« AnteriorContinuar »
verse, and to be vainly speculating upon miraculous interventions : and it furnishes weapons of deadly virulence to the enemies of the gospel, by enabling them to adduce absurd and demonstrably impossible notions as if they were the declarations of the Bible. What must be the effect upon minds possessing some knowledge of the natural arrangements of Jehovah's works, but deplorably ignorant of the moral system, (and, alas ! there are many such in all ranks of society,) if they suppose that a part of the faith of evangelical Christians consists in believing that the sky will one day be rolled up like a scroll of parchment, and the heavenly bodies drop down upon the earth!-O permit me, my respected friends, and you, my honoured brethren in the sacred ministry, most earnestly to implore that you would direct your efforts, in all public and private modes of communicating truth, to the rooting out of these pernicious forms of ignorance !--No language can describe the ruin to the souls of young and educated persons, and the dishonour to the sacred cause of REVELATION, that has accrued from its professed advocates misrepresenting the contents of that revelation, and leaving it to be inferred that any of them are at variance with the demonstrated truths of science.
I proceed to adduce some further specimens of the poetical diction which was so often used by the prophets, trusting that the importance of the subject and the utility of the enumeration will make my apology for its tedious
The interpositions of divine providence and grace, in delivering from dangers and restoring from calamities, are described in such terms as the following: “Then the earth shook and trembled: the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured : coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down : and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place: his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. Yea, he sent out his arrows and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the channels of the waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered, at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.--He rebuketh the sea and maketh it dry, and parcheth up all the rivers : Bashan languisheth, and Carmel; and the bloom of Lebanon withereth. The mountains tremble before him, and the hills are melted down; and the earth is bulged up at his presence, even the world and all that dwell therein.-Before him went the plague, and the burning pestilence stalked forth at his feet: He stood and measured the earth, he looked and drove asunder the nations; and the eternal
nountains were shivered; the everlasting hills sunk down; the everlasting ways are his.- Thou cleavest the earth into rivers : the mountains beheld thee, and they trembled : the rush of waters passed by: the deep uttered his voice and lifted up his hands on high: the sun, the moon, stood still, its habitation : at the light of thine arrows they went onwards, at the shining of thy glittering spear.–And his feet shall stand, in that day, upon the mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east : and the mount of Olives shall be cleft, in the midst thereof, eastwards and westwards; a valley very great: and half the mountain shall remove northwards and half southwards."*
The joy of a nation's deliverance from captivity and oppression is expressed in such language as this : whole earth is at rest and is quiet: they break forth into singing. Yea, the fir-trees rejoice at thee, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art fallen, no one cometh up against us to hew us down.--I caused Lebanon to mourn for him; and all the trees of the field fainted for him. I made nations shudder at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to the dark world with those that go down to the pit : and all the trees of Eden, the choicest and best of Lebanon, all (that imbibe water, shall be comforted in the land below."*
* Ps. xviii. 7-15; Nah. i. 4,5; Hab, iii. 5, 6, 10, 11; Zech, xiv. 4. See Note F.
A state of peace, security, and social felicity, particularly that which arises from the influence of the gospel upon mankind, is represented by this beautiful imagery: “Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a delightful orchard, and the delightful orchard be esteemed as a forest. — The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blosson as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the beauty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of Jehovah, the beauty of our God. In the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. The burning sands shall become a lake of water, and the thirsty ground water-springs : in the dwelling of dragons, their very couch, shall be grass with canes and rushes.The mountains shall distil new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivulets of Judah shall be full of water; and a fountain shall go forth out of the house of Jehovah, and shall water the valley of Shittim.-The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree; and instead of the heath shall come up the myrtle.—The glory of Lebanon shall me unto thee, the fir-tree, the plane, and the boxtree together.—Jehovah of hosts will make unto all nations, in this mountain, a feast of fat things, a feast of old wines ; of fat things full of marrow, of old wines well refined. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid ; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together, and a little child shall lead them : and the cow and the she-bear shall feed together, together shall their young ones lie down: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox: and the sucking infant shall play on the hole of the asp, and the just weaned child shall put his hand into the den of the horned viper : they shall not do mischief nor make destruction in all my holy mountain, saith Jehovah.The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun; and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days. The sun shall be no more thy light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee:-thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself."*
* Is. xiv. 7,8; Ez, xxxi. 15, 16.
Such is the beauty and grandeur of the poetical style in which the Author of inspiration directed the holy prophets often to clothe their messages; a style exceedingly conducive to the moral effect of prophecy, and by no means difficult to be understood. It paints with all the freshness of nature, and speaks to the understanding through the best use of the senses and affections. Common intelligence, simplicity of heart, and a mind sincerely desirous of knowing the dictates of heaven, will rarely feel any difficulty in the interpretation of such figures : but persons of weak judgment and arbitrary fancy, destitute of any correct principles for the interpretation of language, especially in its ancient and more unusual forms, and having to support theories of their own deeply tinctured with the colour of worldly politics and external violence, please themselves with literal applications of these descriptions in aid of their fond prognostications.t
RULE VI. It is further requisite, in order to the judi
cious interpretation of the prophetic scriptures, that we should have the mind furnished with a correct and habitually recollected knowledge of the history of Israel and Judah, and the nations with which they were
* Is. xxxiii. 17, xxxv. 1, 2, 6, 7; Joel iv. 18; Is. lv. 12, 13, 1x. 13, xxv. 6, xi. 6–9, and lxv. 25, xxx. 26, 1x. 19, 20.
+ Upon this extensive and interesting subject, I would earnestly recommend the study of Bishop Lowth's Prælectiones de Sacrâ Poesi Hebræorum. Those who cannot read the original work will find the late Dr. George Gregory's Translation well worthy of their study. Either would be an admirable assistance to a course of liberal education, as a book of instruction in Rhetoric and Poetry, besides its pre-eminent usefulness for the understanding of the divine word.
connected. I may hope that the necessity of this attainment is sufficiently evident, from the facts and considerations which have been already laid down. The obvious method of acquiring it, is the study of the Old-Testament historical books, and of the statements, hints, and implications that are to be discovered in the prophetical writings themselves. By such an investigation and comparison, conducted with minute observation and great diligence, a flood of light is often thrown upon portions of prophecy, in a manner remarkably unexpected and satisfactory. The want of this knowledge has led some professed interpreters into pernicious mistakes. Even mere descriptions of contemporaneous events, and predictions which have had their accomplishment many ages ago, in the history of the Hebrews, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Chaldæans, and some other ancient nations, are, by these ignorant or unthinking teachers, applied, without scruple or modification, to spiritual objects, the doctrines of the gospel, the experience of individual believers, the history of the Christian Church, and even the present state and future destiny of modern nations. What confusion of ideas, abuses of the sacred word, and hurtful consequences to faith and practice, must flow from this source, is abundantly obvious. Yet I may venture to bring an instance or two, for the sake of illustration.
In the sixteenth chapter of Isaiah we read, “Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land, from Sela to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion." Persons have been found who, not troubling themselves to search into the occasion and connexion of the passage, and casting only a superficial glance at a few insulated words, have supposed that this “lamb” is the Saviour, considered as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of men ; and that the passage
is a command to “send” the knowledge of that important truth, to make known the doctrine of salvation through the propitiation of Jesus Christ, to rulers and subjects, to men of all