« PreviousContinue »
Ps. II. XXII. XLV. cx. and other parts of Scripture have a double sense.
Who is, or can be, the final arbiter in such cases?
Once admit that an occult or mystic second sense may be given to any passage of Scripture, and you must of course concede to every man the liberty of foisting in upon the Scriptures such a meaning, whenever and wherever he pleases. If he is abundant and excessive in his phantasies, it would be difficult to say by what court he is to be tried; much more difficult to point out the authority which has a right to pass final sentence of condemnation. In a cause to be tried, where there is neither statute nor common law to guide, and where every man has the right to do what seems good in his own sight, a court must be somewhat puzzled in making out a final and authoritative decision.
You smile when one tells you of the Jesuit, who preached seven sermons from the interjection O! yet nothing more was necessary even to double this number, than a lively fancy, and the power of spiritualizing with such vigour as to make out a variety of meanings for the said interjection. You smile perhaps still more, when one tells you of the preacher, who selected Cant. 1: 9 for his text, (in which the bride is compared to the horses in Pharaoh's chariot), and drew from its occult meanings eighty-two particulars of resemblance between the horses and the church, the last of which was, that as the steeds of Pharaoh moved with a steady pace over both hill and dale, so the church moves with the steady gait of perseverance through the wilderness which she is traversing. You will say: “This is excessive; this is ridiculous.” But who shall prescribe the bounds of fancy, when she is once authorized to move in any direction she pleases? If you should suggest that, at least, imagination must be bound by the principle of producing
something useful, in such a development of occult meanings; one might reply by asking: How can you show that the seven sermons of the Jesuit were not all useful sermons ? Certainly they may have been so. And as to the expatiator upon the points of resemblance between Pharaoh's horses and the church, at most we cannot, on your ground, condemn him unheard. If all his points of likeness were as well chosen as the last, he surely might have important subjects before him for discussion; and who can aver, that he did not gravely and profitably discuss them?
Indeed this plea of converting the Old Testament in particular to useful purposes, proffered by Origen and in vogue more or less since his time, may be urged on to any extent that fancy or imagination may judge best. Who that is familiar with the history of interpretation does not know that many a grave interpreter has spent much time and pains in analyzing the proper names of Scripture, in order to evoke from them some mysterious spirit with a message from a terra incognita? It is thus, according to the view of such expositors, that the Scriptures become edifying ; thus that every part of the Old Testament becomes lighted up, as it were, with the lamp of gospel truth. On this ground, also, any man who understands Hebrew as well as Cocceius did, (and truly he was no ordinary adept), may make the first chapter of the first book of Chronicles as edifying as the 19th Psalm, or equally didactic with the Sermon on the 7 Mount. In the first verse of the Chronicles, the name Adam might suggest, not unnaturally, the whole history of the race of man, with all their attributes, powers, developments, and destiny. Seth, (i. e. n: from now to put, place, substitute, etc.), naturally suggests the great Redeemer of men, who was put in our place, or substituted for us, i. e. “ he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities;" and so the whole doctrine of the vicarious
sufferings of Christ is suggested to our consideration by the name Seth. Enosh (wie from 2 to be sick) of course teaches us the doctrine of man's frail and dying state; and by indirect consequence it reminds us of all the duties which are attendant upon such a state and naturally connected with it--a text, therefore, of vast meaning, even of boundless import. And so we might pass on through all the genealogical tables in the first book of the Chronicles; which, when thus treated, instead of being mere genealogies in which the church has now no very special interest, would then become pregnant with a divine and transcendental meaning, and be filled, as one might almost say, “ with the fulness of God.” In this way, too, we can demonstrate, that all Scripture is profitable for doctrine and for instruction in righteousness. Who then can forbid us to engage in such an excellent work as this? Who can bid us to stop, when thus bending all our powers to vindicate the divine authority and excellence of the Scriptures, and to show that no other book on earth can bear comparison with them, as to adaptedness for conveying, at all times and in every possible manner, both doctrine and practical instruction ? Even the least important part of them, (if indeed it is lawful to say that any one part is less important than another), has more of significance, more that is adapted to our edification, than all the other books which the world contains.
If now to all this I should add large professions of most sincere, and ardent desires to glorify God by such a view of the Scriptures, and to convince men how he has indeed
magnified his word above all his name;" if I should, at the same time, bestow degrading epithets on all those who deny the supernatural fulness of meaning and the secondary and spiritual sense of the Scriptures, and insert in every convenient place an inuendo that they are fast verging,
toward rationalism; should I not secure an attentive hearing of many, yea very many, among both laity and clergy? This, or something of much the same tenor, has often been done; it doubtless will be often repeated in future time. Nor is the man who does this, at all within the grasp of his mystic brethren, who call themselves more sober. There is, as we have seen, no court of appeal. And the man who outgoes all his competitors in the extension of the spiritual or occult sense of the Scriptures, provided the meanings which he gives may tend to edification, is of course entitled to a precedence in the great and good work (as many deem it) of rendering the Bible edifying every where and to the highest degree; and all this, too, in such a way as to show that it is a book unlike all other books, and has a fulness of doctrine and instruction which are worthy of a God, and which God only could impart to it. On the ground of double or occult sense, the right of such a man to this claim cannot be disproved.
The advocates for a double sense or spiritualizing will doubtless reply to all this, that 'the abuse of a thing is no good argument against the use of it.' In most cases this is certainly to be conceded. But if a thing is of such a nature that it is all abuse, and must be so, it is a good argument against it. Of such a nature I must believe the practice of mystical interpreters to be. John Bunyan was a man who did not lack genius or piety. Yet he has given to the world a treatise in which he undertakes to show, that not only the temple with its solemn ritual and impressive service was significant of good things to come, but that the parts all and singular of the same were in like manner significant. The vases, the censers, the trays, the snuffers, yea the snuff itself of the lamps—all, all had an important spiritual meaning. Will you say, that Bunyan was dreaming a second time here, to much less purpose than his first
dream which has rendered him immortal ? If you do, it were easy to refer you to Origen, to Jerome even, to Augustine, to Cocceius, to Jones of Nayland, and to a host of other men distinguished for talents and piety, who have wandered scarcely less into dreaming regions than Bunyan. When we are gravely told, in many a Commentary, that in the parable of the good Samaritan, the man that travelled from Jerusalem to Jericho through the wilderness, and fell among thieves and was robbed and wounded, represents Adam and his posterity travelling through the wilderness of this world and robbed and wounded by Satan ; that the priest and Levite, who passed by without helping him, represent the law which cannot save the sinner and good works and ceremonial observances which cannot help him; that the good Samaritan is Christ; that the oil and wine are the forgiveness and grace of the gospel; and that the gratuitous work of helping the wounded man is a lively emblem of the Redeemer's gratuitous work in respect to sinners—all this, we are gravely assured, is edifying, it makes the Scriptures profitable for doctrine, and consequently no valid objection can be made against it. Be it so then; but why stop here? Why choose out those parts of the parable which may afford room for tracing imaginary resemblances, and leave the rest as being of no important significance ? What means the setting of the wounded man upon
the the bringing him to an inn; the two pence given to the host; the promise of more on the return of the Samaritan? By what rule or principle does the interpreter stop short of these, and leave them out of the category of “things profitable for doctrine?" Is it not the useful, the edifying, which makes this mode of spiritualizing lawful? If so, then we may vindicate those, who out of Adam, Seth, Enosh, (1 Chron. 1: 1), bring out the greatest and most important of all gospel-truths and