« PreviousContinue »
what connexion, either in the nature of things, or as determined by the word of God, can we fancy to exist between the death of one wife and the consummation of virtue in the husband, or the marriage of another and his pursuit of knowledge? Why might not the former as well, if not more fitly, represent the loss of virtue, and the latter a disposition to relax the search for the hidden treasures of knowledge and the higher graces of a Christian life? There would evidently be as good ground for asserting the one as the other; and, indeed, with such a mode of interpretation, the word of God would become no better than an Egyptian hieroglyph, as interpreted by the cabalistic philosophy of the middle ages, which could be made to express dogmas ever so varied and profound, according to the fancies or the creeds of those who assumed the office of interpretation, and instead of rendering inspired Scripture the handmaid of a higher instruction, it could only turn this into one vast sea of uncertainty, disorder and confusion.
As a proof of this, we need only mention the use which Clement of Alexandria, Origen’s master, has made (Stroma. 1. I. p. 333,) of another portion of sacred history, which treats of Abraham's wives. The instruction he derives from the patriarch's marriage successively to Sarah and Hagar, is that a Christian ought to cultivate philosophy and the liberal arts, before he devotes himself wholly to the study of divine wisdom. And the way he makes out this is, that Abraham is the image of a perfect Christian-Sarah the image of Christian wisdom—and Hagar the image of philosophy, or human wisdom. Abraham lived with Sarah for a long time in a state of connubial sterility, whence it is inferred, that a Christian, so long as he confines himself to the study of divine wisdom and religion alone, will never bring forth any great or excellent fruits. Abraham, then, with the consent of Sarah, takes to him Hagar, which proves, according to Clement, that a Christian ought to embrace the wisdom of this world or philosophy, and that Sarah or divine wisdom will not withhold her consent. Lastly, after Hagar had borne Ishmael to Abraham, he resumed his intercourse with Sarah, and of her begat Isaac; the true import of which is, that a Christian, after having once thoroughly grounded himself in human learning and philosophy, will, if he then devotes himself to the culture of divine wisdom, be capable of propagating the race of true Christians, and of rendering essential service to the church. Here we have two entirely different senses extracted from the narrative, by the master and the pupil; and, on the allegorical hypothesis, many more might with equal justice be adopted, while it is quite impossible to assign any ground of preference to one more than to another. The whole is left to the arbitrary caprice and fancy of each individual.
This vicious mode of interpretation, and manifest perversion of the plain meaning of Scripture, was not confined by Origen merely to the historical parts of the Old Testament, but was carried by him with unfortunate consistency through the greater part of Scripture. Even when explaining those portions of the Mosaic ri
tual, on which the Epistle to the Hebrews has furnished an inspired commentary, he could not abstain from his favourite plan of allegorizing, and searching for what he considered a higher sense. And in this, he was so far from being singular, that he himself was a follower of others, and was in turn followed by others—the Greek fathers as a body pursued the same system. One of the ablest of them, and a predecessor of Origen, the Clement just mentioned, even applied the allegorical principle to the moral parts of Scripture-to the law of the ten commandments, in which Origen differed from his master, though he could scarcely have been charged with inconsistency if he had concurred with him. For the allegorical system of interpretation, as then pursued, was just the offspring of that false philosophy, which treated every thing connected with matter and the common relations of life, as beneath the dignity, or adverse to the proper good of the soul, which behooved therefore to be ever soaring above such low and inferior things into the high abstractions of a contemplative theosophy. The fathers of the Latin school were much less infected with the spirit of this philosophy, and their interpretations of Scripture consequently partake much less of a transcendental and visionary character. Not a few of them, however, did occasionally adopt allegorical interpretations, though much more sparingly than was usual with the divines of the Greek church; and in so far as typical meanings were concerned, each writer in both churches seems to have acted without any proper rule or restraint, excepting what might be imposed by the natural cast of his own mind, or the nature of his subject. If in the eastern church we find such objects as the tree of life in the garden of Eden, the rod of Moses, Moses himself with his arms extended during the conflict with Amalek, regarded as types of the cross; in the western church we find Augustine, who paid more attention than most of his brethren to the work of interpretation, and whose name as a theologian soon eclipsed that of all others, discovering types with equal freedom in the facts of Old Testament history. As when, to look only into his work on the Psalms, he answers the question, “Wherefore did Christ enter into the sleep of death?” by saying, “Because Adam slept, when Eve was formed from his side, Adam being the figure of Christ, Eve as the mother of the living the figure of the church; and as she was formed from Adam while he was asleep, so was it when Christ slept on the cross, that the sacraments of the church flowed from his side."* Or again, when Saul is declared to have been the type of death, unwillingly appointed by God king over Israel, just as he reluctantly subjects his people to the stroke of death; and David's deliverance from the hand of Saul foreshadowed our deliverance through Christ from the power of death; while in that escape of David, coupled with the suffering of Ahimelech on his account, if not in his stead, there was a prefiguration of Christ's death and resurrection.t It would be alike needless and unprofitable to multiply examples farther, or prosecute the subject more in detail. Enough surely has been advanced to show, that the earlier divines of the Christian church had no sound or enlightened principles to guide them in the discovery or application of what is typical in Old Testament scripture, and that neither in their principles nor their practice is any proper safeguard to be found against extravagant and fanciful conceits. *
. In Ps. xli.
