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CORRESPONDENCE.

Communications have been received from Messrs. Manning, W. Evans, and John Johuston, and from M., and Aliquis.

We admire Grapho's zeal, but he seems to overlook the virtues of candour and prudence. There is "a time for all things," and surely nothing would be more injurious to the cause of Unitarianism than to take advantage of a public meeting convened on the principle of agreeing to differ, to obtrude that system upon the unwilling ears of Trinitarians. Not a little appears to us to be gained on behalf of truth, when the discourses of Unitarian ministers on the common salvation, are heard by a mixed audience with approbation.

ERRATUM.

P. 382, col. 2, note †, for Ed. 6th, &c. read "Ed. Sixti V. P. M. &c."

THE

Monthly Repository.

No. CCXIII.]

SEPTEMBER, 1823.

IN

Mr. S. Freeman on the Prophecies of Isaiah, ch. vii. Enfield, SIR, June, 1823. N the year 1788, at which time I was settled with a congregation of Protestant Dissenters at Honiton, in Devonshire, as their minister, a discourse by the late Dr. Blayney, the learned translator of Jeremiah, on the sign given to Ahaz, Isaiah vii. 14-16, fell into my hands. I was just about that time, or had just before been, engaged in drawing up for my own use a chronology of the Old Testament history, so far as that alone would carry me. In the prosecution of this design I had been minutely comparing many passages of the prophets with others in the direct historical books. My mind being then full of the subject, I was dissatisfied with several things which were advanced in the Doctor's discourse, and penned for my own satisfaction the following piece, containing observations on those parts of the Doctor's sermon to which I felt objections. I was, as will be seen, not pleased with the double sense of prophecy, and in relation to that had prefixed to my essay a quotation from Cicero, "Veritatis cultores, fraudis inimici;" thinking that the double sense savoured too much of the ambiguity of the old heathen oracles, and tended but too plainly to sink the dignity of the former to a level with the baseness and duplicity of the latter. If a performance that has lain by me unnoticed for 35 years is worthy of your attention, and suitable to the purposes of your instructive miscellany, it is at your service.

STEPHEN FREEMAN.

On the Prophecies of Isaiah, ch. vii. Previous to the immediate consideration of the prophecy itself, and as introductory to it, it may not be useless to take notice of the state of public affairs at this time, and to give a brief historical detail of the events then taking place in Judah and Israel. These had now subsisted as separate kingdoms above two hundred years.

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Of the latter, Pekah, son of Remaliah, was now king; and, in the 17th year of his reign, Ahaz, son of Jotham, succeeded his father as king of Judah. This latter had for some time past been governed by kings who, in the main, did that which was right in the sight of the Lord; but who, nevertheless, did not exert themselves to destroy the high places on which the people used, contrary to their law, (as being nearer in their apprehension to heaven, the habitation of their divinities,) to offer sacrifice and burn incense to the hosts of heaven. It may be reasonably supposed that, on this account, towards the close of the reign of Jotham, (see 2 Kings xv. 37,) the Lord began to send against Judah, Rezin, the king of Syria, and Pekah, Remaliah's son, king of Israel. Such was the situation of affairs when Ahaz came to the throne of Judah.

Not alarmed at this appearance of things, nor incited by it to turn unto the Lord and serve him wholly, he did worse than his fathers; he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made molten images for Baalim (2 Chron. xxviii. 2-4). Then Rezin and Pekah having made all necessary preparations, came up to Jerusalem to make war against it. They besieged it, and routed the army of Ahaz more than once; but they could not overcome him so as to bring him into subjection, or render him tributary to them (2 Kings xvi. 5, 6, &c. 2 Chron. xxviii. 5-15, and Isaiah vii. 1). That Judah might be brought very low, because of Ahaz the king, who transgressed sore against the Lord, other enemies were brought up against this people; the Edomites and Philistines invaded the country, and carried away captives (2 Chron. xxviii. 16—19). In the midst of his distress, instead of turning to the God of his fathers and seeking succour from him, Ahaz sent unto the king of Assyria to help him. And to induce Tiglath-pileser to come to his assistance, he humbly calls himself his servant and son, and sends

him a magnificent present of the silver and gold which he found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king's house (2 Kings xvi. 7, 8). God is always gracious, patient and long-suffering. He is willing, before Ahaz absolutely and entirely casts him off, by trusting in princes instead of Jehovah, in an arm of flesh instead of the Most High, to try him, by clearly manifesting mercy and love in the midst of deserved judgment. Hence, when Ahaz is alarmed at the tidings that Syria and Israel are confederate against him, God sends the prophet Isaiah to give him comfort, and console him with the assurance, that though Syria and Israel had taken counsel against him, yet it should not stand, neither should it come to pass (Isa. vii. 2, 3, 5, 7-9). "The head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; the head of Ephraim (or Israel) is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son (Pekah). Within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people." Such are the tidings of comfort which Isaiah the prophet brought from the Lord to Ahaz the king-tidings which, had he believed in God, would have allayed his fears and filled his heart with confidence and joy.

tation of the prophecy, and as to the meaning of what the prophet had declared. The variety of opinion and difference of interpretation arise from what follows from the 10th to the 16th verse inclusive. But the chief difficulty lies in the 14th, 15th and 16th verses. There is a general agreement with respect to the explanation of the others, except so far as that interpretation may be affected by the meaning given to the three verses just mentioned.

