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ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation. And in the same manner we may apprehend Christ's rebuke to the Jewish doctors, when he says (Mark viii. 9.) Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition; where, by the word kaλws, which our translators render full well, it is evident that our Saviour intends quite the contrary of what his language ems to import. Saint Paul also has a fine example of irony in 1 Cor. iv. 8. Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us; and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.
Under this figure we may include the Sarcasm, which may be defined to be an irony in its superlative keenness and asperity. As an instance of this kind, we may consider the soldiers' speech to our Lord; when, after they had arrayed him in mock majesty, they bowed the knee before him, and said, Hail, King of the Jews. (Matt. xxvii. 29.) So again, while our Redeemer was suspended on the cross, there were some who thus derided him, Let Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. (Mark xv. 32.)
This figure, in its representation of things or objects, either mag-. nifies or diminishes them beyond or below their proper limits: it is common in all languages, and is of frequent occurrence in the Scrip
Thus, things, which are very lofty, are said to reach up to heaven. Deut. i. 28. ix. 1. Psal. cvii. 26. So, things, which are beyond the reach or capacity of man, are said to be in heaven, in the deep, or beyond the sea, Deut. xxx. 12. Rom. x. 6, 7. So, a great quantity or number is commonly expressed by the sand of the sea, the dust of the earth, and the stars of heaven, Gen. xiii. 16. xli. 49. Judges vii. 12. 1 Sam. xiii. 5. 1 Kings iv. 29. 2 Chron. i. 9. Jer. xv. 8. Heb. xi. 12. In like manner we meet, in Numb. xiii. 33. with smaller than grasshoppers, to denote extreme diminutiveness: 2 Sam. i. 23. swifter than eagles, to intimate extreme celerity. Judges v. 4. the earth trembled, verse 5. the mountains melted. 1 Kings i. 40. the earth rent. Psal. vi. 6. I make my bed to swim. Psal. cxix. 136. rivers of tears run down mine eyes. So we read of angels' food, Psal. Ixxviii. 25. The face of an angel, in Acts vi. 15.; the tongue of an angel, in 1 Cor. xiii. 1. See also Gal. i. 8. and iv. 14. In Ezek. xxi. 6. we read sigh with the breaking of thy loins, that is most deeply. So in Luke xix. 40. we read that the stones would cry out, and in verse 44. they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; that is, there shall be a total desolation.1
1 Glassii Phil. Sacr. tom. ii. pp. 55, 56. 897–916. 1243—1276. 1283–1294. Turretin. de Interp. S. S. p. 206.
ON THE SPIRITUAL INTERPRETATION OF THE SCRIPTURES.
IT has been a favourite notion with some divines, that the mystical or spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures had its first origin in the synagogue, and was thence adopted by our Lord and his apostles when arguing with the Jews; and that from them it was received by the fathers of the Christian church, from whom it has been transmitted to us. The inference deduced by many of these eminently learned men is, that no such interpretation is admissible: but, that there is a mystical or spiritual sense in the sacred writings, we have already had occasion to remark, and to vindicate its propriety. This method of interpreting the Bible, indeed, "like all other good things, is liable to abuse; and that it hath been actually abused, both in antient and modern days, cannot be denied. He, who shall go about to apply, in this way, any passage, before he hath attained its literal meaning, may say in itself what is pious and true, but foreign to the text from which he endeavoureth to deduce it. St. Jerome, it is well known, when grown older and wiser, lamented that, in the fervours of a youthful fancy, he had spiritualised the prophecy of Obadiah before he understood it. And it must be allowed that a due attention to the occasion and scope of the Psalms would have pared off many unseemly excrescences, which now deform the commentaries of St. Augustin and other fathers upon them. But these and other concessions of the same kind being made, as they are made very freely, men of sense will consider, that a principle is not therefore to be rejected, because it has been abused; since human errors can never invalidate the truths of God."2
The literal sense, it has been well observed, is undoubtedly, first in point of nature, as well as in order of signification; and consequently, when investigating the meaning of any passage, this must be ascertained before we proceed to search out its mystical import but the true and genuine mystical or spiritual sense excels the literal in dignity, the latter being only the medium of conveying the former,
1 See pp. 496-498. supra. The present chapter is abridged from Rambach's Institutiones Hermeneuticæ Sacræ, pp. 67-82. compared with his "Commentatio Hermeneutica de Sensûs Mystici Criteriis ex genuinis principiis deducta, necessariisque cautelis circumscripta." 8vo. Jenæ, 1728.
