Imágenes de páginas

with calves of a year old ? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousand rivers of oil ? Shall I give my first-born' for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good : and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah. vi. 6-8.) 6 Behold, his soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him : but the just shall live by his faith.” (Habak. ii. 4.) 6 Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls : yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (iii. 17, 18.)

Ø 11. These passages present a specimen of the instructions to be gathered from the reading of the prophets, in addition to their predictions ;-and who will say that they are not easily intelligible ? But how much of their force and beauty is lost, by being detached from that connexion in which the Holy Spirit has thought fit to place them? And, on the other hand, how strongly are they illustrated and impressed, by the reasonings and amplifications, the sanctions and examples, with which they are surrounded and interwoven ? Yet I suppose our author would contend, that to vulgar minds their practical influence must be destroyed or perverted by the vicinity of clouds and difficulties :--and he will no doubt be ready to remind us of the antiquity of these compositions; the variety of authors; the diversity of climate, . manners, and institutions; the glowing imagination of the Eastern nations, and its fruitfulness in metaphors, allegories, and hyperboles ! Notwithstanding all this, I am of opinion that such passages as I have quoted are prominent to the view of the unlettered but diligent reader, and that he is competent to discern the glory of the heavenly arch by which the throne of mercy is surrounded, though neither he nor any mortal can penetrate the cloud.-Nay, it is one of the salutary purposes of the revelation of God, to teach us humble adoration from the discovery that “ clouds, and darkness are round about him ;” as well as love and trust from the conviction, that “ righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne *."

di destroyed vulgar mindspose our face are sur

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]

But besides the good use to be derived from acknows ledged difficulties, it appears to me, that they are by no means so numerous or formidable, as'the rapid but exaggerated sketch of our author would make those believe, who are' content to be superficial, and to take the most important of all subjects upon trust. In fact, the difficulties which embarrass most, are those which are created by an unwillingness to submit our judgments to the wisdom and testimony of God, and to surrender our favourite systems and pre-conceived opinions to those explicit doctrines and declarations which will not bend to them, And, surely, in this respect the ignorant man, who comes to learn from the Bible, has (cæteris paribus) a great and manifest advantage. As to the difficulty resulting from a variety of writers in the same volume, I shall only observe, that, notwithstanding the diversity of style and circumstances by which the instruments are marked,—THE AUTHOR IS ONE. And the amazing harmony, which pervades the whole volume, has most justly been urged as a strong internal evidence of its divine original. The figurative language too, with which it abounds, especially in the books of the prophets, is not so hard to be understood, as we may be led to imagine by the bewildering sound of hyperboles and oriental metaphors. Let us look attentively at the figures themselves, and not depend on general designations. Let it be remembered, that figurative language is the language of nature ;—that we are perpetually speaking in metaphors, so as to be almost unconscious of them from the familiarity of their use. The illiterate too, from the very poverty of their language, are only the more assimilated to the want of copiousness, which Mr O’C. has noticed as a source of difficulty in the Hebrew. And it is certain, that the occupation of the Israelites' in husbandry, and the care of herds and flocks, was highly favourable to the production of writings universally delightful and intelligible. To this we are indebted for some of the most beautiful poetry of the Psalms of David, in which the imagery is taken from rural scenes and rural employments, and they have undoubtedly been cung with holy joy, and spiritual understanding, by many a rustic voice. Shall the charge of incapacity to comprehend an oriental metaphor repel the lowest peasant in the land from the rich consolation of the

e in de are versally cuainney thaters

Shepherd's hymn :--66 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures : he leadeth me beside the still waters.”—The sweet Psalmist of Israel was a shepherd : and, in the 19tłr Psalm, and wherever he introduces them,- he has sung even the wonders of the firmament, in strains which the astronomer and the peasant may unite in admiring. And even where the more appropriate images are departed from, either those are used which are still universally intelligible, or may be easiiy rendered familiar by an acquaintance with the other books of the Old Testament.—5 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters: these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.” (Psalm 107.)“ Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Psalm 51.).

