« PreviousContinue »
some of the most eminent writers of that time; and the sight of it, even to this day, hath scarcely ever been lost among the Puritans. We of the Church of England are now risen above that sort of learning, as we think ; though it is to be feared, we are rather degenerated and fallen below it: and this is one reason why so many false and dangerous speculations have been making their way into the fashionable Divinity: for they who depart from the proper stile and genius of the Scripture, will hardly escape some defection from its doctrines.
I do not here mean to become an accuser under the more popular Character of the Reformer; neither would I be thought to have discovered what is unknown to other men. We have Authors of eminence and genius amongst us, who are undoubtedly sensible of the value of that literature for which I am now pleading, because their writings shew them to be far advanced in the knowledge of it; particularly the celebrated Prælector de Sacra Poesi Hebreorum, and the learned Author of Dissertations on the Prophecies; from each of whom I might produce many excellent observations to justify that praise which they merit from a better hand. As to myself, I would be considered only as an humble follower of such learned Interpreters: and if I have ventured to pursue the mat
ter of the following Disquisition farther than they would have done, I hope that hath happened, only because I have meditated long upon this particular Subject. I found it more fruitful than I expected, and have been led by it into many speculations, which have been exceedingly pleasant to me in the hours of my Solitude. I am sensible they would be more pleasant to the public, if it were the fashion to be somewhat better versed in that sort of Learning, by which we are essentially distinguished from the Jews; I mean, in the figurative sense of the sacred Writings; which no Jew can possibly understand and continue to be a Jew; on which account it is so largely insisted upon by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, a discourse particularly calculated for their instruction. Where the Scripture is studied by those who have no private ends tở serve by misrepresenting it, its figurative mode of expression will be studied of course; because no great progress can be made on any other principle. It is as necessary to the understanding of the Bible, as its proper Alphabet is to the decyphering of any Language. “ Certain images (says Dr. Lowth) “ borrowed chiefly from nature, express certain other “ notions less obvious to the understanding; a con
stant uniformity being observed in the application of “ them: and I believe this one thing, if it were dili
“ gently studied, would always be of excellent use to “ explain the meaning of the Hebrew Prophets *.”
A gentleman formerly educated at Christ Church College in Oxford, and known to the Physicians as the Editor of Aretæus, had formed a design of dedicating his Life to a complete Work on the Symbolical Language of the Scripture ; and if I had a faithful account of him from a contemporary and fellow-collegian who knew him well, great things might have been expected from him, when his abilities and experience had so great a Subject to work upon. I have much reason to wish that he had accomplished his design: but, alas! it became abortive on the same principle with many other excellent undertakings, the mortality of the undertaker ; who did not live to make any progress in the work. This loss, however, is alalready supplied in some measure by the judicious Criticisms of Dr. Lowth; and we shall have yet less reason to lament it, if an introductory Discourse to a new Commentary on the Psalms of David, which is
-certæ Imagines, plurimum Naturales, certas alias notiones, quarum subtilior est ratio, lege quadam constanter servata, exprimunt; quam rem unam arbitror, si accurate investigetur, ad intelligendos Vates Hæbros semper maximo adjumento fore.
Prelect. xxxi. p. I.
now in manuscript, by an able and ingenious hand, should see the light.
Some small specimen of this Symbolical language may be collected from the ensuing pages. Other hints may be gathered from Erasmus his Enchiridion militis Christiani ; and many more may be found in the collection entitled Philocalia, at the end of the works of Origen; whom the incomparable Erasmus delighted to follow in his capacity of an Expositor. But as I am now only writing a Preface, without taking upon me to deliver rules for the interpretation of the Scripture, I must content myself with-committing these few hasty reflections to the farther consideration of the intelligent Reader ; after I have informed him, that this Disquisition will be followed by other like Disquisitions and Discourses on Scriptural and Moral Subjects, till the whole shall amount to an octavo volume.
Pluckley, July 8, 1771.