« AnteriorContinuar »
taining the nature and the effects of it. In verse 9, which is as follows;
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea ;” is to be found the proper key to the figurative language contained in the three verses preceding. God's holy mountain is mount Zion in Jerusalem, where his temple stood; of which such glorious things are spoken in the latter day, when
the mountain of the Lord's house shall be exalted on the top of the mountains, and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isai. ii. l). Now the thing asserted is, that "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all God's holy mountain :" and the question ariseth, Of whom is this spoken? The answer is, Of those powers described by the bear and the lion and the wolf and the serpent, who for so many ages have had the mastery of God's holy mountain. in Jerusalem (“The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the forest doth devour it.") All these shall be expelled in that day when “ the Lord shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt” (Isai. xxvii. 12). There shall not be a son of wickedness to hurt the peace or taint the purity of his holy mountain, but otherwise (Psal. Ixvii. 9): “Because of thy temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto thee :” “ All they that be fat on earth shall eat and worship; all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him in that day, when the kingdom is the Lord's, and he is the Governor among the nations (Psal. xxii). Who these fat ones are, is sufficiently declared in the former part of the Psalm : they are the same who compassed him about in his humiliation ; " dogs," “ lions,” “unicorns,” and “strong bulls of Bashan;" the mighty potentates and lawless rulers of the earth, who are ever thus represented in the Prophets, and particularly in Daniel and the Revelations. And wherefore is it that God's holy mountain shall be thus peaceful and undefiled ? (“ Rejoice, O Gentiles, with my people :") it is because the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." There shall be no such thing as unrighteousness and injustice upon the earth; and, consequently, there shall be no unjust ones: or, to state the truth in its proper sequence, because there shall be no unjust and unrighteous ones, there shall be no injustice nor unrighteousness. And why no unjust nor unrighteous ones? because " the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea. Every where he shall be acknowledged; and every where this acknowledgment shall yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. It shall not be any more an election, but a universality, of confessors and worshippers. Light shall stream upon the earth from “ the New Jerusalem which cometh down from heaven, and the nations shall walk in the light thereof : “ The law shall go forth from mount Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” This is the reason why men
ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us in his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” And up thither shall they go, to the holy mountain of the Lord : the lions and the leopards, the wolves and the bears and the asps, shall creep thither, and the cockatrices shall fly thither; and there shall they be mingled in peace with the bullocks and the kids and the lambs which were wont to be brought thither in sacrifice; the clean and the unclean together worshipping their common God and Saviour, through whom the middle wall of partition hath been broken down. They shall not hurt nor destroy, but feed and worship and rejoice together in the Lord God of Israel. This I take to be the true idea contained in the text before us--namely, that there shall not be upon the earth one creature, man or beast, who shall not be acceptable before the Lord in his holy mountain; observant of the holiness thereof, free to come up, and acceptable in the presence of the Lord of hosts, who dwelleth there : being, as I conceive, much the same with that truth which is thus expressed by Zech. xiv. 16, 17: “ And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem, shall even go up from
to worship the King the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles : and it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem, to worship the King the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.”
I have purposely separated the question, whether this passage do not also contain hope to the lower creation, being desirous to keep as long as possible upon common ground. And now, having fully brought out the interpretation of it regarded as a figure, I now go further, and say, that I believe it contains a literal truth as well as a figurative one; the truth, that the lower creatures, who by man's fall were plunged into cruelty and blood, shall, in the time here contemplated, be redeemed from that evil condition, and dwell in harmony with one another. In the prophetical style, the figurative and the real are wonderfully intermixed, to the utter confusion of the rules of the technical rhetorician; insomuch that, if I err not, Dr. Blair, the father of our Scottish school of taste) which however has less to do with Scotland than with any land; true indigenous Scottish intellect, and deep Scottish feeling, having ever rejected it as a miserable and unnatural importation from the cold-hearted and infidel school of France) could find only one complete and faultless metaphor or figure in the Old Testament, which is not mixed with the literal : for nothing do they abhor so much as a mixed metaphor. Poor word-slaves ! how insufferable ye are ! What puny minds, bound in fetters of feebleness! Ye should imitate God's word, and not ask God's word to imitate you. If ye had the same free and rich spirit, ye would have the same free and rich language. But, with your miserable VOL. 1.-NO. IV.
canons of taste and criticism, ye have now, these fifty years, been starving the free and deep spirit of the Scottish people with correct and elegant compositions, as ye term them, which have in them no nourishment of truth, and are as little entitled to the name of sermons as is my child's toy to the name of that real thing which she fancies it to be. Oh, I abhor and nauseate, as much as any Scottish peasant who wears the blue bonnet, these empty, heartless, feckless, foisonless productions of what is called the moderate school of Scotch preaching, at the head of which stands the Rhetorical Professor referred to above.-But, to return from a digression which the bitter memory of many blighted parishes of my native land forced me into, I observe again, that it is the use and wont of the prophetic style to intermingle the figurative and the literal : for this reason, that truth is one; and the creation, in all its parts, an expression of that one truth. The similitudes are therefore not accidental resemblances, but real, though diversified, expressions of the same truth. The figures of the Scriptures taken from nature are the Holy Spirit's expositions of what nature was fashioned and is preserved, to body forth, concerning the one purpose of God, which is complete in Christ. For those rhetoricians, who neither know nor believe this, it may be very well to insist that the similitude shall be told out, in order that we may see whether it be a true similitude or not : but for those who understand the deeper secrets of nature, who are nature's true poets and bards, and have in them somewhat of the holiness of the prophet, inasmuch as they are conversant with the realities, and not with the mere shows of things, it will ever be the privilege and the inclination to fall in, more or less, with the method of the Prophets; which is, to pass out of one region of creation into another—the elemental, the vegetable, the animal, the intellectual, the spiritual-by means of that clue of Divine discernment with which the spiritual man is gifted, of whom it is said, that “he judgeth all things, but he himself is judged of no one.”