The prophet Amos informs us, that he was an herdman; and, though the most sublime of the prophets, Isaiah, is said to have been of royal race, his images are generally drawn from the book of nature legible to all, or are susceptible of illustration from the other Scriptures. I admit, that many of them are discerned with additional force and beauty, by the aid of learning and taste ; but even these are sufficiently plain to delight and edify an illiterate believer, humbly seeking to be made wise unto salvation. “ A man" (says the prophet in the 32nd chapter) « À. man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest: as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." Those who are most acquainted with the circumstances of oriental countries are doubtless best prepared to feel these beautiful allusions; but surely even a Western peasant may apply them to bis Redeemer, may learn more of the sea curity and comfort to be found in him, and be reminded of spiritual blessings by the natural objects which he beholds and feels. Parallel quotations might be multiplied: but I shall turn to a passage, which, 'standing detached is difficult; but obviously capable of interpretation by the plainest reader of the Pentateuch. In the 4th chapter of Isaiah it is promised, that “ the Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night:" Who that has read the book of Exodus could hesitate to apply the cloudy pillar, in which

os be quo. whice interpe Ach coate ubom

the presence of the Most High was the leader of the camp of Israel? In like manner, various other allusions to the Jewish history and ritual admit of ready illustration; and in some cases, where the figure is extended to an allegory or parable, the meaning is explained in the context itself. Thus the imagery, which describes the peaceful effects of the Messiah's reign in the 11th chapter, is immediately followed by a plain passage, which suggests the spiritual interpretation :-" The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid : and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice? den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain : for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” To the parable of the vineyard in the 5th chapter, the application is added in the 7th verse " For the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant.” The resurrection of the dry bones in the 37th chapter of Ezekiel, and the union of the sticks of Judah and Ephraim, afford similar examples. But to enlarge upon this subject 'would be needlessly diffuse; and I shati close it by anticipating a brief review of the Apocalypse, as being the only book of the New Testament, which belongs to the class of prophecy.

Taking it altogether, it is (perhaps without exception) the most obscure and difficult part of the Holy Scriptures. The fact is accounted for by its extent from the early part of the Christian æra to the consummation of all things. The part unfulfilled must necessarily be obscure, and the key of futurity may be requisite for the full explanation even of what has been already verified. But; with all its acknowledged difficulty, I do not hesitate to affirm, that it is a book of practical utility. I cannot say that Mr. O'C's. assertion (p. 28.) of the taste of the poor Protestant leading him to this, and the other obscure parts of the Bible, in preference to the easier parts, has been confirmed in my experience.-But, if such a one should hope to partake of the blessing which is pronounced generally upon him “ that readeth," and upon those 65 that

hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein," I see no reason which can authorize any man to say that he is excluded. And, if this should be supposed to be inconsistent with the admissions which I have made, I would ask the reader to reflect, what a large proportion of the Apocalypse is either devotional or monitory, and upon the manner in which we find such passages intermixed with those which are hard to be interpreted, so as to impart to them a character in complete harmony with the most intelligible preceptş.

What a union of majesty and grace does the first chapter display in the person of him 6 that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood !”—“ Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him”66 the first and the last " he that liveth and was dead," and is 66 alive for evermore.” It is true, he is mystically exhibited in the midst of " seven golden candlesticks,” but these are explained to be the “ seven churches” of Asia. La

That sort of feeling, which is manifested by the adversaries of Bible Societies, will perhaps imagine danger from publishing the high privilege of being made “ kings and priests unto God.”-But, if it evidertly belong to all believers of every degree without respect of persons, why are they to be kept in ignorance of the riches of their inheritance ? Or why are any to be denied the prospect of what they may attain to ? St. James exhorts the brother of low degree" to " rejoice in that he is exalted :" and who were they to whom St. Paul ventured to write, 4 All things. are yours: whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come ?”—I admit the danger of being 5 puffed up;”—but all are exposed to it: and all the unscriptura! devices, restrictions and cautions of man, are insufficient to counteract it. We should leave to the All-wise, in his ever-watchful Providence, the adoption of the soundest and most efficacious remedies,_Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased ; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. xxiji, 12, &c.).

The next two chapters of the Revelations are occupied with practical letters to the seven churches, each of which concludes with an exhortation like that which our Lord addressed to those multitudes which surrounded him. ” He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith

« AnteriorContinuar »