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writer, and that it was incumbent on me to offer some reply : but reluctance and other occupations led me to delay, till the publishers of the Scripture Testimony of the MESSIAH requested me to prepare a new edition of that work. It is now near publication. But I have obtained their permission to ask for the insertion in your valuable work of the passage which treats upon this trying topic. I respectfully solicit such insertion, though sorry for the length of the passage ; but I fear that to omit any part would make the rest obscure or less intelligible. I am, my dear Sir,
affectionately yours, Homerton, June 12, 1837.
J. Pye Smith.
I must add, that I do not satisfactorily perceive that these principles (concerning the INSPIRATION of the Scriptures,) can be fully applied to the Song of Solomon. The authority to put upon it an allegorical interpretation, rests upon no Scripture ground; but such a ground, explicitly laid down, would be necessary to render the allegorical interpretation admissible in principle, and to direct its actual application. Unless a divine sanction and direction could be produced, no man has a right to assume it. I can conceive of no method of treating written documents that is more arbitrary, precarious, and destructive of certainty. By it, the whole testimony of the Scriptures might be broken up, the use of language would be exploded, and any words might be made to signify any thing. This scheme was probably invented by some of the Alexandrian Jews, whose carnal minds were enamoured with the Platonic and the Stoical inventions, for supporting the credit of the heathen mythology, by turning its fables into allegory. In the writings of Philo we see it largely displayed ; and the infatuation was imbibed by too many of the early Christians. Melancholy examples occur in the Epistle which unworthily bears the name of Barnabas, and in the commentaries of Origen, besides the writings of some others of the Fathers. If those examples were to be followed, the whole Scripture history would be destroyed, and the infidel scheme of Woolston would be fully realized. The extravagance appears to me to be, if possible, still greater, of applying the language of the Song of Solomon to the devotional exercises of the penitent believer in communion with his God and Saviour; for that language is far indeed remote from the deep humility, the reverence and godly fear, which are the inseparable characteristics of all the prayers and praises of one, who, though pardoned and favoured with all spiritual blessings, can never, and would never forget the lowliness becoming a penitent sinner, when admitted to the presence of the Holy One. zine, September, 1833.) It is to be wishe 1 that his son, the Rev. Alfred Williams, of the Foundling Hospital, or some other competent person, would undertake to publish his improved edition. The papers which we inserted were the matured opinions of this venerable man, whose industry, intelligence, piety, and respectable scholarship, gave weight to his judgment on theological questions. We are sure Dr. Smith will feel interested in this note, and our readers also will be gratified to know who the individual was that excited this elaborate discussion. Though he is gone, there are others in our churches who entertain the same views, and who are at liberty, through our pages, to say to our learned friend, “I also will shew you mine opinion."-EDITOR.
Further, this book declares no sacred truths, it includes no lessons of faith, obedience, and piety towards God, or of duty to man; it never introduces a devotional sentiment; it makes no mention of Jehovah, * his dominion, his laws, his sanctuary, or his worship : it has no appearance of being a religious poem, didactic, devotional, or prophetic. I can discover no sufficient evidence to conceive of it as any other than a pastoral eclogue, or a succession of eclogues, representing, in the vivid colours of Asiatic rural scenery, with a splendour of artificial decoration, the honourable loves of a newly married bride and bridegroom, with some other interlocutors.
Many excellent persons have maintained the divine authority of an allegorical sense, from those passages of Scripture which represent the love, condescension, and protection of the Saviour towards his people, by the image of the marriage union. But let an impartial person read all those passages; let him observe the brevity of their touches, and their restriction to the ideas of Christ's conferring gracious blessings upon his redeemed, and his receiving from them the homage of love and obedience; and let him compare them with the style of this poem, loaded with the solicitous minuteness and luxurious richness of an oriental imagination; and let him ask whether the former at all leads to the latter; and whether such an expansion of ideas and words could be justified, as a description of divine love and christian devotion, on any other ground than an express scriptural warrant. The union of Christ and his people is represented by various other figures, and particularly by that of the animal body, whose life, health, and energy are maintained by the presiding influence of the brain. He is 56 the Head, from whom the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, maketh increase :-we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” Solomon was distinguished as a writer in Natural History. (1 Kings iv. 33.) Be it allowed me, then, to suppose that there had descended to us a System of Anatomy and Phisiology, written by him; should we have been at liberty to understand it in any other than its proper and natural sense? Should we have been warranted to turn it into a spiritual allegory ?
