<< DISCOURSE IV: The Inner Sense of Scripture >>
THE WORD OF GOD,
WITH ESPECIAL RELATION TO MR. JOWETT’S ESSAY
ON THE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE.
THE INNER SENSE OF SCRIPTURE;
THE NECESSITY AND THE GLORY OF THE WORD OF GOD.
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written that no man knew but he Himself. And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.—REV. xix. 11-13.
THE Word of God! The Word of God! What a fountain of hope, and strength, and happiness, is revealed in those expressive terms. The soul yearns for a revelation from God. It finds itself in a world fraught with beauty, but also fraught with danger. It looks above, and around for guidance, and longs for the Eternal Father to speak. It asks, what am I? Whence came I, and whiter do I go? It feels its incompetency to answer these vital questions, and asks for the only competent teacher on these all-important questions, a WORD to disclose to mortals the mind and the purpose of God.
That a Divine Word should exist, is what reason readily admits. No creature lives, but is provided with its proper food.
Each tiny insect has a full supply. Each one of natures living, varied myriads, that people earth, or air, or sea, has its blade, or leaf, or grain, or fruit, to meet its wants and give it satisfaction. Mans bodily needs, with all their instincts, are furnished everywhere with objects to impart not being only, but well-being. No requirement is neglected. Can it be, then, that the demands of our higher instincts, our immortal appetites, have no provision? The child of the Everlasting asks for a guide, a path, a light,–an assurance of love. We ask for wisdom from above, and can it be that such demands have no supply? Oh, it cannot be! God must have spoken. He is not a Father heedless of His children; much less is He like those unnatural parents who forsake their offspring, and leave them without counsel or comfort, to wander through the world unheeded, undirected, and unloved.
The yearning of the soul for infallible direction in the highest things is everywhere felt by man; and there is no interior solid peace until its requirements are satisfied. When God speaks, the earth keeps silence, but never else. All men distrust themselves alone. Let them feel that they stand upon the Rock of Ages, and the sense of safety is given, and all is well. Even the traditions of ancient, and of distant nations, the remnants of former revelation, give security to the peoples who know of nothing diviner. But all ask for God; all seek a judge–a law-giver Divine, in whom they can trust; they need a Word of God. As the hart panteth for the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come, and appear before God.
This yearning after God is universal. The Word of God is its supply. When I found Thy words I did eat them, and they were the joy and the rejoicing of my heart.
Superstition acknowledges this want, and attempts to still it with a spurious supply, whose inefficiency is seen in the constant fears which haunt, and the multiplied remedies in which the weak seek for refuge. This want is felt by the evil, and displays itself in the qualms of conscience, and the spasmodic fears and efforts to begin a communion with something higher than themselves.
Deism feels and acknowledges the same want, but professes to find it supplied in the teachings of nature. Even atheism acknowledges it, in the ceaseless attempts, and the incessant activity it displays to disprove it. Men don’t raise armies, and keep incessant watch and ward against empty nothing. The very struggle which unbelievers keep up from age to age, evinces a sense of the reality of God and His Word, against whom they wage incessant war.
There is, then, in one form or other, a confession universally made, of a need for a revelation from the Most High,a voice from the Invisible, a light to disperse the darkness which otherwise shrouds eternal things from view.
It is to the tenderness of this universal feeling, that the alarm which the Essays and Reviews have created, is due. It is feared they jeopardize the respect the many have, and desire to have, for the Word of God. The freedom of their criticisms, the much that they deny, and the little they affirm, do something to justify the fears they have created. The one great defect, which appears in a hundred forms in these Essays, is a want of a full and definite recognition of Divine Revelation. The Word of God in the hands of these writers, or at least the majority of them, becomes the words of men. There is so ready an admission of error, of mistake, of impossibility of reconcilement, of what is called the human element admixing itself with the Divine, that one feels that the whole ground trembles under ones feet, and we are tempted to ask, on these principles, where is the Word of God? It is true that there is a reverential air maintained, a sober and even a devout spirit breathes through a large portion of these Essays and Reviews; but, nevertheless, there is no cordial recognition of a definite Divine authority for the Bible. And by implication, by insinuation, and, in some cases, by direct impeachment, human error is so largely assumed to exist, that the readers feel that if such an estimation be allowed, it is in vain to call the Bible they have hallowed and revered, the Divine Truth of God.
To this result we are necessarily brought by Mr. Jowett’s axioms.
1 Interpret the Scripture as you would any other book. (p. 377.)
2 It may be laid down, that Scripture has one meaning–the meaning which it had to the mind of the Prophet or Evangelist who first uttered or wrote, to the hearers or readers who first received it. (p. 378.) In like manner we have no reason to attribute to the Prophet or Evangelist any second or hidden sense different from that which appears on the surface. (p. 380.) Of what has been said, this is the sum;–That Scripture, like other books, has one meaning, which is to be gathered from itself, without reference to the adaptations of fathers or divines; and without regard to a priori notions about its nature and origin. (p. 404.)
These axioms, expanded and illustrated in a great variety of ways, constitute the sum, as he says, of what Mr. Jowett has to offer on the momentous topic of the interpretation of Scripture. They assume that the Scripture has no deeper origin than any other book, and therefore is to be interpreted as you would interpret any other book. They assume that Scripture has only one meaning, that which it had to the parties who first uttered and first heard it. Another assumption being, that the meanings in the minds of these two different parties, were one and the same meaning.
But, first, as to the leading axiom, it may be observed, there is a sense undoubtedly in which such a law of interpretation would be quite admissible. We do interpret every book in accordance with the origin and character of the book, and the laws of the science or subject upon which it treats. No one interprets a book on Algebra, as he would a book of History. No one would interpret a book on Music, as he would on Grammar or Philosophy. In this meaning of the sentence, Interpret the Scripture as you would any other book, no one can object to it. The rule would read thus–Interpret every book according to its nature, and the laws of the subject upon which it treats, and, therefore, interpret the Scripture as the Word of God, and according to such laws as belong to a Divine Revelation. But, this is evidently not Mr. Jowett’s meaning. Be means, take the Scripture as if it were not Divine, as you would any other book, and interpret it in the best may you can, from a study of its literal sense only.
If this be right, what did the Apostle mean by the words, The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life? (2 Cor. iii. 6.)
Interpret the Scripture as you would any other book. Of course you must, if it were just the same as any other book. But is not that assuming the very point in question? Interpret the Scripture as you would any other book, if it is the same as any other; but, is it the same as any other book?
Interpret the Word of God by the laws of the Word of God, as you would interpret a book on any science by the laws applicable to that science, would seem to be an unexceptionable rule.
What then are the laws of the Word of God? Here again Mr. Jowett remarks, What is inspiration? And he says, The first answer, therefore, is that idea of Scripture which we gather from the knowledge of it. It is no mere a priori notion, but one to which the book is itself a witness. It is a fact which we infer from the study of Scripture,–not of one portion only, but of the whole. Obviously, then, it embraces writings of very different kinds, the Book of Esther, for example, or the Song of Solomon, as well as the Gospel of St. John. It is reconcilable with the mixed good and evil of the characters of the Old Testament, which nevertheless does not exclude them from the favor of God; with the attribution to the Divine Being, of actions at variance with that higher revelation, which He has given of Himself in the Gospel; it is not inconsistent with imperfect or opposite aspects of the truth, as in the Book of Job or Ecclesiastes, with variations of fact in the Gospels, or the books of Kings and Chronicles, with inaccuracies of language in the Epistles of St. Paul. For these are all found in Scripture; neither is there any reason why they should not be, except a general impression that Scripture ought to have been written, in a way different from what it has. (pp. 347, 348.)
