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the most important of all the precepts of practical piety. In my apprehension, at least, the latter have as good a claim to our confidence as the interpreters of the parable of the good Samaritan.
We have heard of a preacher, who selected from Ezra 1: 9 the clause nine and twenty knives, for a text. How he made this profitable for doctrine, we are not told. We have read of still more extraordinary spiritualizing. The fact to which we refer is briefly this : in Gen. 29: 2 it is said, that Jacob“ looked, and behold a well in the field.” The spiritual instruction, or rather consolation, deducible from this was expressed by the preaching interpreter in the following pathetic exclamation: “What a mercy that the field was not in the well !"
But enough of examples. And if I am again told, as I doubtless shall be, that these only serve to expose the abuse of the inovova ; I must again reply by asking the advocate of the principle in question to point me to the tribunal, which decides, or has authority to decide, where the limits of such a practice must be drawn.
Once more; I am not able to satisfy my own mind, why merely a double sense should be assigned to various passages of Scripture. Why not three, seven, ten, or (with the Jewish Rabbies) forty-nine senses? Fancy can make out all these, with little or no difficulty. Why not give to the Scripture, as Cocceius maintained we should do, all the meanings of which it is in any way capable of bearing ?
The only pertinent answer that can be made to this is, that it is not usual, even where fancy is permitted to play a conspicuous part in the interpretation of ambiguous sayings, to make out more than a double sense; consequently it would be against usage to assign so many meanings to the Scripture. But this answer will hardly suffice. It is not usual, in respect to any grave and honest discourse, to
make out more than one meaning to words; but the advocates of double sense have brought us into company with the interpreters of enigmas, charades, conundrums, and heathen oracles of double entendre, and invited us to keep pace with them. If we must do so, then why may we not at least make out this distinctive claim for the Scriptures, viz. that their superiority to every thing of such an equivo cal nature is manifest, by the fact that the language of the inspired books is capable of bearing all possible senses, be they more or less? If the divine origin of the Bible cannot be proved in this manner, it must be conceded that we may at least show, in such a way, that it is a book different from all others which the world contains.
Let me add, in the fifth place, that the mode of interpretation against which I am contending, can never be relied on for the establishment of any scriptural doctrine or precept.
Few, if any, of the advocates of double sense will venture to assert, that we can depend on an occult sense to establish any position of importance. The most that is usually claimed for this method of interpretation is, that it pleases the fancy, excites and gratifies the imagination, and thus makes the truth more agreeable to many minds. Yet the occult meaning, in order to have any degree of confidence reposed in it, must harmonize with those texts of Scripture which are plain and direct. Indeed, the bare statement of the whole matter affords evidence enough, that we can never pretend to rely on an occult meaning as the foundation of an argument, by which any, even the least important, position is established. The simple question is, then, whether we shall resort to allegorizing or spiritualizing, merely to gratify the fancy, or amuse the imagination, or to allure by ingenuity in drawing supposed resemblances. But on this question why should there be any doubt? The Bible is a book of import much too
grave to be treated in this manner. God, and heaven, and hell, and never-dying souls, are no originals for fancy pictures and amusing sketches. It is a degradation of the awful majesty of Scripture to treat it in this way. Were I to speak what my feelings prompt me to do, I should say, that it is a profanation of its holy contents. Where romance and fiction and conceit and conjecture and enigma are all to be mixed up with instruction of the most serious and important character which can be addressed to human beings, what mind that possesses a refined taste and delicate sensibility will not be revolted and displeased with such a procedure ?
I repeat what has been already said: When God speaks to men, he speaks more humano by men and for men. Viewed in this light, the poetry of the Scriptures is poetry with all its characteristics ; the prose is prose; the genealogies are what they purport to be; the historic narrations are histories; the psalms are songs of praise; the proverbs are maxims or apothegms; the plans of the tabernacle and temple, with all their apparatus, are plans for building sanctuaries and furnishing them ; prophecy is prediction; preaching is homiletic; allegory is allegory, and parable is parable. If there be any thing that is certain, as to the general principles of interpretation respecting the Scriptures, all this is certain. If the Bible is not to be interpreted in such a manner, i. e. in accordance with these positions, then we must give up all hope of coming to the knowledge of any rules by which it can be interpreted.
- It is well that the public taste is at last putting its hand more and more
of days that are past, in respect to the occult sense of many portions of the Scriptures. But in the department of prophecy, with which I am particularly concerned at present, there is yet great latitude given and taken in regard to this matter. In the
Psalms, and indeed in a multitude of passages in the Prophets, the Pentateuch, and all parts of the Scripture, there are expositors even now who defend the únóvoca, i. e. they find a literal and historic sense which answered in former days a temporary purpose, and also an occult sense, wrapped up or involved in the drapery of the historic sense, and discernible only when this is unrolled and laid aside. They are serious in the belief, that they have a right to interpret in this manner; and although few will venture to meet a discussion of the subject on the ground of simple hermeneutics, (for on this ground their cause must surely fail), yet they appeal, one and all, to the usage and authority of the New Testament writers, and aver, that whatever difficulties may be made out on the grounds of hermeneutical science, as applicable to writings merely of human origin, yet it is clear that the Evangelists and other writers of the New Testament did admit and adopt a double sense of the Hebrew Scriptures, and, consequently, we are at liberty to do the same.
This for substance has been so long and so often alleged, in the way of defending the occult sense of the Old Testament Scriptures, and it is moreover, apparently, so weighty an argument in its favor, that I must of necessity take it into serious consideration.
I might remark, at the outset, that were the facts true, in the sense in which they are usually alleged, it would not follow of course, that we are entitled to assign an occult sense to any and every passage of Scripture, where we may merely of ourselves think it proper to do so. We take the ground that the New Testament writers were inspired ; and if they were, then it is possible that they might be enlightened by inspiration so as to give a meaning to some parts of the Old Testament Scripture, which is and must be occult in itself to all who are uninspired. We'may in
deed now follow in their steps, in those cases where they have given us ån occult sense; we may give credit to their authority, and so trust them as our guides; but we can go, in such a case, no further than they lead the way. Inspiration was necessary to reveal an occult sense to them; and as we are not inspired, so we cannot give the occult sense of passages which they have not explained. In the case supposed, it was not fancy, imagination, conceit, which led them to play upon words and to give to them mysterious and conjectural meanings. If they have actually exhibited the occult sense it any case, it must of course have been by virtue of light from above.
It would be gaining not a little, if even so much should be admitted by all. We should then, at least, be kept within bounds very narrow in comparison with those which niany interpreters have set up. One simple rule would suffice; and this would be, that we must merely follow on in the same path in which the New Testament writers have taken the lead, and not strike out new ways or bypaths for ourselves.
But a more important view of this subject remains to be taken: Have the New Testament writers made out, in any case, a DOUBLE sense to the words of the Old Testament Scriptures ?
Á moderate volume could be easily filled with the discussion of this question; but necessity obliges me to comprise what I now have to say in a few paragraphs.
I do not find but two ways in which the Jewish Scriptures are employed in the New Testament, so far as the subject of prediction or prophecy is concerned. The first is too plain to need any particular comment; it is where a passage in the Old Testament is simply and directly prophetic, and is appealed to or is cited as merely prophetic. Such are the passages, as I must believe, cited from Is.