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crowding and intricacy of the embellishments. Those minute circumstances form the perplexity of sober expositors; and they supply inexhaustible materials to persons who are little anxious about principles, rules, and consistency of interpretation ; since an inventive talent, a fertile fancy, and sometimes the assumption of direct inspiration, supersede with them the ordinary means of discovering the sense.* -I have endeavoured, in a serious and impartial spirit, to compare the passages of Scripture, adduced by judicious writers as parallels in sentiment and phraseology to expressions in this book : but I must confess that they do not work conviction upon my mind. I may be too tenacious; my judgment may be warped : but I must confess myself unable to discern any more or closer resemblances than
may be found by comparing with each other numerous works, sacred or classical, ancient or modern, especially such as abound in poetical and ornamented diction. I confess myself unable to find any ground for either of the positions which those respectable writers aim to establish ; namely, allusions in subsequent inspired writers to this Song; or terms and phrases which, in consequence of being pre-eminently employed in sacred significations, may be reasonably presumed to have been so intended as they occur here. Indeed I find the contrary: those terms and phrases, when studied by a careful regard to their connexion (a means of investigation which can never be safely omitted), appear to me naturally and fully to adjust themselves to the scenery and actions of the literal sense.
iv. Great stress is laid upon the fact, that the religious application of passages from this book has been of eminent spiritual benefit to Christians; and that commentaries, sermons, and occasional citations from it, have been greatly blessed in promoting the holiness and consolation of pious persons. I pray the mercy of God to keep me from any approach to the inflicting of a wound on the tenderest christian heart, or undervaluing any of the means of producing sacred impressions, or the presumptnous sin of even the smallest reflection upon the work of the Holy Spirit. But I would entreat a candid attention to the consideration, that a truly religious sentiment makes its way to the heart in whatever words it may be clothed; that the effect, under the Divine influence, is from the sentiment; that fragmentary clauses and sentences, which express a sacred and edifying sentiment with peculiar pertinence and force, may often be derived from authors who are far from being sacred, especially poets;t
*“With respect to the Song of Songs, the author professes his adherence to the mystical interpretation ; not so much because that is the view of the church and the earliest of the holy Fathers, but much more since he believes that the Spirit hath here testified to him what is truth.-Seek not the meaning of this Song in the way of rational reflection : that is of no use. Seek it not in the school of a stagnant lifeless orthodoxy. It is the Spirit alone that here searches the deep things, and teaches to read these hieroglyphics.”—(Predigten aus dem Lied der Lieder, ron Dr. F. W. Krummacher ; Vorrede, vi. vii. 1826.)
☆ How many passages of Æschylus, Euripides, Pindar, and others, are admirably susceptible of being a vehicle of sublime truths and practical injunctions in religion! How aptly, powerfully, and beautifully might a few lines of Virgil (Æn. vi. 126—131,) be applied to describe the most momentous truths in the system of vital Christianity! These six lines comprise a body of experimental divinity!
and that phrases which we have been accustomed to hear cited in religious intercourse, acquire a tenderness and a power not inherent in their original meaning. In the devout writings of Bogatsky, many of the daily meditations are built upon passages of the Apocrypha : and the matter thus brought forth is of the same excellent and edifying character as the other parts of the work. The principle of the case is stated by President Edwards : “ A mistake may be the occasion of a gracious exercise, and consequently a gracious influence of the Spirit of God, Rom. xiv. 6; by this it is very evident that there may be true exercises of grace, a true respect to the Lord, and particularly a true thankfulness, which may be occasioned by an erroneous judgment and practice; and consequently, an error may be the occasion of those truly holy exercises that are from the infallible Spirit of God.” (Treatise concerning Religious Affections, P. II, § xii.) To speak more exactly; it is not the error that is the proximate instrument of these good and holy affections, but it is some truth which has become associated with that error.
v. In no part of this composition is it affirmed, or in any way implied, that it is an allegory. Such an intimation is given in every instance of Bible allegory, either in the internal structure or by some annexed expression, so that the sense and design cannot be mistaken.t (See Judges ix. 7–20. 2 Kings xiv. 9, 10. Ps. xlv. lxxx. Is. v.1-7. Ezek. xvi.; xxxvii. 1-14;--the parables of our Lord;-Acts x. 10-17; Gal. iv. 22-31;—the Apocalyptic visions.) Yet, if this book were designed to be understood upon the principle of allegory, the peculiar importance of the case would have rendered it in the highest degree necessary that some definite information should have been given of such a design; or some clear assertion made that would have guided us safely to the true sense and meaning. While such admonitions are afforded in all other instances, it seems unaccountable that no guiding star shines here, where it is needed so much more indeed than in any other case of parable or allegory that I am able to assign.
For want of such an authoritative declaration, or some other sure guide, eminent interpreters have differed remarkably in their modes of resolution. The Chaldee Targum finds in the Song a history of the Israelitish nation, from the giving of the Law on Sinai to the coming of the Messiah. The later Jews generally, though not without exception, have followed that interpretation. Origen wrote ample comments upon this book, a portion of which and two
* I refer, not to his Golden Treasury, but to a subsequent and much larger work, entitled (Tägliches Haus-Buch, 11. s. w.) A Book of Domestic Devotion for the Children of God, consisting of Meditations and Prayers for every Day in the Year; in two very large volumes, Halle, 1749.