This description of Inspiration is so singularly vague that we may hope its respected author will reconsider it. The question is, What is Inspiration? The, answer would just as well apply to all the books in the world as to those of Holy Scripture.
And, it is prefaced by the statement, that Inspiration, is our idea of Scripture. There seems to be a complete confusion of the God-breathing by a complete Divine Scripture is given (2 Tim. iii. 16), and our impression of Scripture which is certainly a very different thing. And we are further informed this Inspiration is compatible with opposite aspects of truth, with variations of fact, and with inaccuracies of language, in which Mr. Jowett seems to confound the record of these things, which may be Divine, and intended for the highest lessons of wisdom and use, and the occurrences themselves, which may be inconsistent with each other, and in many respects, opposed to truth and righteousness. The looseness of thought implied in statements so confused implies, we would hope, no ideas so confirmed, but that; the writer may welcome, so far as to investigate, if it can be offered, a more excellent way.
What, then, is the character we must attribute to a Word of God? The very phrase implies the expression of the Wisdom of God. God is a Spirit. His Word must be spiritual. The declaration of the Savior comes with the force of a MUST BE to the reflecting mind My words, they are spirit and they are life. (John vi. 63.)
Again, we ask, What are the laws of a Word of God? Must not the Word be the utterance of the thoughts of God? And are not the thoughts of God, as much higher than our thoughts, as heaven is higher than the earth? (Isaiah lv. 9.) Can we conceive of any other mode of Divine operation in speech than that which is the law for the utterance of human speech? Love, which is the motive, clothes itself with thoughts, which are as causes to speech, and thoughts clothe themselves in words. The Divine Love clothes itself with the Divine Wisdom, and this clothes itself with the Divine Speech. Can we conceive of any other order than this? I cannot.
In the universe, this is undoubtedly the arrangement of things. Infinite Love is the source of all things, the end for which all things exist. The pleasure of Infinite Love is to bless, and to create that it may bless. Hence, on a survey of the universe, it is written, For Thy pleasure they are, and were created.
But the Love of the Almighty in its own deeps, is silent, and inscrutable. Hence He clothes Himself with light as it mere with a garment. (Ps. civ 2.) This Light, or the Divine Wisdom, is the Word in its first and greatest manifestation in the universe. It is the Word, by which the heavens were made. By the Word of the Lord the heavens are made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. This Word, which is, which was in the beginning with God, and was God, in His first manifestation, is the True Light, of which St. John speaks, that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world. (John i. 9.) It is the light of eternity, the veriest power in the universe. From this Word systems, suns, and worlds are formed, with all their innumerable varieties of things. They are the outward clothing of the Word. Its material outbirths and signs. Through faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen, were not made of things which do appear. (Heb. xi. 9.) God thus speaks in the universe; all nature is His book. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork, Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. (Ps. xix. l-3.)
What though, in solemn silence, all
Move round the dark terrestrial hell;
What though no outward voice nor sound,
Amid their radiant orbs be found;
In reasons ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice;
For ever singing as they shine,
The hand that made us is Divine.
A little reflection will teach us that the countless forms of the universe speak, not only of the hand by which they were made, and are sustained, but of the Love in which they were originated, of the laws by which they are moved and multiplied, and by which their beauties are evolved. Each blade, each leaf, each flower, each tree, each insect, fish, bird, and beast, is a letter of the wondrous alphabet in which the universe is written, and he who learns its magnificent language most completely, will best understand the sublime lesson proclaimed by all things,The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.
The WORD OF GOD. WHAT IS GOD? GOD IS love. Must not the WORD OF God, in its first utterance, be The Divine out-flow of Infinite Love, from which all things come, the light of the Eternal Sun, the first manifestation of Deity? The brightness of His glory, the character of His substance (scanner unable to insert phrase) upholding all things by the WORD of His power. (Heb. i. 3) This light in which was the Divine Life, or Divine Wisdom, in which was the Divine Love, (John i. 4.) is the first sphere of Jehovah’s glory, full of the infinite desire to bless. The Word which forms the heavens. A faint idea of this infinite glow of Divine Love may be obtained by reflecting on the inmost purpose of a truly heavenly-minded man. Openly or silently one aim is his inmost object, pervades all he thinks, does, and speaks, that is, the burning desire to secure everlasting happiness of others. God maketh His angels spirits, His ministers a flaming fire. (Ps. civ. 5.) As with the good man who is the image, so with the Divine man, the Infinite Original, the hidden, inmost purpose must ever b, the everlasting happiness of His immortal children, and for this end the universe must exist.
But out of an end, come CAUSES, MODES, by which the end can be accomplished, and out of the Divine Inmost sphere must come a second sphere of causes, impelling, arranging, organizing, producing, giving all things their form, quality, and character. This second sphere, like the causes set in motion by a mans inner object, is the immediate soul, out of which a third, a sphere of effects, as it were, which is the life of outward Creation; out of this come all the objects of natural existence, suns, systems, worlds innumerable. This third sphere of the Divine Word, containing the two first, is for ever settled in the heavens, as the Psalmist says, For ever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven. (Ps. cxix. 89.) Thus, there are three grand spheres of being, from the Creator, the first, or inmost, warming, quickening, energizing; the second, illuminating, directing, impelling; the third, evolving, forming, effecting; answering to the three operations, in the productions of a finite mind, the LOVE that intends, the THOUGHT that plans, and the EFFECT that is produced, in every human operation.
In every object in creation, from the mightiest sun to the simplest flower, we see the wisdom and acknowledge the love of the Divine Creator.
From the throne of the Highest, the mandate came forth,
From the Word of Omnipotent God,
And the elements fashioned His footstool, the earth,
And the Heavens His holy abode.
And His Spirit moved over the fathomless flood
Of eaters, that fretted in darkness around,
Until at His bidding, their turbulent mood
Was hushed to a calm, and obedient they stood
Where lie fixed their perpetual bound.–Knox.
But the WORD, the fiat of the Eternal, is not the mere utterance of a sound, an empty verbal enunciation; it is the Eternal Purpose of Infinite Love going out into operation, and causing all the innumerable existencies of beauty, utility, and blessing, which constitute the universe. In the beginning was the WORD, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word, (Greek: kai theos ein o logos). The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made, that was made. In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. (John i. 1, 3.) The Word is thus presented as the manifestation of life or love, the first grand sphere in the heavens; the manifestation of light, the second sphere in the heavens; and the manifestation of effects, the outer sphere of spiritual existence. The Word, as the universal essence of all things, has three great degrees, or spheres of being. The universe is a sublime book with three senses or degrees of meaning, the outer, the inner, and the inmost, under the crust which is matter. The outer, in all the innumerable varieties of animal, vegetable, and mineral existence,–and happy is he who in this letter of the sublime book of nature, can read the order, the tender mercies, and loving-kindness of Him, who is Maker and Monarch of all. Happy is he who adoringly exclaims, O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom best thou made them all. The earth is full of thy riches. The inner, which can be discerned by Him who sees all things outward, as the shadows of heavenly things, the outbirths of the true; and the inmost, which consists of the holy ends of benevolence and love which are inscribed fully or faintly on all existence.
Regarding this wonderful book of Creation, blessed is he who can take up the language of the Psalmist and say, I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live, I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord. (Ps. civ. 33, 34.)
We have dwelt thus upon the spheres of existence, and upon the universe as a grand book, a sublime Word of God, that the reflecting mind may see that outer and inner meanings of things are written on all. Being, are essential necessities of all Divine operations. But, many will admit this, who doubt a Divine Revelation in the form of a Book. If nature, say they, is a book in which are inscribed the Divine Will and Wisdom, what do we want with any other? This book is a grand book, worthy of the Creator. Very different is a written book. Here is mans work, and mans imperfection. Of course there are hidden meanings in the universe, deeper wisdom than appears to the superficial observer, perceived by deep and meditative thinkers. But, if the universe contain such stores of wisdom, cannot man read that and be instructed? Here, then, we join issue.
