« AnteriorContinuar »
those who conversed with Adam? Can we then, setting aside Inspiration for a moment, believe it possible, that while there must have been so many remaining testimonies of former times, any lawgiver in his senses would have written a false account of those times, in a book which he ordered to be read publicly and frequently, as well as privately, by those very people who had clearly the power of contradicting it, and by convicting him of falsehood, of absolutely destroying his authority? or, that Moses would adopt the style of allegory in the beginning of a book professedly written for the use of a plain unlettered people (d), and containing a narrative of events which had passed before their eyes, and a code of laws which were to be literally observed ; that he would introduce a grave history of real occurrences, a detailed practical system of jurisprudence and of religion, by a fictitious representation of the wonders of Creation and Providence?
“ The account of the Creation,” says Mr. Gray, “is not to be considered as allegorical, or merely figurative, any more than the history of the Temptation, and of the Fall from Inno
(d) We ought always to remember, that the writings of Moses were addressed to the people in general, and not confined to the priesthood or the learned.
cence, since the whole description is unquestionably delivered as real, and is so considered by all the sacred writers (e). In the explanation of Scripture, indeed, no interpretation, which tends to supersede the literal sense, should be admitted ; and for this reason also it is, that those speculations, which are spun out with a view to render particular relations in the book of Genesis more consistent with our ideas of probability, should be received at least with great diffidence and caution. To represent the formation of the woman from Adam's rib, as a work performed in an imaginary sense, or as pictured to the mind in vision, seems to be too great a departure from the plain rules which should be observed in the construction of Scripture (f), and inconsistent with the expositions of the sacred writers. So likewise the wrestling of Jacob with an angel (g), though sometimes
(e) John, c. 8. v. 44.
2 Cor. c. 11. v. 3.
i Tim. €. 2. v. 13. Rev. c. 12. v.9. Allix's Reflections on Genesis. Waterland's General Preface to Scripture Vindicated. Witty's Essay towards Vindication of Mosaic History. Nichol's Conference with a Theist. Bochart de Scrip. Tentat,
(f) Gen, c. 1, v. 22 and 23. This is related by Moses as a real operation, though performed while Adam was in a deep sleep, and is so considered by the sacred writers, 1 Cor. c, 11. v. 8 and 9. (g) Gen. c. 32. V, 24,
considered as a scenical representation addressed to the fancy of the Patriarch, should rather be contemplated, like the temptation of Abraham, as a literal transaction, though perhaps of a figurative character; and like that, it was designed to convey information, by actions instead of words, of certain particulars, which it imported the Patriarch to know, and which he readily collected from a mode of revelation so customary in the early ages of the world, however it may seem incongruous to those who cannot raise their minds to the contemplation of any æconomy which they have not experienced, and who proudly question every event not consistent with their notions of propriety (h).” " To consider the whole of the Mosaic narration as an allegory, is not only to throw over it the veil of inexplicable confusion, and involve the whole Pentateuch in doubt and obscurity, but to shake to its very basis Christianity, which commences in the promise, that 'the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent.' In reality, if we take the history of the Fall in any other sense than the obvious literal sense, we plunge into greater perplexities than ever. Some well-meaning pious commentators have indeed endeavoured to reconcile all difficulties, by considering some parts of the Mosaic history
(h) Gray's Key, p. 87. edit. 3d.
in an allegorical, and other parts in a literal sense; but this is to act in a manner utterly inconsistent with the tenor and spirit of that history, and with the views of a writer, the distinguishing characteristics of whose production are simplicity, purity, and truth. There is no medium nor palliation; the whole is allegorical, or the whole is literal(i).”
The practice of allegorizing Scripture has been attended with the worst consequences. Though the Bible abounds with figurative language, and the sacred writers continually use metaphors to illustrate or enforce their meaning, yet we may venture to pronounce, that in no one book of the Old or New Testament, which professes to relate past occurrences, is there a single instance of allegory. This observation, which is meant to be confined to the historical parts of Scripture, properly so called, is perfectly consistent with the typical nature of many circumstances of the Jewish history. It is only maintained, that the narratives of past events are universally to be taken in their plain and literal sense; and it is to be wished that all readers of the Scriptures, and particularly young students in divinity, would keep that principle constantly in their minds. If allegory be allowed
(i) Maurice's History, v. 1. p. 368.
to be applicable in all cases, there is an end of certainty in Scripture history, and a door is opened to the wildest suggestions of the most extravagant imagination. Our own ideas of probability or propriety are not to be the criterion, by which we are to decide upon the reality of transactions recorded in the Bible; nor are we to question the truth of Scripture history, because we cannot always reconcile God's dealings with mankind to our notions of justice and mercy. Our partial and imperfect knowledge of the great plans of Divine Providence should teach us to judge of the counsels of the Almighty with humility and diffidence. The short-sighted reason of man is but ill qualified to pass sentence upon the decrees of Infinite Wisdom; and the consciousness of this incompetence will be the best preservative against the bad effects of that arrogant and irreverent presumption, with which the Word of God is treated in the present age.
Among the objections to the divine authority of the Pentateuch, the command to destroy the 'nations of Canaan is considered as being absolutely irreconcilable with divine justice, and therefore as impossible to have proceeded from God. It is a curious example of the inconsistency of sceptical arguments, that the destruction of the inhabitants of a small part of the