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very Question, which is, whether a Scripture PROPOSITION (for all Prophecies are reducible to Propositions) be capable of two senses; and, to support the negative, he labours to prove that WORDS OR TERMS can have but one.-If then WORDS are made use of to signify two or more THINGS at the same time, their significancy is really lost —such TERMS as stand for ideas in mens minds-TERMS made use of must be such as are wont to raise such certain ideas-All this is readily allowed; but how wide of the purpose, may be seen by this instance: Jacob says, I will go down into Sheol unto my son mourning. Now if SHEOL signify in the ancient Hebrew only the Grave, it would be abusing the TERM to make it signify likewise, with the vulgar Latin, in infernum, because if WORDS (as he says) be made to signify two or more things at the same time, their significancy is lost. -But when this PROPOSITION of the Psalmist comes to be interpreted, Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell [SHEOL] neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption; though it literally signifies security from the curse of the Law upon transgressors, viz. immature death, yet it is very reasonable to understand it in a spiritual sense, of the resurrection of CHRIST from the dead; in which, the words or terms translated Soul and Hell, are left in the meaning they bear in the Hebrew tongue, of Body and Grave.
But let us suppose our Reasoner to mean that a PROPOSITION is not capable of two senses, as perhaps he did in his confusion of ideas, for notwithstanding his express words to the contrary, before he comes to the end of his argument, he talks of the true sense of ANY PASSAGE being but one; and then his assertion must be, That if one Proposition have two Senses, its significancy is really lost; and that it is impossible to understand the real certain intention of him that uses them; consequently Revelation will become useless, because unintelligible.
Now this I will take the liberty to deny. In the following instances a single Proposition was intended by the writers and speakers to have a double sense. The poet Virgil says,
"Talia, per clypeum Volcani, dona parentis
Miratur: rerumque ignarus, imagine gaudet,
The last line has these two senses: First, that Æneas bore on his shoulders a shield, on which was engraved a prophetic picture of the fame and fortunes of his posterity: Secondly, that under the protection of that piece of armour he established their fame and fortunes, and was enabled to make a settlement in Latium, which proved the foundation of the Roman empire.†
Here then is a double sense, which, I believe, none who have any + See note MMM, at the end of this book.
• Eneid. lib, viii. in fin.
taste of Virgil will deny. The preceding verse introduces it with great art,
"Miratur, rerumque ignarus imagine gaudet:"
and prepares us for something mysterious, and hid behind the letter. On Peter's refusing to eat of clean and unclean meats promiscuously, in the vision presented to him, the Holy Spirit says, What God hath cleansed that call not thou common. * The single proposition is, That which God hath cleansed is not common or impure; but no one who reads this story can doubt of its having this double sense: 1. That the distinction between clean and unclean meats was to be abolished. 2. And That the Gentiles were to be called into the church of CHRIST, Here then the true sense of these PASSAGES is not one, but two: and yet the intention or meaning is not, on this account, the least obscured or lost, or rendered doubtful or unintel ligible.
He will say, perhaps, "that the very nature of the subject, in both cases, determines the two senses here explained." And does he think, we will not say the same of double senses in the Prophecies? But he seems to take it for granted, that Judaism and Christianity have no kind of relation to one another: Why else would he bring, in discredit of a double sense, these two verses of Virgil:
"Hi motus animorum, atque hæc certamina tanta
On which he thus descants-The words are determinate and clear. -Suppose now a man having occasion to speak of intermitting fevers and the ruffle of a man's spirits, and the easy cure of the disorder by pulverized bark, &c.†-To make this pertinent, we must suppose no more relation between the fortunes of the Jewish Church and the Christian, than between a battle of Bees, and the tumult of the animal Spirits if this were not his meaning, it will be hard to know what was, unless to shew his happy talent at a parody.
But as he seems to delight in classical authorities, I will give him one not quite so absurd; where he himself shall confess that a double meaning does in fact run through one of the finest Odes of Antiquity. Horace thus addresses a crazy ship in which his friends had embarked for the Ægean sea :
"O navis, referent in mare te novi
Nudum remigio latus, &c.‡
In the first and primary sense, he describes the dangers of his friends in a weak unmanned vessel, and in a tempestuous sea: in the secondary, the dangers of the Republic in entering into a new civil † Page 225.
Acts x. 15.
HORATII Od. lib. i, od. 14.
war, after all the losses and disasters of the old. As to the secondary sense, which is ever the most questionable and obscure, we have the testimony of early Antiquity delivered by Quintilian: As to the primary sense, the following will not suffer us to doubt of it:
"Nuper solicitum quæ mihi tædium,
Vites æquora Cycladas."
But there being, as we have shewn above, two kinds of allegories; (the first, viz. the proper allegory; which hath but one real sense, because the literal meaning, serving only for the envelope, and without a moral import,* is not to be reckoned; the second, the improper, which hath two, because the literal meaning is of moral import; and of this nature are Prophecies with a double sense) the Critics on Horace, not apprehending the different natures of these two kinds, have engaged in very warm contests. The one side seeing some parts of the Ode to have a necessary relation with a real ship, contend for its being purely historical; at the head of these is Tanaquil Faber, who first started this criticism, after fifteen centuries of peaceable possession of the Allegory: the other side, on the authority of Quintilian, who gives the ode as an example of this figure, will have it to be purely allegorical. Whereas it is evidently both one and the other; of the nature of the second kind of allegories, which have a double sense; and this double sense, which does not in the least obscure the meaning, the learned reader may see, adds infinite beauty to the whole turn of the Apostrophe. Had it been purely historical, nothing had been more cold or trifling; had it been purely allegorical, nothing less natural or gracious, on account of the enormous length into which it is drawn.-Ezekiel has an allegory of that sort which Quintilian supposes this to be, (namely, a proper allegory with only one real sense) and he manages it with that brevity and expedition which a proper allegory demands, when used in the place of a metaphor. Speaking of Tyre under the image of a Ship, he says, Thy Rowers have brought thee into great waters: the east-wind hath broken thee in the midst of the Seas. But suppose the Ode to be both historical and allegorical, and that, under his immediate concern for his Friends, he conveyed his more distant apprehensions for the Republic; and then there appears so much ease, and art, and dignity in every period, as makes us justly esteem it the most finished composition of Antiquity.