The universe is a book indeed, and quite sufficient; if man were in order, to unfold to him the inestimable riches of Divine Love and Wisdom; to be a never-ending source of progress and delight: but man is not in order. He is fallen, and one of the fruits of the fall is, that He is born mentally blind. He sees only what he is trained to see. This is true even of our perception of natural sciences. Mathematics are in nature, in all their exactitude, complexity, and subtlety. The rude mind, however, unacquainted with teachers and books, sees no geometry on earth, and none of the celestial mechanism of the sky. Chemistry surrounds us every; where; and in the laboratory of nature transformations are taking place every moment, at which science itself can only gaze to admire, not to imitate yet the rude mind knows nothing of this. The mind is opened to perceive the world of science by the books of science, so the mind can only be opened to see the menders of the world of God by the training of the Book of God.
Hence the manifest necessity of the Word of God as a Book.
Many, however, will admit the desirability of a Divine Revelation, and the probability of a Divine Revelation, but say the Bible is not a Divine Book. We have examined it and find it is not correct in its science. Its astronomy is Jewish, not philosophical, and as to its geology that is certainly not correct. Its chronology is faulty, the earth is much older than the Bible makes it, and the account of the universal Deluge cannot be made to harmonize with the facts of ancient history. Nations have existed in continuity from periods long before the time fixed as that of the Deluge. Some of the pyramids were undoubtedly in existence long before the time of the Deluge, and although geology gives evidences of hundreds of local floods, and of the gradual change of the oceans bed, again and again, yet it lends no support to the account of a contemporaneous covering of the whole earth at the same time, with many miles deep of water. Besides many things in the Bible seem puerile, trivial, unworthy of God. I dont see why the Jewish history, is more a Divine history than that of the great nations of the earth, or, in fact than any other. God rules all nations, and has no favorites. He is the universal Father, and that providence which watches over a sparrows fall, watches over all the events of every human life, and therefore of every nations history, as fully and as completely as He did over the proceedings of the Hebrew nation. God is a living God and is as wisely and lovingly ever present now, as in any period of the past.
So speaks our objector, and while listening to his views we are tempted to ask in the words of our Divine Master, What went ye out for to see? You speak of the Word of God not being in accordance with science or with history, as if you expected a revelation to teach astronomy, geology, or history, which we can very well learn without revelation. You expect a revelation to the natural man of natural thing, whereas there would be no need of God. to speak at all, unless to teach man spiritual things. Every book is like its author? A wise man writes a wise book; a foolish man writes a foolish book. Will not, God’s Book, therefore, be like its author? Will not the Divine Book be like the Divine Being–spiritual?
The apostle says, the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. ii. 14.) But the natural man can receive an account of geology or of history, and discern it easily enough. The Word of God cannot therefore consist in these things, these are not the things of the Spirit of God. The natural man does not think these things foolishness, they are great things to him. A gentleman some time ago was conversing with his friend, who was satisfied he was a converted Christian, and who was strongly opposed to the spiritual meaning of the early chapters of Genesis, insisting that Moses was giving an account of natural creation and nothing else. The gentleman asked, What interpretation did you put upon the first chapter of Genesis before you were converted? Why said his friend, the same as I do now. Are you not, then, yet carnal? rejoined the first, you receive no more of the things of the Spirit of God, in this respect, than you did before, and yet they are spiritually discerned.
Mr. Goodwin perceived clearly this part of our argument, but unhappily draws a strange conclusion from it, and then in applying it, forgets it altogether.
He says, It would have been well if theologians had made up their minds to accept frankly the principle that those things for the discovery of which man has faculties specially provided are not fit objects of a Divine revelation. (P. 209).
This is precisely our view, but only its negative side. He does not tell us what are fit objects of Divine revelation. Indeed we would strongly advise the authors of the Essays to supplement their labors, and give their positive views on all the subjects upon which they have treated. To throw down an old habitation without providing a new one is hardly in accordance with Christian charity.
We maintain that every book must be like its author, in the very constitution of things; and God being a Spirit, His book must be spiritual. Mr. Goodwin, however, after having laid down the indisputable principle above, does not draw from it the conclusion that other things, which mans natural faculties are not adequate to discover, must be the subjects of Divine revelation, but this
Had this been unhesitatingly done, either the definition and idea of Divine revelation must have been modified, and the possibility of an admixture of error have been allowed, or such parts of the Hebrew writings as were found to be repugnant to fact, must have been pronounced to form no part of revelation.
How it could possibly follow that by allowing an admixture of error it would then be consistent with a true view of the nature of revelation, we must confess to be unable to understand. Ought we, then, to admit that it might consist of such things as our special natural faculties could discover of themselves? This seems to amount to this: admit it to be wrong, and then it will be right. But Mr. Goodwin still more errs against his own principle, in proceeding to show that the Mosaic account of creation is repugnant to Geology and, therefore, can form no part of revelation. If we regard it, he says As the speculation of some Hebrew Descartes or Newton, promulgated in all good faith as the best and most probable account that could be then given of God’s universe, it resumes the dignity and value of which the writers in question have done their utmost to deprive it. (p. 252.) That is, admit the Mosaic cosmogony to be the production of a person making a very probable speculation for his time, but entirely wrong, and then it will be regarded as dignified and valuable document. Surely, such cannot be the serious respect to be accorded to Divine revelation. It is not the admission of Divine revelation at all.
Quite true, notwithstanding, is it, that such things for the discovery of which man has special natural faculties are not fit objects of a Divine revelation, but equally true that spiritual truths, the laws of regeneration, the doctrines of the Church, the lights of faith, and hope, and love, the constitution of heaven, and the nature and attributes of God, ARE fit objects of Divine revelation. Any book not containing these in its bosom everywhere cannot be a Divine revelation. But this is precisely what the Bible claims for itself. Under the veil of the letter, there is a spirit in every portion. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. (Ps. xix. 7.)
My words they are spirit and they are life. (John vi. 63.) Mr. Goodwin, and after him, Mr. Jowett, seems to have laid down that there is only one meaning, that of the letter; and then that very often the letter is incorrect–and then what follows? Does anything follow but the realization of what the Apostle said, The letter killeth? (2 Cor. iii. 6.)
On the contrary, we maintain that the Word of God as a Book, must be spiritual in its essence like the Word of God in creation; and this the Bible professes to be, and IS. Life, Law, Matter, are the three grand spheres of things which pervade nature. Love, Light, Letter are the three grand degrees of truth in the Divine Word, and these are parallel with the former.
Mr. Jowett is happily so inconsistent with his own dogma that the Scripture has only one meaning, as to say, in perfect harmony with our principle, Scripture has an inner life or soul, it has also an outward body or form. (p. 389.)
A second great feature in the works of God, distinguishing them from the works of men, is, that, their perfection increases towards the interiors, and this is disclosed the more deeply they are examined. The outside of a flower, is beautiful, but to the scientific mind the perfection of its interior is far more so. The surface of the human body is remarkable for comeliness and grace, but what is that compared with the wonders of the organic structure within? The marvels of the heart and lungs, the brain and nervous system, the muscles; and bone, the wondrous motions of the interior of the human frame, leave far behind all admiration of the outside. The statue of the artist, is just what it is on the surface: the Divinely formed statue, the body of a man, for one grace it has on the surface, has myriads within. So must it be with a human composition, as compared with the Word of God. The glory of the latter, must be a meaning within a meaning a line upon a, line, a precept upon a precept. Like the productions of earth, its noblest jewels are obtained far beneath the surface. Its gems, and: noble metals, are hidden within their matrices. They need the outside to be removed before their splendors are revealed.