Besides; an allegorical interpretation of this exquisitely imaginative and impassioned poetry, cannot but be arbitrary, subjected to no certain rules, and endlessly varying according to the taste and feelings of interpreters. Hence, I must humbly express my con
* The close of ch. viii. 6, cannot be reckoned as an exception, whether written as one word or divided by Mappik: “flame of Jah," i.e. as well rendered in our version, “ a most vehement flame." It is the known idiom of the Hebrew writers to express the greatest kind of any object by subjoining a divine naine; as “a city great unto God," (Jonah ii. 3); “ a land of darkness of Jah,” dreadful gloom, (Jeriii. 31); “ trees of Jehovah,” (Ps. civ. 16); “ cedars of God," (Ps. Ixxx. 11); “ mountains of God," (Ps. Xxxvi. 6;) « wrestlings of God," (Gen. xxx. 8); “ garden of God," (Ezek, xxviii. 13.) There can be no doubt that the origin of this mode of expressing eminence was an association with the power and majesty of God; and its vernacular use would be beneficial to pious minds, however desecrated by the profane. The subject is largely discussed by John Vorstius, in his Comm, de Hebraismis N. T. cap. xvi. xvii.
viction, that this Song can be rendered of no certain use for any of the purposes of inspired Scripture, “ for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, or for instruction in righteousness.” The most dangerous application of it is frequently made by ignorant and enthusiastic men, setting themselves up as teachers, and who need nothing but a rash fancy and a presumptuous tongue, to make the words of the Song plastic to any sense or nonsense which they may long to utter. Thus a principle is encouraged, which is beyond description dangerous to the interests of real religion, and which is continually employed by the class of persons to whom I have alluded, for the purpose of torturing and misapplying any passage of the divine word. We may judge of the infatuating influence of this principle, from its effects on a mind so good and upright as that of Origen, who had imbibed it from the Judæo-Christian School of Alexandria. In his Commentaries and Homilies he sometimes, through his fondness for allegorizing, leaves us in doubt whether he does not actually deny the historical facts on which he grounds his spiritual lessons; to say the least, he treats them with great irreverence. For instance; after largely dilating on a spiritualizing explication of some of the laws of Moses he says: “If, according to this way of understanding them, we say that the Most High God gave laws to men, I think that the giving of the law will appear worthy of the Divine Majesty. But, if we adhere to the letter, and so take the things written in the law as the Jews and men in general understand them, I blush to say and acknowledge that God gave such laws.” (Opera, ed. Delarue, tom. ii. p. 226.) So upon Levit. vi. 24–30, he dares to say: “ Unless we understand all these things in another sense than that which the literal text shows, as we have often before said when these [parts of Scripture) are read in the church, they will effect rather an obstacle and overturning to the Christian religion, than instruction and edification.” (16. p. 205.) Many other lamentable passages of this kind occur, and even with relation to the gospel history: a serious warning against the love of allegory!
There are passages in the poem which give a considerable probability to the supposition that some other than Solomon was its author. Such is the beautiful episode (chap. iii. 6-11), in which the poet describes one of the queens of Solomon (v. 10, nuo 12.7 DIMIT) as carried in a palanquin with all royal magnificence, attended by a numerous guard of soldiers, and received by the king, who has come out to meet her with a correspondent display of grandeur. Then, through chap. iv. the bridegroom and his spouse felicitate themselves on their happiness, so far superior to that of royalty, in rural life, unencumbered with vain pomp, and at liberty to walk at their own pleasure through all the kinds of country scenery, from the aromatic gardens and rich orchards, to the wildest mountainrange. Another passage appears to be an exquisitely delicate, but deeply severe reflection upon Solomon's shameful polygamy, which the bridegroom, nobly exulting, contrasts with his own purity and happiness as the sole husband of a sole wife. It is chap. vi. 4-10. The bridegroom describes his wife's simple dress, without the gorgeousness which covered the dishonour and misery of the persons about to be mentioned ; and her native modest beauty, standing in
need of no art to set it off, yet forming such a contrast to the looks of those unhappy inhabitants of the palace, that its very loveliness struck them with awe. But no translation can do justice to the three remaining verses. The following attempt is as close as I can make it. Let the Hebrew reader observe the masculine pronoun, applied to the queens, conveying the cutting insinuation that polygamy had despoiled them of the true honour of their sex ;* and the contrast, so studiously marked by the thrice repeated feminine pronoun, in the sweet picture of the uncontaminated bride. Then let the reader observe the burst of admiration in the inquiry made by the pitiable victims, if not themselves the seductresses, of the criminal king. The poet does not impute to them envious feeling : he does not aggravate their dishonour by exhibiting them as indulging any malignity; but the sight of the spotless bride, unadorned, unattended, even pierces them with terror, and they are “abashed to see how awful goodness is !”.
