The Irrationalism of Infidelity: Section k.

Being a reply to "Phases of Faith"*

J. N. Darby.

{*London: 1853.}

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But I turn to what is more important. The result of the rationalist system is, that they never examine the prophetic scriptures as a whole, and hence are totally incapable of estimating the value or real bearing of the parts. Mr. N. has had greater advantages than they, and often seeks to use them against the Christian faith. It is a painful thing to see how often he speaks the language of Canaan, while he labours in the spirit of a Philistine. Still he has chosen to take up the rationalist system. Now, I affirm, that according to its own clear contents, be they true or false, all scripture is Messianic from Genesis to Revelation. From the promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head — yea, from "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" Gen. 1:1. (for according to scripture all things were created by Him and for Him), — until "Even so, come, Lord Jesus"*Rev. 22:20, — "the first and the last," the testimony as well as the purposes God refer to (have as their object) Him who, the Wisdom of God before the worlds, was all His delight in this, who first descended and then ascended that He might fill all things.

{*"The really Messianic prophecies appeared to me to be far fewer than is commonly supposed." (Phases, p. 192.)}

Now there are two great subjects of scripture besides. That is, first, it speaks of man's sin, the change in him needed to enjoy the blessing, and the redemption accomplished, that we may be with God, with all its varied effects and glories; and, secondly, of the government of this world. Some true and devoted Christians have looked only at the first, as being the great vital necessity (as it is), but, having thus dropped the other when the scriptures which applied to it were before their minds, they were bewildered as to the interpretation of them. There are the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow. These glories include many parts, inasmuch as God, for the administration of the fulness of times, will head up all in Christ, of things in heaven and things on earth. Every family* in heaven and earth comes under the name of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

{*In the English translation it is "the whole family;" but πασα πατρια, I apprehend, is "every family" (nor "the whole family"). It is in contrast with the idea "Thee only have I known of all the families of the earth," addressed to Israel.

296 Now, no doubt the Lord Jesus suffered amongst the Jews; and this made one ground of Jehovah's judicial dealings with them, as Isaiah and Zechariah and the Psalms abundantly testify. But the government of the world is the great subject treated of in the prophetic books. And we are expressly told in Deuteronomy 32:8, that "when the Most High divided unto the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel." God made Israel the centre of His earthly government. The profane history of nations, in fact, centres round it; Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, all contend for it; are known in connection with it, or actually get their full imperial possession and character at the time they acquired possession of it — I do not say by gaining possession of it, but at the epoch at which they did. Clouds of dark traditions, scarce pierced by modern researches, hang over all the rest, and obscure the history of nations, while they reveal their existence.

In the neighbourhood of Israel all is light. Prejudiced, ignorant, barbarous as they may have been, they possess and shed the light of their history on all the nations around them. It is preserved almost with modern accuracy, when a few fragments scarce rescue from entire oblivion other ancient histories. We must disentomb the remains of Thebes and the Ninevehs to get at the history of their ancient monarchs, to know their dynasties, and say even if there were two Assyrian empires or one, while, by God's providence, that which gives some historic data to the glories of Mizraim and Asshur confirms in its detail that of which we have already the minutest particulars in Israel's authentic history. We find, in pictures yet fresh on the lore-covered walls of the country of the Pharaohs, the very kinds of overseers over the Jews making their bricks, of which Moses speaks in the Book of Exodus. Modern research alone has given the place and importance to these countries which the scriptures had already assigned them.

297 Now, when is this great drama of this world's history to find its dénouement and its close, according to the scriptures? Not clearly till the end. It would be an absurdity to suppose such a thing — a denial of the terms in their proper meaning. Scripture places it at the end — speaks of the Lord coming in glory, of the destruction of the Assyrian, of the beast, of the false prophet, of Gog, and that by a grand day which should "burn as an oven" — a day in which the glory of the Lord should be revealed, and all flesh see it together, in which by fire and sword the Lord would plead with all flesh, and the slain of the Lord should be many — a day when a man should be more precious than the fine gold of Ophir; when God would punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; when the Lord would come forth out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; when the earth would uncover her blood, and no more cover her slain. Is it not equally declared that when He came there was no man, when He called there was none to answer — that He should give His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair, nor hide His face from shame and spitting — that His visage should be so marred more than any man, and His countenance more than the sons of men, even that Servant who was to be exalted and extolled, and be very high — that He was to be despised and rejected of men, to make His soul an offering for sin, and bear their iniquities — that they should look on Him whom they had pierced, and mourn for Him? Accordingly we find in the Psalms the expression of the deep sense of these sufferings, as 22, 69, Psalm 102, and others.

Do not these scriptures, in their general tenor — confirmed as they are by hundreds of others and the constant course of God's moral ways in putting suffering on the path of glory — do they not most clearly point out two distinct scenes: a time when the great subject of prophecy, the Son of man, the Son of God, should suffer; and a time when glories should follow, in respect of the government of this world, and that by judgment being in His hand?