The wise ancients fully recognized this order of Divine Wisdom in the remarkable proverb referred to in Job. He would show these the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is. (Job xi. 6.) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, (scanner unable to insert phrase), God-breathed) and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Tim. iii. 16, 17).
Our second principle, therefore, would seem to be as evident as the first, that the Word of God, as a Divine work, must follow the law of all God’s works, and increase in perfection, within; its spirit, being more beautiful to the mind, the more deeply it is examined.
All Scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness, but not profitable for instruction in geology, astronomy, or any earthly science whatever.
The Essayists often recognize the inward yearning of the soul after inward wisdom. Thus Professor Williams says It was truly felt by the early fathers, that Hebrew prophecy tended to a system more spiritual than that of Levi, and they argued, unanswerably, that circumcision and the sabbath were symbols for a time, or means to ends. (p. 64.)
Professor Jowett remarks Both methods of interpretation, the mystical and logical, as they may be termed, have been practiced on the Vedas, and the Koran, as well as on the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, although we must take exception to what he adds, the true glory and note of Divinity in these latter, being not that they have a hidden, mysterious, or double meaning, but a simple and universal one, which is beyond them, and will survive them. (p. 332.)
Again, The tendency to exaggerate or amplify the meaning of simple words, for the sake of edification, may indeed have a practical use in sermons, the object of which is to awaken, not so much the intellect, as the heart and conscience. Spiritual food, like natural, may require to be of a certain bulk to nourish the human mind. (p. 333.)
Once more, It may be thought another ungracious aspect of the preceding remarks, that they cast a slight upon the interpreters of Scripture in former ages.
The early Fathers, the Roman Catholic mystic writers, the Swiss and German reformers, the nonconformist divines, have qualities, for which we look in vain among ourselves; they throw an intensity of light upon the page of Scripture, which we nowhere find in modern commentaries. But it is not the light of interpretation.
They have a faith which seems, indeed, to have grown dun now-a-days; but that faith is not drawn from the study of Scripture: it is the element in which their own mind moves, which overflows on the meaning of the text. The words of Scripture suggests to them their own; thoughts and feelings. They are preachers, or, in the New Testament sense of the words, prophets, rather than interpreters. There is nothing in such a view derogatory to the saints and doctors of former ages. That Aquinas or Bernard did not shake themselves free from the mystical method of the Patristic times, or the scholastic one, which was more peculiarly their own; that Luther and Calvin read the Scriptures in connection with the ideas which were kindling in the mind of their age, and the events which were passing before their eyes;–these and similar remarks are not to be construed as depreciatory of the genius or the learning of famous men of old: they relate only to their interpretation of Scripture, in which it is no slight upon them, to maintain, that they were not, before their day. (pp. 376, 377.)
We have made these selections, not at this moment, to refute the assumptions with which they are: constantly interlarded; but as illustrating the fact by these confessions of the universal tendency of the good and great to spiritualize the Scripture,–the yearning after hidden meanings. Who made the mind with these appetites and yearnings? Was it not He who gave the Scripture? Is it not probable then, that in the revelation from Him, there would be a supply for this tendency of the soul which He had implanted? Is this not implied in the sacred words, O every One that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price. Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. (Isa. lv. 1, 2.) Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart; for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts. (Jer. xv. 16.)
There is no weight in the observation that spiritual interpretation has been abused, for literal interpretation has been for more extensively abused. What is that tremendous despotism, the Papacy, but a literal understanding of what was spiritually meant. How truly have those poor fanatics, who are reported occasionally in the papers, as having plucked out an eye, or cut off a hand or a foot, because they thought they were taught to do so by the letter of Mark ix., shown how truly the letter separated from the spirit of the Scriptures: it is the letter that killeth. Besides, it must not be forgotten that the abuse of any thing implies and proves its use.
When Mr. Jowett is unfolding the axiom that Scripture has only one meaning, it is remarkable how completely he exhibits its inaccuracy. First, it may be laid down, he observes, that Scripture has one meaning–the meaning which. it had to the mind of the prophet or evangelist who first uttered or wrote, to the hearers or readers, who first received it. (P. 378.)
In another place, he remarks, The office of the interpreter is not to add another but to recover the original one; the meaning, that is, of the words as they struck the ears, or flashed before the eyes of those who first heard or read them. (p. 338.)
But this view altogether ignores the idea of Divine inspiration. The meaning is not the meaning of the Divine Being who inspires the Word, but of the persons who utter, and the persons who hear it. and in those numerous cases in which the speaker and the hearer evidently have different meanings, which is to be the Divine meaning the professor fails to point out. Take, for instance, the words of our Lord, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood ye have no life in you. (John vi. 83.) The Jews strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us His flesh to eat? They evidently had only the most literal idea of the words: some of the disciples, when they had heard this said, This is a hard saying, who can hear it? To Him, the Divine speaker, it must have been easy.
There must have been three different meanings here attacked to the same words; yet, Professor Jowetts rule is that there must be only one meaning, and that one must be the one of the speaker, and, at the same time, the one of the healer.
The view of the worthy Professor respecting inspiration seems equally unsatisfactory with that of interpretation. What is inspiration? he says. He replies, The first answer is, That idea of Scripture, which we gather from the knowledge of it. (p. 347.) Here, the idea we have of Scripture is confounded with the inspiration out of which the Scripture has originated. He remarks further, It is no it a priori notion, but one to which the book itself. is a witness. This latter is quite true; but it is not the same as the former. The first definition is, that our idea of Scripture is its inspiration; the latter is, that inspiration is that to which the book itself is a witness. And the book states, For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they mere moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Pet. i. 21.) The book states that the prophets declared what the Spirit of Christ in them did signify. (1 Pet. i. 11.) Inspiration then, is that flowing in of the Spirit of God, which enabled the inspired not to speak from themselves, but from the inspiring influence, dictating the events to be related., the words to be uttered, the order to be pursued. The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, said the Psalmist, and His Word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake by me. (2 Sam. xxiii. 2, 3.)
The true meaning, then, me should presume, would not necessarily be what the prophet understood or intended; much less what the first reader or hearer understood; but what the Spirit of the Lord intended. On many occasions we are distinctly informed, they understood not the saying, (Deut. xii. 8; Luke ii. 60), nor even the symbolic acts which mere done. The Lord said to Peter, what I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. (John xiii. 7.) This losing sight of all proper idea of inspiration, and the assumption that the sacred writers themselves are the authors of the books which bear their names is the real defect in these Essays and Reviews, and loads to all the conclusions which really leave the soul practically without a divine guide and teacher in the world.
On the other hand, a cordial recognition of inspiration; and a thorough belief in the declaration Thus, saith the Lord, will lead to the acceptance of our two previous principles:–
- That the Word of God must be, like its author, SPIRITUAL. And
- That, like every thing else from God, its perfection will be found to be greater the more deeply we examine.
- A third principle is, that, in its form, Divine Revelation must be natural, adapted to the natural man, or he can never grasp it at all. It must be a ladder whose top reaches to Heaven, but whose foot is on the earth. (Gen. xxviii. 12.) It must be a chain commencing from the throne of God, but reaching down to man.