2 Bishop Horne's Commentary on the Psalms, vol. i. Preface. (Works, ii. p. x.) "The importance, then, of figurative and mystical interpretation can hardly be called in question. The entire neglect of it must, in many cases, greatly vitiate expositions, however otherwise valuable for their erudition and judgment. In explaining the prophetical writings and the Mosaic ordinances, this defect will be most striking; since, in consequence of it, not only the spirit and force of many passages will almost wholly evaporate, but erroneous conceptions may be formed of their real purport and intention." Bp. Van Mildert's Bampton Lectures, p. 240. Rambach has adduced several instances, which strongly confirm these solid observations, Institut. Herm. Sacr. p. 81.
which is more evidently designed by the Holy Spirit. For instance, in Numb. xxi. 8, 9. compared with John iii. 14. the brazen serpent is said to have been lifted up, in order to signify the lifting up of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world; and consequently that the type might serve to designate the antitype.1
Though the true spiritual sense of a text is undoubtedly to be most highly esteemed, it by no means follows that we are to look for it in every passage of Scripture; it is not, however, to be inferred that spiritual interpretations are to be rejected, although they should not be clearly expressed. The spiritual meaning of a passage is there only to be sought, where it is evident, from certain criteria, that such meaning was designed by the Holy Spirit. The criteria, by which to ascertain whether there is a latent spiritual meaning in any passage of Scripture, are two-fold: either they are seated in the text itself, or they are to be found in some other passages.
In the former case, vestiges of a spiritual meaning are discernible, when things, which are affirmed concerning the person or thing immediately treated of, are so august and illustrious that they cannot in any way be applied to it, in the fullest sense of the words. For the word of God is the word of truth: there is nothing superfluous, nothing deficient in it. The writings of the prophets, especially those of Isaiah, abound with instances of this kind. Thus, in the 14th, 40th, 41st, and 49th chapters of that evangelical prophet, the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity is announced in the most lofty and magnificent terms. He describes their way as levelled before them, valleys filled up, mountains reduced to plains, cedars and other shady trees, and fragrant herbs, as springing up to refresh them on their journey, and declares that they shall suffer neither hunger nor thirst during their return. The Jews, thus restored to their native land, he represents as a holy people, chosen by Jehovah, cleansed from all iniquity, and taught by God himself, &c. &c. Now, when we compare this description with the accounts actually given of their return to Palestine by Ezra and Nehemiah, we do not find any thing corresponding with the events so long and so beautifully predicted by Isaiah neither do they represent the manners of the people as reformed agreeably to the prophet's statement. On the contrary, their profligacy is frequently reproved by Ezra and Nehemiah in the most pointed terms, as well as by the prophet Haggai. In this description, therefore, of their deliverance from captivity, we must look beyond it to that infinitely higher deliverance, which in the fulness of time was accomplished by Jesus Christ: "who, by himself once offered, hath thereby made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and atonement for the sins of the whole world," and thus, "hath opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers." Similar additional instances might easily be adduced: but, as they are connected with the question relative to the double sense of prophecy which is more properly discussed in a subsequent page, we proceed to show
1 Rambach, Institutiones Hermenuticæ Sacræ, p.
in what cases it will be proper to have recourse to otner passages Scripture, in order to find out the latent spiritual meaning of a text.
1. Sometimes the Holy Spirit clearly and expressly asserts that one thing or person was divinely constituted or appointed to be a figure or symbol of another thing or person; in which case the indisputable testimony of eternal truth removes and cuts off every ground of doubt and uncertainty.
For instance, if we compare Psalms cx. 4. with Heb. vii. 1. we shall find that Melchisedec was a type of Messiah, the great high-priest and king. So Hagar and Sarah were types of the Jewish and Christian churches. (Gal. iv. 22-24.) Jonah was a type of Christ's resurrection (Matt. xii. 40.): the manna, of Christ himself, and of his heavenly doctrine. (John vi. 32.) The rock in the wilderness, whence water issued on being struck by Moses, represented Christ to the Israelites (1 Cor. x. 4.); and the entrance of the high-priest into the Holy of Holies, on the day of expiation, with the blood of the victim, is expressly stated by Saint Paul to have prefigured the entrance of Jesus Christ into the presence of God, with his own blood. (Heb. ix. 7—20.)