See Psalm 2, compared with the general expression of feeling in the Psalms. Is not the first a declaration of Messiah, He who is King in Zion, and Son of God, set as God's King in spite of all enemies — Adonai laughing to scorn their efforts in the day of His wrath? Yet are not the Psalms, as a whole, the expression of the sorrows and sufferings of the righteous, and of Messiah with them? Is He not David's Lord, called to sit at God's right hand, till He makes His foes His footstool, and the rod of His power goes forth from Zion, ruling in the midst of His enemies? Such is the uniform tenor of scripture in every part. The first song we have after the exodus (Hannah's, in the beginning of Samuel) sings with a heart confiding in goodness, after its sorrows, the same truths as to Christ, naming Him as the object of hope.

298 Now, I ask, Is the destruction of the Assyrian connected with deliverances in power and judgment, or with the suffering of Christ?* No one who has read scripture can hesitate for a moment as to the answer. The destruction of this powerful enemy, no doubt, will be connected with Him who suffered, but not with the time of His suffering. The two parts of His history (not the length of the interval, because that did not belong to Israel, but to the Church) are as clear and distinct as possible. The argument, therefore, of Mr. N. that Messiah could not be Jesus, because the prophecies relating to Messiah are connected with the destruction of the Assyrian (Phases, pp. 192, 193), is worse than worthless. I am persuaded he knows better than his pages bear upon their face. That these testimonies of future glory and deliverance then given were comforts to the souls of believers, and sustained their faith in the midst of evil, and the consequent judgments which fell on the beloved people, I do not doubt; and they were, I doubt not, meant to be so; but the things they prophesied of were different from the present comfort conveyed, though rationalists cannot distinguish these things, nor suppose, with the evident reason for it in the history before them, that God was merciful enough thus to consider the broken-hearted faithful whom He had taught to confide in Him.

{*"The Messiah of Micah however was not Jesus; for He was to deliver Israel from the Assyrians, and His whole description is literally warlike … This undeniable emptiness of Micah's prophecy extends itself also to that in chapter 9 of his contemporary, Isaiah — if, indeed, that splendid passage did not really point at the child Hezekiah. Waving this doubt, it is at any rate clear that the marvellous child on the throne of David was to break the yoke of the oppressive Assyrian with a battle of confused noise, and garments rolled in blood, with burning and fuel of fire. This has nothing at all to do with Jesus." (Phases, pp. 192, 193.) The statement is incorrect. It is said, "Every battle of the warrior is … but this shall be," etc. I need not dwell on this; but it shews that an ordinary battle was not in view.}

They understood it; and, though with much obscurity of mind and many prejudices, gracious confidence in God was maintained; and, through all their darkest times, there were those who feared the Lord and spake often one to another, and who waited for redemption in Israel. I do not spiritualize it; I believe it. I do not believe Jesus has fulfilled the prophecies which speak of the revelation of His glory in judgment and government; but I am sure that that Stone on which those who stumbled have been indeed broken, as we know, will grind to powder those on whom it shall justly fall — that "Stone which the builders rejected, and which is become the head of the corner" — when Hosanna shall be sung, not only by babes and sucklings, to confound the adversary, but by a people to whom every promise shall be fulfilled, and by a world dwelling in peace under the blessing of Him for whose law the isles shall wait, and whose sceptre shall be their confidence and their blessing — the King of righteousness and King of peace.

299 I will now show that on this point Mr. N. is as incorrect in detail, as he is narrow and superficial in his apprehension of the whole — more than narrow; for he connects parts of which the least attention or understanding would shew the distinctness. Indeed, his remarks prove, either that he has not attended to what he is talking about, or that he is incapable of seizing its bearing. Not a prophecy connects the Assyrian with the sufferings of Christ. But Mr. N. refers particularly to a passage in Micah, which he declares cannot apply to Jesus: "The Messiah of Micah however was not Jesus; for he was to deliver Israel from the Assyrians, and his whole description is literally warlike." (Phases, p. 192.)

We had better have the passage: it will help to shew the value of "our logic," and of rationalist comments in general. It is as follows: — "Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land," etc. Then we have victories attributed to the Jews; and they become the source of blessing to the earth — are as a lion and yet as a dew among many people. (Micah 5.) Now, whatever the explanation of the details, which I do not think indeed exceedingly obscure, it is quite clear that the smiting of the Judge of Israel on the cheek is followed, not by the destruction of the Assyrian, but by being given up for a period designated by "until she which travaileth shall have brought forth." Whatever may be in the womb of God's purposes, till it be accomplished the Jews will be given up. There is, first, one period or order of things; the Judge of Israel not warlike, but smitten, and they given up in consequence. Then we have another, He stands and feeds in the majesty of the Lord, for now shall He be great to the ends of the earth; and when the Assyrian comes into their land, this Man — this same Jesus — will be the peace, and Israel great and glorious. Can anything be plainer than the distinction of these two conditions of the Judge of Israel, and of the two states of Israel — given up at one time; and at another defended, in peace, victorious, and a blessing?

300 And this is adduced to shew "that the Messiah of Micah was not Jesus, because he was to deliver Israel from the Assyrians, and his whole description is literally warlike" — "and Micah conceived of a powerful monarch on the throne of David." But it is a singular sign of power that He should be smitten on the cheek, and Israel given up, none could say till when — till the birth of the fruit of some great purpose of God! Such interpretation entitles us to lay aside the conclusions and the judgment of him who has pretended to speak of the passage, and to put no further confidence in anything he alleges about the scriptures.