Natural things in order are in harmony with spiritual things, there is a parallelism–not on the same level, but in degrees, higher and lower, like light for the soul, and light for the body–a correspondence between the two, like the relation between mind and matter. In man the true correspondence between natural things and spiritual things has been disturbed by sin. Selfishness is enthroned and goodness debased. His wisdom has become the wisdom of self-love, and the love of the world, earthly, sensual, devilish. (James iii. 15.) Hence, he is quick to discern what will answer these ends, but slow to perceive the beauty and blessing of high and eternal things. Nevertheless, he has an ability from God to discern truth, if brought, low enough, and, by obedience to the truth, to acquire a greater and still greater power of spiritual sight and insight, The shades of natural thought, compared to spiritual thought, are as clouds compared to light. But the mercy of the Lord is great unto the heavens, and His truth into the clouds. (Psalm lvii. 10.) The declaration of the Divine Will is simple, and obedience to the Will of God gives spiritual discernment. If any man will do His Will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. (John vii. 17.) He who will practice one known truth is prepared for another and another. As truth enters into a man and conquers a sin in him, by an earnest desire to co-operate with the Lord, the mind is brought more and more into order; the spiritual sight becomes clearer, the spiritual taste purer; freedom is acquired instead of slavery, health instead of sickness, strength to do good instead of weakness, and rest instead of turmoil.
Thus the Word comes down and heals: the Word creates a new heaven and a new earth for the regenerated man: the Word makes him free, and he is free indeed. The Word is the fire that melts away the dross: the Word is the hammer that breaks the rock in pieces. (Jer. xxiii. 29.) The Word is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart: neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Heb. iv. 12, 13.)
Mr. Jowett only delivers the award of universal experience when he utters the remark, The least expression of Scripture is weighty: it affects the minds of the hearers in a way that no other language can.
In tracing the operations of the living Divine Word in creation, we saw it must consist of three grand spheres: the SPHERE OF DIVINE LOVE, going forth to create, as a sphere of ends, that it may bless; the sphere of Divine Law or Wisdom; the SPHERE OF CAUSES originating all the arrangements which produce and sustain Creation; and lastly, the SPHERE OF EFFECTS, the outward universe itself,–the sublime result, the ever-beautiful, ever-beneficent, ever-varying, ever harmonious outer nature,where man is produced and trained, that heaven may be peopled. If the Word thus goes forth by three degrees, when it produces work, can it be otherwise when it inspires speech? Must there not be the same Divine Love as the inmost moving END, the same Divine Wisdom as the immediate CAUSE, and the outward speech as the DIVINE RESULT? One thing is evident, this is the order the Bible claims for its own inspiration and arrangement, LIFE, SPIRIT, FORM. This is the order in which the Word in the Divine Book is often represented; the order, the Lord Jesus himself declared when He said, The flesh profiteth nothing, My words, they are Spirit, and they are Life. (John vi. 63.) The letter forms the BODY of course, then we have SPIRIT within, and LIFE again within.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord, for as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. In the letter these heavenly and Divine thoughts frequently do not appear, but things of a trivial or worldly character are all that can be seen. It must be, therefore, in a sense beneath the letter that the Divine thoughts will be found, and this must ever be present whether visible in the literal meaning or not.
The same order is manifest in the declaration of the Psalmist, Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Ps. cxix. 97.) Here the lamp for the feet is obviously the literal meaning which guides the outer life; the light within is the spiritual meaning which guides and delights the intellect; while still on inmost meaning would be implied in the gentle flame from which the light would proceed.
This character of the Word, of having an inner sense, and yet an inmost, which we have seen is inherent in the nature of a Divine Revelation, and indeed, of every thing from the Deity, is everywhere claimed for the Scriptures by themselves. Take first the Law, the five books of Moses. And Mr. Jowett, using his own estimate and line of interpretation,–taking for granted that the Scripture has only one meaning, and that the literal one which flashes on the mind of the reader when he first peruses; it,–says It saves him from the necessity of maintaining that the Old Testament is one and the same everywhere: that the books of Moses contain truths or precepts, such as the duty of prayer, or the faith in immortality, or the spiritual interpretation of sacrifice, which no one has ever seen there. (p. 387.) But, how different from this is the estimate of the inspired Psalmist, and the Apostle Paul. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul, the testimony of the Lord is sure, meaning wise the simple. (Ps. xix. 7.) The Reverend Professor can find nothing about the soul, or its immortality even, much less about its conversion; the reason is, his definition, his doctrine upon the subject, is faulty He has resolved beforehand that there is nothing to be found, and he finds nothing.
In the Jewish laws he finds laws and ordinances for their tabernacles, their houses, their garments, their cattle, and their lands, and nothing more; as if Divine Revelation were concerned about things: of earth. How differently the Psalmist continues, The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clear, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold; yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey, and the honey-comb. (Ps. cxix. 8, 10.)
Again, we read, Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Law. (Ps. cxix. 18.) But if there were nothing in the law, but its external regulations, such a prayer could scarcely be appropriate. To read these, the eyes that we open ourselves are amply sufficient. The wondrous things of which the Psalmist speaks, must surely be something more than the things of time and sense.
Mr. Goodwin allows that there is something of a mystical (or spiritual) indication about the second chapter of Genesis, but he is quite positive against any spiritual meaning being intended in the first. While, on the other hand, Mr. Williams, in the essay on Bunsen’s Researches, assumes the truly scholarly position which he shews to be that of Bunsen, that the historical portion of the Bible begins with Abraham (p. 57); that the former portion including the Creation, is not geologically, but spiritually correct. The Garden of Eden with its trees of Life and of the knowledge of Good and Evil, the taking serpent, whose head was to be bruised by the Savior, the Deluge, the Ark, the Tower of Babel that was to reach to heaven, the long lives of the Antediluvians, are regarded as belonging to Divine symbol (p. 57), to the style of that Bible before the Bible, which is marked by references is the Bible itself, as to both its portions. (Num. xxi. 14 and 27.) This Bible before the Bible, which Bunsen demonstrates to have existed, and Swedenborg before him, was a Divine revelation of heavenly things in allegorical form, in which those ancient men delighted. To them the beautiful myths which lie at the bottom, and make the common element of all the old religions, from the earliest Brahminism of the east to the Druidism of the islands and continents of the west were dear and full of heavenly wisdom.
Our Bible would probably have still been all parable, in which eternal things would have shone through a transparent veil, had mankind not become so grossly stupid. Nothing would be received that was not in some way accommodated to their states, being in its form apparently taken up with their petty interests, and their sordid and temporal concerns. It was not without a meaning, that, when the commandments were first given from Sinai, the stone was provided by God as well as the writing. (Exod. xxxii. 16.) Only when rebellion caused these stones to be broken, mere a second portion provided by Moses, not by God; the Divine finger only writing thereon. (Exod. 9xriv. 1.): The first Revelation was above our sublunary concerns, in form as well as in spirit; the second had the letter provided by man under direction–in form concerned with outward history and worldly facts, but still in spirit embosoming eternal things, and written by the finger of God. Moses has still the glorious splendor he obtained by communion with God, but covered with a veil when he speaks to the people. (Exod. xxxiv. 29, 35.) They who maintain that the law has only the one meaning–which appears upon the surface,–see only the veil, which Paul declares was upon the heavy hearts of the Jews in his day, and will have neither the face nor the glory which were luminous within. The water descending from the celestial mountain was pure enough itself; it was only when the people had made and worshiped the golden calf, that it was necessary to grind the calf to powder and mix it with. the pure water, and thus give it these people to drink. (Exod. xxxii. 20.) But, when the Divine word took the form of Jewish history, that history, though naturally true, was so ordered by the Divine providence, as still to be AN ALLEGORY, having Divine thoughts within, though couched under the cover of the annals of Jewish history, and of Jewish men. The grand drama of Redemption was portrayed,–the victories of Him who is King of Kings, and Lord of Lord’s, is the highest theme. Christ is the end, (scanner unable to insert phrase) (the final object or aim)of the law. (Rom. x.4.) The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev. xix. 10.) Whether Adam, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, or Solomon be the outward lesson, they all illustrate the character of Jesus the Divine Prophet, Patriarch, Priest; and King.