II. Sometimes, however, the mystical sense is intimated by the Holy Spirit in a more obscure manner: and without excluding the practice of sober and pious meditation, we are led by various intimations (which require very diligent observation and study) to the knowledge of the spiritual or mystical meaning. This chiefly occurs in the following cares:
1. When the antitype is proposed under figurative names taken from the Old Testament.
in 1 Cor. xv. 45. he
Thus, in 1 Cor. v. 7. Christ is called the paschal lamb : is called the last Adam; the first Adam, therefore, was in some respect a type or figure of Christ, who in Ezekiel xxxiv. 23. is further called David. In like manner, the kingdom of Antichrist is mentioned under the appellations of Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon, in Rev. xi. 8. and xvi. 19.
2. When, by a manifest allusion of words and phrases, the Scripture refers one thing to another.
Thus, from Isa. ix. 4. which alludes to the victory obtained by Gideon (Judges vii. 22.) we learn that this represents the victory which Christ should obtain by the preaching of the Gospel, as Vitringa has largely shown on this passage. Čompare also Matt. xxi. 38. with Gen. xxxvii. 19, 20.
3. A passage is to be spiritually interpreted, when the arguments of the inspired writers either plainly intimate it to have a spiritual meaning, or such meaning is tacitly implied.
For instance, when St. Paul is arguing against the Jews from the types of Sarah, Hagar, Melchisedec, &c. he supposes that in these memorable Old Testament personages there were some things in which Christ and his mystical body the church were delineated, and that these things were admitted by his opponents: otherwise his argument would be inconclusive. Hence it follows, that Isaac, Joseph, and other persons mentioned in the Old Testament, of whom there is no typical or spiritual signification given in the Scriptures, in express terms, were types of Christ in many things that happened to them, or were performed by them. In like manner, St. Paul shows (1 Cor. ix. 9, 10.) that the precept in Deut. xxv. 4. relative to the muzzling of oxen, has a higher spiritual meaning than is suggested by the mere letter of the command.
Such are the most important criteria, by which to ascertain whether a passage may require a spiritual interpretation, or not. But although
these rules will afford essential assistance in enabling us to determine this point, it is another and equally important question, in what manner that interpretation is to be regulated.
In the consideration of this topic, it will be sufficient to remark, that the general principles already laid down, with respect to the figurative and allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures, are applicable to the spiritual exposition, of the sacred writings. It only remains to add, that all mystical or spiritual interpretations must be such as really illustrate, not obscure or perplex the subject. Agreeably to the sound maxim adopted by divines, they must not be made the foundation of articles of faith, but must be offered only to explain or confirm what is elsewhere more clearly revealed;2 and above all, they must on no account or pretext whatever, be sought after in matters of little moment.
In the spiritual interpretation of Scripture, there are two extremes to be avoided, viz. on the one hand, that we do not restrict such interpretation within too narrow limits; and, on the other hand, that we do not seek for mystical meanings in every passage, to the exclusion of its literal and common sense, when that sense is sufficiently clear and intelligible. The latter of these two extremes is that to which men have in every age been most liable. Hence it is, that we find instances of it in the more antient Jewish doctors, especially in Philo, and among many of the fathers, as Cyprian, Jerome, Augustine, and others, and particularly in Origen, who appears to have derived his system of allegorising the sacred writings from the school of Plato. Nor are modern expositors altogether free from these extravagances. Some of these mistaken interpretations we have already noticed :3 aud, if our limits permitted, other instances might easily be adduced, in which a similar excess of spiritualising is to be found.
In these strictures, the author trusts he shall not be charged with improperly censuring "that fair and sober accommodation of the historical and parabolical parts to the present times and circumstances, or to the elucidation of either the doctrines or precepts of Christianity, which is sanctioned by the word of God ;" and which he has attempted to illustrate in the preceding criteria for ascertaining the mystical or spiritual meaning of the Scriptures. Such an accommodation, it is justly remarked, is perfectly allowable, and may be highly useful; and in some cases it is absolutely necessary. "Let every truly pious man, however, be aware of the danger of extending this principle beyond its natural and obvious application; lest he should wander himself, and lead others also astray from that clearly traced and wellbeaten path in which we are assured that even a wayfaring man though a fool, shall not err.' Let no temptations, which vanity, a desire of popularity, or the more specious, but equally fallacious,
1 See Chapter V. Sections I. III. and IV. pp. 581-588. and 598–609. supra. 2" Est regula theologorum, sensum mysticum non esse argumentativum; hoc est, non suppeditare firma ac solida argumenta, quibus dogmata fidei inædificentur. Rambach, Inst. Herm. Sacr. pp. 72, 73.
3 See pp. 502, 503. supra.