+ A judicious writer says,—“ Parables and allegories do not always carry with them their own key. The statement of Nathan to David (2 Sam. xii. 1-4,) was not even suspected to be a parable.” (Congr. Mag. June 1830.)- It seems to me by no means certain that David did not suspect the purport of the parable. Any disinterested bystander would have seen it at once. It is, alas ! very conceivable that his wounded pride and guilty conscience led him to affect not to perceive the prophet's drift; expecting that Nathan would retire without venturing 10 push the spear. If he really did not perceive it, I cannot avoid thinking that his insensibility was the result of judicial blindness.
Homilies are extant, but for the most part in the translations of Rufinus and Jerome. He admits an historical sense, and adds to it a spiritual one, as a dramatic epithalamium, in which the Church, or the soul of a believer, on the one side, and the Redeemer on the other, sublimely converse together. The Fathers almost universally follow this course. “ The Catholic divines,” says the learned Sebastian Munster, “ find here all the mysteries of Christ and the church.” Bernard of Clairvaux makes a threefold sense, the historical, the moral, and the spiritual. Luther has written an Exposition of the Song, regarding it as a figurative and flowery description of Solomon's civil government. Succeeding expositors, both Romanist and Protestant, have generally followed in the train of the Fathers; some carrying their explanations of the imagery to the minutest particulars, while some content themselves with a general application to Christ and the church, without racking their invention to find out correspondencies for all the particulars. Grotius, Lightfoot, and others, have made the primary sense to refer to the marriage of Solomon with the Egyptian princess; in which they have been followed by many, notwithstanding the apparently insuperable objections to this hypothesis. Hug regards the book as an attempt, made in the time of Hezekiah, to reunite the feeble remnant of the TenTribe kingdom to that of Judah. E. F. C. Rosenmüller conceives the two represented personages to be Solomon and Heavenly Wisdom, according to the personification in Prov. viii. and ix. Nor are these all the expositions of the supposed allegory, which have been proposed by learned and good men.
After reviewing all the hypotheses of allegory that have come to my knowledge, I am bound to confess that I can find no satisfactory proof of any one, no solid basis on which a theological, or an ascetic, or a moral interpretation can be fixed: they appear to have had no foundation in the ascertainable intention of the writer, but to have arisen solely out of the ingenuity and the fertile imagination of their different inventors. Yet such a solid basis of interpretation is absolutely necessary, in order to the use of any writing, with conviction to the mind, as a vehicle of divine testimony or authority. Where in this book do we find a doctrine for our faith or a ecept for our obedience, a warning for our admonition or a promise for our consolation ? All of these are indeed propounded by excellent men, in their comments, deductions, and paraphrases; but to me they appear to be not in the book, but in the interpretation; and, though true and edifying in a high degree, to have flowed entirely from the other books of the sacred volume, the Psalms, the Prophets, and above all the New Testament.
vi. It appears to me a consideration not destitute of importance, that both the Rabbinical Jews, and some among the early Christians, represent this book as unfit to be read by persons in general; the former excluding all who are under thirty years of age, and the latter more reasonably forbidding it to those who are not morally qualified by purity of mental habits. It is true that those Jews extended the prohibition to the account of the creation in Genesis, and the visions in the beginning of Ezekiel: but the motive in those cases was
some supposed difficulty to the understanding, while in the one before us it was assumed to be an exposure to moral danger of the passions. Now it is altogether contrary to the genius of revelation, under either the Old or the New Testament, to possess esoteric doctrines or expositions of doctrine, or concealed books. It is a part of the glory of genuine revelation to have no mysteries, as the heathen had, into which only select persons were to be initiated. There are indeed passages in the Pentateuch and the Old Testament historical books, which are not desirable to be publicly read, but this is purely on account of the archaic simplicity of some expressions, a simplicity consistent in that state of society with the most perfect purity and gravity: but that a whole book, which is maintained to consist entirely of the sublimest ascents of devotion, the purest exercises of the divine life in the human soul,--should yet be unfit for general use, appears not well in accordance with the idea of writings given for men's universal benefit, to make them“ wise unto salvation.” It would be unjust to represent this as an opinion held generally by Christians : but, though it may be disowned in theory, is it not acknowledged practically? Do soberminded persons feel easy in reading the song of Solomon to their families, except by a method of drawing attention, far away from the text, to some comment which is spread as a covering completely over it, as a beautiful shell conceals its molluscous inhabitant? Have any ancient or modern Lectionaries appointed this Song, or portions of it, to be read in churches? Or do Christian ministers, who are at liberty to select their own church lessons, commonly or frequently take them from this book? Do they not, in act at least, confess that an insuperable moral feeling stands in the way?
