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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1851,
BY JOSEPH ADDISON ALEXANDER,
R. Craighead, Printer and Stereotyper,
112 Fulton Street.
The last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah (xl-lxvi) form a distinct and continuous discourse, connected with the former part, and at the same time separated from it by four chapters (xxxvi—xxxix) almost entirely historical. These later Prophecies of Isaiah have a character so marked and so peculiar as to call for some additional preliminary views in the shape of a separate and special introduction.
One of the most important functions of the prophetic office was the exposition of the Law, that is to say, of the Mosaic institutions, the peculiar form in which the Church was organized until the advent of Messiah. This inspired exposition was of absolute necessity, in order to prevent or to correct mistakes which were constantly arising, not only from the blindness and perverseness of the people, but from the very nature of the system under which they lived. That system, being temporary and symbolical, was necessarily material, ceremonial, and restrictive in its forms; as nothing purely spiritual could be symbolical or typical of other spiritual things, nor could a catholic or free constitution have secured the necessary segregation of the people from all others for a temporary purpose.
The evils incident to such a state of things were the same that have occurred in many other like cases, and may all be derived from the superior influence of sensible objects on the mass of men, and from the consequent propensity to lose sight of the end in the use of the means, and to confound the sign
with the thing signified. The precise form and degree of this perversion no doubt varied with the change of times and circumstances, and a corresponding difference must have existed in the action of the Prophets who were called to exert a corrective influence on these abuses.
In the days of Hezekiah, the national corruption had already passed through several phases, each of which might still be traced in its effects, and none of which had wholly vanished. Sometimes the prevailing tendency had been to make the ceremonial form of the Mosaic worship, and its consequent coincidence in certain points with the religions of surrounding nations, an occasion or a pretext for adopting heathen rites and usages, at first as a mere extension and enlargement of the ritual itself, then more boldly as an arbitrary mixture of heterogeneous elements, and lastly as an open and entire substitution of the false for the true, and of Baal, Ashtoreth, or Moloch, for Jehovah.
At other times the same corruption had assumed a less revolting form and been contented with perverting the Mosaic institutions while externally and zealously adhering to them. The two points from which this insidious process of perversion set out were the nature and design of the ceremonial law, and the relation of the chosen people to the rest of men. As to the first, it soon became a current and at last a fixed opinion with the mass of irreligious Jews, that the ritual acts of the Mosaic service had an intrinsic efficacy, or a kind of magical effect upon the moral and spiritual state of the worshipper. Against this error the Law itself had partially provided by occasional violations and suspensions of its own most rigorous demands, plainly implying that the rites were not intrinsically efficacious, but significant of something else. As a single instance of this general fact it may be mentioned, that although the sacrifice of life is everywhere throughout the ceremonial law presented as the symbol of atonement, yet in certain cases, where the circumstances of the offerer forbade an animal oblation, he was suffered to present one of a vegetable nature, even where the service was directly and exclusively expiatory; a substitution wholly inconsistent with the doctrine of an intrinsic virtue or a magical effect, but perfectly in harmony with that of a symbolical and typical design, in which the uniformity of the external symbol, although rigidly maintained in general, might be dispensed with in a rare and special case without absurdity or inconvenience.
It might easily be shown that the same corrective was provided by the Law itself in its occasional departure from its own requisitions as to time and place and the officiating person ; so that no analogy whatever really exists between the Levitical economy, even as expounded by itself, and the ritual systems which in later times have been so confidently built upon it. But the single instance which has been already cited will suffice to illustrate the extent of the perversion which at an early period had taken root among the Jews, as to the real nature and design of their ceremonial services. The natural effect of such an error on the spirit and the morals is too obvious in itself, and too explicitly recorded in the sacred history, to require either proof or illustration.
On the other great point, the relation of the Jews to the surrounding nations, their opinions seem to have become at an early period equally erroneous. In this as in the other case, they went wrong by a superficial judgment founded on appearances, by looking simply at the means before them, and neither forwards to their end, nor backwards to their origin. From the indisputable facts of Israel's divine election as the people of Jehovah, his extraordinary preservation as such, and his undisturbed exclusive possession of the written word and the accompanying rites, they had drawn the natural but false conclusion, that this national pre-eminence was founded on intrinsic causes, or at least on some original and perpetual distinction in their favour. This led them to repudiate or forget the fundamental truth of their whole history, to wit, that they were set apart and kept apart, not for the ruin and disgrace, but for the ultimate benefit and honour of the whole world, or rather of the whole church which was to be gathered from all nations, and of which the ancient Israel was designed to be the symbol and the representative. As it had pleased God to elect a certain portion of mankind to everlasting life through Christ, so it pleased him that until Christ came, this body of elect ones, scattered through all lands and ages, should be represented by a single nation, and that this representative body should be the sole depository of divine truth and a divinely instituted worship; while the ultimate design of this arrangement was kept constantly in view by the free access which in all ages was afforded to the gentiles who consented to embrace the true religion.
It is difficult indeed to understand how the Jews could reconcile the immemorial reception of proselytes from other nations, with the dogma of national superiority and exclusive hereditary right to the divine favour. The only solution of this singular phenomenon is furnished by continual recurrence to the great representative principle on which the Jewish church was organized, and which was carried out not only in the separatior of the body as a whole from other men, but in the internal constitution of the body itself, and more especially in the separation of a whole tribe from the rest of Israel, and of a single family in that tribe from the other Levites, and of a single person in that family, in whom was finally concentrated the whole representation of the Body on the one hand, while on the other he was a constituted type of the Head.
ews could have been made to understand or to remenwer that their national pre-eminence was representative, not original ; symbolical, not real; provisional, not perpetual; it could never have betrayed them into hatred or contempt of oth
ions, but would rather have cherished an enlarged and cat2 wpirit, as it did in the most enlightened, an effect