“ Sixty, they ; queens !
Eighty; mistresses !
And waiting maids, without number.
Unsullied, she; to her who bare her fan honour.]
The queens and the mistresses, and they praised her, [saying,]
Terrible as a bannered host !'” I now appeal to the judicious reader, whether these two passages, especially the latter, do not amount to a high probability, I might even say a moral certainty, that this poem was not written by Solomon, but by a far happier person, unknown to posterity.
An argument of another kind arises from the passage last quoted. It shows that the poem was written after Solomon had tarnished his glory, and sinned against God, his people, and himself, by taking wives and concubines. Sixty and eighty are here mentioned, the numbers being perhaps put poetically, but yet intimating that he had not arrived at the degree of harem-pomp (for it must have been mainly for pride and show), mentioned'in 1 Kings xi. 3. May we not derive from this little circumstance a probable indication for the date of the poem ; that much agitated and difficult question? It seems to lead to the idea of its having been written after Solomon had entered upon the guilty career of multiplying wives, but before he had proceeded to the length mentioned in the history. I believe that those who ascribe the Song to Solomon, generally regard it as having been written in the beginning of his reign, and before the melancholy change in his character. It certainly could not be attributed to him in his old age. The circumstance is also deserving
* This grammatical irregularity occurs but seldom in the Hebrew text. Gesenius regards it as an incorrectness derived from vulgar life. (Lehrgebäude, $ 193.) It is used in some cases where only poverty, or an humble occupation, is the associated idea : but strong disapprobation, or abhorrence, is implied in Judges xix. 24. Isa. iii. 16. Ezek. xiii. 20. Zech. v. 10.
of notice, that the poem cannot without difficulty be explained of the Egyptian princess whom Solomon married at the beginning of his reign; for there are expressions which seem to describe the person as an Israelitess, whose father was dead, but her mother living, who possessed an estate in her own right, and who had both a knot of step-brothers or sisters, who appear to have been not perfectly cordial with her, and an own brother and sister, both younger than herself, and who tenderly loved her. (See Dr. Mason Goods Translation, Pref.; and the Rev. T. H. Horne's Introd. to the Critical Study, fc. of the Holy Script. vol. iv. p. 133, seventh ed.) No absolute evidence that Solomon was the author can be drawn from the title, “ The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's." For few need to be informed that the titles to the sacred books, and those prefixed to many of the Psalms, like the epigraphs at the end of each of the epistles of Paul, were added by ancient editors : and that, however those in the book of Psalms are generally correct and always deserving of very high consideration, they are not certainly a part of the original writing.
Whatever weight the reasons here intimated may have upon the question, whether the Song of Solomon belonged to the Jewish canon, as it was sanctioned by our Lord and his apostles, they can have no influence upon the validity of our arguments from any part of the Old Testament, or upon any religious fact or principle whatsoever. On the contrary, the exception confirms the rule, and places in a stronger light the inspired character of EVERY THING that is sacred or religious in the Hebrew writings. This Song has, so far as I can perceive, no relation of dependence, corroboration, or elucidation, with any of the facts, doctrines, promises, or precepts of either the Israelitish or the Christian economy. The truth remains unaltered, that the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament were given by inspiration of God, that their chief object is to testify of Christ, that this testimony is the spirit of prophecy, and that therein we have eternal life.
It has been afflicting to me to learn that the preceding remarks on the Song Of Solomon have given pain to some pious and learned persons. They regard the rejection of any book of the Hebrew Scriptures as inconsistent with holding the canonical authority of the Old Testament as a whole. I gratefully acknowledge that the strictures which, publicly and privately, have been addressed to me, have been marked with candour and kindness. Yet I cannot feel myself at liberty to suppress the foregoing passage, unless I could accompany the suppression with an avowal of a change of sentiment upon the question. I conceive it therefore to be my duty to draw out a brief statement of the evidence on each side of the argument; submitting the whole to the reader's serious judgment.
REASONS IN FAVOUR. i. Our Lord and his apostles accepted and sanctioned the Hebrew writings held sacred by their countrymen, without making any exception: and we have ample reason for believing that all the books of the Old Testament, as they have descended to us, were so