Thus, it must be, if the Bible a Divine revelation, underneath and parallel with this highest sense there ever runs a spiritual meaning, in which the progress of the church and of the souls regeneration ale the themes; the wars not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in heavenly concerns. [scanner unable to insert phrase] (Eph. vi. 12.) Hence the apostle says of the history of Abraham, the first literal history, to famish a specimen of the rest, For it is written that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond-maid, the other by a free-woman which things are as AN ALLEGORY. (Gal. iv. 24.) Of the national history, when David was about to relate the progress of Israel from Egypt, with all its vicissitudes, he commenced, I will open my mouth in a parable, I will utter dark sayings of old. (Ps. lxxviii. 2.) Shewing that the journey of the Israelites, though true, was also a Divine parable on the grandest scale; a Divine drama where the actors were millions of real men; the time was ages; the scene a nations seat, the mountains and vales of earths portion; and the history to be produced, the Word, the Fountain of Wisdom for all ages, and all peoples, the grand instrument of training men for heaven, the Word of our Lord which endureth for ever. (Isaiah. xl. 8.)
That the ritual of the Jews was intended to represent heavenly things, the apostle plainly teaches, and is in fact taught in the giving of the ritual itself. The pattern for the tabernacle was given to Moses in the mount. (Exod. xxv. 40.) The tabernacle and its furniture, the apostle calls the patterns of things in the heavens. (Heb. ix. 23.) The first tabernacle was a figure for the time then present. (v. 9) The law had a shadow of Good things to come. (Heb. x. 1.)
Most clearly evident, then, is it that while the manna was the type of spiritual meat, and the water of spiritual drink (1 Cor. x. 3, 4), the sacrifices of spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter ii. 5), the tabernacle was the symbol of that holy home into which our Lord first entered, that He might prepare the way for the Israelites indeed, who would faithfully follow Him in the regeneration.
That the Gospels, though really true in the facts they relate, have a spiritual significance also, we rejoiced to see recognized in Mr. Wilson’s essay. The spiritual significance, he remarks, is the same of transfiguration, of opening blind eyes, of causing the tongue of the stammerer to speak plainly, of feeding multitudes with bread in the wilderness, of cleansing leprosy, whatever links may be deficient in the traditional record of particular events. Very true; but still truer would the whole statement have been, had he said that to secure that spiritual significance being perfect, the Divine Spirit had selected such links in the history as would best make the letter the vehicle of everlasting wisdom.
That the Lord intended this spiritual significance in His acts no one can doubt who reads with reverence the details of each miraculous operation. He who could raise the dead with a simple command, needed not to anoint the eyes of blind men with clay, put his fingers into the ears of the deaf, order the taking of a fish for the silver contained in its mouth, if it had not been that his acts had a wise significance, which, if not known then, might be known hereafter. His parables, all admit to have a spiritual meaning; and that His ordinary teaching had, He not only declared to the Jews, in the words we have already quoted, My words they are Spirit and they are life, (John vi. 63) but He plainly intimates, in His significant question to the caviling Jews, Why do ye not understand my SPEECH? even because ye cannot hear my Word. (John viii. 43.) Too many, alas, at the present day, fail yet to understand the outer speech of the Divine Teacher, because they have no real relish for the inward Divine Word.
That the book of Revelations is intended to have an inward spiritual meaning, its symbolical character would, one might suppose, have naturally suggested, had we not had multiplied evidence of the proneness of the natural man to sensualize spiritual things. The efforts that have been made to cull from the spiritual scenes behold by the Apostle the fortunes of nations, or of temporary warriors and chiefs, have been most astonishing. Instead of the rise and decline of principles, and states in the Church’s history, and the progress of the human mind in regeneration or degeneration, the worldly wise have sought to descry Napoleon or Wellington, or any other hero of the day, and made Divine Writ the echo of our personal likes or dislikes, or the surgings and surgings of political states.
Yet, what call be more simple than the apostolic rule, Which things also we speak, not in the words which mans wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing SPIRITUAL THINGS WITH SPIRITUAL. The visions of St. John mere undoubtedly spiritual. I was in the Spirit, he says, on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet; and I turned to see the voice that spake to me, and being turned I saw. The things he saw, being seen by the eyes of the spirit, must be spiritual, and the of rule interpretation, Paul says, is to compare spiritual things with spiritual.
We have now gone through all the leading portions of the Holy Word, and everywhere we have found its claim to be what we had before hand shewn the Word of God must be a book on spiritual subjects; a book whose wisdom is more excellent, the more deeply it is unfolded; and a book accommodated to the natural man only that it may serve as a Divine means of ascent from temporal to eternal subjects, enabling the soul to draw water with joy from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah xii. 4.) And now, may we not ask what is this but coming again to the true method inaugurated by the Savior himself after His resurrection, when, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself? (Luke xxiv. 27.) In this wise, Our sufficiency is of God, who hath made us able ministers of the New Testament, not after the letter, but after the Spirit; for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. (2 Cor. iii. 6.)
It may, perhaps, be objected by those who look unfavorably upon the idea of a spiritual sense pervading the Holy Scripture everywhere, by the very constitution which its origin imparts, that such a doctrine would make the Scripture mean anything; and this objection is, in fact, made by Mr. Jowett. (p. 368). Gallus in campanili, as the Waldenses described it–the weathercock on the church-tower, which is turned hither and thither by every wind of doctrine. But this objection is founded on a mistaken conception of the view of the Divine Word we are endeavoring to advocate.
We maintain the integrity of the letter of the Word, just as firmly and fully as any one can who clings to the letter only–the one meaning of the Divine Writings. He does not ignore or undervalue the body of man who maintains, nevertheless, that, in every nerve, muscle, fibre, and atom, it is filled and invigorated by a living soul. The outward meaning of the Bible, although known to be diversified in style–being sometimes allegory, sometimes history, sometimes psalm, sometimes prophecy, sometimes narrative, sometimes precept, and sometimes vision–is never underrated in its own province by the true spiritual interpreter. He learns its doctrine and he learns its moral: he is exact in acquainting himself with the true bearing of all its facts, and desires to become thoroughly acquainted with the contemporaneous history and circumstances of eastern life, which can throw light upon the inspired utterances, and be has a greater anxiety to do so than any one can have who values them only as the words of men. However pious and holy the writers may have been, if giving forth their own views or recollections only, they will necessarily be regarded as human authors, not as writing down the words of the living God. He who handles a dead statue, cannot have that deep and abiding sense of responsibility in its management, that reverent sensitiveness of touch, as it mere, that is had by one who knows that he is dealing with a living man, and that a sacred human life is jeopardize or preserved by his heedlessness or by his care.
One cannot but notice in the treatment of the Sacred Volume by Mr. Jowett, and some of his brother Essayists, a sort of jaunty readiness to object, and to assume contradictions in the Divine Writings, that could hardly co-exist with the reverential spirit, which necessarily arises when there is a full conviction that the Sacred Pages are really the oracles of God. The casket is reverently regarded, which is known to be filled with the purest gems: the cloud is observed with deepest interest whose silvery lining and radiant streaks of light reveal that it but curtains with a friendly mantle the dazzling splendor of the sun.
The devout spirit, sometimes from veneration, fears that if a spiritual sense of the Word of God be acknowledged, there will be insuperable difficulty in obtaining it, or wild metaphor and lawless allegory would be substituted for sober sense.
But a recognition of the law of inspiration which we have endeavored to unfold, would remove this objection. We saw that there was and must be in the operations of the creating and inspiring Spirit, degrees or spheres, one within another, like a cause in its effect, a soul in its body. There is thus a relation between them quite definite and fixed, which may be known by reflection, as clearly as any other law or science is known.