The same train of reasoning applies to Isaiah 8 in even a stronger way. "Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him." And then he goes on to describe the misery of the great and final vexation of Israel,. after He had already arrived, and then (by Messiah) their deliverance from every yoke, and His glorious reign, through this battle, not like that of ordinary warriors, but of fuel and fire. Can anything more clearly distinguish the two dates — one, God's hiding His face from stumbling Israel; and another, the glorious subsequent deliverance by the Lord?

301 But it is well to pursue the spirit of rationalism into some further details.

I admit that Psalm 72* has never yet been fulfilled. The Son of David has never yet sat on the throne of His glory as such. We may leave it; as Mr. N. himself must be a prophet to say that this prediction never will be fulfilled.

{*"Psalm 72, by the splendour of the predictions concerning the grandeur of some future king of Judah, earns the title of Messianic, because it was never fulfilled by any historical king. But it is equally certain that it has had no appreciable fulfilment in Jesus." (Phases, p. 194.)}

Isaiah* 11 "may be verified by Jesus hereafter." Well, I believe the greater part will; so here we have not much to contend about. Still Mr. N. repents of the seeming candour of his acknowledgment, and so says it cannot be, for Judah and Israel had been reconciled long before the time of Augustus. When? A few of the ten tribes had from the beginning thrown themselves into the kingdom of Judah; but when were the ten tribes reconciled? I never heard of it; I thought they were carried away captive by Shalmaneser and others. That faith always owned them as a whole, from Elijah on his Carmel to Paul and James, is true; but that is nothing to the purpose. Besides, the prophet is speaking of what they will do, when as tribes they are restored in blessing and power to their land. Then will there no more be these quarrels. The distinctions of Philistines, Moab, and Ammon are lost to Mr. N.: they are not to this day by the Jew; and such distinctions are much more preserved than people suppose, and will, I doubt not, re-appear, and Israel will dispossess the people inhabiting these countries. These testimonies, as to the future, must have their credit, it is perfectly evident, from the general proof of the authority of the prophecy: no one can, as to the future, have any other proof, unless he sets up to be a prophet himself.

{*"A paradisiacal state is to follow. This general description may be verified by Jesus hereafter … Indeed the latter part of the prophecy is out of place even for so late a time as the reign of Augustus … Take all these particulars together [verses 13-16], and the prophecy is neither fulfilled in the past, nor possible to be fulfilled in the future." (Phases, p.194, 195.) "Philistines, Moab, and Ammon were distinctions entirely lost before the Christian era." (Phases, p. 194.)}


I will not here discuss whether Zechariah 9-11 be really the prophecy of him whose name it bears. Many sincere Christians have doubted it, though not doubting its inspiration, partly on account of the word "Jeremiah" in Matthew. Mr. N. says it is agreed to be really from a prophet of unknown name, contemporaneous with Isaiah. But we must never trust these kinds of statements of rationalists. "It is agreed," means merely, "it suits our views," or "our logic." Thus De Wette himself, in his last edition, translated by Theodore Parker — an authority logical enough, I suppose, for Mr. N. — after stating the opinion alluded to, re-examines the language and allusions to previous prophets, and concludes, "These circumstances shew that it could not have been written before the exile … therefore it may seem the most advisable to suppose that those parts which seem to belong to an earlier period were written with reference to the future, and that the form of a prediction was adopted in part." I have nothing to do with what it is "advisable to suppose," which is generally the just measure of rationalist proof. But the statement of De Wette gives a just measure of another thing; that is, the value of such phrases as "it is agreed." Nor is this all. "The genuineness has been defended by Carpzov, Beckhaus, Jahn, Rosenmuller, Koester, Hengestenberg; Blayney also attempted it," so says Theodore Parker. It may be said, "Yes; but there are some of them at least twenty or thirty years past, some more." But then we have the awkward fact, that De Wette, in the fifth (and, I suppose, even in the fourth) edition, more modern, and, we must suppose, more mature than the first three, undoes the previous theory started originally by Mede — not from orthodox prejudices, certainly; but, it must be supposed, from his more exact enquiry. Koester, others think, has demonstrated the genuineness of these chapters; that is, their being the work of Zechariah.

One thing is certain, that those who do not receive it as genuine not only do not agree with one another, and demonstrate, each to his own satisfaction, what upsets the opinion of his neighbour (such as Flugge, Berthold, Hitzig, Credner, referred to by T. Parker), but they do not agree with themselves. De Wette, we have seen, concludes he was quite wrong in referring it to an earlier date. So Hitzig once placed the whole in the time of Uzziah, but is now compelled to place it after that time. In a word, it is a mere collection of guesses, without any real foundation to build a sober judgment upon. For my own part, I have not a doubt on the subject. The mention of Jeremiah,* in Matthew, creates a critical difficulty as to the quotation; but the solution which refers Zechariah to some unknown prophet of Isaiah's time — with the convenient formula "it is agreed," when nothing at all is agreed about among themselves — is, of all solutions, the most unfounded. Very few of the boldest agree in this.