| In Ps. lii.
2. Passing over the dark gulf of the middle ages, we come down to the period of the Reformation. At that memorable era a mighty advance was made, not only beyond the ages immediately preceding, but also beyond those which produced the writings of the fathers, in attaining to a sound and rational interpretation of the word of God. The text of Scripture was examined like that of other ancient writings, and the manifold sense, which the most learned theologians had generally concurred in ascribing to it, was with one consent discarded by the leaders of the Reformation. Luther denounced mystical and allegorical interpretations as “trifling and foolish fables, with which the Scriptures were rent into so many and diverse senses, that silly poor consciences could receive no certain doctrine of any thing." And Calvin, in like manner repudiating all various meanings, declares that “the true meaning of Scripture is the natural and obvious meaning, by which we ought resolutely to abide,” and speaks of the “licentious system” of Origen and the allegorists, as undoubtedly a contrivance of Satan to undermine the authority of Scripture, and to take away from the reading of it the true advantage.” It would be beside our present purpose to inquire how these and the other eminent divines of that age exemplified such correct views in their general interpretations of Scripture; and as, from the circumstances in which they were placed, their attention was comparatively little drawn to the subject of types, and they formed no distinct school concerning it, we must descend a little further down to about the middle of the seventeenth century, when the science of theology came to be studied more in detail, and the types consequently received a separate investigation. About that period arose what is called the Cocceian school, which, though it did not revive the double sense of the Alexandrian school, (for Cocceius expressly disclaimed any thing but the literal and historical sense, as the proper one of Scripture,) yet by searching for an excessive fulness of meaning in the words of Scripture, was chargeable with somewhat of the caprice and irregularity of the ancient allegorists. Cocceius himself, less distinguished as a systematic writer in theology, than as a Hebrew scho
Those who wish to see the opinions of the earlier Christian writers treated more at large, may consult Davidson's Hermeneutics, or, if German scholars, Klausen's Hermeneutik. The latter thus marks the change introduced by the Alexandrian school of divines: “ It is in Clement and Origen that we find the allegorical method of exposition first not merely applied to the writings of the New Testament, but also based on a general idea of the nature of exposition, and connected with definite rules. So that, while it is wrong to name Origen the father of allegorical exposition, he is well entitled to be regarded as its scientific promoter," p. 100. | On Gal. ch. iy. y. 26.
On Gal, ch. iv. 22.
lar and learned expositor of Scripture, in which respect he did essential service to the cause of biblical science, left no elaborate statement of his views in regard to typical and allegorical interpretations, and it is chiefly from his annotations on particular passages, and the more systematic works of his followers, that these are to be gathered. How freely he was disposed to draw
Old Testament history for types of gospel things, may be understood from this one example, (taken from his Cur. Prior. in Gen. x.,) his conceiving Asshur going out and building Nineveh, to have typified the Turk or Mussulman power, which at once sprang from the kingdom, and shook the dominion, of antichrist. He evidently conceived, that every event in Old Testament history had its antitype in the history of Christ and his church. And how much he felt himself at liberty to allegorize Scripture, may also be understood from his subjecting the eighth Psalm to that arbitrary mode of interpretation ; according to which he understands by the sheep there spoken of, Christ's flock-by the oxen, those who labour in the service of Christ-by the beasts of the field, such as are strangers to the city and kingdom of God, barbarians and savages-by the fowl of the air and
fish of the sea, persons at a still greater disstance from godliness, immersed in worldly pleasures or puffed up with a vain and haughty disposition, so that there is nothing so wild and untractable on earth but it shall be brought under the rule and dominion of Christ.