What is it then which makes the double sense so ridiculous and absurd in, Hi motus animorum, &c. and so noble and rational in, O Navis referent, &c. but this, That, in the latter case, the subject of the two senses had a close connexion in the INTERESTS OF THE † Ezek. xxvii. 26.
• See above, p. 168, et seq.
WRITER; in the former, none at all? Now that which makes two senses reasonable, does, at the same time, always make them intelligible and obvious. But if this be true, then a double sense in Prophecies must be both reasonable and intelligible: For I think no Believer will deny that there was the closest connexion between the Jewish and Christian systems, in the Dispensations of the Holy Spirit. This will shew us, with what knowledge of his subject the late Lord Bolingbroke was endowed, when he endeavoured to discredit Types and Figures by this wise observation, "That Scripture Types and Figures have NO MORE RELATION TO the things said to be typified, than to any thing that passes now in France."*
3. His next argument runs thus-"If God is disposed to reveal to mankind any truths he must convey them in such a manner that they may be understood-if he speaks to men, he must condescend to their infirmities and capacities-Now if he were to contrive a Proposition in such a manner that the same Proposition should relate to several events; the consequence would be, that as often as events happened which agreed to any Proposition, so often would the Revelation be accomplished. But this would only serve to increase the confusion of men's minds, and never to clear up any Prophecy: No man could say what was intended by the spirit of GOD: And if MANY events were intended, it would be the same thing as if NO event was intended at all.”†
I all along suspected he was talking against what he did not understand. He proposed to prove the absurdity of a double or secondary sense of Prophecies; and now he tells us of MANY senses; and endeavours to shew how this would make Prophecy useless. But sure he should have known, what the very phrase itself intimates, that no prophetic Proposition is pretended to have more than Two senses: And farther, that the subject of each is supposed to relate to two connected and successive Dispensations: which is so far from creating any confusion in men's minds, or making a Prophecy useless, that it cannot but strengthen and confirm our belief of, and give double evidence to, the divinity of the Prediction. On the contrary, he appears to think that what orthodox Divines mean by a second sense, is the same with what the Scotch Prophets mean by a second sight; the seeing one thing after another as long as the imagination will hold out.
4. His last Argument is—" Nor is it any ground for such a supposition, that the Prophets being FULL OF THE IDEAS of the Messiah, and his glorious kingdom, MADE USE OF IMAGES taken from thence, From to express the points upon which they had occasion to speak. whencesoever they took their ideas, yet when they spoke of present
"Works," vol. iii. p. 306.
↑ Page 226.
↑ See p. 221.
facts, it was present facts only that were to be understood. Common language, and the figures of it, and the manner of expression; the metaphors, the hyperboles, and all the usual forms of speech, are to be considered: And if the occasions of the expression are taken from a future state, yet still the Proposition is to be interpreted of that one thing to which it is particularly applied."*
Orthodox Divines have supported the reasonableness and probability of double senses by this material Observation, that the inspired Writers were full of the ideas of the Christian Dispensation. That is, there being a close relation between the Christian and the Jewish, of which the Christian was the completion, whenever the Prophets spoke of any of the remarkable fortunes of the one, they interwove with it those of the other. A truth, which no man could be so hardy to deny, who believes, 1. That there is that relation between the two Religions and 2. That these inspired men were let into the nature and future fortunes of both. See now in what manner our Author represents this observation. It is no ground, says he, for a double sense, that the Prophets were full of the ideas of a Messiah and his glorious kingdom, and made use of images taken from thence; [that is, that they enobled their style by their habitual contemplation of magnificent ideas.] For (continues he) whencesoever they took their ideas, when they spoke of present facts, present facts alone were to be understood. Common language and the figures of it, &c.-Without doubt, from such a fulness of ideas, as only raised and enobled their style, it could be no more concluded that they meant future facts, when they speak of present, than that Virgil, because he was full of the magnificent ideas of the Roman grandeur, where he says, Priami Imperium-Divum Domus, Ilium, et Ingens gloria Teucrorum, meant Rome as well as Troy. But what is all this to the purpose? Orthodox Divines talk of a fulness of ideas arising from the Holy Spirit's revealing the mutual dependency and future fortunes of the two Dispensations; and revealing them for the information, solace, and support of the Christian Church: And Dr. Sykes talks of a fulness of ideas got nobody knows how, and used nobody knows why,-to raise (I think he says) their style and enoble their images. Let him give some good account of this representation, and then we may be able to determine, if it be worth the trouble, whether he here put the change upon himself or his readers. To all this Dr. Sykes replies, "It was no answer, to shew that there are allegories and allegorical interpretations, for these were never by me denied." Exam. p. 363. Why does he tell us of his never denying allegories, when he is called upon for denying secondary senses? Does he take these things to be different? If he does, his answer is nothing to the purpose, for he is only