{*It is well known, that Lightfoot, and other learned men, as Surenhusius, consider this as a well known formula of Jewish citations, that is, using the first book as the title of the part of scripture, as the Lord does the Psalms — the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. It appears that, in the Talmudist's age, Jeremiah had this place; sundry reasons are given for its being there, as on account of kings ending in sorrow, and Jeremiah taking his sorrow up, while the Talmudists say Isaiah was put after the historical prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel in order to comfort the reader, etc. I am aware Stuart and others say this was only so in the Talmudist's age, not so early as Christ. Gesenius argues that it was much earlier the case, and states that Jeremiah and Ezekiel come before Isaiah in the German and French MSS; after in the Spanish. I do not pretend to decide this question; but the expression, "Jeremiah or one of the prophets," certainly tends very strongly to confirm the idea that it was so in Christ's age.}

303 The proofs that Zechariah wrote after the captivity are, to my own mind, decisive — I mean, wrote these chapters; for none question his prophesying after it. In the first place, they have always been received by the Jews as his prophecy. They form part of the Septuagint translation, which, allowing the Prophets to have been translated even a hundred years after the Pentateuch and Joshua, yet gives us Zechariah as we have it, more than a hundred and fifty years before Christ.* Hody supposes the Prophets translated in the reign of Philometer, that is, it was then publicly and universally received by the Jews, as we have it. But the internal evidence is to my mind demonstrative of its being written after the captivity. Zechariah 10:6 to the end clearly shews the condition of Judah and Ephraim. The cutting off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, connected with the dominion of Messiah, is the taking away war from the earth when the universal dominion of Messiah is established. The prophecy applies to the time "when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the Lord," that is, to a time when the glory and dominion of the Lord, yet future, shall be completely established. The conflict of all Israel would be with Javan or Greece; a statement which would have no kind of sense on Mr. N.'s rationalist theory. What had Greece to do with the times of Shalmaneser?** Indeed, as to his account of the prophecy, the best answer is to ask my reader to read it through; the flippancy of Mr. N.'s assertions will be apparent to every one who does. Obscurity we may doubtless find; but that it has "no remote or imaginable similarity to the historical life of Jesus," is an assertion which no reader of Zechariah 11 would have ventured, unless one who counted on the credulity of his readers, or upon, what is always an unwise thing, their confidence in the assertions of a rationalist. The accomplishment of the prophecy in its main intent is, I have no doubt, future, as is that of all which completes and makes good God's government of this earth; and necessarily so, for the result of that government we all know is not yet come.

{*The postscript to Esther, in the Septuagint translation, has led authors to ascribe this date to it. Hody refers to other circumstances in his account.}

{**"The prophecy which we know as Zechariah 9-11 is agreed to be really from a prophet of unknown name, contemporaneous with Isaiah. It was written while Ephraim was still a people, i.e., before the capture of Samaria by Shalmaneser, and Zechariah 11:1-3, appears to howl over the recent devastations of Tiglath-pileser. The prophecy is throughout full of the politics of that day." (Phases, p. 195.)}

304 I turn to Isaiah 50, 53.* Mr. N.'s "pseudo-Isaiah," a title than which there cannot be a greater absurdity imaginable.

{*"Chapters 50 and 53 of the pseudo-Isaiah remained; which contained many phrases so aptly descriptive of the sufferings of Christ, and so closely knit up with our earliest devotional associations that they were the very last links of my chain that snapt. Still, I could not conceal from myself, that no exactness in this prophecy, however singular, could avail to make out that Jesus was the Messiah of Hezekiah's prophets.

There must be some explanation; and if I did not see it, that must probably arise from prejudice and habit." (Phases, p. 196.)}

These famous rationalists, because the prophet places himself as if in Babylon,* or at least speaks of it as a present thing, have "agreed" that the author must have lived there (as if it were not the style of the prophets in unnumbered other instances), and thus one of the most complete, perfect, and connected prophecies in existence (developing the present relationship of Israel with God, God's intentions as to their restoration; the witness against idolatry to which they were called; rejection of Messiah; return in the latter days to idolatry; the Lord's judgment; and their final glory unfolded in incomparable language, which does not for a moment, in point of style, admit the supposition of the Babylonish captivity as a date) has been foisted by some unknown author on the Jews, as that of Isaiah! The prophecy is the noblest incomparably of all scripture. It is very little matter, to us who believe it to come from God, whether Isaiah or any other prophet be its author, save collaterally, as shaking the general credibility of all testimony; but to suppose that nobody ever heard of the real writer, though his prophecy entitled him to the very first place, and hence that it was ascribed to a more obscure one, is perfectly incredible. Supposing I were to say Isaiah was the author of chapters 40-66, and that men have ascribed the former part to him, that it might get the credit of the great name of the author of the latter part, the only answer would be, "You may say anything."

