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depth or the heights above," declines to ask one. The prophet then declares that the Lord himself will give him a sign. The ruin which Ahaz was surely to bring on himself, his family, and his country, by his sinful alliance with Assyria, was to be the sign that God would, notwithstanding all the efforts of His enemies, keep His covenant with David, and make his seed endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven (see Ps. lxxxix. 28). Lasting suffering and national humiliation should Ahaz witness as the consequence of his want of faith in God. The chastisement, which was to commence with him, should endure until the seed of promise was born to the Church of God to inherit David's throne, who was himself to be cradled and reared in poverty, sharing the results of the sin of his forefathers.
The prophet, in his prediction of the terrible punishment impending over Israel, specified only the Assyrian oppression; because, firstly, the alliance with that empire was the opening of the floodgates of the hostile inroads which led on successively to the Babylonian, the Persian, the Grecian, and finally to the Roman subjection of the nation ; and secondly, because it was the only one of those catastrophes whichoas yet showed itself on the prophetic horizon. To use the language of Bishop Perowne (Psalms, vol. ii., p. 299), “ Prophecy never seems to forsake the ground of history. However extended the vista which stretches before him, that vista begins at the prophet's feet.” It was not until the embassy of Merodach-Baladan that Isaiah learned that Babylon was to be the instrument to carry out God's judgments on his nation. From that time Babylon figured in his predictions and in those of Micah.
As to Isaiah's prediction, " The virgin shall conceive and bear a son," we are guided to the true meaning of it by the comparison of Rev. xii. 1-6, “A great sign was seen in heaven; a woman arrayed with the sun, and the inoon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child. and she was delivered of a son, a man-child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” Archdeacon Lee's note on this in the Speaker's Commentary is, “We have here an ideal picture of the Church of God, the true Israel, the Bride, the spiritual mother of Jesus Christ." As the symbolical language of the Apocalypse is derived from the prophetic style of the Hebrew Scriptures, we might at once infer from this that the Virgin in Isaiah's prediction designates the Church. Besides this, the imagery of this passage of the Apocalypse is in verbal agreement with that of Micah iv. 8—v. 4. “Be in pain and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion; for now thou shalt go forth out of the city and shalt dwell in the field, and shalt come even unto Babylon ; there shalt thou be rescued. .. But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, • . out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will be give them up until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth. ... And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord.” Other points of similarity can be traced between the passage in the Apocalypse and Isa. lvi. 7, 8. We are therefore
justified in taking Isaiah's words, “ The virgin shall conceive and bear a son,” as an announcement that the Lord would certainly accomplish His promise, and that from the womb of the Church should be born One who should be called the Son of the Highest, to whom should be given the throne of His father David.
What is added of the child thus to be brought forth corresponds with Micah's prediction, v. 3, that “the Lord would give up Israel until the time. that she which travaileth hath brought forth.” For Immanuel was to be born in the midst of His nation's sufferings, and was to share in the low condition to which David's house was to be reduced. Butter, or curds, and honey, the spontaneous productions of a devastated country, were to be His. food, even to the time when He should know to refuse the evil and to choose the good, i.e., until He had arrived at matured manhood—for, as observed by Mr. Birks, the full strength of moral convictions is the characteristic, not of infancy or youth, but of developed manhood. Before the child reached the age to present Himself to Israel, “the land whose two kings Ahaz abhors . shall be forsaken.” Then comes the sign which is to show that the sin of Ahaz had found him out. On Ahaz, his people, and his father's house, should come suffering never experienced since Ephraim revolted from Judah; invading hordes from Assyria and Egypt should waste the land, so that agriculture should be suspended and the few remaining inhabitants would revert to a nomad and pastoral life. The chapter and the present prophecy close with a symbolical description of the state to which the land of Judah would be reduced by foreign oppression : its inhabitants without security for person or property, destitute of the comforts of civilization and of peaceful industry, dragging on a precarious existence by means of the natural productions of the country, thickened milk and honey Though the prophet's language represents this state of ruin as brought about by the Assyrian supremacy, it is to be understood, as Delitzsch remarks in connection with the fact, that the four Empires, from the Babylonian to the Roman, were
thing more than the full development of the commencement made in Assyria. When Isaiah spake of the Son of the Virgin as growing up in the midst of the Assyrian oppressions, this was so far true that Jesus was really born at a time when the holy land, deprived of its former prosperity, was under the dominion of Imperial Rome, and in a condition whose primary cause was to be traced to the unbelief of Ahaz.
