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Messiah, from the two goats of the ritual | dicate the true rest; and this again, mulof the Jewish day of atonement; nor the tiplied by three, indicates the total of the number of the apostles, from the tradi- heirs of the heavenly rest. Or, if we pretional number of the bells in the fringe of fer something simpler, there are other Aaron's ephod; nor the spread of the schemes to accommodate us. We may Gospel through Europe, Asia, and Africa, take the mystic number to mean that the from the three measures of meal in which Church would be composed of married, the woman of the parable hid her leaven; widowed, and virgin members in the pronor the union of Jew and Gentile in the portion of a hundred of the first to fifty Church, from the circumstance that two of the second, and three of the last; or boats were filled with the fish caught in that the divine kingdom would embrace the first miraculous draught; nor the pres- the three known quarters of the globe, ence of the women at the Lord's burial with an equal contingent, represented by from the proverbial saying, "Whereso- fifty, from each. ever the carcass is, thither shall the eagles Between the Fathers and the expositors be gathered together." The spices used of the modern world the medieval schoolat the burial cannot have been really pre- men form the connecting link; and of dicted by the "spikenard and saffron, these the chief thing to be noted is that, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of besides keeping up the mystical and fanfrankincense" grown in the spouse's gar-tastic method of interpretation, they had den in the Canticles; nor the crucifixion their own peculiar stone of stumbling in in Isaiah's complaint, "I have spread out their endeavor to weld together theology my hands all the day to a rebellious peo- and philosophy in a compact, logical sysple." To go back to Eden for the origin tem of knowledge. Nothing is less cast of the obligation to fast, and deduce it in a systematic mould than the Bible; and from the prohibition to eat the fruit of the it was not possible to stretch it on the bed tree of knowledge, is curiously perverse; of the Aristotelian logic without sadly nor is it less so to turn the parable of the straining and distorting it. Under such wise and foolish virgins into a eulogy on treatment Revelation was transformed virginity and almsgiving, by making the into a code of supernatural knowledge, lamps mean the former and the oil the lat-out of which a theory of the universe ter; and the parable of the sower into an might be constructed, and the inspired appraisement of the respective merits of volume became a repository of proposithe married, widowed, and virgin states tions capable of being discussed like metof life, in the ascending scale of the thir-aphysical problems. How uncritical was tyfold, sixtyfold, and hundredfold. The the schoolmen's use of Scripture may be extremely fanciful identification of the learned from the fact that even the greatfour-and-twenty elders of the Apocalypse est of them, the Angelical Doctor, Thomas with the Old Testament reckoned as Aquinas, takes "the least in the kingdom twenty-four books, and of the four living of heaven" to mean an angel of the lowest creatures with the four Gospels, still has rank in the celestial hierarchy; establishes its advocates; but we are not aware that the pre-eminence of Satan by the highly any modern expositor has ventured to en- poetical descriptions, in Job of the hippodorse any of the patristic interpretations potamus, in Isaiah and Ezekiel of the of the number of the fish, "an hundred cities of Babylon and Tyre; proves the and fifty and three," taken in the second justification of a sinner to be the greatest miraculous draught. One scheme makes of God's works by the text, "His mercies it up out of the fulness of the Gentiles are over all His works," and to be instanreckoned at a hundred, the elect remnant taneous by the suddenness of the sound of Israel at fifty more, and the three Per- at the Pentecostal effusion of the Spirit; sons of the Trinity, to whose praise they and bases the seven orders of the ministry are all gathered. Another gets it by add-in the Roman Church on Isaiah's predic ing the ten words of the Decalogue to the tion of the sevenfold grace that should seven gifts of the Spirit, and then sum- rest upon the Messiah. If it is curious to ming the numerals from one to seventeen find his predecessor, the famous Master inclusive, which again brings out a hun- of the Sentences, interpreting the "begindred and fifty-three for the number of the ning "in the first verse of the Bible to redeemed. Another, having got the sev-mean the second Person in the Trinity, enteen as before, multiplies it by three, what can be said of a contemporary exthe number of the Trinity; the fifty-one positor who explains the cupidity of Judas thus obtained, being one in excess of the by the statement, that the bribe offered Jubilee period of the Jews, is taken to in-him consisted of the identical' pieces of
money paid by the Ishmaelites for Joseph, | be taken as typical of a good deal of the which bad come down through the ages exegesis still prevalent. A pious Frenchas an heirloom in Israel, and were worth ten times as much as the current coins? Such is the long ancestral line through which the habit of misinterpreting Scripture has come down to modern Christendom. From one point of view the antiquity of the practice may perhaps be pleaded in extenuation of our fault. We only follow our fathers, it may be urged, and, at any rate, we are no worse than they. True, we are not worse, for that were barely possible; but our guilt is that we are not greatly better that we have taken so little to heart the warning that lies before us in their errors, and profited so little by the light which has illuminated other departments of study. If our indictment seems overcharged, let the reader reserve his verdict till he has weighed the evidence we shall adduce.