{*"This prophet writes from Babylon." (Phases, p. 196.)}

305 The reader may judge of the candour of rationalist arguments from the following: "The one continuous prophecy of Isaiah 40-66 has given a colour to the style, which is unique. Some expressions, such as 'burden of the Lord' are not found in it."* This could not be otherwise if the subject be considered. It is a long moral reasoning with Israel on idolatry (they being witnesses of Jehovah), in contrast with Babylon — Messiah's rejection — their state in the end of time — the admission of the Gentiles — and their future glory. The burdens on particular places had no application here whatever. They would have been wholly out of place. This is a proof it is not Isaiah's! But there are peculiarities of Isaiah's language which are found to be such as are connected with essential and permanent subjects. How are these to be got rid of? "But these peculiarities, which it has in common with the genuine portion, and others adduced by Jahn and Muller, prove nothing." Will the reader guess why? "Their agreement in this respect cannot have been accidental, and must be explained as an imitation of the genuine, or in some other way."** Our logic! Here are the reasons given by the chief of the learned rationalist school: "There is a difference in style." Of that in a moment. "There is a difference in the political relationship of the people." This is because restoration is predicted as if Jerusalem were already desolate. Were it even so, it would not be less prophecy; but the fact is, it proves nothing. The prophet, as is so constantly the case, transports himself into the times he speaks of. He does so as to John Baptist; he does so as to the times of Christ (Isa. 53) — as to the times of the Jews owning Christ, in the same chapter. They say, "He was wounded," etc. So Isaiah 65 the admission of the Gentiles, "I am sought," etc. So in what is confessed to be Isaiah, "To us a son is born, to us a king is given." This, therefore, proves just nothing. "The internal condition of the nation is different." The proof of this is Isaiah 56:10-12: "It has only overseers or watchmen to govern it." But in Babylon it had not even these, nor is there a word about government. Besides, we have already seen the prophet himself in the scene he describes, only that this proof contradicts the theory, because in Babylon they had nobody to govern them but Nebuchadnezzar and his successors. Moreover, the reader may see that the prophet refers to quite a new dispensation, in which those excluded by the law, and the Gentiles, would be admitted into God's house. (Isa. 56:3-7.) His house is to be called a house of prayer for all people.

{*This, according to Gesenius, is no proof of genuine writings of Isaiah (indeed the word "burden" is not in the first treatise which in the main is owned to be Isaiah's): he says that many of the collection with "burden" are not genuine, and notably the first, which has the name of Isaiah attached to it, cannot possibly be his, but belongs to the Babylonish captivity. Gesenius says that the word "burden" is added by the collector of these prophecies, not Isaiah's. Such is the certainty of these critics: one tells us chapter 40-66, cannot be Isaiah's, because the word "burden" is not there; another, that the word "burden" is not Isaiah's at all.}

{*Parker's De Wette, second edition, chap. 2, p. 368, note.}

306 It is said, that the idolatry mentioned "chapter 57:3, seqq." may very properly be ascribed to the Babylonian Jews. In Isaiah 57:3 there is no idolatry mentioned at all; but this "seqq.," thus slightly passed over, has something rather awkward in it. In verse 5 it is said, "Enflaming yourselves under every green tree." It is hard to suppose that the hanging gardens made for Nebuchadnezzar's queen were the resort of the "Babylonian Jews." But, further, we have "slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks." I am afraid this was beyond even the royal imitation of Median mountains, and that this "seqq.," if we look beyond the four letters, is a very serious obstacle to this Babylonian "internal condition of the nation." But the writer slips off with an "especially" to Isaiah 65:3-11. But here other difficulties arise. Verses 1, 2 give the call of the Gentiles, which hardly suited Babylonish times. Not only so, but verses 6, 7 declare that the Lord is going to judge them and recompense them for their iniquity — a singular threat, if they were already Babylonish Jews. We are told that in Isaiah 66:1-3, "it is not supposed that there is an actual temple existing, where service is performed." "Where is the house that ye build me?" is the word. Not in Babylon, I suppose. But we have not our "seqq." here; which, however, I must beg leave to introduce, as having something to say to the point in hand. "A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple" — I suppose that implies "an actual temple existing." And yet we have the Lord coming to judgment and to plead with all flesh, yet rejecting the mass of the Jews, and only sparing a remnant; destroying these idolaters, Jew or Gentile, yet at a time when all flesh come up to worship Jehovah, and bring Israel as a clean vessel unto the house of the Lord; and the carcases of the transgressors are found in the neighbourhood, as a spectacle to them who come up.

307 Now what has all this to do with writing in captivity in Babylon, or even a return at that time from thence? Why do I cite these things? To shew that rationalist statements must never be credited without examining for oneself; to shew that they are most excessively "superficial," and their authors totally ignorant of the scope of scripture, and indeed of the contents of the books on which they pretend to comment.

"There are references to earlier prophecies." God challenges the idolatrous prophets to utter a prophecy which should shew their divine knowledge. He declares that He knows the end from the beginning — that His former words had taken effect. Well, I believe that; but how it proves that it was written when the Jews were in Babylon, or why Isaiah could not have said it, I am, I avow, unable to discover. The reader has only to examine the passages, to see that there is a general statement of the certainty of God's word, and the folly of idolaters. No particular prophecy is referred to, though there were such, and had been many in Israel's history. Not a word of Samuel's fell to the ground; and a multitude of others had appeared, noticed in the historical books, to say nothing of Joel, Amos, &c.; so that this reference to God's prophetic word does not prove much.

