One or two general remarks may be in place here.
The rationalists, having not the least idea of God’s thoughts and plan in scripture, never of course can weigh the bearing of its parts in reference to it. Hence their comments are the most childish things imaginable.
Their system—“our logic”—is this: They first settle that there can be no prophecy nor miracle. Consequently, when certain facts are prophetically stated, it is an evident and necessarily conclusive proof that the book containing them was written after the event referred to. Then they discuss all the possible events alluded to, and each has his notion, so that you are in a sea of conjectures. Divers documents are discovered; good Hebrew and bad Hebrew—at any rate contradictory Hebrew is set in movement to settle the dates; and Jewish malice against the Gentiles, and every other notion imaginable, is referred to, to explain what Hezekiah’s or somebody else’s prophets mean. The false prophets were as good as their neighbours; only, not supporting the Levitical priesthood, they went to the wall. In my judgment, it is impossible to conceive anything more puerile.
But there is one thing in “modern logic” that I confess is a riddle to me, i.e., why such amazing time and labour is spent— why year after year some new Einleitung appears, so that a man must have a good constitution to “keep up” with the ephemeral systems which teem from German imagination, and a memory (hopeless in attainment for most) to keep in all he gets through— why, I say, all this labour should be spent upon a book, of which the contents are but the lucubrations of a very ignorant age, a very prejudiced people, and upon productions which are the grossest impostures, pretending to be prophecies, but written après coup.
Think of persons writing long introductions to the Sibyl oracles, which they believe to be a fabrication, or even on the Koran, which is only an imposture!
Mohammedans, no doubt, discuss this; but at least they believe it. Targums and Talmuds expound or add to the law, add to the prophets; but their authors own what they comment on to be divine. It was reserved for rationalists to exercise their laborious ingenuity, one after another, in expounding and discussing the merits, dates, circumstances of publication, character, object, intentions, style, and import of what they believe to be a priestly and prejudiced imposture.
How mighty is the word of God! It not only flows deep, clear, fructifying, gladdening, saving, for him who drinks its exhaustless waters, but extorts the inevitable homage of those who deny it.
If I must go to Germany, I would say we had thought that our Rhein Ström was ours; but if its Wegthal serves as a barrier only between us and our enemies, our stream shall excite their wonder and admiration; and they will seek to profit for themselves and their glory of what they would deprive us of. Though dwelling on the other side of the barrier, they must still speak the language of this. If the wickedness of Ashdod is come in, they half speak the Jews’ language.
But another difficulty presents itself here to our reception of Mr. N.’s and the rationalists’ view of the origin, character, and authorship of the prophecies of scripture. The prophets delivered their prophecies to the people. They were published prophecies. “Hezekiah’s prophets prophesied publicly in Hezekiah’s time.” Is it not a singular thing that they should have been able to impose histories as prophecies on those who heard them? They must have written them afterwards, we are told; because, after all, they do not speak of certain events. But then how could they appear to be prophets to persons who knew the history, and who must have been glad enough to have shewn that they were not prophecies, on account of the way in which these prophets denounced their conduct? Either the events are not so spoken of as to prove they wrote after them, or it is for rationalist credulity alone to suppose that they could present them at the time as prophecies of the future.