Page images
PDF
EPUB

sensible object becomes a letter or syllable, of this profitable language, and that to all pations, languages and tongues, teaching the invisible things of God, by the things that are made. Therefore, as Mr Taylor says, hieroglypbics which represent the sense of the mind, by outward figures or actions, were the first and most ancient literature.

The prophetic style (says the late learned bishop of Gloucester) was constructed on the symbolic prin. ciples of the hieroglyphics, which were not vague, uncertain things, but fixed and constant analogies, determinable in their own nature, or from the steady use that was made of them; and a language formed on such principles, may be reasonably interpreted upon them.”* And in another place, he says, “ For as in hieroglyphic writing, the sun, moon and stars were used to represent states, and empires, kings, queens and nobility; their eclipse and extinction, temporary disasters, or entire overthrows, &c. so in like manner the holy prophets call kings and empires by the names of the heavenly luminaries; their misfortunes and overthrow are represented by eclipses and extinction; stars falling from the firmament are employed to denote the destruction of the nobility, &c. In a word, the prophetic style seems to be a speaking hieroglyphic.”+

Dr. Johnson of Holywood says on the game subject, “ alphabetical characters and words are not natural, but are only arbitrary signs, and therefore may and do change, with the changes of times and of men; but hieroglyphics and symbols, are either pictures of things actually existing, or of ideas which these things naturally excite, and therefore not arbitrary, but natural signs, fixed and permanent as the things themselves-For the same reason, the symbolical is a universal language-Every alphabetical language, is loose and changeable; for instance, the Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French and English languages were, or are, each the language of a particular district of territory, and are altogether unintelligible to the illiterate inhabitants of any other district; and they have all undergone such changes, that the language of one period, is scarcely intelligible to the inhabitants of the same country in another period of time: since then prophecies are intended for all countries and ages, the symbolical language being universal and unchangeable, must for such a purpose, be the best adapted.*

* Divine Leg. of Mos. vol. 2, page 90.

Ibid, Lib. 4, sect. 4.

Hence the figurative language of the holy scriptures, is the only language that could possibly answer the purpose, as extending to all mankind in every age and generation; and as an elegant writer expresses himself, “ we find it assisting and leading our faculties forward, by an application of all visible objects to a figurative sense, from the glorious orb which shines in the firmament, to a grain of seed which is buried in the earth."

* Introd. fol. 5.

When Epaminondas was opposing a number of confederate nations, united under the Spartans as their head, he wished to convince his soldiers of the necessity of their greatest exertions against the Spar. tans particularly, as the only effectual means of accomplishing their design of full and complete vic. tory, he took a great serpent, in the presence of his army, and bruising its head, shewed them, that there. by, the rest of the body was of no force. *

The story of Joseph's dream of the sun, moon and eleven stars doing obeisance to him is full in point. Which see.

The tribe of Judah is represented by a young lion. Issachar by a strong ass. Dan by a serpent lurking in the road, and so of the other patriarchs.

This may serve to shew the nature of this hicroglyphical language. The Jews understood this man. ner of writing, being the learning of that age; and it made a greater impression than abstract reasoning, however well conducted. So the government of the world by divine providence and his extraordinary interposition in favor of good men, is represented by a ladder, standing upon the earth, and reaching to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it, to receive and execute the orders of God.

Thus our Saviour himself “ taught the people in parables, and without a parable taught he them

• Polyæn. Stratag. lib. 2.

nothing.” The scriptures then are a universal teacher-have a language of their own; and must therefore be studied and learned, on their own principles, if they are expected to be properly understood; and as the same learned author beautifully expresses it, “ when God speaks of things which are above nature, his meaning must be received by a faculty which is not the gift of nature, but superadded to nature by the gift of God himself. For spiritual truth there must be a spiritual sense, and the scriptures call this sense by the name of faith.”

The law in its sacrifices and services has a sbadow of good things to come. Its history is an allegoryGod, throughout the Old Testament, uses similitudes by his prophets-Christ speaks in parables. In a word, the whole dispensation of God towards man, is by signs, shadows, and figures of visible things. The law of Moses; the Psalms; the Prophets; the gospels and the epistles; and most of all the revelations of St. John, use and teach the figurative language; and therefore in the use and interpretation of it must consist the wisdom of those, who are taught of God. 6 Here is the mind that hath wisdom, the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth.”

The apostle indeed expressly speaketh of the wis. dom of God in a mystery, and of the hidden wisdom -this clearly means the revelation of divine truth by some external figure, by which the spiritual meaning may

be understood.—Thus the mystery of the seven stars, were the angels of the seven churches; and

the mystery of the seven candlesticks were the seven charches.

It may not be amiss to add here, the observation of another learned writer, of importance in the future investigation of our subject. “ The sacred oracles are penned with such a divine art and supernatural wis. dom, that at the same time the latter indicates the outward facts and prodigies which happened upon the visible theatre of the world; the spiritual sense contains all the mysteries of religion and providence in the invisible world. Thus St. Paul says, “that the history of Hagar was an allegory--that Melchis. edeck, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, and all the patriarchs, were types of the Messiah-that all the rites, ordinances, and sacrifices of the antient law, were symbolical either of the inward sacrifice of the passions, or of the great sacrifice of the mediator; and in fine that there is a spiritual Egypt-a heavenly Canaan and a new Jerusalem, represented by a terrestrial Egypt, Canaan and Jerusalem."

Such indeed is the excellence of the sacred stile, that it is accommodated to our capacities—it delights our imagination, and leads us into all truth by the pleasantest way-it improves the natural world into a witness of our faith-it transfigures us from natural into spiritual men, and gives us a foretaste of the glorious presence of God. If these then are its effects, it must be of infinite value to particular persons in their several studies and professions. And it is also well observed elsewhere, “ that God can speak of

« PreviousContinue »