Lastly, "there are predictions of a splendid future uttered with as much distinctness as if it were present, and not in harmony with the state of things in Isaiah's time and the actual result." Well, "there are predictions of a splendid future." But how does that shew the Jews were in Babylon? "They are uttered with great distinctness." But why could not Isaiah, the son of Amoz, do that in Jotham's, Ahaz's, or Hezekiah's reign? But they are "not in harmony with the state of things in Isaiah's time."* What are not? The "predictions of a splendid future, uttered with as much distinctness as if it were present?" But I suppose they were "not in harmony with the state of things in Isaiah's time," or it would not have been "a splendid future" at all.

{*I dare say many of my readers will be utterly at a loss to understand the meaning of this argument. I must remind them that rationalist writers always assume what they have to prove; namely, that there cannot be prophecy. Then, in order to prove that this part of Isaiah was not written by him, they allege that the description of blessing does not suit the time of Hezekiah, when such could scarcely be expected. It is clear, if it is a prophecy of Israel's portion at the end of time, after Christ's rejection it is all one whether it is written in Hezekiah's time, or at some other moment. Having assumed that it is not, the rationalist seeks about to find some time when an impostor was likely to have spoken in this way, and to try to deceive the people with similar hopes — a notable employment for time and learning. and a convenient kind of logic, which assumes, without a blush, what the whole argument depends upon.}

308 You have now, reader, all the reasons alleged by the most learned rationalists — those Mr. N. particularly refers his readers to — for stating, without leaving room for a question, that the last twenty-seven chapters of what we believe to be the word of God by the mouth of the prophet are the production of a pseudo-Isaiah. As to the style, which does resemble in many peculiarities, and must be disposed of by supposing imitation, or in some other way, the following is the judgment of one who has examined it with the help of all the rationalist writers and the answers to them: "The argument has been completely taken out of the hands of those who regard the latter part of his [Isaiah's] prophecies as unauthentic."*

{*Davidson on Biblical Criticism.}

I turn to what Mr. N. says of the contents. We have more rationalist logic here, but which I shall notice without dwelling upon. "Still," says Mr. N., "I could not conceal from myself that no exactness in this prophecy, however singular, could avail to make out that Jesus was the Messiah of Hezekiah's prophets. There must be some explanation." (Phases, p. 196.) That was settled, at any rate: the only business was to find it. Let me suggest one here to Mr. N., which he need not have been very long looking for. He had told us in the page before, that it is a pseudo-Isaiah; so that he was not one of Hezekiah's prophets at all. How hard to remember one's own system, if it is only made up!

Mr. N. says that the prophet "introduces to us an eminent and 'chosen servant of God,' whom he invests with all the evangelical virtues, and declares that he is to be a light to the Gentiles. In Isaiah 44 (ver. 1: also ver. 21), he is named as 'Jacob my servant' … Isaiah 49:1-12 is eminently Messianic to the Christian ear, except that in verse 3 the speaker distinctly declares himself to be (not Messiah, but) Israel … It is essential to understand the same 'elect servant' all along." (Ib.) The word "servant" does give the running key to all this part of Isaiah. In Isaiah 42 the servant is described as one in whom God's soul delighted, on whom He would put His Spirit, and He should shew forth judgment to the Gentiles. It is the well-known passage universally applied to Christ, in which Israel is not mentioned; but some one on whom the Spirit should be to shew judgment to the Gentiles. In general, in this part of the prophecy, Israel is called God's "servant," though in this description Christ is introduced. From Isaiah 42:19, Israel, "the people robbed and spoiled," is repeatedly referred to as Jehovah's servant in contrast with the worshippers of idols; thus in this verse (19), then all through Isaiah 43 (see ver. 10, Isa. 44:1), "Israel my servant." All here is controversy with idols. Cyrus is introduced by name. (Isa. 45:1.) Jacob is God's servant. (Ver. 4.) Babylon is judged. (Isa. 46, Isa. 47.) Rebellious as Israel is, the Lord hath redeemed His servant Jacob. (Isa. 48.) This closes that part of the prophecy, with the word repeated at the end of Isaiah 57, "There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked." Jew or Gentile (for in this part of the prophecy the Spirit opens out into larger spiritual views, without departing from God's actual government in Israel), he must come under God's moral judgment.

309 Isaiah 49 introduces an entirely new ground of controversy with Israel — their refusing to listen to and receive the Christ. Hence chapter 49 drops the question of idolatry. It introduces Israel, in a formal way, as God's servant on the scene. "Then," if Israel is he in whom Jehovah is to be glorified, "I," says some one, "have laboured in vain." If Israel is the one, my labour is fruitless. That this "I" is not Israel, as Mr. N. would make it,* is beyond all controversy. It is easy to say, after speaking of the servant of Isaiah 42. "In Isaiah 44 he is named as 'Jacob my servant, and Israel whom I have chosen.'" (Phases, p. 196.) He is not named at all. It is easy to say, "The speaker distinctly declares himself to be (not Messiah, but) Israel, in verse 3." Yes, the speaker in verse 3 is Israel undoubtedly, and says so; but that is what makes the speaker in verse 4 say, that he has laboured in vain; and if my reader desires a proof that it is so, he has only to read verse 5 — "And now, saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength … Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth," etc. Is this speaker Israel? Is it "in vain to call rationalists superficial?" I find them astonishingly so; that is all I can say.