Probably the most prolific source of modern wrestings of Scripture is the desire to discover in it what the expositor himself wants it to say, or thinks that it ought to say. When a person has any topic on the brain, as the familiar phrase runs, it is surprising how that topic appears to him to lurk in the most unlikely places, and with what ingenious dexterity he hauls it forth, as a conjuror produces his miscellanies from what looks to the spectator like an empty sleeve. The mind of the commentator being saturated with the tenets of Christianity, he is tempted to read them back unconsciously into the documents of the preceding dispensation, and perceive them starting up on all sides out of the rudimentary teaching of the earlier ages of Revelation. Some particular doctrine, perhaps, has laid such an exclusive and tyrannical grasp on his thoughts, that everything in his eyes is colored by it, or in some way or other contains it or leads up to it. What expositors of this stamp draw out of the text is not so much what is really in it, as what they themselves have brought to it. They discover it there because they have unconsciously put it there, and, as the proverb says, "They who hide can find." They remind one of a man looking earnestly into a mirror to ascertain what is in it, and taking for answer the image that confronts him, which, of course, is - nothing else than his own likeness.
We borrow from the late Archdeacon Hare's very interesting work, "Guesses at Truth," a curious illustration of this process, because, ludicrous as it is from a critical point of view, it may not unfairly
- the hon
man, it is related, was bewailing the con-
As to the instances that we now proceed to give, we can assure the reader that they are all genuine, although, for obvious reasons, we shall scrupulously abstain from giving names and references. We are not attacking persons, but protesting against a traditional and mischievous method. Nor shall we attempt to be exhaustive: that would require almost as many volumes as we have pages at our service. It will be enough to make a comparatively small selection of characteristic specimens.
Beginning with the common case of reading doctrines into passages where no legitimate construction can possibly find them, we will take, first, the great doctrine of life and immortality brought to light in the Gospel. In spite of the certain fact that this doctrine was mysteriously held back in the earlier Revelation till near its close, our modern expositors are constantly forcing it out of Old Testament texts. When Korah's rebellious company were buried alive by the earth yawning under their feet, the simple phrase which describes them as going down "alive into the pit" is compelled to yield the preposterous sense that their disembodied souls passed on into Hades. When a parent in the old time spoke of going down to his son in the grave, or a patriarch or king
was said to be gathered to his fathers, we more wild. Far be it from us to deny that are asked to strain the language so as to human love, on its spiritual side, is an make it imply a conscious reunion in the expressive emblem or shadow of "the love world of spirits. Because Josiah was told which passeth knowledge; "or that Solthat he should be spared by his death omon's Song, viewed in the light of a from seeing the calamities coming on his sacred idealization of the marriage bond, people, the inference is drawn that news may as a whole be fairly applied to image from the upper world does not penetrate forth the mystic union of the Redeemer the abode of the departed. From Isaiah's with his bride the Church. What shocks saying that the righteous rest in their the sober critical sense, as involving an beds, each one who on earth had lived inadmissible anachronism, is the divorce uprightly, the headlong expositor takes of the Hebrew lyric from its plain historioccasion to expatiate on the moral energy cal sense, and the literal transfer, item by of the disembodied saints. The Preach-item, to the yet unrevealed mysteries of er's saying that when man dies the breath Christianity, of its poetical and impasreturns to God who gave it, instead of being taken as simply meaning in his mouth the reversal of the original creative process, is turned into a proof of the true but later doctrine of man's continued personal existence in a future world.
But we must not linger on any single doctrine. What reasonable plea can be urged for finding the Atonement in the scarlet thread which Rahab was to bind in her window at Jericho, as a signal to the Israelites? or in the crimson lips of the spouse in the Canticles? or in the worm to which the afflicted Psalmist compares himself in his humiliation? What for discovering the Eucharist in the refreshment of bread and wine offered by Melchizedek to Abraham's weary troop on their homeward march? or in our Lord's condescension in receiving publicans and sinners, and eating with them? or in the whole of the Epistle to the Hebrews, as its central topic? What for tracing the mystery of the Incarnation in the circumstance that Jael was not helped by her husband to slay Sisera? and the cross, in the murderous tent-peg which she drove through her victim's skull?