The prediction of the birth of Immanuel was couched in that enigmatical style which seems to be generally necessary to sacred prophecy. Its meaning was hidden from the Jews themselves who never applied it to the Messiah, even though it is evident that they believed that His birth was not to be in the way of ordinary men. That they understood the word 'almah to signify a virgin is rendered certain by the Septuagint version. This symbolic term thus used to denote the Church which was to give birth to the Messiah may have been chosen in order that, when the miraculous conception of the Virgin Mary should be made known to the world, the fact should arouse the conviction of the identity of Jesus with the Immanuel announced by Isaiah. The word 'almah may have been employed in preference to bethulah in order to intimate the depressed condition of Israel, the Church of God, when the Saviour should appear. For in almost all the passages in which the former word is found, it denotes a young maiden in a low and even servile condition. The virgins without number in Cant. vi. 8 seem to be the attendants of the queens and concubines from whom they are distinguished. In Gen. xxiv. 43, Rebekah was employed in menial work; so also was Miriam, in Exod. ii. 8.
THE RITSCHLIAN THEOLOGY.
By Rev. PROF. J. ORR, D.D., EDINBURGH. One of the most noteworthy facts in recent German theology is the rapid rise and widely extended influence of the school which takes its origin from Albrecht Ritschl. Not so long since Ritschl's was a name comparatively unknown in this country. Those who did know him knew him best through his valuable monograph on The Origin of the Old Catholic Church, in the second edition of which, in 1857, he read his recantation from the Tübingen theory of early Church history. His great work, The Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation, appeared first in the years 1870-74, yet already his theology divides Germany into contending camps, and his disciples hold the chairs of leading universities. Scholars on this side the Channel are becoming aware that a new power has arisen abroad, and every year an increasing number of students find their way from our shores to sit at the feet of some of the representatives of the fresh teaching. A phenomenon like this needs some explanation. For an effect of this magnitude there must be some adequate cause. It is worth our while to inquire what it is.
There can be no mistake as to the depth and intensity of this youngest religious movement. Ritschl himself died in 1889, but he has left behind him a band of able and enthusiastic followers, who carry on his work with a zeal and determination which show no sign of abatement. Probably no impulse of quite the same intensity has been given to theology since the days of Schleiermacher. The Ritschlian movement resembles that of Schleiermacher in this respect also, that the term “school” hardly describes the exact character of the relation of master and disciples. Ritschl's followers are affiliated to him by certain fundamental aims and tendencies, but already their theological standpoints and modes of apprehending Christian truth show wide divergencies. The chief part of Ritschl's influence lay, as can easily be perceived, in his large and impressive personality. He communicated impulse along fresh lines, and his disciples are working out his thoughts, each in accordance with his own individuality. None the less on this account is there any want of positiveness in the tone in which their various conclusions are given out. The representatives of the rising party boldly proclaim that they are in possession of a new and revolutionary method, which yet they hold to be the legitimate working out of the principle of the reformation, and they have already taken great strides in applying their method to all the principal spheres of theology. Hermann in Marburg, and Kaftan,' the successor of Dorner in Berlin, represent the party in scientific theology. Harnack is its Church historian; Schultz carries its spirit into Old Testament theology; Wendt into New Testament theology, &c. Other able members of the party are Gottschick, Reischle, Bornemann, Sell, several of whom are associated in the conduct of the new magazine, Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche, which exists to propagate their distinctive views. All this speaks to activity and enterprise, and the shoals of books and pamphlets which issue from the press on one side or other of the controversies evoked constitute an exceedingly lively chapter in theological polemics.