{*"The appellations recur in chapter 45:4, and in a far more striking passage, chapter 49:1-12, which is eminently Messianic to the Christian ear, except that in verse 3, the speaker distinctly declares himself to be (not Messianic, but) Israel. (Phases, p. 196.)}

310 We have, then, clearly some one substituted in the place of Israel as the servant of God in testimony, and the rejection of Him (for He was Jehovah, though He had got the tongue of the learned to speak a word in season to him that was weary, and hid not His face from shame and spitting), assigned as the reason for Jehovah's divorcing Israel. This is the subject of Isaiah 1. The full result in final blessing for Zion and Israel is pursued to Isaiah 52:12 (the remnant who listen to the servant, at the end of the age, being marked out in the midst of the sorrow in Isaiah 1:10). In Isaiah 52:13 the servant is introduced again; and it is shewn that He whose visage had been marred more than any man's shall in that day be acknowledged by Israel with profound and touching repentance, which referred itself to Him and to His rejection. He had, indeed, in His rejection, borne their iniquities. Then some truths in general terms are introduced, to allow of the bringing in of the Gentiles; and Israel, as a whole, is judged for its moral state at the end — as, indeed, in the prophet's day. This is the general character of the prophet's reasoning to the end of chapter 57. In a word, Gentiles can come in; all will be judged by their works.

Isaiah 57 addresses itself specially to Israel, and goes on, after denouncing their sin, to their final glory, to the end of Isaiah 60. In Isaiah 61 Christ appears as coming in His grace, as when on earth; but His character is pursued until He executes judgment, Isaiah 63:6. From Isaiah 63:7 to the end of Isaiah 64 is a touching pleading of the prophet with God for the people of His holiness. In Isaiah 65 we have the answer of the Lord, unfolding the letting in of the Gentiles, His patience with the Jews, their return to idolatry and extreme wickedness in the latter days, the sparing of the remnant, the rejection of the temple they would build, and their sacrifices, but the taking possession of it by the Lord in judgment, the full blessing of Jerusalem, the judgment of all flesh, and the bringing in of the whole dispersion of Israel to worship, all flesh coming up, but recognizing the judgment. In this we find the servants definitely distinguished — the remnant who hear and obey, and are faithful amid unfaithfulness (Isa. 65:8-9, 13, 15); who are then manifested as the elect people in joy, prolonging their days under the government of Him who will then no more allow evil to abide on the earth. If any one be surprised that the Jews should turn to idolatry again, I reply, The Lord declared that the unclean spirit, which went out and had left the house empty, swept, and garnished, would return with seven others worse, and the last end be worse than the first. Daniel 11 teaches, I doubt not, the same truth.

311 Thus we have, first, Christ set forth as the true servant of Jehovah; then, in the order of God's dealings, Israel is found to be so. Christ takes their place, they refusing to hearken; He is rejected; and then, redemption being accomplished, and Gentiles let in, the remnant of Israel in the latter day enter into the position of servants.

Mr. N. borrows the views by which infidel Jews seek to meet Christians; but the examination of the chapters leaves no ground for the argument to stand upon. "He was wounded for our transgressions," meaning "we were wounded for our own," may suit a Jew or a rationalist, but I know not whom else. Still Mr. N. is forced to admit, "It still remained strange that in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, 69 there should be coincidences so close with the sufferings of Jesus;" for, after all, whenever it was, they were written centuries before that great event. No doubt. "But I reflected, that I had no proof that the narrative had not been strained by credulity, to bring it into artificial agreement with these imagined predictions of his death." (Phases, p. 197.) Had he any proof that it had? Not a trace of one. We have Mr. N.'s own answer to this question in the preceding page: "There must be some explanation."*

{*The italics are Mr. N.'s own.}

Quod volumus facile credimus. "And herewith," says Mr. N., "my last argument in favour of views for which I once would have laid down my life, seemed to be spent." Accordingly, he turns to arguments against these views. He continues: "Nor only so; but I now reflected that the falsity of prophecy in Daniel 7 (where the coming of a Son of man to sit in universal judgment follows immediately upon the break up of the Syrian monarchy), to say nothing of the general proof of the spuriousness of the whole book of Daniel, ought long ago to have been seen by me as of more cardinal importance. For if we believe anything at all about the discourses of Christ, we cannot doubt that He selected 'Son of man' as His favourite title, which is a direct annunciation to us that He based all His pretensions on Daniel 7 from which that title is adopted. On the whole, then, it was no longer defect of proof which presented itself; but positive disproof of the primitive and fundamental claim." (Ib. pp. 197, 198.) This is a startling leap indeed; but I confess I am at a loss here to know the ἀφορμὴν, the starting point of this amazing result.