To this it is added, "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established"-an intimation this to Ahaz, that though such as is mentioned in the 16th verse would be the fate of Samaria and Pekah and Rezin, yet he must not thence indulge a confidence, and rejoice in the expectation that he and his posterity would therefore be secure in possession of the crown and kingdom of Judah. For though he would be saved from the hands of his present enemies, yet unless he believed in the Lord, and turned his heart towards him, neither should he be established: his security and confidence would be then of only, short duration. In a little time the Lord would bring against him other enemies who should woefully harass him, and who shall finally bring him into subjection, reduce his kingdom under their dominion, efface all its glory, and carry away the whole strength of the nation captives into a far country.

Thus far Jews and Christians are all generally agreed in their interpre

"Moreover the Lord spake again unto Ahaz,” or as it is in the margin, and literally translated from the Hebrew, And the Lord added to speak unto Ahaz; he, at that time, after having mentioned what occurs in the preceding verses, continued to speak unto Ahaz, saying, as it there follows; or, if it was at another time, it was nevertheless relating to the same things on which he had already spoken to him, or to such as were in some way immediately connected with them

"Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God," which it was then usual for men to ask and for God to grant, in confirmation of what had been declared by the mouth of the prophet; "ask it either in the depth or in the height above," you are at liberty to choose the sign from any thing on earth, or any thing in heaven, according to what you may deem most convincing and satisfactory to your own mind.

"But Ahaz said, I will not ask for a sign, neither will I tempt the Lord." Not that he hearkened and readily bélieved, without any such sign, what God had declared, and, therefore, did not need one for the confirmation of his faith, did he refuse to choose a sign; but because he was an idolater, walking in the ways of the kings of Israel, and his heart being alienated from Jehovah he hardened himself in his iniquity, and refused to turn to the Lord, and give ear to his words by the mouth of the prophet.

"And he," the Lord, or rather the prophet by the command of the Lord, (for it is said, "my God,") said, "Hear ye now, O house of David," of which family was Ahaz, hearken thou descendant of David unto my words. "Is it a small thing for you to weary men," by despising what they say, and ill treating them for speaking the truth; "but will you

weary my God also," who has now
spoken unto you by my mouth, and
whose words you will not hear, but
contemn?" Therefore the Lord him-
self shall give you a sign" though
you are so perverse and obstinate in
your rebellion against God that you
will not believe what he says, nor de-
sire a sign, when he calls on you to
do so,
for the confirmation of your
faith; yet so gracious and patient is
he towards you, that he will himself
nevertheless give you a sign, perad-
venture when you see the fulfilment
of one declaration, you may be induced
to believe the other also, and thus
shall you save yourself and all your
house. "Behold, a virgin shall con-
ceive, and bear a son, and shall call
his name Immanuel. Butter and
honey shall he eat, when he shall
know to refuse the evil, and shall
choose the good. For before this child
shall know to refuse the evil, and to
choose the good, the land that thou
abhorrest shall be forsaken of both
her kings. But the Lord shall bring
upon thee, and upon thy people," &c.
days that have not come," &c.
Before I proceed to state what ap-
pears to me the natural and most con-
sistent interpretation of this prophecy,
it may not be amiss to notice some
other methods which the learned have
adopted in explaining it, and to men-
tion the objections which appear to lie
against them.

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It is a commonly received opinion that this prophecy relates to the birth of our Saviour, and this opinion seems o have been much favoured, if it did not even originate in the application made of this prophecy to the birth of our Saviour, in the beginning of the Evangelist Matthew. Hence it has met with many and strenuous supporters, who in various ways have defended their cause.

1. It is supposed by Dr. Kennicott that the 14th and 15th verses contain a prophecy concerning our Saviour, and that the child spoken of in the 16th verse is Shear-jashub, the son of the prophet, who went with his father by the command of the Lord to meet Ahaz; see ver. 3. On what Dr. Kennicott founded this opinion I know not, not having had an opportunity of reading his sermon on this passage. But, as Dr. Blayney observes, it seems more natural to conclude from the

connexion of the discourse, particularly from the striking expression of knowing "to refuse the evil and choose the good," that the same child is here spoken of that was before introduced to our notice. See his Sermon, p. 5, note.

1

1. If it be asked, in defence of Dr. K.'s supposition, for what reason should Isaiah's son go with him, since without that supposition his presence seems to have been quite unnecessary, it may be replied, that for aught that appears to the contrary, the prophet's son knew already to refuse the evil and to choose the good; and then the sign could not apply to him or he be the sign referred to in the prophecy. And that he was already sufficiently old for this, there is at least as much reason to suppose as the contrary. It is not said that the prophet should take or carry this child with him. But he and his son are commanded to go forth to meet Ahaz. And then, if we suppose him of such an age as to accompany his father, he might go with hin, because he was training up to speak in the name of the Lord.

2. According to Dr. K.'s supposition again, the sign promised to Ahaz could not refer to the birth of the child, spoken of in verses 14, 15; but to the event mentioned in the 16th verse, that before Shearjashub should know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land of Syria and of Israel which Ahaz abhorred, should be left desolate of both their kings. The question will then return respecting the 14th and 15th verses, What was the design of introducing the prediction of such an event at this time? The only plausible reason which occurs is this: the Deity would hereby intend to place the certainty of the event predicted to Ahaz, on the same evidence or ground of belief with all the predictions and promises given to the children of Israel as a peculiar and favoured people, and especially with those which referred to the Messiah repeatedly promised throughout the history of this people. Thus he would direct the attention of Ahaz to those various prophecies and promises which he had given in favour of that people, and in relation to those events leading on to that most important one of all, the coming of the Messiah, which

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