After the endeavour to review and compare the preceding arguments, on each side, I am bonnd to confess myself still unable to regard the book called the Song of Solomon as a part of Holy Scripture, given by inspiration of God, the standard of faith and rule of obedience.
Such is the result of a renewed examination of this question, with no little anxiety. It is my earnest prayer, that if I am in error, not one of my readers may be misled by me. Let every one, in simplicity and godly sincerity, examine, pray, and determine for himself; and may truth and piety in all things triumph!
Learned persons who have attended to the recent and wonderfully successful endeavours to decipher the pictured monuments of ancient Egypt, have brought to light some representations, of which I borrow the following account from the Foreign Quarterly Review, vol. xvi. p. 321, Jan. 1836. A profile exists which there is reason to believe is that of Rehoboam. A copy of it is in the Saturday Magazine, vol. iii. p. 144. The reviewer of Rossellini, the younger Champollion, and Wilkinson, on the Egyptian Antiquities, says, “ In the whole range of phonetic interpretation, we venture to asseri that nothing more convincingly clear, than the reading by which this individual is identified as a Jew, can be found. The words Melek Ioudah (king of Judah) are most distinctly expressed; and the symbol, - holy mountain,' is subjoined.” After citing 2 Chron. xii. 2, 3, 4, 9, the reviewer proceeds: “Shishak’had two daughters, one married subsequently to Jeroboam, the head of the ten revolted tribes, the other to Solomon.
Solomon, as allowed by the Jewish law, had another wife, an Ammonite princess, who was the mother of Rehoboam, and who of course had the pre-eminence over the Egyptian wife, as the royal source of the favoured race destined to terminate in the Messiah. It may be safely inferred that unfavourable dispositions towards Solomon were created at the Egyptian court by this circumstance. The Egyptian princess in Solomon's Song, who throughout employs Egyptian illustrations, and compares the princely address of her lover to the harmonious action of the horses in her father Pharaoh's chariot, (and they were indeed unmatched in beauty, as the monuments show,) speaks of herself as being dark, as all the Egyptian women were, but handsome. She says that 'the Sun (Phra or Pharaoh) has looked upon her,' and refers mysteriously to some anger of her mother's sons,' either at her love or at her marriage. But, if the princess was compelled, as it is clear she would be, to play a subordinale part to the Ammonitish queen in Solomon's harem, with no chance of the Egyptian line succeeding to the throne, the politicians of Shishak's court would have had good reason to be dissatisfied, considering the magnificent dowry he had bestowed upon his daughter in marriage—the key fortress of Migdolo, and the sea-port of Ezion Gezer (Geber?] on the Red Sea, communicating with the wealth of India. Hence a very clear insight is given us into the motives why Shishak and his sons, the "angry brothers' of Solomon's wife, should encourage the rebellion of Jeroboam against Solomon's son Rehoboam; and why Shishak should give him the second daughter as his wife, as he had already given his sister to Hadad, another rebel against Solomon. This circumstance explains the motives which prompted Shishak to 'come up' against Jerusalem, and render Rehoboam his tributary, as recorded in the preceding passage.
“One of the most remarkable events in recent Egyptian discovery is, the striking illustration which it supplies of the above romantic passage in ancient history, and of the splendid dramatis persona thus brought upon the stage. Rossellini, like a magician, evokes from the tomb, after so long an interval, the ehief of the very characters referred to, in all the vivid accuracy of physiognomical outline, in the costume they wore when living, and with singular associations of contemporary details. The portrait of Shishak is brought before us ; the portrait of Shishak the younger, and of Osorchon, the brothers-in-law of Solomon, and possibly the angry brothers' referred to; the portrait of his son Rehoboam; and, in all probability, if the analogical inferences of a recent traveller are to be believed, the portrait of the Egyptian princess, Solomon's wife; who evidently, from the structure of the Sacred Opera (for so it is,) called Solomon's Song—but, in fact, consisting of some forty songs, in every possible variety of mood and measure, including rhyme.-would appear to have been part contributor with Solomon in that production. It is indeed most singular, ihat not only the Canticles are characterized throughout by Egyptian associations, but the chief songs among the Psalms relating to Solomon, of wbich we may specify the four following,—the 21st, the 45th, the 72d, and the 110th. The last especially (and we may add that Champollion supported this view by expecting to find antique portions of the Psalms among the Egyptian inscriptions,) is the more remarkable point, inasmuch as, with our present imperfect knowledge of the phonetic and symbolic languages, it might be with care and accuracy transfused into the form of an hieroglyphical inscription. The other three resemble -(the 72d strikingly)--the formulary of inscriptions on the obelisks.
“ If the evidences which tend to identify the above princess, the Egyptian wife of Solomon, with two female portraits, one at Karpac, and one in the valley of the Queen's tombs, prove correct, imagination will have no reason to disappoint itself, as it generally does, on finding its beau-ideal of beauty or accomplishment sinking, when brought to the test of ocular evidence, so much beneath anticipation. She is the same princess in fact, whose full-length portrait, in one of the Queen's tombs, startled Champollion, according to his own confession, by its beauté éclatante. Nor does the portrait of the same personage,