The instances of this secret and sudden transition from the figurative to the real are numerous in this very prophecy : indeed, just as numerous as the number of figures employed, for there is not one instance to the contrary. In viii. 6-8 there is a notable example of the mixed metaphor, at which our critics might find mighty amusement; where the Assyrian is at once a river overflowing, and a bird with wings. In x.16-19, he is a forest, a herd of fat cattle, a fruitful field with soul and body, whose destruction is like the fainting of a standard-bearer. In xi. 1 Messiah is a Branch ; in ver. 2 he is a man full of the Spirit: and so forth, in almost every instance of a regularly formed figure. But if we refer to mere similitudes, then they are heaped up one upon another from all regions of nature. This is the manner of the Prophets, and I take it of uninspired men also, according as they are endued with more and more of the Spirit of wisdom and understanding. No objection, therefore, is it, to say of the figure before us that it passeth likewise into the literal; for the wonder would be that it should not. Now, while we maintain the figurative sense, upon the grounds already set out, we see many indications of the unfigurative also: as when it is said, ver. 6,"“ And a little child shall lead them.” This must be understood either as conferring a literal and plain sense upon the wolf, the leopard, the kid, the calf, the young lion, and the fatling; or the whole must be taken as an aliegorical painting, which we have already rejected. There would be no propriety in making a child to lead the great and mighty men of the earth ; but there is great beauty in a child leading these various beasts in one band of union and peace : it shews, not only the departure of their mutual instincts of destructiveness and fear one toward another, but likewise their return of their common subordination to man; and presents us with all creation yielding its neck, not to the wise tamer, or the strong subduer, or the crafty catcher of the creatures, but to the face and image of upright man, stamped upon the weakness, the artlessness, the helplessness of a child. There seems to me, again, another indication of the plain and literal sense in the words of the seventh verse : “And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.' This could not, without great refinement indeed, suggest itself to one who had only the figurative sense in his mind. That the lion should not devour the ox, is of easy and natural application from the figure to the thing set forth by it; but that the lion should eat straw like the ox, is a refinement which I think will hardly be found in the Prophets. But, taking it literally, it doth declare the law of their being to be changed, which at present is universally, and in all conditions, to feed on flesh : not only that they will not destroy and devour one another, which is the very instinct of many wild animals, and of some appears to be the chief end of their being; but, if flesh be presented to them, they will not use it for food, but reject it as much as they now reject straw.-The next verse, " And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den," can, I think, admit of interpretation only in the literal sense; for as a figure I cannot tell what it means. It means, one may say, that the simplest of mankind may safely entrust himself with men naturally of the most deep and malignant character. But this, methinks, would have been better expressed by taking two animals; and it hath already been sufficiently expressed by bringing the wolf and the lamb to dwell together. It may be said, moreover, that the figure of general pacification being once begun, the rich and exuberant spirit of prophecy carries it onward, and finishes with this beautiful climax. I answer, that I find no such playful use or unnecessary expense of words among the Prophets; whom the more I study the more I admire, as gaining their end by the most simple, short, and exact methods. But, being understood literally as it is written, it brings out a most beautiful and appropriate meaning,- that the enmity between the serpent's seed and the woman's seed should then be at an end: that the serpent should no longer, as the deodand for the horrid crime of which he had been the tool, be doomed to be the most deadly enemy of his master, man; but, the redemption being completed, between the child of woman and the serpent there should be harmony: his subtlety should not betray the child, his venom should not hurt the · child : he should be delivered from the sore badge of his having been a party to the great calamity of the Fall.
On these accounts I do see, besides the figurative, which doubtless is present, a literal sense to be also present; and can, even were there no other passage than this one, believe that it contains the promise of a deliverance to the lower creation also, and a restoration of that state of willing service and sweet obsequiousness to the body of man, for which they were originally created, and to which they are still bent, but not without the labour and ingenuity of mankind. I am however thankful that a doctrine of such importance doth not rest upon this alone, but hath a distinct revelation in every part of Scripture. I think, that in the very laying on of the curse, both upon woman and upon man, it is evident, that, while death was the proper consequence of the transgression itself, those additions of woman's pains in childbirth and man's toils with an ungrateful world, were imposed in consequence of the manner of the transgression: woman's, because she listened to the serpent; man's, because he listened to the woman. These additions to death are the badge and the consequence of the serpent's dominion : and when this shall be taken away, when“ that wicked” shall be destroyed by the brightness of the coming of the Lord, and the Lord himself shall possess the earth; then, believe I, that from flesh, and from the earth, of which he hath received the lordship, these sorrowful badges of Satan's lordship shall depart, and contrary tokens of the Blessed One who rules shall be felt, in the deliverance of woman from her woful pains of conception and child-birth, and of man from the grinding misery of subjecting and reclaiming the wildness and savageness of inferior nature: and yet that death shall remain, the sign of a fallen and impotent creature; yet death not at large, but in the keeping of Him who is Lord likewise of death, to inflict it upon the wicked, if ever wickedness shall spring forth ; until the end of the Millennium, when death also shall be destroyed, and creatures under the condition of the first death shall give place for creatures unchangeably under the condition of the second death. These ideas are not thrown out at random, but can be supported by Scripture, and are necessary to the analogy of