Let a person transfer his thoughts from the body to the soul, which is a spiritual body; from the other world to the inner world of mind and life to which the enter corresponds; from the scenes, circumstances, and objects of time, to the states, operations, and principles of everlasting life, and he will have a key, the key of correspondences, which will unlock treasures of inestimable wisdom. Each thing on earth is the type, as it has been the outbirth of life within. It is the living presentment of an inner cause. To that cause, it corresponds or answers, part to principle–object of sense to object of soul–the enter world to the inner world. The sun of nature corresponds to the Sun of righteousness,–the Sun of Eternity, the Lord; his warmth to love, his light to wisdom, both from the Lord.
The operations and changes of nature correspond to mental operations and changes in the soul. There is sowing and reaping spring, summer, autumn and winter in the soul as well as in the world. Outward food corresponds to the meat of the soul–the inward bread, wine, water, milk, &c., which supply the spirits wants, and give the strength which endures to everlasting life.
All animals correspond to affections in the soul, each according to its nature and use; all birds to thoughts which move in the atmosphere of mind; fishes to affections, which move in the lower element of scientific truth; reptiles to appetites for bodily gratification. Each object has its definite spiritual antetype, and is used in the Book of God with definite relation to the spiritual object, which has a corresponding nature and use.
With the good every object has a good use and a good signification. With the evil each Good is turned into its opposite, and each object has an opposite signification.
Let us take the horse, the prominent object in our text. It is a noble and beautiful animal, whose great use is the assistance it renders to bodily progress. It corresponds to the INTELLECT of man, which is the grand means of spiritual progress. When the intellect is guided by the Lord, the progress is rapid, safe, and triumphant, like the brilliant advance of a goodly steed. For the Lord of HOSTS hath visited His flock, the house of Judah, and made them as His goodly horse in the battle. (Zech. x. 10.) The horse is thus in nature an ever-speaking symbol, and thus it is used in the Word of God, both in the Old and the New Testament, because the law is the same, the Inspirer being the same–God. In Genesis, the second time the horse is mentioned in the Scripture, it is mentioned in a manner not very instructive, if we were restricted to the one meaning ofMr. Jowett’s rule. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, no adder in the path, that biteth the horses heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. (Gen. xlix. 17.)
Dan was of course a man, and not literally a serpent. But his nature, and that, alas, of too many others, is described by the serpent. We understand the intellect to be represented by the horse, the low sensual nature by the serpent. And how often is the progress of the intellect impeded and the man destroyed by sensual considerations (the heels of the horse), which, at the best, are only appearances, being suffered to sway the judgment, and overthrow the true direction of the mind.
When self the wavering balance shakes,
Tis rarely right adjusted.
The man who advances with a firm regard to the right, onward and upwards, is riding a noble horse; the man who substitutes whim instead of wisdom, is riding a hobby, one of the most terrible inflictions of mankind.
A gentleman, some time ago, looking through a lunatic asylum, saw a poor man across a stone bench, jerking backwards and forwards with incessant motion. Youre riding, I see, my friend, said the gentleman. What is it, a horse? No, said the insane man, with a deep, sad expression on his face; its not a horse, I wish it was; its a hobby. Well, whats the difference, said the former; is it not all the same? No, said the lunatic; when you are on a horse, you can stop it when you will, and when you are tired you can get off; but when you are on a hobby, you call never stop it, and you can never get off.
A terrible and salutary truth is suggested by the rocking lunatic.
When the intellect of man is directed by the wisdom of the Lord, he is following a Divine leader, and realizes those words of the Psalmist, In thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. (Ps. xlv. 4.)
Intellectual powers, furnished with heavenly intelligence and loving truth, from an ardent love of goodness, are the horses of fire, drawing the chariots of true doctrines, which bears an Elijah to heaven. In the inner sphere of things,–the Eternal World–these are visible in corresponding forms of beauty, as they were to the prophets, eye. (2 Kings ii. 11, & vi. 17.) Angels thus, glowing with intelligence and love, have near them such horses and chariots of fire as were round about Elisha. Such intellects, are the horses and chariots of salvation (Hab. iii. 8, 15), which the Divine Wisdom guides through the seas of worldly thought and knowledge; and, in the storms of life, when doubts and difficulties, like opposing billows, dash upon the soul, He guides them safely through the path of great waters. An intellect stupefied by the delusive opiates of false teaching, which induces the maudling lull of superstition, and delegates its thinking to some narrow mortal only more bigoted and presumptuous, not more enlightened than itself, has the chariot and horse, rebuked by the Lord, and cast into a deep sleep. (Psalm lxxvi. 6.)
With this correspondence, how read we the wonderful vision of John (Rev. vi. l-8), where the horse bears so striking a part? The changes of the. horses were to describe the changes of the earth. The earth is the spiritual earth, the church upon earth. The changes of the earth, are the changes of the church; the end of the world, is the end of the church: a new earth is a new church, or dispensation of Divine things amongst mankind.
The first horse, or white horse, on which One sat with a bow; to whom a crown was given, and who went forth conquering and to conquer, represents the intellect of the early church, fresh and vigorous, white with truth, simple, clear, and earnest in its pursuits of heavenly things, having spiritual love to man as its beacon founded upon love to the Divine Savior; true faith then, being a living trust in the love of God in the Lord Jesus, to be worked out in self-devotion and self-sacrifice, in every useful work, each work being a labor of love.
Then, the Church progressed from victory to victory. Heathen abominations, and heathen darkness faded away before the triumphs of the Crucified and Glorified One, whom the new converts preached; and the Cross waved gloriously, alike over the empty but jeering philosophy of Greece, the stern law of Rome, the hot natures of Africa, and the cold hardihood of the West and the North. The banner of the cross floated at last over the palace of the Caesars. The white horse had gone on conquering and to conquer.
Another horse was introduced, a Red Horse, and he who sat thereon had power to take peace from the earth. This color was not the bright and blessed red of heaven, but its opposite,–the blood red of hatred, the red that pervades in hell. (James vi. 5.) Never forget the law of opposites. Whatever any object represents in a good sense, it represents the opposite in a bad sense. All the powers and faculties of a bad man are the same as those of a good man, but prostituted to bad purposes, and opposed to virtue and to heaven. The Red Horse is the symbol of intellect, inflamed and swayed by the lust of power; a fiery passion of deadliest force, this would take peace from the church. The struggle for power, which arose after political consequence was given to Bishops and Spiritual Rulers, by Constantine, ushered in the age of dissensions, the age of creed-making, the age of violence, and cruelty in the Church. The Red Horse, had taken peace from the earth.
Then comes a BLACK HORSE, and he who sat on him had balances in his hand, to estimate the little wheat and barley left, and with an injunction not to injure the oil and the wine.
This BLACK HORSE, announces the age of superstition, and the darkness of ignorance that would come over the church; and the little goodness and truth, the spiritual wheat and barley which would be present among men, and the great price (twenty times the usual value), which must be paid in such an age for the full corn in the ear (Mark iv. 25), the finest of the wheat (Ps. lxxxi. 16) of true religion.
In such an age, the outward virtues of duty and truth were all that could be realized by the best; there was a Divine providential inward always to preserve the holier excellencies of inward religion, the interior love and wisdom, See that thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
The last Horse was a pale horse, Death rode upon him, and hell followed after.
The Pale Horse, is the terrible symbol of the state of the Church’s intellect, when a sanctimonious pretense of piety and profession covers internal infidelity, covetousness, and lust.
This is a state into which a fallen church settles down. It has a name that it lives, but is dead. Its whiteness is not the whiteness of life, but the whiteness of death, pale. The death of sin guides the living hypocrisy of a church, in which pretended piety, without justice or charity; composed the religious condition. It curses the world, and hell follows after. Such is the state represented by the PALE HORSE.
