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his will, in successive stages, with still increasing clearness, and always adapting his discoveries to the situation of the people chosen to be the depositories of divine truth, till the Messiah, to whom every revelation pointed, was ushered into the world; and the grand plan of redemption was finished by the rise and diffusion of Christianity.* The Gospel, being the completion of the types and figures, the prophecies and the ceremonial ordinances, of the Law, was promulgated in the phraseology borrowed from the ancient Oracles, as the consecrated medium of revelation. Hence arises the close connexion between the Jewish and Christian Scriptures; in so much, that the New Testament is best understood by a comparison with the Old; and the Old Testament is rendered perspicuous by reflective light from the New.
If the Hebrew volume, then, is not studied and applied to the illustration of the Gospel, the Evangelical truths will either be subjected to the torture of Calvinism, or they will appear faded and diminished in the faithless mirror of Socinianism. It is only important, however, as a means conducive to an end, as the best preparative, and the most faithful guide, to a true exposition of the Christian Revelation. This is the object to which every thing else is naturally subordinate; and, as the Old Testament is subservient to this end in so many ways, a critical study of it becomes of particular importance to the stewards of the mysteries of God. “ It is, however, to be remembered,” says Bishop Horsley, “ that the Writings of the Old Testament are only of a secondary importance, for the evidence which they afford of the truth of our Lord's pretensions, and for the light which they throw upon the doctrines of the Gospel, which is indeed so great, that an inattention to these more ancient parts of the code of Revelation is likely to be one principal cause of the scepticism which unhappily prevails among our modern sectaries, concerning the original dignity of the Redeemer's nature, and the expiatory virtue of his sufferings."*
* Law's Theory of Religion, part 2. Dr. Graves's Lectures on the Pentateuch.
* Bishop Horsley's Tracts, p. 2, Dundee, 1812. The relative correspondence between the two Covenants was well understood by the ancient Fathers, who, in illustrating the Doctrines of the Gospel, continually appeal to the Old Testament: n yap ec Xplotov TLOTIS, KAL η του Ευαγγελιου γνωσις, εξηγησις εστι και του νομου πληρωσις. :--(Clemens Alexandrinus, Strom. 4, p. 528, B. Paris, 1629.) The author of the Quæst. et Respons. ad Orthodox. among the works of Justin Martyr, observes : Ti yap COTIV O vouos; evayyelcov
This leads me to the consideration of the means of interpreting the book of Proverbs, and of the helps which the assiduity of the learned has supplied for a full development of its meaning. This, therefore, shall be the subject of the next section.
Whatever rank the Proverbs may be supposed to hold in the scale of elegance and poetry, and however valuable may be their stores of preceptive wisdom, the progress of the interpreter is not free and unobstructed: he marches not in an open path, or over a smooth and enamelled lawn; he has intricate thickets to penetrate, lofty mountains to scale, and abrupt precipices to surmount. Some difficulties 'must be encountered arising from the very nature of parabolic composition. In some instances, the sentiment is intentionally involved in dark and ænig
matical expressions, or in remote imagery and symbolical language, which must necessarily often be obscure to those who live in a distant age, and are habituated to totally different manners, customs, and opinions. Allusions and images, which were not only perspicuous, but beautiful and expressive, to those for whose instruction they were immediately designed, are either lost upon modern readers, or are beheld in a dim and confused manner through the intervening distance.
This impediment, however, from its infrequent occurrence, presents no formidable difficulty to the commentator ; since, if he cannot surmount it, he may be content to fail where his predecessors in the same attempt have failed, and where the obstacle may, perhaps, be insurmountable. But a more common obstruction arises from that which forms the first excellence of the proverb, its brief and condensed language. The brevity essential to it is often attended with obscurity; and the celebrated author of the Hebrew Prælections endeavours, with his usual elegance, but not with his usual success, to defend it as a beauty.* With respect to those aphorisms which
* “ Porro Brevitatem plerumque consequitur aliqua Obscuritas ; quam non modo non reforinidat Parabola, sed amat etiam, et aucu. patur, et sibi laudi ducit. Habet enim ea quoque res suam utilitatem: acuit animum, et intentum reddit; excitat studium et desiderium sciendi; in ipsa disquisitione vires ingenii stimulat et exercet : ad hæc, volt mens humana in percipienda veritate snas sibi partes relinqui ; non omnia plane nimis et aperte exponi, sed aliquid suæ perspicacitati tribui; &c.”—De Sac. Poes. Præl, xxiv, p. 315. See Bauer, Hermeneut. Sacra, $ 93, p. 395.
were originally designed to be “ dark sayings,” his observations may be admitted; but in all the rest, and in every other species of composition, with the exception, perhaps, of the prophetic, obscurity is a blemish; and, probably, none presented itself to the contemporaries of Solomon. One cause of obscurity, however, in the Proverbs, is, the extreme conciseness of expression, in consequence of which it is sometimes a difficult task, amid the different senses that most words will bear, to ascertain the genuine meaning of the author.
A still greater difficulty, in the interpretation of the book, arises from the want of connexion between the proverbs themselves. A large portion of the work consists of separate and detached sentences, having no relation to each other, and strung together without coberence or mutual dependence. That this must occasion ambiguity cannot be doubted, when it is considered how much the connexion or continuity