Page images
PDF
EPUB

in the hieroglyphics of the Law, the paschal lamb denoted the Seed of the woman bruised by the malignity of the serpent and the tabernacle denoted the entire world both present and future.

Are we then to suppose, that the ancient Egyptians understood their own hieroglyphics, but that the ancient Israelites were quite ignorant of the hieroglyphics of the Law? The thing does not seem probable. In all parts of the world we find it a common practice to express ideas by significant actions or significant objects: and the practice even yet runs, before we are well aware of it, into our common language. Why then should we imagine, that the Israelites alone were left in the dark, while the Gentiles fully understood the purport of their own hieroglyphics? If the ceremonial Law was to them, what the Egyptian hieroglyphics are at present to us; it is hard to conceive, how they could have rendered any reasonable service to God. The hieroglyphics, used in prophecy, were certainly well known from the earliest periods': and one great branch of education in the Hebrew schools of the prophets seems to have been a careful grounding of the pupils in the proper application of these hieroglyphics; for it were idle to suppose, that one man could actually teach another man how to predict future events. Hence it is but natural to conclude,

I Gen. xxxvii, 5-11.

that the priestly caste were similarly instituted in the use and meaning of the legal hieroglyphics; and that the explanations of the tabernacle and the high-priest, given by Josephus and Philo and according so remarkably with those given by St. Paul, were no figments of a later allegorizing age, but were in fact the ancient standing explanations of the Levitical Church herself.

This, I should think, would account for their singular agreement with the Epistle to the Hebrews much more satisfactorily, than to ascribe it to a lucky chance on the part of Bishop Warburton's later allegorists. In process of time, the Pharisees did indeed make void the Law by their traditions : but they seem to have had certain principles of exposition and application, which in the main brought them tolerably near to the truth. Thus we rarely find them erring in the application of prophecy to the Messiah; though they would not allow that character to Jesus of Nazareth, and though they were perplexed by the apparently jarring attributes of a sufferer and a conqueror.

2. With respect to the principle of hieroglyphical interpretation, we find it very distinctly evolved in the Law itself.

I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people. Ye shall THEREFORE put a difference between clean beasts and unclean: and ye shall not make your soul abominable by beast or by fowl or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people that ye should be mine '.

In this passage, the reason, assigned for a difference being put between clean beasts and unclean, is the separation of the Israelites from the Gentiles. But it will be utterly impossible to discover, how the one can be any reason of the other, unless the unclean and the clean animals be severally types or hieroglyphics of the Gentiles and the Israelites. Accordingly, in the vision of St. Peter, we find them used in this precise manner. The apostle is instructed, not by words, but by symbols. Instead of being literally commanded to preach the Gospel alike both to Jew and to Gentile, he is hieroglyphically enjoined to eat indiscriminately of clean and unclean animals. The great sheet let down from heaven was as perfect a tropical hieroglyphic as any invented by the ingenuity of Egypt.

3. Now the pursuing of this principle, agreeably to what I suspect to have been the practice of the Levitical Church from its very foundation, or at all events agreeably to the ancient familiar practice of speaking in parables or apologues,

[blocks in formation]

constitutes what Bishop Warburton deems the exclusively allegorizing humour of the later Jews alone.

As we possess not any writings of the more ancient Israelites save those which occur in the inspired volume itself, we certainly cannot speak with positiveness beyond what the Bible itself enables us to speak : yet the hieroglyphical dreams of Joseph which were immediately understood both by his father and by his brethren, the apologue of Jotham, and the parables of Nathan and the Tekoan woman, all shew a complete familiarity with the identical principle on which the ceremonial Law has been constructed. In each case, after the manner of the ancients particularly throughout the East, a manner (as it is well known) imported by Pythagoras into the West, instruction is conveyed by things and not by words: just as, in writing (to take up the parallel so excellently pursued by Bishop Warburton), the present Chinese character expresses objects and not sounds.

But, when we descend to later times, we not only find the principle acted upon, but we may observe it also distinctly avowed. The Babylonian Talmud lays it down as a general rule of the Levitical Church, that, whosoever expounds the sacred text of the Law according to its form, that is, according to its gross literal sense, lo, he is a liar'. Such is the rule: and the principle of

· Bab. Talm, apud Præf. in Maimon, de vacc. ruf.

that rule is very philosophically set forth by Josephus. There are two modes, says he, of conveying instruction : the one, by verbal precepts; the other, by practical exercises appertaining to morals. Most legislators, entertaining different opinions of their respective merits, have satisfied themselves with adopting only a single mode : thus the Lacedemonians and the Cretans taught by actions and not by precepts, while the Athenians and the other Greeks taught by precepts and not by actions.

But our legislator industriously joined the two together, employing at once both action and precept : insomuch that, beginning with our very food, he left not even the smallest particular to the wandering humour of each individual. Thus, while he taught us, what we might lawfully eat, and what we must carefully abstain from; he also taught us, with what persons we might associate, and when we ought to labour or when we ought to rest from labour : so that, living as it were perpetually under the eye of a father or a master, we might be precluded from offending either wilfully or ignorantly'.

4. As I have recently mentioned Pythagoras, I cannot do better than conclude this discussion with some specimens of his mode of teaching by signs rather than by words: because they tend to shew the perfect familiarity of the principle, on which is built the ceremonial Law of the Hebrews.

Stir not the fire with a sword. Put far from thee

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »