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v vious, historical sense, and interpret it as conveying the
meaning which its words naturally and obviously seem to convey, and yet at the same time ascribe to these same words another meaning which is occult or obscure, but still is designed to be conveyed by those same words, we then make out a double sense. For example; if the second Psalm is construed as a description of the coronation of David or Solomon on the hill of Zion, and all that is there said be literally and historically applied, and still we go on to find in this same Psalm, that is, in the words of it, a secondary or spiritual sense (as it is often named), then we give to it a double sense. We first ascribe to it an obvious and historical meaning, endeavoring to make this out in the best manner that we can; and then we suppose that there is a inovoua, i. e. an occult or secondary and spiritual meaning, by virtue of which the Psalm becomes applicable to Christ, the true and spiritual Messiah. So, to produce another example, if we interpret the 45th Psalm as an epithalamium or nuptial song, on the occasion of Solomon's marriage with a foreign princess, and endeavor to adapt every thing in it to the historical sense consequent upon such a method of exegesis, and yet after we have executed this task, we proceed to show, or at least endeavor to show, that a únóvoid runs through the whole, by virtue of which we may find a description of the King Messiah and of his union with the Church, then we give to this Psalm a double sense.
The question now before us is : Whether this is a reasonable, practicable, well-grounded method of interpreting the Scriptures ?
I shall not stop here to argue with those, who, finding difficulty in such a direct and palpably occult sense throughout the whole of those two Psalms, expound one part of the second Psalm, for example, as historically descriptive
of the literal David, and the other part as belonging to the
which makes a primary and secondary meaning throughout such
passages of Scripture as are supposed to relate to the new dispensation, that has been the usual and prevalent one among those who defend the unóvoid or occult sense. This then must be at least briefly examined.
The first and great difficulty with this scheme of interpretation is, that it forsakes and sets aside the common laws of language. The Bible excepted, in no book, treatise, epistle, discourse, or conversation, ever written, published, or addressed by any one man to his fellow beings, (unless in the way of sport, or with an intention to deceive), can a double sense be found. There are, indeed, charades, enigmas, phrases with a double entendre, and the like, perhaps, in all languages; there have been abundance of heathen oracles which were susceptible of two interpretations; but among even all these, there never has been, and there never was a design that there should be, but one sense or meaning in reality. Ambiguity of language may be, and has been, designedly resorted to in order to mislead the reader or hearer, or in order to conceal the ignorance of soothsayers, or provide for their credit amid future exigencies; but this is quite foreign to the matter of a serious and bona fide double meaning of words. It bears no comparison with the alleged ůnóvoia in question. Nor can we, for a moment, without violating the dignity and sacredness of the Scriptures, suppose that the inspired writers are to be compared to the authors of riddles, conundrums, enigmas, and ambiguous heathen oracles.
How then can we make a rule for interpretation, and apply this rule to the Scriptures, when we are constrained to acknowledge, that no other book on earth, addressed by intelligent and serious men to the reason and understanding of their fellow beings, can bear an interpretation by such a rule?
I am aware of the usual answer to this question, viz., that “the Bible is a divine book, and that, since God is the real author of it, we must not expect to place it on the common basis of other books."
But how can we be satisfied with such an answer? I am indeed fully persuaded, that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” I believe the Bible to be of divine authority; and that the men who wrote the Scriptures were under divine influence which guarded them against error or mistake, when they composed the sacred books. I have no hesitation in admitting and defending these positions. But I cannot deduce from them any thing in the way of defending a double sense. For why should we suppose,
because the Bible is a divine book, that its manner, style, or diction, differs essentially from those of all other books? We may well suppose the matter to transcend the discoveries of unenlightened reason. But why should the manner of communicating information to us, differ from what is usual and common among men? Nay, we may boldly advance further, and ask, how the Bible could be what it is, viz., a revelation from God, provided its diction and the principles of interpreting it are to be regarded as entirely diverse from those of all other books. What can be more rational or plain than the proposition, that when God speaks to men for their instruction, he speaks by man, and for men, and therefore expects to be understood. Did ever a considerate father undertake to teach his children, and yet employ language the words and exegetical principles of which were entirely beyond their cognizance! And when God speaks to his erring children, with an intention to en lighten and instruct them, and to reclaim them from their wandering ways, does he employ words in such a manner, that no analogy drawn from human methods of interpret
ing language can enable men to understand what he communicates ?
Independently of the disputed question before us, no man on earth would hesitate a moment as to the answer which he must give. A revelation must be intelligible, or it is no revelation. It must be made in language that men have been accustomed to use, or they have no key to it. And if it be made in such a language, then it must be interpreted by the common rules and usages of language,
else there is no key again to the meaning. A revelation ve in the peculiar language of angels, (if they can be supposed
to use a language), would have no meaning, and be of no use to men. Who possesses the appropriate dictionary or commentary? Who has studied the grammar and idiom? A revelation (so called) to men, which is clothed in words not employed agreeably to the usus loquendi, and not to be interpreted by the usual principles of exegesis, is of course no revelation at all. It is no more than sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal; for it neither gives any distinct, articulate, intelligible sounds, nor does it represent them to the eye. It is in vain, therefore, that we seek for any rules, by which such a book can be explained.
Indeed, the moment we assume that there is in the Scriptures a departure from the usus loquendi, either in the choice of words, the construction of sentences, or the modes of interpretation, that moment we decide, that they are no revelation. According to such an assumption, moreover, a necessity would of course be presented for a new inspiration, in order to find out and comprehend what the authors of the scriptural books meant. But if a new inspiration be needed, then of what use or advantage are the Scriptures, or have they ever been, to men? It would be just as easy to communicate a revelation de novo to men,