We have already mentioned that the Atonement and both the sacraments have been discerned in Solomon's beautiful and impassioned idyl; but that is only a small part of the extravagant symbolism found in his portraiture of the person of his beloved. There is scarcely a part of her body—and the delineation is certainly not wanting in detail—which has not been taken to express some feature of the Christian Church; as, for instance, her teeth, to signify the ministers who chew spiritual meat for the babes; and her breasts, the two Testaments, or else the preachers of the Gospel to the Jews and Gentiles but a good deal of this is not quite fit for quotation. Nowhere, perhaps, have the mystical interpreters run VOL. XL. 2063
sioned portraiture of courtship and love. Yet this is not without its parallels, one of which may be found in the application to Christians of the characteristics of the animals pronounced clean by the Levitical law. In the cleft hoof has been discerned their steadfast walk in the way of the Lord, or even their twofold faith in the Father and in the Son; in the ruminating function, their habit of meditating on the divine word; in the fish's fins, the elevating and propelling power of their prayers.
Belonging to the same category as the extreme mystical interpretation of Solomon's Song is the direct application to the Christian Church of the Oriental imagery employed by the Hebrew psalmists and prophets to clothe their expectations of the future triumphs of Israel. Thus the martial prediction, "I will render double unto thee, when I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and made thee as a sword of a mighty man - is gravely explained to mean the mission of the Apostles, as arrows shot forth from Jerusalem by the bow of Christ, to preach the Gospel to the heathen world. So again, the use of a feminine word in the noble processional psalm, probably in reference to the choirs of women in the sacred processions of Israel, has led to the passage, "The Lord gave the word; great was the company of the preachers," being interpreted of the part that devout women should sustain in the first planting of Christianity. Many persons must have heard the internal holiness of the Church deduced from the words, "The king's daughter is all glorious within; " yet the obvious meaning is merely that inside the chamber the royal bride is sitting splendidly dressed, as the parallelism of the next line shows, "Her clothing is of wrought gold." Something in the same
style is the discovery of the perpetual | out of the sacred text by hook or by virginity of the blessed mother of our crook, the luminiferous ether and the Lord in the description of the spouse of nebular theory; the globular form, daily Solomon's Song as "a garden enclosed, a rotation, and annual circuit of the earth; spring shut up, a fountain sealed;" and gravitation, electricity, galvanism, chemialso in the gate of Ezekiel's visionary cal affinities; the stratification of the temple, which should forever remain earth's surface, and the remains preshut, "because Jehovah the God of Is-served in it of the fauna and flora of the rael hath entered in by it." Such uses primeval world, - all extorted out of the of Scripture must be pronounced, on all sound critical principles, as trivial and baseless as the finding of a priestly chasuble in the cloak left behind by St. Paul at Troas, and altar-candles in the lights of the upper chamber at the same place, when he preached to the disciples until midnight; and of a divine model of ritual for Christian worship in the apocalyptic symbolism of the celestial temple, evidently borrowed from Jewish sources.
Another cause of much straining and falsifying of Scripture has been the idea that the inspiration of the Old Testament cannot be properly vindicated, unless its statements from one end to the other can be shown to stand on the level of the purest morality and the most advanced science. To effect this, with whatever arbitrary violence both to its spirit and letter, becomes, therefore, the aim of a considerable class of expositors. When dealing with narratives of conduct contrary to the principles of Christianity, but which passed unreproved, or even gained applause, in the rude times of primitive Revelation, they either resort to the dangerous expedient of inventing and reading into the narratives special divine commands, which they suppose able to turn wrong into right, as in the cases of Ehud, Jael, and other well-meaning but unscrupulous heroes and heroines; or else they take on themselves to bring the narratives up to the proper level, by putting quite a different complexion upon them, as when they deny that Jephthah offered his unfortunate daughter as a burnt sacrifice, and reduce his treatment of her to a dedication to perpetual virginity. In the same spirit they subject to a degrading violence the sublime psalm of creation with which the Bible opens, and the various descriptions of nature which occur in the poetical books, that they may reconcile them, as they call it, with modern physical discoveries, and make them speak the language of science instead of their own noble but simple poetry. Book after book is published to carry out this purpose, and very wonderful are the exegetical feats which are accomplished. Reading these works, we find wrenched
simple poetical phrases which describe the aspects of nature as it presented itself to the eyes of the inspired prophet or poet. Thus poetry is turned into prose, primitive religion into modern science; the glory of the spiritual into the materialism of the natural!