It does not appear, however, that the views of Cocceius differed materially from those, which were held by some who preceded him, and considering, along with this, how little he did to reduce his views to a systematic form, it is rather strange that the school in question should have taken its name from him. If we turn to one of the earlier editions of Glass's Philologia Sacra, published before Cocceius had commenced his critical labours, (the first was published before he was born,) we shall find the principles of allegorical and typical investigations laid down, with a latitude which Cocceius himself could scarcely have quarrelled with. Indeed his examples require no more to justify them, than the principles stated by Glass, and though the latter in his section on allegories has to throw himself back chiefly on the fathers, he yet produces some quotations in support of his views both on these and types from some writers of his own age. There seems, indeed, to have been no difference of an essential nature between the views of Glass, Cocceius, Witsius, and Vitringa; and though the first wrote some time before, and the last about half a century later than Cocceius, no injustice can be done to any of them by taking the sentiments of one as substantially the sentiments of all. Like the fathers, they did not sufficiently distinguish between allegorical and typical interpretations, but regarded the one as only a particular form of the other, and both as equally warranted by New Testament scripture. Consequently the rules and principles which they adopted were very much the same for both kinds of interpretation, though at present we must confine our remarks to the typical de
partment. They held, then, that there was a twofold sort of types, the one innate, consisting of those types which are somewhere in Scripture itself declared to have been such, and explained; the other inferred, consisting of such as, though not particularized in Scripture, were yet on probable grounds inferred by interpreters, as conformable to the analogy of faith, and the practice of the inspired writers in regard to similar examples.* The latter class were understood by the persons we speak of to be equally proper and valid with the other, and were distinguished from those, which were sometimes forged by Papists, and were at variance with the analogies just mentioned. Of course, from their very nature, they could only be employed for the support and confirmation of truths already received, and not to prove what was otherwise doubtful; but still they were not on that account to be less diligently searched for, or less confidently used, because thus only could Christ be found in all the Scriptures, which all testify of him.
It must be owned that the grounds on which this system rested were chiefly loose and general principles, which left ample scope for any one who chose to run into endless extravagancies; and in practice, a mere resemblance, however accidental or unimportant, between something in the Old and something in the New Testament scriptures, was deemed sufficient to constitute the one a type of the other. Hence, in the very learned and able authors above referred to, we find the name of Abel (emptiness) viewed as prefiguring our Lord's humiliation; the occupation of Abel, Christ's office as the great Shepherd of the sheep; the withdrawment of Isaac from his father's house to the land of Moriah, Christ's being led out of the temple to Calvary; Adam's awaking out of sleep, Christ's resurrection from the dead; Samson's meeting a young lion by the way, and the transactions that followed, Christ's meeting Paul on the road to Damascus, with the important train of events to which it led; David's gathering to himself a party from the distressed, the bankrupt and discontented, Christ's receiving into his church publicans and sinners,—with many others of a like nature.
Were it necessary, examples in great number of a like kind might be produced from writers of our own country, such as Mather, † Keach, I Worden, § T. Taylor,|| and Guild, who belonged to the same school of interpretation, and who nearly all wrote about the end or close of the seventeenth century. Excepting the first two, they do not enter at all into the rationale of the subject, and these two very sparingly. The works are all of a much more popu·lar cast than those of the continental divines last noticed, and rather exhibited by particular examples, than theoretically ex
.* Philologia Sac. Lib. II. P. 1. Tract. II. Sect. IV. Vitringa Obs. Sac. Vol. II. Lib. VI. ch. XX. Witsius de Econom. Lib. IV. ch. 6. † The Figures and Types of the Old Testament. Key to open the Scripture Metaphors and Types.
The Types unveiled, or the Gospel picked out of the Legal Ceremonies. || Moses and Aaron.
1 Moses unveiled,