The vision of the seer was thus divinely furnished with a revelation of the progress of the Church, from its beginning to its end. That progression which prophecy unfolded, history now recognizes as having been accomplished in the eighteen centuries of ecclesiastical career, closing with the terrible period Mr. Patterson describes. The description certainly was quite as much applicable to the Roman Catholic and Greek church countries, as, to these Protestant ones.
Bishop Butler speaking of this age,–the middle of the last century,–writes, as quoted in the Essays and Reviews, (p. 313).
It is come to be taken for granted, that Christianity is not so much as a subject of enquiry; but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious. Accordingly, they treat it, as if in the present age, this were an agreed point among all people of discernment, and nothing remained, but to set it up as a principal subject of mirth and ridicule, as it were, by way of reprisals for its having so long interrupted the pleasures of the world.Advertisement to Analogy, 1736.
The general state of the Church is also thus depicted by a layman, David Hartley.–Observations on Man, Vol. II. p. 441.
There are six things which seem more especially to threaten ruin and dissolution to the present state of Christendom.
1st. The great growth of Atheism and infidelity, particularly amongst the governing parts of these States.
2nd. The open and abandoned lewdness to which great numbers of both sexes, especially in the high ranks of life, have given themselves up.
3rd. The sordid and avowed self-interest, which is almost the sole motive of action in those who are concerned in the administration of public affairs.
4th. The licentiousness and contempt of every kind of authority, divine or human, which is so notorious in inferiors of all ranks.
5th. The great worldly-mindedness of the Clergy, and their gross neglect in the discharge of their proper functions.
6th. The carelessness and infatuation of parents and magistrates with respect to the education of youth, and the consequent early corruption of the rising generation.
Such descriptions are so general, and so corroborated by the witnesses of the times left by the writers of that period, as to leave no doubt of their correctness, and they announce that end of real interior religion which is meant by The Pale Horse.
The Pegasus, or winged horse of Mount Olympus, was with the ancients the symbol of the Intellect also, When it broke with its hoof the covering of the fountain of the Muses, and let the waters of true inspiration flow forth, we see the Divine lesson taught by the beautiful fable, that he whose intellect penetrates beneath the surface of things, alone unfolds the streams of beauty and blessing for mankind.
The seven horses which bore along the chariot of the Sun, and the horses by which Neptune conducts his path through the mighty waters, are also varied uses of the same symbol, well known by ancient scholarship and seership.
In our text, the Horse is presented once more, and again a WHITE HORSE. The restoration of the church by the Word, is the subject of the prophetic vision. A new dispensation is described as a new heaven and a new earth.
The Horse is once more the symbol of the INTELLECT, enlightened, and guided by Divine truth. He who sat on him had for his name, the WORD OF GOD. (v. 13.)
He was said to be Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
Only, by the intellect of mankind–as it is truly illuminated–can time human race advance. They must be sanctified by the truth, and the Word is truth. The first operation, then, towards the removal of evil and error, and thus of the miseries of mankind, is the unfolding of new influences from heaven, into the human mind. Hence John says I saw heaven opened. Then the WORD is presented to view. No power can shake the battlements of error or make them crumble to the dust, like the Word. When Luther was commencing his efforts to set forth the knowledge of the Word afresh, he had a dream. He thought he saw himself translating the Word, and his pen was so long that it reached to Rome, and struck off the triple crown of the Pope. The truth can make man free (John viii. 32), and nothing else can.
He is the freeman whom the TRUTH makes free,
And all are slaves besides.
When the divine vision, then, is revealing the mode by which the kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, the grand center from which all improvement would flow is presented–THE WORD. The more the WORD is opened, understood, loved, and revered, the more rapidly will mankind, both in their persons and institutions, be reformed and regenerated. The Word is faithful and true. Goodness and truth form its very soul. To produce the union of these two in all mens minds and habits, is the entire aim of all divine operations. The Word makes war in righteousness;–it lights incessantly;–it judges and makes war against all the evils and false principles which desolate mankind;–it condemns and overturns every unrighteous claim, every unhallowed passion. Let the Word be opened in the soul, and it will detect evils, however secret or however minute. Its eyes are like a flame of fire; its wisdom is inexpressibly bright and flaming, from the ardent love that glows in it. It his many crowns; its victories are innumerable; it will still go on conquering and to conquer. The glory of the Word is unspeakable. Thou hast magnified thy Word above all thy name. (Ps. cxxxviii. 2.)
It has a quality so deep, so inexhaustible, so rich, that no one fully knows it. A name that no one knows but He himself.
The vesture of the Word was dipped in blood. It has been opposed, violated, and crucified, again and again. The Word in person was slain, but rose again. The Word in revelation has had its covering, its vesture, its letter, perverted, maltreated, falsified, blood-stained, but it also rises again, for it is His who said, My Word shall not pass away. The Word is the supreme ruler in Heaven and on earth. It is King of Kings, and Lord of Lord’s. Each nation is great, as the Word is exalted amongst its people, and so will it be. There is a Divine inextinguishable life and power in the Word, that nothing can really destroy. The efforts of mistaken men will clash against this ROCK in vain, while men and nations who love the Word will feel their feet established and when the storms of life come, they will be like The wise man who built his house upon a rock, and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and heat upon that house: and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. (Matt. vii. 24, 25.)
If the Word could be blotted out, the souls of men would then indeed have suffered an eclipse; mankind would indeed be once more sitting in darkness, and in the shadow of death. But it is impossible. Heaven will be more and more opened–the Word be more and more powerful. Its spirit will shine through the clouds of its letter, with power and great glory, until superstition, and sin, and sorrow shall vanish like the last murky shadows of a long night, and the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. And, none shall hurt nor destroy in God’s Holy Mountain. (Isa. xi. 9.)
In conclusion, we cannot but remark how striking is the contrast between that virtual denial of the Word of God, which flows from the principles on this subject of the Essays and Reviews, with the beautiful and consolatory utterances of Swedenborg, on the same subject, in his small Treatise on the Sacred Scripture, which we commend to the reflections of all.
How great wisdom lieth concealed in the Word which we have on earth for therein is hid all angelic wisdom, which is inexpressible. He had, doubtless, the same view which is given in the Sacred Volume itself.
Thy Word, O Lord, is for ever settled in the heavens. Moreover, the Lord is present, and in conjunction with man through the Word, seeing that the Lord is the Word, and, as it were, converses in it with man, because Lord is Divine Truth itself, and the Word is Divine Truth also. With this St. John agrees. The Word was God. The Word is like a garden, which may be called a celestial paradise, containing delicacies and delights of every kind; delicacies by virtue of its flowers in the midst whereof are trees of life, and beside them fountains of living waters, and round about the garden are forests. Whoever now is under the influence and in the possession of Divine Truth, by virtue of doctrine, he is in the midst of the garden, amongst the trees of life, and in the actual enjoyment of its delicacies and delights. Was it in reference to this garden the prophet Ezekiel said to the King of Tyre–Thou hast been in Eden, the Garden of God. O may this glorious Word be to each of us the fountain of Wisdom, as it is to the angels, (1 Pet. i. 12) the fountain at which the Lord will meet us and give us the water that springs up to everlasting life (John iv. 14); a divine garden in whose paths we may walk, in whose arbors we may sit down and view those magnificent prospects of a holier state and d better world which may console us for the present turmoils, the dust and the struggles of this.
Thus saith the living God,
So shall my Word descend,
Almighty, to effect
The purpose I intend:
Millions of souls shall feel its power,
And bear it on to millions more.
Author: Jonathan Bayley—Twelve Discourses (1862)