But on that part of the subject we have no time to dwell, so many are the instances which crowd on our recollection of learning misapplied, historical fitness violated, and every sound canon of literary criticism set at defiance. We take up a couple of erudite commentaries, and find two doctors of theology exhausting the resources of their learning in determining the form and nature of the animal which tempted Eve; one deciding in favor of an “ ouran-outang," the other of a brilliant-winged dragon, such as he supposes the celestial seraphim to be. To bring the miracle of the passage of the Red Sea more within our comprehension, we are treated to a serious discussion about the part played in it by the east wind; and are told that as the sea at that place was twelve miles broad and twentyeight yards deep, and a wind strong enough to scoop out a sufficient trench through it for the crossing, dry-foot, of the six hundred thousand men of Israel would certainly have blown clean away the entire host with all their cattle, we must suppose the trench through the waters to have been formed by other means, and must limit the use of the east wind to drying the bottom afterwards and making it easy walking. Among the strange comments to which the chronicle of the arrest of the sun and moon during the battle of Beth-horon has given rise, two deserve especial notice as illustra tions of wooden-headed dealing with the early literature of Israel. One gives us a calculation, in horse-power, of the force sufficient quickly to stop the earth's rota tion, and at the end of the proper interval to reproduce it, without causing on either occasion any perceptible shock to the inhabitants; the other elaborately works out the conclusion, that the derangement produced on that occasion in the earth's position was exactly counterbalanced by
the second derangement, seven or eight | know them not, and like parasitic growths centuries later, in Hezekiah's time, when destroy the life of what they feed upon, the shadow went ten degrees backward they become both offensive and hurtful. on the sun-dial of Ahaz, so that the ab- Space would fail us to give any adequate sence now of any trace of either is satis-representation of the enormous currency factorily explained. Every one knows of this sort of false coin, and half-a-dozen the controversy, which is almost coeval instances must suffice. We may only with Christianity, about the precise rela- smile when a preacher on the continuance tionship to our Lord of his "brethren;" of the sinful nature, even in the regenerwhether they were his own younger broth-ate, founds his discourse on Joseph's ers; or sons of Joseph by a former wife, inquiry about his father, "The old man according to the general belief of the of whom ye spake, is he yet alive?" or Church; or, as St. Jerome maintained, to when an archbishop lashes the despisers save Joseph's virginity as well as Mary's, of episcopacy from the words, "Sirs, ye sons of a sister of the virgin, and there- should not have loosed from Crete; " or fore first cousins to Jesus. The question when tobacco smokers are admonished is scarcely soluble, except on sentimental from the text, "That which cometh out grounds; but a solution of it has just of the mouth, this defileth a man." been published by a would-be critical ex- it is a serious outrage on the historical positor, which is worth noting as showing truth of Scripture, and not merely on how far we still are from a reasonable use common sense, when, to point a denunciof Scripture. Is it not written in an an-ation of murder, Moses is held up to cient Messianic psalm, "I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children"? My mother's children! Surely, then, prophecy settled the matter, so as to preclude further inquiry, hundreds of years before they were born! Perhaps it is even a worse, because more serious, wresting of Scripture, to put, as we have seen done even in Bampton Lectures, the imprecatory psalms into our Lord's mouth, and assert that they were his own personal utterances just as much as any of the words spoken by him when on earth. What must fairly educated people feel when a preacher coolly reminds them that Solomon was one of the most voluminous writers in the Bible, and in proof tells off on his fingers Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, the Book of Wisdom, and some of the Psalms to boot? or when an essayist, enamored of the ceremonial_ordinances of Leviticus, pronounces Psalm CXIX. to be nothing else than an elaborate eulogy of them? or when an annotator bids us observe what additional emphasis is given by the spectroscope to St. Paul's illustration of the resurrection, by the familiar fact that star differeth from star in brightness?
Few more flagrant specimens of what may justly be called Philistinism in literature are to be found than those that are abundantly furnished by the homilists, who lay themselves out to improve, by ethical and spiritual applications, the narratives and incidents of the earlier parts of the Bible. The lessons thus enforced may be in themselves unexceptionable; but when they are fathered on texts that
reprobation as a conscience-stricken homicide, fearfully burying out of sight the dreadful evidence of his crime, and escaping from the stroke of justice to expiate his guilt by forty years of exile and hardship. We should like to know what St. Stephen would have thought of such a version of the great deliverer's conduct. Notwithstanding quaint old Herbert's consolation under bad sermons,
The worst speak something good; if all want
we cannot withhold our pity from congregations who are called on to illustrate "the patience and the faith of the saints," by listening while some tedious pulpiteer, from the trivial circumstance that Ehud who treacherously assassinated Eglon was left-handed, deduces the wisdom and goodness of God in causing eccentric and abnormal variations to break the usual uniformity of nature; or makes the inquiry of Manoal, the father of Samson, respecting the dedication of his promised child to be a Nazarite, the pretext for a long string of platitudes on the duty of educating children religiously; or propounds the amazing thesis, that as Jephthah's daughter was adopted as the offering of her people, and became the vicarious sacrifice of their repentance and faith, so the Son of God became the world's atonement; or finds important indications of the nature and fortunes of the universal Church in the burning bush of the wilderness, the brazen sockets of the tabernacle, the pillars Jachin and Boaz of Solomon's temple, and the sponge filled