312 In vain I look for some proof here. "Our logic" does not condescend to give a hint here of any proof of what is asserted as to Daniel 7, that the fourth beast is the Syrian monarchy. I turned to De Wette: "Chapter 7," he tells me, "in Chaldee contains Daniel's vision of the four beasts, which signify so many kingdoms. They are the same as in Daniel 2; but their meaning is contested." Then the note tells us "the first is Babylonian. Secondly, doubtless the bear means the Medo-Persian kingdom, though some think only the Median; in which case the three ribs are only emblems of frailty(?). Then some think the third Alexander and his successors; some, only Alexander. By the fourth beast some understand the Roman empire [a good many, no doubt]; some Alexander's successors; some, Alexander and his successors." In conclusion, we are told, since the last explanation is necessary in Daniel 7:7, therefore those which harmonize with it are the true ones (that is, the third beast is Persia). "Necessary" it is, no doubt, to the system — there must be "some explanation." Because, as there cannot be prophecy (for a Jewish prophet cannot, even like an oracle, hazard a mistake), therefore the last event spoken of must be in the time Daniel lived (that is, as he certainly speaks of Antiochus Epiphanes, in the days of that king). But then, if we examine the passage (which, indeed, for a theory which has settled all by begging the question, is not "necessary"), there seems to be no sort of applicability of the fourth beast to the Syrian monarchy. Four wings on a Grecian beast every one would understand. The division of the Grecian empire into four is given by Daniel himself in Daniel 8. What had they to do with Persia? Then, how does chapter 7:7 go on? It describes a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it, and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. What has this really. to do with the Grecian empire, Alexander and his successors? What are the ten horns? "Four" is intelligible; but who are the ten? But with Mr. N. it is the break up of the Syrian monarchy; but there is no break up here at all-quite the contrary. The other beasts broke up; their dominion was taken away, but their lives prolonged; but this was slain, destroyed, and given to the burning flame. And this, mark, is the judgment. There is no "break up," and then the judgment. The Son of man, then, takes not the judgment, but the kingdom. The ten kings were ten kings that shall arise. So that they were future in Daniel's time, which in the rationalists' theory they were not. And who were the ten up to Antiochus Epiphanes? There had not been even ten kings of Syria. In a word, the moment the passage is looked at, there is not the smallest possible ground for Mr. N.'s assertion.

313 The examination of the explanation in the latter half of the chapter makes it still more absurd; for the fourth beast entirely occupies the scene. To make Alexander's successors a fourth kingdom, Alexander being the third, and to leave out Egypt, Thrace, and Macedon, is itself an absurd idea for one who is supposed to have the history before him. Again, in what were Alexander's successors more destructive, more powerful, more all-subduing than Alexander? Did the Syrian monarchs stamp with their feet more than the mighty conqueror of the East? Who is the little horn who subdued three others? If it be Antiochus Epiphanes, how did he do that? If not, what are the three and a half times? But the fact is, there is no breaking up of a monarchy.


I have already answered the rest of Mr. N.'s chapter. His supposition, as to Newton's system of physical truth not being alleged as a proof of his going up to heaven one night, is too absurd to refute; because the ascension of Christ is the proof and basis of all that morally affected man in His religion. It was the accomplishment and proof of the glory of His person as Mediator, on which the whole religion was founded. If that is not true, none is; it is all an imposture. This is not the case in what Mr. N. supposes. There is no analogy whatever. "Our logic" is no great thing here either. Besides, a heavenly priest, a man always in heaven, gives its character to the whole moral system. The person of the Lord Jesus Christ claims the adoring recognition of the soul; it is entitled to it as divine — as human by His work of love. This is neither history nor a proposition. Owning Him for what He is, is the first of all affections, the highest of all moral claims. Thus God Himself is known; to this He claims subjection. One thing is clear from Mr. N.'s statements as to himself — that he never knew the gospel. Indeed, he says, "Undoubtedly, I cannot prove that I ever felt as they now feel." (Phases, p. 201.)


He adds, "My first business must be to save my soul from future punishment."* That this may awaken the soul is quite true; but our first business is to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Once known, we bless God for present enjoyment, and for present sorrow; for we know He loves and has saved us, and we rejoice in hope of His glory. But Mr. N. knew nothing of this love to Jesus. Hence the doctrine of the coming of the Lord only "awoke now and then, to reproach and harass me for my unfaithfulness to it." (Phases, p. 204.) What a wretched state! instead of looking for that Bright and Morning Star, the loved object of one's soul, and saying "Even so; come, Lord Jesus," while sure, if He tarries, it is His love, His long-suffering, not willing any should perish; so that we heartily acquiesce in the delay which His love counts as long as does ours. It is the word of His patience we keep.

{*"Secondly, Its theory was one of selfishness. That is, it inculcated that my first business must be to save my soul from future punishment, and to attain future happiness." (Phases, p. 203.)}

Mr. N. trusts much his moral powers; but he mistakes astonishingly when he talks of "conscience being benumbed by disuse," because scripture is used.* Does a holy rule benumb conscience? It awakens it from its torpor, and, "sharper than any two-edged sword," it brings it into the presence of God. That is not the way to "benumb the conscience, by disuse" — it is its only quickener.

{*"The Protestantism which forbids us to trust our moral faculties, and pities those as 'without chart and compass' who acknowledge no infallible written code, can mean nothing else, than that 'the less occasion we have to trust our moral powers, the better; that is, it represents it as of all things most desirable, to be able to benumb conscience by disuse, under the guidance of a mind from without." (Phases, p. 207.) Did the doctrine which "awoke only now and then, to reproach and harass me for my unfaithfulness," benumb his conscience?}