importance, from one or two singular and uncommon words, and from any questions founded on the connexion of the sentences and their several clauses,' are wholly inadequate to account for that great variety and even contrariety of opinions entertained and expressed by christian critics and commentators of all ages : whence it may be argued, that, exclusively of the language and style of the prophecy, there must be some serious causes of doubt and error in the substance of it, out of which such manifold and wide disagreements have sprung. Those causes are discernible in the number of periods, or terms of weeks, which, taken together both principal and subordinate, amount to no less than seven, and in the difficulty of distinguishing and adjusting them in such a manner, as to bring them to a consistency with one another, with the facts appointed to each, and with true chronological dates. For mistakes herein not only affect the proper assignment of historical events to their corresponding predictions; but being, by the resolute attempts of commentators to fabricate a meaning conformable to their own opinions, reflected on the prophecy itself, they become the occasion of producing or adopting forced constructions and erroneous translations, and even of proposing groundless conjectures, or bringing forward various readings of such slight authority as to be little less dangerous than mere conjectures, and fastening them on the sacred text.
Such treatment of this divine oracle is the more to be lamented, perhaps I ought to say, the less to be excused, since there is reason to think, that no inconsiderable portion of its obscurity may be the effect of design in its original construction. If this be true, it is certain, that a laborious and patient investigation of what we find actually written is the only means calculated to produce a true interpretation, as well as alone consistent with humility and sober piety; while the less gentle methods above mentioned can lead to nothing better than plausible error, and as they remove one difficulty, will probably leave or create others.
Although it was undoubtedly the intention of the Divine Spirit to make his prophetic communications, by their completion, testimonies to the truth of revelation, and in the mean time also to raise in the minds of men an awful expectation of “ the things that are coming and shall come,” yet nothing could be farther from his purpose than to enable the students of his sacred records to enact the parts of inspired prophets by foreseeing and foretelling with certainty
the exact periods and the particular circum-
Prudens futuri temporis exitum
* It is of such minds that Lucan só powerfully expresses the feelings in the opening of the second book of his Pharsalia :
Sit subitum quodcunque paras : sit cæca futuri
Accordingly, although we do find in holy writ many chronological prophecies and predictions of fixed terms, yet it is observable, that they are constructed with such skilful management, as to give to mankind little or no opportunity, or even temptation, to act upon them in the way either of prevention or of promotion. This was pecilliarly necessary in the case of a prophecy, that should fix a period for the coming of Messiah. For if the Jews had been able to calculate the times with precision, would not the worldly turn and the ardent spirit of their expectations, combining with their impatience of the Roman yoke, bave interfered with the designs of heaven? Ii it could have been proved to full conviction, that the time of our Lord's appearance coincided exactly with the predictions in the seventy weeks, would not the whole nation have risen up, as one man, to do, what without such instigation some of them were well nigh doing,—“ have taken Jesus by force to make him their king ?” Doubt- . less in such case the humility of his character an] the anti-secularity of his pretensions, in the minds even of the most wordly-minded, would not
, have availed to cast a shade over his mighty works ; nor, in the absence of other and preferable competitors, have prevented the general acknowledgment of him, as the expected Messiah,