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every particular. Again I would advise that * this production be treated according to the ' established rules of allegory in the sacred - writings, and that the author be permitted to • be his own interpreter.' So far have I been guided by his lordship’s excellent admonitions. He adds, ' In this respect the errors of • critics and divines have been as numerous as ' they have been pernicious. Not to mention • other absurdities, they have taken the allegory, not as denoting the universal state of the church, but the spiritual state of individuals ; than which nothing can be more inconsistent with the very nature and ground-work
of the allegory itself, as well as with the ge‘ neral practice of the Hebrew poets on these occasions'
But here, as I have ventured so far to differ from this excellent prelate as to apply many parts of the allegory to the spiritual circumstances of individual believers, I think myself obliged to offer some apology. And,
1. I consider the church as composed of individual believers, and that there is an analogy between the dealings of God with his church in general, and with individuals, which nalogy is, I think, plainly pointed out, in many parts of the New Testament. Sometimes the sacred writers compare the wbole body of believers to a temple, in which they form living stones, being builded on the only foundation, Christ Jesus : at other times they
consider individual saints as temples of the Holy Ghost'. So sometimes they speak of the church as one-the Bride the Lamb's wife; and at other times of distinct churches, or individual believers, as severally married to the Lord .
It is in this manner, I think, that St. Paul allegorizes the History of Hagar and her mistress, referring to the two dispensations, while at the same time he makes a practical application of it to the consciences of the Galatians:
Now we brethren, as Isaac was, are children • of the promise ?!
2. As to the prophets, or · Hebrew poets,' as his lordship calls them, they were certainly experimental preachers. David was a prophet, and the Book of Psalms may be considered as his diary, relating the frames of his mind under varying circumstances, both spiritual and temporal. Many of these passages our Lord applies to himself; but not, I conceive, so exclusively as to prevent the appropriation of them by believers in general, except in such passages as refer peculiarly to his divine character and work. This remark might in a degree be extended to the other prophets, though it must be confessed that the more sublime of them were chiefly engaged with predictions relative to the church and to the world at large.
3. I consider the allegory to be designed for purpases of piety and devotion, which cannot be so well answered without such an application. This may appear a weak argument at
1 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17. Ephes. ii. 20-22.
3 Gal. iv. 22-31
first view, but will be strengthened when we consider the doctrine of the New Testament, that whatsoever things were written aforetime
were written for our learning;' and that their grand design is to make us wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.' This shews both the propriety and importance of à particular application of scriptural truths to the circumstances and experience of individuals. Religion is a personal thing, and that professor is a hypocrite, the feelings of whose heart are not influenced by it, as well as the actions of his life.
Mr. HARMER, who admits an allegorical sense to this poem, considers the introduction of two wives of Solomon, as best adapted to figure the different states of the Jewish and Christian church ; and particularly the former, as provoked to jealousy by the conversion of the latter ; and I freely confess that the idea at first struck me as beautiful, and was chiefly rejected for want of evidence. However, at the suggestion of a friend I have reconsidered, and now deliberately reject it, for the following reasons, which I submit to the candour of my friend, and of the public.
1. I conceive that Polygamy, though it might be winked at, or tolerated, in some particular instances under the Old Testament, was yet never sanctioned by the divine law, much less in the excess practised by Solomon. It therefore does not appear to me probable that this circumstance should be made the ground
of so sublime a mystery as the calling of the Gentiles.
2. It appears to me that the case supposed by Mr. H. does not give a just representation of this mystery : the case would have been more parallel had the former wife been divorced for infidelity to the marriage covenant; for this is evidently the condition of the Jews; though we are not without hope that, in a future day they may be recovered and forgiven'.
3. The Jewish church is represented as of foreign origin, by the prophets, and this circumstance is strongly pressed on her recollection. • Look unto the rock whence ye are
hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye . are digged.'-' Thy father was an Amorite, ' and thy mother an Hittite ?."
It must be owned, indeed, that the Jewish church is not called an Egyptian ; yet the circumstance of coming up from Egypt is very appropriate, and that of which she often was reminded. • Remember the Lord thy God
which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
If the forty-fifth psalm be admitted to refer to the Jewish church, as I think it generally has been (though not by Mr. Harmer) we have additional evidence on this point; for there she , is expressly exhorted to forget her own peo
ple and her father's house,' which certainly
> See Rom. xi. throughout.
Isa. li. 1. Ezek. xvi. 3, 45, 46.
implies her foreign extract, and properly comports with our explanation of the allegory in this
song. 4. I cannot here refer to all the passages produced by Mr. H. to countenance the idea of two wives of Solomon—they shall be considered, as far as ny recollection serves, in the commentary: but I confess I see them with different
from Mr. H. For instance, when the spouse says,
· I am a rose of the field, &c. it appears to me the language of modesty and self-diffidence ; but I perceive nothing in it of jealousy, or reflection upon a foreign rival, as suggested by this ingenious writer. Had the jealousy been on the other side; i. e. had the Egyptian princess been provoked to jealousy by a Jewish rival, it might have received a much stronger countenance from her language in the first chapter : 'I am black, but comely, 0 ye daughters of Jerusalem!'
5. The Gentile church appears to me more properly introduced in the last chapter, as a younger sister, not yet marriageable, as I shall endeavour to shew in the sequel; and this I. believe is the unanimous opinion of Christian expositors, both antient and modern, to the time of Mr. H.
The last thing I shall notice is a suggestion of Mr. HENLEY, that this poem was probably composed on occasion of the dedication of the temple, and with a reference to that event. This conjecture appears to me very ingenious, and I confess that I do not, at present, see any material objection to it, as Solomon's marriage