It would be easy to give a sketch of Ritschl's own positions in systematic form, adding some remarks on those of his followers, but this is not precisely what I wish to do. I wish rather to raise the question, What is the secret of the influence of this school? From nothing, nothing comes, and unless there were something both true and important in this Ritschlian theology, something that meets a real want and interest of the times, it could not take the hold it does. Simply to assail it, to point out its weaknesses, its inconsistencies, its defects, is not enough. It is not its inconsistencies and defects—and these are patent enough—which have given it its hold over men's minds. There must be truth and power in it somewhere; something which accounts for the influence it exerts over most diversely constituted natures, with the result of inspiring them, as it undoubtedly does, with a new enthusiasm for religion and for theological work. There is plenty of criticism of Ritschlianism; plenty of refutation and of impassioned defence. What I think there is some need for is a calm attempt to see where the good lies. Then from this we may proceed to appraise the defects which undoubtedly exist.
Wherein, then, it may first be asked, lies the secret of the influence of this new theology? Several answers might be given to this question, but perhaps the most explicit, and the one which comes nearest the centre of the matter, is this. It lies in the attempt to find a ground of certainty in religion which shall be independent of, and unassailable by, all critical theories and metaphysical speculations. We live in a time of great confusion and uncertainty of opinion. Controversies are raging on the most
1 Kaftan, indeed (Das Wesen, Preface) rather disclaims being a follower of Ritschl and representative of his theology, while acknowledging his obligations to him. But in the wide Arnse above indicated, which is the only sense in which we can speak of a Ritschlian party at all. Kaftan undoubtedly is a Ritschlian.
fundamental questions of religion. Criticism of the Old and New Testaments-investigations into the age and authorship of books—is revolutionizing old beliefs. The natural sciences seem driving out belief in the supernatural. The philosophical schools give the most varied answers to the ultimate problems of thought and life. It is obvious that all this raises a serious consideration affecting Christian faith. Must a Christian-it may be asked -have gone through all this mass of conflicting opinion, have investigated and satisfied himself on all these disputed points, before he is entitled to certainty in his religion ? Must he, e.g., have gone through an exhaustive course of criticism and apologetics, have arrived at certain conclusions in each of these departments, have settled his philosophical questions in a particular way, before he can be certain that he has salvation in Christ? If he does attain certainty in this way, what is the value of it? Is his assurance not liable to be overthrown again by the next new theory that is started, the next turn in the wheel of argument? But if this is not necessary-and it would be fatal to Christianity to assume that it is—there must be some ground of faith independent of criticism, and of all scientific and metaphysical theories. And if there is, what is it?
The answer which the Ritschlian theologians give to this question isThere is a certainty of Christian faith which puts a man in a position of independence to all these extraneous subjects. It is the special claim of the school to have shown that there is this ground of certainty, and wherein it consists, and how it can be justified. No one has spoken with more clearness and decision on this point than Hermann, and his views may be accepted as fairly representative of those of the party. Hermann's explanation of the matter is somewhat in this wise. The certainty of faith, he holds, springs immediately out of the experience of the revelation of God in Christ. It is the result of the direct impression (Eindruck) which Christ makes upon the soul historically confronted with Him. You come into the presence of Christ as He meets you in the Gospel page. The impression He irresistibly makes on you is that in Him God is drawing near to you. It is not so much a doctrine of God you receive as a vivid perception that God is there present and acting before you. Christ does not merely speak to you of a new relation to God; He sets that new relation before you in actual, living fact. It is not a matter of theory or speculation at all. God there meets you in actual history. Christ as an historically existing person irresistibly draws you to Himself, and to the Father whom He reveals. In His presence you not only gain the knowledge of God, but courage to trust God. He lifts you above your guilty fears. The spiritual greatness you discern in Him is combined with a love and grace which banishes the natural distrust of your heart towards God, and gives you power to fulfil your moral destiny. All this is prior to theology or reflection. It is no reasoned conclusion, is connected with no metaphysical view of the person of Christ, but is simply a faith—the result of the irresistible compulsion (Zwang) exercised by Christ over those brought spiritually into contact with Him.